A Salty Fuck in Saugatuck

By Josh Eliot

 

Videotaping the International Mr. Leather Contest each year in the late '90s was especially fun for the Catalina crew. There were so many highlights over the years, and each time we traveled to Chicago we became more familiar with the city. We always stayed at the host hotel, the Ramada Congress, which had two towers facing each other. It was Hitchcock’s Rear Window (or John Travis’ Undercover - same premise) on overload. Open your curtains and there was always a live show going on.

 

IML contestants on stage

IML contestants on stage

 

On one day in particular, Brad Austin, my lead videographer, spotted a huge dildo in one of the windows with a half-dressed man walking around the room. The guy was hot with dark hair, a mustache and a hairy chest. We were all obsessed with Steve Kelso, who was the hot model of the time, and this guy looked just like him. Brad Austin was determined to get his attention and asked Jeff Burton (our photographer) to use his camera to repeatedly flash out the window. When the flashing got the guy's attention, Brad held up a sign with our room number on it. Within minutes, the man called our room and Brad told him who we were. They chatted about porn and then Brad went over to the guy's room while we watched from our window. Brad came back a little while later and said the guy was definitely interested in doing porn. We met the man for drinks in the lobby bar and this was where I made a handshake agreement to hire Catalina Exclusive Ray Harley to a contract, starting with a future shoot in L.A. He became one of our personal favorites and one of our most popular Catalina Exclusive models.

 

The night Ray Harley was discovered at the Congress

The night Ray Harley was discovered at the Congress

 

Ah yes, great times, until it wasn’t. The following year, we booked in the Dunes Resort in Saugatuck Michigan, which we planned on traveling to after we shot the IML contest.

 

Dunes Resort in Saugatuck, MI

Dunes Resort in Saugatuck, MI

 

We departed Chicago in a couple of rental vehicles and headed to Michigan to film my big budget movie of that year called Thrill Me! Steve Rambo, Ray Harley and Donnie Russo were headlining the extra-large cast. The movie was a cross between April Fool’s Day and I Know What You Did Last Summer, but with an all-male cast – and XXX Rated, of course.

 

Thrill Me promo
Thrill me promo 2

Thrill Me promo images

 

Donnie Russo received much acclaim for his role in Bijou Video’s Beat Cop, and we’d had the pleasure of working together many times in the past. He was a bright light on the set, always holding court, and was fun to be with outside of work, as well.

 

Donnie Russo in Beat Cop

Donnie Russo in Bijou's Beat Cop (on DVD and Streaming)

 

One time, Catalina’s general manager flew all of the staff to New York for a trip to see the AIDS Quilt as it was paraded throughout the city. Donnie joined our crew for a night of club hopping and we all had a blast. One time on the way to Palm Springs for a shoot, I was driving the van with Donnie riding shotgun. Donnie suddenly started jacking off on the I-10 Freeway, raising his hips up in the air to show the passing big rig drivers his hard on, which had us all in stitches. He even let us call him “MaDonnie Russo” on that shoot. We had tons of great memories before and after our trip to Saugatuck where he and Rambo started behaving… How do I put this?… TWAT-ish.

Somehow he and Rambo got into a screaming match over the fact that one of them let a bumblebee in the house rental, and it escalated from there. I’d never seen the two of them act like this, and what is worse is they had a sex scene scheduled together (for a different movie) the next day. The stress was killing me and, as predicted, it was a disaster. They got through it, but psychologically the crew felt scarred by their bad behavior. I think things took a turn when Donnie was fucking Steve Rambo – sorry, I shouldn’t say “fucking,” I should have said “pounding.” This seemed to help Donnie get over his fury and Rambo acted like it was uncomfortable, but secretly Rambo lives for a good pounding, so actually he was enjoying it. Reverse psychology, I suppose. They actually were laughing with each other by the end of the scene.

It was a miracle, I thought; we could shoot the rest of the movie stress free. Well, not really. The next day they were at it again and I was over it. We were shooting a dialogue only scene for Thrill Me where Rambo’s character accidentally runs over Russo’s character with the SUV. I wasn’t about to have Rambo behind the wheel of that car, so I shot each person individually. When Rambo finished his lines, we sent him to his motel room and got Donnie on set, and so on. They have a number of scenes together in the finished movie, but were nowhere near each other. Ray Harley, always the peacemaker, worked hard at playing mediator between the two of them, and by the time we all got to Chicago O’Hare Airport to fly home… you guessed it… they were still mad at each other.


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

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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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