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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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
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

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