How Straight Are You, Really?

By Josh Eliot

 

Early on in my career with Catalina Video, we had a pretty regular list of repeat actors we used in the movies we were shooting. As I mentioned before, a number of those actors were gay for pay or bisexual. I was 25 when I started with Catalina and before actually meeting these models, which included Johnny Davenport, Eric Manchester, Mike Gregory, Derek Jensen and Chad Knight, my friends and I would always scoff at the fact when someone said they were bisexual. It’s was just how the world reacted to the word bisexual at the time. We would roll our eyes on the set when the models had to watch straight porn to get hard in between shots. We thought that they were doing it for appearances' sake but they were really getting hard looking at the guys. You know, the way silly ass 20 somethings thought back then. In our minds it was always “cut and dry” - you were straight or you were gay, there was no in between. They were performing a gay sex scene so of course they were gay, right? Luckily life experience has shown us all to have a different perspective on things. Bisexuality is alive and well in the world.

 

Kurt Bauer and Mike Gregory

Kurt Bauer & Mike Gregory

 

I became aware of a director named Paul Norman, a pioneer in the industry who some would call “The King of Bi-Sexual Movies.” He made The Big Switch and Passion By Fire in 1986, turning the industry on its head, and Bi and Beyond in 1987. I worked with Kurt Bauer from my first day on the set and many times afterwards in the movies Top Man, My Best Buddy, and The Big One, and he even did a non-sexual walk on in my directorial debut Runaways. Kurt also so happened to grace the cover of Bi and Beyond, which Catalina was distributing at the time, and it happened to be in our pile of tapes for models to watch while jerking their dicks to get hard. I borrowed it from the studio one day and took it home to watch. This was my first time watching a bisexual feature. The movie also featured Mike Gregory who I had literally just finished shooting for a movie called The Young Cadets. Watching Kurt and Mike performing with girls added another layer of understanding for me, opening my cynical mind to the fact that the world was not so black and white as one might think.

 

Some of Paul Norman's bisexual movies

Some of Paul Norman's bisexual movies

 

Unfortunately, an open mind was not something the straight porn industry was experiencing when it came to the idea of bisexual features. I felt like any connection to the gay world was just not something the industry would embrace, on any level, at that time in history. I think Paul Norman brought a sense of legitimacy to them, but they were not having any of it. At the yearly adult video conventions in Las Vegas, the gay and bisexual companies were literally in a completely different room or building! It was hard to get straight porn actors to even consider performing in a straight scene for a bi movie for fear they would be shunned. Paul and his fiancé Tori Wells became the toast of the town after she became a mega-star in the 1989 movie from director Andrew Blake called Night Trips. Blake shot it entirely on 35mm film, while most others were shooting on video. If you’ve never seen it and appreciate straight porno, it’s a “must.” Winner of the AVN Award for Best Film, Cinematography and Editing, it is truly the most stylish adult film I have ever seen. Tori Wells led a star studded cast including: Porsche Lynn, Victoria Paris, Randy Spears and Peter North. Did her mega stardom help move forward the acceptance of Bi movies, directed by her fiancé, within the industry? I’m not sure, but I feel like it opened the door.

 

Night Trips and Paul Norman and Tori Wells

Night Trips and Paul Norman & Tori Wells

 

Two actors that were able to go from gay movies to decades-long careers in straight movies under the radar without any push back from the industry were Jamie Gillis and Jack Wrangler. Back then, things weren’t streamed or online so it was easy to sweep the fact they performed in gay movies under the carpet. One of Jamie Gillis’ best roles was in Boynapped, re-released by Bijou - a Hand in Hand classic directed by Spencer Logan. Jack Wrangler (Gemini, Hot House, Heavy Equipment), well we all know his success story, and Bijou has tons of content featuring his hot-ass-self! Gay for pay? Or bisexual? I’m truly stumped. Another star that comes to mind is Matt Ramsey, made iconic from the desktop scene in The Bigger the Better with Rick Donovan, who went from gay movies to straight movies under the name Peter North. Luckily, by the time I met Peter North, the industry had come to its senses about bisexual movies and Peter was on my set shooting a straight scene with Leanna Foxxx for my Bi-Dolls series. I asked if I could credit him as Matt Ramsey instead of Peter North, but he respectfully declined, we came a long way getting him to act in the movie, but that might have been pushing it.

Then there is Paul Barresi (alleged lover of John Travolta and porn icon). Now, that hot number is in a league all onto himself! YOWZA! I saw him in person once, wearing super tight black slacks, at a movie cinema in West Hollywood some hot chick. I was with Catalina editor Chet Thomas and he pointed him out to me while we were in line... Gay for pay or bisexual? Who the hell cares!!! All Chet and I could focus on was that hot hairy chest and tight ass on him! I’m sure there are dozens more examples I could give of guys who were or could have been gay for pay or bisexual, but quite honestly I can’t stop thinking about Paul Barresi right now, I think I need to go stream Men of the Midway.

 

Paul Barresi in Men of the Midway and more

Paul Barresi in Men of the Midway and more

 

Correction: Bi-Coastal, previously cited as a Paul Norman movie, was a 1985 movie by director Tom DeSimone. We at Bijou apologize for the mix-up. We do make mistakes and are happy when they are pointed out so we can correct them so that we can make sure that the history is properly recorded.

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

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FRANK ROSS, The Boss

By Josh Eliot

 

I spent hours at a time staring across the street at a filthy looking restaurant called the Go-Go Kitchen. It wasn’t the restaurant that caught my attention so much, but the exterior door next to it. A door leading to an upstairs apartment where every shade of rabbit fur coat was walking through it, sometimes with a man, sometimes without. It couldn’t have been more obvious. I’m no fool, I saw Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway starring “Jan Brady” on NBC in 1976. In that movie, Dawn became a sex worker, and she always wore a rabbit fur coat while walking the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. I’m not sure whose name was on the lease for that apartment, but he must have had a lot of “daughters” with a suspiciously similar dress code.

It was 1980 and I was working in the ticket booth at the Screening Room Theater, a place with quite a history. The first full-length adult hardcore feature legally shown in the United States premiered there in 1970, and today there’s a plaque on the building stating so. The film was Alex de Renzy’s Pornography in Denmark: A New Approach. It was billed as a documentary, which helped it avoid legal troubles.

 

Screening Room Theater exterior and plaque

Screening Room Theater exterior and plaque

 

In the 1980s, the Screening Room was a XXX Gay Cinema with live shows on stage. As I sat there analyzing the sex workers' behaviors, I felt two hands begin to rub my shoulders; it was my boss, Frank Ross. In addition to managing the theater, Frank became well known as an actor, producer and director. Some of his features include: Face to Face (aka San Francisco), Black Pack, Black and Bi and Made in the Shade and its sequel. He was a true New Yorker, a bit intimidating, with handsome looks and a tattooed muscular body.

 

Face to Face poster and Made in the Shade VHS cover

Vintage poster for Face to Face (aka San Francisco) and VHS cover for Made in the Shade 1

 

When he interviewed me for the job, he struggled with the idea of whether or not to hire me, because I had just turned 18 the week before. He was very protective of my naivete and took time before exposing me to all the different areas of the theater and its playrooms. As weeks passed and we became more comfortable with each other, he started sharing stories of his sexual adventures. His trysts blew my mind but helped me get more comfortable with accepting myself. I envied my co-worker who was already comfortable in his own skin and would go up to the projection booth and play around with Frank regularly. A dancer named TK, who would talk with me in the booth after the live shows, invited me to go to the Trocadero Transfer with all the dancers. He knew the doorman, so I got in no problem.

 

Trocodero Transfer exterior, Divine's honorary membership card, and a fan dancer

Trocodero Transfer exterior, Divine's honorary membership card, and a fan dancer

 

It was my first time seeing fan dancers, being in a club this size and bonding through party favors with the dancers. At sunrise, we were all at the beach where TK and I went into a cave by the Sutro Baths and played around. Sutro Baths and Lands End Beach are notorious gay cruising spots. When I came into work the next day, Frank had this shit eating grin on his face, like a proud papa. I guess strippers do kiss and tell. Frank totally patted himself on the back for kicking my ass out of the closet, and I guess after months of his influence, he did.

 

Sutro Baths and Lands End Beach images

Sutro Baths and Lands End Beach

 

Frank’s most infamous film as producer was made while I worked for him. He was excited to tell me the details, about a prison guard and convict who are handcuffed together during an escape. “Oh, like The Defiant Ones,” I said, “I love that movie.” He was impressed that I made the connection and invited me to watch them film on the movie set. The shoot was the next day, around the corner at the Bulldog Baths on Turk Street.

 

Bulldog Baths ad and token

 

Bulldog Baths ad and token

 

The infamous bathhouse had a real prison cell set, and he was very excited about it. It was too nerve-wracking for me, so I never went to the set. What a huge mistake! The feature turned out to be Wanted, starring Al Parker and Jack Wrangler. Frank Ross was producing and Steve Scott (Inches, Performance, A Few Good Men, Screenplay) was directing! Let me put this in perspective… this is how I see it: you have Steve Scott who is like the Martin Scorsese of gay porn, Al Parker is the Robert De Niro, and Jack Wrangler is Leonardo DiCaprio. The best of the best for that era, there is no topping that cast or crew. A huge regret not going to that set! FUCK!

 

Wanted DVD cover featuring Al Parker and Jack Wrangler

Wanted DVD cover featuring Al Parker and Jack Wrangler

 

I don’t know if my life would have taken a different direction had I gone to that set or not, but after leaving my Screening Room job in 1981, I wasn’t exposed to the Adult Film Industry again until I was hired at Catalina Video in 1987. Sadly, I recently found out that Frank Ross passed away on May 20th 2021, which made me think back about our time working together. Because we worked on different coasts, he never knew that I ended up working in the same industry as him. I wonder how he would have reacted.

But do you know what the real burning question in my mind is?

Are there still girls going in and out of that door next to the Go-Go Kitchen?

 

 

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.  

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What Was Your First Gay Movie? Please Share!

posted by Madam Bubby

 

A friend of mine told me he used to sneak into gay porn movie theaters in the seventies and eighties. At that time in New York City, where he lived, such establishments were plentiful. Specifically, he remembers first seeing Fred Halsted in leather in the movie L.A. Plays Itself (newly restored by MoMA and re-released on DVD, Blu-ray, and streaming and never forgot the experience, both watching the movie and the “extracurricular experience” that occurred in the seat next to him. Minus the hanky-panky in the seats, the grandparents and even great-grandparents of the current generation can tell a similar story, going to the movies to see a particular movie star they idolized, even seeing a movie that changed their lives and made them decide to go into show business. 

 

Fred Halsted
Fred Halsted

  

Now that most guys can get their porn over the internet, in fact, any movie via streaming and youtube, the “big event,” almost like a coming out to oneself (or in some cases, others as well) of going to see a gay movie may have lost its social and psychological importance. By gay movie, now, I don't just mean a gay porn movie. It could mean any movie with an overtly gay character or a gay theme. More of these movies were appearing in the seventies and eighties, following the wake of the groundbreaking Boys in the Band. Check out Vito Russo's The Celluloid Closet (the book and the documentary film) to find out more about some of these movies, such as Sunday, Bloody Sunday and Making Love.

 

The Celluloid Closet book cover

 

One of these movies was my first gay movie: Victor, Victoria. I saw it when it first came out, in 1982. I didn't know at the time about the movie's gender-bending and gay content, nor did I know that the person who asked me to go (who was ostensibly dating a female friend of mine) was gay. I got more of the humor about opera and singing and cockroaches in restaurants than its complex, contradictory messages about who is really a man or a woman in this movie about a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman.

 

Victor Victoria poster and image
Victor/Victoria

 

Overall, the movie seemed more escapist for me at that time, an escape into a fictitious Paris of the 1930s where you could be gay (even though that term was not used at that point, and I still tended to see that word as meaning happy) and go to fancy nightclubs and live in art deco hotels. Maybe all the singing and costumes appealed to a stereotypical “gay” sensibility in me, but I'm not sure. Other than the initial poverty of Julie Andrews and Robert Preston before they concocted their brilliant scheme, the movie was nothing like my current reality of being a college student in a sheltered Chicago suburb that seemed leagues away from what was happening on Wells Street, the center of gay nightlife in Chicago at that point and where the Bijou Theater was showing gay porn films starring Al Parker and Jack Wrangler. Looking in hindsight, I see a profound disconnect between what I thought I knew and what I really didn't know about sexual identity, not unlike the appearance versus reality conflicts the characters in the movie experience.


What was your first gay film? Reply to this blog and share with us! 

 

 
 
 
 
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Carlos
Hi, about the subject, the first gay movie I saw, there were two actually, I don't recall which one was first but I saw them about... Read More
Friday, 28 January 2022 19:12
DAVID MCKELLAR
The first gay film I saw was 7 In A Barn by J Brian, around 1972. I screwed up my courage to go in and see it. What an experience... Read More
Friday, 28 January 2022 20:40
Lawrence King
My first gay movie was actually an ABC MOVIE OF THE WEEK. "That Certain Summer" with Hal Holbrook and Martin Sheen. Funny how pla... Read More
Sunday, 30 January 2022 07:18
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Interview with Director Tom DeSimone: Part 1 - The Early Years & Porn Filmmaking

posted by guest blogger Miriam Webster


Tom DeSimone behind a camera
Image Credit: Tom DeSimone

Mainstream film/television and porn director Tom DeSimone (also credited as Lancer Brooks) was one of the major figures who helped to form the adult industry in the 1970s, during the birth of hardcore pornography as a film genre. Initially shooting films for Shan Sayles of the Park Theatre in the L.A. area, DeSimone made some of the earliest gay porn films within the burgeoning industry, including the very first plotted, feature-length gay porn film, The Collection (1969). DeSimone's porn films typically centered around stories and he made technically high-quality productions - well-made narrative movies with developed characters and performers cast to suit their roles - that showed care for the craft.

Over the span of his porn filmmaking career, which also included sexploitation and bisexual films, DeSimone worked with many important contributors to the industry, including performers Gordon Grant, Al Parker, Jack Wrangler, Roger, Michael Christopher, David Ashfield, J.W King, and Fred Halsted, and filmmakers Nick Elliot, Jason Sato, William Higgins, and Jack Deveau. Deveau's New York-based studio, Hand in Hand Films, distributed several of DeSimone's films (Catching Up [1975], The Idol [1979], and others) and DeSimone also worked behind the scenes with Hand in Hand as the cameraman for three of their releases directed by Deveau (Ballet Down the Highway, Wanted: Billy the Kid, and Good Hot Stuff, all from 1975). (DeSimone extensively discusses his career in the newly released book, Good Hot Stuff, about Hand in Hand and Deveau.) DeSimone also made the historically notable film, Erotikus: History of the Gay Movie (1974), which is part documentary and part porn and which was released as a porn film and played in porn theaters.

DeSimone was one of a small number of individuals from the porn industry who successfully moved into working in mainstream film and television. (See the correction in our previous Casey Donovan blog, which left out mentions of those who did cross over into mainstream work.) This included Hell Night (1981) starring Linda Blair, Reform School Girls (1986) starring punk musician Wendy O. Williams, and extensive television work. (See the bottom of this blog for Tom DeSimone's filmography and links to his movies.)

DeSimone recently answered some questions about his career, which we are excited to share in this week's blog, the first of two installments, this one focusing on his introduction to filmmaking and directing porn films.

Bijou: What are some of your favorite films?

DeSimone: I can't really pick one favorite film out of the thousands I've seen and hundreds I love. On the list are Duel in the Sun, The Letter, 8 ½, The Little Foxes, The Rose Tattoo, Atonement, Pennies from Heaven, Incochine... so you see, I have a lot of favorites. A “favorite” is any film I can watch over and over and never tire of and also one in which I continue to find more and more elements of pleasure each time I view it. Among this list, The Letter is probably my most watched film and it never gets boring and I never cease to discover something new each time.

Bijou: Did you make short films while in school for film? What were those like?

DeSimone: At UCLA, where I got my master's degree, I made three short films. One of them, Wooden Lullaby, won best director at the Cine Film Festival in Washington D.C. Another, The Game, won me a scholarship to complete my studies in graduate school. Both films were screened for the public in the Annual Student Film Programs at UCLA. My film, The Game, got me an interview with Columbia Pictures at the time... but nothing came of that beyond the meeting.

Bijou: What were your goals and philosophy towards making your porn films (especially as one of the people who helped to form hardcore as a genre)? Did those persist or did they change over time as you continued to work in film?

DeSimone: Going into it, I didn't really have a philosophy. That came later. I got started because after film school there just wasn't an easy way to break into the Hollywood firmament. Film students back then weren't being sought after as they are now. I was tired of waiting tables and taking actors' portraits for their resumes.

At that time, adult film theaters were just starting to come out in the open. But they were all straight porn. No one was openly screening gay stuff. Then came the Park Theater near downtown L.A. They were showing “gay loops.” A loop, in the business then, was a short film, no plot or acting but just quickies featuring nudity and not much else... there was NO sexual activity, just implied, like holding hands, walking on the beach, or hugging at sunset... or looking longingly into each other's eyes while reclining – all sorts of innocent attempts to convey gay relationships or gay attraction. And NEVER erect!

Someone suggested to me that I might make a few bucks if I tried something. I contacted the Park Theater, got the name of the owner, and got myself an interview. Long story short, he told me to go shoot something and come back and see him and he'd decide if he was interested in me as a filmmaker. I did a short “loop” and loaded it with sexual activity... nothing hard core but definitely sexual love making... all shot discreetly, of course. I screened it for him and he hired me on the spot, built me a studio with cutting rooms, a sound stage, and anything I needed to turn out features for his theaters. That was the start of feature films for the gay market. That film was The Collection... followed by many more small, insignificant ones to fill the screen across the country at his theaters.

It wasn't until I started out on my own that I started to think about what I wanted to say or do with my films since, by now, I had created a career out of it all and was becoming known. (Or, at least, Lancer Brooks was.)

I soon discovered that films about “relationships” were most successful. So The Idol, Skin Deep, Catching Up, and also The Harder They Fall were huge successes. (The Harder They Fall was also released under a different title, The Frenchman and the Lovers.) I was interested in exploring gays in love or at least relationships. My stories pretty much gravitated to those situations. I was tired of all the films that started with the pizza boy delivering and ending up on the couch. That's not to say I didn't make a few of those, too. But when I really wanted to do something creative and when I got juiced up to do something, it always seemed to go to the relationship stories.

The Idol poster
Catching Up poster

Bob Blount and Eric Clement in The Harder They Fall aka The Frenchman and the Lovers
Bob Blount & Eric Clement in The Frenchman and the Lovers

Bijou: Who was your producer (also credited as a performer in The Collection), Max Blue, from early in your career?

DeSimone: Max Blue was a pseudonym for my partner at the time, Nick Grippo. We often just used silly names on our films because in those days no one was using their real names for legal protection since it was still against the law to make these films. We were always hiding underground. He just pulled that one out of the air since there was a popular film playing then called The Blue Max and he liked it. I chose an even sillier name, Lancer Brooks (just totally made up), but fate took over. When we were meeting with the distributor who peddled our films to theaters, he said to be sure to use the same names we did on our previous one, because they liked our work and he could barter for more money if he told them it was from the same team... so we checked what we had used on our last feature and it turned out to be those two names.

Bijou: Did you shoot other films of Jack Deveau's besides the grouping from 1975: Ballet Down the Highway, Wanted: Billy the Kid, and Good Hot Stuff? Did you do much other film work in New York around that time or were you mostly working in L.A.?

DeSimone: After I did Erotikus and was shopping for a theater in New York, I met Jack. He was operating the 55th St. Playhouse at the time and was running the very successful Boys in the Sand, so he was looking for something to follow it up since he knew it couldn't run forever and he needed product to keep the theater operating. We met, he looked at the film, and was interested in us working together on several projects. Jack was pretty inexperienced in filmmaking but wanted to get into the production side. He figured I could bring something to Hand in Hand. I spent a summer in New York working with him on several projects, then returned to L.A. and did The Idol for his company to release. We remained very good friends up until he passed way due to cancer. He was a great party guy – loved to party hard and long, into the New York underground scene, a lot of drugs and sex and a terrific guy to know... if you had the stamina!

Bijou: Did you know Penelope Spheeris (director of The Decline of Western Civilization and Wayne's World) around the time of Confessions of a Male Groupie (1971)? A couple who are the focus of two of her early short films (I Don't Know and Hats Off to Hollywood) appear in the party scene in Groupie. I was curious about the community of people who make up the cast of that film – I read somewhere that they were a community or group of friends you were affiliated with.

DeSimone: I met Penelope only once at a film festival in L.A. We spoke briefly about the emergence of underground films but we never were involved beyond that meeting. The two people you mention just happened to be in the party. I didn't know them personally.

That big party scene was the reason I made that film. I ran with a pretty eclectic crowd back then and many of the actors who appeared in my films were drawn from that crowd. Many others, who didn't really want to appear having sex in a movie, also wanted to be “in one of my films,” so I decided to make a film featuring all of the crazies I knew and loved. So The Groupie came about – and when I announced I wanted them to all appear in that scene, all hell broke loose and you can see in the film what we were all about. I should mention that, unfortunately - or not, I was on acid while we were filming that scene (most of us were), so I didn't cover as much as I wanted, but what I got was enough to throw together what's up on the screen.
 

Confessions of a Male Groupie party scene
Party scene from Confessions of a Male Groupie

Bijou: It's interesting to learn how many friends you worked with in your movies.

DeSimone: I rarely socialized with the models in my films if they weren't already part of my group. For a number of reasons I preferred not to get too involved in their lives and vice versa. If I used friends, they were already friends and in my social group. In Hot Truckin', the redheaded boy at the end – the one in the threeway – was my partner at the time. He was SO hot for Gordon [Grant], I agreed to let him be the trick they lured into the truck. Everyone was happy, particularly my friend, Bob.

My reasons for being separate, if I could, with the models was only because I didn't care to have them know too much about my life or where I lived, etc. I was strictly interested in them as models/actors. For me it was strictly a business situation. Very few outside my inner group even knew what I did or who Lancer Brooks was.
 

Bob Snowdan in Hot Truckin'
Bob Snowdan in Hot Truckin'

Gordon Grant in Hot Truckin'
Gordon Grant in Hot Truckin'

Bijou: I guess Groupie was a rare exception, as your film utilizing members of your friend group, in that case.

DeSimone: Yes, Groupie was an exception... but as I mentioned, I made it specifically to make a film and use many of my friends. Sweet Lady Mary was a dear friend, Elaine. The rock group, The Electric Banana, was another trio of buddies who fantasized about being a rock group, so I made them into one for the film. All the players were close friends who had wanted to be in a picture, so I concocted one so that I could use them. The party scene was the culmination of all the gang we ran with in West Hollywood at that time. Of course, there were several in the party scene who just showed up to be in the film. Sadly, 90% of them are gone now. The plague taking most, unfortunately. We had no idea then that what we were experiencing would have such consequences... who did? The cute redhead, Bob, was also a victim years later.
 

Elaine aka Myona Phetish in Confessions of a Male Groupie
Elaine aka Myona Phetish in Confessions of a Male Groupie

The Electric Banana, fictional rock band in Confessions of a Male Groupie
The Electric Banana, fictional rock band in Confessions of a Male Groupie

Bijou: How did you get such strong performances out of your porn actors who had no acting experiences?

DeSimone: Getting performances was always a challenge. I always blocked out all the action in my films in advance and also broke down the script, scene by scene, even indicating where the dialogue would be in close up, two shots, or masters. That way I could get what I needed to edit the film and the performances in a cohesive work. I knew these guys would never be able to carry an entire scene in a master shot (a mistake many filmmakers made back then). So I would film short sections, working with them on just those few lines at a time, then cover the scene with the other actor or actors in the scene, and it would all play together nicely. If one of them screwed up or was lousy, it was simple to shoot several takes of a close up until it was good, rather than shoot the entire sequence over and over. I was a master at editing and it was fun cutting together a performance from very little. Many times the actors would be amazed (and impressed) when they came to the screening to see the film.
 

Filming The Idol
Filming The Idol
Filming Kevin Redding & Nick Rodgers in The Idol

Bijou: Which is your favorite of your porn films?

DeSimone: I guess I could say Catching Up, Skin Deep, and The Idol. These, to me, have good plots, good acting, and really decent production values for porn.

Read part two of this interview, focusing on on Tom DeSimone's mainstream film/television career!
 

Tom DeSimone
Image Credit: Tom DeSimone

Tom DeSimone's Partial Directorial Filmography:
(From IMDb and Gay Erotic Video Index)
Links to movies available through Bijou Video

The Collection (as Lancer Brooks) – 1969
One - 1970
Dust Unto Dust (as Lancer Brooks) – 1970
Peter the Peeker – 1971
Lust in the Afternoon - 1971
Gay Tarzan – 1971
Confessions of a Male Groupie – 1971
Black and Blue - 1971
The Gypsy's Ball - 1972
Prison Girls – 1972
Chained (as Lancer Brooks) – 1973
Swap Meat (as Lancer Brooks) – 1973
Sons of Satan (as Lancer Brooks) – 1973
Black Heat (as Lancer Brooks) – 1973
Games Without Rules (as L. Brooks) – 1974
Erotikus: A History of the Gay Movie (as L. Brooks) – 1974
Station to Station (as L. Brooks) – 1974
Everything Goes (aka Anything Goes) (as L. Brooks) – 1974
Duffy's Tavern (as Lancer Brooks) – 1974
Blue Movie Auditions (aka How to Make a Homo Movie) - 1974
Assault (as Lancer Brooks) – 1975
Sur - 1975
Good Hot Stuff – 1975
Aphrodisiacs in the Male Animal (1975)
Catching Up – 1975
Chatterbox! - 1977
Hot Truckin' (as Lancer Brooks) – 1978
The Harder They Fall (aka The Frenchman and the Lovers) – 1977
Gettin' Down (as Lancer Brooks) – 1978
The Idol – 1979
Bad, Bad Boys (aka Bad Boys) (as Lancer Brooks) – 1979
Hawaiian Eyes (aka Gay Guide to Hawaii) – 1979
Private Collection – 1980
Heavy Equipment (as Lancer Brooks) – 1980
Wet Shorts – 1980
The Dirty Picture Show (as De Simone) – 1980
Flesh and Fantasy 1 – 1980
Dirty Books - 1981
Hell Night – 1981
The Concrete Jungle – 1982
Skin Deep (as Lancer Brooks) – 1982
Bi-Coastal (as Lancer Brooks) – 1985
Bi-bi Love (as Lancer Brooks) – 11986
Nightcrawler: A Leathersex Fantasy - 1986
Reform School Girls – 1986
Angel III: The Final Chapter – 1988
Freddy's Nightmares (TV Series, 4 episodes) – 1988/1989
Super Force (TV Series, 6 episodes) – 1991/1992
Dark Justice (TV Series, 18 episodes) – 1991 - 1993
Swamp Thing (TV Series, 3 episodes) – 1992/1993
Acapulco Bay (TV series) – 1995
The Big Easy (TV Series, 4 episodes) – 1996/1997
Coming Distractions (as Lancer Brooks) – 1997
Pensacola: Wings of Gold (TV Series, 1 episode) – 1998
She Spies (TV Series, 1 episode) – 2002

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At the Adonis

posted by guest blogger Miriam Webster

Adonis Theater, NYC
The Adonis Theater (photo source: back2stonewall)

The history of the popular 1970s/1980s gay porn theater, the Adonis Theater - the setting and subject of the classic Hand in Hand Films release A Night at the Adonis (Jack Deveau, 1978) - is discussed in an article we recently came across at back2stonewall. The article states that the Adonis Theater was originally built as the Tivoli Theater in 1921. Initially a vaudeville house, it then became a movie theater before its final incarnation as a porn theater/cruising palace. The Adonis was such a hot venue in the 1970s that, the article states, “it was hard to find a seat... but that was all that was hard to find. Patrons would literally avoid the seats under the balcony's edge at busy times for fear of being showered with semen from high above.”
 

Adonis Theater interior
Adonis Theater interior (photo source: back2stonewall)

Adonis Theater balcony
Adonis Theater interior

Deveau's film (which Bijou is excited to announce that we are currently finishing re-restoring for a new and improved re-release next week) is an incredibly well-made, hot, entertaining, and historically intriguing look at this venue. The film does an excellent job capturing - in attractive photography that roams the building as it follows its ensemble cast - the physical layout of the space and the atmosphere created there, as well as featuring the theater's actual staff (their real ticket taker appears in the film in a memorable cameo) and detailing its cruising and sex rituals.
 

A Night at the Adonis poster
Adonis Theater sign in A Night at the Adonis
Adonis Theater ticket taker in A Night at the Adonis
Queue of men waiting to get into the theater in A Night at the Adonis
Men cruising on the balcony in A Night at the Adonis
Theatergoers and staff in A Night at the Adonis

An insightful IMDb review points to some other notable ways the film illustrates some of the nuances of New York City gay culture in the 1970s. Characters bump into each other and have roundabout connections at this particular night at the Adonis, and, through this, the film deals with “both the very local, small-town 'everyone knows everyone else' nature of the then queer community and the odd coincidences and synchronicities that can happen when cruising takes place.”

One of the lead characters (played by hunky Malo, of porn and mainstream film), passes up a pick up attempt by his boss (porn superstar Jack Wrangler) with the intention of staying home to read a hefty volume, Gay American History, but, as this review says, the book only “tells him tales of sodomites of fallen times who were persecuted, tortured, and murdered by the state; Malo's subsequent visit to the Adonis makes a new kind of American gay history, which is... itself a vanished, historical past now."
 

Malo during the filming of A Night at the Adonis
Malo during the filming of A Night at the Adonis

The review points out that Deveau's film manages to “communicate the ways in which human beings locate themselves in history and space, therein creating themselves through a shared culture” and how an ambitious new employee character embodies “a bit of a prophesy of the future, wherein gay normative self-images in the West will be shaped by business-studies kids out to make bucks from the new gay communities.”

A Night at the Adonis played at the Adonis Theater, itself, and the back2stonewall article quotes an internet posting about the unusual experience of watching it on that very screen: “it was rather odd to be in the exact theater that was being depicted... sort of a movie coming to life all around you. What was happening on the screen was also happening in real life as you were watching the film.”
 

Guys cruising in the theater seats in A Night at the Adonis
Guys cruising in the theater seats in A Night at the Adonis

A Night at the Adonis is one of NYC-based studio Hand in Hand Films' productions set in and about a specific gay New York City sex space/landmark. Another is Times Square Strip (1983), set at the Gaiety Theatre, which focuses on the on and off stage antics of the dancers at the Gaiety Male Burlesk.
 

The Gaiety Theatre exterior
Gaiety Male Burlesk ad
The Gaity Theatre and Gaiety Male Burlesk ad

Times, like Adonis, is an ensemble piece set over the course of one night, full of breezy, quippy dialogue, and - though it isn't as full a portrait of its location as is Adonis (it occasionally ventures outside the building for sexual escapades) – it spends considerable time depicting the performances taking place on stage.
 

Dancers performing in Times Square Strip
The MC in Times Square Strip
Dancers and the MC in Times Square Strip

Wikipedia notes that The Gaiety Theatre was open for nearly 30 years, from 1976 until 2005, and, according to a 2005 New York Times article, attracted mainstream attention “after photos of Madonna and some of the club's dancers were included in her book Sex (1992).” These visitors included John Waters, Divine, Andy Warhol, RuPaul, Diane Keaton, and Shirley MacLaine. The club had an “unrivaled ability to survive, despite the strict zoning laws instituted during the Giuliani administration, thanks to a location just outside a restricted area.” Wikipedia also mentions a few well-known dancers who performed at the theater, including porn stars Joey Stefano, Johnny Harden, Kip Noll, and Leo Ford.

The Adonis Theater, however, did not survive New York City's changes to Times Square, with Mayor Ed Koch “using the AIDS epidemic to clean up Times Square” and “trying to get the theater closed down to tidy it up for the building of the monolith Worldwide Plaza, soon to be built on the next block.” The Adonis attempted to relocate to another theater building at this time, but did not last long there and this second Adonis was closed “in 1994 by the City's Health Department after a raid revealed high-risk sexual activities taking place among patrons.” The original Adonis was demolished in 1995, though a vivid portrait of what it once was remains in Deveau's classic film. In watching it, you almost feel as if you are there.
 

Bathroom sex in A Night at the Adonis
Jayson MacBride and Malo exiting the theater smiling in A Night at the Adonis
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