Shorn: Toys to Men, by Dennis Milam Bensie
Shorn: Toys to Men (268 pages), is a memoir by Theatrical Hair Designer and Wigmaker Dennis Milam Bensie about his traumatic childhood and subsequent struggles with the compulsion to cut hair.
“A poignant read about a little-known issue,” writes Julie Kane in the Library Journal. “What I’m Telling My Friends: Particularly topical in these days of bullying stories and gay teens committing suicide, this brings to light just one man’s tremendous struggle.”
“Honest and triumphant! A must read for anyone battling darkness, seeking light,” says Justin Reed Early, Author of StreetChild: An Unpaved Passage. Other renowned memoirists who have endorsed Bensie’s book include Jeff Mann, Walter de Milly, Martin Moran, Jennifer Niven, and Joshua Daniel Phillips.
The Advocate voted Shorn: Toys to Men, “One of the Best Overlooked Books of 2011.” The New York Journal of Books called Shorn: “Bracingly honest.” Shorn was a finalist in the 2013 Indie Excellence Awards, along with Bensie’s other memoir, One Gay American.
5 Stars: “This is one of the most honest memoirs that I have ever read. It kept me at the edge of my seat and propelled me to read the whole book, from start to finish…. It is a book about a uniquely tangled love story, a triumphant quest for love, forgiveness and self-acceptance. And I am glad to report that Bensie achieves all of these things and he finally finds himself.” Read more ….
–Author Irene Roth
The release of the book coincided with the theatrical version, entitled The Cut, which premiered at the Open Circle Theater in Seattle’s Belltown area on January 14, 2011.
What shapes a man’s life more? Being molested at age seven, having a gruff father ashamed of him for being effeminate, or being humiliated by school bullies for being a sissy? In the memoir, Shorn: Toys to Men, author Dennis Milam Bensie chronicles his journey from damaged boy, self-medicating by cutting the hair of shoplifted Barbie dolls, to confused young man, paying hundreds of gay street hustlers to shave their heads. Bensie demonstrates how hair can be currency—a moral gauge for good and bad, male and female, lawful and unlawful. The world of theater is his backdrop, a sanctuary where he gradually spins fantasy into reality. After getting his start in community theater, Bensie moves up to professional houses throughout the United States, turning his private sexual conflict over haircutting into a successful career as a skilled theatrical wig designer. Humorous and honest, this book is a uniquely tangled love story, a triumphant quest for love, forgiveness and self-acceptance.
“In 1998,” Bensie says, “I was diagnosed with OCD and paraphilia: being sexually aroused by something atypical or extreme. It was a relief for my relentless need to cut men’s hair to finally have a name and a treatment. I opened up to my closest, trusted friends. I shared the unusual story of my spiral out of control. I was a haircutting addict. I met my friend Jeff in Ashland, Oregon in 1999 while doing wigs for a few shows at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Jeff worked in media and knew a good story when he heard it. He was both amused and stunned by my tales. I had lived my whole life obsessed in one way or another about hair. He pointed out the irony of me being a talented wig person. He encouraged me to share my story with the world…Seeing the book take shape on paper made me realize I had a very unusual book…a story I had never heard.”
Dennis Milam Bensie grew up in Robinson, Illinois where his interest in the arts began in high school participating in various community theatre productions. He holds a degree in Theatre Costume Design from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and completed an apprenticeship in theatrical wig construction at Los Angeles Opera. He has costumed and wigged shows all over the country, including Oregon Shakespeare Festival, PlayMakers Repertory Theatre in Chapel Hill, NC, Alliance Theatre of Atlanta, Arizona Theatre Company, Actor’s Theatre of Louisville, and the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego to name a few. His costume and wig design for Valley of the Dolls at Empty Space Theatre in Seattle garnered him a feature article in Entertainment Design Magazine and a Seattle Times Footlight Award for Best Design. Dennis also teaches master classes in wigmaking and wig maintenance around the country. He has been on staff at Intiman Theatre in Seattle since 1992 and is proud to have been involved with such productions as Angels in America, Nickel and Dimed and the world premiere of the Tony Award winning musical, Light in the Piazza. Shorn: Toys to Men is his first book. Dennis lives in Seattle with his partner and three dogs. For more information, see Bensie’s blog: Shorn.Coffeetownpress.com.
Shorn is available in Kindle ($6.95), paperback, and cloth ($25.95) editions on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, and Amazon Japan. Other ebook versions are sold on Smashwords and through most major retailers. Bookstores and libraries can order through email@example.com, Ingram, and Baker & Taylor.
Click the cover photo to order the paperback