Retrostuds of the Past: Richard Locke

posted by guest blogger Miriam Webster


Richard Locke images

 

Richard Locke - the sexy, confident, bearded daddy, with a hip tattoo of a butterfly and a physique naturally toned from working outdoors (or, as he claimed, from jerking off in front a a mirror for thirty minutes a day) - was one of the first to establish mature men as potent sex symbols in gay porn. He became an icon from his outstanding starring role as Hank, a relatable everyman hero, in the late '70s Working Man Trilogy from the Gage Brothers (Kansas City Trucking Co., El Paso Wrecking Corp., and L.A. Tool & Die). This trilogy brought a new sexual focus to average working class men who have sex with men, and their sexual lives in smaller cities and rural areas across the United Sates, which had a massive impact on gay porn.
 

Vintage Kansas City Trucking Co. poster

Vintage poster (available here) for Kansas City Trucking Co.


Born June 11, 1941 in East Oakland, California, Locke served in the Army in his early adult life, where he worked as a tank mechanic. He returned to California and eventually began starring in porn in his mid-30s, quickly ascending to star status. Locke worked on films with some of the finest auteur directors of classic gay porn (Joe Gage, Arthur Bressan Jr., Steve Scott, Wakefield Poole) and biggest stars (Jack Wrangler, Will Seagers, Fred Halsted, Clay Russell, Roy Garrett, Casey Donovan). He even had a sex scene with his real-life lover, Alex, on the roof of their Desert Hot Springs home in Wakefield Poole's Take One (1977). Locke used his real name in porn, telling Jerry Douglas in an interview for the December 1992 issue of Manshots, “I'm very proud of my work and everything I do. An artist signs his name to the canvas, and I sign my name.”

Locke's films (narrative features, experimental/art porn, straight-forward sex films/loops) and characters span a wide variety. His character Hank focuses on raunchy casual encounters throughout the majority of the Working Man Trilogy, but shows his soft side by following his dream man (played by Will Seagers) across the country in L.A. Tool & Die, and Arthur Bressan Jr.'s Forbidden Letters also focuses on a romantic storyline. (Locke also appeared in a smaller role in Bressan Jr.'s Passing Strangers.)

 

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Locke on Will Seagers, co-star of Cruisin' the Castro and L.A. Tool & Die: "There was a magic between Will and me, and that happens very rarely onscreen... Every time we had a scene together, we came at the same time, just like the honeymoon couple. There was a magic." (Manshots, December 1992)

 

In contrast to his romantic roles and the easy likability of the trilogy's Hank, in Joe Gage's 1982 release, Heatstroke, Locke plays a mean sonofabitch, the gruff ranch foreman (though with a knowing sense of humor). In addition to his countless filmic sexual encounters, Locke gets into two memorable brawls on screen, both in Heatstroke and L.A. Tool & Die, tossing a homophobe out of a gay bar in the latter.
 

Heatstroke and L.A. Tool & Die brawls

 

Heatstroke and L.A. Tool & Die brawls (pictured above); Hank in L.A. Tool & Die: "If there's anything I like better than sucking cock, it's kicking ass."

 

In this fascinating 1978 interview with Richard Locke, conducted by his brother Robert, Richard stated his goal in making pornography: “When I was coming out, I didn't feel good about myself. Now I do feel good and I want to share that. If I can project that solid, good feeling within myself into the audience, to people who don't feel good about themselves, if they can say, 'That's what I like; that's what I want to be like, open and free,' then I will have accomplished one of the goals in my life – to bring freedom to other people, the freedom of being themselves.”

Later in his career, Locke toured the country performing live strip/jack off shows for enthusiastic crowds (including at the Bijou Theater), published two books (Locke Out and In the Heat of Passion), authored a play (Loving), mountain climbed, and lived in a sparsely-populated part of the desert outside Palm Springs, where he did body work as a licensed masseur in the city and, out in the desert, worked with his interests in rural and self-sustaining/do-it-yourself living by building a geodesic domed home with a working solar and wind power system.
 

Richard Locke striptease from a suit into leather gear

"Here's another one of my gimmicks: to take the ordinary and mundane and make it erotic. When I went to Washington, I took a business suit with me, and I stripped out of that suit into leather. Everybody in Washington has to wear a suit because they work in the government, so I took their 'ordinary' and eroticized it." - Locke in Mandate, October 1987

 

After his 1983 HIV positive diagnosis, Locke turned his focus to activism. In the '80s and '90s, he used his platform as a popular porn star to tirelessly spread information about safer sex practices and health services during the AIDS crisis, in radio and magazine interviews, at seminars, and even at his strip show appearances (which featured creative and practical safer sex activity demonstrations).

Magazine clipping reading Richard Locke: Responsible Sleaze During the AIDS Crisis. The legendary King of Sleaze is changing his sexual style, and offers some tips on how to do it without becoming a celibate monk!
Richard Locke safer sex inspiration images from Advocate MEN

“I'm very positive about stopping fluid exchanges... Still, I have a great sex life... I was on radio station KPFA for about 15 minutes before they censored me. I said, 'testicular fornication.' The moderator said, 'Well, what's testicular fornication?' And I said, 'Ball-fucking.' We went off the air for 45 minutes.' (Advocate MEN, March 1987)

 

Richard Locke nude, holding a condom

“One of the things [Locke] does in his shows, he says, is to jerk off that legendary scholong and then toss (unused) condoms at his audience. 'And I say – remember when your mammas told you to wear your rubbers? Well, now your daddy's telling you!'” (Advocate MENMarch 1987)


During this period of time, he additionally worked with support groups, raised money, protested, publicly advocated for condom usage for individuals as well as porn studios (saying he was blackballed in the business as a result), visited patients in hospital wards, and much more that is likely not chronicled. This beautiful article - “Two Kinds of Hero: Richard (Butterfly) Locke” - provides some insight into that chapter of his life.

Locke was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the 1994 Gay Erotic Video Awards. He died of AIDS-related complications in 1996.

Richard Locke was known for being a charming combination of strong, caring, bright, unpretentious, and entirely genuine; a down-to-earth guy and a confident, unapologetic gay man – qualities reflected in many of his movie roles. Bijou owner Steven Toushin described him as a very kind man and director Joe Gage (in this interview discussing his films, including commentary on Locke) called him “the last of the true live-and-let-live hippies.”
 

Richard Locke images

“The nice thing about film is that I will live a long time, even after I die. 'Cause it's there.” (Manshots, December 1992)


Through Bijou Video, you can find Richard Locke in our fresh new release, Heatstroke (DVD | Streaming) as well as in a number of other classics we carry, including the collection The Best of Richard Locke (DVD | Streaming).

Online Sources and Further Information:
My Brother the Porn Star: An Interview with Richard Locke
Keep on Truckin': An Interview with Joe Gage
Two Kinds of Hero: Richard (Butterfly) Locke
Ask Any Buddy podcast: Kansas City Trucking Co.
Wikipedia – Richard Holt Locke
Gay Erotic Video Index – Richard Locke
 

Heatstroke and The Best of Richard Locke DVD covers
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Joseph D. Kahoonei
Aloha This Daddy Was A Gem. One Of My 1st Cocks I Had Was From A Handsome Man That Reminded Me Of Sir Locke. A Wonderful Memory.... Read More
Tuesday, 13 July 2021 18:50
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The Sears Catalog

Sears department store exterior

Sears has been dying for some time, and after its recent filing for bankruptcy, it’s self-evident: the former retail giant will be as dead as a doornail.

Many folks of my generation remember the Sears catalog, especially the Christmas Wishbook edition. In fact, Sears began as a mail order outfit only, appealing to a mostly rural America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Those isolated on homesteads could order items from a catalog; imagine the thrill of a package arriving in those days!
 

Sears Christmas Wishbook, 1964

As Americans became more citified and then suburban, Sears built department stores, and then became the main anchor in shopping malls. Now Americans with their ubiquitous automobiles could now travel to a consumer’s mecca and buy appliances for their newer homes designed to accommodate washing machines, refrigerators, and television sets.
 

Sears department store opening advertisement

Yet the catalog remained, and one of my memories as a young gayling was that catalog, and it wasn’t because of the underwear models (that dynamic arrived later). No, it was because of the home décor. I was fascinated with the living room sets Sears sold in the catalog, especially the French provincial and Early American lines. (No, I exhibited no intention at that age, even subconsciously, of becoming the clichéd gay decorator.)
 

Sears furniture in catalog, 1970s

Confined to mostly interior activities because of lack of athletic skills, I would cut up older catalogs and create my own rooms. I remember a sofa with a brown slipcover that featured prominently in my fantasy rooms, next to a ginger jar lamp. I guess I may have been going for a more lower middle class look than I had intended (think Roseanne, definitely taking place in a Sears household), but home for me equals comfort, sinking into a cushy sofa in a room softly illuminated by lamplight.
 

Ginger jar lamps

When puberty hit, I was drawn to the catalogs for another reason: the macho mustached guys wearing plaid shirts, Levis, and boots. That was the style of the time, and Sears sold “gay macho” wear because its customers were actual construction workers or even cowboys. I really like the pictures of guys posing in tight jeans and boots with clunky heels. And they were usually posing together, as clothing was sold in the catalogs based on gender. Yet the groups of good-looking, well-built guys hanging out together could produce a definite homoerotic vibe. For example, I remember one ad featuring guys leaning against a fence, that pose drawing the eye to the bulge in the jeans. I cut it out and pasted into a secret notebook.
 

Sears catalog cowboys

There’s more going on than just nostalgia for an American icon. I do find it brutally ironic that the supposed “making American great again” does not include the return of Sears, in so many ways a symbol of a time when a strong, blue-collar (and mostly white) middle class made good. But their descendants now shop at Walmart and/or Amazon, or, in some of the areas that suffered the most economically, dollar stores.

And the new generation of gaylings don’t have to stealthily cut up Sears catalogs to express forbidden fantasies. They can use phone apps, but most significantly, they don’t have to hide their artistic and sexual interests in a world where girls were girls and men were men. Yet I still feel like the effort involved in cutting up those catalogs stimulated creativity. I had to work for my fun. And part of the fun was the work involved in attaining it.
 

Sears catalog '70s fashion
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Great Non-Sex Moments in Classic Gay Porn Films

by guest blogger Miriam Webster

Sex scenes are, as one would expect, almost always the focus of porn films, but – especially in the the heyday of story porn and artistic/experimental porn, the 1970s, when many porn films truly were films – there were a large number of notably interesting non-sex scenes present in what was being produced. Sometimes these sequences were lead-ins to sex scenes. Sometimes they served to advance the film's narrative, or flesh out a character or an interpersonal dynamic, or talk about gay life and relationships and communities of the era. Sometimes they are notable because they capture something that is historically interesting. Following are several examples from the Bijou collection.
 

The Night Before (Arch Brown, 1973): Lady in Red / Dance Scene

Main character Hank (Coke Hennessy) goes for a stroll with a package he picked up on his way to deliver it to its recipient, the man with whom he recently got involved. In the park, he sees a woman wearing all red dancing and The Lady in Red suddenly comes on. He joins her in dancing for a brief, goofy moment. He then sits on a park bench and unwraps the package. Inside is a large print-out of a cover of The Advocate featuring a photo of two men taken by his lover. As Hank studies this photo, it comes to life and we see the men (Tim Clarke and Jeffrey Etting) perform a gorgeously choreographed nude dance number set to an operatic David Earnest score.
 

The Night Before images

 

Casey (Donald Crane, 1971): Casey talks to his fairy godmother

In several sequences from Casey Donovan's first film (shot before but released after The Boys in the Sand), Casey speaks to his fairy godmother, Wanda Uptight (also played by Donovan, in drag), who has appeared in the mirror to give him some harsh, but insightful advice on his habits and love life (or lack thereof). Wanda first appears after Casey wakes up by jerking off in bed unsatisfactorily, then sings to himself in the bathroom as he washes down a series of vitamins with a swig of Southern Comfort, lights a joint, stares hard at his reflection, and shouts “Faggot!” at himself. Wanda appears over his reflection, startling him, and she dishes out some tough love, chewing him out for not taking care of himself, chasing cock constantly, and not knowing what he really wants. Their very clever dialogue, expertly delivered by Donovan, is both funny and incisive, representing Casey's internal conflict around love, sex, and self-acceptance. (“Anybody who can wash down raw liver substance and vitamin B complex with Southern Comfort is depraved!” “Three nights a week in a Turkish Bath! You'll dehydrate yourself!” “No one digs anyone. It doesn't matter if it's number one or two thousand and two – where does it lead?”)
 

Casey images

 

Adam and Yves (Peter de Rome, 1974): The final film appearance of Greta Garbo

An American man, Adam (Michael Hardwick), and a French man, Yves (Marcus Giovanni), play mysterious sexual mind games throughout their brief, but intense, Parisian love affair, including the rule, enforced by Yves, that they may never know each other's names. The sights of Paris are a fascinating backdrop, but the most surprising and historically notable moment in the film comes when Adam recounts an incredible time when he saw Greta Garbo from the window of his apartment. Director Peter de Rome accompanies this story with the actual last-known footage of Garbo, herself, shot from his own window on super 8 film.
 

Adam and Yves images of Greta Garbo

Garbo in Adam and Yves

 

Ballet Down the Highway (Jack Deveau, 1975): Sloppy strip tease

Closeted truck driver, Joe (Garry Hunt), falls hard for ballet star Ivan (Henk Van Dijk) early in their ill-fated affair, but is intimidated by Ivan's talent, fame, wealth, and gorgeous physique. Ivan belongs to a world where he can comfortably be out and Joe does not. Ivan lives in an expensive apartment and gets fancy Dutch music boxes delivered to his vacation home; Joe gets drunk in a blue collar bar in the rumpled suit he wore to go see Ivan perform in the ballet (which he was too proud to let Ivan get him into for free) and is heckled for being gay by his buddies. Totally wasted after a night at the bar, Joe calls Ivan, who is irritated with him, then shows up to Ivan's apartment anyway. He changes Ivan's radio from a classical station to something faster with saxophone, saying he wants to dance, groping Ivan, and complimenting his beautiful body. Ivan pushes him away and Joe, hurt, mocks Ivan as insists he is a good dancer, too, and proceeds to do a drunken, sloppy strip tease in Ivan's living room, dropping pieces of his suit on the floor, smirking, sniffing his own sock, and finally pretending to drink out of his shoe while sprawled across Ivan's floor. All the while, Ivan ignores Joe and plays solitaire.
 

Ballet Down the Highway images

 

L.A. Tool & Die (Joe Gage, 1979): Fight scene, Vietnam flashback, work/getting to know you montages

Joe Gage's L.A. Tool & Die is full of strong character-building sequences. Early on, we see the hero, Hank (played by Richard Locke), hanging out in a gay bar and trying to cruise a handsome stranger (Wylie, played by Will Seagers). In the bathroom, Hank runs into a homophobic man who works for the bar owner. The man calls Hank a cocksucker, to which Hank grins and calmly responds, “You'd better believe it. The only thing I like better than sucking cock is kicking ass.” He tosses the man out of the bathroom and roughs him up a bit. The man, no match for Locke, runs away as Locke smirks, having not even gotten worked up or broken a sweat.

In a later scene, Wylie is taking a break from his cross-country drive to walk along the beach at sunset. In a close up, we see that he's crying. Gage cuts to a flashback of a younger Wylie in Vietnam, holding his dying lover in the battle field. His lover tells Wylie that he doesn't think he's going to make it and that he must promise not to forget him, but also to love somebody else some day.

Near the end of the film, Hank and Wylie reunite when they both get jobs at L.A. Tool & Die. Hank learned that Wylie was traveling there for work and decided to do the same. Two beautifully-cut montages and a dialogue sequence show the two men getting to know each other while working and taking breaks together. Wylie appreciates Hank being patient with him; he has been reluctant to get involved with anyone, but is clearly warming up to Hank. Throughout the film, Locke imbues Hank with an easy, warm sort of charm and a sexy, confident swagger and Seagers gives Wylie both a sweet, shy vulnerability and a quiet strength. The two men have enormous chemistry and the actors and characters compliment each other well, their connection and relationship feeling believable.
 

L.A. Tool & Die images

 

Wanted: Billy the Kid (Jack Deveau, 1976): I'll Be Your Mirror

New Yorker Billy (Dennis Walsh) is an unsuccessful actor and quite successful hustler. Between memorizing lines and gossiping with his friend (Megan Ross), seeing tricks, and exercising, Billy takes a quiet break to smoke a joint and listen to a song. It's a slow, folky original composition (“I'll Be Your Mirror” - lyrics by the film's writer, Moose 100, and music by Hand in Hand Films composer David Earnest) and the camera is fixed on Billy throughout its duration, as he sits, contemplative, smoking, listening, and occasionally mouthing along to the lyrics. He is broken out of his reverie by a phone call from a regular, and they swap some elegant dirty talk.
 

Wanted: Billy the Kid images

 

Confessions of a Male Groupie (Tom DeSimone, 1971): Party scene

This early Tom DeSimone film is possibly the ultimate hippie porn, focusing on a community of friends in Hollywood and their love of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. Barely a sex film and more of a portrait of the era, the movie soaks up the atmosphere of the time and place as The Groupie (Larry Danser) moves to the area from a small town, becomes best friends with party girl Sweet Lady Mary (Myona Phetish), and cruises the members of a rock band (The Electric Banana). The climax of the film is a wild party sequence starring a large number of friends and acquaintances of DeSimone's. The attendees – all genders covered in glitter and sequins – laugh, smoke joints, swing on an indoor swing set, playfully horse around and wrestle, cuddle, embrace each other, and dance. The crowd includes a trans couple who were the subjects of two Penelope Spheeris short documentary films (I Don't Know and Hats Off to Hollywood).
 

Confessions of a Male Groupie images
Jennifer and Dana in Spheeris' Hats Off to Hollywood

Even with its surprising turn into a cautionary anti-drug film (after the wild hedonism of the rest of its run time), Confessions of a Male Groupie – and this sequence in particular – is a fascinating document of a real community of queer friends and lovers in the early '70s.
 

Confessions of a Male Groupie images

 

You can find all of these movies (except for L.A. Tool & Die, though some scenes from it are available in our compilation, The Best of Richard Locke) on DVD at BijouWorld.com and streaming at BijouGayPorn.com.

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Blue Collar

Ed Wiley in Rough Trades
Ed Wiley (aka Myles Longue) in Jack Deveau's Rough Trades

When I was younger, much younger, I slept with a guy who one could safely say was blue collar. He worked at various constructions jobs (mostly unskilled). He was hot (muscles, beard, deep voice, big hands) and he was gay, and he was kinky. What more could one ask for? In fact, at a gathering I held when I was sleeping with him off and on, a cultured friend of mine who sold suits to mostly white collar executives met him. He blurted out to me, “You slept with him! Can I touch you?” He meant it jokingly, but I think much was implied in his reaction, much about class, education, sexual orientation, and how that all ties into how we view what is masculine.
 

Hot Truckin' before/after color correction images from upcoming restoration
Before/after color correction from Bijou's NEW restoration of Tom DeSimone's Hot Truckin' starring Gordon Grant and Nick Rodgers as truck drivers

Where does the term blue collar even come from?
 

Hot trucker

The term blue collar was first used in reference to trades jobs in 1924, in an Alden, Iowa newspaper. The phrase stems from the image of manual workers wearing blue denim or chambray shirts as part of their uniforms.
 

1930s men's work uniforms

Some blue collar workers have uniforms with the name of the business and/or the individual's name embroidered or printed on it.

Historically the popularity of the color blue among manual laborers contrasts with the popularity of white dress shirts worn by people in office environments.

The blue collar/white collar color scheme has socioeconomic connotations, which comes from the British class system, especially as it transmuted because of the Industrial Revolution.

The people who worked in factories were called the working class, and they varied in degrees of respectability, ranging from the skilled laborers who could afford a small house and raise a church-going family (think Archie Bunker types), to unskilled day laborers at the bottom of the social ladder.

These individuals, because of their lack of education, were stereotyped as coarse and ill-mannered, but also as physically strong and big-hearted; perhaps Ralph Kramden in The Honeymooners exemplifies the best and the worst of this image.
 

Ralph Kramden
Ralph Kramden

The people who ran the factories and eventually created the big corporations of the Gilded Age and beyond, combined with the older, genteel professions of teachers and doctors, became the white collar middle and upper middle classes, and at the top of that ladder, the nouveau riche.

This structure pretty much held for a long time in the United States, but once factory jobs moved to China and other places because of globalization, a new working class replaced it, working lower paid service and retail jobs jobs, and also in office jobs, ostensibly white collar, but working mostly as servants to upper middle class and upper class high level professionals like lawyers and corporate executives.
 

Robert Rikas in American Cream
Robert Rikas as a power-hungry white collar executive degrading his employee in the brilliant and satircal 1972 gay porn classic, American Cream

Now, how do gay men fit into this social picture? The stereotype of gay men is definitely not the “rough” guy who works with his hands, but the effeminate artsy-fartsy queen who thrives in refined cultural environments, the “sissy.” If you weren't out in that way and consigning yourself to stereotypical gay professions like acting and hairdressing, you conformed to the social structure above, and if you were in the working class, you definitely didn't proclaim your sexual orientation.
 

Henk Van Dijk and Garry Hunt as a ballet dancer and a trucker in Ballet Down the Highway
A ballet dancer (Henk Van Dijk) & a closeted truck driver (Garry Hunt) having an affair in Jack Deveau's 1976 film, Ballet Down the Highway

Thus, in the book Maurice, the aristocrat Maurice is really taking a risk by loving Alec Scudder, a gamekeeper, much below him in social class.

So, what was a gay construction worker or trucker to do?

Hide their true selves, it seems. But note, so many gay porn fantasies involve these blue collar guys in places like truck stops and construction sites, but how much are they the projected fantasies of white collar gay guys who fetishize the conventional masculinity of these straight guys?
 

Vintage ads for Grease Monkeys and Hardhat
Hard working mechanics and construction workers in the vintage Jaguar releases, Grease Monkeys and Hardhat

Tellingly, we saw this projection become dominant very soon after the initial liberation of Stonewall, when the gay clone look involved construction boots, denim, and keys hanging from belts.
 

Richard Locke in Cruisin' the Castro
Richard Locke, the ultimate blue collar man of '70s gay porn, in Cruisin' the Castro

And of course, one of the Village People guys was a construction worker.
 

Village People construction worker

Thus, in my case, it was almost a status symbol that I really slept with a real blue collar guy (I also slept with a fireman).

Neither relationship worked out, and it wasn't because of the social gap.

Yet, since the 1990s, when those relationships occurred, some social distinctions have blurred, but not all. Even in the increasingly mainstream LGBTQ community, upper middle class wealthy white educated males have wielded the most power and influence, ostensibly for the good of all in a diverse community, but the dynamic mirrors the class structure of the society as a whole.

The Veda Pierces (the snobbish daughter of Mildred Pierce) who looked down upon dollar days and men who wear uniforms (today what many retail employees have to wear) still exist, but they come from all social classes as the world of cyberspace creates a level playing field for everyone.
 

Veda Pierce
Veda Pierce

Yet, the world of Twitter can create identities that don't correspond with one's real life social status, and thus the opposite of the above can occur: an Amazon delivery person can show more class and education and insight than a nouveau riche person, the most powerful man in the world, who embodies the worst stereotypes of the blue collar worker every time he tweets.

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Featured

What Exactly is Rough Trade? Inquiring "Sissies" Want to Know

 

Hairy Old Reliable model flexing


In the recent funny and campy and touching movie Florence Foster Jenkins, Cosme McMoon, her naive waif-life closeted gay accompanist (played by the absolutely adorable Simon Helberg), is late to Madame Florence's infamous 1944 Carnegie Hall recital. Why? He claims breathlessly, implying perhaps post-coital euphoric exhaustion, he was “jumped” by a bunch of sailors, and that they were “most disrespectful.” (Interestingly enough, the real McMoon later in his life was a judge at ostensibly straight bodybuilding contests; some even claim he also ran a gay escort service or even brothel, but the latter is probably more faux news.) 
 

Scene from Florence Foster Jenkins

Madame Florence of course has her mind on other matters, and Cosme's chum, Florence's common-law husband St. Clair Bayfield played by a suave Hugh Grant, also ignores the remark. But one gets the sense he knows what really happened. 


So, apparently, that “little McMoon” was into rough trade. I've thrown the term around a bit in blogs and tweets and other communiques, but I've always wondered what it actually meant, and, as it turns out, it isn't just the cliched doin' it with sex-starved sailors on the wharf (apparently, by the time McMoon experienced the joy of rough trade brothels for women weren't located seaside, another cliché, or were they?) 
 

Sailor with knife in Querelle

Trade (also known as Chow) is a gay slang term originating from Polari (a gay slang encoded language) and refers to the (usually) casual partner of a gay man or to the genre of such partners. Often, the terms trade and rough trade are treated as synonymous. Often the attraction for the gay male partner is finding a dangerous, even thuggish, straight, or bisexual partner who may turn violent. That is not to say that people necessarily desire to be physically hurt, but the danger of seeking a partner in a public park, restroom, or alleyway may be exciting. For example, in the Chicagoland area, the suburban forest preserves (especially on Sundays) supply a convenient local for such trade. How do I know this? I've seen it (that's all I am going to say). 


Another variation is in comparison to regular trade, rough trade is more likely to be working-class laborers with less education and more physical demands of their work, therefore with a body developed naturally rather than in a gym. They may also exhibit a less polished or clean-cut style than an office worker or professional businessman. 

For example, remember that book Maurice by E.M. Forster and the movie made of it starring Hugh Grant as well? Aristocratic Maurice Hall, after being rejected by the bisexual Clive Durham (Grant's role) falls in love with Alec Scudder, the lower-class gamekeeper, played by Rupert Graves. Maurice and Alec's future as a couple is thus doubly doomed, not just because of their gayness, but because of the social division. It would be more acceptable if Alec was just a rough trade fling rather than a partner in a loving relationship. 
 

Maurice and Alec in Maurice

In the world of Bijou gay porn, the Old Reliable series (available on DVD,streaming instantly, and on audio CD) made by David Hurles reveals one of the more authentic “rough trade” or “trade” scenarios captured for posterity before the days of down-low and overt (and thus lacking the real danger of actual trade) Sean Cody gay-for-pay DVDs. Hurles hired admittedly rough-looking, blue-collar, conventionally “thuggish” guys to talk dirty for the camera and also beat their usually awe-inspiring meat for the audience. 

 

Director David Hurles

According to a couple of sources, "David likes psychos. Nude ones. Money-hungry drug addicts with big dicks. Rage-filled robbers without rubbers. And of course, convicts." Apparently these guys were really dangerous, like they could kill him. Yet somehow David could manage them and get them to perform. Wow! However, Hurles also said: "There have been several thousand models. When they are not in prison, or very married, it has been my practice to stay in touch with many of them, often over decades. They are my friends." On another occasion he said that one of the hardest parts of his job was not getting caught up "in the miserable lives of my models." The gay viewer could vicariously experience rough trade without subjecting himself to the very real, terrifying dangers. 

 

Two muscular Old Reliable models
Three Old Reliable models, two smoking cigars and one flipping off the camera
Three Old Reliable models, one tattooed, one with boxing gloves, one smoking a cigar
Hairy Old Reliable model flipping off the camera

 

In fact, rough trade sexual encounters resulted in the deaths the gay silent film icon Ramon Navarro and the famous Italian cinematographer Pier Paolo Pasolini. 


Now, based on the above tragedies, I might think twice about the phrase “dick of death,” but I also remember how sex and violence and even death can erupt as one terrifying conflagration. Orgasm is after all le petit mort, both beautiful and terrible. 

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