Is That AL PARKER In Your Photo?

By Josh Eliot

 

My spouse Tony Fontana and I are super-organized. We keep the place spotless. All things of importance have their own binders. The filing cabinet folders get edited yearly, and our desk calendar is always up to date. One thing we did during the initial Covid-19 lockdown was go through our photos and separate them into categories inside manila envelopes. A bit much? All that aside, the other day I was going through the envelopes to pull pictures for a recent blog about my past partner, Mark Rutter. Tony worked with Mark Rutter at the Gold Coast Bar and they shared a history as well, so I was looking to see if there were any shots in his envelopes with Mark. I didn’t find Mark, but I came across this one shot that kind of blew my mind. I pulled it out and went up to Tony and said: “Is that AL PARKER in your photo?”

 

Al Parker and friends at a Renaissance Fair, 1980s

Al Parker and friends at a Renaissance Fair, 1980s

 

It was, in fact, Al Parker in the photo. Al and his group of friends were photographed at a Renaissance Fair in the 1980s. My partner Tony is standing in the photo facing the group of friends, which included the woman wearing the blue outfit. Probably a Fred Segal outfit, as she loved to shop there. Her name was Nancy Cole Sawaya, and she was the “glue” that united this large group of friends.

 

Al Parker's friends at Ren Fair

Al Parker's friends at Ren Fair

 

Nancy lived in a mansion off of LA’s infamous Mulholland Drive. A typical weekend for the group would be to start Saturday night off at Greg's Blue Dot, a Hollywood gay hot spot, whose clientele was the crème de la crème of the best looking studs. Around 1 a.m., the group would walk a few doors down to the members only disco Probe and stayed there until well past dawn. The Probe would feature “A-list” divas like Viola Wells , Angela Clemmons (“Give Me Just a Little More Time”), Fun Fun, Linda Clifford, Madleen Kane and many more. When Nancy and the boys showed up there, the staff would see to their quick entrance. After dancing the night away they would all end up at Nancy’s place poolside, where the party would go on throughout the day; even the DJs from Probe and Blue Dot would follow and spin records.

 

Nancy at Probe and a backyard pool

Nancy at Probe and a backyard pool

 

In October of 1982, Nancy and her friends Matt Redman, Ervin Munro and Max Drew attended an emergency meeting featuring a presentation from the San Francisco Kaposi’s Sarcoma Foundation about Gay Related Immunodeficiency Disease. Stunned by what they learned, these four friends set up a telephone hotline to answer questions from the community, because fear about the new disease was rampant. Over the holidays, Nancy and her small group of friends threw a Christmas party at her place called “A Christmas Present,” where guests were asked to donate money in the spirit of the season. Shortly after, Nancy took Tony to a small office in Hollywood on Cole Avenue she was thinking of renting to get his opinion. With the funds earned from the Christmas party, around $8000, she leased the office with her team of friends and offered counseling services to about twenty people known to have Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, making it a first in Los Angeles County to do so. This small office, through it’s hard work and dedication to the gay community, became APLA, AIDS Project Los Angeles. APLA’s early fundraisers were held in gay bars and discos and they went on to raise millions of dollars over the next few years with the help of such celebrities as Joan Rivers and Elizabeth Taylor. Nancy served on the Board of Directors for nearly two years while continuously offering one-on-one counseling to the members.

Co-founders Nancy Sawaya and Max Drew tested positive for the disease and by August of 1986. Nancy had been hospitalized six times. Nancy and her husband Lou adopted a baby girl named Morgan who was two years old when her mother passed away in October 1986 at age 40. This was the same year Al Parker lost his partner of eleven years, Richard Cole aka Steve Taylor, with whom he started Surge Studios. Surge Studios was one of the first studios to mandate safe sex practices. Al Parker passed away on August 17th 1992, also at the age of 40, and his ashes were scattered near the nude section of San Gregorio State Beach. Seeing both Al and Nancy in this random photo and hearing these stories about them was really quite extraordinary. They both became icons of gay history, giving so much of themselves to the gay community. Such a tragedy to lose them both so early in life.

 

Al Parker and Richard Cole (Steve Taylor); Nancy on Newsweek cover

Al Parker and Richard Cole (Steve Taylor); Nancy on Newsweek cover

 

As I started to put away the photos, I saw a manila envelope labeled “Tony and Friends,” so I thought I would look in that one to see if there were any more shots of Al or Nancy. I carefully scanned each and every photo, checking to see if I could recognize any faces when suddenly... I saw another one! Tony was facing the camera making a silly face, but it was the person who was to the right of the shot that again blew my mind. I took the photograph, marched down the hallway to the office, went up to Tony again and said : “Is that ESTELLE GETTY from GOLDEN GIRLS in your photo?”

 

Estelle Getty at a West Hollywood party, 1980s

Estelle Getty at a West Hollywood party, 1980s

 

Thank you to Josh Eliot for use of his photos.


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?

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Somebody, Call a FLUFFER!

By Josh Eliot

 

I can’t tell you how many times over the years I get asked about fluffers on the set. It seems once someone found out what I did for a living, their first words were, “Do you need a fluffer?” or “Are there really fluffers for the actors?” It’s almost like the impression of a fluffer is a cool and positive one. Well, let me tell you, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the only thing worse than needing a fluffer on the set is when you need to hire a stunt dick (yes, that’s a real thing). I’d like to think that when I hear the word fluffer, it takes me back to the time when my mother packed our school lunches with a fluffernutter sandwich. A peanut butter and fluff sandwich on Wonder white bread, a true American classic and staple of the East Coast. The only place you can buy fluff in California is at a specialty market, and every year or so I have a craving for it. The sandwich is dripping with white creamy marshmallow fluff, the complete opposite of what we want to happen when a fluffer goes to work.

I’ve said “fluffer” so many times in the last paragraph that I’m starting to have anxiety, so let’s just change the word to Mr. F. As a director of gay porn movies, when a model needs the services of Mr. F, we know our shoot day will extend from 5 to 6 hours for a full scene to anywhere from 8 to 10 hours. Your heart drops and you realize that all your hopes and dreams of a hot sexy scene have gone right out the window in an instant. The worst part of shooting porn is when there are erection problems, especially in gay porn where there is not a cute “vag” you can shoot to take up some screen time. You cannot move forward without a hard on, and all the momentum is lost. There is a place and purpose for flaccid dicks to be photographed and a porn movie is not that place.

 

fluffernutter

 

In the late 1980's when I started with Catalina Video, William Higgins' vision for the company was to cast young collegiate men with fit bodies and All-American looks. The model pool in the late 80’s with Scott Masters (Nova Video) as our producer and sometimes director was mostly made up of guys who were gay for pay. This made the chemistry on the set between the models very wooden. If we matched a gay guy with a straight guy, sometimes things would work out, but straight with straight... forget it. Because of this dynamic, our sets had no similarity to what I (and probably everyone else) thought a porn set would be like. I’d always envisioned Joe Gage’s Closed Set as the epitome of a California gay porn shoot. Or even 1984’s Best Picture Winner, Steve Scott’s classic Screenplay, with hot sexy gay actors portraying directors and casting agents. Our sets did not have that sexual energy.

 

Stills from Closed Set
Stills from Closed Set (DVD | Streaming)

Screenplay VHS cover

Screenplay VHS cover (DVD | Streaming)

 

With our gay for pay models, Mr. F was not a man but a VCR, unless one of the model’s girlfriends happened to be on the set (I can count on one hand the number of times that happened). A man’s mouth would not do the trick, so we would wheel out the TV/VCR combo from the make-up room onto the set. We would shut off the 1k soundstage lights to make the model comfortable and let him watch a porn scene to get hard. Oh the hideous memories of models rewinding and fast forwarding the tape, trying to find their “perfect shots to watch.” The clock is ticking! Take your hand off that fucking remote and put it on your dick already! Once the model was fully erect, we would turn the lights back on and run to our cameras as the model jumped into the set, stuck his dick in his co-star’s mouth or ass, while we'd shoot for 10 to 15 seconds until it was flaccid again. Over and over and over, angle, after angle, after angle. Torture.

As time progressed, more gay guys with the All-American look got into the model pool. Sexy passionate sex was now a regular occurrence on our sets because the guys were actually into each other. That’s not so say that Mr. F wouldn’t show his ugly face, but that was usually in the form of a magazine to help a hard dick get rock hard or, on the rare occasion, a crew member’s mouth (or piece) would come in handy. Then on March 27th, 1998, a miracle happened in the form of a little blue pill. This was awesome! The cob web covered TV/VCR combo was thrown right into the trash and we could make real plans for the evening because we knew we would get out of work on time. Hell, we could even add a third fuck position into the scene we were shooting, just because we knew we could! Mr. F simply faded away out of our lives and took all that anxiety with it.

 

Man holding Viagra pill

 

Fluff now has it’s good name back and Mr. F is more than welcome on the set... as a sandwich.
 


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

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