Retrostuds of the Past: Richard Locke

posted by guest blogger Miriam Webster


Richard Locke images

 

Richard Locke - the sexy, confident, bearded daddy, with a hip tattoo of a butterfly and a physique naturally toned from working outdoors (or, as he claimed, from jerking off in front a a mirror for thirty minutes a day) - was one of the first to establish mature men as potent sex symbols in gay porn. He became an icon from his outstanding starring role as Hank, a relatable everyman hero, in the late '70s Working Man Trilogy from the Gage Brothers (Kansas City Trucking Co., El Paso Wrecking Corp., and L.A. Tool & Die). This trilogy brought a new sexual focus to average working class men who have sex with men, and their sexual lives in smaller cities and rural areas across the United Sates, which had a massive impact on gay porn.
 

Vintage Kansas City Trucking Co. poster

Vintage poster (available here) for Kansas City Trucking Co.


Born June 11, 1941 in East Oakland, California, Locke served in the Army in his early adult life, where he worked as a tank mechanic. He returned to California and eventually began starring in porn in his mid-30s, quickly ascending to star status. Locke worked on films with some of the finest auteur directors of classic gay porn (Joe Gage, Arthur Bressan Jr., Steve Scott, Wakefield Poole) and biggest stars (Jack Wrangler, Will Seagers, Fred Halsted, Clay Russell, Roy Garrett, Casey Donovan). He even had a sex scene with his real-life lover, Alex, on the roof of their Desert Hot Springs home in Wakefield Poole's Take One (1977). Locke used his real name in porn, telling Jerry Douglas in an interview for the December 1992 issue of Manshots, “I'm very proud of my work and everything I do. An artist signs his name to the canvas, and I sign my name.”

Locke's films (narrative features, experimental/art porn, straight-forward sex films/loops) and characters span a wide variety. His character Hank focuses on raunchy casual encounters throughout the majority of the Working Man Trilogy, but shows his soft side by following his dream man (played by Will Seagers) across the country in L.A. Tool & Die, and Arthur Bressan Jr.'s Forbidden Letters also focuses on a romantic storyline. (Locke also appeared in a smaller role in Bressan Jr.'s Passing Strangers.)

 

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Locke on Will Seagers, co-star of Cruisin' the Castro and L.A. Tool & Die: "There was a magic between Will and me, and that happens very rarely onscreen... Every time we had a scene together, we came at the same time, just like the honeymoon couple. There was a magic." (Manshots, December 1992)

 

In contrast to his romantic roles and the easy likability of the trilogy's Hank, in Joe Gage's 1982 release, Heatstroke, Locke plays a mean sonofabitch, the gruff ranch foreman (though with a knowing sense of humor). In addition to his countless filmic sexual encounters, Locke gets into two memorable brawls on screen, both in Heatstroke and L.A. Tool & Die, tossing a homophobe out of a gay bar in the latter.
 

Heatstroke and L.A. Tool & Die brawls

 

Heatstroke and L.A. Tool & Die brawls (pictured above); Hank in L.A. Tool & Die: "If there's anything I like better than sucking cock, it's kicking ass."

 

In this fascinating 1978 interview with Richard Locke, conducted by his brother Robert, Richard stated his goal in making pornography: “When I was coming out, I didn't feel good about myself. Now I do feel good and I want to share that. If I can project that solid, good feeling within myself into the audience, to people who don't feel good about themselves, if they can say, 'That's what I like; that's what I want to be like, open and free,' then I will have accomplished one of the goals in my life – to bring freedom to other people, the freedom of being themselves.”

Later in his career, Locke toured the country performing live strip/jack off shows for enthusiastic crowds (including at the Bijou Theater), published two books (Locke Out and In the Heat of Passion), authored a play (Loving), mountain climbed, and lived in a sparsely-populated part of the desert outside Palm Springs, where he did body work as a licensed masseur in the city and, out in the desert, worked with his interests in rural and self-sustaining/do-it-yourself living by building a geodesic domed home with a working solar and wind power system.
 

Richard Locke striptease from a suit into leather gear

"Here's another one of my gimmicks: to take the ordinary and mundane and make it erotic. When I went to Washington, I took a business suit with me, and I stripped out of that suit into leather. Everybody in Washington has to wear a suit because they work in the government, so I took their 'ordinary' and eroticized it." - Locke in Mandate, October 1987

 

After his 1983 HIV positive diagnosis, Locke turned his focus to activism. In the '80s and '90s, he used his platform as a popular porn star to tirelessly spread information about safer sex practices and health services during the AIDS crisis, in radio and magazine interviews, at seminars, and even at his strip show appearances (which featured creative and practical safer sex activity demonstrations).

Magazine clipping reading Richard Locke: Responsible Sleaze During the AIDS Crisis. The legendary King of Sleaze is changing his sexual style, and offers some tips on how to do it without becoming a celibate monk!
Richard Locke safer sex inspiration images from Advocate MEN

“I'm very positive about stopping fluid exchanges... Still, I have a great sex life... I was on radio station KPFA for about 15 minutes before they censored me. I said, 'testicular fornication.' The moderator said, 'Well, what's testicular fornication?' And I said, 'Ball-fucking.' We went off the air for 45 minutes.' (Advocate MEN, March 1987)

 

Richard Locke nude, holding a condom

“One of the things [Locke] does in his shows, he says, is to jerk off that legendary scholong and then toss (unused) condoms at his audience. 'And I say – remember when your mammas told you to wear your rubbers? Well, now your daddy's telling you!'” (Advocate MENMarch 1987)


During this period of time, he additionally worked with support groups, raised money, protested, publicly advocated for condom usage for individuals as well as porn studios (saying he was blackballed in the business as a result), visited patients in hospital wards, and much more that is likely not chronicled. This beautiful article - “Two Kinds of Hero: Richard (Butterfly) Locke” - provides some insight into that chapter of his life.

Locke was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the 1994 Gay Erotic Video Awards. He died of AIDS-related complications in 1996.

Richard Locke was known for being a charming combination of strong, caring, bright, unpretentious, and entirely genuine; a down-to-earth guy and a confident, unapologetic gay man – qualities reflected in many of his movie roles. Bijou owner Steven Toushin described him as a very kind man and director Joe Gage (in this interview discussing his films, including commentary on Locke) called him “the last of the true live-and-let-live hippies.”
 

Richard Locke images

“The nice thing about film is that I will live a long time, even after I die. 'Cause it's there.” (Manshots, December 1992)


Through Bijou Video, you can find Richard Locke in our fresh new release, Heatstroke (DVD | Streaming) as well as in a number of other classics we carry, including the collection The Best of Richard Locke (DVD | Streaming).

Online Sources and Further Information:
My Brother the Porn Star: An Interview with Richard Locke
Keep on Truckin': An Interview with Joe Gage
Two Kinds of Hero: Richard (Butterfly) Locke
Ask Any Buddy podcast: Kansas City Trucking Co.
Wikipedia – Richard Holt Locke
Gay Erotic Video Index – Richard Locke
 

Heatstroke and The Best of Richard Locke DVD covers
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Joseph D. Kahoonei
Aloha This Daddy Was A Gem. One Of My 1st Cocks I Had Was From A Handsome Man That Reminded Me Of Sir Locke. A Wonderful Memory.... Read More
Tuesday, 13 July 2021 18:50
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Names in Lights: Porn Stars Live at the Bijou Theater

I was looking at some footage on YouTube of Chicago in the 1940s (my nostalgia kick keeps kicking and kicking and kicking, ouch!), and I noticed, as most of the footage was of tourist sites like “State Street, that great street” and its plethora of movie theaters.

And these were not movie theaters hidden inside in decaying malls or bland multistory cineplexes with parking garages, but both glitzy and palatial structures (quite a combo!) that beckoned to passersby (yes, people walked more, it seems, to entertainment) through signs.
 

Chicago's Oriental Theater in the 1940s showing the Jane Russell film, The Outlaw
Chicago's Oriental Theater in the 1940s showing the Jane Russell film, The Outlaw

Yes, the marquee, the name in lights, oh so Old Hollywood. In fact, on one of the videos, I saw theaters whose marquees displayed Leave Her to Heaven with Gene Tierney, and on another one, Joan Crawford in A Woman's Face. Heady stuff for a gay Old Hollywood fan!

The adult movie houses, and in the gay world, often called porn palaces, followed suit when censorship restrictions were lifted in the wake of the 1960s sexual revolution. Even though such venues were usually ghettoized "red light” districts (think 42nd Street in New York City) and often shared buildings and neighborhoods with the seedier peep shows and massage parlors (live sex, less cinematic content) and the like, they still boasted the marquees and the names in lights.
 

42nd Street theaters in the 1960s
42nd Street theaters in the 1960s

In fact, I remember in the camp classic Valley of the Dolls, Neely O'Hara sees her friend Jennifer's (now a star of soft-core French porn) name lighting up that ubiquitous XXX signage as she wanders drunkenly through what is probably the Nob Hill area of San Francisco.

Gay XXX's home in Chicago was the Bijou Theater, and in its heyday, it showed some of the famous, finely crafted classics of gay porn (shot on film, of course). A premiere there was akin to a red carpet event, like it was in Old Hollywood.
 

42nd Street theaters in the 1960s
The Bijou Theater, 1976

Midwest premiere of Michael, Angelo and David at the Bijou Theater with a live appearance by star Marc Stevens
Bijou premiere of Michael, Angelo and David & live appearance by Marc Stevens

Porn studios like Hand in Hand Films and Falcon and, later during that Golden Age, Al Parker's Surge Studios were definitely producing more substantive work, but the assembly-line, amateurish product with mostly anonymous participants (like that being churned out in Europe these days) were confined to peep show booths.

The Bijou Theater thus showcased some groundbreaking gay porn films, but in tandem it also showcased the stars of those films. Again, think Old Hollywood. Fans, autographs. Stars!
 

Ad for a live appearance by porn star Peter Berlin at the Bijou Theater
Live apperance by Peter Berlin at the Bijou Theater

For example, when Al Parker, the greatest of them all, appeared at the the theater in the early 1980s, he did a live sex show (a live orgasm to complement so many of those on-screen orgasms), but according to Steven Toushin, owner of the theater, he spent most of the time there signing autographs and talking to fans.
 

Vintage poster for the Al Parker film Inches
Vintage poster for the Al Parker film, Inches (Steve Scott, 1979)

And the uber-Daddy of them all, Richard Locke, also appeared at the Bijou Theater in 1984. Here's a description of the event, which, as with many other events that showcased porn movies and their stars, blurs the lines between on and off screen performances in an enticing, exciting way:

“The screen on the Bijou screen – a dimly lit room at truck stop, fitted with grimy cots, where truckers catch forty winks before they hit the road again. [A scene from Joe Gage's 1976 classic, Kansas City Trucking Co.] In this case, however, the truckers are not sleeping; they are fucking and sucking with a vengeance. The center of the action is the older, experienced trucker, played by Richard Locke, muscular, masculine, bearded and obviously enjoying himself on screen. The light on the movie screen fades, and suddenly a figure appears from behind the screen. A cool blue light silhouettes a muscled body and music builds. A new kind of show is in progress at the Bijou Theater — but Richard Locke is still the center of attention... Richard turns to face the audience, clad only in a leather harness, stroking his erect penis... Finally he reaches orgasm, shooting onto the mesmerized audience. He turns back, the lights fade, he exits and the film Richard Locke returns to the movie screen.”
 

Kansas City Trucking Co. poster
Vintage poster for Kansas City Trucking Co.

Photospread of Richard Locke stritease from suit and tie to leather harness
Richard Locke striptease

Now, the above event may be unique to the dynamic of gay porn and its purpose of sexual exploration and gratification, but what happened after that movie/performance links to that Old Hollywood world:

“After his live show, Richard meets his public, signing autographs and talking to a group of eager fans. He is friendly and unassuming as he talks. One young man asks Richard to autograph his back and tells Locke that he will have a tattoo made of the signature. (A later encounter with the same man proves the truth of his boast.) One by one the crowd drifts away and another day's work is finished for Richard Locke, erotic entrepreneur.”

Amazing, and so exciting! Joan Crawford would have been thrilled (perhaps more by the method rather than the content!). Richard, like she did, was working a publicity machine, one of his own making. And he understood that what fuels that machine are the fans and their fantasies, hopes, and dreams. The young man with the tattoo in the quote above was living embodiment of these emotions.

Yet, unlike Joan, he skillfully kept his “divo-hood” on the screen, but at the same time let that larger-than-life screen persona become real in the flesh when he appeared live in that brief moment of ecstasy.

Some say home video (and then the internet) and the tragedy of AIDS killed this world. Perhaps, on the surface, yes.

But in hindsight I think it's a deeply complex issue revealed in today's cultural climate as red carpet events still unfold, and the culture of celebrity has become something like a 24/7 fuck fest. But the cinematic magic that thrives on finely-crafted illusion that elicits an audience's deeper intellectual and emotional responses gets lost in a weird combination of special effects and banal cynicism.

The great porn stars like Al Parker and Richard Locke created and crafted a visual and sexual magic in their films and in their performances and in their audiences.

Bette Davis said in her movie The Star, “If you're a star you don't stop being a star.” And thanks in great part to the Bijou Video's preservation and revitalization of their legacies, Al and Richard still shine.

Look for their movies on DVD at BijouWorld.com and streaming at BijouGayPorn.com, including our brand new release The Best of Richard Locke!

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