cover image Secrets of a Gay Marine Porn Star

Secrets of a Gay Marine Porn Star

Rich Merritt. Kensington Publishing Corporation, $15 (480pp) ISBN 978-0-7582-0968-9

During the height of Clinton's ""Don't Ask, Don't Tell"" policy, Merritt led two secret lives. Marines serving under him didn't realize their captain was a closeted gay man, and his small group of gay friends didn't know he made gay porn films while enlisted. In this hefty if meandering tell-all, Merritt charts his struggle to repress his sexuality while living amongst the members of his ultra-conservative family and attending ""the Fortress of Fundamentalism"": Bob Jones University. He'd never even masturbated prior to his first sexual experience in his mid-20s. That first encounter-with another man-ends with a knife being held to the throat of a woman who saw the two together. Being a Marine seems to appeal both to Merritt's narcissism and to his extreme low self-esteem. A self-avowed ""adrenaline junkie"" and drama queen with (undiagnosed) depression, he tries to feed his ego by becoming a stripper, a male escort (briefly) and, finally, a porn star. Just when the book seems headed for a happy ending with Merritt in a stable relationship and attending law school, he discovers circuit parties and starts mixing alcohol, recreational drugs and antidepressants, which sends him spiraling downward toward a suicide attempt. Merritt's tale is compelling, titillating and even moving. But at nearly 500 pages, many of which are padded with superfluous detail, it often lags, making it far less compelling than it might have been with some judicious editing.