At the Adonis

posted by guest blogger Miriam Webster

Adonis Theater, NYC
The Adonis Theater (photo source: back2stonewall)

The history of the popular 1970s/1980s gay porn theater, the Adonis Theater - the setting and subject of the classic Hand in Hand Films release A Night at the Adonis (Jack Deveau, 1978) - is discussed in an article we recently came across at back2stonewall. The article states that the Adonis Theater was originally built as the Tivoli Theater in 1921. Initially a vaudeville house, it then became a movie theater before its final incarnation as a porn theater/cruising palace. The Adonis was such a hot venue in the 1970s that, the article states, “it was hard to find a seat... but that was all that was hard to find. Patrons would literally avoid the seats under the balcony's edge at busy times for fear of being showered with semen from high above.”
 

Adonis Theater interior
Adonis Theater interior (photo source: back2stonewall)

Adonis Theater balcony
Adonis Theater interior

Deveau's film (which Bijou is excited to announce that we are currently finishing re-restoring for a new and improved re-release next week) is an incredibly well-made, hot, entertaining, and historically intriguing look at this venue. The film does an excellent job capturing - in attractive photography that roams the building as it follows its ensemble cast - the physical layout of the space and the atmosphere created there, as well as featuring the theater's actual staff (their real ticket taker appears in the film in a memorable cameo) and detailing its cruising and sex rituals.
 

A Night at the Adonis poster
Adonis Theater sign in A Night at the Adonis
Adonis Theater ticket taker in A Night at the Adonis
Queue of men waiting to get into the theater in A Night at the Adonis
Men cruising on the balcony in A Night at the Adonis
Theatergoers and staff in A Night at the Adonis

An insightful IMDb review points to some other notable ways the film illustrates some of the nuances of New York City gay culture in the 1970s. Characters bump into each other and have roundabout connections at this particular night at the Adonis, and, through this, the film deals with “both the very local, small-town 'everyone knows everyone else' nature of the then queer community and the odd coincidences and synchronicities that can happen when cruising takes place.”

One of the lead characters (played by hunky Malo, of porn and mainstream film), passes up a pick up attempt by his boss (porn superstar Jack Wrangler) with the intention of staying home to read a hefty volume, Gay American History, but, as this review says, the book only “tells him tales of sodomites of fallen times who were persecuted, tortured, and murdered by the state; Malo's subsequent visit to the Adonis makes a new kind of American gay history, which is... itself a vanished, historical past now."
 

Malo during the filming of A Night at the Adonis
Malo during the filming of A Night at the Adonis

The review points out that Deveau's film manages to “communicate the ways in which human beings locate themselves in history and space, therein creating themselves through a shared culture” and how an ambitious new employee character embodies “a bit of a prophesy of the future, wherein gay normative self-images in the West will be shaped by business-studies kids out to make bucks from the new gay communities.”

A Night at the Adonis played at the Adonis Theater, itself, and the back2stonewall article quotes an internet posting about the unusual experience of watching it on that very screen: “it was rather odd to be in the exact theater that was being depicted... sort of a movie coming to life all around you. What was happening on the screen was also happening in real life as you were watching the film.”
 

Guys cruising in the theater seats in A Night at the Adonis
Guys cruising in the theater seats in A Night at the Adonis

A Night at the Adonis is one of NYC-based studio Hand in Hand Films' productions set in and about a specific gay New York City sex space/landmark. Another is Times Square Strip (1983), set at the Gaiety Theatre, which focuses on the on and off stage antics of the dancers at the Gaiety Male Burlesk.
 

The Gaiety Theatre exterior
Gaiety Male Burlesk ad
The Gaity Theatre and Gaiety Male Burlesk ad

Times, like Adonis, is an ensemble piece set over the course of one night, full of breezy, quippy dialogue, and - though it isn't as full a portrait of its location as is Adonis (it occasionally ventures outside the building for sexual escapades) – it spends considerable time depicting the performances taking place on stage.
 

Dancers performing in Times Square Strip
The MC in Times Square Strip
Dancers and the MC in Times Square Strip

Wikipedia notes that The Gaiety Theatre was open for nearly 30 years, from 1976 until 2005, and, according to a 2005 New York Times article, attracted mainstream attention “after photos of Madonna and some of the club's dancers were included in her book Sex (1992).” These visitors included John Waters, Divine, Andy Warhol, RuPaul, Diane Keaton, and Shirley MacLaine. The club had an “unrivaled ability to survive, despite the strict zoning laws instituted during the Giuliani administration, thanks to a location just outside a restricted area.” Wikipedia also mentions a few well-known dancers who performed at the theater, including porn stars Joey Stefano, Johnny Harden, Kip Noll, and Leo Ford.

The Adonis Theater, however, did not survive New York City's changes to Times Square, with Mayor Ed Koch “using the AIDS epidemic to clean up Times Square” and “trying to get the theater closed down to tidy it up for the building of the monolith Worldwide Plaza, soon to be built on the next block.” The Adonis attempted to relocate to another theater building at this time, but did not last long there and this second Adonis was closed “in 1994 by the City's Health Department after a raid revealed high-risk sexual activities taking place among patrons.” The original Adonis was demolished in 1995, though a vivid portrait of what it once was remains in Deveau's classic film. In watching it, you almost feel as if you are there.
 

Bathroom sex in A Night at the Adonis
Jayson MacBride and Malo exiting the theater smiling in A Night at the Adonis
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RetroStuds of the Past: Focus on Jay Richards

posted by Madame Bubby

Jay Richards appears in so many Robert Prion and other gay porn movies and has such a long career span that the word prolific seems to be an understatement.
 

Jay Richards headshot

According to Gay Erotic Index, hailing from Glendale, California, he is identified also as an Athletic Model Guild model in the 1960s under the name Ernie Matthews. I located a rare photo of Ernie Matthews on an ebay site, and he certainly fits the blond beefcake look of the period, but the dates don't add up at all. This does not seem to be the same person!
 

Ebay photo of Ernie Matthews holding a fishing pole

Possibly the same young man, credited as Jay Richards, appears in the June 1964 issue of Jr., where he is noted for his “prowess in surfing.”
 

Jr. Magazine photo of Jay Richards

Again, this cannot be the same person as Prion's Jay Richards! I am most curious how this particular error occurred.

The other Jay Richards focused on the films of Robert Prion. He appears in several films available at Bijou Video, such as: Jay as one of the hungry mansex hunters in the free for all orgy in The Wild Guys, to giving Rick Thomas a healthy rimming and fucking in 19 Good Men. In Men Who Dare, he fucks doggie style and later does a three-way. And many, many more. Overall, I think that youthful prowess in surfing is quite superseded by Jay's prowess in any gay sexual activity!

Jay has even periodically shown up at the Bijou Video office, once, years ago, autographing a photo from a magazine.
 

Autographed photo of Jay Richards

Jay is still alive. Given his almost 40-year association with Robert Prion, the owner of Bijou Video quipped, the two should be married at this point.

I haven't really been able to find much other information on him, such as an interview. Perhaps one could say he is really part of Robert Prion's legacy, and to know him is to watch the films of Prion.

Watch films starring Jay Richards streaming on our VOD site.
 

Jay Richards and another Prion model

Jay Richards and another Prion model in a later Prion video
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The Magic and Mystery of Falcons and FALCONHEAD

posted by Madame Bubby

Vintage ad for Michael Zen's Falconhead showing in theaters

"Like something out of a Greek tragedy (or Clash of the Titans), a naked man lies spread-eagled on his stomach on the center of a ceremonial plaza. The Falconhead appears out of nowhere, clad in black robes that look oddly medieval, and presents an ornately framed mirror to the prostrate man, pushing his face into it with his shiny black boots. Text flashes, "He gazed into the mirror and was consumed by it."
 

Still from Falconhead of boot stepping on a man with his face pressed into a mirror

So begins Michael Zen's Falconhead (1977), a richly complex film that “features a fearsome bird-headed man with magical powers, a possibly nefarious shaman/landlord, stunningly photographed solo sequences, deliciously ambiguous sexual violence, and lots of gooey, gooey cum eating.”

The man with the head of a falcon character derives from so many cultures. The ancient Egyptian god Horus was usually depicted as a falcon-headed man, wearing the red and white crown which represented his kingship over both Upper and Lower Egypt. Horus was the son of Osiris and Isis, both associated with the cycles of birth, death, and the afterlife.
 

Horus

In ancient Egypt, falcons (also known as raptors) represented the soul in the afterlife. In fact, the falcons themselves were even mummified, and recently, some scholars have found evidence that the birds were sacrificed to the gods, or even used in falconry, where young birds are trained to hunt prey.

In the medieval period, falconry became a widespread cultural practice among the nobility, but some of its practices were extremely cruel, including temporarily blinding the birds (the gruesome details are elucidated in the hyperlink above), which made them easier to train.
 

Medieval falconry: falconers with horse
Falconers with horse from ‘De arte venandi cum avibus’, 1240-1250, from http://www.medievalists.net/2016/03/falconry-birds-and-lovebirds/

The practice, however, lost popularity in Europe because of the widespread usage of guns and gunpowder. In Britain among some of the gentry the practice survived, and these individuals formed a series of clubs that kept the art alive, leading eventually to the modern development of falconry in Europe, North America and Africa.
 

Man with falcon
Image from http://vafalconry.swva.net/Falconry.html

There are so many elements in the above of terrifying power, sacrifice and cruelty, but also beauty and awe. Birds of course can fly, and this action has always inspired humans to think about power and its limits, the Icarus myth being the most well-known one.

And falcons in all their variety, who soar in the sky, are carnivorous creatures, who hunt for earthbound prey, the creeping things in the creation account in Genesis. Yet, at the same time, humans have attempted to tame, even confine, this energy through the art of falconry.
 

Falcon flying
Image from https://mydreamsymbolism.com/falcon-spirit-animal-totem-symbolism-and-meaning/

It's like this type of bird represents for humans a boundary breaker, someone who can brave the wide gaps between heaven and earth, nature and art, life and death.

Perhaps in the mirror the falcon-headed man presents to the prostrate man, we see ourselves consumed by what seems to be our own physical sexual power, but ultimately, it's a power given to us by a natural, or even supernatural force that encompasses, in fact, thrives on, extremes in order to not just survive, but triumph.

The falcon-headed man is the endless orgasm of life and death; we can imitate it, mirror it, but our life is a disconnected series of gooey cumshots in the sublunary earth. The men are consumed; but he burns like that famous bush, not consumed.
 

Still from Falconhead of masked man

The poet Yeats proclaims in his famous poem, The Second Coming, that in a time of crisis “the falcon can no longer hear the falconer;” in these times, perhaps, we have lost the seismic energy that charges body and spirit together in a dynamic relationship. I see this line as implying that falconer cannot bond with the falcon; he has stopped up his conduit to the falcon's awesome energy he was able to tap into.

Thus, all that's left, as in the famous line at the end of the poem, is the “rude beast slouching toward Bethlehem waiting to be born,” a dead life devoid of creativity, passion, and love.

Quotes from the Falconhead review by DM at BijouWorld.
 

Stills from Falconhead
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A Bicycle Built for Two... Or Not

posted by Madame Bubby

My first major experience riding a bicycle was finally being able to ride a two-wheeler, and the fashion then was a banana seat bicycle. The seat was shaped like a banana. Mine was purple. (How gay was that?) I got yelled at by my dad because I was coasting to a stop rather than using the breaks. At that time, kids rode their bikes all over the neighborhood, without helmets (gasp!), and often without adult supervision.
 

Ad for 1970s banana seat bikes

When one of the kids across the street was missing (a common occurrence in that chaotic household), I don't even remember the police being called. Kids on bicycles were sent out as search parties by the adults. At that age, it was liberating, to be able to travel long distances alone.

I grew dependent on bicycles through my college years, as I was not able to drive and afford a car. When the suburban bus company went on strike one summer, I wrote my bicycle nine miles each way to my job. I resented it. At that time, a car was a status symbol; it showed independence, being an adult. If you were still having to ride your bike everywhere, you were trapped in a sexless adolescence. You were a nerd. You couldn't take someone on a date, especially in the car-dependent suburbs.

Now, it seems, the bicycle is a status symbol in certain urban areas. Riding a bicycle means you are “green.” I see bicycle shops that sell expensive bicycles from Europe, where riding one has always been pretty much a norm, even among adults. One shop in Chicago, Heritage Bicycles, builds custom-made bicycles also sells expensive coffee. Cool hipster grad student types ride their bicycles everywhere (I see several getting off their bikes at the university where I work).
 

Heritage Bicycles

Bearded hipster guy on bicycle

The bicycle is almost like a symbol or even a stereotype of the urban “blue” culture that voted for Clinton, as opposed to the “red culture that voted for the vulgar boor (they drive gas-guzzling pick up trucks, or if they were white suburban soccer mom Republican types, gas-guzzling SUVs).

And, given that I thought of the bicycle as somehow for me representing sexlessness or even confinement, it's interesting that when bicycles became a more prominent mode of transportation in the late Victorian period, there were concerns that the riding position was unladylike. In order to do so, a lady had to abandon the heavy corsets and other confining garments. According to one article, some women were even harassed, pelted with stones, for wearing pantaloon or bloomer. The article claims that the bicycle actually helped liberate women, paving the way for a woman presidential candidate.
 

Victorian woman on bicycle, 1895

The rise of the bicycle also directly coincided with the birth of the New Woman, an early feminist idea that pushed against the limits of patriarchal oppression. New Women were free-spirited, educated, economically independent, and wholly uninterested in being hidden away in a drawing room under a mound of needlework.

In the world of gay sexuality, it's also interesting that the bicycle hasn't been much of a background for gay sex, especially in porn movies. Cars, trucks, motorcycles, yes, the bigger, the better, macho, manly ... but a bicycle? No, not masculine enough. Kind of corresponds to how I felt when I was stuck riding a bike rather than driving a car.

In our Bijou Classics repertoire, reflecting the above dynamic, there's paucity of sex scenes involving bicycles. In M.A.G.I.C., one of the fantasy game show contestants in a cute bicyclist who performs a blow job on the lead, Gene Lamar. A scene involving a bicycle occurs in Hot Truckin' is much more prominent. The humpy truckers (Gordon Grant and Nick Rodgers) entice a redheaded bicyclist, who eyes them while seductively licking a popsicle, into the back of their truck for a three-way. Woof!
 

Redhead licking popsicle in Hot Truckin'
Scene from Hot Truckin'

I tried riding a bicycle again in my late adulthood. I bought one used, and I got it refurbished. Someone stole it from a supposedly secure bike room.

Now I just fantasize about hot young bearded guys I see riding around wearing tight shorts.

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RetroStuds of the Past: Focus on Jim Bentley

posted by Madame Bubby


Jim Bentley in Playguy

“He always brought class to his shoots.” – Josh Thomas, “Gay Spirit Diary”

His hot hung blond self was everywhere, and here he still is at Bijou Video, appearing in a stunning repertoire of films: Philip St. John's Getting It, Nova's stunner Heroes, LeSalon's supersexed Cabin Fever, and our new release Tough Competition, among others.
 

Jim Bentley smiling, tied up in ropes in Getting It
Jim Bentley in Getting It

Jim Bentley in a threeway in Heroes
Jim Bentley in Heroes

Though physically he embodied the Falcon Studios ideal of a gay porn stud, he was no cardboard figure. Interviews from the period reveal a likable person with a healthy, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor and a refreshing honesty.

Some tidbits from an interview in Male Review:

What's your favorite color?

I like electric blue, it's more modern. Beautiful!

(Someone on our copy of the interview wrote a snarky Who cares? Well, one has got to start somewhere in an interview.)
 

Jim Bentley Male Review interview, page 1
Male Review interview

What was the most tempting offer you've ever had from a fan?

A really handsome man came up to me a Greg's, said “Are you Jim Bentley? And immediately gave me the biggest lip-lock, and I loved it! He reached out and took what he wanted. He was only in town one night, so he took me back to his hotel. Fortunately, it was the Beverly Wilshire.

Who is your fantasy co-star of the existing porn stars?

I have a new discovery that I'm about to release to the world …

Let's say somebody who's already active though.

I'm usually the top, but I'd like to have someone just take my ass down on screen, I'm not sure who. It's a difficult question to answer. I'd say Al Parker.

Do you show your own tapes to your friends?

Yes, I see it first with a friend. I never watch it alone. I have a couple of friends who will tell me the truth.

Do your films turn you on?

It's hard to look at myself on the screen at first. Eventually, it swings around and becomes erotic again.
 

Jim Bentley Male Review interview, page 1
Male Review interview

And from Inches magazine, here's another fun fact: He used to sell figs for living. Yes, figs, of all fruit, a Biblical one!
 

Jim Bentley Male Review interview, page 1
Inches magazine

He went from figs to bigs, that is, being one of the bigs in the gay porn world during a exciting and frightening time: a gay sexual liberation, revealed in well-produced, well-acted films that revealed the power and beauty of gay sexual expression; and, simultaneously, the AIDS crisis which would decimate the actors in those films.

Where is he today? He did not die like so many of his generation, but lived, according to Josh Thomas at this source, to write an autobiography, The Last Time I Drew A Crowd.
 

The Last Time I Drew A Crowd book cover

According to the source, he is raising figs again.

His movies available at Bijou Video still, many years later, raise dicks.
 

Jim Bentley
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