The Wonderful Land of Twitter

posted by Madame Bubby

Twitter logo

The Tweeter in Chief make may make some think the social media platform of Twitter is a hellscape. I suppose that depends on who you are and your previous level of social and intellectual engagement.

In my case, and perhaps my perception will change (not that I would enter #MAGA land; I currently find the #Resist echo chamber comforting, and who wants to hang out in Mordor), but I feel I have entered an enchanted forest.

I decided to activate my personal twitter account which I had opened a few years ago partly out of boredom and partly out of a what I felt to be a pressing social need to spread pro-labor union information.

Three weeks later, a world famous opera singer and I are following each other. Her name is Karita Mattila. She is a world famous soprano. Every gay man needs a diva to worship, and it took only one day for me to join her circle of Twitter buddies. And of course, most of us are gay.
 

Karita Mattila
Karita Mattila

A Reform Jewish rabbi, Danya Ruttenberg, has engaged me and like my tweets which have ranged from a discussion of a Hebrew term in Leviticus and the psychosocial pereceptions of clergy.

Wayne Kostenbaum, a nationally acclaimed gay author and I have gotten to the point where we have exchanged direct messages. He thinks I am cute.

I am now tweeting on a close to equal level with other academics in the fields of English and religion. I don't feel excluded like I did on some of the more traditional listservs or in real life.

And, let's just say, already I have moved from tweeting to direct message to texting with a hot young number in grad school in English literature. In one day.

On the lighter side, I am now part of the Old Hollywood club on twitter. I spent last afternoon tweeting around with a wonderful person, joking about the dowager/old lady roles in 1930s Hollywood. Perhaps not the same dynamic as actually being with the person physically, but how long would it take one to physically find someone who would know who Dame May Whitty was?

You are what you make. I wouldn't have been able to do all this if I hadn't already been an exciting, diverse, intellectually curious person. But the fast-paced medium of Twitter has enabled me to somehow share my interests in a more integral way which actually seems to contradict the nanosecond pace and spatially diffuse nature of the platform.

And Bijouworld's Twitter is currently mushrooming, especially since The Rialto Report tweeted:

“We’re proud to announce that Valparaiso Pictures/Permut Presentations have snapped up the screen rights to our article “Centurians Of Rome: How a Bank Robber Made The Most Expensive Gay Porno Of All Time.” We look forward to bringing it to the big screen!"

In one day, we gained 55 followers!
 

Centurians of Rome images and bank robber/film financer George Bosque
Centurians of Rome images and bank robber/film financer George Bosque

Now, I don't want to live on Twitter (perhaps the initial beginner's excitement will die down), but I feel the same way I felt when I discovered the internet back in 1998 and made some interesting connections on listservs (many of which have fizzled out slowly, given the more socially restrictive nature of the medium and just the fact that people do change).
 

Twitter logo bird holding sign that says: Yup, I tweet too much! Get over it!

Whatever happens, I will enjoy and perhaps be in a better position to learn if the cyberexperiences don't always develop in a socially and psychologically healthy way.

And follow Bijouworld on Twitter. Our always “kick-ass” account is really hopping now, revealing we are truly leading now in the fields of gay sexuality, LGBTQ history, and film studies.

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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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Retrostuds of the Past: The Inimitable, Luminous George Payne

While going through the Bijou Video file cabinets in search of inspiration, George Payne of Centurians of Rome fame (and one of my initial gay porn crushes, ah, those “mesmerizing dark eyes”) reveals all in an absolutely fabulous 1979 interview with Mandate magazine, called “The Pleasure Payne Principle.” 
 

George Payne


Digging deeper into his inimitable sex appeal, which a previous interview inMandate defined as luminosity, George is definitely clear about his physicality: I'm not a muscle man … I'm only five feet, seven inches tall, and weight one-hundred-fifty-five pounds.” Big things come in small packages. He always seems tall to me; perhaps it is his carriage, reminding me of another small person who filled the screen, my gay icon, Joan Crawford. 

And his diet, which has obviously worked, consists of one meal a day, a lot of coffee, and too many cigarettes. Again, he seems to be channeling Joan; that was her diet, especially in the early days of MGM. 

And there's another parallel to Joan (not the porn! Joan did not make any porn loops). George was on his own since he was fifteen. Yes, he's totally self-made. He had to drop out of college to care for a sick relative, but he was always self-supporting. Early gigs before his porn career included singing at the Big Top, a porno theater in a take-off of the soap opera spoof, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. He even did imitations of Bela Lugosi! 

Another interesting tidbit about George. He never stripped live on stage, and he also never played a heavy leather guy (my heart faints when I imagine him in full leather), because, he says, “I always leave alone in films – meaning I live alone – which is something I do in my private life.” 
 

George Payne - The Pleasure Payne Principle interview continued

It's like he understood, like Joan, the whole royal “daylight and magic” dichotomy; he entices the most by always leaving the viewer (and his captors in Centurians of Rome) hungering for more, beginning with that stargaze that says silently: “I dare you to want me. And if I do take you, or let you take me, it will be more than you ever dared.” 
 

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Retrostuds of the Past: Focus on Gino Colbert

Retrostuds of the Past: Focus on Gino Colbert

I first encountered Gino Colbert in his youthful glory, in a spanking fetish film Bijou Video carries called Disciplining the Undisciplined Athlete. Gino, playing a short in stature boxer with a chip on his shoulder, and Michael Ryan spank each other.

Little did I know Gino was also a phenomenal director and producer with a multitude of porn films to his credit, including straight and bisexual ones. In fact, according to an interview in a February 25, 2004 issue of Unzipped, he even cast the legendary Jack Wrangler in several straight flicks.

 

He also worked with the famous straight porn actor and director Ron Jeremy on several pictures.

 

Gino was born in 1957 in Toledo, Ohio, and like many guys and gals from the Heartland, wanted to to to Holllywood to make it big in pictures. He ended up making it big in adult films, beginning in 1980, but eight years later made an extraordinary transition to directing. He is best known for directing Men in Blue, Blue Blake's final film appearance.

I culled some interesting tidbits from two interviews Gino did for Manshots magazine in October 1989 and December 1990. I'll let him speak for himself about sexual chemistry between actors in porn movies and also about Bijou's classic “story porn:”

“You have to hire people who like to suck and fuck and enjoy it. And if they don't, you're gonna have a dead sex scene. I'm hot because I like sex. In a sex scene, I really go crazy, the moment the clothes are off. Even if the guy is mediocre, I can get something out of him while acting.”

“I choose my actors by the chemistry techniques. I have to find guys who will work with other guys. I just can't put Guy A with Guy B and expect them to have a good time. It's a very personal thing – they have to have sex together, and one guy may not be turned on to another.... You learn all that by talking to them ahead of time and asking them straight out, 'What turns you on? What kind of guys do you like?' I focus on heat. I like my sex scenes hot, so you have to have the right chemistry.”

Manshots: “Is the younger consumer aware of the stuff that was made in the past?"

Colbert: I don't think so, because if it's a new consumer, chances are he only knows video. He doesn't know film. He doesn't know about the days when we were taking time to make movies. And a typical x-rated film, whether it be gay or straight, was shot over four days and the budgets were more … we're talking about five and even six figures. I remember one gay flick that was shot over a week, and it cost six figures – Centurians of Rome. And it's still on the market and it's doing well, because a lot of people claim the consumer doesn't care about the story, as I said earlier, but those movies that have the good stories and really went to town with the quality, those are the ones that are still on the shelf and still selling.”
 

Gino no longer acts, but he still directs and currently owns his own production company, Gino Pictures.

 

We recently remastered a mostly black-cast movie called Black Jacks; Gino produced the film, and he also is a performer, doing a couple of hot scenes with the black guys in the cast.

 

Check out more of our titles that feature Gino and also stand the test of time with their combination of hot sex and engaging stories.

 

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