My Life at the Gym: An Unexpected Surrender to a Life Sentence!

By Will Seagers

 

Hi Folks! Will here. Please let me start out by explaining this rather tongue-in-cheek blog title. In no way is there any regret or negative inference intended. The simple truth of the matter is that now as I am approaching my 73rd year on this planet, I still make my (almost) daily pilgrimages to my beloved gym! Considering this has been going on since age 18, it is rather like a self-imposed life sentence! LOL. Propelled by vanity and my personal history, it's just something that I am not able nor want to bring to an end.

First of all, it brings me great joy and satisfaction to be in (decent) shape and to have good health at this stage of my life. I really believe that regular exercise is part of the reason. Just a few years ago, when I was still gainfully employed and slightly lacking in the free time needed for routine exercise, I experienced setbacks in mobility, strength, cognizance and other signs of aging. A lot of those signs have lightened up or vanished with my health regime of the past five years... or should I say my return to the dedication I had when I was younger and in the spotlight.

Aging, as a former porn star, is a very peculiar thing, indeed! The gifts of looks, body and all of the attention just seem to have vanished... or should I say morphed! And, since there is no handbook to guide one through this process, it's a day by day, one foot in front of the other kind of learning process. Attitude and reality are important concepts to keep in toe, as well. It's sort of funny when I catch myself admiring younger studs and not even getting a look back - like I'm invisible. That can weigh heavily if you live in the past!

So, in my 55 years of throwing the weights around, I have seen some major changes. It was my younger brother who alerted me to the ability of one to make a new and improved version of themselves with the use of these weights! He started in high school. The change was impressive. I followed suit as I entered my freshman year of college. I could not believe how much and how quickly I grew... So noticeable, as I was always a such a skinny kid growing up.

My first gym was my bedroom with a simple bench, barbell and plates. As my lifting routine and a new attention to nutrition set in, my persona out in the general public took a major turn to the positive. Formerly quiet and bashful, a new and more daring self-image was emerging. This was when the first bits and pieces of my newfound porn career were starting to take place.

 

Will Seagers posing on Fire Island in 1978
Will Seagers on a Fire Island photo shoot for Hand in Hand Films, 1978
 

But, back to how the gym world was starting to surface around the country and around the world. I guess I noticed it most in the early to mid 70s, when it seemed every neighborhood wasn't complete without one. Chains like the European Health Spas started to become part of every shopping mall. Prior to that, if you were visiting a city and needed exercise, it was off to the good old Y.M.C.A.! It was becoming very mainstream to be "fit." Of course, big cities around the country had always had their "weight lifting palaces," but now it was becoming a very profitable industry. So, gyms like Gold's became chains and sprang up around the country.

 

European Health Spas exterior
European Health Spa
 
Exterior of San Francisco Y.M.C.A.
San Francisco's Embarcadero Y.M.C.A.
 
San Francisco Gold's Gym sign
Gold's Gym in San Francisco
 

Gym change was in the air as privately owned gyms like the Pump Room and the Muscle system of San Francisco's golden past even made the bold move of catering to a gay clientele. The next move that swept the country was co-ed gyms. This started during the early 80s wave of the Women's Liberation movement and still is normal operating procedure today. The cursing, grunting and "caveman" behavior of the past was replaced with a new gym etiquette! (I miss the old ways! LOL.)

 

Bill Heter in the Pump Room in 1979
1979: Bill Heter, one of my coworkers at the Pump Room, a converted store front
 
Former location of San Francisco's The Muscle System
Former location of S.F.'s The Muscle System
 

So, as fate would have it, it is now about 1:30PM. It's time for me to take my pre-workout drink, throw myself in the shower and get ready for my daily pilgrimage. Today is back and biceps day! Good Health to all in this self imposed life sentence!

 

Bio of Will Seagers:


Will Seagers (also credited as Matt Harper), within his multifaceted careers and participation in numerous gay communities across the country in the '70s and '80s and beyond, worked as a print model, film performer, and DJ, just to name a few. He made iconic appearances in releases from Falcon, Hand in Hand, Joe Gage, Target (Bullet), J. Brian, Steve Scott, and more, including in lead roles in major classics like Gage's L.A. Tool & Die (1979) and Scott's Wanted (1980). He brought strong screen presence and exceptional acting to his roles and was scene partners with many fellow legends of classic porn.
 

Will Seagers, present day image

 


You can read Will Seagers' previous blogs for Bijou here:
Welcome Matt/Will
What's For Dessert?
On and Off the Set of L.A. Tool & Die
Wanted, Weekend Lockup and Weekends in Hermosa Beach
Honeymoon in the Palms
Birds of a Feather
The Stereo Maven of Castro Street
The Pass Around Boy
The Ecstasy and the Agony
Fitness and Fantasy: The Early Gyms
Chasing the Boys and Chasing the Sun: My Story of Sun Worship and Where It Got Me
Becoming Invisible
The Reverse Story of Dorian Gray
Pin Money
One Organ Leads to Another! Part 1
The Wheels of Steel
Feast and Famine: The 1970s to the 1980s
An Alphabet Soup of Powders and Pills
Merry Christmas (and Getting Re-Organized)
Now and Then
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: The Badlands
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: Moby Dick Bar
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: "Just Another Stroll Down the Castro!"
Diving Into SoMa/Folsom: Hamburger Mary's
Diving Into SoMa/Folsom: Long Live the Stud!
Diving Into SoMa/Folsom: Club Life..."Hit me with your Rhythm Stick!”
A "Split Ticket" - SoMa/Folsom and The Haight!
Back to Basics: "Staying Vanilla in a Flavorful Culture!"
A Little Secret
"I love a Parade!" Recollections of the 1977 S.F. Gay Pride Parade
Pics, Pics & More Pics... Life's a Beach
Flora & Fauna - the Flora part anyway!
Once Is Just Not Enough!
A Love of Cultures – A Knack for Languages!
"For the Birds": My Lifetime With Feathered Friends!
"It's About Time!" My Love Affair With Clocks & Fine Watches
The Perfect Storm
Hello Chicago/Adieu Fire Island Pines!
Sex in the Woods!

 

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8 Is Enough on Sunsex Blvd

By Josh Eliot

 

Living and working in Hollywood / West Hollywood in the 1990s for Catalina Video was very different from shooting movies at the studio we had in San Francisco in the 1980s. Most tourists come to town hoping for a sighting of their favorite celebrity when they purchase a “map to the star’s homes” from a  vendor on the border of WeHo and Beverly Hills. I know I was a little star struck when I had celebrity sightings that happened quite by chance. Once in the Century City mall, my friends and I spotted Michael Nader (Dex Dexter from Dynasty 1981-1989) after the show ended production. In LAX the timing was just right for me to pass Elizabeth Taylor, being pushed in a wheelchair on her way to the gate. I positioned myself just right to get close to her as I passed. I started my stare, and when our eyes locked onto each other I said, “I love you, you're fabulous,” and she replied, “Thanks sweetie.” It was a moment for sure! Helen Hunt used to be a regular for breakfast at Hugo’s Restaurant, and Shelley Winters pulled up and parked her ass at our table one morning for breakfast at the Silver Spoon. It started when she asked us to use our ketchup, then when she finished her meal and her friends left, she sat at our table and chatted with us. Cell phones and selfies weren’t a thing yet, and how I wish I had a photo!

 

Vintage image of a young woman selling maps to stars' homes

 

Working with Catalina and shooting on location opened itself up to some close encounters – not with celebrities, but with their homes. Fatty Arbuckle was a silent film actor at the top of his career with Paramount, earning three million dollars over three years to star in eighteen silent movies. In the summer of 1921, he was accused of slaying 25 year old actress Virginia Rappe at a gin party in a suite at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. Finally acquitted after three trials and his career in ruins, he worked behind the scenes directing under the name William B. Goodrich and died of a heart attack at age 46 on June 29th, 1933. Somehow, Scott Masters got us access to one of Fatty’s previous homes in the Hollywood Hills to shoot the movie The Bite, Directed by Chi Chi LaRue and starring Jon Vincent. I swear the people occupying the place were squatters, because there was little to no furniture, sleeping bags in an upstairs room and we needed to use generator power. It was a bit sketchy, but the character of the gothic interior was perfect for the vampire theme, and a little creepy at the same time.

 

Headline: Arbuckle Faces Gallows, Fatty Arbuckel mugshot, and Virginia Rappe

Fatty Arbuckel and Virginia Rappe

 

The show Eight Is Enough starring Dick van Patten and Betty Buckley ran from 1977 to 1981 and I remember watching it loyally while in my teens. When Masters and I went to scout the location, I was thrilled to see the front of the house (the inside, not so much) where the cast stood in the opening credits. I found out later that they also used the house exterior for episodes of Murder She Wrote (as a mortuary), Quantum Leap and the Rockford Files. For the Scott Master’s movie Reunion (1992) starring Cody Foster, we shot the main sex scene right there on the front porch, showcasing this famous house that was unfortunately bulldozed in 1996. Cody passed away from liver cancer in 2007, but lived a tumultuous life once leaving the industry in 1995. He had numerous run-ins with the law, ending up with a four year sentence in Jefferson County, Colorado for retaliating against a person he had victimized. He was a bit of a loose cannon on the sets and could turn on a dime. I was glad that Scott Masters was directing him, not me. We heard at some point that he’d been arrested for shooting a gun at the State Capitol in Colorado. I have no way of knowing if that was true or not. He returned to the industry in 2000 and 2001 in a couple of bondage movies from Grapik Art Productions.

 

Reunion cover and Eight Is Enough house

Reunion cover and Eight Is Enough house

 

On a lighter note, Orson Welles  had a beautiful home just a block or two up from Hollywood Blvd. We shot the Brad Austin movie Sunsex Blvd (1993) there with Zak Spears as Norman Desmond, the Gloria Swanson role. Brad worked for some time as the personal assistant to Ms. Swanson prior to coming on board as my right hand man and head of the crew. This movie was very personal to him and a huge success. We cast Max Stone as the character Max, Norma(n)’s driver, as he was a dead ringer. Scott Masters had connections and we rented another one of Groucho Marx’s vintage automobiles for Max to drive Norman in. We had previously rented a different vintage car formerly owned by Groucho for my movie Object of Desire. The reenactment of the shooting scene with the William Holden character falling in the pool and the scene of Norman coming down the stairs for his “I’m ready for my close-up” cum-shot were brilliantly shot in black-and-white. It’s a fun movie to check out!

 

Sunsex Blvd cover and Orson Welles' house

Sunsex Blvd cover and Orson Welles' house

 

Last but certainly not least was shooting in Sharon Stone's previous residence. We shot Revenge of the Bi-Dolls there, and from the grand staircase to the humongous master suite, this place was divine! The rooms were so large that we had echo problems with the audio, but the look of the place made our low budget movie look like a million bucks. Chi Chi LaRue and Sharon Kane perform their incredible duet which opens the movie throughout the many rooms of the mini-mansion. I’ve attached a link so you can watch it!

 

Sharon Kane & Chi Chi LaRue singing in Sharon Stone's home in Revenge of the Bi-Dolls

Sharon Kane & Chi Chi LaRue in Revenge of the Bi-Dolls

 

Well, that’s my little contribution to the Hollywood Babylon-esque world where porn and the Hollywood elite had six degrees of separation.

 

 

Bio of Josh Eliot:

At the age of 25 in 1987, Josh Eliot was hired by Catalina Video by John Travis (Brentwood Video) and Scott Masters (Nova Video). Travis trained Eliot on his style of videography and mentored him on the art of directing. Josh directed his first movie, Runaways, in 1987. By 2009 when Josh parted ways with Catalina Video, he'd produced and directed hundreds of features and won numerous awards for Best Screenplay, Videography, Editing, and Directing. He was entered into the GayVN Hall of fame in 2002. 

 

You can read Josh Eliot's previous blogs for Bijou here:

Coming out of my WET SHORTS
FRANK ROSS, The Boss
Our CALIGULA Moment
That BUTTHOLE Just Winked at Me!
DREAMLAND: The Other Place
A Salty Fuck in Saugatuck
Somebody, Call a FLUFFER!
The Late Great JOHN TRAVIS, My POWERTOOL Mentor
(Un)Easy Riders
7 Years with Colt Model MARK RUTTER
Super NOVA
Whatever Happened to NEELY O’HARA?
Is That AL PARKER In Your Photo?
DOWN BY LAW: My $1,000,000 Mistake
We Waited 8hrs for a Cum Shot... Is That a World Record?
Don't Wear "Short Shorts" on the #38 Geary to LANDS END
How Straight Are You Really?
BEHIND THE (not so) GREEN DOOR
The BOOM BOOM Room
CATCHING UP with Tom DeSimone
Everybody’s FREE to FEEL GOOD
SCANDAL at the Coral Sands Motel
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: The Castro Theatre
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: The Midnight Sun
RSVP: 2 Weeks Working on a Gay Cruise Ship
VOYAGER of the Damned
I'M NOT A LESBIAN DIRECTOR
Diving Into SoMa/Folsom: THE FOLSOM STREET FAIR
Diving into SoMa/Folsom: A TALE OF TWO STUDS
BALL BROTH
My 1992 “Porn Set” Diary
Out of Print
There’s a Gloryhole WHERE??!
LUNCH HOUR: When the Big Boys Eat
IN and OUT and All ABOUT
UNDER the COVERs with Tom Steele

 
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"I love a Parade!" Recollections of the 1977 S.F. Gay Pride Parade

By Will Seagers

 

Hi folks! Will here. Today's blog will be a bit of a departure from the last few in that it will be primarily a "Photo Essay" courtesy of my trusty Pentax K-1000. Although considered a beginner's 35mm SLR, it was good quality and easy to use! From the mid-70s 'till the mid-80s, when it was replaced with a Nikon SLR. Yes! I used some of that "pin money" from my porn adventures to buy lots of nice toys! LOL.

Although this was not the first S.F. Pride parade, it was my first. I had only been in town since September of 1976. And, during the weeks leading up to this event, I became increasingly excited to see it. My partner Tommy as well as many of our friends went on and on about how festive it was going to be and all of the beautiful people that were going to attend. So, I immediately got out my Pentax and made sure it was in perfect working order.

Sign reading Human rights are absolute
Pride parade and all of its political beginnings.

Ornate yellow dress

The glee and beauty exposed at the parade!
 

Footwear close-up
Fashionable footwear on the floats.

Roger and Tommy watching parade
Roger Magan (left) and Tommy (right) both high as a kite! Roger was instrumental in my move to SF. And, Tommy was there when I arrived!

Tom Junnell on Oil Can Harry's float
A dear buddy and laser mouth cut up – DJ Tom Junnell from Oil Can Harry's disco.

Crysler wearing a Stud shirt
Tommy's bestie Crysler wearing an original Stud t-shirt.

Anita Bryant protest sign equated with hate symbols
The very political theme of this year's parade equating Anita Bryant and Hitler.

Orange-shaped sign protesting Anita Bryant
The “Orange Lady” Anita Bryant was getting more pie in her face!

June in San Francisco is one of the most stellar months, weather-wise. The sky could not be any bluer nor the Sun any brighter. With the temps climbing into the mid-70s, it was shirts-off weather for sure. And, that is exactly what happened - with both men and women! Although it took a decade or two for S.F. to reach the Sodom and Gomorrah heights of the Folsom Street Fairs, this parade for its time was pretty "edgy!"

Tommy and I had a leg up on a lot of the parade revelers in that we lived a mere two blocks from Market Street - the parade route. We decided to walk a few blocks downtown where the crowds were really piling up. I climbed atop a (Walk/Don't Walk) traffic signal for my photo perch. I guess I was up about 8' – 10'... a perfect vista. Although I got a lot of choice photos, I did miss out on taking pics of Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone who both attended. As this was the era of Gay Empowerment both fiscally and politically, it was great to have our heroes with us!

One star that did not escape my lens was Sylvester. At this time he was quite a rising musical talent. Originally, he performed in neighborhood venues. But, that soon morphed into national and international attention! As I mentioned in a former blog about The Castro, Syl and I became friends. He came into the bar where I spun records (The Badlands) to say hello and drop off new releases (that I was delighted to play - on the spot!).

Sylvester at the 1977 parade
Sylvester at the 1977 SF pride parade.

Shot down Market St. with Women's Contingent in background
A long shot of Market St. (the parade route) and the many revelers!

Dykes on Bikes
The ever popular women's contiengent from Oakland, “Dykes on Bikes!”

Carmen Miranda drag
Carmen Miranda – move over!

Musicians performing on float
On this sea of floats talent abounded.

Drag royalty
San Francisco's royalty of the day in all of their splendor.

Sign reading The Right to be Human
Voicing our rights!

Sign readign Ministers for human rights
Again!

So many wonderful names and faces were in this crowd! Many became life-long friends. The experience was dazzling and it became an annual affair for me. It has been great to recreate this time capsule. I hope you enjoy! Will.

Thank you to Will Seagers for use of his photos.

 

Bio of Will Seagers:

Will Seagers (also credited as Matt Harper), within his multifaceted careers and participation in numerous gay communities across the country in the '70s and '80s and beyond, worked as a print model, film performer, and DJ, just to name a few. He made iconic appearances in releases from Falcon, Hand in Hand, Joe Gage, Target (Bullet), J. Brian, Steve Scott, and more, including in lead roles in major classics like Gage's L.A. Tool & Die (1979) and Scott's Wanted (1980). He brought strong screen presence and exceptional acting to his roles and was scene partners with many fellow legends of classic porn.

George Ferren, a close friend of Will's frequently mentioned in his blogs, was a major figure in the San Francisco music scene in the '70s/'80s. His current music is available for your pleasure on Soundcloud: BY GEORGE

 

Will Seagers, present day image

 


You can read Will Seagers' previous blogs for Bijou here:
Welcome Matt/Will
What's For Dessert?
On and Off the Set of L.A. Tool & Die
Wanted, Weekend Lockup and Weekends in Hermosa Beach
Honeymoon in the Palms
Birds of a Feather
The Stereo Maven of Castro Street
The Pass Around Boy
The Ecstasy and the Agony
Fitness and Fantasy: The Early Gyms
Chasing the Boys and Chasing the Sun: My Story of Sun Worship and Where It Got Me
Becoming Invisible
The Reverse Story of Dorian Gray
Pin Money
One Organ Leads to Another! Part 1
The Wheels of Steel
Feast and Famine: The 1970s to the 1980s
An Alphabet Soup of Powders and Pills
Merry Christmas (and Getting Re-Organized)
Now and Then
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: The Badlands
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: Moby Dick Bar
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: "Just Another Stroll Down the Castro!"
Diving Into SoMa/Folsom: Hamburger Mary's
Diving Into SoMa/Folsom: Long Live the Stud!
Diving Into SoMa/Folsom: Club Life..."Hit me with your Rhythm Stick!”
A "Split Ticket" - SoMa/Folsom and The Haight!
Back to Basics: "Staying Vanilla in a Flavorful Culture!"
A Little Secret

 

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Out of Print

By Josh Eliot

 

As I grow older, I get more nostalgic about experiences from my past. It’s natural to feel this way when we see things that bring back great memories and helped form who we are. Sometimes it’s seeing a movie. When I was 15 years old, in 1977, I talked my parents into taking me to see Diane Keaton in Looking For Mr. Goodbar. A decision I’m sure my parents regretted once the subject of the movie became crystal clear. I’m sure they thought that since Tuesday Weld was also in the movie, it would be pretty tame. Not! The film started with a haunting song montage including “Don’t Ask to Stay Until Tomorrow” by Marlena Shaw and it really set the tone. The movie was a tough and gritty expose on the bar fly, one night stand dating scene in New York. I’m sure mostly anyone who is reading this blog has seen this movie at some point in their life and came away from it moved or shaken. For decades, I and hundreds of others, tried to access this movie on DVD. It was originally released on VHS and LaserDisc, but evidently by the time negotiations came around for a DVD release it was dead in the water. Various chat rooms over the last decades point to the legal issues and costly fees involving the music rights. It seems to have simply vanished. It went “out of print.”

When I saw this movie at 15, I was thrilled to see the male hustler character played perfectly by Richard Gere. The moment he danced around in his jockstrap while holding a glow in the dark knife both tantalized and terrified me. I think this might have been the first “male nudity” I ever saw in a film, unfortunately for my mother sitting right next to me. The movie’s soundtrack was filled with great tunes like “Don’t Leave Me This Way” by Thelma Houston, “Prelude To Love,” “Try Me, I Know We Can Make It” and “Could It Be Magic” by Donna Summer and “Love Hangover” by Diana Ross. The music worked so brilliantly with the raw, realistic story, making the whole experience feel 100% real. Diane Keaton, famously known to be shy about her body and always dressing in long sleeves and a buttoned collar, had several nude scenes in the movie. She won the Academy Award the very same year for Annie Hall and you can bet your ass this role in Goodbar helped seal that win. What a film, but yeah, unfortunately I could not watch it and relive all those great memories and feelings because it was simply out of print.

 

Looking for Mr. Goodbar lobby cards

Looking for Mr. Goodbar lobby cards

 

The feeling of never seeing a movie again that you loved watching or loved working on must have been how the cast and crew felt back in the early days of porn. Before VHS, DVD and Blu-ray, the movies would show in an adult cinema then pretty much disappear. Maybe they would come back again to play as a second feature for a new release. But with the explosion of VHS on the X-rated market, suddenly all the new adult productions had a life beyond the new release stage. They would be widely available for purchase and viewings forever. That was exactly what we assumed when we were making the gay and bi porn movies back in the 1980s. There are a lot of collectors who have vast libraries both VHS and DVD. I have those collector tendencies too. I just added a new “instant favorite” autographed photo of Will Seagers to my collection. He signed a black-and-white shot from LA Tool & Die. I gave it a place of honor on my office wall just under the signed photo of Bette Davis.

 

Some of Josh's signed photos: Will Seagers, Bette Davis, Haruo Nakajima (Godzilla), Rob Cryston

Some of Josh's signed photos: Will Seagers, Bette Davis, Haruo Nakajima (Godzilla), Rob Cryston

 

I like to post trailers, clips and teasers from my library of movies for Catalina Video on YouTube and Instagram. It’s like a virtual collection, and I like the idea of letting them have some sort of permanent place in history on those channels. It seems that a new generation of worldwide gay and straight viewers really responds positively and has an appreciation for nostalgic porn clips. I thought it might be cool to post a newly cut trailer of the first movie I ever made, called Runaways, back in 1989. I used to have the VHS, which showed a young, sad-eyed twink looking through a dusty, cracked nine pane window on the box cover. Then on the DVD cover, they swapped the twink for a much hotter shot of Jake Corbin. Somewhere along the way, I loaned out that DVD and never got it back so I started searching for it online. I found the movie available on several websites with a fabulous new cover but, much to my dismay, the DVD version said “out of print” - leaving only the digital version available for download or single scene viewing. I thought, this must be a one-off. Maybe the owners of the Catalina Library sold out and will re-release it down the line? I purchased the download, cut my trailer and posted it on my Instagram and YouTube. Then it happened again with another title I was looking for and I started wondering what was going on. Why aren’t these titles available? Suddenly, I received a mailing for a major sale on most if not all of the William Higgins classics like Pizza Boy, Hot Rods, The Young and the Hung, Preppy Summer to name a few, with the title of the sale saying: “Get Them Now Before They Are OUT OF PRINT Forever.” There were also Dirk Yates and Catalina Video sections as well.

 

Runaways box covers over the years

Runaways box covers over the years

 

A little piece of my heart broke at that moment. What we always thought would be around and available on some sort of tape or disc or “newly invented format” was not to be. It became very clear to me that there would be no future restoration of these movies, there would be no re-release of these movies, there would be no “tangible,” hold-it-in-your-hand version of these movies any longer. I would have been content leaving this earth thinking that some “physical form” - complete with original movie artwork of the Catalina Library featuring John Travis, Scott Masters, Chet Thomas, Chi Chi LaRue, myself and others - would always be available. But evidently that is not to be. I get the digital thing, but it doesn’t mean I have to embrace it. I already had huge respect for the way BijouWorld treasures their films, directors and customers. The restoration costs they absorb to make their library of films the best they can be for future generations to enjoy and collect in a physical and digital form speaks volumes about their integrity. Even though the Catalina library of movies we made will not get the same “white glove” polished treatment Bijou offers to its library, I am more than content to know that the movies I looked up to and shaped me as an adult video director are being preserved.

I feel the need to have a “Happy Ending.” Everyone loves a happy ending don’t they? On October 23, 2020, the DVD version of Looking For Mr. Goodbar was finally released through LA Entertainment, an Australia-based company. Something nobody saw coming, and which a lot of collectors are anxious to own.

 

 

Bio of Josh Eliot:

At the age of 25 in 1987, Josh Eliot was hired by Catalina Video by John Travis (Brentwood Video) and Scott Masters (Nova Video). Travis trained Eliot on his style of videography and mentored him on the art of directing. Josh directed his first movie, Runaways, in 1987. By 2009 when Josh parted ways with Catalina Video, he'd produced and directed hundreds of features and won numerous awards for Best Screenplay, Videography, Editing, and Directing. He was entered into the GayVN Hall of fame in 2002. 

 

You can read Josh Eliot's previous blogs for Bijou here:

Coming out of my WET SHORTS
FRANK ROSS, The Boss
Our CALIGULA Moment
That BUTTHOLE Just Winked at Me!
DREAMLAND: The Other Place
A Salty Fuck in Saugatuck
Somebody, Call a FLUFFER!
The Late Great JOHN TRAVIS, My POWERTOOL Mentor
(Un)Easy Riders
7 Years with Colt Model MARK RUTTER
Super NOVA
Whatever Happened to NEELY O’HARA?
Is That AL PARKER In Your Photo?
DOWN BY LAW: My $1,000,000 Mistake
We Waited 8hrs for a Cum Shot... Is That a World Record?
Don't Wear "Short Shorts" on the #38 Geary to LANDS END
How Straight Are You Really?
BEHIND THE (not so) GREEN DOOR
The BOOM BOOM Room
CATCHING UP with Tom DeSimone
Everybody’s FREE to FEEL GOOD
SCANDAL at the Coral Sands Motel
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: The Castro Theatre
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: The Midnight Sun
RSVP: 2 Weeks Working on a Gay Cruise Ship
VOYAGER of the Damned
I'M NOT A LESBIAN DIRECTOR
Diving Into SoMa/Folsom: THE FOLSOM STREET FAIR
Diving into SoMa/Folsom: A TALE OF TWO STUDS
BALL BROTH
My 1992 “Porn Set” Diary

 
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Mad Scenes

By Madam Bubby

 

Usually a “mad scene” specifically refers to a particular scene from an opera written by bel canto composers of the early 19th century, such as Donizetti and Bellini. A soprano, usually suffering from a romantic love crisis, goes insane, and expresses her insanity, paradoxically, in difficult, complicated coloratura passages that require great vocal control.

The most famous occurs in the opera Lucia di Lammermoor. Lucia, in love with the family enemy Edgardo, is forced to marry someone her brother chooses, Arturo. Lucia kills Arturo on her wedding night. I grew up hearing the gay icon Maria Callas singing this scene on record, and I was mesmerized that she was able to invest the scene with such drama and a dark, complex timbre. Here was no Snow White singing tra la la to the birds. But, interestingly enough, the opera does not end with the mad scene. Lucia dies offstage, and her lover, Edgardo, kills himself. He actually gets a kind of tenor mad scene. But it’s generally the ladies who go mad, which reflects quite blatantly the misogynistic Victorian view that women, the "weaker sex," were more prone to mental disturbance: potential hysterics.

 

Callas as Lucia

Callas as Lucia

 

The mad scene by the middle of the last century started moving to the end of movies, crystallizing to some extent in the grand dame guignol movies of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The end of Sunset Boulevard, the famous “I’m ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille,” scene of Norma Desmond, deconstructs the mad scenes of operas, because she thinks she is playing the necrophiliac Salome. One even hears a bit of music from the Strauss opera as she descends the staircase (that prop usually occurs in Lucia mad scenes). In fact, by the time Strauss wrote his opera Salome, one could even say the female protagonists of many operas written by that time were mad for the entire opera (or most of the time).

 

Noma Desmond at the end of Sunset Boulevard

Norma Desmond at the end of Sunset Boulevard

 

Thus, Baby Jane Hudson in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? dancing on the beach with ice cream cones and others of her ilk come out of a rich tradition. The director Robert Aldrich really seemed to build his grande dame guignol films toward a final mad scene for the female protagonist, though in his underrated Autumn Leaves shows a male, played by Cliff Robertson, going mad, and he gets several scenes, but the most terrifying one occurs at about midpoint.

But it is also a scene of horrifying domestic violence (he throws a typewriter at his wife, played by Joan Crawford, after slapping her around). Like Edgardo in Lucia, he accuses her of treachery, but she is innocent. In reality, his father slept with his now former wife (she a willing accomplice), and discovering them together precipitated his descent into what, based on the movie, is paranoid schizophrenia.

 

Joan Crawford and Cliff Robertson in Autumn Leaves

Joan Crawford and Cliff Robertson in Autumn Leaves

 

Aldrich created another mad scene in The Killing of Sister George, a groundbreaking LGBTQ movie on so many levels, not only for its filming a scene in an actual lesbian bar, but, for the fact that the protagonist, June Buckridge played by Beryl Reid (known as George because of the character she plays in a soap opera, Sister George, a jovial country nurse in an English village) is out and proud as a lesbian. Many critics today tend to place this move in the “self-hating” LGBTQ subgrenre. Yes, George is certainly not the most stable person. She yells a lot, drinks a lot, and certainly, which one could argue isn’t really a character flaw in some of the situations she encounters, shows no compunction about telling some persons off in not the most dainty language.

Her relationship with Alice does not strike one as being the healthiest by today’s standards. I remember watching the scene where George, always jealous, punishes Alice for a supposed flirting (with a man) by making her kneel before her and eat her cigar. For the mid 1960s, this scene was risqué, and I perceived that perhaps there was some element of BDSM play involved, but it also seems to be moving into the realm of emotional abuse. And it’s not Alice as the victim of the “bull dyke” George. Alice is blatantly egging her on, and by pretending to enjoy eating the cigar; yes, she does take back control of the dynamic, knowing she is hurting George by, as George both yells and cries, “ruining” it.

Thus, one can see the characters aren’t camp caricatures. The character George plays gets killed off in the series (hence the title), and the fate of her career and relationship gets wound up in the machinations of the cliched reptilian predatory lesbian, played by Coral Browne.

Spoiler alert: she loses her job and her lover; the Coral Browne character in a scene of underhanded viciousness at George’s farewell party at the television studio suggests she get a job playing the voice of a cow in an animated puppets series for children. A gut-wrenching scene occurs when Alice leaves her. Reid masterfully plays it as both horribly hurt and horribly angry together, the emotion much like that of another spurned operatic character, Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana (from the time of whole “mad operas”). Shortly thereafter, George enters the empty studio, smashes the camera equipment, and beings mooing like a cow. She is wordless. No romantic words, no ecstatic high notes like Lucia sings, no cameras for a Norma Desmond close-up.

 

Beryl Reid as George in The Killing of Sister George

Beryl Reid as George in The Killing of Sister George

 

But, is she really mad? Does she really enter another reality like Lucia and Norma Desmond and Baby Jane? She’s not fantasizing about a marriage that never took place, and she’s not retreating into memories of a forever lost stardom. It seems she’s justifiably enraged, but also, given her indomitable character, understanding that she will do that job. She knows she has lost. She knows it’s degrading.

And like many LGBTQ persons, she knows who she is, and because she knows, she can choose, or at least to try and choose, what happens in her life. What’s sad is that she feels like she can only choose her losses. I just wonder if she’s really at the same level of victimization and its sister, in those cases, madness as the Romantic heroines of opera or the characters like Baby Jane who are both torturer and victim in grande dame guignol cinema.

Similarly, the complex dynamic where the madness, or appearance of madness, exists perhaps to crystallize at the highest level of tension the torturer/victim binary appears in a classic gay porn movie, Drive, directed by Jack Deveau (which Bijou carries on DVD and Streaming). The mad lead character/anti-hero Arachne plots to kidnap a scientist and eliminate everyone’s sex drive.

 

Christopher Rage as Arachne in Drive

Christopher Rage as Arachne in Hand in Hand Films' Drive (1974)

 

Arachne (played by legendary director Christopher Rage, here billed as Mary Jim Sstunning, in a script written by Rage) certainly camps it up as she attempts to set her diabolical plot in motion. But the movie unveils at the end how the one who desires to castrate is actually ferociously repressing her own sexuality. She is last seen in a dungeon with the men she had imprisoned. Secret agent Clark liberates the prisoners, and Arachne is left alone. But this whole mad porn opera contains a moment of somber lucidity. Arachne holds a glass bottle with a severed penis. She knows she is forever trapped in a cycle of endless desire like a spider in a web, consuming its mates but never satiated:

I hunted at night until it wasn’t enough to hunt only at night, and then I hunted during the day too. I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop. My thoughts were only of hard bodies, rigid with the desire for me — beautiful men swollen with the need for me. They were all around me and I chose the ones who looked most eager.

“Until I saw a man who was so perfect, with a hunger in his eyes that reflected my own hunger — and I knew he was the one. I knew we could feed from each other, claw at each other with a need we didn’t care to understand.

“Drugged with desire for each other’s hot naked skin, tense muscles pushing — and then filling me with his need, white and hot. Crushing me with his strong arms, pressing down on me and into me, until I closed my eyes with the ecstasy and perfection of him, and I screamed for him — and I screamed for me. 

“And I opened my eyes and I was alone.

“And I vowed then that I would bring an end to it all. Man would have to search no more: Arachne would be the answer.”


She knows. She knows who she is, ultimately more frightening than the mad scene at the end, which usually ends in the liberation of death.

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