Father Mike Wilson

(creator: D Keith Mano)

D Keith Mano
Father Mike Wilson is a young Episopal priest, the recently ordained assistant at St Mark's, Lekachman, in Nebraska. Now aged 28, he had come from New York where, he tells us, he had last "made daisies" (made love) with his girl friend Kay two months before. It is he who tells the story In his diary.
At the age of 16, he had allowed himself to be seduced by a 16-year-old girl, who had then aborted the child. At that time he had been much helped by a local priest, Father Mac, who had been "fascinated by sin", and "turned it into my opportunity for grace. When I was near suicide. 'Sin is a cry," he used to say, "listen to it."
Mike says, "Never have I met a man with such joy in Christ." And the main reason that Mike offered himself for ordination was "to be a priest for him".

D Keith Mano (c1942- ) graduated from Columbia University in 1963. Then, while in England as a visiting Fellow in English at Clare College, Cambridge, he toured as an actor with the Marlowe Society. He returned to America as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow at Columbia and went on to appear in several off-Broadway productions and toured with the National Shakespeare Company. In 1979, he left the Episcopal church and joined the the Eastern Orthodox. He is divorced with two sons. He lives in New York where for 8 years he ran the family business, X-Pando Corporation, which made cement and other building products. He served as contributing editor to Playboy magazine, reviewed movies and books, and and has written eight novels with religious/ethical themes.

Topless (1991)
Topless is the unlikely story of how young Father Mike Wilson goes off from his Nebraska parish to return to New York after his brother, Tony, mysteriously disappears. Tony's wife had asked for his help in running The Smoking Car restaurant. No one had explained to Mike that it was a topless bar, complete with naked girls on trapezes, stripper auditions, and murderous underworld heavies. However, Mike soon adapts himself to his new circumstances and finds that he enjoys auditioning strippers. But then corpses keep turning up and Mike finds himself involved in the hunt for a brutal killer.

The author did his research into topless bars while preparing a series of articles for Playboy magazine. He says, "I taped perhaps 200 interviews in at least 25 bars - interviews with bouncers and owners and, of course customers and girls." He decided that "any field in which average-looking 19-year-old girls can earn $1500 a week tax free just for dancing semi-nude (I have never heard of a dancer-prostitute) is likely to hold some interest." And so Topless was born.

It is all told with cheeky humor, as when, right at the start, Mike is offering a woman a wafer at communion and she shakes her head and says, "No. No. I'm on a diet." And then later he comments,"I'm tempted to say that no one is less worthy than I am to be a priest. I'm tempted. But I'd be committing a sin of pride."

The girls in The Smoking Car quickly take to their new manager: "Doris, one of the Silicone sisters (so named because, well, guess ...) yelled down from onstage, 'You look like Tony -- is your cock big as his?'
' I - I'm not sure -'
'You don't know how long your cock is?'
'I mean I'm not sure I - '
'He was eight inches, with a dog leg to the left.' "
Even for Mike, all this takes some getting used to. At first he "can't meet eyes (or breasts). Offstage, the women saunter around in revealing gear -- if there are two or three of them, I spend so much time averting my gaze that I get dizzy. I end up staring at my broken shoe a lot." But he soon acclimatises himself, and finds that he makes a remarkably effective manager.

He is afraid that he might be recognized as a priest by some Episcopalian "out tom-catting". But "lucky for me Episcopalians have a low sex drive." Nevertheless in an effort to disguise himself, he tries to grow a moustache. He thinks that "In some ways, I was more alive to my faith than good-but-balding father Mike Wilson ever was in the dry heat of Nebraska. More alive -- because I am playing chickie with damnation."

He feels that "My occupation hasn't changed. I am still a pastor, still an authority figure. I still have a congregation that comes to me for advice. In fact, it's the same stupid confessions, hassles, pretty much." But it is young dancers now who seek his help. And it is one of them, Berry, who begs him, "Please, please, please. Kiss me." And, after sex, he ends up, believe it or not, putting her G-string on and doing parodies of other women at The Car. Later on, he explains; "We almost went to church. I wanted to." But "the thought of kneeling at an altar rail with (Berry says) at least 4 ounces of cocaine in my pocket struck me as, I don't know, blasphemy perhaps. So we fucked instead. I like easy answers."

In the end, even Mike feels he must resign from the church. "I went into the church because of my sexual guilt. I'll leave the church because of my sexual guilt." But, even so, "I am not giving up my faith". It's certainly a very odd situation for a clergyman to find himself in. But after a time, the jokes start to wear thin and it all gets rather repetitive. And Mike does not really inspire belief either in himself or anyone else. It is a sort of Playboy fantasy with God thrown in.

There is a biography of the author on the Dictionary of Literary Biography website, but they charge to access the full entry.

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Topless cover
The cover seems quite restrained for a story about a topless bar.
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