IN and OUT and All ABOUT

By Josh Eliot

 

The year was 1991. Catalina Video’s GM, Chris Mann, had left the company and started running things over at Video Team. As soon as Chris was OUT, The new GM, Mike, was IN. He was handpicked for the position by David Weiss, William Higgins' right hand man. Weiss and Higgins had an investment business called Drake’s Bookstore on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. Mike had proven himself to be a great manager when they put him in charge of the high end bookstore and he kept the business in the black when tough times called for radical changes. The first was when MOM (the “Merchants on Melrose”), a group representing about 3000 residents, complained to city officials. All the peep show booths needed to be removed because the city investigators found Drake's and another shop named Taboo in violation of the zoning code intended to keep adult entertainment stores away from schools and residential areas. The battles lasted many years, before and after Mike came to manage Catalina Video’s operations. The city also demanded that they reduce the percentage of sex-related adult products in each store, replacing content with products unrelated to sexuality. Drake's eventually closed.

I’m sure it was a real pain in the ass for him dealing with this stuff over and over again. Catalina must have felt like an escape to him. We were a pretty well-oiled machine when he came aboard. Scott Masters was producer, I managed the video crew and John Travis was one of the top rated directors of the time, bringing success and big bucks in sales from movies like Powertool and Undercover. Chi Chi LaRue and his best friend, Kevin, worked in sales and promotion. TJ worked in the art department and designed all the boxes and one sheets. Costello Presley was composing and providing all the music for the movies, and Chet Thomas was the full time editor. As soon as Mike came into power, he started shopping for a new location in Reseda. Our palatial North Hollywood headquarters was too big and expensive to suit Mike’s taste and he had one thing in mind: stop the bleeding of money. In the early 90s, the sales started to decline on new releases as the market was suddenly overblown with competition. We were all kinds of shocked when we saw the size of the new place. The warehouse was a decent size, and Mike’s office could have easily been split into three, but the rest was divided into small offices just big enough for a desk and a path to walk around it. Chet had a nice space for editing, though it was also supposed to be where Costello stayed, but shortly after moving to the new location Costello Presley left the company.

 

Vintage Catalina promotional ad
Vintage Catalina promotional ad designed by TJ
 
Josh Eliot and TJ

Josh Eliot and TJ

 

From the very start, we were shown that Mike and Chris Mann were very different in their management style. There was tension between Scott Masters and Mike regarding how things were handled in the production department. The good ole days of blowing money on non-essential things was definitely gone for good. It wasn’t so drastic that our company cars were taken away or anything like that, but we would be tightening our belts on everything that had to do with production expenses. Things started to boil over when Scott Masters and John Travis were told that royalties were a thing of the past and the company would no longer compensate them monthly on their previous movies' sales. They settled on a flat fee. All future movies would be on a flat fee basis as well.

My contract with Catalina never included royalties from the get go, so there weren’t any financial changes for me. The whole thing between Masters, Travis and Mike came to a head behind closed doors and, like a flick of the switch, Masters and Travis were OUT. Masters called to tell me they were parting ways, but assured me that they would be starting their own production company (later to be called Studio 2000). He wanted me to leave Catalina with them and join them on their venture, but could offer no financial detail on how and when I would be compensated. It was in limbo. Deep down, I really did not want to leave Catalina, because I had a great rapport with Mike and all the other associates. Luckily for me, before Masters could come back with a concrete offer, Mike pulled me aside at my 30th birthday party at the Gold Coast Bar in West Hollywood and offered me the job of Catalina’s producer, which I instantly accepted. The whirlwind began, and for the next 15 years we pumped out two to three movies a month until our very last production: Hot Buttered Cop Porn in 2006. Sometime over the next number of years, once David Weiss passed away in Amsterdam, Mike quietly purchased the company from William Higgins.

 

Hot Buttered Cop Porn box covers

Hot Buttered Cop Porn original and re-release box covers

 

After wrapping Cop Porn, we spent the next three years remastering and re-releasing all of our VHS movies onto DVD. It was kind of a relief to have the pressure of producing lifted from my shoulders and I could focus strictly on video editing, something I thoroughly enjoy. Going back to my early teens when I would sit on the living room floor with my 8mm editing unit, complete with splicing tapes, editing my home movies like Avalanche, Bionic Boy vs Big Foot, Crash, Earth Quake, and The Last Voyage. You can see trailers of those movies on my YouTube channel if you like disaster movies or if you just want to torture yourself! Here’s the link to: Josh Eliot, What A Disaster.

 

Josh Eliot's What a Disaster 8mm movie images

 

OUT of the blue one day in 2009, Mike came to visit me in Palm Desert, where I had moved to while continuing to edit and remaster for the company. I was shocked and surprised to hear that he was selling the business known as Catalina Video to Channel 1 Releasing. C1R had several partners including Chi Chi LaRue, so it seemed like it was a great choice for the library to go to them. He explained that part of the negotiation of the sale included keeping me and a couple Catalina employees on payroll for two years from the sale date. Though I was asked to produce new content for them, the thought of producing again was a real turn off to me, so I ultimately decided to only work as an editor for them, which they agreed to.

Two years to the very date of the company’s purchase of Catalina Video, I got my walking papers, and just like that, I was OUT.

 

 

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
Super NOVA
Whatever Happened to NEELY O’HARA?
Is That AL PARKER In Your Photo?
DOWN BY LAW: My $1,000,000 Mistake
We Waited 8hrs for a Cum Shot... Is That a World Record?
Don't Wear "Short Shorts" on the #38 Geary to LANDS END
How Straight Are You Really?
BEHIND THE (not so) GREEN DOOR
The BOOM BOOM Room
CATCHING UP with Tom DeSimone
Everybody’s FREE to FEEL GOOD
SCANDAL at the Coral Sands Motel
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: The Castro Theatre
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: The Midnight Sun
RSVP: 2 Weeks Working on a Gay Cruise Ship
VOYAGER of the Damned
I'M NOT A LESBIAN DIRECTOR
Diving Into SoMa/Folsom: THE FOLSOM STREET FAIR
Diving into SoMa/Folsom: A TALE OF TWO STUDS
BALL BROTH
My 1992 “Porn Set” Diary
Out of Print
There’s a Gloryhole WHERE??!
LUNCH HOUR: When the Big Boys Eat

 
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SCANDAL at the Coral Sands Motel

By Josh Eliot

 

When Catalina Video moved me to Los Angeles in 1989, I developed a great friendship with the post production supervisor Chet Thomas. Chet was a 5'8” fair skinned blond California boy. We were in our late 20s and enjoyed the same interests. Our bonding happened the night we went to a premiere screening of the movie Scandal with Bridget Fonda and Joanne Whaley Kilmer. The movie was about two loose girls and some politicians whose actions created a scandal in England. We both took on their quirky free-spirited attributes and made a running joke of it by calling each other “Sal” - the name they used for the “loose” one in the movie. Chet was the Kilmer (wild child) character and I was the Bridget Fonda (along for the ride) character.

Our hang out spot at the time was the Spike in West Hollywood. It was just a block and a half away from my apartment and within walking distance to Chet’s as well. We would turn on the “Sal” mode whenever we partied there and Chet, being a “loose goose,” was rubbing off on me. It was like a competition of who could score first. Chet always won; it was quantity not quality with him and he was more open to things like running out into the parking lot for a quickie.

 

Scandal poster, the Spike bar

Scandal poster, the Spike bar

 

I did beat him at least once, with a hot muscleman named Moses. Yes Moses, and I have to say he was heavenly. I don’t think Moses ever left his house with a shirt on, or if he did it was always unbuttoned and wide open. At least every time we saw him at the bar he was that way. He was one of those guys that you thought was completely unapproachable, but as things turned out he approached me one night. Chet was pissed the next day, when we caught up with each other, because he was trying to close that deal forever!

Chet knew every hot spot in Los Angeles and would introduce me to all of them, good and bad. One night after drinking he took me to a place called the Coral Sands Motel. Not necessarily a “good” one. This place was a bathhouse disguised as a motel. It was quite a large and in a dingy part of the city between Hollywood and Silver Lake. He didn’t explain a thing to me, just took me there one night after drinking shots at the Spike. The place had two levels with exterior doors in a rectangle, facing each other and a courtyard with pool and sauna in the center. I guess the protocol was that you go to your room (leaving your door open of course for passersby to look in), strip down, wrap yourself in a towel and walk the grounds. How was this possible? Large apartment buildings on each side could look right down into the courtyard! I just followed Chet’s lead and did what he did. Sal and Sal were in full swing, hoping from room to room, talking with the occupants. If we liked them then we would stay for a while, if not we were back to walking the grounds. We ended up in two guys' room that we thought were hot, but once inside it felt like they were straight out of The Sopranos, and maybe on the run??? After smoking some weed with them we made up some story and left the room, continuing our pursuit of happiness on the grounds. This night was probably the wildest I’d ever been I my life. It’s a little embarrassing for me to share but I can write about it now because it was quite a unique experience.

 

Coral Sands Motel

Coral Sands Motel

 

Chet and I had a very close friendship and for about two years we were literally attached at the hip, but it all came to a screeching halt when he met a guy named John. He was smitten and instantly turned from the Happy Hooker to Dolly Madison overnight. It was shortly after this point that I met Mark Rutter, who I discussed in my previous blog “7 Years with Colt Model Mark Rutter.” We were both now pretty much “married up” and slowly started only seeing each other at work. Chet was editing my movies and as our friendship became distant so did our working relationship. In my movies, I started noticing constant “choppy” cuts where I knew there was the ability to make the edits look smooth. We were still friends but if Chet got a hair up his ass about something, you’d better watch out. More and more as time went on, I felt like he was sabotaging some of my movies by including funky sound or choppy edits, etc. Chi Chi noticed it on her movies too. It got so bad that on a movie that was super important to me, Single White Male, he actually reversed the order of two scenes, making the storyline a little messed up. That year I won Best Screenplay and Rob Cryston won Best Actor for Single White Male, but I was still pissed about the out of order scenes which I didn’t catch until it was released on VHS. I walked a fine line between respecting our friendship or totally calling him out on what he was doing. Luckily, things were resolved when I asked the general manager to let me edit my own movies, which he agreed to and purchased a separate editing bay for me to use. Chet and I remained friends, but the “Sal” days were over forever.

 

Single White Male

Single White Male

 

On New Year's Day this year, I was finally able to put the mixed up scenes from Single White Male back into the proper order. It’s not that way in the XXX version, but it is in the PG version I put on my YouTube Channel, which you can take a look at if you like. Rob Cryston slays in that role! Chet Thomas and I first met when he came to San Francisco to shoot The Big One, where we bonded over creating special effects for the earthquake scene in his movie. Upon moving to L.A. we became like brothers, and with brothers there are always some bumpy roads. In this blog I have an obligation to tell the truth, good or bad. The truth is I look at my friendship with Chet, including the bumps, as one of my fondest relationships from the past. Chet, in addition to editing for Scott Master at Nova and Catalina, directed some amazing movies for Catalina including: Sex Crimes, The Getaway, NightForce, Cruise Control and Too Damn Big. He, like many other talents in our community, was taken from us way too early...

 

Some of Chet Thomas' movies

Some of Chet Thomas' movies

 

 

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
Super NOVA
Whatever Happened to NEELY O’HARA?
Is That AL PARKER In Your Photo?
DOWN BY LAW: My $1,000,000 Mistake
We Waited 8hrs for a Cum Shot... Is That a World Record?
Don't Wear "Short Shorts" on the #38 Geary to LANDS END
How Straight Are You Really?
BEHIND THE (not so) GREEN DOOR
The BOOM BOOM Room
CATCHING UP with Tom DeSimone
Everybody’s FREE to FEEL GOOD

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BEHIND THE (not so) GREEN DOOR

By Josh Eliot

 

Years before starting work with Catalina Video in 1980, I lived on the corner of O’Farrell and Leavenworth Streets in the “Upper Tenderloin” (as I like to think of it) in San Francisco. A typical walk up to Polk Street, where my friends and I would tend to eat dinner, would take me right past the Mitchell Brother’s O’Farrell Theatre. In 1972, the Mitchell Brothers' first, and most famous, full length adult feature Behind the Green Door was released. The movie was filmed inside the theater and featured the debut performance of Marilyn Chambers who, at the time of its release, was the cover model on the Ivory Snow laundry detergent boxes. That fact hit the newspapers and magazines, helping the brother’s $60,000.00 investment earn them a profit of over 50 million dollars!

 

Marilyn Chambers; The Mitchell Brothers' O'Farrell Theatre & Art Theatres Marilyn Chambers; The Mitchell Brothers' O'Farrell Theatre & Art Theatres

 

Of course I didn’t know any of this information at the time, I just loved the fantastic way they painted the building, with whales, tigers and all sorts of wild animals. I guess it was pretty wild inside as well! It felt like they were always showing Green Door either as the headliner or as a second feature to a new release. Boy, that print must have had a lot of edit tape splices from being run through the projector so much! I didn’t realize how much of a classic it was at the time. I lived in a studio apartment that I shared with Abraham, a classmate at the Art Institute. Abraham mentioned that he had never seen Deep Throat, which was playing on a double bill with The Devil in Miss Jones at the Art Theatres in the “Lower Tenderloin,” evidently for a good ten years straight! We went to an afternoon showing and the place was packed! As expected, the print was choppy as hell and at one point got stuck in the projector and started to burn. It wasn’t pretty when the house lights went up while they fixed it, but that’s what made the experience all the more fabulous in my book. We were both kind of surprised how low-budget “Throat” was and how “Miss Jones” looked like an old lady! Abraham starred in my class assignment for instructor George Kuchar titled Behind Blue Eyes (Tap this link to my YouTube Channel if you want to see my very first 8mm feature.) Behind Blue Eyes? Did I subconsciously come up with that title because I kept seeing Behind the Green Door on the marquee? Hmmm. I never got to see the Mitchell Brother’s movie but I always wondered, just what the hell went on behind that door?

 

Behind Blue Eyes poster

Behind Blue Eyes poster

 

Flash forward, way forward, from 1980 to 1989. I received the news that Catalina, for whom I’d been working for about one and a half years, was closing down the soundstage and moving production back to Los Angeles. It was rough saying goodbye to my friends and crew members, because I was the only one Scott Masters and John Travis had convinced general manager Chris Mann to take back with them to run production in Los Angeles. They found me a condo in West Hollywood a few blocks from Scott Masters' house and I moved in. First thing Monday morning, Masters and I drove to the Catalina offices in North Hollywood where I was reunited with Chet Thomas, the editor, who I became friends with when he came up to San Francisco to shoot his “earthquake porn,” The Big One, and I also reunited with Chi Chi LaRue whom I'd met once before. When I was in Chet’s editing suite, we were talking about musical scores. The first couple of movies I made in San Francisco were sent to Chet for editing, not allowing me to have any input on specifics, music, titles or anything. After shooting the scenes, I never saw the footage again until it was out on VHS tape. In a few days I would be starting my third movie, Hard to Be Good, about a young corn-fed stud heading off to a big city college. Costello Presley was credited for music on all of the Higgins and Catalina releases and I wanted to see if he would create a theme song with vocals for the title sequence.

 

<em>The Big One</em> and <em>Hard to Be Good</em>

Behind Blue Eyes poster

 

Chet walked me over to a random door in the middle of the warehouse, which was access to Costello’s area. “Should I knock?” I asked. “Oh hell no… You’ll freak him out.” Chet told me that the only way to communicate with Costello was to write a note with the type of music you wanted and slip it under his door. “You’ll never see him in person, he’s a bit of a recluse,” Chet explained. When William Higgins high tailed it to Amsterdam then Prague, he allowed Costello to move into a private space in the warehouse. Evidently Costello Presley only left that room after everyone went home for the night. No one ever saw him, or if they did it was a rarity. So, I wrote my note and magically a cassette tape was waiting for me one morning with the song “Beauty, Beauty,” with music and lyrics by Costello Presley. The only problem was that by the time I got that cassette in my hot little hand, Hard to Be Good was already finished and released, so I held onto it and used it in my future movie Easy Riders. (Honestly I’m not 100% sure he wrote and recorded it for me or if he had used it for something in the past and gave it to me as “new for you.”)

Again I found myself wondering what was going on “behind that door” of his to cause such a delay of my request. I’m pretty certain that it wasn’t as exciting as what was going on behind Marilyn Chambers' Green Door! (If he was living there, where did he shower?) About a year later, the Catalina offices moved to a smaller facility in Reseda. During the move, I actually saw Costello Presley for the first time! He was leaving with a couple of knapsacks filled with his belongings, as he wasn’t allowed to “shack-up” in the new building. That day, the music stopped; Costello Presley walked out of the Catalina offices and we never heard from him again. It was kind of sad. We continued re-using music from his cassette tape collection and credited “Music by Rock Hard” on the movies, until we met Sonic Seduction, who scored our movies until the company was sold to Channel 1.

 


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
Super NOVA
Whatever Happened to NEELY O’HARA?
Is That AL PARKER In Your Photo?
DOWN BY LAW: My $1,000,000 Mistake
We Waited 8hrs for a Cum Shot... Is That a World Record?
Don't Wear "Short Shorts" on the #38 Geary to LANDS END
How Straight Are You Really?

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Is That AL PARKER In Your Photo?

By Josh Eliot

 

My spouse Tony Fontana and I are super-organized. We keep the place spotless. All things of importance have their own binders. The filing cabinet folders get edited yearly, and our desk calendar is always up to date. One thing we did during the initial Covid-19 lockdown was go through our photos and separate them into categories inside manila envelopes. A bit much? All that aside, the other day I was going through the envelopes to pull pictures for a recent blog about my past partner, Mark Rutter. Tony worked with Mark Rutter at the Gold Coast Bar and they shared a history as well, so I was looking to see if there were any shots in his envelopes with Mark. I didn’t find Mark, but I came across this one shot that kind of blew my mind. I pulled it out and went up to Tony and said: “Is that AL PARKER in your photo?”

 

Al Parker and friends at a Renaissance Fair, 1980s

Al Parker and friends at a Renaissance Fair, 1980s

 

It was, in fact, Al Parker in the photo. Al and his group of friends were photographed at a Renaissance Fair in the 1980s. My partner Tony is standing in the photo facing the group of friends, which included the woman wearing the blue outfit. Probably a Fred Segal outfit, as she loved to shop there. Her name was Nancy Cole Sawaya, and she was the “glue” that united this large group of friends.

 

Al Parker's friends at Ren Fair

Al Parker's friends at Ren Fair

 

Nancy lived in a mansion off of LA’s infamous Mulholland Drive. A typical weekend for the group would be to start Saturday night off at Greg's Blue Dot, a Hollywood gay hot spot, whose clientele was the crème de la crème of the best looking studs. Around 1 a.m., the group would walk a few doors down to the members only disco Probe and stayed there until well past dawn. The Probe would feature “A-list” divas like Viola Wells , Angela Clemmons (“Give Me Just a Little More Time”), Fun Fun, Linda Clifford, Madleen Kane and many more. When Nancy and the boys showed up there, the staff would see to their quick entrance. After dancing the night away they would all end up at Nancy’s place poolside, where the party would go on throughout the day; even the DJs from Probe and Blue Dot would follow and spin records.

 

Nancy at Probe and a backyard pool

Nancy at Probe and a backyard pool

 

In October of 1982, Nancy and her friends Matt Redman, Ervin Munro and Max Drew attended an emergency meeting featuring a presentation from the San Francisco Kaposi’s Sarcoma Foundation about Gay Related Immunodeficiency Disease. Stunned by what they learned, these four friends set up a telephone hotline to answer questions from the community, because fear about the new disease was rampant. Over the holidays, Nancy and her small group of friends threw a Christmas party at her place called “A Christmas Present,” where guests were asked to donate money in the spirit of the season. Shortly after, Nancy took Tony to a small office in Hollywood on Cole Avenue she was thinking of renting to get his opinion. With the funds earned from the Christmas party, around $8000, she leased the office with her team of friends and offered counseling services to about twenty people known to have Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, making it a first in Los Angeles County to do so. This small office, through it’s hard work and dedication to the gay community, became APLA, AIDS Project Los Angeles. APLA’s early fundraisers were held in gay bars and discos and they went on to raise millions of dollars over the next few years with the help of such celebrities as Joan Rivers and Elizabeth Taylor. Nancy served on the Board of Directors for nearly two years while continuously offering one-on-one counseling to the members.

Co-founders Nancy Sawaya and Max Drew tested positive for the disease and by August of 1986. Nancy had been hospitalized six times. Nancy and her husband Lou adopted a baby girl named Morgan who was two years old when her mother passed away in October 1986 at age 40. This was the same year Al Parker lost his partner of eleven years, Richard Cole aka Steve Taylor, with whom he started Surge Studios. Surge Studios was one of the first studios to mandate safe sex practices. Al Parker passed away on August 17th 1992, also at the age of 40, and his ashes were scattered near the nude section of San Gregorio State Beach. Seeing both Al and Nancy in this random photo and hearing these stories about them was really quite extraordinary. They both became icons of gay history, giving so much of themselves to the gay community. Such a tragedy to lose them both so early in life.

 

Al Parker and Richard Cole (Steve Taylor); Nancy on Newsweek cover

Al Parker and Richard Cole (Steve Taylor); Nancy on Newsweek cover

 

As I started to put away the photos, I saw a manila envelope labeled “Tony and Friends,” so I thought I would look in that one to see if there were any more shots of Al or Nancy. I carefully scanned each and every photo, checking to see if I could recognize any faces when suddenly... I saw another one! Tony was facing the camera making a silly face, but it was the person who was to the right of the shot that again blew my mind. I took the photograph, marched down the hallway to the office, went up to Tony again and said : “Is that ESTELLE GETTY from GOLDEN GIRLS in your photo?”

 

Estelle Getty at a West Hollywood party, 1980s

Estelle Getty at a West Hollywood party, 1980s

 

Thank you to Josh Eliot for use of his photos.


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
Super NOVA
Whatever Happened to NEELY O’HARA?

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DREAMLAND: The Other Place

By Josh Eliot

 

I settled into my new West Hollywood apartment with Russ Meyer’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls playing on my TV, when Jeff Burton showed up at my door to interview for the still photographer position. In 1989, Catalina Video moved production to Los Angeles from San Francisco and we needed a new crew. Upon viewing his photographs, I got very excited. They didn’t have your traditional framing or expected angles, so I was intrigued and hired him on the spot.

On the movie sets, Jeff would shoot stills alongside me while I videotaped the action. There was a “blimp box” that the still camera sat inside in order to silence the clicking noise. Jeff hated it and we would go back and forth over the years bickering about how cumbersome the box was until we finally came to the agreement that he could stop using it. One day, I was shooting a scene and I heard his camera click, which ruined the sound, so I turned to him and noticed his camera wasn’t even facing the set. I thought it was a fluke, then it happened again, and again, and again on different sets. It wasn’t until we were sitting at the bar in the historic Congress Hotel that he finally came clean. We were in Chicago to shoot the International Mr. Leather Contest, as well as scenes for upcoming movies. The Congress Hotel was ground zero for the leather men in town and the place was packed. They were lined up along the walls of the lobby bathroom jacking each other off and packed into the lobby where some where flogged, tied up and wrapped like mummies. The crew and I were celebrating wrapping the shoot by running around the place and somehow ended up on the rooftop of the Congress Hotel partying under the large letters, reminiscent of the Hollywood sign.

 

Blimp box, IML and the Congress Hotel

Blimp box, IML and the Congress Hotel

 

Later in the lobby bar, Jeff was mustering up the courage to talk with me about something. The strange clicks I’d been hearing on the movie sets for months were Jeff shooting shots of the sex from strange angles for his personal collection. He might see a reflection of the models fucking in a coffee table and shoot that or he’d take a picture of a bowl with out of focus models fucking in the background, making them look like steam rising from it. He went on to tell me that his photos showed at an amfAR AIDS Auction, where a studio owner saw them and offered him a show in New York, and someone else saw them and offered him a show in Japan. He was nervous because he was shooting these pictures while on the clock. I told him not to worry about it and I was proud of what he accomplished and thought the whole idea of what he was doing was so creative and impressive. He must have been relieved and decided to let loose, because hours later we spotted him, in the lobby, sitting on the lap of this huge muscle daddy in a cop uniform. We joked about how he looked like a ventriloquist puppet!

 

Jeff Burton photos
Jeff Burton photos
Jeff Burton photos

Some of Jeff Burton's porn set photography

 

Jeff attended the show in Japan, where a publisher saw his work and offered him his first hard cover book, Jeff Burton Untitled. As time went on Jeff released two more books, Dreamland and The Other Place, an oversized coffee table book with stunning photos suitable for framing.

 

Two of Jeff Burton's books

The covers of Dreamland, Untitled and The Other Place

 

Years later, we reunited on the set of a bisexual movie I was making called Cracked, with Sharon Kane as a sexy hatchet-wielding nutcase. He was shooting for an upcoming fashion festival in the South of France, where young designers would compete and he was a guest juror showcasing his work. He dressed my cast in head to toe Prada and shot his special brand of photos while I videotaped partially clothed sex scenes. At one point, Sharon Kane was getting out of her skin tight sequined dress when her head got stuck in the overly long collar. We heard screaming and panic and everyone ran over to help. She was freaking out and it took forever to get her head out, but the best part was once the dress was off, Jeff peeled back the long collar material and there was a perfect impression, from the make-up, of Sharon Kane’s face with a “Death Scream” look. We all rolled in laughter, except for Sharon; it reminded us both of the good ole days when we worked together, so much laughter.

 

Sharon Kane in Cracked

Sharon Kane in Cracked

 

Jeff’s impressive resume includes work for Tom Ford, Cartier, Yves Saint Laurent, French Vogue, Vanity Fair and Wrangler Europe, to mention a few. His primary gallery, Casey Kaplan, the Barbican Centre in London and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao all displayed his work. His newest accomplishment, releasing in November 2022, is the Louis Vuitton: A Fashion Eye Travel Series book, Las Vegas: Jeff Burton. (He says the shots he took octagon side at the UFC are amazing!) Staying true to his voyeur sexual style that he discovered and originated on a California gay porno set and expanded to different perspectives, Jeff’s work reached across boundaries to become embraced internationally. You have to check out his webpage, jeffburtonstudio.com, for a gallery of his work. The shots where the Tom Ford cologne is being poured over three bubble butt boys is priceless! Congratulations to my friend Jeff Burton on your major success, transitioning porno into the mainstream.

 

Jeff Burton photos
Jeff Burton photos
Jeff Burton photos

More of Jeff Burton's porn set photography

 

Thank you to Jeff Burton for allowing your photographs in this blog.

 


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!

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