I’M NOT A LESBIAN DIRECTOR!

By Josh Eliot

 

At the same time I started shooting Valley of the Bi-Dolls, the general manager of Catalina Video had a light bulb go off in his head. Let’s just say that light bulb was more of a fluorescent, as opposed to a tungsten lamp that we used for filming to give us fabulous lighting. The fluorescent may have been a practical option when GE developed it from the discoveries of Jacques Risler in 1934, but the execution never really materialized as top notch. I always feel like I look ten years older and twenty years more exhausted when standing in a room lit by fluorescents. The idea from my general manager ended up being just as disappointing.

When I was casting for Valley of the Bi Dolls in 1993, thanks to Chi Chi LaRue, I was able to connect with the main agent representing the very top straight adult film starlets of the time. Though it was exciting to think about working with top-notch girls for Valley, I was turned down time after time by most of them. As I mentioned in the past, there was a stigma involved when it came to bisexual movies. Even though by this point things were slightly turning around, the straight industry was slow to get on board the “acceptance wagon.”

I had already cast Sharon Kane in the lead, who in turned recommended Gloria Leonard for the non-sexual “Helen Lawson” character and luckily, through an agent, Leanna Foxxx was on board. In addition, which was shocking to hear at the time, Peter North (Matt Ramsey) also agreed to do the straight scene with Leanna Foxxx. It really was a coup for me to have all these big names, which was unheard of at the time in a bisexual movie. I was pouring everything I had mentally into this movie and I wanted the cast to be all A-List! So I kept trying, but was turned down by Diedre Holland, Melanie Moore, Debi Diamond and Teri Divers. When I shared some of the names that turned me down with Catalina’s manager, that’s when the light bulb went off in his head.

 

A-List stars of the 1990s Debi Diamond, Teri Divers, Diedre Holland and Melanie Moore

A-List stars of the 1990s

 

Catalina had long wanted to tap into the girl-girl market; not the straight girl-girl audience, but the lesbian audience. The idea of having all A-List girls in our movie, in his mind, would give us an edge, and he proposed that it would be directed by a lesbian director for a lesbian audience. The top starlets had no problem whatsoever shooting an all-girl movie, so getting them to sign on the dotted line was easy. Of course, there was the small technicality of not having a lesbian director on staff to coincide with our manager’s plans to publicize the movie in the gay press as lesbian-made. I told him I would start the search for a lesbian director to join our team, but he wanted that gal to be me (not so forward thinking after all, was he?). We bantered back and forth but he was adamant, so I to accepted the assignment. Catalina’s instant new director “Tori Sterling” was born. A pseudonym I came up with by combining Tori Spelling and Matt Sterling, and the movie would be called The Women.

 

The Women original one-sheet

The Women original one-sheet

 

I came up with the title based on the Joan Crawford / Norma Shearer / Rosalind Russell / Paulette Goddard / Joan Fontaine 1939 film from director George Cukor. Get the connection? The actresses in the 1939 film (fabulous movie, I might add) were all A-List or up-and-coming A-Listers of the time. The Women would be a classy, glossy, high end production... albeit with its slashed budget of only $10,000, because he knew we could shoot multiple sex scenes in fewer days as there were no hard-ons or cum shots needed. We shot in two days. The girls were fabulous, creative, inventive, and great with their lines, which was really quite a delight! They taught me some really good positions and actions that I could apply to all-male movies, especially with their pussy eating techniques, which I could apply to future boy-boy rim scenes. It was exciting for me to be around and work with the “it” girls of the time and I never really felt intimidated by their presence, which was a nice surprise. All in all, the movie looked beautiful, top-notch and well shot. The only problem? I’m not a lesbian director!

 

Ad for The Women in Nightlife Magazine, 1994

Ad for The Women in Nightlife Magazine, 1994

 

We ran several promotions for the movie in the press, including the one shown here in Nightlife Magazine. Really pressing home the “made in the USA” vibe of “lesbian-made.” You can walk like a duck, fuck like a fuck, suck like a duck, but you’ll never taste as delicious as Peking Duck if you aren’t a duck inside and out. There’s no way, as a 31 year old gay man at the time, that I could have channeled properly the thought process or life experiences of a gay woman. It was really stupid to even try and this is where we blew our shot, because we weren’t honest with ourselves or our audience. I’m sure the movie made some money because, let’s face it, it’s no big challenge to make money with a $10,000 investment! But I dare anyone to find this movie in print anywhere today. I don’t even have a copy anymore - I loaned out my VHS to some girlfriends and never got it back. Well, at least it might have worked for that gay couple! I should have really tried harder to convince our manager to go big or go home with his idea of a lesbian director, really make this movie in the right way. Who knows, it might have pulled in that market that no one was catering to, if it had only taken that audience into consideration.

 

 

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
How Straight Are You Really?
BEHIND THE (not so) GREEN DOOR
The BOOM BOOM Room
CATCHING UP with Tom DeSimone
Everybody’s FREE to FEEL GOOD
SCANDAL at the Coral Sands Motel
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: The Castro Theatre
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: The Midnight Sun
RSVP: 2 Weeks Working on a Gay Cruise Ship
VOYAGER of the Damned

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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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Porn Remastering Pt. 3: Young Gladiators & New Technology

Posted by guest blogger Miriam Webster

 

I wrote a couple of blogs last spring (Part 1 and Part 2 can be read here) about my work process at Bijou on remastering vintage porn movies for re-release on DVD and streaming. We had a slower period during the first year of covid, when we weren't able to put out as many new releases as usual, though we still managed to do a handful of movies during that time. In the past several months, however, during which we've picked back up to our normal pace at the office, we've made some technology updates that should allow for us to put out many higher quality digitally remastered versions of movies. I'm excited about these upgrades, so I wanted to write a new blog on the subject.

Our most recent release, the first to fully make use of the tech updates, is the glossy John Summers-directed J/O video, Young Gladiators (1988), starring Steve Hammond, Tim Lowe, Matt Ramsey (aka straight porn megastar Peter North), and three other guys showing off and jacking off for the camera. This movie turned out to be an ideal candidate for high quality remastering, because it was well-lit and well-shot to begin with and our VHS copy held up well, so we got great results from the new program we have been using for upscaling video sources, Topaz Enhance AI.

 

Matt Ramsey on the cover of Young Gladiators

 

I've spent a million hours tinkering with this program recently, but it has so far provided very promising results (after a substantial amount of troubleshooting). I used to think there wasn't much hope for actually increasing quality when upscaling VHS or Beta sources; I thought it would mostly just be making the same low quality larger, but not better, and this seemed to prove true from older programs and plug-ins we tried out for upscaling. But Enhance AI has done amazing work on several of the movies we have processed through it, and seems to greatly increase the clarity and fine detail in many videos. It not only upscales them, but it helps to remove noise and other artifacts from low resolution video sources and adds crispness to the image.

This program seems to have amazing potential, though it is not without quirks, as it still seems to be in the process of being fine-tuned by its makers, and also because it was not designed specifically to work with and improve the quality of VHS, so the output from it sometimes is full of odd glitches, artifacts, or distortions. Restoring movies at Bijou, we often work with older video sources, and outmoded sources are increasingly unfamiliar to software designers, so determining if and how new pieces of software can actually function well with these older formats requires a lot of hands-on tests. The most persistent initial problem we had with it (an issue with jittery-looking playback from repeated frames) required a lot of testing and consulting forums and software support staff to work through. Processing a full movie in Enhance AI takes around 20 hours on our computer, typically, so the testing process was not a quick one.

In the midst of all this, we had to build a new computer for me to work on at the office, but my new one is very powerful and even better able to handle the heavy-duty processing required by this program. This computer upgrade seemed to eliminate the jittery playback issue, but the resulting files had a new problem; they were not correctly functioning in the program where we do the remainder of our remastering work (Adobe Premiere). After even more research and testing, I discovered that there was an issue with the frame rates of the video files created in Enhance, and I figured out a roundabout, multi-step process to correct for this, which finally produced a high quality file that could be successfully used for color and audio corrections, glitch/tracking/splice removal, and any other steps in my standard remastering process. So that's my new routine until we inevitably figure out new and better ways to continue to improve our procedure in the future, as always!

Even with the additional steps required to produce something usable, it is exciting to come into Premiere to color correct these files that are noticeably larger, crisper, and more clear than what we previously had to work with from video transfers. I've included several comparison images below that show the difference between the initial VHS version of Young Gladiators (left) and the remastered version (right). You can see how the initial VHS version was fuzzy and noisy, compared to the images on the right, which have more smoothness, crispness, and depth of detail. This video further illustrates the before/after results on this movie.

Before and after restoration images from Young Gladiators
Before and after restoration images from Young Gladiators
Before and after restoration images from Young Gladiators

Before (left) and after (right) restoration images from Young Gladiators

 

Prior to the new computer, but as our very first test subject for Enhance AI, I worked on the 1982 Mark Reynolds movie, Summer Fantasy. It was another movie that got a major quality increase from that program, which you can see in the before/after image examples below. This quality increase really benefited the film, as it is very visually lush and seductive.

Before and after restoration images from Summer Fantasy
Before and after restoration images from Summer Fantasy
Before and after restoration images from Summer Fantasy

Before (left) and after (right) restoration images from Summer Fantasy

 

A couple of the releases that we did put out during the fog of 2020/early 2021 were Steve Scott's Gold Rush Boys (1983) and Joe Gage's super-popular Heatstroke (1982). These were done before either of our tech upgrades, but both movies were able to be significantly improved through our old process of noise reduction, color and audio correction, and more.

Gold Rush Boys seemed to take very well to adjustments, and we were able to get richer color, cleaner image, more detail, and crisper quality out of it, as you can see in the images below and in this video comparing the pre- and post-restoration stages.

 

Before and after restoration images from Gold Rush Boys

Before (left) and after (right) restoration images from Gold Rush Boys

 

Heatstroke is an absolute classic that has been begging for a higher quality release for decades (existing ones were in poor shape), and it was a thrill to tackle it. Though hopefully some day there is a new transfer from the film print for the optimal quality release, in the meantime, we were able, with our new version, to put out one of the best copies of this movie yet to be made available on VHS, DVD, or VOD. Of the many video sources for it we looked at, we found one that had thankfully retained its quality fairly well, and we were able to reduce its noise and get good clarity and color from it. We've been happy to hear positive comments about this release from a few of those who have been eagerly awaiting a better version of this important porn film.

 

Images from Bijou's release of Heatstroke

Images from Bijou's release of Heatstroke, featuring Clay Russell, Richard Locke, and Roy Garrett

 

I realize much of this may sound very boring and technical, zoomed in on the minutia, but in the zoomed out perspective that veers into the comical, I'm spending the majority of my time at work very, very slowly going through footage of dicks and asses, squinting and examining them to see if they look slightly better with this effect or that, with a little less orange or more shadow, etc., like some kind of sexually explicit vision test. I've easily eaten the majority of the meals I've consumed during the past 13 years of my life while at this task. (Perhaps why I was inspired to put together our Food Sex compilation several years ago.)

It's always a pleasure to get to make long-unseen porn movies once again available, or available in better quality, and we always aim to continue that process, adding to and improving upon our existing catalog of classics and making use of technological advancements whenever possible. It's particularly satisfying on the occasions, like with the movies mentioned here, that we have a source that held up well to begin with and also proves to clean up so substantially that it comes out looking great. (And all these titles can be found through Bijou on DVD and VOD.)

Anyhow, all this is to say: we're looking forward to remastering many new releases at a higher quality level in 2022!

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Classroom Porn

posted by Madame Bubby

The Bigger the Better images
Rick Donovan & Matt Ramsey (aka Peter North) in The Bigger the Better

“Hi, Professor. I am for extra help with the assignment, said the young blond jock with the tight buns accentuated by the tight Levis.

I think you need more help than that, said the hot daddy bearded muscle hunk professor dressed in a sharp business suit.

The professor puts his hand on the student's thigh.”


Yes, the above is a pretty lame attempt at the genre of classroom porn. But it's easily recognizable, not just the inevitable sex that usually occurs in a public or semi-public institutional space, but the power dynamic.

Where I teach (a college) and pretty much everywhere, one can assume that students are not part of the dating pool. Of course not all teachers have abided by this rule, some fairly egregiously, especially those in positions of great power in the academic field.

In one interesting case, a famous woman professor, Arvita Ronell, was accused of sexually harassing a gay male student. It’s a case definitely out of the norm, where a powerful cis heterosexual male teacher sexually harasses a younger cis heterosexual female student.

Yet it reveals nonetheless that a spectrum of predatory sexual behavior can and does exist, and that no matter what the specifics of the case, institutional structures that are based on hierarchy often encourage such boundary violations. One taboo generates another taboo.

Toby Ross, whose pioneering films glorified youthfulness, seems to in many of these films to flaunt sexual and social taboos. When a teacher does gets involved in their sexual activities, the power dynamic is already levelled. For example, in Reflections of Youth, Big Bill Eld, the gym teacher, is primarily there as a Priapus figure who towers above the hot young studs literally; he likes to get on the desk and masturbate his gigantic cock.
 

Bill Eld in Reflections of Youth

In Toby Ross' flick Classmates, the institutional space becomes the home of the teacher. When a sexy college student crashes at his art teacher's house, the sexual attraction is palpable but unspoken. The student feigns sleep while the teacher's mind races with images of the student fucking his ass with long, smooth, deep strokes. When the student's hard-on edges out of his boxer shorts, the teacher (nerdy but sexy) tentatively takes it in his hand and proceeds to jack him off. Still fantasizing, the teacher then jacks himself off. Tension -- release -- sleep. This realistic scene is played and edited beautifully.
 

Classmates box cover

In the Nova classic Kept After School, one sees the classroom porn genre treated with a humorous edge. Handsome teacher keeps students after school, and they aren't getting punished. He falls asleep, and an orgy ensues. He loses his power to the student's overwhelming sexual power.
 

Kept After School images
Images from Kept After School

In The Academy, by Hawk Productions, a military school teacher is seduced by his two students. A student fantasizes about the porn icon Roger. And much, much more.
 

The Academy images
Images from The Academy

And often teacher-student relationship becomes subsumed into the spanking fetish. In the Man's Hand video A Lesson Well Learned, the title pretty much self-explanatory. Naughty “boys” get spanked by coaches (and each other).
 

A Lesson Well Learned image
Image from A Lesson Well Learned

Overall, here’s the rub: reality and fantasy of course aren’t the same, and the teacher/student sexual fantasy has always been a major trope in erotic art, literature, and films, primarily heterosexual, and in many cases, the woman, strict headmistress or even nun, takes on the role of a dominatrix, punishing the “naughty boy.”

Thus, the teacher/student fantasy ends up involving often BDSM activity, accentuating the tension between what on one level many approve of as an affective/intimate relationship but one that is restrained by a public social order that pretty much proclaims, beyond this point you may not cross.

But crossing boundaries, breaking taboos one could say is precisely reason for the tension-release dynamic of porn in all its manifestations.

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