Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Whatever Happened to David Hurles?

On October 6, 2008 I had my haircut. It wasn't anything special, just a favor to a friend who needed a "head" for beauty school, but it's a haircut that I'll never forget. While my head was under scrutiny from a heard of hair people I missed a call. It was a call I shouldn't have missed. Dian Hanson was on the other end.

Her voice conveyed a combination of impatience and panic. She said our friend, David Hurles, was in the hospital. He'd suffered a massive stroke earlier that morning. I called back immediately, but Dian was now in the hospital and my calls weren't going through.

I had plans to meet a friend for a drink in fifteen minutes. We were going to see John Waters' one-man show at the Castro Theatre that night, and planned to be properly sauced for the occasion. At that moment, completely uncertain of David's current state, and with no one else to call, I needed that drink.

So I went on. My friend and I had a couple of Greyhounds at a throwback cocktail bar in the Mission and I told her about David and what had happened. I told her about his photography, and his love for rough trade, and how he'd once told me about the time John Waters interviewed him for a book about his biggest influences. It all seemed so unreal.

Fifteen minutes into This Filthy World I was bawling like a baby. It should go with out saying that John Waters' one-man show isn't a particularly tear jerking affair, but I couldn't hold it together. I just kept thinking about David and how excited he'd been about his interview with Mr. Waters. That's when Dian called. I rushed out of the theatre and into the street. Standing in front of the Castro Theatre, surrounded by the sounds of the city that David loved, I listened as Dian told me that he had suffered a near fatal stroke, and the outcome was grim. She said that if I wanted to see him, I'd need to come down soon. When I got home that night, I booked a flight to LA.

I arrived the next day to find David in a coma. His movements were mere reflexes. He wasn't breathing on his own, and he was hooked up to so many machines that he looked like something out of a science fiction movie – half man, half machine. For the next few days, Dian and I took shifts, reading to him, massaging his legs, and just hoping that something would happen. We all expected him to die.

On my last day in town, I was reading to David from Bonk, a book about sex and science that I'd promised to him just a month before. As I recited a passage about the corkscrew penises of pigs, a male nurse – most certainly batting for our team – came in to check on David. The orderly shook David's shoulder and loudly repeated his name in his ear, in attempt to wake him up. That's when he opened his eyes – like Dr. Frankenstein's creation, he was alive! Over the next few weeks, he regained his basic faculties: breathing, speaking, and rudimentary movement, but he wasn't the David that we once knew.

From the hospital, David was moved to a nursing home in Orange County, and with Dian's help, he eventually made his way back to Hollywood, still in a nursing home, where he remains today. He's speaking now, and eating, but mainly just sweets. He remembers his models and his life before the stroke, and he can even relate the details of October 6 in gruesome detail. It's likely that David's visitors (among them, Hollywood celebrities, old school pornographers, and the self-proclaimed queen of extreme anal) are quite a bit more entertaining than those of his roommates, but when your surrounded by death, even the most fantastic company is little consolation.

On his good days, David is lively, funny and full of the wit that drew me to him in the first place. On his bad days, which seem to out weigh the good, he is sad and fatalistic. From what we've been told, David's recovery could go one of two ways. If left to his own devices (i.e. without the proper rehabilitation), David could stagnate. However, with the proper help, there's a possibility that he can come out of this thing, if not brand new, than at least better than he is today. David always said that if something like this happened to him we should pull the plug. His greatest fear was living like he is. Since there's no turning back to those early days in the hospital, when pulling the plug was still an option, we have no choice – we have to get the man the fuck out of that holding place between life and death.


  1. I'm glad to see my uncle has a group of friends who care about him. Word just got back to the family about his strokes. He needs you now more than ever.


  2. Thank you so much Paula. I'm happy to hear that you are back in contact. David's a wonderful person, as you know, and he deserve all the attention he can get. -Christopher

  3. Oh my god, I have been searching for David since we fell out of contact in early 2008. His phone would just ring and ring, but the machine I remembered him having wouldn't pick up. Now, it belongs to some business. These posts are over a year old, what is his current status? I have that same picture of him and John Waters, in fact he gave it and a couple others to me the last time I saw him...at that apartment they're standing in front of. dammit.

  4. Hey Michael,

    If you'll take a look at the homepage for this blog, you'll find that David is doing much better, though he is still living in a nursing home in East Hollywood. He's scheduled to have a big gallery exhibition (curated by Mr. Waters) in NY this summer.