VOYAGER of the Damned

By Josh Eliot

Cover of Catalina's Voyager

Cover of Catalina's Voyager


In 2000, Catalina Video was invited to shoot a movie on board the Pillage & Plunder Gay Cruise, departing from Tampa. As with the maiden voyage of the Titanic, the Pillage & Plunder's initial venture at sea was just as much a disaster for the Catalina Crew. Don’t get me wrong, the cruise itself was a smashing success for the passengers and organizers of the event, so much so that it was repeated for many years to come. My experience however, through no fault of the Pillage organizers, was one that I tried hard to “douche” from my memory. I’ve never been so stressed out and distraught while on a “vacation” of sorts. The flight from Los Angeles was uneventful and we had a nice overnight stay at a Sheraton in Tampa. The next afternoon we made our way to the port.


Catalina Crew: Mark Jensen, Brad Austin, Peter Romero & Josh Eliot

Catalina Crew: Mark Jensen, Brad Austin, Peter Romero & Josh Eliot


Arriving on board the Regal Empress was like: “Are you kidding me? Is this girl even seaworthy?” I referred to her as a “rusty barge,” and that was a compliment. The Regal Empress’ maiden voyage was on October 15th, 1953 and she was put out of service March 9th, 2009. For my sake, couldn’t she have been put to rest 9 or 10 years earlier? The ship ended up leaving port six hours late, which I could deal with, but for some reason unbeknownst to me (until we were on the ship and ready to shoot some dialogue) we were told that we could not shoot anything until we were in international waters. A majority of the storyline setup was to take place on deck as the ship was leaving port, with the background of the passengers on deck celebrating. Because the ship left port around 10pm, we did not get to shoot our footage, so a whole chunk of the storyline which I set up in Vermont, Los Angeles and the Tampa pier went bye-bye. The schedule was so tight on this cruise and this, coupled with the fact of only being able to shoot when we were told we were in international waters, made it impossible to reschedule these crucial scenes. I thought fuck it, we’ll fix it in post-production as we so often did. I’ll make some montages or something. Always troubleshooting on my toes, I pulled out our third camera, the L-1 that looks just like a home movie camera with less than desirable quality, and ran around the ship shooting generic shots of the passengers while I pretended to be a tourist shooting home movies. I needed to have something!

Now like I said, I douched a lot of this out of my brain, but I do remember seeing porn star Enrico Vega on one of the decks running around in barely anything, flashing his dick to the passengers. That footage of us stumbling upon him is in the finished movie. I honestly am not sure if we hired him “on the spot” to be in the group scene for the movie or if we had already booked him. I really think we added him into the cast after meeting him, turning our upcoming five-way into a six-way. This all doesn’t sound too bad, right? Guys running around flashing their hard cocks to anyone who wants to see them, unlimited drinks, sailing the coast. Well, things went cock-eyed the morning of our big group scene on the main deck.


Regal Empress, cast in action, Josh with Steve Rambo

Regal Empress, cast in action, Josh with Steve Rambo


Steve Rambo, Tuck Johnson and Caesar, three of the six models in the big six-way, came to me while Ray Harley, Mike Radcliffe and Enrico Vega were in make-up or having their stills done. They dropped the bomb on me that there were too many passengers piled up along the railings to watch the filming and they didn’t want to shoot their scenes in public. I was a bit annoyed because they knew from the moment I cast them that this was the deal. But from a humane perspective, I personally wouldn’t want to lay it all out there in front of a crowd either, so I found a hallway with emergency doors that we could close to give them a spot out of the public eye. They were grateful and I was fine with it, except the beautiful background of a cruise ship on the open seas and the majestic scope was now a small cramped hallway that could have been built on a soundstage. In addition, I couldn’t shoot the six guys together in that hallway so I split it into two groups of three. This was less than ideal… bye-bye six-way, hello two three-ways - twice the work! The other three models were all exhibitionists so they thrived on the fact that they were being watched. Oh happy day until we heard the sudden roar of a horn and the ship’s smokestack started blowing out black engine exhaust! As soon as that horn blew, so did one of my two cameras and its videotape deck. There was a surge from the ship outlet that destroyed the camera and deck! Luckily, camera two wasn’t plugged in yet and was still working. This was a disaster; we’d been shooting with two cameras on every shoot since 1987! You can capture twice the shots in half the time, plus two angles on the cum shots, which was what we were known for at the time. Well, we were down to one camera and I was too afraid to plug it into the wall, so we used battery power. Because we were on battery, we could not use the TV monitor to check lighting, exposure, framing and focus, so I was forced to do the camerawork myself because how else would I see how it was framed? I shot and hoped for the best.


Ceasar in Voyager

Ceasar in Voyager


I shot the first group of guys in front of the passengers , then re-set up everything and shot the guys in the hallway. The crowd wanted to see Caesar so badly they kept pushing open the emergency doors while I was filming, ruining my shots and annoying the boys. It was like a slow painful death that day, and when we wrapped all I wanted to do was throw back a few shots at the bar with the crew. But that wasn’t in the cards. In 2000, it was common for models (at their own choice and discretion) to use Viagra or a penile injectable to keep an erection. Well, with all the stress of working in front of a hungry crowd, one model gave himself a little too much of the injectable. His erection would not go down, so we took him to emergency on the ship. The erection lasted for hours and the doctor on board was concerned it could cause long term damage to his functionality. It was horrible. I felt so bad for him. I kept going in and out of the medical suite to check on him, until finally around 11pm the erection subsided.

The next day, we laid anchor in Key West, made our way to the Oasis Guest House to shoot our final scene (with one fucking camera), then spent the night at a go-go bar that DJ Tommy Rocker (Catalina promotions associate) was spinning records at. We had a ball, then went back to the rusty barge, slept and were first in line to get off that Muther-Fucking Ship in Tampa. Never to return.



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
That BUTTHOLE Just Winked at Me!
DREAMLAND: The Other Place
A Salty Fuck in Saugatuck
Somebody, Call a FLUFFER!
(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?
CATCHING UP with Tom DeSimone
Everybody’s FREE to FEEL GOOD
SCANDAL at the Coral Sands Motel
RSVP: 2 Weeks Working on a Gay Cruise Ship

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Casey Donovan and the Casa Donovan: A Fascinating Tidbit

Casey Donovan and the Casa Donovan: A Fascinating Tidbit


If you want to know anything, simply anything about gay sexuality or gay history, spend some time digging through our extensive collection of magazines and files. Today, I was looking at some issues of After Dark and Mandate magazine (now, if you really want to show you are of a certain generation (and proud to be that age, of course), drop a line and let us know if you remember those magazines), and found an interesting tidbit about porn legend Casey Donovan. 

Casey Donovan

It's not anything sexually scandalous (according to the April 1992 issue of Manshots magazine,  Casey pretty much covered that area thoroughly in his personal life at the baths and tearooms). It's actually kind of a savvy idea, but like many porn stars of that era, many endeavors they tried outside the filmmaking pretty much fizzled. 

Cal Culver (Casey's real name) opened up the Casa Donovan Guest House in Key West in April 1979 and then, in conjunction with that entity, launched Moonbow Tour. The Tour operated during the time of the full moon. Casey personally guided the tours, which included “three special dinners at unique spots, a conch train tour, a variety of sightseeing, a one-half day reef trip, and a rented bicycle.” According to Casey, at Casa Donovan, the nine-room house with a pool, “Everyone's a star.” 


Casa Casey article

What I would like to know is how long this enterprise lasted (it started before his last film appearance in Christopher Rage's Fucked Up in 1986) and if it folded before his death in 1987 of AIDS-related complications. According to the issue of Manshots cited above, he did get a job as a gay tour guide with Hanns Ebenston Travel Agency in about 1985, having struggled to keep his establishment running for some time. 

Right now as I am writing this, I am imagining a gloriously bare-chested Casey rising from his pool like a young sea god, drying himself off, and then going out to greet his guests clad only in a tight speedo. I do have a feeling the majority of the guests weren't other porn stars he appeared with like Pat Allen, Steve Anthony, or Al Parker. They may have been the slightly heavyset older “queens” of the period (I do not mean any insult) wearing flowered shirts, Bermuda shorts, and lumpy sandals. Still, if he treated everyone like a star as he claimed, I hope the legendary gave them something to remember, even cherish, by getting to know him as the real but still amazingly hot “boy next door” he always tried to be in his movies. 


Casey Donovan Moonlighting article


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