I began formulating BAD FAIRY about a quarter of a century ago, when the sitcom “Will and Grace” brought gay characters mainstream.

It was a notable transition in the zeitgeist, for sure; but “Will and Grace” gave audiences a certain kind of gay, a palatable and safe kind of gay; a bit of a stick up his ass kind of gay; and while such baby steps are essential and deserve grateful recognition …

I looked around at my LGBTQ+ friends at the time - a colorful assortment of trans and nonbinary folk, rednecks, drag queens (back when drag was truly dangerous), sex workers, hippies, artists, and otherwise Bohemians - and I wondered:

“Where are THEY?”

So I began dreaming up a universe centered around a Gay Outsider.

The Gay That Nobody Wants In Their Parade.

The Gay That People Warned You About.

At first I thought that he should be slightly homophobic, pooh-poohing gay stereotypes and forging his own identity apart from gay traditions. But there was no comedy there. I kind of hated him.

What made me laugh was the notion that this guy embraces ALL of the horridlywonderful gay stereotypes: he loves leather; he’s a musical queen; he adores decorating. He’s all that …

… and a hooker too. As a former sex worker myself, I knew damn well the stereotype of the gay prostitute: as sad, the worst of the worst, the dregs, the butt of jokes. Nobody had really DONE gay escorts before in a serial storytelling form; I worried that someone else might get there first, especially someone writing from the outside.

Something about the phrase “middle-aged gay prostitute” tickled my funny bone, because there’s an immediate conflict there. Sex work is a career like ballet - you just age out.

I decided to name him Ariel for Shakespeare’s creation: Prospero’s imprisoned fairy in The Tempest: a character of tremendous magical powers who is also enslaved.

To push Ariel further outside, I added “drug dealer” to the mix. I could draw from my own 360 in the drug world, finally, writing from the inside as someone who was there, leavened by the grace of being three and-a-half years clean and counting. As I learned along my druggy travels: there are angels who reside in Hell, and the Devil works his evil up above in a business suit.

So “drug-dealing middle-aged gay prostitute” it was. But I didn’t want Ariel to be sad, at least not in the usual ways. So I added layers of fussiness to him, and a sense of humor. Much of our storytelling diet these days gives us characters to laugh at. I wanted Ariel to be genuinely funny, with a rascally sense of humor, as with his friends as well. Such colors hook the audiences into caring, and keeping up on the story feels like getting together with friends.

Years ago in New Orleans I swept myself into the gay criminal underworld. To say I “got swept up” denies my enthusiastic participation. I’d never really rolled with unrepentant criminals before. I drank in those experiences like a sponge. My Clark (introduced in Chapter Four) is based on a real-life Clark, who is now in prison, where Clark should be. (Clark gave me Ariel’s line “In New Orleans, the boys forgot what their Mommas taught ‘em.”) Prada Purse was real, too, down to the “Happy Birthday” sash he wore every day to get free stuff from tourists. I became fascinated by (what were described as) “the drag queen gangs” (who were trans and nonbinary, in truth). New Orleans didn’t just have one such gang, they had two, and they were arch-rivals and not to be fucked with. As Clark said, “If you want to fuck somebody up, you don’t go to the Mafia, you don’t go to the cartels, you go to the drag queens because they break you from the inside.”

I got a bunch of my shit stolen during my stay, of course. My character Tyler is based on a real Tyler at the St. Philips Residence who stole a hundred bucks from me; she saw herself as an “It Girl” in Manhattan in the 90’s; I drew from her but gave my Tyler a more ethical nature. I consider the losses the price of my embedment, and a lesson. One can’t bitch when one puts one’s self in such scenarios.

In exchange, I got acres of material. Would I go through all that again? Heavens no. Hell to the no. (Advice for aspiring storytellers: you can gather material and skip a lot of pain by just interviewing people.)

Beyond the gay criminal underground I felt at home in New Orleans, a city of soul and history that defies comparison with any other US city. I spent most of my stay at the St. Philips Residence in the French Quarter, which was then a bit of a beautiful three-story ruin, U-shaped with an open courtyard in the middle. It’s what I see when I write about the Cozy Rooms (a name I stole from a brothel that existed back in the early days of my hometown of Coos Bay, Oregon).

So after many false starts, in 2020 I began developing a TV pilot with Fremantle Media, which underwent heavy revisions over three years. When I finally delivered a draft that got everyone excited, the project was put on ice by the WGA strike. Absent any other avenues, I began writing the story in serial form here on Substack, intended as the genesis of my first novel.

I am inspired by the mighty Armistead Maupin and his epic Tales of the City universe above all else, and wholeheartedly cop to direct lines of influence. As you can’t find Armistead’s Barbary Lane on a San Francisco map, nor can one find St. Monica Street anywhere in New Orleans. I’m keeping it vaguely “just north of the French Quarter.” As Armistead’s chapters go down like potato chips, so I’m working to make mine. (We both have a straight-leaning character named Brian; my Brian is based on a real Brian, a sweet, sexy and conflicted Korean drug dealer I knew in the Valley.)

Soon I found myself wanting to get back to writing, which is always a good sign. If I’m entertained while I’m working, I find that audiences tend to be entertained as well. The pages pour out, drawing from the pilot as a loose structure. There are some big surprises in store, and I’m laying the groundwork quietly.

So this is the genesis of my serial enterprise. I hope to always keep a few chapters ahead. Though I do a lot of revisions before posting each chapter, this is basically a first draft of the whole schmeer. In any storytelling venture, I find that it’s best to just knock the initial draft out and then sew the story up once I see how it all lays. So I’m going to let it be a little rough, but not too rough. (I know you like it rough.)

And this medium allows me to employ visual aids. I’m a whiz on the Adobe Suite.

So that, my dears, is how BAD FAIRY finally dropped. God and/or karma works in mysterious ways.

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BAD FAIRY chronicles the adventures of Ariel, a drug-dealing, middle-aged rent boy who lives in New Orleans with his menagerie of friends, lovers, family - and villainous others.


Jeff Whitty

I tell stories. Screenwriter, CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? (WGA & Independent Spirit Awards. Noms: Oscars, BAFTAS.) AVENUE Q (Tony Award, Best Book & Musical), BRING IT ON, TALES OF THE CITY: THE MUSICAL, the OG HEAD OVER HEELS (pre-Broadway), much more.