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LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. immigration officials denied British author Sebastian Horsley entrance to the United States on Wednesday on the grounds of "moral turpitude," Horsley told Reuters on Thursday.
Tired from his return trip to London and eight hours of detention with U.S. customs officials, the 45-year-old artist and author of the lurid autobiography of drug addiction and sex "Dandy in the Underworld," admitted that his flamboyant dress and top hat may have caught the attention of U.S. officials.
"I was wearing my dandy uniform, but the customs officials were wearing uniforms too and I didn't object to them," he said.
Horsley was stopped by immigration officials at New York's Newark airport after flying in from London to promote his book, which the author calls a "moral book."
"They said I was suffering from moral turpitude," Horsley said. "I was very surprised. I'm feeling quite well. I've never drunk turpentine in my life."
Horsley claims to have slept with more than 1,000 prostitutes, worked as a male escort, been in and out of rehab to treat drug addiction and staged a self-crucifixion in the Philippines in 2000.
"He is very honest about his life. That is who Sebastian is," said Seale Ballenger, spokesman for HarperCollins Publishers.
Ballenger said a party in New York that was meant to be the U.S. launch for the book, ended up being a rally for support to bring the author back to the United States.
Horsley said that after several hours of questioning in which customs officials asked him whether he used drugs, had solicited prostitutes or been convicted of any crimes, he was put on a plane back to London.
"God bless America, land of the free, but sadly not the home of the depraved," he said.
No one from the New York office of United States Customs and Border Protection was immediately available to comment.
The New York Times quoted a customs spokeswoman, Lucille Cirillo, as saying she could not comment on individual cases.
But in an e-mail to the newspaper she explained that under a waiver program that allows British citizens to enter the United States without a visa, "travelers who have been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude (which includes controlled-substance violations) or admit to previously having a drug addiction are not admissible."
Publisher Carrie Kania, from the HarperCollins' unit Harper Perennial that published the book in the United States, said she found it hard to understand why Horsley would be denied entrance into the United States for "his notoriety."
"It is unfortunate that his voice, in person, is being stifled," she said in a statement.
"Sebastian has written a cautionary tale of a life lived vividly ... an unapologetic, honest, funny and torturous book. Sebastian's memoir is about choice, some conventional, some unconventional."
Horsley's memoir was published last September in Britain with reviewers calling it both amusing and revolting.
Writing by Belinda Goldsmith and Paul Casciato