According to Wayne Gunn, Lambda Literary Online, 'Dirk Vanden was one of the heroes, the pioneers of the gay pulp movement. Between 1969 and 1971, he published seven novels - works that were viewed seriously enough to cause them to be listed by Ian Young in his great bibliography and by two different contributors to Claude J. Summers's Gay and Lesbian Literary Heritage. Of course, Vanden, like all the other pulp writers, has been mostly ignored by literary critics.'
"Once upon a time, many long years ago, I was the best little Mormon boy in the whole wide world! Born and raised in Utah, as Richard Fullmer, I had been baptized and confirmed a Latter Day Saint, at age 10, then ordained a Deacon at 12, a Teacher at 14 and a Priest at 16. I was planning on becoming an Elder at age 21, after I had graduated from BYU and gone on my Mission to help save the world for Jesus. I fully intended to come home from converting the heathens, and marry a Good Mormon girl in the LDS Temple, and beget a large family of Good Mormon Children, and they would all go to Church together and praise God and Jesus and Joseph Smith, marching proudly arm in arm into the Millennium! Then, after a few hundred years in Paradise, when I finally died, I would go to my reward: my very own planet, in a galaxy far, far away, to become a God of my own making, to start my own version of the human race - to see if I could do better than Jehovah had done! Seventy years later, I am called ‘a Master of Homosexual Erotica’ and a ‘Pioneer of Gay Literature.' What happened?
“My Boy Tom,” my naked handyman & “adopted son”
I discovered, at age 16, that I was 'one of those men who liked other men.' My Bishop told me that such men were 'Abominations in the sight of God' and would burn in Hell forever for their sins if they didn't repent. Not only didn't I repent, I left the Church and became an 'Out' homosexual, had two long-lasting Gay relationships, long before Gay Marriage was even dreamed of, and then had the audacity to write books about my experiences. DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE is the third of those books, originally published as LEATHER in 1969, by Greenleaf Classics. It is based on my experiences in the drug-saturated S and M scene in Hollywood, CA, in the late 60s.
As noted in my upcoming autobiography PISSING IN THE OCEAN, while 'coming out,' I was continually amazed to find that, instead of raving sociopaths, the Gay men and Lesbians I was meeting were good, gentle people, most often more 'Christian' than the members of the Church I had just left. I learned first-hand that most of the stories I had heard about being Gay were wrong and I set out to tell the truth in my books. The only problem was, at that time in history, the 1960s, the only way to write positively about homosexuality was to make the stories pornographic. The publishers called them 'fag-hots.'
'This guy started out writing stroke books for money, but ended up authoring real novels - all the more remarkable because they first appeared just two years after Stonewall. ('I Want It All' preceded Stonewall in 1969. The original version of Down The Rabbit Hole was written 5 years before Stonewall.) Gone were the sissy stereotypes, the internalized homophobia, the clueless guesses by straight pornographers of what motivates Gay men. 'All Is Well' finishes a story begun two books earlier, as a morally upright and uptight Mormon discovers, after terrifying pain, who he really is.' Josh Thomas, 5-star review of ALL IS WELL on Amazon.com
Drewey Wayne Gunn, editor of The Golden Age of Gay Fiction, MLRP 2009, is putting together a companion piece about neglected Gay pulps, mine included. He recently remarked: 'For several weeks now I have been reliving my late twenties, early thirties. That means I'm back into the period 1966-1972 when I first discovered gay porn and then gay pulps and my life changed. I understand why you as an artist were unhappy, but I as a reader in 1969 could not have cared less about the things that bothered you. All I could get my head around was: I'm not alone! Gay is good! Sex is wonderful. I'm going to find a mate. It took me until 1973, but I did. And Jacques and I had 21 years together. Without those pulps, no matter how badly the publishers treated you, I would not have had the nerve to come out of the closet.'
I consider it my mission in life to tell the world, and especially other Gay men like myself, that religion, especially Mormonism, is wrong about homosexuality, and that Jesus was not preaching Christianity, but rather homosexual love between men - and women!
In San Francisco, living with Herb, up on Buena Vista Terrace, overlooking the Castro, "Frenchy," of LeSalon asked me to draw the covers for my own books & several other of Frenchy's Gay Line's early publications. Repeating my successful gambit of exchanging advertising art for passes & beer in L. A., when I moved to San Francisco I approached the owners of DAVE'S BATHS for free passes in return for artwork. We got our free beer at THE STUD. My paintings hung in both. "Water boy" in oils, 24"x36". hung in Dave's TV lounge for many years.
"EMBRACE" - oil on canvas - 24x30 - 1970. It hung briefly at The Stud & sold quickly for $75
"SMILES ARE MADE AT DAVE'S" Newspaper & Magazine ad - Pencil on paper - 1973
The same company that owned the Dave's Baths chain also owned several bars in Washington & in Nevada. The VIP Club was near Reno. "VIP COUNTRY" - pencil on poster board, 1973. They made posters of this one, too
Even fewer of my still-alive fans know or knew (or cared) that they were possibly influenced by my artwork in the Gay media on the west coast: paintings, drawings, posters published for several years as advertising in Gay magazines and newspapers and posters, during the late 1960s & early 70s, in Los Angeles and San Francisco. I've posted most of my artwork, from the early 60s to last year at Images by Dirk. Please feel free to download anything that interests or pleases you. Just give me credit if anyone asks, and maybe send me an email saying 'Thanks.'
In 2008 I learned what happened to my first Lover, Winson Strickland, after we split in Las Vegas, 1969. He became a famous Porn Star named Mike Davis!
I have a BFA in Theatre Art from the UofU in SLC. A few years after graduating, I was directing Children's Theater at The Eaglet Theater in Sacramento, 1962, when Winson Strickland came to tryouts to read for Prince Charming. Unfortunately, he couldn't act at all, even though he certainly looked the part, so I gave him the job of stage manager, which he performed perfectly for several years, first in Sacramento & then in Sherman Oaks, at the Valley Music Theater, for my children's theater, both places. He was an excellent artist in his own right & painted lots of our scenery. Somewhere in between, the inevitable happened & we became lovers. In Hollywood, he was the hit of the year at The Gauntlet, a Gay-motorcycle-club bar, on Melrose, when we moved South to try to get him into The Movies! "Winn" - oil on burlap - 1967 He looked great in black leather!
An old friend who knew us both in the early 60s, found my website with the early information about Winn & emailed me to inform me of Winn's death by AIDS in 1986, after he had joined COLT STUDIO sometime in the early 70s. As Mike Davis, he appeared in a fairly long list of Colt & Halstead movies. He was 41 when he died. As far as I'm concerned, Our Government killed both these good men.
There are a number of websites devoted to him, so he must have had some adoring fans & friends. Apparently he found the fame and admiration he wanted so much. It killed him, but at least he had it for awhile.
According to CLONE - THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF AL PARKER GAY SUPERSTAR, by Roger Edmonson, Al and his lover took care of Winn/Mike as he was dying. Someone who loved him was with him at the end. I think he and Parker had a relationship off the screen as well as on. Someone made an AIDS QUILT panel for him. I loved him very much. And so did a great many others.
My Life-Partner and best friend, Herb Finger died at age 51, too-briefly known as 'Sacramento's Celebrity Chef, (he cooked for Governors and Presidents!)' died of AIDS 24 years ago, after we'd been together 18 years. All of our friends who took part in those coast-to-coast Hepatitis B tests back in the late 70s, are now dead of AIDS. I didn't take the tests; I'm still alive.
"CHEFONE" (licence plate on his Volkswagen Bug) - oil on canvas - 36x54, slightly larger than life. This painting hung in the entry of Brewster House in Davis (the background is supposed to look like the smoke from the fire that destroyed his previous, very successful "BON APPETIT" in Fair Oaks) until he "retired for reasons of his health" - having tested positive for HIV in 1984. He had been known as "Sacramento's Celebrity Chef" & had his own little show on channel 13's noontime news, showing how to cook "gourmet-style" using a microwave oven. He was the Litton spokesman in the area, demonstrating their microwaves. He cooked for Governers& catered for Presidents. He died of AIDS January 22, 1987, at age 51.
"ICDLITE" (My GMC Pickup's license plate) oil on canvas - 24 x30 - 1972.
"HERBERT THE GOOD" AKA "MONA HERBERT" - oil on canvas - 18x24 - 1972. Herb was a weekend-hippie (& so was I) & called himself "Herbert-the-Good." He made & sold "Jools" (he was Jewish) - macrame necklaces made with rare beads which he scrounged from second-hand shops & antique stores, & sold at the many Peddler's Fairs in the area. One such creation is the turquoise-covered-shell-with-genuine-Ind
"ELF" - oil on canvas - 24x30 - 1974. One of Herb's Gay Peddler-buddies was a very small man who called himself "Elf." Indeed, he looked like an elf - always up to some kind of mischief. I never knew his real name. He had a scrappy little brown wire-haired terrier named "Buffalo." He made "Magic Jewels" & sold them beside Herb's "Jools." He had vanished from San Francisco by the time I finished his portrait. No one knew where he had gone or what had happened to him. It really looks like him.
Most of the Gay men who would remember my books are dead now, of AIDS, most likely.
"...AIDS is not an accident of nature caused by green monkeys, but a deliberate man-made holocauset of unspeakable evil." QUEER BLOOD.
If nothing else, I believe that President Reagan, 'The Great Communicator,' deliberately and knowingly did nothing to stop the spread of AIDS." --Dirk Vanden
"J.L. SEAGULL" - oil on canvas - 36x40 - 1973
"RAINBOW SEED FARMS" - Acrylic on canvas -18x24 - 1976. This painting turned out to be prophetic. In 1976, Herb's job of Art Director at Fireman's Fund moved with the company to Marin & he decided he didn't want to go with it, so we packed up bag & baggage & a White German Shepherd named Luv & moved to Roseville, a suburb of Sacramento, then to our own little farm in Fair Oaks, another suburb, fairly near the American River, with a view of the mountains!
San Francisco Rose, "MOJAVE" - oil on canvas, 24x36 - 1992