Drugs, Orgies, and Making Films: David McGillivray's LITTLE DID YOU KNOW

The feeling of being chatted up in a pub, heavily embellished stories about illegal activities –– the opening chapter of the autobiography Little Did You Know: the Confessions of David McGillivray genuinely shocked me.

I read the beginning with ease, feeling a true sense of the characters and believing every single word. But I was disappointed when this chapter and style of storytelling ended with the overview. I trawled through the middle of this book, feeling the weight of every single date, location, and name drop thrown at me for what felt like forever. Then the storytelling changed back to its original feel, and I was so happy to settle back into the controversial tone after what felt like a long lecture. Despite this, there is a lot to like about Little Did You Know.

Something I particularly admire about David McGillivray is his obsessive need to keep a diary.

“The first 40 years are the hardest. After that it become a force of habit, like brushing your teeth.”

The attention to detail, pulled from years and years of writing, is truly mind boggling. Without the diaries this book wouldn’t have been at all possible since so much happened (and so many drugs were taken) between 1947 and 2015.

Little Did You Know includes a lot of traditional British self-deprecation and some truly self-involved stories. Some autobiographers avoid talking about taboo subjects but David McGillivray wants to tell his story (and maybe piss off a few people in the process). There is a level of honesty with him which makes the reader feel protective of him, even though the list of questionable activities grows longer each turn of the page.

McGillivray talks a lot about AIDS in his autobiography. Certain characters in his life (ones the reader comes to know and love) die of this disease that is so rarely spoken about in such detail. It’s interesting to read from a perspective of a man who hasn’t had AIDS, but has suffered great loss from the disease. McGillivray’s autobiography is a brave recollection of numerous dealings with AIDS and how the gay scene was so heavily effected and forever changed by it.

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David McGillivray is a gay icon. Practically giving birth to gay cinema, McGillivray and others with pornographic video obsessions paved the way for filmmakers today to be able to write and create what they want, and to be able to celebrate through film.

McGillivray is open about voting Conservative, and his guilt for doing so is interesting. It seems no matter what, he feels he can be honest with his readers — something which continues to entertain through the power of this book.

Little Did You Know seems to be his coming out story. Mentioned somewhere in those 300+ pages, McGillivray explains he never truly feels like he came out. The novel explores the awkward child’s shyness and denial which slowly leads to a comfortable and satisfied understanding of who he really is.

McGillivray is a complex character; and if you asked if he’s a good person, I honestly don’t know if I would be able to give a proper answer. The novel lays everything out for us to decide how we feel — he isn’t shy about drug dealing or orgies,  but he throws great parties and gives away money to help charities.

Building relationships and networking is what the film industry is all about. Perhaps McGillivray took this to the extremes with how closely he bonded with his colleagues. The stories get more and more wild as more fake names come in to save face for those around him. McGillivray does have some boundaries, but certainly not in passages like “I discovered I did not like being fucked up the arse”.

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Throughout the book there is a lot of over-explanation of events from previous chapters, and this grew tiresome. The phrase ‘this is where the story really starts’ is repeated often, making me wonder if I would ever find out his story, or if I would continue having to read false promises. McGillivray also overuses the phrase ‘I never laid a finger on him’, which got less and less believable as the story went on. However, this level of humour helps ease the reader through even the darkest of events.

The constant discussion of sex and drugs gets tiresome. I found myself having to put the book down for a few days and praying that some less lewd jokes would eventually find their way into the mix. The industry stories and honesty surrounding them are enthralling. The level of in hindsight jokes helped create a sense of unexpected character growth throughout which I enjoyed.

The fact that McGillivray refers back to his diary entries is a nice touch to the book. The entries were intermittently scattered throughout alongside quotes, like a well-read writer should include. I enjoyed the final few chapters which were told directly through diary entries (something I expected more of) because they put you in the mindset of McGillivray. For example, there’s an entry with no punctuation — for a whole page and a half!

Little Did You Know is an entertaining and factual read in a brash, self-deprecating, but warm British way. McGillivray has unabashedly immortalised some outlandish elements of his life in Little Did You Know. The novel ranges from lighthearted to emotional on some level everyone can relate to, even if they think they have nothing in common.

Little Did You Know: The Confessions of David McGillivray is available through Fab Press.