Alexandra Billings recalls meeting a handsome man who took her out to an expensive steak dinner in Chicago. Later, at her apartment, her date went to the bathroom and returned in full costume.
“Then he opened his blood-red painted mouth and crooned in his best Bea Arthur contralto voice, ‘Call me Helga,'” she recalls. “He was a United States Senator. Still is, I think.”
Before actress Billings became a star, appearing on shows like “Transparent,” she made ends meet as a sex worker.
The Illinois native writes about her experiences of being “on and off for almost four years” in the 1980s in her memoir, This Time For Me (Topple Books), out April 1. She writes. “It was actually kinda funny.”
The trans actress, 59, writes of a regular who dresses up as a clown and speaks in a very high-pitched voice.
“If you can picture a beloved cartoon rodent on pounds of helium begging you to fuck him in the ass, you can get an idea of my challenges,” writes Billings. And that’s not all. He “also had a horn that he beeped when he climaxed.” It was like being with “Harpo Marx,” she writes.
But not all of her clients wanted sex.
“There was a guy who paid me a thousand dollars to clean his house with a toothbrush,” she writes. “All I had to do was curse him and occasionally verbally abuse him.”
The man did this while wearing a diaper and a horse head.
Despite all the bizarre amusement, it could also be incredibly dangerous. Billings writes that he was picked up by a truckload of teenage boys who brutally raped her, beat her and held a blade against her penis, threatening to cut it off.
The ‘Never Have I’ and ‘Goliath’ star writes that she didn’t do this work because she was forced to, but because she wanted to and enjoyed the control and power she had over men.
“I never enjoyed sex,” she writes. “Not once. None of them. It was automatic, like turning on a household appliance. But I did it. Nobody forced me to do it.”
The Chicago theater star also battled drug addiction for many years, including a dabble in heroin, before sobering up in 1988.
Billings first married his wife Chrisanne Blankenship in 1996 — the two met in high school and starred in Twelfth Night — and she credits Blankenship with being supportive, particularly when she was diagnosed with AIDS in 1995. After gay marriage was legalized in California, the couple married there in 2008.
She’s also honest about her time as Davina, the transgender BFF of Maura Pfefferman, played by Jeffrey Tambor. Billings writes that when she and the actor first met, they had a playful relationship “who found each other hilarious.”
But one day, she writes, while they were on set talking, a young crew member asked Tambor’s wig to be adjusted, and he exploded. Billings attributed it to exhaustion and never said anything.
But as she filmed another scene with Tambor, now 77, and trans actress Trace Lysette, she saw the Emmy winner stand up, reportedly pat Lisette’s butt and make a “casual comment about my boobs. I observe. And I said nothing. I haven’t done anything.”
Over time, she writes, Tambor’s outbursts have become more frequent and “more dangerous.” She claims there were rumors on set from several trans people that “Jeffrey would react in a way that would traumatize her.”
Billings was exhausted and wanted out. After the show’s fourth season, she was ready to quit, but was smitten: Tambor announced he was leaving the show amid allegations that he molested an actress between scenes.
He has since apologized for his behavior on set.
Billings writes that she originally wanted to write the book to “leave a trail of queer history,” but gradually realized it was actually a love letter to her wife.
“And I knew all along that it was for you,” she writes to her. “I wrote to say thank you.”