Super NOVA

By Josh Eliot

 

Nova Studios logo

 

When I saw on the Bijou website that they are offering Nova Studios note cards (Set 1 and Set 2), I thought to myself, what a great collector’s item! I remember my older brother’s collection from 1966 of the Lost in Space “Topps” trading cards, especially the ones featuring my first crush at age 5, Don West. Card sets came in various sizes, small enough to include a flat piece of bubble gum and as large as Lobby Cards showcased in theaters. What an incredible taste of the 60’s and 70’s, and it’s no surprise to me that Nova Video’s founder Robert Walters (known to me as Scott Masters) included such items in his mail order business.

 

Lost in Space trading card and Nova note cards

Lost in Space trading card (left) and Nova note cards (right)

 

Walters started his business in 1967, producing male photo sets for bookstores, and then partnered with Reuben Sturman to shoot and print magazines. In 1970, magazines segued into loops (8mm short films designed for peep shows) and by 1976, Walters had directed more than 100 of them. The same year, he founded Nova Studios and shot their first production, Tub Tricks. The silent films were now 20 minutes in length and sold through direct mail as well as at adult bookstores.

 

Images from Nova's Tub Tricks

Images from Nova's Tub Tricks (DVD | Streaming)

 

Nova’s offices were right across the street from Pink's Hot Dogs, a Los Angeles landmark, where on any given day you can see A-List stars in line or in their limos waiting for Pinks’s Famous Chili Cheese Dogs. Several blocks away was another wiener stand called Oki-Dog, which was not as famous. Instead of Hollywood elite as their customers, the place was always crawling with street hustlers, making it a great location for Walters to pick up lunch and discover new talent for photographing.

 

Oki-Dog and Pink's

Oki-Dog (left) and Pink's (right)

 

The Robert Walters Nova era was prior to my meeting him in 1987, but my friend Chet Thomas worked for Walters at Nova from 1984 to 1986, when Nova stopped production and they both signed with Catalina Video. Once I moved to Los Angeles, Chet and I were attached at the hip and he would tell me stories about his times working for Robert Walters. William Higgins hired Walters as head of production, and he shot his first movie for Catalina called The Bigger They Come. Chet Thomas became the company editor. Walters, now known to everyone as Scott Masters, hired me in 1987 in San Francisco and then brought me to L.A. in 1989. He set me up in a fabulous condo on Sweetzer Street just a block from The Spike, a gay bar that Chet and I would hang out at.

Being new to Los Angeles, Scott Masters had me shadow him everywhere. Any day that we weren’t shooting sex, he had a list a mile long of “things” for me to do. At times I felt like an indentured servant, frequently getting him his favorite lunch (curry chicken sandwich from a Sunset Blvd deli) or organizing and inventorying his garage, which was filled floor to ceiling with wardrobe from his Nova and Catalina movies. Masters was a “costume queen” producer, always spending money from our budgets on them to satisfy his own fetish. Obsessed would be an appropriate word. When he wasn’t focusing on the latest Members Only jacket, he trained me on producing, budgeting, directing photo layouts, scouting locations, model scouting, and grooming. One day, we headed to San Diego to meet a potential new “exclusive” model, but stopped on the way to see a penthouse in Hollywood for a possible shooting location. The penthouse unit had the highest ceilings ever with a massive balcony overlooking the living room. It was beautifully furnished, very high end, until we got to one room in particular. Inside that room was a wall to wall wrestling mat, making it look like a sports facility.

The owner led us to an attached room where a couple of guys looking very “Street-Wise” were throwing back some beers. The owner of the penthouse was David Hurles, one of the first reality porn moguls famous for the Old Reliable video line. David would pick up ex-cons, street hustlers, straight dudes looking for bucks and pay them pretty well to smoke cigars, wrestle, flex their muscles, flip off the camera and jack off. His collection feels very authentic… because it is! The guys are exactly what they portray on the screen, hard edged and a little frightening in a very HOT way! It felt a bit tense being around them, for me. David invited us to stay to watch him film, which I thought would have been amazing, but Scott declined, as we were on our way to San Diego.

 

Old Reliable movies and audio recordings

Old Reliable movies (DVD | Streaming) and Old Reliable audio recordings

 

Once in San Diego’s Seaport Village, we waited at a table for the potential new model to meet us. Adam Grant came walking up with a huge smile, great personality, and very excited at the prospect of being an exclusive model for Catalina. We talked, then went back to his apartment where Scott Masters got some hard shots of him (fattest dick ever) while I waited in the other room with his female roommate - awkward! He was cast to star in Head of the Class 2, which we ended up shooting in Palm Springs instead of David Hurles’ penthouse. When grooming the new star, Scott Masters went all out, taking Adam Grant to stylist of the stars José Eber's salon. Adam looked great after the makeover, but introducing him to Eber kind of backfired. Once Head of the Class 2 finished shooting, Adam Grant and Eber started a decades long relationship and Grant was no longer interested in becoming a Catalina Exclusive Model or shooting any more movies.

Scott Masters produced all of my and John Travis’ features from 1987 to 1992. Catalina ownership changed hands and Masters and Travis could not come to terms with a new contract and left the company. It was a huge loss for Catalina Video, and the same year they both started Studio 2000. I was offered the role of producer with Catalina, which I worked at until 2007 when the company was sold yet again. I’ll write much more about Scott and John, as there are so many adventures that need to be told. In 2020, Scott Masters passed away at the age of 86 in Bloomington, Illinois. He was one of the very first in our field, paving the way for adult photographers and filmmakers to come. His star shines bright in the skies like a supernova.

 

Nova DVDs

The Nova film collection - available through Bijou on DVD and Streaming

 

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

Rate this blog entry:
978 Hits
0 Comments

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

Rate this blog entry:
2656 Hits
0 Comments

The Ecstasy and the Agony

By Will Seagers

 

The decision to leave San Francisco and return home to the East Coast in September of 1991 came from great fear and sadness. My "City by the Bay" had been home to me since 1976. But, life was closing in on me and I needed to reinvent myself (i.e save my life!).

In September of 1989, my partner Tom passed from complications of AIDS. We had been together for almost all of my time in SF. I watched the grim reaper take Tom from me over a torturous five year period. During this time, I coached myself on how I was going to make it through this and make a new life for myself after he passed. Although I remained strong for him and by his side, I crumbled like a sandcastle hit by a wave the day he passed.

To put it mildly, escapism took over. I used almost everything I could to stay high and away from reality. "Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n Roll" isn't just a saying - it became a lifestyle! I couldn't come home to the little apartment that we had for thirteen years anymore. It haunted me... too many memories.

 

Will Seagers in San Francisco

 

I went through several apartment changes in SF... none of which worked. I needed to be by myself... to collect myself.

The last place I stayed was a room rental. The house owner was a casual friend and a coke dealer. Although he was very kind and understood my dilemma, I wound up pushing his product towards the end. That's when I knew I had to leave.

I contacted my Aunt in New Jersey... a person who had always been an anchor in my life. I asked if I could stay with her 'til I got on my feet. I could sense an anxiety on her part. But, she relented and I drove cross country. I left on Labor Day weekend. I'll never forget my drive down Market St. as I silently said my goodbyes to the city that I had loved so dearly. So, onto the freeway entrance and onto my four day cross country excursion.

I remained in NJ for three years, where I entered the musical instrument business and sold and taught organ and piano. I have always loved music. And, when times were good, I always had a theater organ in my home.

 

Will Seagers in New Jersey

During the piano and organ phase

 

Bored to death in NJ, I sold most of my belongings and started a new adventure in South Beach, Florida. It was quintessentially even more of a gay Mecca than SF. (The year was 1995.) Things have changed substantially. I had more sex than ever... even episodes right on the beach! Yes! Stuff like that really happened. But, that too became hollow and unreal after a while.

 

Will Seagers in the '90s

Being 45 is not so tough in South Beach

 

NYC beckoned. Along with it came some serendipity. I returned on the first weekend of April. I stayed with my brother in Brooklyn while apartment hunting. The serendipitous part - I met my current spouse Alan the very first weekend I went to Manhattan on the dancefloor of the "Roxie" dance club. It was April 4th, 1995. That was the day that the Agony turned back to Ecstasy!

 

Painting

 

Thank you to Will Seagers for use of the photos.


Bio of Will Seagers:

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

 

Will Seagers, present day image

 


You can read Will Seagers' previous blogs for Bijou here:
Welcome Matt/Will
What's For Dessert?
On and Off the Set of L.A. Tool & Die
Wanted, Weekend Lockup and Weekends in Hermosa Beach
Honeymoon in the Palms
Birds of a Feather
The Stereo Maven of Castro Street
The Pass Around Boy

Rate this blog entry:
1197 Hits
0 Comments

The Late Great JOHN TRAVIS, My POWERTOOL Mentor

By Josh Eliot

 

FLASHBACK, 1987: I was 25 years old when I started working with Catalina Video in San Francisco. Dan Allman was in charge of the new studio, which he ran with his new boyfriend, John, who he met on the set of a movie he recently directed called Bad Boys Club. Catalina Video moved their productions from Los Angeles/Ontario to San Francisco after the video crew got busted in a Ralphs Supermarket parking lot while shooting the movie Bulge. That’s really the extent of the information I was given at the time. All of the camera cases and equipment still had remnants of the “evidence” tape from the police department. The story I was told is that it was no longer viable to shoot in the L.A. County limits until a pandering case was resolved in the courts. So they set up shop in San Francisco. The Catalina Producer/Director was Scott Masters (Nova Video) and the VIP Director of the company was John Travis (Brentwood Video). William Higgins had recently moved to Europe.

 

Catalina equpiment with evidence tape

Catalina equpiment with evidence tape

 

John Travis started off in the industry shooting 8mm loops including the two infamous John Holmes gay porno scenes. He also shot the ever enduring Brentwood Video library of films, which are best sellers to this day. He was hired by Chuck Holmes and started a decade-long tenure with Falcon Studios. His work as cinematographer in The Other Side of Aspen 2, A Matter of Size, Big Guns and The Young and the Hung elevated those movies' statuses. He became lovers with and was credited for discovering Jeff Stryker. Travis’ Powertool starring Stryker became the most successful and best selling movie of its time. Travis won Best Director/Best Picture for Powertool in 1987 at the Adult Video News Awards. (The same year, I started working with him and he never mentioned it for months! That’s how unpretentious he was.) He also won an AVN Award for Best Director/Best Picture for Undercover in 1989.

 

John Travis and Jeff Stryker

John Travis and Jeff Stryer

 

Most of my days at the studio consisted of “woodwork”: building sets, then dressing and lighting them for upcoming shoots according to the specifications we got from Scott Masters in Los Angeles. The night prior to filming a scene, the director and models would fly in from Los Angeles and Dan would pick them up and take them to an apartment Catalina rented and furnished. It was always a nail biter when we would show up for the shoot in the morning. If it was a set for a Scott Masters movie, you can bet your ass that there would be major changes that would delay the beginning of the shoot. Scott would always have outrageous requests that drove us nuts. Things like, “I don’t like that end table, it’s too small to fuck on. Can we run out and buy another one?” - instead of just modifying his plans for the scene and fucking on the roomy couch instead. But when John Travis came to direct, he always had positive things to say about the sets. If anything, it was the lighting that needed modifications, which always made the set look better. His experience showed. He would always find creative ways to modify things on the fly and avoid situations that could make a shoot day come to a dead halt.

John Travis ALWAYS showed up to the set with two brand new packs of Benson and Hedges 100’s menthol cigarettes. He would smoke almost every one down to (and into) the filter. In the early days John was always directing from behind the camera as he had done for years and cigarette smoke was always creeping up into the shots! After the first couple of movies, we built him a beautiful deck and monitor station on wheels so he could direct from behind the monitors while Dan and I performed all the camera work. I think, for the first time in his career, he was able to get out from behind the camera and direct from the station at a distance, and he LOVED it! One would think that his movies would have a different look if he wasn’t working the camera himself, but he was very specific on the framing 100% of the time. “Pull out wider…No... too much... zoom in… but just a cunt hair.” That was one of his favorite lines and I kept using it when directing my own movies for the next 20 years. It was one of many classic lines John put out into the world. I credit him for my first award in 1992 for Cinematography on a movie called Sterling Ranch at the Gay Erotic Video Awards. He was in the audience and when I thanked him personally, my voice cracked and I nearly lost it, but after all, he did put me up there.

 

Josh Eliot at the Gay Video Guide Awards

Josh Eliot at the Gay Video Guide Awards

 

The crew was always enamored with him and we always laughed our asses off. This man was so relatable and sincere, he would give you the shirt off his back. This guy directed Powertool, for God’s sake, and had zero attitude about it. He shared all his experience, shooting secrets, and directing techniques without even giving it a second thought. I truly was the luckiest guy in the industry to have such an icon take me under his wing and mold me.

On a movie called Powerline with Tom Steele, we built a rooftop set, which he thought looked too clean and sterile, so at one point he walked on the set and tossed his full ashtray of cigarettes onto it. “There you are… it’s called seasoning… I’m seasoning the set... It’s too fucking clean.” We roared! That is John Travis in a nutshell. Truly inspirational, down to earth, generous, one of a kind, and an old soul who made the industry a much better place.

 

Magazine featuring rooftop images from Powerline

Magazine featuring rooftop images from Powerline

 

John sadly passed away in January of 2017 but his work will stimulate and entertain forever.
 


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!

Rate this blog entry:
1358 Hits
0 Comments

Contact Us | 800-932-7111 | Join our email list

Go to top