Confessions of a Steroid Addict
Credit: Photograph by Eric Ogden
Angel finally called. We arranged to train at the Y. For hours he ran me through a workout so fierce I almost passed out in the john. But there, in the mirror, was the point of all his torture: freakish definition from neck to knees. We went out to grab some lunch, met three girls from a touring dance troupe, and wound up, after a daylong, drunken debauch, cabbing back to his place with the dancers. And so was I enlisted, and so sworn in, to Angel's crew of hard boys on the make: with a night-and-next-day, cocaine-addled orgy. By week's end, his recruitment of me was complete: a trip to Charivari, the men's store of the gods, for a starter kit of Pucci and Nik Nik dress shirts, and a posh revision of my Mott the Hoople hairdo. And a nasty new regimen of 'roids.

He put me on a blitz of "catch-up juice" – fat bumps of Deca and test-cypionate and 20-mil tabs of Dianabol – and pushed my protein load with a midnight meal of Breyer's-and-raw-egg shakes. The jump-off, as he called it, brought swift returns. In a fortnight I'd added 10 pounds of mass and was sporting new ripples in my quads. Ravenous and speedy, I'd sleep four fitful hours and bound out of bed at 6 a.m. Wolfing a five-egg omelet clotted with sausage and bacon, I'd go and wake up Kate, the girl I'd started dating, and gobble her like a short stack with syrup.

By then I'd gleaned the point of Angel's grooming. He ran a going business of gym-toned strippers, booking them for birthdays and bachelorette parties. The bulk of his trade was in the outer boroughs, catering to lusty cosmeticians and big-haired secretaries, but my "debut," as he called it, took place at a bridal shower in Long Island, where "the classier people" lived. Alas, we got lost on the drive there. When we arrived, hours late, there were 20 tipsy women chanting "Man-ass! Man-ass!" as we apologized to the furious bride-to-be. I was so unnerved, I forgot to strip, shuffling, knock-kneed, in my Dickies work suit to a Nancy Sinatra cover of the Beatles' "Day Tripper." By midnight, skulking around in a Star of David G-string, I'd been groped by three generations of Jews, including a couple of aging aunts who tipped me in change and those chocolate coins they give to kids at Purim.

If steroids made me big, they couldn't make me bold. To function as an "entertainer," I'd need a booster drug. It was mostly Angel's coke that unlocked my inner wild man, coupled with bourbon and tonic. I did what I could to hedge the risk, using blow only on nights I worked. But the party was just beginning when the skin show ended, and by the time I stumbled home from a club crawl with Angel, I was strung so tight I had to take a quaalude to get to bed. A few weeks in, I was waking at noon and gulping Benzedrine to part the mists. Not that I got much rest, or wanted it. Where Angel went, I followed, joining Tommy and Spiro in a crew we dubbed The Four Whoresmen, staging swing-club romps through the Flower District, hoot rides to discos in Brooklyn and Queens or shoot-the-vapids tours of East Side fern bars. I'd soon be back at school, parsing Cavalier poets and wondering how to make a world of that. For now, here was life with all the Swiss-cream frosting, and I shoveled it in.

And then I got sick – very sick – and there went the body I'd worked to build. It wound up being the least of what I'd lose.