10 Famous Working Boys Throughout History

10 Famous Working Boys Throughout History

Shannon Quinn - July 8, 2018

From the glamorous courtesans of the Moulin Rouge to destitute “Fallen women” in the stories of Charles Dickens, most people imagine females when they think of sex workers throughout history. In reality, there were plenty of male gigolos earning a good living from providing their company to both women and men. Each one of these male sex workers became famous for their lovers, and the impact they left behind on society.

10 Famous Working Boys Throughout History
In the Victorian Era, a “dandy” was a man who always dressed in the newest fashions. Many of the male prostitutes were also Dandies. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

John Saul

During the Victorian Era, people put out the appearance of being very prim and proper, but they were wildly sexual inside their minds and didn’t mind experimenting behind closed doors. A man known as John Saul was born in Dublin, Ireland in the 1800s. He became a male prostitute to earn some money to get him out of his poor circumstances, and eventually moved to London so he could find some higher paying clients. He wrote a book about this experiences called The Sins of the Cities of the Plain; or, The Recollections of a Mary-Ann, with Short Essays on Sodomy and Tribadism.

At that time, male prostitutes were given the nickname “Mary-Ann”, as a code name, so men could refer to their male lover as the common female name “Mary-Ann” without it seeming suspicious. In this book, Saul wrote that prominent members in political society paid him for sex, and even participated in orgies.

The address of 19 Cleveland Street was well-known for being a male brothel. After publishing his book, John Saul was ordered to appear in court to testify if what he wrote was true about a man named Martin Oranmore Kirwan, who was the son of a wealthy man. Gay sex was illegal at that time, but they decided not to prosecute him for sodomy, because it would set in motion a slew of prosecuting every other man who participated in homosexual sex. It was rumored that Queen Victoria’s grandson was gay, and it was “bad timing” to go after gay men. They knew that the prince probably went to 19 Cleveland Street as well. So, John Saul got away with writing pornographic stories of his sexual adventures.

10 Famous Working Boys Throughout History
Phaedo of Elis never had a portrait painted of him, but here is a depiction of Socrates (right) with a young Greek soldier. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Phaedo of Elis

While some sex workers feel empowered, not all of them would go willingly. In ancient Greece, it was common for older men to sleep with younger men, but usually only if they were slaves or prostitutes. These young men were usually still very young, anywhere from age 12 to 20.

An attractive young man named Phaedo was born in the city of Elis to parents who were in the upper class. He was captured as a slave during a war between Athens and Sparta. He was taken to Athens, and he was pulled out from the crowd for his stunning appearance, and forced to become a male prostitute. He was passed around by many male scholars, and eventually met and got to know the famous philosopher Socrates. Phaedo begged him to help him get out of slavery, and he bought his freedom. They remained friends, and Phaedo even became a philosopher, himself. He even started his own school of philosophy, and became well-known for his own work.

10 Famous Working Boys Throughout History
Long before photography, someone like Lao Ai would not have had his portrait painted. We only know what he looked like from written accounts. Screenshot from the movie called The Emperor And The Assassin. Credit: North Central College

Lao Ai

A Chinese man named Lao Ai lived from 258 to 238 BC, during the rule of Qin Shi Huang. The King was a man named Ying Zheng, and his father had died, leaving his mother a widow. As the Queen Mother, she openly enjoyed the company of lovers without shame. She had once been a concubine herself, before marrying the King. A man named Lao Ai was rumored to have a great body, so he performed a striptease for the Queen. She was so attracted to him, he became her new boy toy. He had to dress in disguises in order to get into the castle. It would seem that they actually did form feelings for one another, because they had a long-term relationship, and even had two children together.

In the year 239 BC, Ying Zheng found out about this mother’s affair with Lao Ai, and his two half-brothers. It came to his attention that maybe he should be worried if they would take over the throne. Lao Ai heard about the King’s disapproval, and formed his own little army, believing that he would have to fight for his son’s lives. Zheng’s army obliterated the small militia very easily. Lao Ai was killed, and his body was ripped apart into small pieces. His sons were killed, too, and every member of his extended family was exterminated. Zheng even put his own mother in prison for hiding this secret affair and sons she had with a stripper. After some time passed, they apologized to one another, and he let his mother leave prison, so they could move on with their lives. In 221 BC, Ying Zheng unified China, and he became the first Emperor.

10 Famous Working Boys Throughout History
This painting by Michelangelo shows a nude man posing while leaning on a pile of phallic-looking objects. Credit: Richard Norton

Febo di Poggio

Michelangelo is remembered as being one of the most famous painters and sculptors in history. He is remembered for painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and creating the statue of David. He regularly worked with nude male models. There are even a lot of nude men in the Sistine Chapel for no apparent reason. Critics called him “godless” for putting so many images of nude models on display, and it especially made the male lovers of these young men jealous. They had nothing to do with Bible stories, but Michelangelo just loved painting them. While it must have been obvious back when he was alive, very few people today know that he was gay and that he had a lot of male lovers throughout his life during the 1500s. He once wrote that it would be impossible to share true feelings of love with a woman.

One of the male sex workers who was in a relationship with Michelangelo was named Febo di Poggio. He was much younger, and used Michelangelo like a sugar daddy, demanded expensive gifts. It would seem that he had the artist wrapped around his finger so tightly, he called him his “little blackmailer”. The word “blackmail” seems harsh, and it was probably a joke, because Michelangelo actually wrote poems about Febo di Poggio. It’s very likely that he was in love with this young man. They eventually broke up. Michelangelo wrote that he was betrayed, but did not go into details. It’s very possible that he stole from him, since he was already very demanding about money. They both moved on their their lives, but it was a rare recording of this kind of relationship from history.

10 Famous Working Boys Throughout History
Photo of Herbert Huncke by Allen Ginsberg. Credit: The Ginsberg Project.

Herbert Huncke

Herbert Huncke was born into a middle-class family, but he became a drug addict and hung around criminals and hoodlums when he was a young man. He worked for Al Capone in Chicago and decided that he wanted to start his own hustle by selling himself as a male sex worker. In 1939, he moved to New York City, and began selling himself there. He earned the nickname “Mayor of 42nd Street”. Huncke used the money he earned turning tricks to pay for his drug addiction. He was a significant part of the Beat generation because he became friends with Jack Kerouac. He showed Kerouac into the world of sex work, and the writer based a character named “Elmer Hassel” in the novel On The Road after him. Herbert Huncke published a few of his own books, where he explained some of his wild stories. He also became friends with another writer, William Burroughs, and introduced him to hard drugs. Later, Burroughs would write Naked Lunch, which has become an iconic piece of literature from the Beat generation.

In the 1940s, he met Dr. Alfred Kinsey, who became famous for his “Kinsey Scale” of sexuality. Huncke helped Kinsey to learn more with his sexual research in the prostitution community. He called himself “Kinsey’s pimp”. Herbert Huncke pumped chemicals through his veins on a regular basis, and he put himself in potentially dangerous situations with clients. He even spent five years in jail for stealing. Despite all of the rough and crazy times in his life, he lived to be 81 years old.

10 Famous Working Boys Throughout History
Photo of a dashing young Jean Genet. Credit: The Paris Review

Jean Genet

Jean Genet was born in France in 1910. His mother was a prostitute who abandoned him at a young age. He was put into foster care. His adoptive parents told him the truth about his birth mother, and they were abusive parents who were struggling with poverty. This made him start stealing at the age of 10. He ended up going to a juvenile prison called Mettray Reformatory at age 16, where a lot of the boys were having gay sex. He realized that he really enjoyed it. After getting out of prison in his early 20’s, he enlisted for the Foreign Legion, gathered the signup bonus money, and then quickly ran away. It became an almost natural transition for him to begin earning money-turning tricks for sailors. He also continued to steal, and smuggled drugs for gangs. He was arrested multiple times as an adult, and passed the time by writing stories about his life.

His autobiography called Our Lady of the Flowers went over all of the details of his sex work at a young age. He told salacious stories of pimps and prostitutes, wild sexual fantasies, and even described a murder. The book became a famous piece of homosexual literature. It was so popular that he went on to write several other novels and plays that were well-read by the gay community in Paris.

According to Jean-Paul Sartre, who was another famous French writer from that time, Jean Genet lied about his difficult childhood. Sartre claims that Genet was given up by an unwed mother, and that his foster parents were farmers who gave him a lot of love and attention, and that he made up the whole sob story as an excuse for why he ended up being such a bad kid who grew up to be a criminal. Either way, Genet’s colorful past gave him a lot of material for his novels, and his work is still being read to this day.

10 Famous Working Boys Throughout History
Andrew Cunanan’s high school yearbook photo shows that he was very handsome in his youth, before drugs and alcohol wrecked his body. Credit: ABC News

Andrew Cunanan

Andrew Cunanan was a very successful male sex worker in the Los Angeles area. He had everything paid for in his life by his sugar daddies, including his rent, car, and vacations. He had a genius-level IQ and a photographic memory. He was the youngest child in his family, and he was their pride and joy. His parents paid for him to go to an expensive boarding school, because they believed he was destined for great things. This helped him become comfortable around the upper-class, made him clever enough to lie to nearly everyone about every aspect of his life. He pretended to be extremely wealthy, and even told some people that he was descended from royalty in the Philippines.

This made him an attractive partner to rich gay men, who gave him even more money and free things to keep up with his lavish lifestyle. It turns out that he wasn’t just a liar. He was a narcissist and a sociopath who would do anything to anyone in order to get what he wanted. He had one sugar daddy who paid for him to go on lavish vacations, and over $2,500 a month for an allowance. After spending all of his early 20’s doing drugs and drinking, his looks were beginning to go downhill, and his relationship with his benefactor ended.

Fewer and fewer men wanted to hire Cunanan, and this made him enraged that he could no longer live a lavish life as a gigolo. At 27 years old, he started to travel across the country and murdered men wherever he went. His first two victims were young gay men in their late 20’s to early 30’s, and his third and fourth were both older married men who had solicited his sexual services. Andrew Cunanan first met Gianni Versace at a gay bar in San Francisco. He was drunk, and thought he recognized Cunanan from a party he had been to before. So, like the liar he was, he played a long and indulged in this idea that they knew each other. It’s likely that Cunanan thought that he could use his charm to convince Gianni Versace to become his new sugar daddy.

After killing at least four men, he ended up in Miami, Florida, where he stalked out Gianni Versace. A few of Andrew Cunanan’s friends told the FBI that he was bragging about having a close friendship with Gianni Versace. Considering that he lied about so many other things in his life, it could have been a lie, too. Or, maybe they were having a secret affair. However, there is no concrete evidence that Versace ever became friends with him, or hired him to be his gigolo or lover, and all of his family denies ever knowing him.

Versace lived in a gorgeous Italian-style villa called Casa Casadina with his long-term partner, Antonio D’Amico. While we will never know the true story, one of the theories is that Versace rejected his advances, which hurt Andrew’s pride so badly, he shot him. After killing Versace, he turned the gun on himself and committed suicide in his hotel room.

10 Famous Working Boys Throughout History
Jeff Gannon was not his real name. Just about everything was faked. Credit: Vanity Fair

Jeff Gannon

Born in 1957, Jeff Gannon grew up to have a great job with the White House Press corps, which gave him a reputable image of having a great career. He secretly lived a double life as a male escort nicknamed “Bulldog”. He had a bald shaved head, stood over six feet tall, and had an athletic build. He mostly catered to male clients who were looking for a “military” man, even though he never actually served in any of the U.S. armed forces.

After a while, fellow members of the press began to think it was strange that Jeff Gannon was allowed to get into the press conferences with President George W. Bush even though he had very few legitimate credentials. He said that he worked for “Talon News” and “GOPUSA”, which were two publications that no one had heard of before. Usually, the only journalists allowed at these press conferences were from the biggest papers in the country, like The New York Times and the Washington Post. Both websites were registered to a man named Bobby Eberle, who lived in Texas. It turns out that the articles that were written by Jeff Gannon for these publications were literally just copied and pasted from the official White House press releases, without any effort to write original content. It turns out that Eberle was a family friend of the Bushes, which is the only reason why his blog was allowed to attend the press conferences.

The rest of the press staff at the White House were shocked at the fact that someone could get press credentials for blogs that no one had ever heard of before. They believed he was possibly getting special treatment from someone working on the White House staff. His cover was officially blown when he asked the president a very unprofessional question: “How are you going to work with Senate Democrats when they have so clearly divorced themselves from reality?”

One of the number one rules of journalism is to remain unbiased when asking questions during a press conference, even if you work for a publication that leans far left or right. So that turned a lot of heads. On top of showing that he was clearly biased towards the right, his question was also just plain wrong and uncalled for in the context of the press conference. They began to look deeper into his professional background. The other journalists in the press corps exposed his life as an escort in Washington DC, and even found fully nude photos of him online. One of the most ironic parts of the whole story was that Jeff Gannon often wrote for Republicans, and had homophobic undertones in his professional life, when he was actually sleeping with men as “Bulldog”.

After the truth about his double life was exposed, Gannon started getting a lot of hate and harassment, along with so many people calling him a hypocrite for siding with conservatives. He had to quit his job. He eventually published a book called The Great Media War. Today, Talon News and GOPUSA no longer exist, and it would seem that they were only invented to allow Jeff Gannon to have a front for letting himself in to these press conferences.

10 Famous Working Boys Throughout History
This photo of Denny Fouts shows why so many fell head-over-heels for him. Credit: Alchetron

Denham Fouts

Born in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1914, “Denny” Denham Fouts became one of the most famous male prostitutes in the 1920’s and 30’s. As a young man, he formed a huge crush on Truman Capote, who posed in a suggestive photograph in the dust jacket of one of his books. Capote was just 24 years old at the time, and he was openly gay. Fouts held on to the image of Truman Capote and hung it on his wall, longing to be with his writer-crush some day.

Denham Fouts grew up to be a male escort, and he traveled to New York City to work for wealthy clients. He was extremely handsome, and he spoke with a Southern accent that everyone found to be very charming. He even slept with King Farouk of Egypt, and had a relationship with Prince Paul of Greece, before he became King. He quickly got used to a life where he was constantly pampered. He was known for laying in bed all day after making lots of money from his sex work, ordering room service, and asking other people to do difficult things for him. They called him a “kept boy“.

When he was 20 years old, he learned from one of his New York clients that Truman Capote would be traveling to Paris. This rich benefactors knew of his crush, and paid for his plane ticket to fly to Paris to meet his favorite author. They became good friends and lovers, but Denny was suffering from an addiction to Opium. Truman Capote convinced him to go to a drug rehab clinic. He promised to meet up with him in Italy once he got out of rehab, but Capote learned from mutual friends that Denny never completed the program, and started smoking opium right away. He was afraid that continuing their friendship would drag him down, and he had to cut off all ties. However, their relationship impacted him greatly, and Capote based more than one character off of Denny Fouts. Other artists used him as their muse, as well. He never recovered from his drug addiction and died in his 20’s while living in Paris.

10 Famous Working Boys Throughout History
Sai Shahar retired from being a gigolo and moved on to performing in a burlesque club, instead. Credit: Myspace.com

Shai Shahar

Shai Shahar was an American man who moved to Israel in 1980. He met an American documentary producer who needed an English-speaking connection with the army in Palestine. He asked the director for credit as one of the producers in the film, if he could connect them with the Palestinian army, and he succeed. He basically finessed his way into scoring this movie gig, and he was invited to some of the after-parties when the film was finished. He met a rich woman at a lawn party who treated him to a new suit, and she gave him some cash, along with a business card for a male escort agency. She believed his personality and good looks would be great as a professional gigolo. He was already 35 years old at that point, but he thought it may be fun to see what it was like. He had sex with over 500 women, and participated in 40 threesomes with couples. He charged $150 for the first hour, and $100 for every additional hour. If a woman wanted him to fly somewhere to be their date, he was paid $1,000 for his time, plus travel expenses.

Amsterdam’s Red Light district is famous for prostitutes displaying themselves in glass windows of their homes so that potential customers can very literally window shop before they decide to pay for a sex worker. For years, the district only displayed women, until the early 1990’s, when Shai Shahar went down in history as the very first male sex worker to sit in a window and offer his services. Since he was straight, he only took on female clients, who he says were mostly married women who wanted to have a fling without any emotional attachment.

After working as a gigolo for five years in Amsterdam, he says that he no longer saw women as individuals, but just a way to get money. He recognized that this was a very unhealthy mindset, and he knew he needed to retire if he ever wanted to actually fall in love and have a proper relationship. He succeeded in properly dating, and got married to his wife. He later became a burlesque performer, and starred in off-broadway musical performances.


Where Do we get this Stuff? Here are our Sources.

The Conversation – The Truth About Sex in Ancient Greece

Medium – Why “Pedophilia” Was So Normalized in Ancient Greece

The People of Plato. Debra Nails. Hackett Publishing.

Encyclopedia of Prostitution and Sex Work, Volume 1. Melissa Hope Ditmore. Greenwood Publishing Group. 2006.

Who’s Afraid of John Saul?: Urban Culture and the Politics of Desire in Late Victorian London. Morris Kaplan. Duke University Press.

The Independent – Obituary: Herbert Huncke

Town & Country Magazine – Who is Andrew Cunanan, the Man Who Murdered Gianni Versace?

Vanity Fair – Wrong Man, Wrong Place

The Killer’s Trial. Maureen Orth. Vanity Fair. 1997.

Online Nude Photos Are Latest Chapter In Jeff Gannon Saga. Howard Kurtz. Washington Post. 2005.

America Blog – A Man Called Jeff

The Best-Kept Boy in the World. Arthur Vanderbilt. Out Magazine. 2014.

Vice – The ‘Kept Man’ Who Seduced All Your Favorite Dead Gay Novelists