The Boy Who Sat by the Window by David Hodge ★★★★★

There are few people in this world who have experienced the hedonistic glamour of an A-list celebrity, whilst also having to work hard to make ends meet (if wearing nothing but Vivienne Westwood can be considered as making ends meet!), but David Hodge aka Dusty O is one of them.

Life now focusses on drag within the parameters of mainstream representations as depicted on shows such as RuPaul’s Drag Race. In certain quarters, until you’ve been on that show, you’re basically unknown to the wider gay scene. So if you weren’t fortunate enough to have lived or clubbed through the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s in London, you might not have the foggiest who Dusty O, DJ/Promoter/Performer/Actor and of course Drag Artiste, is.

Well, there was a time when fame and fortune grew slowly and organically over time. Success and recognition was earned as a result of working the scene, networking and a lot of hard graft. At that time, Dusty O was the epitome of this work ethic and not only succeeded at it, but developed her very own niche. Aside from running her own club nights in London’s bustling West End, she featured on television shows such as Gimme Gimme Gimme and was even flown across the world to play and perform for the world’s glitterati! Each event became an opportunity to add to her already-bursting black book of the rich and famous. And it’s all detailed here.

Even if you removed the exciting and often hilarious stories which tell the life of this incredibly fascinating Soho icon, The Boy Who Sat By the Window is a memoir that stands strong as it is brilliantly written. Hodge‘s skill in writing a book which sounds just like it is being read to you is one that cannot be underestimated. His tone and skillful penning will have you totally immersed, turning the pages and burning through this book in no time because it is honestly impossible to put down. The chapters roar through the The Queen of Soho‘s rise from obscurity to the front pages of magazines and tabloid newspapers, and it’s one hell of a ride!

Detailing a childhood that so many gay men will relate to, this book is full of emotion and truth. Many gay men will recognise themselves as the boy who sat by the window. Hodge‘s experiences are a written testimony of the myriad of fears and challenges that the LGBTQ+ community face on a daily basis. The tales of his time working at the London Lighthouse during the HIV/AIDS pandemic are heart wrenching and honest, but this book skillfully combines these serious anecdotes with accounts of more pleasure-seeking experiences, such as brushing shoulders with the likes of Madonna, Cher and Donatella Versace (yes, the actual ones!). There are countless celebrity autobiographies out there but this memoir is unique in its perspective, straddling the worlds of wealth and celebrity with that of the common man, which makes it a truly fascinating read.  

One of the beauties of this book is how it effortlessly transports you back to the glory days of the 80’s and 90’s… well at least to the parts of society that had a bit of glam, originality and excitement about them, fashion and the clublands of Soho. Filled with the hilarious bitchiness that you would expect from a character dubbed The Queen of Soho, it is also humbling and welcome to hear the regret of taking this quality too far for too long, having been heavily influenced by the vices which exist in the world of partying and hedonism. To openly and willingly look back and acknowledge that in hindsight, conversations and issues could have been dealt with differently is something most of us could learn from whatever our age. It is this relatable quality which leaves you feeling you are actually invited under the skin of David Hodge and get to truly understand him (and her of course) by the end of this book.

Hodge‘s book reminds us of the importance of family as you grow older, but more importantly that we all have the ability to choose our own family should our birth family not quite cut it. Whilst it’s common for brothers and sisters, and parents and children, to grow closer and put aside differences as they mature, it is the family that you get to choose, our friends and partner, who will love and support you all your life.

Hodge proves that you can have anything you want in life if you dress for it, and in a life full of achievements, this book has to be the top of them all.

P.S. Whilst we understand that Dusty O, Queen of Soho is now sadly deceased, respectfully, The Recs is praying for a reincarnation… for the “right fee”, of course!

If you miss Dusty O or the glory days of Soho, don’t miss this essential memoir!

The Recs is happy to give the boy ★★★★★ (5 fabulous stars)

The Boy Who Sat by the Window by David Hodge

The Boy Who Sat by the Window by David Hodge is published by Mardle Books on 8 Sept. 2022

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