Aiden Shaw

Interview by
Paul Flynn
Photography by
Marc Wayland


Because we are in the first flushes of spring, and because he doesn’t leave the house much during the day, Aiden Shaw suggests we go outside for a chat. We end up, spookily, in a churchyard just round the corner from his Chelsea council flat, sitting on a bench. Aiden is most famous for his full-strength, 11.5-inch penis. Swept into the LA porn rush of the ’90s, he became the pivot on which a decade of hard gay sex balanced. Strangely, he’d been beamed in from penniless Mancunian suburbia, though that part of his story was swiftly airbrushed out for public consumption. As a working prostitute, he has earned and spent well. But there is depth beyond the sex work. He has performed with the art-punk band Minty and written a series of quasi-autobiographical books and poems, examining the outer reaches of the human condition, a parameter his own life has often touched upon. He is just coming to the end of writing a new book called Sordid and about to celebrate his 43rd birthday. On the advice of Oprah Winfrey, he is trying to look at getting older in a positive way. Mistakenly, I ask, ‘Oh, when did you meet Oprah Winfrey?’ But he says he didn’t. He just saw her say it on TV once. He likes Oprah.

Paul: When was the last time you were in a church?
Aiden: I’ve no idea.
Do you ever speak to anyone in your head that might be god?
Oh my god, no! Jesus Christ, I can’t speak enough on that one. I hear the church bells from my flat some mornings and think I must go and have a look in there. I do think churches are beautiful looking, architecturally. And apparently this one is. If there was nobody inside I might think about it. But I don’t like churchgoers. I said to my therapist once that I thought I might be agoraphobic, and she said, ‘I just don’t think that you like people very much.’
Do you find the process of writing lonely?
Completely. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. Then why would you wish it on yourself? Well, why would I wish many things on myself that I wouldn’t wish on anyone else? I think I’m a bit of a martyr. I have that syndrome. I wouldn’t want somebody I loved IVing drugs or doing prostitution or doing porn. Not even people I don’t care for. But I’ve still done those things. I wouldn’t wish my life on anybody.
Tell me about the break-up of your last relationship.
It lasted two years and then there was a year of messing about and confusion. All that that only happens at the end of gay relationships. There’s more of a blur with sexual boundaries with gay men. Usually. Women are usually the deciding factor in the balance between male and female relationships. We don’t have that balance and it leads to a lot of disorder and dysfunction. You bring drugs into it and all the rules get fucked up.
What’s your longest period of being single?
Not long enough. But this time it could be forever. My mother told me I was better off being on my own after the break-up of my last relationship and I do think: ‘Why can’t I just believe her?’ But I feel it now. It might just be a phase, of course. But I’m hoping to the god that I don’t believe in that it sticks. I think my life would be easier if it sticks.
Did your work get in the way of relationships?
To put it simply? I’m completely fucked up by the work I’ve done. To use a cliché, I’m as broken as you could possibly get. Whether I’ll ever be fixed or not, I don’t
know. My current therapist says it’s not about fixing, it’s about seeing it from a different
How often do you see her?
Once a week.
Is it something you look forward to?
Yeah. It’s always one of the highlights of my week. How sad is that? Two weeks ago I had a meltdown. Up till now it’s been quite cerebral and I like the challenge of a clever therapist. But I just started weeping. It came to the end and she asked if I wanted to be left by myself and I tried to say ‘yeah’ and she tried to leave and I started wailing. I’ve never heard myself
make that noise before.
What was it that triggered it?
Something about me being poor as a kid and how profoundly affecting that is. About me lying as a child in front of other kids. Learning to lie at six or seven. It was too upsetting. I  wish I had been more protected from that.
You have a good relationship with your mother now though, don’t you?
Yeah, I do.
You went on holiday with her recently?
I did. I’m the one she can call at the last minute because I haven’t got the same commitments as my brothers and sisters. I’m the loser. (Laughs) I like going with her.
She likes to sit in the sun all day and I just do my writing. I was running every morning
and writing up to 2,600 words a day. I like nature. Nature is easy. It’s people that are hard.
Do you think that having had sex predominantly on other people’s terms makes it difficult to navigate having sex on your own terms?
Sure. But sex in a relationship is never on your own terms. It’s on joint terms, isn’t it? It certainly wasn’t on my own terms in my last relationship. I’m quite happy to make out. Snogging, jerking. That’s enough for me. I just find that often in bed with guys — even guys I like — it seems like it’s not done until you fuck. I mean, how much fucking are people doing? Did I miss something?
I think the question is not did you miss something but did you invent it?
(laughing) Dear soul!
The fantasy that you created in the porn you’ve done is as the ultimate fuck.
Yes, but that’s pretend. Now I have sex with people who don’t know anything about me. The last few people have been people I’ve met on the street. I warned somebody that came round the other night. I said, ‘Maybe we could just cuddle and go to sleep’ and he said, ‘Okay’ and of course he came round and he was like a little animal. I said, ‘Baby, it’s too late to fuck’
and he gave in, luckily. But I could tell that the outcome was meant to be fucking.
You know what it’s like when people get into the right positions to make sure  it happens? I try to be in the moment, but at the same time I try to be in control.
But you know when somebody’s trying to push your legs apart they want to fuck.If they’re scratching your butt you knowwhat they want.
Are you on Gaydar?
Have you ever been?
Why are you not now?
I haven’t thought about why I’m not.
The nasty typefaces?
I guess I just don’t want to meet people. You’re not having real interaction. It’s all funnelled through computer coding. I’m not talking technically, just the language that you’re supposed to use. I can’t be bothered with all that. When I used to use it, I’d say this is my number, call me. Get someone on the phone for five minutes and you know more about them than you ever would on Gaydar.
I guess the creation of the profile is the fantasy someone wants to project about themselves, right?
That’s what I have a problem with really.
Is it just a glorified lie?
I just don’t get it. That’s what I like about meeting people on the street. You actually see them. Call it old-school, but I like to see the way people move and the way they hold themselves and the way they interact. Get a little bit closer and it’s the way they smell.
Do you have any idea how or why a character in Sex and the City ended up being named after you?
Yes I do, actually. One of the writers had a crush on me. Apparently. One of my friends was an extra on it and he knows this guy. They actually invited me to the end-of-season party. The New York Times called me about it. God knows how they had my number. They asked if I knew about it and it was before it’d aired here so I had no idea what they were talking about. I told them maybe Darren Star was a punter of mine, which I thought he might’ve been, as you would… But this friend of mine who was on set at the time told me it was because of this one writer.
They used another porn star’s name in the next show they did. Desperate Housewives. The neighbour of Susan, was it Tony something?
Mike Delfino?
That’s the one! Apparently he’s named after a porn star too. Google him. I’m pretty sure that’s the case. There was another character in Sex and the City, when the girls went to LA and the slutty one has sex with a big-dick guy who turns out to be a poet. I think that might have come from me, too.
Was the party fun?
I wasn’t allowed to go. It was all to do with a boyfriend at the time. His passport was with Immigration and he said, ‘No way am I letting you go to New York to that party on your own.’
No way!
I told you. I should never have boyfriends. Why on earth would you want to stop someone from having that funny opportunity in their life?
I guess it must have been.
Is that an ongoing pattern?
Yes. And competitiveness.
Because of the assumed you or the real you?
The assumed me. Well, the competitiveness comes from that. The jealousy comes from the fact that I do flirt a lot. But it’s something that I just consider being nice to people. I do it with girls as well as boys. The aim is not to get people into bed.
Does your mum know that there’s a character in Sex and the City named after you?
Yeah. She likes to show off about me. It’s come out more in the family now. My sister told her kids about me. My niece already knew. She’d met gay guys who knew more about me than she did. They can’t believe she’s my niece. My mum is a bit of an opportunist like that. She likes to have foreign editions of my books so she can show people and they can’t understand a word of it.
Very canny. Very northern.
Yes, I know. She had seven kids and, really, we’ve dragged her through hell. Stealing cars, getting pregnant, having abortions, being on drugs. We did it all. She’s learnt so many coping mechanisms and she glosses over things that she doesn’t need to see. On a profound level you could say it’s acceptance. But on a basic level it’s just being a mum.
Acceptance is too weird a thing to say about a mother.
I agree.
They know you better and worse than anyone.
Better and worse than yourself sometimes.She scares me still.
Do you think you scare her?
Yeah. Sometimes. We get on very well, but if I spend a week with her we’ll have at least one run-in. She does that passive-aggressive thing. When I say, ‘Do I have to shave tonight, mum?’ she’ll say, ‘Well, you know you look more handsome when you’ve shaved.’ She likes me to go to restaurants with her and wear a shirt and tie, and I can play that role really well.
Do you pay when you go out to dinner?
No, she always pays. She’s got more money than I do. I’ve treated her well in my life. When I go away with her, she covers things. It’s just the way it works.
Have you had your teeth done?
I had them redone recently. I’m quite happy with them.
When was the first time you had them done?
After ’96 and before 2000. I couldn’t be more specific than that.
Because of the drugs?
Have you had anything else done, surgically?
No. I don’t like it.
It looks horrible on men, doesn’t it?
I think so.
What do you make of what’s happened to Boy George?
I’d like to speak to him. I wouldn’t want to make any comments about that before I’ve spoken to him. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. It’s none of my business. I’ve been in situations like that. You’d think I’d be able to put two and two together and I can see how things could easily get like that. But still, why not just wait to hear what he’s got to say about it.
Isn’t it just a night on coke that’s got a bit bonkers?
I know that me and all of my friends have been in much more outrageous situations than that one. Luckily we weren’t taken to court for them. It could’ve been any one of us in that situation. And in much more ridiculous ones, to be honest.
If there is any code of practice in this kind of situation, don’t you think it’s a bit ungentlemanly of the trick to report him?
I think he’s absolute scum. I’ve been in situations where I’ve had fights with boyfriends. Maybe five or six times. And the thing is that the Chelsea police are the best in the world. They really are. There’s a higher percentage of gay cops here than anywhere else in the world and they are fucking fantastic. I’ve had them into the house before and they’ll talk to you and diffuse the situation. If I was George, any one of those situations could’ve ended up in court and any one could’ve ended up with me in jail. It just seems to be so unfair. He went to prison because he’s famous. And he’s famous because he made so many people happy. It’s nuts. Really.
What’s your favourite Boy George song?
What’s yours?
‘Il Adore’.
‘Il Adore’. Brilliant. I was in the video, you know?
No, I didn’t!
That’s how I met George. John Maybury asked me to be in it. George played Quentin Crisp in it and I was one of the sailors in the scene where they recreated The Naked Servant.
Amazing, that’s you?
That’s how I met George. I think it was ’92, ’93, ’94 maybe? I was in John’s film Remembrance of Things Past with Rupert Everett and Tilda Swinton. John won an award for that in Hollywood. I was in West Hollywood doing a movie and he invited me to the award ceremony because nobody else was there to go with him. Every fucker was there. John Travolta, Danny
DeVito. I felt so funny. That’s my favourite George song, too, by the way. People always say it’s about Leigh Bowery dying, but it was actually about this guy called Stevie Hughes who died before Leigh. It was the same thing, though. Stevie was a friend of Rifat Ozbek and John and Baillie Walsh and all those guys. He had the same vibrant energy as them, but perhaps not the same visual eye. But that line in the song: ‘Like the most amazing light show that you’ve ever seen’? That was him. It breaks my heart thinking about that song. YouTube the video. You’ll see me on it.
Did you ever meet Quentin Crisp?
Yes. In Brighton. He was doing one of his shows there. Like with everyone else who died, I wish I’d made more of an effort. Leigh Bowery asked me if I’d come over once, after seeing my advertisement in one of the gay papers. As a rent boy. Malcolm Duffy was there, too. I wish I’d done it now just to see what the fuck would’ve happened. It was after one of the Kinky Gerlinky’s. I was a bit too tired.
That really was a magical time in London.
I’ve got a very detailed diary from about 89, with lots of polaroids. And yes, it was. A lot of people who died hadn’t passed yet. Ecstasy was still fresh. I had loads of money. Everything was so breezy.
There’s a quote from George on the back of one your books: ‘He provides no happy endings.’ Consider that for a moment.
In relation to?
Yourself. Your work. Anything.
I have peace of mind. I have serenity. Also I like my own company. Not that I like myself very much, but I prefer my own company to other people’s. Happy? I’m relatively autonomous. Which is useful.
Do you still do punters?
I haven’t done punters for years now. It could even be as much as four or five years. What year are we now?
2009. Do you ever miss it?
I miss the validation. I miss the being flown about. I miss the money.
This is kind of a crass question but it interests me. How much is the most money you’ve ever been paid for a job?
Oy, oy, oy. It’s not crass. But I’m going to have to go off the record because it’s not fair on him and he’ll know who he is.
(Tells me off record. It’s astronomical.)
Compared to what I know other people charge, I cannot quite believe the amount of money people have paid me. It’s a different league. It’s shocking how much money men have paid me just because they’ve seen me on film. But once you’ve got a gimmick, you know?
A gimmick? What a way to talk about your cock.
Well, they always say you’ve got to have a gimmick if you want to get ahead.
Does this connect to your social isolation? That there is always the thought in the  back of your head that when you meet someone they will already know you?
I don’t feel it because I don’t socialise much. I was at something last night, though, and I was introduced to someone who is quite famous and my friend said, ‘This is Aiden Shaw’ and he said, ‘Yes,
we’ve met.’ I know what that means. And it’s the first time it’s ever happened.
And it means he’s been a punter?
Yeah. Though you wouldn’t say it in that way. It was the tone of voice, the timing, everything.
What about people who have seen you on film? Do you ever get that little flash of recognition anywhere inappropriate?
Well, am I allowed to have the concept of inappropriateness in my life?
How dare I even suggest that? I broke all the rules of propriety years ago. That was all part of the deal, part of my life’s martyrdom and my fight against morality and Catholicism and everything that I considered to be bad. I wanted to fuck all the rules of propriety. Recognition tends to only work in good ways, though. I was run over and the surgeon knew who I was. Sometimes it works in my favour.
Britain’s very gracious about homosexuality now, isn’t it?
I can’t believe how much. You genuinely believed when you were walking down the when I was young that you would be beaten up and killed for being gay. I can’t believe how much it’s changed. In a way, in a twisted, warped way…AIDS did a lot of good for gays.
Well the question of mortality democratises everybody. Have you thought about your own funeral?
I’ve written what I want. Yes.
Have you ever been approached to be on reality TV?
A couple of things, yeah. I don’t watch enough of it to know what any of them are, but nothing’s come in that’s interested me enough to do it.
Would you go on Big Brother ?
They’ve not been in touch. I’m like Pete Burns with this I guess. If they offered me enough money then I’d find it difficult to turn down. I thought he was fantastic init. After Big Brother Pete called me, out of the blue. He said his psychic had told him that he should help someone who puts words out in the world and he invited me over to Anouska Hempel’s hotel in Holland Park where he was staying to talk about it. He’s clever as fuck. George is clever as fuck. There are some real bright sparks out there.
What are you doing for your birthday on Sunday?
I’m going to my good friend’s and she’s going to cook dinner. She’s a fucking good cook.

Originally published in BUTT 26