IN and OUT and All ABOUT

By Josh Eliot

 

The year was 1991. Catalina Video’s GM, Chris Mann, had left the company and started running things over at Video Team. As soon as Chris was OUT, The new GM, Mike, was IN. He was handpicked for the position by David Weiss, William Higgins' right hand man. Weiss and Higgins had an investment business called Drake’s Bookstore on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. Mike had proven himself to be a great manager when they put him in charge of the high end bookstore and he kept the business in the black when tough times called for radical changes. The first was when MOM (the “Merchants on Melrose”), a group representing about 3000 residents, complained to city officials. All the peep show booths needed to be removed because the city investigators found Drake's and another shop named Taboo in violation of the zoning code intended to keep adult entertainment stores away from schools and residential areas. The battles lasted many years, before and after Mike came to manage Catalina Video’s operations. The city also demanded that they reduce the percentage of sex-related adult products in each store, replacing content with products unrelated to sexuality. Drake's eventually closed.

I’m sure it was a real pain in the ass for him dealing with this stuff over and over again. Catalina must have felt like an escape to him. We were a pretty well-oiled machine when he came aboard. Scott Masters was producer, I managed the video crew and John Travis was one of the top rated directors of the time, bringing success and big bucks in sales from movies like Powertool and Undercover. Chi Chi LaRue and his best friend, Kevin, worked in sales and promotion. TJ worked in the art department and designed all the boxes and one sheets. Costello Presley was composing and providing all the music for the movies, and Chet Thomas was the full time editor. As soon as Mike came into power, he started shopping for a new location in Reseda. Our palatial North Hollywood headquarters was too big and expensive to suit Mike’s taste and he had one thing in mind: stop the bleeding of money. In the early 90s, the sales started to decline on new releases as the market was suddenly overblown with competition. We were all kinds of shocked when we saw the size of the new place. The warehouse was a decent size, and Mike’s office could have easily been split into three, but the rest was divided into small offices just big enough for a desk and a path to walk around it. Chet had a nice space for editing, though it was also supposed to be where Costello stayed, but shortly after moving to the new location Costello Presley left the company.

 

Vintage Catalina promotional ad
Vintage Catalina promotional ad designed by TJ
 
Josh Eliot and TJ

Josh Eliot and TJ

 

From the very start, we were shown that Mike and Chris Mann were very different in their management style. There was tension between Scott Masters and Mike regarding how things were handled in the production department. The good ole days of blowing money on non-essential things was definitely gone for good. It wasn’t so drastic that our company cars were taken away or anything like that, but we would be tightening our belts on everything that had to do with production expenses. Things started to boil over when Scott Masters and John Travis were told that royalties were a thing of the past and the company would no longer compensate them monthly on their previous movies' sales. They settled on a flat fee. All future movies would be on a flat fee basis as well.

My contract with Catalina never included royalties from the get go, so there weren’t any financial changes for me. The whole thing between Masters, Travis and Mike came to a head behind closed doors and, like a flick of the switch, Masters and Travis were OUT. Masters called to tell me they were parting ways, but assured me that they would be starting their own production company (later to be called Studio 2000). He wanted me to leave Catalina with them and join them on their venture, but could offer no financial detail on how and when I would be compensated. It was in limbo. Deep down, I really did not want to leave Catalina, because I had a great rapport with Mike and all the other associates. Luckily for me, before Masters could come back with a concrete offer, Mike pulled me aside at my 30th birthday party at the Gold Coast Bar in West Hollywood and offered me the job of Catalina’s producer, which I instantly accepted. The whirlwind began, and for the next 15 years we pumped out two to three movies a month until our very last production: Hot Buttered Cop Porn in 2006. Sometime over the next number of years, once David Weiss passed away in Amsterdam, Mike quietly purchased the company from William Higgins.

 

Hot Buttered Cop Porn box covers

Hot Buttered Cop Porn original and re-release box covers

 

After wrapping Cop Porn, we spent the next three years remastering and re-releasing all of our VHS movies onto DVD. It was kind of a relief to have the pressure of producing lifted from my shoulders and I could focus strictly on video editing, something I thoroughly enjoy. Going back to my early teens when I would sit on the living room floor with my 8mm editing unit, complete with splicing tapes, editing my home movies like Avalanche, Bionic Boy vs Big Foot, Crash, Earth Quake, and The Last Voyage. You can see trailers of those movies on my YouTube channel if you like disaster movies or if you just want to torture yourself! Here’s the link to: Josh Eliot, What A Disaster.

 

Josh Eliot's What a Disaster 8mm movie images

 

OUT of the blue one day in 2009, Mike came to visit me in Palm Desert, where I had moved to while continuing to edit and remaster for the company. I was shocked and surprised to hear that he was selling the business known as Catalina Video to Channel 1 Releasing. C1R had several partners including Chi Chi LaRue, so it seemed like it was a great choice for the library to go to them. He explained that part of the negotiation of the sale included keeping me and a couple Catalina employees on payroll for two years from the sale date. Though I was asked to produce new content for them, the thought of producing again was a real turn off to me, so I ultimately decided to only work as an editor for them, which they agreed to.

Two years to the very date of the company’s purchase of Catalina Video, I got my walking papers, and just like that, I was OUT.

 

 

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

 
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VOYAGER of the Damned

By Josh Eliot

 
Cover of Catalina's Voyager

Cover of Catalina's Voyager

 

In 2000, Catalina Video was invited to shoot a movie on board the Pillage & Plunder Gay Cruise, departing from Tampa. As with the maiden voyage of the Titanic, the Pillage & Plunder's initial venture at sea was just as much a disaster for the Catalina Crew. Don’t get me wrong, the cruise itself was a smashing success for the passengers and organizers of the event, so much so that it was repeated for many years to come. My experience however, through no fault of the Pillage organizers, was one that I tried hard to “douche” from my memory. I’ve never been so stressed out and distraught while on a “vacation” of sorts. The flight from Los Angeles was uneventful and we had a nice overnight stay at a Sheraton in Tampa. The next afternoon we made our way to the port.

 

Catalina Crew: Mark Jensen, Brad Austin, Peter Romero & Josh Eliot

Catalina Crew: Mark Jensen, Brad Austin, Peter Romero & Josh Eliot

 

Arriving on board the Regal Empress was like: “Are you kidding me? Is this girl even seaworthy?” I referred to her as a “rusty barge,” and that was a compliment. The Regal Empress’ maiden voyage was on October 15th, 1953 and she was put out of service March 9th, 2009. For my sake, couldn’t she have been put to rest 9 or 10 years earlier? The ship ended up leaving port six hours late, which I could deal with, but for some reason unbeknownst to me (until we were on the ship and ready to shoot some dialogue) we were told that we could not shoot anything until we were in international waters. A majority of the storyline setup was to take place on deck as the ship was leaving port, with the background of the passengers on deck celebrating. Because the ship left port around 10pm, we did not get to shoot our footage, so a whole chunk of the storyline which I set up in Vermont, Los Angeles and the Tampa pier went bye-bye. The schedule was so tight on this cruise and this, coupled with the fact of only being able to shoot when we were told we were in international waters, made it impossible to reschedule these crucial scenes. I thought fuck it, we’ll fix it in post-production as we so often did. I’ll make some montages or something. Always troubleshooting on my toes, I pulled out our third camera, the L-1 that looks just like a home movie camera with less than desirable quality, and ran around the ship shooting generic shots of the passengers while I pretended to be a tourist shooting home movies. I needed to have something!

Now like I said, I douched a lot of this out of my brain, but I do remember seeing porn star Enrico Vega on one of the decks running around in barely anything, flashing his dick to the passengers. That footage of us stumbling upon him is in the finished movie. I honestly am not sure if we hired him “on the spot” to be in the group scene for the movie or if we had already booked him. I really think we added him into the cast after meeting him, turning our upcoming five-way into a six-way. This all doesn’t sound too bad, right? Guys running around flashing their hard cocks to anyone who wants to see them, unlimited drinks, sailing the coast. Well, things went cock-eyed the morning of our big group scene on the main deck.

 

Regal Empress, cast in action, Josh with Steve Rambo

Regal Empress, cast in action, Josh with Steve Rambo

 

Steve Rambo, Tuck Johnson and Caesar, three of the six models in the big six-way, came to me while Ray Harley, Mike Radcliffe and Enrico Vega were in make-up or having their stills done. They dropped the bomb on me that there were too many passengers piled up along the railings to watch the filming and they didn’t want to shoot their scenes in public. I was a bit annoyed because they knew from the moment I cast them that this was the deal. But from a humane perspective, I personally wouldn’t want to lay it all out there in front of a crowd either, so I found a hallway with emergency doors that we could close to give them a spot out of the public eye. They were grateful and I was fine with it, except the beautiful background of a cruise ship on the open seas and the majestic scope was now a small cramped hallway that could have been built on a soundstage. In addition, I couldn’t shoot the six guys together in that hallway so I split it into two groups of three. This was less than ideal… bye-bye six-way, hello two three-ways - twice the work! The other three models were all exhibitionists so they thrived on the fact that they were being watched. Oh happy day until we heard the sudden roar of a horn and the ship’s smokestack started blowing out black engine exhaust! As soon as that horn blew, so did one of my two cameras and its videotape deck. There was a surge from the ship outlet that destroyed the camera and deck! Luckily, camera two wasn’t plugged in yet and was still working. This was a disaster; we’d been shooting with two cameras on every shoot since 1987! You can capture twice the shots in half the time, plus two angles on the cum shots, which was what we were known for at the time. Well, we were down to one camera and I was too afraid to plug it into the wall, so we used battery power. Because we were on battery, we could not use the TV monitor to check lighting, exposure, framing and focus, so I was forced to do the camerawork myself because how else would I see how it was framed? I shot and hoped for the best.

 

Ceasar in Voyager

Ceasar in Voyager

 

I shot the first group of guys in front of the passengers , then re-set up everything and shot the guys in the hallway. The crowd wanted to see Caesar so badly they kept pushing open the emergency doors while I was filming, ruining my shots and annoying the boys. It was like a slow painful death that day, and when we wrapped all I wanted to do was throw back a few shots at the bar with the crew. But that wasn’t in the cards. In 2000, it was common for models (at their own choice and discretion) to use Viagra or a penile injectable to keep an erection. Well, with all the stress of working in front of a hungry crowd, one model gave himself a little too much of the injectable. His erection would not go down, so we took him to emergency on the ship. The erection lasted for hours and the doctor on board was concerned it could cause long term damage to his functionality. It was horrible. I felt so bad for him. I kept going in and out of the medical suite to check on him, until finally around 11pm the erection subsided.

The next day, we laid anchor in Key West, made our way to the Oasis Guest House to shoot our final scene (with one fucking camera), then spent the night at a go-go bar that DJ Tommy Rocker (Catalina promotions associate) was spinning records at. We had a ball, then went back to the rusty barge, slept and were first in line to get off that Muther-Fucking Ship in Tampa. Never to return.

 

 

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

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