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

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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!

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The Pass Around Boy

By Will Seagers

 

Part of being under the wing of Chuck Holmes, owner of Falcon and many other legendary porn brands in San Francisco, was being in an extended family of "Available Escorts." I have always been a little on the naïve side... taking things at face value... not a good way to be in this multi-faceted industry. I had no idea that I was up for "grabs" for the right price and for a very discreet clientele that did their shopping from a distance.

Because there was no internet back then, "clientele" would either use the movies, magazines or come down to Trinity Place, Mr. Holmes' bar and restaurant, to see what was available. It finally dawned on me when I noticed that I was waiting on and bartending to men considerably older than myself. (Duh.) This was a very clever operation, looking at it in retrospect. The names of those involved will remain undisclosed. But, it shouldn't take too much connecting of the dots to draw some conclusions.

Will Seagers in the 1970s

Will Seagers in the 1970s

 

One of my first episodes took place in the quite well-to-do San Francisco neighborhood of Sea Cliff. A prominent designer/decorator requested my presence as a gift for his lover as well as for himself. The lover was a knock out and was easy to "work" with. The older of the two necessitated me reaching into the same bag of tricks that I used when I was paired with someone in a movie that I was not attracted to. Call it "professionalism"... but, it always got me through. And, I was invited back several times, much to my pleasure. Much of the second visit took place outside at the swimming pool, where another fine pair of gents were recruited. And, bathing suits were not even an option! (I didn't know that I could hold my breath that long under water! Lol.)

Another memorable hire was as a birthday gift. Once again, this was for the younger half of a couple. Unfortunately, this one was a particular disaster! When I entered their posh Pacific Heights Victorian and directed to a bedroom where the fun was to happen, there was a mound of the "white stuff" that looked like the peak of Mont Blanc! With the birthday boy, who was cute enough, I availed myself of some of the "snow." Unfortunately, due to the copious amounts we both had... I could not perform for him or with him. Lesson learned. No white stuff while working! Lol.

THE most memorable of my escort episodes was with a very prominent poet of the time who lived in L.A. I flew down a few times and had a good enough time, myself, to validate the return trips. Although I have never been rich... money was really the icing on the cake. I enjoyed the adventure of it all!

OK. So, here's that most memorable episode. I got a call from my L.A. poet asking me if I would like to be flown to NYC to the opening of a night club/disco... Studio 54. Keep in mind this was opening night, so all of the legend and fanfare had not yet had the chance to kick in. Loving adventure and the company of this client, I said sure!

 

Big crowd at Studio 54

Big crowd at Studio 54

 

I am a little foggy on some of the details - being decades ago - April 26, 1977! One thing I do remember was not being able to get in. My host was nationally and internationally known... and, I wasn't too hard to look at, either! Well, who walks up the runway to the front door but Cher - and in all of her costumed glory! Little did I know that my host and Cher were friends. Next thing I remember is my host yelling out, "Hey Cher, who do you have to fuck to get in this place?" Cher looked over and signaled us to come over and join her. And, with that, my host was on one arm and I was on the other. That's how you enter Studio 54!!

 


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

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