Ashley Matilda Silver was the youngest child and only daughter of Albert and Michaela Silver. At the age of eighteen, under the stage name Hannah Hamilton, she embarked on a lucrative career as an exotic dancer. But despite the wealth her tireless work ethic brought her, Ashley lived frugally. As likely as not to be found on her days off in sweatpants and old t-shirts, she saved her money for special occasions—and for supporting the people she loved.
Polyamorous to her core, Ashley was nevertheless best-known by the public for her mostly monogamous relationship with rock star Robin Gates—and for her appearance in Gates’ music video “Precious Whore.”
Following Robin’s murder in September 2006, Ashley entered an extended period of mourning—a period which only seemed to end when Ash was diagnosed with breast cancer in later 2012. And yet, those who knew her best suggest that Ashley Silver was hopeful until her last day that things were just about to turn around for her.
The story of Ashley’s final years and forbidden dreams is told in The Elixir of Denial.
Appearance & Personality
Ashley Silver was a busty brunette with beguiling green eyes. The eyes, it was said, were an inheritance from her father’s father’s mother. And as with her great-grandmother before her, a longing look from Ashley Silver was something people both craved and feared. For once she asked you for something she wanted, it was nigh impossible to refuse her.
That said, Ashley was quite aware of the effect she had on people. In most cases, she didn’t ask for something unless she was sure the person she was asking was already ready to say “Yes.”
Blessed (or cursed, depending on which day you asked her) with the same supple, athletic body as her mother and maternal grandmother, Ashley knew from a young age that she wanted to put her good looks to good use. Comparing photos from her grandmother’s modeling days with mental images of the Grammy Hamilton she grew up with, Ashley came to see beauty as a precious and easily exhausted commodity—something to be exploited while it lasted.
And yet, she reserved this cold, analytical point of view for the public appearance she cultivated. In private, she was relaxed to the point of seeming slothful and slovenly. In The Chains of Desire, as she strips down from baggy sweats to a bathing suit, Ashley is accused by her best friend’s mother of “hiding all of that under all of this.” And in The Elixir of Denial, when an urgent situation calls for it, she is willing to dash down the corner store with snarled hair and smeared makeup.
Personality-wise, Ashley was a no-nonsense get-things-done overachiever. She was blunt to the point of being hurtful, but she never set out to cause harm. In fact, if she sensed she might hurt a person’s feelings, she was quick to dial down her aggressive honesty.
She also lived her life under a strict moral code. She never knowingly slept with someone who was cheating, she believed in the importance of family above all else (whether that was the family you were born into, or the family you found for yourself), and she saw her patrons at the club as people first—and never simply as wallets that were hers for the emptying.
Warning: Here there be spoilers.
Ashley was born at the General Hospital in Lowell, Massachusetts on August 31, 1979 to a father who was making a name for himself on Boston radio as “DJ Al” and a mother who was hard at work completing her MD. A true handful from the day she was born, she seemed to behave consistently for only one person: her Grammy Silver.
Grammy Silver, who’d only had boys herself—and whose first granddaughter, Veronica, wanted nothing to do with traditionally “girlish” things—was delighted by Ashley’s predilection for playing dress-up. This made the pair inseparable—both at the Chelmsford house which Grammy and Grampy Silver shared with Ashley’s parents, and at the family’s summer home on Cape Cod.
It also made Grammy Silver’s death in 1982 particularly hard to bear for Ashley, who understood—even at just three years old—what a terrible loss she’d just endured.
As Ashley grew up, she cast aside her love of dress-up and make-up and everything else that reminded her of her lost grandmother. She escaped into video games and comic books, mastering the former with an ease that escaped her clumsy older brother.
In fact, it was her love of these two things—in particular a video game called Baseball Simulator 1.000—which would lead to the first major turning point in her life: her meeting and befriending Adam and Robin Gates.
Struck by a sudden desire to “hit things” while playing the aforementioned baseball game, Ashley convinced her father to let her join the town’s Little League in the spring of 1990. And given that she was a girl and had no experience to speak of, the only coach in town who would take her was an old friend of her father’s: Phil Gates.
A friendship with Phil’s kids soon blossomed. Adam was the first person Ashley met who was almost a match for her on the Nintendo, and Robin could play any song Ashley asked for on her guitar. Beyond that, the Filipino features that each Gates kid inherited from their mother—intoxicatingly exotic to Ashley at the time—made them the objects of early childhood crushes as well.
The early years of Ashley’s adolescence passed without incident. Aside from the detention she got for defending the honor of her cousin Veronica during that girl’s 1992 pregnancy, Ashley rarely got in trouble. She got good grades, she hung out at the comic book store where she’d eventually land her first job, and she spent nearly as much time at the Gates’ house as her own. She was just a typical teenager, nothing more.
Then she got together with Adam.
Theirs was a remarkably average teenage relationship, albeit more sexual than some. And it might have continued a lot longer than it did, if not for an accidental pregnancy and Ashley’s decision to abort it.
Fueled by his Catholic faith and by rage over the fact that he hadn’t been consulted, Adam waited outside the clinic on the day of Ashley’s procedure. The resulting screaming match between Adam, Ashley, and Ashley's mother eventually—albeit accidentally—turned physical. And when Adam’s father got out of his car to intervene, that was the last straw.
The subsequent “Silver-Gates Accords of 1994” (as Ashley would later call them) forbade Adam and Ashley from seeing each other, but the agreement didn’t last long. Adam still wanted to be with Ashley, after all, even as angry as he was about what he saw as her “betrayal.” And then the other Silver (Michael) and the other Gates (Robin) had to go and start seeing each other, and that made keeping the Silvers and Gateses apart laughably impossible.
Adam and Ashley were back together by the middle of 1995, but it was a short-lived reconciliation. Soon enough, frustrated by Adam’s fear of having sex, Ashley moved on to dating other people. Lots of other people. The longest of these relationships was with David Johnson, the bassist from Michael and Robin’s band Gideon’s Bible, but even that lasted just a few weeks. Once Ashley realized that keeping her options open was itself an option, she became the most notorious “free agent” at Chelmsford High School.
And yet, because she steadfastly refused to steal boyfriends (or girlfriends), she was rarely called a “slut”—and was never called anything worse. In fact, even when word got around that she’d befriended a stripper at one of Gideon’s Bible’s house parties, her reputation didn’t suffer. The people who hated her still hated her, but the people who didn’t just kept on thinking she was edgy as hell—and the coolest chick in town.
Of course, the person who thought she was the absolute coolest was her best friend: Robin Gates.
Even while Robin continued to date Michael, she lusted after Ashley. But while Ashley knew full-well of her friend’s desires, she stuck by her code. She may have hated her meek, wishy-washy brother, but she wasn’t going to sleep with his girlfriend.
As Ashley neared her eighteenth birthday, spurred on by the encouragement of her new friend Nikki, she made plans to forsake her parents’ plans for her college education. She was going to start stripping instead. And she told them as much in the most Ashley way possible: over Mickey Mouse-shaped waffles during breakfast at Disney World. Knowing that they would be altogether hesitant to make a scene, she laid out her scheme to cash in on her beauty while she had chance. And it worked.
By the time she’d finished her last shift at the comic book store (as seen in the story “Hard to Find”), Ashley had convinced her father. And though her mother was still hesitant to offer her blessing, her resolve was cracking.
Then a big fight on the morning of her eighteenth birthday sealed the deal.
The big fight between Ashley’s parents was over a tragedy which took place an ocean away. Early in the morning of August 31, 1997—Ashley’s birthday—Princess Diana of Wales was killed in a Parisian car crash. Albert Silver’s grief over the lost potential of the thirty-six-year-old princess fueled a tirade about his daughter being allowed to live the life she wanted to live. But Michaela Silver felt just as strongly that Diana’s death was a cautionary tale, and that Ashley should see it as a reason not to make a spectacle of herself.
Ashley used the whole thing as an excuse to sneak out and abscond to the local strip club to start scouting the joint and see what she was up against.
A few weeks later, she made her debut with Robin in the audience. And a few months after that, when Robin and Michael finally broke up, Ashley finally slept with her best friend for the first time—breaking years of sexual tension between the two. It was the beginning of a beautiful and beautifully open relationship, in which they described themselves as “each other’s shelters from the storm.”
The late 90s and early 2000s were a period of prolonged happiness for the two. Robin’s new band made it big, in part off the back of a music video which featured Ashley and the supermodel Sylvia Welch. Ashley started feature-dancing across the country, following Robin and her band wherever they toured. And the two met and made a boyfriend of the basketball star Ryan Manson—the three of them making headlines as people around the world got, in many cases, their first taste of a triad relationship.
This period of relative bliss came to an end in 2003 when, following a fight over Robin’s revelation that she the exact day she was going to die, Robin disappeared into the New Orleans night. A heartbroken Ashley took comfort in Ryan’s arms for a time, but it just wasn’t the same without Robin and they eventually called it quits.
Here and there over the next two years, Ashley thought about hooking up with Adam again. He’d become a regular at her club, and he did remind Ashley of Robin—at least a little. But every time she had the thought, Ash quickly came to her senses. Adam was married now, and though he was paying her once a week for a lap dance, she had to draw a line somewhere.
In September 2005 though, the tension between Adam and Ashley came to a head during a dance where Ashley—out of frustration—took things too far. She rode his lap so hard that night, and with such intensity, that she brought Adam to an orgasm. Waiting for her to leave work, Adam followed Ashley’s car in a game of cat and mouse throughout the towns of Billerica, Chelmsford, and Lowell. Finally, a little turned on herself by the naughtiness of it all, Ashley teased Adam into mounting her along the darkened banks of the Merrimack River. But though she was enjoying herself at first, Ashley eventually asked Adam to stop.
He didn’t listen.
Though Ashley declined to name her attacker or to press charges, word got out about what Adam had done. And while Ashley was being comforted by a seemingly returned-from-the-dead Robin, Ashley’s mother took matters into her own hands. While Phil Gates looked on, having determined that his son was only getting what he deserved, Michaela Silver beat the shit out of Adam Gates with a baseball bat.
Though embarrassment over what Adam had done to Ashley caused Robin to run and hide, it didn’t take long for Ashley to find her lover and for them to reconnect for the final year of their relationship. Ashley was there every step of the way as Robin wrote and recorded the album that would become her masterpiece, A Hand That Will Never Be a Fist. Ashley was there the day Robin learned that Adam had killed their father and then himself. And Ashley was there the day that a deranged fan gunned down the great love of her life—on the exact day that Robin had told Ashley it would happen.
Ashley’s life after that was a melancholy affair, a life spent under a field of gray clouds which parted only occasionally to let the sun shine through. And yet, when the sun did shine through, it shone brighter than it ever had before. Ashley Silver made the most of her remaining years: doting upon her honorary niece Tracy, having her share of fun (if meaningless) flings, and reconciling with her mother while she kept on dancing.
Her breast cancer diagnosis in late 2012 was a tough pill to swallow, but Ashley attacked the disease with the same tenacity with which she attacked every other problem she’d ever faced. And those who knew her best say that even on her last day, she embodied her mantra that “today is not the day.” As her final “fuck you” to death, she laid out on the beach for one final tan—and if that doesn’t sum up the life of Ashley Silver, I don’t know what else could come close.