David's Chicago Sexual Underground 09/21/22 & P(r)ick of the Week

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Greetings P(r)icksters!

Been busy hosting a vaccine party every week at the bar on top of all our other parties. I keep getting thanked by guys passing through the vax line and felt I just had to explain why. So here's what I sent out to my Touché posting this week. I may have covered some this in a previous blog, but it is all part of my "
why."

We are continuing our drive to get folks vaccinated against monkeypox. We want all of you to be able to socialize, meet up and find a fuck buddy, enjoy some hot passionate sex and not end up with a case of this virus. Trust me, I have heard from many who contracted the virus, and the symptoms were PAINFUL.

You like a dick down your throat, up your butt, and guess what? That's where this virus ends up. Sure, they have presented photos on the news about sores on guys' hands, chests, feet or faces. Well, what they haven't shown you are the guys with pox sores inside their dicks, up their asses or down their throats. If we hadn't started pushing guys in our community to get vaxxed, a lot more of you could have experienced this. So, we urge you to keep it in your pants and changed up our video programming and party events at the bar to help you keep yourself in check.

AIDS came to town unannounced and spread quickly and decimated our leather community. We didn't know it was here, what caused it and had no vaccine to stop it.

Today, we know monkeypox is here, how it can spread, and we have a weapon to stop it: a 2-dose vaccine shot. I wish we had this when AIDS hit; I would have a lot more friends still with me. We can stop this now from becoming an ongoing threat, but you all have to get vaxxed to make that happen.

Here's a link to the Chicago Department of Public Health's dashboard for monkeypox. It is updated on Mondays and shows the number of cases falling dramatically. It also shows the number of people vaccinated so far. It is the second dose that I focus on, because it is the second dose that allows your body to develop immunity after a couple of weeks.

9,375 is the number of Chicagoans that have received a second dose as of Monday. 9,000+ folks are fully vaxxed. Out of how many gay men that live in this city? Just think for a moment - how many gay men are there just in Chicago? All of a sudden, 9,375 seems like a good start but way short of what may be needed to keep us from a resurgence of cases.

Let's not forget the guys coming to Chicago because they live in states that haven't done jackshit about monkeypox. I checked IDs last week during our Vax Party and I can state that about 1/2 of those in the bar that came for a shot were from out of town. Florida, Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, Texas were just some of the IDs I saw.

If these guys feel it is so important to travel this far for a shot (hopefully they had a couple more at the bar), then I would hold that all of you that live here in Chicago would feel just as strongly and make the effort to cross town if need be and get vaccinated.

We had a Pox Vax Party last night, Tuesday, September 20th, and the upcoming one is next week on Wednesday, September 28th. As we have been doing, doors open at 5pm with shots beginning at 6 pm. We start with 100 doses but have been averaging 120 or more these past few weeks. The vax teams leave with doses unused. So don't let the early days of long lines and limited vax shots deter you. You need not line up for hours, just get here by 9pm and get a shot.

We will be adding Vax Party dates in October. Our partners at Project WISH and Rush are lining up teams to provide the shots, and once I have those dates confirmed, we will post them.

Now as to WHY?

We have been thanked repeatedly the past couple of months for hosting these Vax Parties. As guys pass through the line, they let me know how much they appreciate our effort to care for our community. There's a very simple reason why we are doing this.

We are LEATHER.

Time for a little history lesson, sorry if this gets long. I came to Chicago in the mid-70s and began working at Touché shortly after it opened. Some of my early leather mentors were already in their 60s. Which meant they had participated in WWII, and they shared their experiences with me.

Before the World Wars of the last century, travel abroad was the luxury of the wealthy. The average guy lived in his town, worked there and most likely died in that same town. The thought of going to Europe or anywhere else in the world was an unlikely dream of some, but most others just lived their life where they were. You could have urges for men, but you either had to ignore them or on the "down-low."

Heading to Europe and other places to fight in either war allowed these servicemen a chance to broaden their view beyond our American shores. In particular, during WWII, these men experienced a lot more than what their hometowns had to offer. Food, for one, drink another and lifestyles even more. Far from home and expectations they may had lived under (get a job, get married, have a family), many got a chance to explore their sexual feelings.

One of my favorite photo books is At Ease: Navy Men of WWII. These guys were out at sea for months at a time. It is not hard to imagine that physical contact between them would become common. Not just sexual; lots of the photos show guys relaxing, just laying side by side, or in some contact with each other. As humans, we feel the need to touch others.

Naturally this lead some to sexual relations with other men; after all, these guys were in their early to mid-twenties and just as horny as you guys are today. It was just there, unmentioned and tolerated as a phase. But they got over it once they returned home to their girls or wives (supposedly).

One other thing men fighting abroad may have learned was riding motorcycles. It was quick method of communications within the services. A lot of servicemen would probably never have learned to ride if it wasn't for their time in the service.

So, when guys came home from WWII, some had experienced gay sex or at least developed an affinity to being with guys. The late 40s and 50s were not a time of accepting homosexuality. These guys had to live in their closets.

Which is where our leather community sprang from: those guys that had learned to ride while in the service and continued to ride when they got back. They met other guys that served and shared experiences. So, they would ride together, forming clubs with guys they could relate to, who shared their experiences. And sometimes, far from others, they would engage in man-on-man sex.

When I come to Chicago, we had a few gay bikers’ clubs. Others like myself that did not ride were drawn to the camaraderie, the friendship, the "family" of these clubs. Other leather clubs formed for those that did not ride but felt the kinship of leather.

You didn't just drop in, you had to be invited in. It was not that hard. These clubs hung out in bars like the old Gold Coast, The Redoubt, Snake Pit and eventually Touché. The back bar at Touché is called The Club Room and the walls are covered with the colors of the various clubs that have called Touché home or out of town clubs that we have supported over the years.

You could meet these leathermen and get to know them. If they felt you were their kind of guy, they would invite you to join them and once they felt you earned the right, they would present you with patches of their colors to wear on your leather.

As a member of one of these clubs, the other members were your brothers, your family. You take care of your family. If they needed a roof over their head, they bunked with you. If they were sick, you cared for them. Helped them find a job if needed. A lot of times it meant caring for those of other clubs, too. Being part of this community meant you would step up and take care of each other.

This is Touché’s 45th year. My 45th year as being part of Chicago’s leather community. And neither Touché nor I can stand by and do nothing when we have this threat to our community. Leather stepped up when AIDS hit in the 80s. Unfortunately, we lost a huge part of our leather community at that time. A lot of those club colors represent a whole group of 30-40 guys that were wiped out by AIDS. None of them are still with us, but we will never forget them.

Those of us that made it through AIDS were a part of the efforts to respond to AIDS. Just feeding folks brought us Open Hand. They made meals every day and delivered them to guys at home. Many early volunteers were leathermen and they still volunteer today through Open Hand's GroceryLand Pantry.

Being too sick to work and keep a roof over your head led to Chicago House. We raised money and bought a house, again led by a leatherman Thom Dombkowski. Now Chicago house provides roofs for PWAs across the city.

Figuring out what was causing this disease that was killing our community meant Howard Brown ramping up, from STD testing and treatment to research and healthcare, led by another leatherman, Harley McMillan.

The last couple of years brought us covid and we responded, urging all to take care, get tested, vaccinated and caring for those afflicted. Now we've got monkeypox. Just as we have in the past, we are doing what we can to take care of not just our family but our entire community. Because we are leather. It's not a fashion choice, it is how we define ourselves, the identity of the bar and how I see myself.

Whether you are leather or not, get the damn vaccine. Yes, case numbers have fallen, but it is still out there. If we just ignore, it will rear its ugly head again and we will be back to square one. The shots are free. We offer them every week. If you don't want to come here, can't get here, then get vaccinated wherever you are. Demand it. We did, and that is how we are able to host our Vax Parties week after week.

I want all my P(r)icksters out there to get vaccinated against monkeypox. You wouldn't be reading this unless you are a horny bastard, too. Let's keep this from going any further. While you wait for your second dose and immunity to develop, you can safely grab my P(r)ick this week and stay horny with me.

David

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

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Chain Reactions (D00437) - On DVD and Streaming

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Interview with Robert Alvarez, Hand in Hand Films Co-Founder/Editor

In 2019, Robert Alvarez, co-founder and editor of the groundbreaking and influential early gay porn studio and distribution company, Hand in Hand Films, kindly took the time to do a phone interview with Bijou.

Along with his partner Jack Deveau, as well as Jaap Penraat, and, later, Kees Chapman, Alvarez co-founded and was at the helm of Hand in Hand Films. Formed in 1972, a mere few years after more permissive legislation in the U.S. began allowing for the exhibition of hardcore films, the studio undertook ambitious and elaborate cinematic productions, expanding the ideas of what a pornographic film could be, and constructing their ideas into a large catalog of outstanding and entertaining narrative features. They additionally became an early distributor of the work of a number of other gay adult filmmakers, as well as their own product. A highly collaborative enterprise, Hand in Hand's films combine the creative influences of all of their participants. They continued making films until 1982 and distributing until 1988.

Alvarez, a skilled editor with a background in dance and experimental and documentary film, elevated Hand in Hand's output with his technical polish and creative flair, helping to create the distinct style and high quality level of the studio's output. From character dramas, to comedies, to outrageous psychedelic and horror films, his work on Hand in Hand's productions covered a range of tones and genres, but maintained Hand in Hand's cinematic quality and particular sensibility. With some of the studio's wilder and more avant-garde films and sequences, Bob applied complex and experimental editing and post-production effects, leading critics to frequently praise the “Alvarez effects” that enhanced scenes and often created some of the movies' best moments.

In the conversation that follows, Bob discusses his artistic background and influences, Hand in Hand's formation, his relationship with Jack Deveau, his editing style, the studio's philosophy, and more.

Robert Alvarez in front of French poster for Good Hot Stuff, 1975
Robert Alvarez in front of French poster for Good Hot Stuff, 1975
[Image Credit: Good Hot Stuff: The Life and Times of Gay Film Pioneer Jack Deveau]

Bijou: I am curious about some of your filmmaking influences and your experimental film background.

Alvarez: Well, I’ve always loved movies. And, in addition to that – this goes back to 1958, maybe – I started going to see some experimental films that were being shown in a little storefront place, and I got to know about Kenneth Anger and Gregory Markopoulos, for whom I worked. Not even worked – I assisted [Markopoulos], is more like it. And then I ended up being in one of his films. And then there was Warhol, but Warhol didn’t really influence me that much. I wasn't a great fan of his movies, but I did follow certain ones. Chelsea Girls is one of his early ones that I more or less liked, because it was so outrageous. The most influential [experimental filmmakers] for me were the ones that I just mentioned.

In addition to that, one of the first things that I came to New York to do was to become a dancer, because I started studying in Florida when I was about 18 or 19 and decided that New York was the only place that would be smart for me to go to. So I moved here and I kept studying dance and going to auditions, and so forth. After a while, I wound up doing Summer Stock and then a touring company. I did it ‘til I was about twenty-five and then I just decided that I should not continue to pursue it, that I should do something else. And, of course, the thing that came up in my mind first was film. I worked for [the animator] Francis Lee while I was doing the experimental film part of my life. He worked with this thing called photo animation. And he also made some experimental films, as well as regular ones.

I started getting more into film and wound up working for another animation man who did commercials for NBC, and then from that I went onto NBC and became assistant editor to the supervising editor there, and after that I got my first editing job. And, in between, I did some other stuff and wound up doing the documentaries [Woodstock, An American Family] and working freelance for mostly – it was Channel 13; it’s now PBS - until 1971 or ‘72.

It was my partner who I convinced we should get into the business of making movies, which is a story in itself, but, anyway, we turned out our first film, which was Left-Handed, and it was very unlike any other gay films that I’d ever seen. I became more and more interested in how far we could push the envelope, you know. Wakefield Poole, a pretty good friend of mine, made Boys in the Sand prior to this and that was a big success. And so we decided we would do ours, and that’s when we did Left-Handed. And ours was quite different, of course. We tried to take it from a different gay slant than just porno, give it some kind of a plot and characters and motivations, and so forth, as well as some editing that I did that I think was somewhat experimental.

Bijou: Had you edited any pieces that were that experimental at that point in time, or were you kind of getting to develop some of those techniques in your editing style on Left-Handed?

Alvarez: I actually was influenced by… I never got over being a dancer, and I was interested in dance and choreography, and so forth. When I started editing, I began to feel that there were a lot of similarities in certain aspects of editing to choreographing, and became a real fan of Bob Fosse, among others. So I used a lot of their techniques, but I also used some other techniques that I learned back when I was seeing experimental films, that involved quick cutting and a lot of - especially in Markopoulos - a lot of very extended dissolves, and things, that were quite beautiful. And I used those things, myself, as well as my sense of rhythm and cutting to music, which I loved to do, because that really gave it movement; some emphasis, depending on the music that we used. And we had original music for Left-Handed that came from a friend of ours, a guy that was a sound mixer, who had a small band. He composed some music for us.

Bijou: Yes, those are wonderful pieces.

Images from Left-Handed (1972)
Images from Left-Handed, 1972 (DVD | Streaming)

Alvarez: Anyway, I really enjoyed it, because I was doing it like I wanted to do it, and I was given a free hand to do whatever I did. So that more or less gives you an idea of how I got started, and where.

Bijou: I didn’t realize you came from a dance background, also. I know some other people involved [in making gay porn in '70s NYC] were from that background. Did you get connected to anybody through the realm of dance that wound up working with you?

Alvarez: Well, I had known Wakefield slightly back in Florida, because he was in a ballet company and I was in a different one. We met at some kind of convention. We got to know each other and we were sort of, not buddies, but… We were in two different locations in Florida. But when I came to New York, I saw that he was dancing, and, also, he did some choreography. So I got to know him pretty well.

Bijou: Do some of the people involved in Ballet Down the Highway come from those connections?

Alvarez: They did, but they weren’t friends or anything. They were people that we cast, who were dancers, to be in the ballet scene, as well as the lead in the movie, who was a Dutch young man [Henk Van Dijk] who came with a choreographer that we got to know from the Netherlands ballet, and became rather close friends with after this lover of his appeared in our film. Anyway, we got this young man, who was studying dance, and he was not a great dancer, but through editing and so forth, I made him look better. (laughs) You know?

Bijou: (laughs) It does look good.

Alvarez: He always remarked on that, you know, how I made it look like he could really dance. Other than that, the other people that were supposedly in this company he was dancing for were cast from, I guess, one of our casting calls. We put out casting calls for some of our films, like in Show Business [the newspaper].

Henk Van Dijk (left) and other dancers & cast members (right) in Ballet down the Highway, 1975

Henk Van Dijk (left) and other dancers & cast members (right) in Ballet down the Highway, 1975 (DVD | Streaming); clips from the film

Bijou: Is that how you found most of your performers - casting calls? I noticed, with Hand in Hand's films, there’s some crossover between people you have in the crew and the cast, and some people that I don’t see in any other [adult] films. I was curious where the Left-Handed cast came from or if you knew some of them from social circles, as well.

Alvarez: The Left-Handed cast, I’m not sure, because I wasn’t involved in the casting, directly. That was Jack Deveau, who was, of course, my partner, and the guy who was primarily the producer/director - you know, the whole shebang. He used to put out casting calls. And, I think, we knew the guy who played the lead. We knew both of them. And so they agreed to be in it. And then we had an orgy scene at the end that was a lot of other people that we weren’t particularly friends with but somehow got to be in this, our first film. And I’m not sure whether they were cast directly, or they were cast through friends, or something. But that’s more or less how that happened.

Ray Frank & Robert Rikas, the leads in Left-Handed, and orgy cast
Ray Frank & Robert Rikas, the leads in Left-Handed, and orgy cast

Bijou: How did you and Jack meet? I don't think I know that.

Alvarez: Oh… That’s a kind of a story in itself. We met several years before. I met him, actually, at a performance of an opera by Gian Carlo Menotti called The Saint of Bleecker Street. It was written up in the papers as being a really good production, and blah blah blah. I had a friend who wanted to be an opera singer, and I think he told me about it and said, “Do you want to go see it?” And I said, “Yes. I definitely want to go see it.” Because I knew who Gian Carlo Menotti was and I’d heard some of his other work and always liked it. But anyway, I went to that and, during intermission, this young man came up to me, you know? And we started talking, and so on, and so on, and so forth. And I had a feeling that we were… we were evaluating each other. (laughs) Also, it turns out that his mother was part of the orchestra. She played the viola. During that intermission, she came out, and he said, “Tell me your name really quick, because there comes my mother and I want to introduce you.” (laughs) So we met and… She’s a wonderful lady. Just a wonderful, wonderful person. Anyway, I immediately got interested in knowing more about him. He invited me to go out with him after the opera, which I did. And that was the beginning, you know? And, little by little, we became more and more involved until we decided to live together. It was good. We had a sort of an open relationship - not completely open, but rather. And so there were a lot of other sexual experiences that I had that were not with him, but were influenced by him. I’ll put it that way. (laughs) He was very interested in people that he’d meet off the street who were either hustling, trying to make a little money, or sailors, you know. He had a very great gift of gab, so he could charm anybody - and did. (laughs)

Bijou: Yeah. It sounds like everyone loved hanging out with him, from all the people I’ve spoken with about him.

Alvarez: Yeah, he was a lot of fun. He was a funny character.

So anyway, we had this relationship, never really committing to a long-term thing, but it kept going, kept going, kept going, and we ended up being together for twenty-one years. And at that point, he died, and so... It was a long, long relationship. And I loved him very, very much. And vice versa.

But I always thought it would be great if we could work together. Incidentally, another person that was greatly responsible for Jack getting the courage to get into this and actually direct people was [Rebel Without a Cause star] Sal Mineo, who became a friend of ours some years before.

Bijou: Yeah! I was so curious where you knew him from.

Alvarez: We met him in Madrid, and he was getting ready to shoot a film somewhere in Europe. I can’t remember the name of it. Anyway, we got to know each other, and while we were there, we went out together. And he was sort of… not just coming out, I guess, but he was definitely coming out. (laughs) And so he enjoyed being with us, and was always a good friend.

And then a little later, we got into the film business and decided to become our own distributors, because we didn’t trust any of the distributors. Everybody that had dealt with the distributors had been pretty much ripped off by having copies of their films made and sold, and all kinds of stuff that went on. We felt it was better if we could set up a business to distribute our own movies and not sell them, which a lot of other gay filmmakers were doing. Instead of selling them to make a quick buck, we’d keep the movies and then rent them out to the exhibitors and charge them a percentage of the gross. And, of course, they were never exactly honest, either, but we found ways to kind of get around that. When we showed our stuff in New York, we had somebody counting the number of patrons that would go into the theater, so we had an idea of about how much money we should be getting. But anyways, that’s a whole other area of the business. And, incidentally, that’s how we met [Bijou owner] Steve Toushin, because he started renting some of our films, and we liked him. He was always really very nice and very fair.

Bijou: I was wondering about Good Hot Stuff [Hand in Hand's documentary about their studio] showing in Paris. I read that that was the first gay porn film to show in France. I was curious about that trip over there and what that experience was like.

Jack Deveau & Bob Alvarez in front of French Good Hot Stuff billboard
Jack Deveau & Bob Alvarez in front of French billboard for Good Hot Stuff (DVD | Streaming); excerpt from the film

Alvarez: It wasn't the first film. It was the first American explicit gay film ever shown in France. We hooked up with a man named Norbert Terry in France who had apparently shot one or two movies that were in French. I always wanted for us to go there and be shown with subtitles and (laughs), you know, the whole thing. Because there’s a lot of narrative to Good Hot Stuff; Jack and some of our actors talked about being in the films, and so forth. We opened in Paris at two or three theaters. And they made a big deal out of promoting it. And, sure enough, we ended up outgrossing the [Robert Altman] movie Nashville, which was also playing there (laughs) - and Nashville is a classic film.

Bijou: (laughs) Yeah, that's amazing.

Alvarez: Jack and I had been to Paris a couple of times before, and we loved Paris... I still do. It’s a magical city and I love it. So we ended up, eventually after we made some more films, making a deal with a guy who was a producer in Paris, and contracted to make a movie in French and we would share the profits. It turned out to be a disaster, but we released the movie anyway.

Bijou: Was that Le Musée, [also known as Strictly Forbidden]?

Images from Le Musee aka Strictly Forbidden, 1974
Images from Le Musée aka Strictly Forbidden, 1974 (DVD | Streaming)

Alvarez: Le Musée, yeah. I had to end up using our work print, because they had confiscated our original negatives from the lab, so I had only the work print to work with.

Bijou: Oh wow, they confiscated it?

Alvarez: Yeah. They figured they had a legal right to do it, because we ran out, I guess. We didn’t continue working on the film. We left, and when we went to get our original negatives, found out that they had already been taken by the production company, and they weren't about to give it up.

Bijou: Wow.

Alvarez: Which is too bad, because it was really a beautiful film in many ways.

Bijou: Yeah, the footage is gorgeous from that film.

Alvarez: Yeah, the color footage is really good. And that’s only the work print, so you can imagine the original.

Bijou: Oh wow. I see, so the B&W is the work print?

Alvarez: Yeah, that’s all from the work print.

Bijou: Oh!

Alvarez: And I decided, from my experimental film days (laughs), “Hell, I’ll just mix them all up,” you know, and we’ll have B&W and color.

Bijou: I like that about it. I thought that was intentional. It felt intentional, watching it. (laughs)

Alvarez: That’s what I tried to do - make it look like it was intentional. I wasn’t happy with it, completely, because I knew what we could have had, but we didn’t want it to go to waste, so we released it. And made some money on it, you know.

Bijou: Yeah, I still think it’s a great one, but that would be sad knowing that you lost a good chunk of footage. What was your philosophy on making the Hand in Hand films at the time?

Alvarez: Well, almost all of them were shot in New York, and we dealt with New York situations and stories. I mean, Left-Handed is certainly that. And several others we did were about typical New York scenes. Some of our slighter stories had New York characters in them, and we used New York as a kind of a backdrop for everything. So we decided our films would have that element, as well as kind of a freewheeling style where we made it seem like being gay was a normal thing, long before (laughs), long before [many gay rights advancements]. We were just assuming that our characters all were gay and that’s how they talked, as normal people would talk.

Bijou: That’s true, that is kind of distinctive about your films - now that you said that - versus some other studios. In Hand in Hand's films, most of the people are already out and it’s set within gay life and that’s not, like, a huge ordeal with it.

Alvarez: Yeah. And another film that we did early was… Well, we worked with this guy Peter de Rome on his first feature-length film. ‘Cause he had done some short films on 8mm. We ended up blowing up a lot of them to 16mm, and then adding a couple of his [other] short movies, and making a movie, after that, called Adam & Yves, which took place in Paris.

Posters for The Erotic Films of Peter de Rome and Adam & Yves
Posters for The Erotic Films of Peter de Rome 1972, (DVD | Streaming) and Adam & Yves 1974, (DVD | Streaming)
 
Jack Deveau and Peter de Rome filming Adam & Yves

Jack Deveau and Peter de Rome filming Adam & Yves; audio and set photos montage

Alvarez: Another chance to go to Paris; I didn’t go to, but Jack did. We made the film that Peter de Rome directed. Well, Jack actually directed it more than he did, but…

Bijou: Oh really?

Alvarez: But we gave him the credit, because it was his idea, and his concept and the whole thing about shooting some of it in Paris.

After Adam & Yves was released, we started working on a film which was a little more intricate… a lot more intricate, actually (laughs), called Drive. And I did a lot of quick cutting and switching from one scene to another, like in the middle of a sex scene; kind of making a comment about what was coming up, you know, sort of like a prequel to what was going to happen.

Bijou: Yeah, I love the edits in that movie.

Alvarez: And it took place in this decadent disco that was run by the character named Arachne, whose goal in life was to rid all men of their sex drive. But she would do it by castrating them, up to the point where she found out that there was this drug being developed... This was funny, too, because this was long before Viagra or any of that stuff. But there was a drug being developed that would kill the instinct or the desire to have sex. So she wouldn’t have to be mutilating people anymore. (laughs) So her goal was to go out and get this drug and the scientist. She was an evil character. But as far as the movie goes and my involvement in it, I was very taken by this and I loved the idea that some of it took place in a disco. And there was a scene that was kind of a tribute or take off on Marlene Dietrich’s gorilla suit sequence in [Blonde Venus]. But we did our version of that with the character Arachne, who was in drag, of course, and I loved it. I think it really works well. And that’s one of the scenes where I cut to the disco. And we had original music for it. Now, I did my best to cut to the music, and then I intercut with the sex between the detective and his partner. So we go back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, until the scene at the disco became a climax when the Arachne character takes off the gorilla head and out she comes. And so that was the end [of the scene], and that was in vivid color. And at the same time, the couple was climaxing in their scene, and so the two climaxes kind of coalesced together.

Bijou: It's a great sequence.

Christopher Rage as Arachne, after emerging from the gorilla suit in Drive, 1974

Christopher Rage as Arachne, after emerging from the gorilla suit in Drive, 1974 (DVD | Streaming); Drive's original theme song by David Earnest

Alvarez: That’s what I mean about our films. I mean, there was so much… Not to make art, necessarily, but to make something that would be contemporary, of the day, and also would get us… We always had the goal, really, to get into regular movies - mass market movies - eventually, and this was sort of going to be our training ground. And, for a while, it looked like we could do it. I know Wakefield had the same desire and almost made it. But the whole business changed so quickly, and it became corrupted, and more of a “quick buck” kind of thing, and so forth. There were exceptions. There were a few filmmakers that were rather important at that time, and one of them was a guy by the name of Tom DeSimone, who ended up working with us on a couple of movies.

Bijou: Right, he shot a couple of them, didn't he?

Alvarez: Oh, he shot many films. That’s a whole other story. It’s in the book [Good Hot Stuff: The Life and Times of Gay Film Pioneer Jack Deveau], in the chapter on Tom DeSimone. Anyway, we liked him, because his movies - the movies he made, himself - were more substantial, and often had plots, and so forth. There were a few people like that. Another one was Fred Halsted who, in L.A. Plays Itself, used a rather - not only shocking - sequence, but also some underground film tactics.

Anyway, I was talking about Drive and how that was a departure from everything.

Bijou: Yeah! That’s the first really kind of elaborate effects piece that you did, right?

Alvarez: Yeah, exactly. I took some of the disco stuff to an optical house and had them do several things to make it more unusual. You know? I incorporated a lot of stuff like that in all our films, if possible.

Bijou: Right. Destroying Angel has couple of those great sequences, too.

Alvarez: Right, Destroying Angel, especially.

Bijou: I love that one.

Images from Peter de Rome's The Destroying Angel, 1976

Images from Peter de Rome's The Destroying Angel, 1976 (DVD | Streaming); excerpts from the film

Alvarez: Yeah. And there’s one called Fire Island Fever, which has a sequence where one of the characters accidentally takes a tab of acid and we kind of see what he’s seeing through his eyes as he is high, which is a fantasy sex scene with what turns out to be one of the characters that he meets at the end of the film. Anyway, I tried as much as possible to incorporate some more daring kind of editing. You know, make our films look different. And they did. (laughs) For the most part, they did.

Bijou: Yeah, they did!

Fire Island Fever fantasy sequence
Fantasy sequence from Fire Island Fever, 1979 (DVD | Streaming)

Bijou: Oh, I wanted to ask you about Kees Chapman.

Alvarez: He was also, I think, from a Dutch background. But he was an American; I think he was born here in the States. His lover had been one of our actors early on. [His lover] was actually in Drive. He played the scientist. He had long blond hair. For the movies, he was [named] Mark Woodward; to us, he was his real name, Sydney Soons. And he became an employee of ours, and was helping Jack with keeping track of the finances and getting the movies sent out to the exhibitors, and all that.

Fire Island Fever fantasy sequence
Mark Woodward aka Sydney Soons hosting Good Hot Stuff and slating for A Night at the Adonis, 1978 (DVD | Streaming)

Alvarez: After a while, he and Kees ended up breaking up, and then Kees kind of took over his job, and became even more of a necessary part of Hand in Hand Films. And he also ended up doing some camerawork for Jack, as well as directing, and so forth.

In fact, he shot the sequence I directed in In Heat, which was shot in a dance studio. It was guys taking a ballet class, and then the teacher takes a break, and during that time, the boys get together and have sex. And eventually, the teacher comes back and he joins the crowd. (laughs) So that was one small segment that I directed, because I’d always wanted to, but I didn’t want to impose on Jack’s ideas, you know, because he had plenty of ideas.

In Heat dance studio segment directed by Robert Alvarez
Dance studio segment directed by Robert Alvarez in the Hand in Hand shorts collection In Heat (DVD | Streaming)

Alvarez: In fact, Kees and I tried to make a full film, with Kees directing, after Jack died, but it turned out that I couldn’t use the footage; it was too dark and just a mess. And I’ve always thought I should take that footage again and look at it again with today’s technology, you know?

Bijou: Oh, you should. I bet it could be enhanced a bit, yeah. That would be interesting. What was the premise?

Alvarez: I’m not too sure, except I know that it had the lead character going to Fire Island and having several encounters there. And finally, at the end, I think he gets back with his lover that he had at the beginning of the movie. It’s been a long time since I’ve looked at it.

Bijou: I bet it could be brightened.

Alvarez: Yeah. I think with today’s video technology, especially, a lot of things can be certainly improved. Steven’s done that already. I’m very pleased with the way he has kept our movies up to date.

Bijou: Oh, I'm glad.

Alvarez: Oh, let me finish with Kees. Like I said, he became part of our group that ended up being Jack, Kees, and myself, who were the principal people. We had another partner for a while named Jaap Penraat. But that ended at some point and… Not too happily, but it ended.

And that’s when Kees became interested in working for us and kind of took over Jaap’s position, and started working with Jack directly. He was a terrific guy. And I was very surprised when he died of AIDS because… He must have gotten it from his lover, Sydney, because Sydney also got it and also passed away. And, a year or two later, Kees became ill and he died.

So that left it just up to me, and that’s where I finally decided - after making that little film, which was kind of satisfying for me - that it was time to get out of the business. That’s when I started looking for people that might be interested in buying the business, buying all the material, which turned out to be Steve. And I’m glad it was, because he’s been the most trustful of the ones that I talked to about it. There were other people interested, but I knew what would happen. We wouldn’t be who we are today if it had gone to somebody else and they copied our films badly and, you know. It would have been awful. So I’m glad Steve had some real interest in keeping it as a sort of a record of what was happening in the time when they were made, and so forth, which was one of the things Jack…

Speaking of the philosophy, you know, he said that these films were like literature and that if we kept them - you know, rather than sell them - we would end up eventually having them seen over and over and over again and be a representation of what it was like in the days that we shot them, you know? Because most of them were contemporary stories of people at that time. So that’s kind of what his philosophy was. He would make films and try to incorporate things that were relevant to the time that we were shooting in.

Bijou: Yeah, that was probably a conscious effort from the start, even from Left-Handed?

Alvarez: Yeah. It’s funny. After making Left-Handed, and then making a few others, I kind of became a little bit… It wasn’t embarrassed exactly, but… Left-Handed is, no question about, it a crude film. We didn’t shoot in sync sound, we had to dub in the voices, and so forth, and we did it as best we could. And then, Left-Handed always bothered me, because, to me, it wasn’t professional. And looking back at it now, I find I like it very much, you know? (laughs) I like what we were doing.

Bijou: Yeah, I think it's great.

Alvarez: And the fact that it was different. It was different than any other gay sex film that was ever made.

Bijou: Yeah, it is! It does stand out. Even the non-sync sound does something really interesting in it. Its style feels really different, even from your other work.

Alvarez: Yeah, yeah. To me, now, the dubbing almost becomes like a narration, you know? Like it’s almost purposefully done that way (laughs), you know, after the fact. But anyway, I ended up really liking Left-Handed a lot, because it sort of set the mood, also, of my type of film editing. And a lot of the techniques I used in Left-Handed, I used later on in other films that we made, so it kind of was our benchmark movie, being our first.

Bijou: That’s interesting you mentioned developing some techniques there, because in terms of developing cutting hardcore sequences, since the genre was pretty new in the era, were you sort of figuring that out from scratch or… I mean, you’d seen some other [porn] films, but… What was that like developing how to cut and how to pace those sequences?

Alvarez: Well, for one thing, our films, sometimes they got criticized because they weren’t explicit enough, whereas some films are almost like a medical study.

Bijou: Yes. (laughs) Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Alvarez: Ours were more like – at least I felt and Jack felt – to capture the sensuality of the sex or the dynamics of a sex scene, and whatever shot said that the best is the shot that we used. So we didn’t go in for, like, where you can see every pubic hair, you know? (laughs)

Bijou: (laughs) Yeah. Right. Because that B&W sex scene from Left-Handed is, I think, very beautiful and erotic, but it’s far from being like a medical, durational kind of sex scene.

Alvarez: Yeah. And that B&W sequence in that section, Jack did on purpose B&W, because he said, “We’re going to do like The Wizard of Oz, only backwards.” (laughs) In The Wizard of Oz, it’s in B&W until Dorothy goes through the door, and goes into Oz, and it becomes Technicolor. [And in Left-Handed], when it becomes a dream sequence, it turns into B&W film. And that’s how that came about. And with things like that, you know… I mean, we did that before anybody else [in sex films] did that. Maybe some people followed us, you know, and did the same sort of thing, but… But my cutting, especially, I really loved the idea of creating a piece, a sex scene that had some rhythm to it and some sense of movies, of real movies, you know?


Bijou: Oh yeah, that’s a good distinction, because the sex scenes do feel cinematic in your films.

Left-Handed color to black-and-white shift
Left-Handed color to B&W shift

Alvarez: Yeah. So that’s pretty much the story of Hand in Hand Films. There’s a lot more. If you look at the book, you’ll see that there is a lot more. (laughs)

Bijou: Oh yes, there is. It's a fantastic read. I’m so happy you all put that together.

Alvarez: The book was written by a German guy [Marco Siedelmann] that I met and got to know at a festival where our films were shown, and he said, “I want to do a book on Jack Deveau.” So I said, “Great!” And he said, “And it should have pictures,” and I thought, well, I have some pictures. I mean, Steve has most of them, but I kept a few for myself. You know, things that were duplicates, and so forth. And so, with that, I was able to help him get this book out.

Good Hot Stuff book cover
Book cover - Good Hot Stuff: The Life and Times of Gay Film Pioneer Jack Deveau

Thank you to Robert Alvarez for taking the time to talk to us and share stories. For much more information about Hand in Hand Films and a more extensive interview with Alvarez, please check out Good Hot Stuff: The Life and Times of Gay Film Pioneer Jack Deveau.

Bijou is very proud to present Hand in Hand's full film catalog! You can watch their movies on DVD and Streaming.

Further Reading, Listening & Viewing for more information on Hand in Hand Films:

Excerpt from the Hand in Hand Films documentary Good Hot Stuff (1975) on Vimeo and more Hand in Hand clips on our Vimeo and YouTube channels
Bijou Blog - Jack Deveau: Vintage Gay Porn Director Profile
Interview with Tom DeSimone (Part 1 and Part 2)
Ask Any Buddy podcast episodes on movies produced and/or distributed by Hand in Hand Films: Good Hot Stuff, Drive, The Night Before, Adam and Yves, The Destroying Angel, Rough Trades, Fire Island Fever, American Cream, Catching Up, The Idol

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Political Musings from David

Posted by David Boyer

 

We still relive the past. I read Time magazine. Last month they put out a special issue honoring 100 women of the past century to mark the anniversary of women's suffrage in the US. (I could go on about having to allow women, minorities the right to vote but I'll leave that for another time.)

Sometimes, I get a magazine like this, one that presents a lot of history or extremely in-depth coverage of a news event or person that I keep as a reference for the future. This issue of Time is one such example.

I like history, to understand where we came from, how our history was shaped by the world at that time and perhaps why folks have their current thoughts or actions.

Growing up, most of the history we were taught in public schools of the 50's and 60's was pretty much "white washed." The contributions of blacks, Native Americans, women, etc were not present in our books.

So this issue of Time that gave me a small glimpse of these 100 women that had such a remarkable impact on our world and our history is a real treasure.

I am happy that I knew several of those listed, I remember some from the news of my lifetime like Indira Gandhi & Golda Meir (we have not yet had a woman lead our nation) and others I am coming to learn about now.

Our history lessons should include all parts of our history, not just what the famous white guys did, but also the women, black folks, natives and immigrants who have made or are shaping our nation and world.

But history is repeating itself today.

I am familiar with the McCarthy era of the 50's. I learned about the accusations of being communist, blacklisting writers/actors, etc and all. But I missed the part one of these women had in bringing that era to a close and wish we had her in our Senate today.

Margaret Chase Smith was a Senator from Maine and she stood up to McCarthy in the senate. They were both Republicans but she challenged his witch hunt with her Declaration of Conscience. One of her comments in the Time article was this:

"I don't want to see the Republican Party rise to victory on the four horses of calumny: fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear."

Perhaps the Republicans need to study a little more of their own history. They seem to have hopped on the ride pulled by those same four horses today as they have embraced these four - fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear - as the way to govern and lead our nation.

Such a shame.

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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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Condoms Before the Days They Were Rubbers!

posted by Madame Bubby

When I was in sixth grade (I didn’t go to a middle school or a junior high), the tougher boys were joking about rubbers. I did not make the connection to condoms until high school, climaxing in the time when, believe it or not, my dad gave me one to put in my wallet. He thought I needed one because I was hanging out with some girls (little did he or, most significantly, I know I was their gay friend, and one of the girls, nicknamed “Inch," was a lesbian).

I digress. Condoms weren’t always rubber. Before the invention of vulcanized rubber in the 19th century, condoms were made usually of some kind of linen smeared with chemicals or, ew, animal tissue or bladder. What’s interesting is that since ancient times they were used as both a means of birth control and a protection against STDs. (Ironically, usually birth control and/or abortion was the province of the woman, who was blamed for issues is in this area, even though, by the Middle Ages, the established view was that the woman was merely the physical receptacle of the life-giving, soul-containing male sperm.)

Some interesting facts about pre and early modern condoms and condom usage:

There’s a legend that the King Minos of Crete, subject to so many curses, used a goat’s bladder as a female condom to protect his partners because he suffered from a strange affliction; his semen was filled with snakes and scorpions.

Those short loincloths Greek and Roman guys wore (mostly those of the slave and laborer class), that in the sword and sandal movies showed off hot, muscular legs, often consisted of little more than a covering for the penis. If someone in a higher class wore one of these “lower class” outfits, some have speculated they may have served as form of condom.
 

Ancient Greek man in short loincloth
Ancient Greek man in short loincloth, Source: Pinterest

Sexual norms changed during the Middle Ages with the rise of Christian theocracies, and the emphasis on sex and procreation tended to put condoms under the radar, so to speak, and we also lost some knowledge of their substance and use during the ancient world. Some writings by Muslims and Jews, who during this period in some areas comprised the majority of physicians, mentioned soaking a cloth in onion juice or other perceived spermicides.

The syphilis outbreak that began among French troops in 1494 prompted an Italian guy named Gabriele Falloppio (from whence we get the name fallopian tube) to pretty much invent the first item we now can define as a condom. He invented a linen sheath sized to cover the glans of the penis, tied to it with a little ribbon, smeared with spermicide. He claimed to have saved the lives of 1100 sailors with the device. Sailors. And with that word, one I think can pretty much imply that these guys weren’t always going after the clichéd wenches.
 

Gabriele Falloppio
Gabriele Falloppio, Source: Sciencemuseum.org

During the Renaissance, condoms were also made of animal intestines or bladders. By the 18th century, they were available in all shapes and sizes; one could buy them especially at the ubiquitous barbershops, which weren’t just places for haircuts. The barbers performed various surgeries, dental work, and especially bloodletting.
 

Retro Durex condom
Condom made of animal intestine, Source: mirror.uk

During the above periods, the upper, and later the burgeoning middle classes, were the ones who used condoms. The lower classes couldn’t afford them, and they also lacked education on STDs.

Now the omnipresent and mostly all-powerful Catholic Church during this time wasn’t exactly keen on the use of condoms as birth control, of course, but it was yet to make its views on the subject official in the Pope’s encyclical Humanae Vitae with the advent of the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

And in the early 19th century, after the invention of the rubber condom which increased usage and convenience considerably, the notorious Comstock Act pretty much made life miserable for anyone who wanted to use any form of contraceptive, much less educate oneself on the issue.
 

Retro Durex condom
Retro Durex condom, Source: sexinfo.soc.ucsb.edu/article/history-condom

The deadly AIDS epidemic of course made the condom a matter of life and death, with the holy haters decrying what condoms had always been used for, saving lives, in favor of reviving the scapegoating of anyone with STDs.

By the way: there was no “Earl of Condom.” The etymology of the word is indeed unknown!

Source: mostly Wikipedia’s article on the History of Condoms, combined with some of my own knowledge of gender/sexuality history

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