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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That BUTTHOLE Just Winked at Me!

By Josh Eliot

 

I arrived at the Caravan Lodge in the heart of San Francisco’s Tenderloin District thinking to myself, “What the fuck are you doing? Are you crazy?! Meeting a complete stranger in a trashy motel room for an interview?” Days earlier, I called the phone number from a help wanted ad in the Bay Area Reporter looking for a still photographer and a make-up artist for work on adult gay videos. I noticed the door was ajar when I walked up to the motel room, and once I knocked a loud voice told me to come in. The room was super dark, except for the bedside lamp, with a large man sitting on the bed. Smart move, dude!

I didn’t know at the time, but the man was Scott Masters, the founder and producer of Nova Video, now working for William Higgins' company, Catalina Video. Once we started a conversation, I was relieved to find that this was in fact a legitimate job interview and he was actually quite pleasant. I was a bit nervous that I was applying for the still photographer position, because I had ZERO experience shooting photographs. I went to the interview with still photos shot by my childhood friend David, claiming they were mine. It’s called rolling the dice!

 

Vintage brochure material for the Nova film Oh Brother

Vintage brochure material for the Nova film Oh Brother

 

I didn’t go in as a total fraud; I also had a decent resume with film and video production experience from the San Francisco Art Institute and The Bailie School of Broadcast. A year prior, a movie I made and acted in premiered as an Official Selection at the 1986 San Francisco International Video Festival. It was shot on a VHS camcorder and had a budget of $200, which was mostly used to rent the editing equipment. If you like B-Movies, check it out on my YouTube channel, it’s called Fright Night of the Living Dead.

 

1986 San Francisco International Video Festival listing for Fright Night of the Living Dead
Images from Josh Eliot's Fright Night of the Living Dead

1986 San Francisco International Video Festival listing for & images from Josh Eliot's Fright Night of the Living Dead

 

I think Scott Masters was impressed, so he sent me to the adjoining room so I could meet “Jim.” Jim and I discussed specifics about the content of the product they produce and what would be expected of me. He could not have been nicer or more welcoming, something you wouldn’t exactly expect when you later discover that he made the most well-known gay adult movie of its time, Powertool, starring his discovery, Jeff Stryker. I was in the presence of porn royalty, John Travis, the man behind Brentwood Video and numerous Falcon Studio productions. I wouldn’t find out the extent of his notoriety until months after working with him, because he never bragged. Following our meeting, I had a third interview with Dan Allman, who was in charge of art direction for Catalina. On September 21st, 1987, my 25th birthday, Dan gave his blessings and I was officially Catalina Video’s still photographer.

 

Cover for the collection The Best of Brentwood

Cover for the collection The Best of Brentwood

 

My first day on the set, we were shooting a scene for the John Summers/John Travis production Bulge: Mass Appeal. Kurt Bauer and Kevin Glover were in the scene. John was directing from behind the camera while Dan, Kenny (the make-up man) and I were watching it on a monitor to make sure lighting was good. In between shots, we would all run in and move the lights and microphone and set up for another angle. Dan put two apple boxes on the floor and John Travis asked Kurt Bauer stand on top of them while Kevin sat on a stool to blow him. “Hop in there, stills,” Travis ordered. I walked into the set then stopped and looked back at him. “Under there?” Travis had a good laugh, “Of course! … I’m not the only one who gets to have my face up their ass! You don’t bite, do you, Kurt?” Kurt said something cute and flagged me in to get down on the floor under him.

After I got the photo, John told Kevin to step out of the frame then said to me, “Stills, shoot some shots of that hot fucking ass Kurt has, and Kurt… be sure to wink your butthole at him!” I was mortified, but in a good way. Kurt “winked away” and that was my initiation into the club.

 

Kurt Bauer and the Bulge: Mass Appeal cover

Kurt Bauer and the Bulge: Mass Appeal cover

 

It doesn’t give me any pleasure to say that my position as a still photographer lasted a whole two weeks. They were not happy with my photos because I shot everything on automatic. F-stop? What’s an f-stop? I should have asked my friend David. Luckily they liked me and focused on my video production experience, which is what I was hoping for all the time. John Travis and Dan Allman started training me on the back up video camera, normally only used to shoot the second cumshot angle. They went on to hire another still photographer, making me the second videographer, and from that point forward all Catalina productions were shot with two cameras simultaneously.


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

 

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Coming Out of My WET SHORTS

By Josh Eliot

 

My first sexual memory was at age 6. My favorite TV show was Lost In Space. Aside from loving the adventure the Robinson family was going through, there was just something about Don. Don West was a dark haired, handsome, masculine guy whose character had a love interest with the Robinson's daughter Judy. I would lie awake at night thinking about Don taking his shirt off, showing his muscular chest and imagining him rubbing and grinding himself on top of Judy. I'm sure it was not the kind of imagery Producer Irwin Allen wanted to achieve when he developed Lost In Space, and I wasn't sure at the time why I was feeling this way, but for some reason I was having the feels for Don.

My next big "red flag" about my sexuality was when I was around 12 years old. In 1974, streaking was all over the news in America. Living in rural Rhode Island, my brother, sister and I were best friends with our cousins of the same genders and age. We would build forts in the woods near our homes and streak naked through the fields. The summer of '74, I remember us being naked all the time! Not just in the field near the forts, but down by the train tracks, in empty factories. We were Free!

One day that summer, my cousin brought a magazine to the fort that he found between his mom and dad's mattress. The magazine was called Mama's Taste for Cock. I'm pretty sure it was all in black and white and maybe not even a magazine, but a newspaper. I don't remember much about "Mama" because it was all about the cock. This had to be the first time I saw photos of an erect dick and it was a real attraction for me. Somewhere towards the last few pages, we saw this white stuff all over Mama's face and we thought what the hell is this? My older brother said that this was semen, and explained it the best he could. He was three years older, so he was already able to ejaculate (with the help of Head & Shoulders) in the shower. A day or so later, my cousin and I were determined to “cum” so we got some shaving cream, took it over to the fort and rubbed it all over our cocks. Nothing happened, as we were too young to ejaculate.

At 16, my friend David and I were in downtown Providence when we walked into an adult book store. Shocked that we weren't kicked out, we started looking through the products. Most of my childhood I collected 8mm movies. Castle films, 50' reels that had about 3 minutes of movies like Frankenstein vs the Wolfman, Abbott and Costello and Dracula, to name a few. I was always shooting short movies on my 8mm camera, editing them and playing them back on my projector. So when I saw a Swedish Erotica 8mm movie for sale at this shop, I just had to have it.

 

Swedish Erotica 8mm reel

 

I saw one with two guys and a girl. I can't tell you what the girl looked like, but one of the guys was blond, masculine with a hairy chest while the other was brunette, bearded and handsome. I would watch that movie on my projector when I knew my parents weren't around to barge into my room. At one point the guys double penetrated the girl. This was eye opening for me; it was the first time I saw this or even knew it was a thing! The first thought that came to my mind was how each of the guys must feel when their dicks were rubbing against each other inside the girl's snatch. I imagined that it made them each get harder because they were touching each other.

My friend David and I were emboldened by our trip to the porn shop and raised the ante by sneaking into the Rustic Drive-in in Smithfield, RI. The Rustic showed a triple feature of XXX movies. David was tall and always looked older, so he would drive the car while I would hide in the trunk or the floor of the back seat with a blanket over me. We watched such classics as Eruption with John Holmes, Inside Desiree Cousteau and Pretty Peaches with Sharon Kane.
 

Rustic Drive-in sign and lot with screen
Rustic Drive-in
 
Sharon Kane in the 1970s (left) and in a still from Pretty Peaches, 1978 (right)

Sharon Kane in the 1970s (left) and in 1978's Pretty Peaches (right)

 

In 1980, after graduating high school at the age of 17, I moved to San Francisco. I attended The San Francisco Art Institute for film studies. One day in class, my instructor George Kuchar brought in a 16mm copy of a movie he wrote and starred in called Thundercrack, co-starring Marion Eaton. The move was shot in black & white, beautifully filmed, with elaborate sets and filled with hardcore sex scenes! This was shocking to me. Being from a small town and closeted about sex, the fact that this film existed and the instructor was showing it to a classroom of students made me feel like this was an art form that was perfectly acceptable to a wide audience. It really opened my eyes and made me see hardcore sex on film from a whole new perspective.

 

Thundercrack poster

 

My first few weeks in the city I lived at the Harcourt Residence Club, a place where you would share a room and receive free meals. The Harcourt was located on Larkin Street on the border of the Tenderloin neighborhood. When I looked out my bedroom window I could see a movie cinema in the distance. The marquee displayed the title: Wet Shorts. Wet Shorts? I was intrigued. This had to be an adult cinema. I was still 17 and could not go in, but I definitely needed to check it out. I walked past the cinema and saw an image that literally burned into my brain until this day. The Wet Shorts movie poster featured a close-up of a pair of blue jean short shorts with some hairy legs and a bulge. After turning 18, I worked for another cinema in the tenderloin selling tickets. It was called the Screening Room Theater. It was an All Male Adult Theater with live dancers.

 

Vintage Wet Shorts poster

Vintage poster for Tom DeSimone's Wet Shorts (1980)

 

Little did I know at age 12 when I was looking at a magazine called Mama's Taste for Cock that I would someday be shooting sex scenes and pulling hard core photos for magazines.

Little did I know at age 16 that when I watched Pretty Peaches at the Rustic Drive-in, I would someday meet Sharon Kane and establish a long working relationship with her.

Little did I know that the Screening Room Theater where I worked in 1980 was the same theater where Sharon Kane worked in the 1970s. Alex de Renzy, who owned the Screening Room Theater, made the movie Pretty Peaches and introduced Sharon Kane in it.

Little did I know that on my 25th birthday in 1987, I would be hired by William Higgins' company Catalina Video. The same company that produced and released the film Wet Shorts.

This is my first blog for Bijou World and I am excited to share some of my experiences and perspectives.


A Note from the Editor:

Little did Josh know that I (Steven Toushin/Bijou) purchased the lease for the Screening Room (at 220 Jones Street) during the time Josh worked there (the manager at the time was filmmaker Frank Ross). After a few months of extensive renovation and a name change (Savages), Savages had its grand opening.


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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Sent through email from W.D.: To Josh Eliot. You're latest Blog, "Wet Shorts", took me on a parallel journey through my own becom... Read More
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