Our CALIGULA Moment

By Josh Eliot

 

In 1979, Bob Guccione and Penthouse Films cast mainstream actors Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren and Peter O’Toole in the hardcore movie Caligula. In 2003, mainstream actress Chloe Sevigny gave a blowjob to Vincent Gallo, complete with a cum shot in the mouth, in the film The Brown Bunny. In 2022, where is gay cinema’s Caligula or Brown Bunny moment?

 

Caligula and Brown Bunny posters

 

The story behind the making of Centurians of Rome, a 1981 film starring George Payne, Eric Ryan and Scorpio has all the “Red Meat” moments that, if ever pitched to Hollywood, has the potential to draw in first rate mainstream actors, writers and directors. My obsession with this true story led me to seek out and find an extensive report in The Daily Beast.

 

Centurians of Rome DVD cover and vintage ad
Article with headline reading Brinks Guard Vanishes with 1.85 Million

 

On August 15, 1980, 25 year old George Bosque sat in his Brinks security truck, depressed because his lover Carl ended their relationship. After picking up 7 million dollars from the San Francisco Airport, and taking advantage of the fact that the driver was talking with an airport official, George drove off in the truck, abandoning it at the Airport Hilton. At gunpoint he accosted a hotel chambermaid, loading two bags of money into her car and speeding off. Bosque, who in 1979 ran for sheriff of San Francisco, was now a fugitive.

 

Younger George Bosque and during his San Franisco sheriff run

Younger George Bosque and during his San Franisco sheriff run

 

First stop for George was New York City, where he took on the assumed identity of J.R. Lewis, Philanthropist. Keeping his money in several suitcases that he never let out of his site, he couch surfed on Fire Island for the summer. He bounced around to Chicago, Denver, Dallas, Florida and Peru, always staying at 5 star hotels. He was embraced into society and was invited to fundraisers, balls, and extravagant soirees for the wealthy, attending a $500 per plate fundraiser for Jimmy Carter. He made Greenwich Village his permanent residence, and while out on the town one night met and befriended Chris Covino, aka John Christopher a straight adult film director. The two became close friends and when George suggested they make a lavish all male film together, a partnership was formed. The budget: $100,000, a massive amount for the day, which ended up ballooning to around $170,000. The making of Centurians of Rome could be a central part of this movie idea as the three stars, Scorpio, George Payne and Eric Ryan all have “life stories” just as compelling as the behind the scenes stories of the making and release of the film.

 

George Payne, Scorpio and Eric Ryan in promotional images for Centurians of Rome

George Payne, Scorpio and Eric Ryan in promotional images for Centurians of Rome

 

With a $150,000 reward for his arrest, George Bosque returned to San Francisco. He called his friends regularly, trying to get information regarding ex-lover Carl’s whereabouts. One of George’s friends tipped off the police and he was arrested at a Safeway parking lot phone booth on November 22, 1981. He’d been at large for 464 days. The young federal prosecutor assigned to his case was Robert Mueller – yes, him! You can’t make this shit up! Mueller pushed for a strong sentence due to George’s lack of remorse and he got 15 years.

Lloyd's of London, who insured the 1.8 million dollars, tried to sue Bosque but he was basically penniless so they tried to get ownership of Centurians of Rome. The defense attorneys for Hand in Hand Films, the studio that had taken over the completion and distribution of the film, had an idea up their sleeve to try and stop them in their tracks. They displayed photographs from the movie around the courtroom with shots showing anal sex, George Payne fisting Caligula and the gladiators in an oral daisy chain. A red faced Lloyd's of London did not want this publicity and made a hasty retreat.

 

George Bosque wanted poster and article about Lloyd's of London

 

Bosque received early parole in 1986 but sadly passed away from an overdose at the age of 36.

Article with headline reading Guard Who Stole 1.8 Million Dies

 

Could this true story become gay cinema’s Caligula and go all the way with mainstream actors and hardcore scenes? Or should it take the streaming service limited series approach? However you package it, all the elements are there to become a huge international sensation. But first it needs to be pitched, which takes a layer of flesh in itself. Somebody please pitch this movie! The one with the “balls” to make it, in my opinion, is a certain GLEEful, HOLLYWOOD, AMERCAN STORYteller. (You know who I mean).

 

You can watch Centurians of Rome's trailer and find the movie on DVD and Streaming through Bijou!

 

 

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

 
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David's Chicago Sexual Underground - 4/15/20

David's Chicago Sexual Underground header

 

Greetings P(r)icksters!

Still not much happening here with the shutdown in Illinois extend to April 30th. Looking like it might be late May before we may be allowed to reopen Touché. I’m okay with that, as the best pace to spread something like Covid-19 is a bar full of people. Not sure how they will determine what would be “safe” for us to reopen but am expecting bars to be down the list as businesses are allowed to get back to work.

Other than being a real penny pincher, I’m doing okay. Managing to pay my bills since I can’t go out for meals or drinks. Staying at home makes it easy to get by financially. Of course I’m horny as hell since my partner is stuck in his home 40 miles away. Not like either of us can go out and hook up anywhere. Porn has never been more “necessary” till now.

I am planning for things to get back come June and looking forward to a busy summer. The nagging question will be how we will operate in this age of the coronavirus. They may get infection rates down but if it continues to circulate we’ll have to figure out how to party while keeping an acceptable social distance. (Really huge dicks would help keep some distance, maybe.)

But in the meantime, I have been reading a lot. As a lover of history, I did watch the History Channel’s day long run of their The Bible shows on Sunday. I pulled out some of my history books and read along portions as the show unfolded. Got to put some dates along with the events depicted and got a better understanding of some Jewish history.

I have always been curious about what was happening in different places around the world at the same time. Looking at what happened in Egypt and Israel and then at what was happening in Asia and then in Europe and the new world at the same period. Always love how folks of western culture thinks of themselves as the pinnacle of man’s greatness, when these other cultures like China and India flourished while Europe was barely civilized.

Of course, religion was the main focus of this series, first the Jewish and then early Christianity. Many of these stories I had learned growing up. But in college, I began to learn more about other religions and after viewing this series, would like to know more about the history of other religions, too.

So what does religion have to do with porn? Well, as it happens, some of our early producers of gay films delved into this thorny subject. Many of our Bijou Classics came out of Hand In Hand Films. Director Jack Deveau established Hand In Hand Films in 1972 and allowed other directors to create some of the most imaginative gay films ever made. Big themed, big budget classics like The Idol, A Night at The Adonis and Adam and Yves, to name a few. Some of these classic titles from Hand In Hand Films dealt with religious themes, exploring gay men’s conflict with their religious upbringing and their sexual desires.

Which brings me to my P(r)ick of the Week, The Destroying Angel. Director Peter de Rome brings a balanced measure of storyline, emotion and steamy sex to this Bijou Video re-release of a truly unique classic gay porn film completed in 1976. Caswell Campbell (Tim Kent), a haunted young priest torn between the call of the cloth and his own pent-up feelings, takes a three month sabbatical and plunges himself into the world of man-sex and drugs.

Fans of the sword & sandal biblical epics should check out Hand In Hand’s Centurians of Rome. This ambitious classic gay porn film - a blockbuster epic production - stars George Payne (Demetrius) and Scorpio (Octavius) as Roman countrymen sold into slavery for not paying their taxes during Caligula's reign as Emperor. Immense scripting, acting, set design, direction and superior efforts were all combined to make this one of the most sought-after gay films of all time! 31 luscious men sprawl across the screen with realistic uniforms and costumes, dungeon equipment and steamy (and often rough) sexual encounters adding to their passionate fight for freedom and man-love.

Who says history and religion can’t be fun? No wonder I like doing “research” - want to study with me?

David

To order from Bijou, visit bijouworld.com, call 800-932-7111, or email bijou.orders@gmail.com



The Destroying Angel images
The Destroying Angel (D00132) - On DVD and Streaming

Centurians of Rome images
Centurians of Rome (D00224) - On DVD and Streaming
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Who Could Be the Emperor in Centurians of Rome: His Name Is Elagabalus

Michael Flent as the Emperor in Centurians
Michael Flent as the Emperor in Centurians of Rome

When the gay porn epic Centurians of Rome came out in 1981, the publicity proclaimed that the kinky, fisting-loving emperor played to the hilt by Michael Flent was Caligula. At one level, it makes sense, given the overall reputation of Caligula as the ultimate monstre sacree, but after a close viewing, I came up with another theory. Admittedly, the work is fiction, and I highly doubt the creators were specifically trying to place the action and characters in specific historical circumstances, but there are third century A.C.E. parallels.
 

Original poster for Centurians of Rome
Original Original Centurians poster

The emperor Elagabulus, born in 203 A.C.E, was the scion of a dynasty dominated by Syrian women. It's a bit complicated, but let's just say by that time diverse persons in the Empire were able to rise, primarily through the army, to powerful political positions. His father was Sextus Varius Marcellus and his mother was Julia Soemias. His grandmother, the formidable Julia Maesa, was the sister of Julia Domna, and thus the sister-in-law of Septimius Severus, the Roman founder of the dynasty.
 

Bust of Julia Maesa
Julia Maesa

I mention all these women specifically, because, at one point in Centurians of Rome, the Emperor mentions his mother sends him women he is not interested in. This dynasty was run by powerful women on so many levels, and I find this detail telling, and there's more in what we know about Elagabalus that makes this detail, and many others in the movie, even more telling.

Now, Julia Soemias was a cousin of the emperor Caracalla. When Caracalla was assassinated in 217 A.C.E, Macrinus ascended the throne, and he exiled the whole Syrian tribe. But Maesa plotted to regain power, and Soemias made a claim that Elagabalus was the son of Caracalla. After some battles and further plotting, he was proclaimed emperor, as the Senate accepted the claim of parentage.
 

Alma, Tadema, and Heliogabalus

Elagabalus' religious beliefs presented a problem, as he was the hereditary priest (through his mother) of the ancient Syrian mountain god Ilāh hag-Gaba, who was later assimilated into the worship of the sun God Helios and Sol Invictus (the victorious Sun; thus Elagabalus is sometimes referred to as Heliogabalus). The worship of this god apparently required him to circumcise himself (not a Roman custom), but even more significantly, he installed Elagabal as the chief deity.

But, more relevant to this discussion of Centurians of Rome, and I must admit that some of the ancient sources are not exactly reliable (Augustan History contains some Hollywood Babylon-like elements!), Elagabalus' sexual orientation was confusing. He married five women (and divorced them all), including a Vestal Virgin (a huge taboo). But marriage was more of a fluid financial transaction at that time in Rome, and of course one could assume Grandma and Mama were hoping he could produce an heir. He didn't.
 

Elagabalus' entry into Rome

But he supposedly married an athlete called Zoticus (though his prime male companion was a blond chariot driver and bond slave named Hierocles) in a public ceremony in Syria. The historian Cassius Dio claimed he made himself up and whored around in public and in the imperial palace. Some historians have claimed that Elagabalus may have been transgender, as, according to one source, he wanted to somehow equip himself female genitalia and called himself the queen or wife of his main male lover, Hierocles. Note that at the end of Centurians, guess who the Emperor ends up with sexually as he makes him his slave: the blond stud Eric Ryan.
 

Eric Ryan and Michael Flent
Eric Ryan and Michael Flent in Centurians

I see much more parallels, or really resemblances, with the character played by Michael Flent, whose sexual kinks were certainly not “vanilla,” and his almost feminine submission to the hot top George Payne in the fisting scene evokes some of the details mentioned in this admittedly biased account of life in the palace by Cassius Dio:

“Finally, he set aside a room in the palace and there committed his indecencies, always standing nude at the door of the room, as the harlots do, and shaking the curtain which hung from gold rings, while in a soft and melting voice he solicited the passers-by. There were, of course, men who had been specially instructed to play their part. For, as in other matters, so in this business, too, he had numerous agents who sought out those who could best please him by their foulness. He would collect money from his patrons and give himself airs over his gains; he would also dispute with his associates in this shameful occupation, claiming that he had more lovers than they and took in more money.”
 

Michael Flent and George Payne
Michael Flent and George Payne in Centurians

Yes, life in the palace became one decadent orgy which turned a profit. Maybe that's why the government needed that tax money from Octavius and Demetrius (Scorpio and George Payne), and the character of Argus (Eric Ryan) certainly fits in with being one of those agents looking for sex slaves.
 

George Payne and Scorpo
George Payne and Scorpio in Centurians of Rome

Grandma Maesa finally had enough, and she, after some machinations, managed to get Elagabalus and his mother replaced, and the two were eventually assassinated in 222 A.C.E.. His replacement: the indisputably heterosexual Alexander Severus, Elagabalus' cousin, the son of her other daughter, Maemea. Think: backlash, but in this case, the women were still in charge, and Alexander, though he got rid of the Elagabal cult, was religiously tolerant.

I must admit I am an ancient history geek (in the department I teach at, I hold that unofficial title), and hence my attraction to this movie, and I also admit when I was watching it, I thought of the unfortunate and much-maligned Elagabalus. Overall, Elagablaus resembles the Emperor in Centurians more than the wildly cruel and bizarre but ultimately heterosexual Caligula.

Sources: some Wikipedia, and also Will Durant's series The Story of Civilization (Durant was a homophobe, but the series contains everything you need to know about everything, as far as I am concerned, and that's how I first found out about Elagabalus).

We just remastered Centurians of Rome, and the newly restored version is available on DVD and streaming on our Video on Demand site. For more information on the strange backstory of this classic gay porn blockbuster (it was funded by a bank robbery!), read this fascinating blog at The Rialto Report.
 

Centurians cover image
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