LUNCH HOUR: When the Big Boys Eat

By Josh Eliot

 

I wrote previously about my relationship and rocky road with producer Scott Masters (Nova Video) in the blog: “We Waited 8hrs for a Cum Shot: Is That a World Record?” I mentioned in that blog how he was in a relationship with Catalina exclusive model Matt Powers and how he starred him in his remake of the Nova movie Main Attraction. Matt was great in the movie, but to debut as a dancer in lots of spandex didn’t do his career any great favor. Scott Masters kept stalling on making his next movie and our GM Mike was getting a little bit upset that he was footing this exclusive’s bills for a non-working model who was basically Scott Master’s sex toy. When I wanted to do a movie called Lunch Hour about workers in a steel factory fighting back against management, I pitched the idea to Mike over drinks at the Gold Coast Bar in West Hollywood. The next day, he gave it the green light and personally made the calls to get me the perfect factory setting in Burbank for our shooting location. It took a lot of my budget to rent the place, so Mike agreed to throw in a little more money and then shocked me with his next decision. Mike felt the macho role of the factory worker would be a great next step for Matt Powers. He was looking to “butch him up” by getting him in a masculine role. Scott Masters was a bit shell-shocked and put up quite a stink because in his mind, even though Catalina was footing the bill, he felt he should be the only one to direct Matt’s movies. I agreed with him and didn’t want to take on the responsibility, but eventually he gave his blessing to the idea and I accepted the task. Secretly, I was happy because now having an exclusive as a star meant they would advertise the movie aggressively.

 

Josh Eliot's Lunch Hour

Josh Eliot's Lunch Hour

 

I think Matt Powers liked the idea of working with me as his director because he knew I would encourage his input and recommendations in regards to his role. There’s a great scene in the movie just before the workers overpower the management to teach them a lesson. Matt wanted to smash one of their computers with a giant wrench to show his anger and frustration with them. I had an old computer on the set as a prop and thought… brilliant! It worked out beautifully and added to his macho persona. Once he smashed the computer, he turned to his co-workers and uttered, “Get 'em,” at which time the workers overpowered the managers, ripped off their clothes and well, you know the rest. It was a lot of pressure, but I knew I could make Matt Powers look incredible; he had all the goods but hadn’t been given the chance to show his full potential until then.

Because the factory cost a fortune, I only had two days to shoot Lunch Hour: one day to shoot all the factory scenes and one day in Scott Master’s house (because it was free) to shoot a love scene between Matt Powers and Josh Taylor, showing Matt’s softer side as contrast. Although he really didn’t want to, we made sure Scott Masters left for the day. The factory scenes included all the dialogue, a threeway with Powers and a 6-way orgy (simultaneously happening in another part of the factory), then we brought both groups together for a 9-way finale. Because shooting all this was impossible in one day, Mike told me that he was going to have Chi Chi LaRue co-direct. I directed all the dialogue and the threeway while Chi Chi directed the 6-way, then I directed the end when they all got together for the 9-way.

It was in this movie that I discovered the immensely satisfying act of “Revenge Casting.” My “open-relationship” boyfriend at the time, Randy, a co-owner of a clothing store on Melrose Avenue, always liked to torment me by letting “slip out” names of guys he slept with. This time, he was boasting about having gone home with adult porn actor, Steve Kennedy (aka Luke Bender), after meeting him at a club. I insisted that Scott Masters track down Steve Kennedy and cast him for the orgy. My first thought was to have him gang fucked, but realized he was only topping at that time in his career. I was a fan of Steve Kennedy, which made my jealousy even more atrocious, so I quickly moved on to “Revenge Casting Plan B.” Once he was confirmed as a cast member, I reached out to Charlie Warner and offered him a role. What, you never heard of Charlie Warner? No one had. He was the best friend of my “sleep around boyfriend” Randy and was persistently asking me to cast him in a movie. I never had before, but this time I did with the idea that Steve Kennedy would be giving him a relentless, long, hard and fast fucking. A pounding I was sure would rattle dear Randy when the movie came out on VHS. As soon as it released, I was on the phone with Charlie Warner so he could plan a screening at his house with all his friends.

 

Steve Kennedy aka Luke Bender (L & R) & Charlie Warner going down on Steve and the steel workers (center)

Steve Kennedy aka Luke Bender (L & R) & Charlie Warner going down on Steve and the steel workers (center)

 

The expression on Randy’s face was priceless, and he looked at me knowing exactly that what I had done by casting Charlie and Steve together. It was sweet revenge. His special one night stand with Steve Kennedy wasn’t so special anymore. Charlie actually did a really good job and I used him again in The Secret Boys Club, shot at a roller rink in the San Fernando Valley. Randy and I had a good run, but in the end he broke my heart. I was supposed to go to a party with him and had to cancel because, once again, Scott Masters needed me, last minute, to nail sequins on block letters to spell out Matt Powers' name for a dance tour he was going on to promote his movies. That very night, Randy met a young plaything at the party who basically replaced me. He broke up with me a couple days later and I was fucking distraught. I was immediately on the phone with Chet Thomas, Catalina editor, cursing Scott Masters' name for making me stay home the night of the party when Randy met the new guy. Being a great friend, Chet rushed over with a big bottle of Jack Daniels and we drank the whole thing.

Lunch Hour came out in 1989, and when Scott Masters watched it he ran up to me and gave me a big kiss on the cheek. He was happy that I made Matt Powers look macho and sexy in the movie. I think he thought to himself that he’d better troubleshoot the situation so that the manager, Mike, didn’t give Matt away to any other director, so in 1990 we shot and released Scott Masters' Lifeguard On Duty. We shot it up in Pismo Beach and Scott Masters had Matt play the lead role, which was well written and included a very well shot, if I do say so myself, fight scene with an armed assailant on the beach at night. That was Matt’s third and final movie for Catalina, because their relationship started deteriorating right before our eyes during filming. In 1991, after one of many arguments with Scott Masters, Matt took off, ending their relationship, shot a movie for Fox Studios called Muscle Force and then returned home to Massachusetts and enrolled in college.

 

Matt Powers on Jock Magazine (L) & on the cover of Lifeguard on Duty (R)

Matt Powers on the cover of Jock Magazine (L) & in Lifeguard on Duty (R)

 

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??!

 
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We Waited 8hrs for a Cum Shot... Is That a World Record?

By Josh Eliot

 

Patience is a virtue, or so they say. There were more than a handful of times that my patience wore thin on a porn set. It’s not all fun and games, let me tell you that right now. I became an expert on troubleshooting situations throughout my years of producing and directing, but in the early days, the crew and I were not able to escape the inevitable when a certain someone was in charge. I wouldn’t say my producer Scott Masters was a perfectionist, but he tried damn hard at it. If I’m being completely honest, Scott Masters and I had a love-hate-love again relationship from almost the very beginning. We both shared the passion for putting out the best product possible, both of us were totally invested in the stories we were telling, proper lighting and camera angles. You would think it was a match made in heaven, and to an extent it was, but there was one very important difference that had us butting heads many times over the years. Flexibility, or the lack of it.

 

William Higgins & Scott Masters (L); Higgins & Scott Masters with Jerry Douglas (R)

William Higgins & Scott Masters (L); Higgins & Scott Masters with Jerry Douglas (R)

 

Probably the first time it really came to a head was when we were shooting Hard Men 3, the third installment of a very popular series in the 1980s called Hard Men: No Strings Attached. It was basically a Chippendales type video where dancers would dress as a theme character and strip. The twist was that our dancers would strip all the way and when their undies came off they had a huge hard on that they flopped around for the camera, shot from every angle imaginable. We even had a plexiglass floor made for the models to dance on while we were underneath. At the end of the video, there was ordering information where the viewer could purchase a J/O tape of their favorite dancer masturbating, complete with cum shot, sold via mail order. The series was perfect for women or gay men to purchase. It was also perfect for Scott Masters as “director” of the segments. Scott loved plays, musicals and anything to do with the stage, not to mention his “costume fetish” I’ve mentioned before. Our “head butt” came one day when Scott was directing Chris Dano, who was playing a matador. The matador was to enter the stage through separating walls that we built on wheels to open and close. Very theatrical. It was 10:45pm, we had shot the dance/strip, the j/o bonus movie and all we had left was the opening shot where he entered the stage through the walls and dozens of roses showered him from above. “What? Roses? What are you talking about (Scott Masters)? You never asked for roses on your list!”

 

Hard Men series, matador & under plexiglass

Hard Men series, matador & under plexiglass

 

Well, you would have thought I’d killed his first born. The look on Scott Masters' face said it all as he screamed back at me, insisting he mentioned the roses when he ordered his custom built set over the phone. He definitely had not, and it was too late to run to the store to purchase any. His flight back to L.A. was at 8am, so I apologized if I missed the “roses request,” but reinforced the fact that he had a strong scene and no one would miss the fact that there were supposed to be roses. Well, that fell on deaf ears. Back and forth, back and forth. Suddenly he had an epiphany: “The curtain!” “The curtain?” Yes, the red velvet curtain that the model used in his dance and wrapped himself in for the J/O bonus movie. Don’t you know that Scott Masters had me, the 2nd cameraman, the make-up man, the still photographer and even poor Chris Dano sitting on the floor until 1am cutting up that muther fucking curtain into small strips and making fake roses that were stapled together so we could shoot a 15-second shot of them falling from the sky onto Chris Dano. It took all of my will power not to purposely jiggle the camera during the shot. I think I got home around 3am.

 

Matador and roses

 

Another more draining situation came on the movie The Main Attraction. This was a homage to his Nova Video movie of the same name. Matt Powers was Catalina’s new exclusive, and Scott Masters' secret (at the time) obsession. (I might talk about that “love affair” in a future blog; it’s personal so I’m not sure. But, then again, I do have a big mouth.) Anyway, Matt Powers finished the scene with Vic Summers, which, let me tell you, took a layer of flesh to complete, even before things came to a dead halt. We waited four hours while Vic would watch and rewind the VCR to get himself to the point where he could cum. He must have ran into the set screaming “I’m cumming!” seven or eight times, but nothing came out. Masters refused to let us put the cameras on a tripod because he had very specific angles in mind that called for me to be on a 20-foot ladder and 2nd camera to be wedged with the still photographer, literally on top of each other in the corner of the set. All of our backs were sore and aching but he refused to let us change the angle. At around midnight, Masters decided to end our misery but wanted us all back at 6am to try again for the cum shot, as they all had 1pm flights home. At 6am, we all returned to the studio hoping and praying that a good night's sleep would somehow empower Vic Summers to quickly blow his load. It was a repeat of the night before, so I requested to Masters that we lay Vic on his back on the bed with the VCR in viewing distance so he was comfortable and could just “cum” without having to run into the set and get in an awkward position. That and any other suggestions were met with a “no” accompanied by a long monologue as to why not. Just shy of four and a half hours later, drip... drip. A very un-dramatic visual presentation of what some might call a cumshot.

When I saw John Travis later that month to start shooting My Best Buddy, the crew and I shared our nightmarish experience. Travis was like, “What the fuck? We’ve got so many fucking cum shots in the can, close-up, underneath, overhead, fat dicks, thin dicks, straight dicks, crooked dicks, mushroom heads, no head… couldn’t he have just reused one of those?” Exactly.

 

Main Attraction: Nova & Catalina versions

Main Attraction: Nova & Catalina versions

 

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

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Interview with Robert Alvarez, Hand in Hand Films Co-Founder/Editor

In 2019, Robert Alvarez, co-founder and editor of the groundbreaking and influential early gay porn studio and distribution company, Hand in Hand Films, kindly took the time to do a phone interview with Bijou.

Along with his partner Jack Deveau, as well as Jaap Penraat, and, later, Kees Chapman, Alvarez co-founded and was at the helm of Hand in Hand Films. Formed in 1972, a mere few years after more permissive legislation in the U.S. began allowing for the exhibition of hardcore films, the studio undertook ambitious and elaborate cinematic productions, expanding the ideas of what a pornographic film could be, and constructing their ideas into a large catalog of outstanding and entertaining narrative features. They additionally became an early distributor of the work of a number of other gay adult filmmakers, as well as their own product. A highly collaborative enterprise, Hand in Hand's films combine the creative influences of all of their participants. They continued making films until 1982 and distributing until 1988.

Alvarez, a skilled editor with a background in dance and experimental and documentary film, elevated Hand in Hand's output with his technical polish and creative flair, helping to create the distinct style and high quality level of the studio's output. From character dramas, to comedies, to outrageous psychedelic and horror films, his work on Hand in Hand's productions covered a range of tones and genres, but maintained Hand in Hand's cinematic quality and particular sensibility. With some of the studio's wilder and more avant-garde films and sequences, Bob applied complex and experimental editing and post-production effects, leading critics to frequently praise the “Alvarez effects” that enhanced scenes and often created some of the movies' best moments.

In the conversation that follows, Bob discusses his artistic background and influences, Hand in Hand's formation, his relationship with Jack Deveau, his editing style, the studio's philosophy, and more.

Robert Alvarez in front of French poster for Good Hot Stuff, 1975
Robert Alvarez in front of French poster for Good Hot Stuff, 1975
[Image Credit: Good Hot Stuff: The Life and Times of Gay Film Pioneer Jack Deveau]

Bijou: I am curious about some of your filmmaking influences and your experimental film background.

Alvarez: Well, I’ve always loved movies. And, in addition to that – this goes back to 1958, maybe – I started going to see some experimental films that were being shown in a little storefront place, and I got to know about Kenneth Anger and Gregory Markopoulos, for whom I worked. Not even worked – I assisted [Markopoulos], is more like it. And then I ended up being in one of his films. And then there was Warhol, but Warhol didn’t really influence me that much. I wasn't a great fan of his movies, but I did follow certain ones. Chelsea Girls is one of his early ones that I more or less liked, because it was so outrageous. The most influential [experimental filmmakers] for me were the ones that I just mentioned.

In addition to that, one of the first things that I came to New York to do was to become a dancer, because I started studying in Florida when I was about 18 or 19 and decided that New York was the only place that would be smart for me to go to. So I moved here and I kept studying dance and going to auditions, and so forth. After a while, I wound up doing Summer Stock and then a touring company. I did it ‘til I was about twenty-five and then I just decided that I should not continue to pursue it, that I should do something else. And, of course, the thing that came up in my mind first was film. I worked for [the animator] Francis Lee while I was doing the experimental film part of my life. He worked with this thing called photo animation. And he also made some experimental films, as well as regular ones.

I started getting more into film and wound up working for another animation man who did commercials for NBC, and then from that I went onto NBC and became assistant editor to the supervising editor there, and after that I got my first editing job. And, in between, I did some other stuff and wound up doing the documentaries [Woodstock, An American Family] and working freelance for mostly – it was Channel 13; it’s now PBS - until 1971 or ‘72.

It was my partner who I convinced we should get into the business of making movies, which is a story in itself, but, anyway, we turned out our first film, which was Left-Handed, and it was very unlike any other gay films that I’d ever seen. I became more and more interested in how far we could push the envelope, you know. Wakefield Poole, a pretty good friend of mine, made Boys in the Sand prior to this and that was a big success. And so we decided we would do ours, and that’s when we did Left-Handed. And ours was quite different, of course. We tried to take it from a different gay slant than just porno, give it some kind of a plot and characters and motivations, and so forth, as well as some editing that I did that I think was somewhat experimental.

Bijou: Had you edited any pieces that were that experimental at that point in time, or were you kind of getting to develop some of those techniques in your editing style on Left-Handed?

Alvarez: I actually was influenced by… I never got over being a dancer, and I was interested in dance and choreography, and so forth. When I started editing, I began to feel that there were a lot of similarities in certain aspects of editing to choreographing, and became a real fan of Bob Fosse, among others. So I used a lot of their techniques, but I also used some other techniques that I learned back when I was seeing experimental films, that involved quick cutting and a lot of - especially in Markopoulos - a lot of very extended dissolves, and things, that were quite beautiful. And I used those things, myself, as well as my sense of rhythm and cutting to music, which I loved to do, because that really gave it movement; some emphasis, depending on the music that we used. And we had original music for Left-Handed that came from a friend of ours, a guy that was a sound mixer, who had a small band. He composed some music for us.

Bijou: Yes, those are wonderful pieces.

Images from Left-Handed (1972)
Images from Left-Handed, 1972 (DVD | Streaming)

Alvarez: Anyway, I really enjoyed it, because I was doing it like I wanted to do it, and I was given a free hand to do whatever I did. So that more or less gives you an idea of how I got started, and where.

Bijou: I didn’t realize you came from a dance background, also. I know some other people involved [in making gay porn in '70s NYC] were from that background. Did you get connected to anybody through the realm of dance that wound up working with you?

Alvarez: Well, I had known Wakefield slightly back in Florida, because he was in a ballet company and I was in a different one. We met at some kind of convention. We got to know each other and we were sort of, not buddies, but… We were in two different locations in Florida. But when I came to New York, I saw that he was dancing, and, also, he did some choreography. So I got to know him pretty well.

Bijou: Do some of the people involved in Ballet Down the Highway come from those connections?

Alvarez: They did, but they weren’t friends or anything. They were people that we cast, who were dancers, to be in the ballet scene, as well as the lead in the movie, who was a Dutch young man [Henk Van Dijk] who came with a choreographer that we got to know from the Netherlands ballet, and became rather close friends with after this lover of his appeared in our film. Anyway, we got this young man, who was studying dance, and he was not a great dancer, but through editing and so forth, I made him look better. (laughs) You know?

Bijou: (laughs) It does look good.

Alvarez: He always remarked on that, you know, how I made it look like he could really dance. Other than that, the other people that were supposedly in this company he was dancing for were cast from, I guess, one of our casting calls. We put out casting calls for some of our films, like in Show Business [the newspaper].

Henk Van Dijk (left) and other dancers & cast members (right) in Ballet down the Highway, 1975

Henk Van Dijk (left) and other dancers & cast members (right) in Ballet down the Highway, 1975 (DVD | Streaming); clips from the film

Bijou: Is that how you found most of your performers - casting calls? I noticed, with Hand in Hand's films, there’s some crossover between people you have in the crew and the cast, and some people that I don’t see in any other [adult] films. I was curious where the Left-Handed cast came from or if you knew some of them from social circles, as well.

Alvarez: The Left-Handed cast, I’m not sure, because I wasn’t involved in the casting, directly. That was Jack Deveau, who was, of course, my partner, and the guy who was primarily the producer/director - you know, the whole shebang. He used to put out casting calls. And, I think, we knew the guy who played the lead. We knew both of them. And so they agreed to be in it. And then we had an orgy scene at the end that was a lot of other people that we weren’t particularly friends with but somehow got to be in this, our first film. And I’m not sure whether they were cast directly, or they were cast through friends, or something. But that’s more or less how that happened.

Ray Frank & Robert Rikas, the leads in Left-Handed, and orgy cast
Ray Frank & Robert Rikas, the leads in Left-Handed, and orgy cast

Bijou: How did you and Jack meet? I don't think I know that.

Alvarez: Oh… That’s a kind of a story in itself. We met several years before. I met him, actually, at a performance of an opera by Gian Carlo Menotti called The Saint of Bleecker Street. It was written up in the papers as being a really good production, and blah blah blah. I had a friend who wanted to be an opera singer, and I think he told me about it and said, “Do you want to go see it?” And I said, “Yes. I definitely want to go see it.” Because I knew who Gian Carlo Menotti was and I’d heard some of his other work and always liked it. But anyway, I went to that and, during intermission, this young man came up to me, you know? And we started talking, and so on, and so on, and so forth. And I had a feeling that we were… we were evaluating each other. (laughs) Also, it turns out that his mother was part of the orchestra. She played the viola. During that intermission, she came out, and he said, “Tell me your name really quick, because there comes my mother and I want to introduce you.” (laughs) So we met and… She’s a wonderful lady. Just a wonderful, wonderful person. Anyway, I immediately got interested in knowing more about him. He invited me to go out with him after the opera, which I did. And that was the beginning, you know? And, little by little, we became more and more involved until we decided to live together. It was good. We had a sort of an open relationship - not completely open, but rather. And so there were a lot of other sexual experiences that I had that were not with him, but were influenced by him. I’ll put it that way. (laughs) He was very interested in people that he’d meet off the street who were either hustling, trying to make a little money, or sailors, you know. He had a very great gift of gab, so he could charm anybody - and did. (laughs)

Bijou: Yeah. It sounds like everyone loved hanging out with him, from all the people I’ve spoken with about him.

Alvarez: Yeah, he was a lot of fun. He was a funny character.

So anyway, we had this relationship, never really committing to a long-term thing, but it kept going, kept going, kept going, and we ended up being together for twenty-one years. And at that point, he died, and so... It was a long, long relationship. And I loved him very, very much. And vice versa.

But I always thought it would be great if we could work together. Incidentally, another person that was greatly responsible for Jack getting the courage to get into this and actually direct people was [Rebel Without a Cause star] Sal Mineo, who became a friend of ours some years before.

Bijou: Yeah! I was so curious where you knew him from.

Alvarez: We met him in Madrid, and he was getting ready to shoot a film somewhere in Europe. I can’t remember the name of it. Anyway, we got to know each other, and while we were there, we went out together. And he was sort of… not just coming out, I guess, but he was definitely coming out. (laughs) And so he enjoyed being with us, and was always a good friend.

And then a little later, we got into the film business and decided to become our own distributors, because we didn’t trust any of the distributors. Everybody that had dealt with the distributors had been pretty much ripped off by having copies of their films made and sold, and all kinds of stuff that went on. We felt it was better if we could set up a business to distribute our own movies and not sell them, which a lot of other gay filmmakers were doing. Instead of selling them to make a quick buck, we’d keep the movies and then rent them out to the exhibitors and charge them a percentage of the gross. And, of course, they were never exactly honest, either, but we found ways to kind of get around that. When we showed our stuff in New York, we had somebody counting the number of patrons that would go into the theater, so we had an idea of about how much money we should be getting. But anyways, that’s a whole other area of the business. And, incidentally, that’s how we met [Bijou owner] Steve Toushin, because he started renting some of our films, and we liked him. He was always really very nice and very fair.

Bijou: I was wondering about Good Hot Stuff [Hand in Hand's documentary about their studio] showing in Paris. I read that that was the first gay porn film to show in France. I was curious about that trip over there and what that experience was like.

Jack Deveau & Bob Alvarez in front of French Good Hot Stuff billboard
Jack Deveau & Bob Alvarez in front of French billboard for Good Hot Stuff (DVD | Streaming); excerpt from the film

Alvarez: It wasn't the first film. It was the first American explicit gay film ever shown in France. We hooked up with a man named Norbert Terry in France who had apparently shot one or two movies that were in French. I always wanted for us to go there and be shown with subtitles and (laughs), you know, the whole thing. Because there’s a lot of narrative to Good Hot Stuff; Jack and some of our actors talked about being in the films, and so forth. We opened in Paris at two or three theaters. And they made a big deal out of promoting it. And, sure enough, we ended up outgrossing the [Robert Altman] movie Nashville, which was also playing there (laughs) - and Nashville is a classic film.

Bijou: (laughs) Yeah, that's amazing.

Alvarez: Jack and I had been to Paris a couple of times before, and we loved Paris... I still do. It’s a magical city and I love it. So we ended up, eventually after we made some more films, making a deal with a guy who was a producer in Paris, and contracted to make a movie in French and we would share the profits. It turned out to be a disaster, but we released the movie anyway.

Bijou: Was that Le Musée, [also known as Strictly Forbidden]?

Images from Le Musee aka Strictly Forbidden, 1974
Images from Le Musée aka Strictly Forbidden, 1974 (DVD | Streaming)

Alvarez: Le Musée, yeah. I had to end up using our work print, because they had confiscated our original negatives from the lab, so I had only the work print to work with.

Bijou: Oh wow, they confiscated it?

Alvarez: Yeah. They figured they had a legal right to do it, because we ran out, I guess. We didn’t continue working on the film. We left, and when we went to get our original negatives, found out that they had already been taken by the production company, and they weren't about to give it up.

Bijou: Wow.

Alvarez: Which is too bad, because it was really a beautiful film in many ways.

Bijou: Yeah, the footage is gorgeous from that film.

Alvarez: Yeah, the color footage is really good. And that’s only the work print, so you can imagine the original.

Bijou: Oh wow. I see, so the B&W is the work print?

Alvarez: Yeah, that’s all from the work print.

Bijou: Oh!

Alvarez: And I decided, from my experimental film days (laughs), “Hell, I’ll just mix them all up,” you know, and we’ll have B&W and color.

Bijou: I like that about it. I thought that was intentional. It felt intentional, watching it. (laughs)

Alvarez: That’s what I tried to do - make it look like it was intentional. I wasn’t happy with it, completely, because I knew what we could have had, but we didn’t want it to go to waste, so we released it. And made some money on it, you know.

Bijou: Yeah, I still think it’s a great one, but that would be sad knowing that you lost a good chunk of footage. What was your philosophy on making the Hand in Hand films at the time?

Alvarez: Well, almost all of them were shot in New York, and we dealt with New York situations and stories. I mean, Left-Handed is certainly that. And several others we did were about typical New York scenes. Some of our slighter stories had New York characters in them, and we used New York as a kind of a backdrop for everything. So we decided our films would have that element, as well as kind of a freewheeling style where we made it seem like being gay was a normal thing, long before (laughs), long before [many gay rights advancements]. We were just assuming that our characters all were gay and that’s how they talked, as normal people would talk.

Bijou: That’s true, that is kind of distinctive about your films - now that you said that - versus some other studios. In Hand in Hand's films, most of the people are already out and it’s set within gay life and that’s not, like, a huge ordeal with it.

Alvarez: Yeah. And another film that we did early was… Well, we worked with this guy Peter de Rome on his first feature-length film. ‘Cause he had done some short films on 8mm. We ended up blowing up a lot of them to 16mm, and then adding a couple of his [other] short movies, and making a movie, after that, called Adam & Yves, which took place in Paris.

Posters for The Erotic Films of Peter de Rome and Adam & Yves
Posters for The Erotic Films of Peter de Rome 1972, (DVD | Streaming) and Adam & Yves 1974, (DVD | Streaming)
 
Jack Deveau and Peter de Rome filming Adam & Yves

Jack Deveau and Peter de Rome filming Adam & Yves; audio and set photos montage

Alvarez: Another chance to go to Paris; I didn’t go to, but Jack did. We made the film that Peter de Rome directed. Well, Jack actually directed it more than he did, but…

Bijou: Oh really?

Alvarez: But we gave him the credit, because it was his idea, and his concept and the whole thing about shooting some of it in Paris.

After Adam & Yves was released, we started working on a film which was a little more intricate… a lot more intricate, actually (laughs), called Drive. And I did a lot of quick cutting and switching from one scene to another, like in the middle of a sex scene; kind of making a comment about what was coming up, you know, sort of like a prequel to what was going to happen.

Bijou: Yeah, I love the edits in that movie.

Alvarez: And it took place in this decadent disco that was run by the character named Arachne, whose goal in life was to rid all men of their sex drive. But she would do it by castrating them, up to the point where she found out that there was this drug being developed... This was funny, too, because this was long before Viagra or any of that stuff. But there was a drug being developed that would kill the instinct or the desire to have sex. So she wouldn’t have to be mutilating people anymore. (laughs) So her goal was to go out and get this drug and the scientist. She was an evil character. But as far as the movie goes and my involvement in it, I was very taken by this and I loved the idea that some of it took place in a disco. And there was a scene that was kind of a tribute or take off on Marlene Dietrich’s gorilla suit sequence in [Blonde Venus]. But we did our version of that with the character Arachne, who was in drag, of course, and I loved it. I think it really works well. And that’s one of the scenes where I cut to the disco. And we had original music for it. Now, I did my best to cut to the music, and then I intercut with the sex between the detective and his partner. So we go back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, until the scene at the disco became a climax when the Arachne character takes off the gorilla head and out she comes. And so that was the end [of the scene], and that was in vivid color. And at the same time, the couple was climaxing in their scene, and so the two climaxes kind of coalesced together.

Bijou: It's a great sequence.

Christopher Rage as Arachne, after emerging from the gorilla suit in Drive, 1974

Christopher Rage as Arachne, after emerging from the gorilla suit in Drive, 1974 (DVD | Streaming); Drive's original theme song by David Earnest

Alvarez: That’s what I mean about our films. I mean, there was so much… Not to make art, necessarily, but to make something that would be contemporary, of the day, and also would get us… We always had the goal, really, to get into regular movies - mass market movies - eventually, and this was sort of going to be our training ground. And, for a while, it looked like we could do it. I know Wakefield had the same desire and almost made it. But the whole business changed so quickly, and it became corrupted, and more of a “quick buck” kind of thing, and so forth. There were exceptions. There were a few filmmakers that were rather important at that time, and one of them was a guy by the name of Tom DeSimone, who ended up working with us on a couple of movies.

Bijou: Right, he shot a couple of them, didn't he?

Alvarez: Oh, he shot many films. That’s a whole other story. It’s in the book [Good Hot Stuff: The Life and Times of Gay Film Pioneer Jack Deveau], in the chapter on Tom DeSimone. Anyway, we liked him, because his movies - the movies he made, himself - were more substantial, and often had plots, and so forth. There were a few people like that. Another one was Fred Halsted who, in L.A. Plays Itself, used a rather - not only shocking - sequence, but also some underground film tactics.

Anyway, I was talking about Drive and how that was a departure from everything.

Bijou: Yeah! That’s the first really kind of elaborate effects piece that you did, right?

Alvarez: Yeah, exactly. I took some of the disco stuff to an optical house and had them do several things to make it more unusual. You know? I incorporated a lot of stuff like that in all our films, if possible.

Bijou: Right. Destroying Angel has couple of those great sequences, too.

Alvarez: Right, Destroying Angel, especially.

Bijou: I love that one.

Images from Peter de Rome's The Destroying Angel, 1976

Images from Peter de Rome's The Destroying Angel, 1976 (DVD | Streaming); excerpts from the film

Alvarez: Yeah. And there’s one called Fire Island Fever, which has a sequence where one of the characters accidentally takes a tab of acid and we kind of see what he’s seeing through his eyes as he is high, which is a fantasy sex scene with what turns out to be one of the characters that he meets at the end of the film. Anyway, I tried as much as possible to incorporate some more daring kind of editing. You know, make our films look different. And they did. (laughs) For the most part, they did.

Bijou: Yeah, they did!

Fire Island Fever fantasy sequence
Fantasy sequence from Fire Island Fever, 1979 (DVD | Streaming)

Bijou: Oh, I wanted to ask you about Kees Chapman.

Alvarez: He was also, I think, from a Dutch background. But he was an American; I think he was born here in the States. His lover had been one of our actors early on. [His lover] was actually in Drive. He played the scientist. He had long blond hair. For the movies, he was [named] Mark Woodward; to us, he was his real name, Sydney Soons. And he became an employee of ours, and was helping Jack with keeping track of the finances and getting the movies sent out to the exhibitors, and all that.

Fire Island Fever fantasy sequence
Mark Woodward aka Sydney Soons hosting Good Hot Stuff and slating for A Night at the Adonis, 1978 (DVD | Streaming)

Alvarez: After a while, he and Kees ended up breaking up, and then Kees kind of took over his job, and became even more of a necessary part of Hand in Hand Films. And he also ended up doing some camerawork for Jack, as well as directing, and so forth.

In fact, he shot the sequence I directed in In Heat, which was shot in a dance studio. It was guys taking a ballet class, and then the teacher takes a break, and during that time, the boys get together and have sex. And eventually, the teacher comes back and he joins the crowd. (laughs) So that was one small segment that I directed, because I’d always wanted to, but I didn’t want to impose on Jack’s ideas, you know, because he had plenty of ideas.

In Heat dance studio segment directed by Robert Alvarez
Dance studio segment directed by Robert Alvarez in the Hand in Hand shorts collection In Heat (DVD | Streaming)

Alvarez: In fact, Kees and I tried to make a full film, with Kees directing, after Jack died, but it turned out that I couldn’t use the footage; it was too dark and just a mess. And I’ve always thought I should take that footage again and look at it again with today’s technology, you know?

Bijou: Oh, you should. I bet it could be enhanced a bit, yeah. That would be interesting. What was the premise?

Alvarez: I’m not too sure, except I know that it had the lead character going to Fire Island and having several encounters there. And finally, at the end, I think he gets back with his lover that he had at the beginning of the movie. It’s been a long time since I’ve looked at it.

Bijou: I bet it could be brightened.

Alvarez: Yeah. I think with today’s video technology, especially, a lot of things can be certainly improved. Steven’s done that already. I’m very pleased with the way he has kept our movies up to date.

Bijou: Oh, I'm glad.

Alvarez: Oh, let me finish with Kees. Like I said, he became part of our group that ended up being Jack, Kees, and myself, who were the principal people. We had another partner for a while named Jaap Penraat. But that ended at some point and… Not too happily, but it ended.

And that’s when Kees became interested in working for us and kind of took over Jaap’s position, and started working with Jack directly. He was a terrific guy. And I was very surprised when he died of AIDS because… He must have gotten it from his lover, Sydney, because Sydney also got it and also passed away. And, a year or two later, Kees became ill and he died.

So that left it just up to me, and that’s where I finally decided - after making that little film, which was kind of satisfying for me - that it was time to get out of the business. That’s when I started looking for people that might be interested in buying the business, buying all the material, which turned out to be Steve. And I’m glad it was, because he’s been the most trustful of the ones that I talked to about it. There were other people interested, but I knew what would happen. We wouldn’t be who we are today if it had gone to somebody else and they copied our films badly and, you know. It would have been awful. So I’m glad Steve had some real interest in keeping it as a sort of a record of what was happening in the time when they were made, and so forth, which was one of the things Jack…

Speaking of the philosophy, you know, he said that these films were like literature and that if we kept them - you know, rather than sell them - we would end up eventually having them seen over and over and over again and be a representation of what it was like in the days that we shot them, you know? Because most of them were contemporary stories of people at that time. So that’s kind of what his philosophy was. He would make films and try to incorporate things that were relevant to the time that we were shooting in.

Bijou: Yeah, that was probably a conscious effort from the start, even from Left-Handed?

Alvarez: Yeah. It’s funny. After making Left-Handed, and then making a few others, I kind of became a little bit… It wasn’t embarrassed exactly, but… Left-Handed is, no question about, it a crude film. We didn’t shoot in sync sound, we had to dub in the voices, and so forth, and we did it as best we could. And then, Left-Handed always bothered me, because, to me, it wasn’t professional. And looking back at it now, I find I like it very much, you know? (laughs) I like what we were doing.

Bijou: Yeah, I think it's great.

Alvarez: And the fact that it was different. It was different than any other gay sex film that was ever made.

Bijou: Yeah, it is! It does stand out. Even the non-sync sound does something really interesting in it. Its style feels really different, even from your other work.

Alvarez: Yeah, yeah. To me, now, the dubbing almost becomes like a narration, you know? Like it’s almost purposefully done that way (laughs), you know, after the fact. But anyway, I ended up really liking Left-Handed a lot, because it sort of set the mood, also, of my type of film editing. And a lot of the techniques I used in Left-Handed, I used later on in other films that we made, so it kind of was our benchmark movie, being our first.

Bijou: That’s interesting you mentioned developing some techniques there, because in terms of developing cutting hardcore sequences, since the genre was pretty new in the era, were you sort of figuring that out from scratch or… I mean, you’d seen some other [porn] films, but… What was that like developing how to cut and how to pace those sequences?

Alvarez: Well, for one thing, our films, sometimes they got criticized because they weren’t explicit enough, whereas some films are almost like a medical study.

Bijou: Yes. (laughs) Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Alvarez: Ours were more like – at least I felt and Jack felt – to capture the sensuality of the sex or the dynamics of a sex scene, and whatever shot said that the best is the shot that we used. So we didn’t go in for, like, where you can see every pubic hair, you know? (laughs)

Bijou: (laughs) Yeah. Right. Because that B&W sex scene from Left-Handed is, I think, very beautiful and erotic, but it’s far from being like a medical, durational kind of sex scene.

Alvarez: Yeah. And that B&W sequence in that section, Jack did on purpose B&W, because he said, “We’re going to do like The Wizard of Oz, only backwards.” (laughs) In The Wizard of Oz, it’s in B&W until Dorothy goes through the door, and goes into Oz, and it becomes Technicolor. [And in Left-Handed], when it becomes a dream sequence, it turns into B&W film. And that’s how that came about. And with things like that, you know… I mean, we did that before anybody else [in sex films] did that. Maybe some people followed us, you know, and did the same sort of thing, but… But my cutting, especially, I really loved the idea of creating a piece, a sex scene that had some rhythm to it and some sense of movies, of real movies, you know?


Bijou: Oh yeah, that’s a good distinction, because the sex scenes do feel cinematic in your films.

Left-Handed color to black-and-white shift
Left-Handed color to B&W shift

Alvarez: Yeah. So that’s pretty much the story of Hand in Hand Films. There’s a lot more. If you look at the book, you’ll see that there is a lot more. (laughs)

Bijou: Oh yes, there is. It's a fantastic read. I’m so happy you all put that together.

Alvarez: The book was written by a German guy [Marco Siedelmann] that I met and got to know at a festival where our films were shown, and he said, “I want to do a book on Jack Deveau.” So I said, “Great!” And he said, “And it should have pictures,” and I thought, well, I have some pictures. I mean, Steve has most of them, but I kept a few for myself. You know, things that were duplicates, and so forth. And so, with that, I was able to help him get this book out.

Good Hot Stuff book cover
Book cover - Good Hot Stuff: The Life and Times of Gay Film Pioneer Jack Deveau

Thank you to Robert Alvarez for taking the time to talk to us and share stories. For much more information about Hand in Hand Films and a more extensive interview with Alvarez, please check out Good Hot Stuff: The Life and Times of Gay Film Pioneer Jack Deveau.

Bijou is very proud to present Hand in Hand's full film catalog! You can watch their movies on DVD and Streaming.

Further Reading, Listening & Viewing for more information on Hand in Hand Films:

Excerpt from the Hand in Hand Films documentary Good Hot Stuff (1975) on Vimeo and more Hand in Hand clips on our Vimeo and YouTube channels
Bijou Blog - Jack Deveau: Vintage Gay Porn Director Profile
Interview with Tom DeSimone (Part 1 and Part 2)
Ask Any Buddy podcast episodes on movies produced and/or distributed by Hand in Hand Films: Good Hot Stuff, Drive, The Night Before, Adam and Yves, The Destroying Angel, Rough Trades, Fire Island Fever, American Cream, Catching Up, The Idol

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7 Years with Colt Model MARK RUTTER

By Josh Eliot

 

I popped into work to see how editing was going on my movie Easy Riders. Chet Thomas was the post-production supervisor and a good friend. I mentioned to him that I was asked out on a date by a bartender from the Gold Coast, a bar in West Hollywood. He asked me which one and I described him. “Oh my God, you know who that is don’t you?” And I was like, “What?” He jumped up and started rummaging through a large plastic bin, throwing magazines left and right. He stopped when he found Pit Stop magazine from Surge Studios. On the cover was Al Parker and Mark Rutter and inside was a full layout of hardcore shots. “Is that him?” Chet asked while I did a double take, “Yes!” Chet went on to tell me the history of my mystery date. After shooting the layout for Al Parker’s magazine, Mark Rutter was introduced to Jim French and was signed as an exclusive film model with Colt Studios.

 

Pit Stop magazine: Al Parker and Mark Rutter

Pit Stop magazine: Al Parker & Mark Rutter

 

His scenes are in:
Genuine Leather - scene 1 with Joe Falco
Best of Colt Films 1 & 2 - scene 9 with Rocco Rizzoli (aka Giorgio Canali)
Best of Colt Films - 1 & 2 scene 7 with Ed Wiley
Best of Colt Films - 3 & 4 scene 6 with Clint Lockner
Best of Colt Films - 5 & 6 scene 6 with Hank Ditmar
Vault Classics - scene 6 with Bill Eld, Dick Trask and Long John

 

Colt models Clint Lockner and Mark Rutter

Colt models Clint Lockner & Mark Rutter

 

I was nervous as hell for this date because in the magazines he definitely looked like a bad ass, even though when I met him a few days earlier at a house party held by the Gold Coast manager, Karl Etheridge (Melissa Etheridge’s uncle), he was really nice and easy to talk to. It turns out he was nervous too, so he invited his friend Valerie (ex-mayor of West Hollywood) and her girlfriend to join us. We met at a bar called Rafters in WeHo and all got along great. We had lots of fun and drinks, and of course I wasn’t about to not go home with him on the first date - that would just be foolish. He seemed to know everybody, no matter where we went, and even managed to get himself a walk-on scene with Donald Sutherland and Leslie Ann Warren in The Great Train Robbery. Early on, he surprised me with a camping trip, but when we got there I discovered it was a huge group site with the Satyrs Gay Motorcycle Club. He would always shock me with things like that. The weekend was bizarre and quite intimidating!

 

Mark Rutter on the Great Train Robbery set and Mark and Josh camping with Satyrs Motorcycle Club

Mark on the Great Train Robbery set (top); camping with Satyrs Motorcycle Club (bottom)

 

Within two months, we moved in together. I was 29 and he was 41, but that never made me question our relationship. Mark had never lived with a boyfriend or partner, so this was huge for him. It took a ton of persuading because he had always been very independent, doing exactly what he wanted to do with no one to answer to. Let’s just say he moved in kicking and screaming, but shortly afterwards admitted it was the best decision. His cat Boba Leni got along with my cats Elvira and Little Ricky, and we lived as one big happy family for years. He continued his job as bartender, which was perfect for him because he was very social, and he never had anything negative to say about my work with Catalina Video (but he did refuse to do any kind of cameo in my movies). We took great vacations to Puerto Rico, Canada and San Francisco to visit his family. His mom is super sweet and only spoke French, so Mark translated. He was the best uncle to his twin nephews, and won over my mom and dad too.

The majority of our relationship was smooth sailing, always progressing and moving forward. Until 1994, when Mark and I attended the Gay Erotic Video Awards. It was going to be a pretty big night, as the movie Revenge of the Bi Dolls was up for numerous awards. Things were going well until former Catalina star Kevin Williams (Hot Rods: The Young and the Hung II) came over to our table. He started talking to Mark, who became uncomfortable and got up from his seat, walking Kevin over to the side. I was like, what the fuck is this? I had never met Kevin Williams, and as far as I knew neither had Mark. I went to the bar and caught up with Chi Chi LaRue, where we did kamikazes. When Mark returned to the table, I joined him and started quizzing, which I wish I hadn’t. After much push and pull, he told me that Kevin was at the Gold Coast the other night where he cornered him in the bathroom…. so he let him suck his dick. What!!! I was really kind of shocked and pissed. Sure, he sucked your dick, that’s all that happened? Right! The rest of the night turned to shit, I had many more shots and when they called my movie as winner for Best Bi-Sexual Picture, I went up on stage and made a complete ass of myself. It was like that scene from Gaga’s A Star Is Born, but at least I didn’t piss myself. I rambled on and on and on, the depravity haunted me for weeks. Some comedian co-host named “Ant” basically whisked Sharon, Chi Chi and myself offstage because, yes, I verbally graveled to them in the audience until they came up on stage! Yuk! Sally Field had nothing on me. Mark felt badly for hurting me and really worked hard to win back my trust.

 

Josh and Mark at the awards show and the following Thanksgiving

Josh & Mark at the awards show (top); the following Thanksgiving (bottom)

 

Around 1998, Mark started having medical issues and his body started breaking down. When he was diagnosed with CMV and dementia, he lost his job at the Gold Coast, which sent him into a great depression. Catalina allowed me to set up an editing suite so I could work from home and look after him as things regressed. Early morning on January 13, 1999, I was awakened by a beeping noise from his bedside monitor. CMV caused him to lose his sight a couple days prior and he was on morphine. I turned the light on and leaned over to see if he was okay, and saw his eyes wide open. I jumped on top of him and started shaking him, begging him to wake up, to come back, but after a moment I realized he was gone. I jumped off the bed, let out a blood curdling scream and fell to the floor, unable to do anything but wail for the longest time. The worst moment in my life. I am thankful that I was lying by his side when he passed at age 48.

We held his ashes until summer and buried him over his father’s grave in a beautiful seaside cemetery in Maine. Mark Rutter was an amazing man, adored by his friends and family, and I wanted to honor him with this record of our time together.

 

Mark Rutter on the cover of Colt Men

Mark Rutter on the cover of Colt Men

 

Thank you to Josh Eliot for use of the 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

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A Salty Fuck in Saugatuck

By Josh Eliot

 

Videotaping the International Mr. Leather Contest each year in the late '90s was especially fun for the Catalina crew. There were so many highlights over the years, and each time we traveled to Chicago we became more familiar with the city. We always stayed at the host hotel, the Ramada Congress, which had two towers facing each other. It was Hitchcock’s Rear Window (or John Travis’ Undercover - same premise) on overload. Open your curtains and there was always a live show going on.

 

IML contestants on stage

IML contestants on stage

 

On one day in particular, Brad Austin, my lead videographer, spotted a huge dildo in one of the windows with a half-dressed man walking around the room. The guy was hot with dark hair, a mustache and a hairy chest. We were all obsessed with Steve Kelso, who was the hot model of the time, and this guy looked just like him. Brad Austin was determined to get his attention and asked Jeff Burton (our photographer) to use his camera to repeatedly flash out the window. When the flashing got the guy's attention, Brad held up a sign with our room number on it. Within minutes, the man called our room and Brad told him who we were. They chatted about porn and then Brad went over to the guy's room while we watched from our window. Brad came back a little while later and said the guy was definitely interested in doing porn. We met the man for drinks in the lobby bar and this was where I made a handshake agreement to hire Catalina Exclusive Ray Harley to a contract, starting with a future shoot in L.A. He became one of our personal favorites and one of our most popular Catalina Exclusive models.

 

The night Ray Harley was discovered at the Congress

The night Ray Harley was discovered at the Congress

 

Ah yes, great times, until it wasn’t. The following year, we booked in the Dunes Resort in Saugatuck Michigan, which we planned on traveling to after we shot the IML contest.

 

Dunes Resort in Saugatuck, MI

Dunes Resort in Saugatuck, MI

 

We departed Chicago in a couple of rental vehicles and headed to Michigan to film my big budget movie of that year called Thrill Me! Steve Rambo, Ray Harley and Donnie Russo were headlining the extra-large cast. The movie was a cross between April Fool’s Day and I Know What You Did Last Summer, but with an all-male cast – and XXX Rated, of course.

 

Thrill Me promo
Thrill me promo 2

Thrill Me promo images

 

Donnie Russo received much acclaim for his role in Bijou Video’s Beat Cop, and we’d had the pleasure of working together many times in the past. He was a bright light on the set, always holding court, and was fun to be with outside of work, as well.

 

Donnie Russo in Beat Cop

Donnie Russo in Bijou's Beat Cop (on DVD and Streaming)

 

One time, Catalina’s general manager flew all of the staff to New York for a trip to see the AIDS Quilt as it was paraded throughout the city. Donnie joined our crew for a night of club hopping and we all had a blast. One time on the way to Palm Springs for a shoot, I was driving the van with Donnie riding shotgun. Donnie suddenly started jacking off on the I-10 Freeway, raising his hips up in the air to show the passing big rig drivers his hard on, which had us all in stitches. He even let us call him “MaDonnie Russo” on that shoot. We had tons of great memories before and after our trip to Saugatuck where he and Rambo started behaving… How do I put this?… TWAT-ish.

Somehow he and Rambo got into a screaming match over the fact that one of them let a bumblebee in the house rental, and it escalated from there. I’d never seen the two of them act like this, and what is worse is they had a sex scene scheduled together (for a different movie) the next day. The stress was killing me and, as predicted, it was a disaster. They got through it, but psychologically the crew felt scarred by their bad behavior. I think things took a turn when Donnie was fucking Steve Rambo – sorry, I shouldn’t say “fucking,” I should have said “pounding.” This seemed to help Donnie get over his fury and Rambo acted like it was uncomfortable, but secretly Rambo lives for a good pounding, so actually he was enjoying it. Reverse psychology, I suppose. They actually were laughing with each other by the end of the scene.

It was a miracle, I thought; we could shoot the rest of the movie stress free. Well, not really. The next day they were at it again and I was over it. We were shooting a dialogue only scene for Thrill Me where Rambo’s character accidentally runs over Russo’s character with the SUV. I wasn’t about to have Rambo behind the wheel of that car, so I shot each person individually. When Rambo finished his lines, we sent him to his motel room and got Donnie on set, and so on. They have a number of scenes together in the finished movie, but were nowhere near each other. Ray Harley, always the peacemaker, worked hard at playing mediator between the two of them, and by the time we all got to Chicago O’Hare Airport to fly home… you guessed it… they were still mad at each other.


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

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