BEHIND THE (not so) GREEN DOOR

By Josh Eliot

 

Years before starting work with Catalina Video in 1980, I lived on the corner of O’Farrell and Leavenworth Streets in the “Upper Tenderloin” (as I like to think of it) in San Francisco. A typical walk up to Polk Street, where my friends and I would tend to eat dinner, would take me right past the Mitchell Brother’s O’Farrell Theatre. In 1972, the Mitchell Brothers' first, and most famous, full length adult feature Behind the Green Door was released. The movie was filmed inside the theater and featured the debut performance of Marilyn Chambers who, at the time of its release, was the cover model on the Ivory Snow laundry detergent boxes. That fact hit the newspapers and magazines, helping the brother’s $60,000.00 investment earn them a profit of over 50 million dollars!

 

Marilyn Chambers; The Mitchell Brothers' O'Farrell Theatre & Art Theatres Marilyn Chambers; The Mitchell Brothers' O'Farrell Theatre & Art Theatres

 

Of course I didn’t know any of this information at the time, I just loved the fantastic way they painted the building, with whales, tigers and all sorts of wild animals. I guess it was pretty wild inside as well! It felt like they were always showing Green Door either as the headliner or as a second feature to a new release. Boy, that print must have had a lot of edit tape splices from being run through the projector so much! I didn’t realize how much of a classic it was at the time. I lived in a studio apartment that I shared with Abraham, a classmate at the Art Institute. Abraham mentioned that he had never seen Deep Throat, which was playing on a double bill with The Devil in Miss Jones at the Art Theatres in the “Lower Tenderloin,” evidently for a good ten years straight! We went to an afternoon showing and the place was packed! As expected, the print was choppy as hell and at one point got stuck in the projector and started to burn. It wasn’t pretty when the house lights went up while they fixed it, but that’s what made the experience all the more fabulous in my book. We were both kind of surprised how low-budget “Throat” was and how “Miss Jones” looked like an old lady! Abraham starred in my class assignment for instructor George Kuchar titled Behind Blue Eyes (Tap this link to my YouTube Channel if you want to see my very first 8mm feature.) Behind Blue Eyes? Did I subconsciously come up with that title because I kept seeing Behind the Green Door on the marquee? Hmmm. I never got to see the Mitchell Brother’s movie but I always wondered, just what the hell went on behind that door?

 

Behind Blue Eyes poster

Behind Blue Eyes poster

 

Flash forward, way forward, from 1980 to 1989. I received the news that Catalina, for whom I’d been working for about one and a half years, was closing down the soundstage and moving production back to Los Angeles. It was rough saying goodbye to my friends and crew members, because I was the only one Scott Masters and John Travis had convinced general manager Chris Mann to take back with them to run production in Los Angeles. They found me a condo in West Hollywood a few blocks from Scott Masters' house and I moved in. First thing Monday morning, Masters and I drove to the Catalina offices in North Hollywood where I was reunited with Chet Thomas, the editor, who I became friends with when he came up to San Francisco to shoot his “earthquake porn,” The Big One, and I also reunited with Chi Chi LaRue whom I'd met once before. When I was in Chet’s editing suite, we were talking about musical scores. The first couple of movies I made in San Francisco were sent to Chet for editing, not allowing me to have any input on specifics, music, titles or anything. After shooting the scenes, I never saw the footage again until it was out on VHS tape. In a few days I would be starting my third movie, Hard to Be Good, about a young corn-fed stud heading off to a big city college. Costello Presley was credited for music on all of the Higgins and Catalina releases and I wanted to see if he would create a theme song with vocals for the title sequence.

 

<em>The Big One</em> and <em>Hard to Be Good</em>

Behind Blue Eyes poster

 

Chet walked me over to a random door in the middle of the warehouse, which was access to Costello’s area. “Should I knock?” I asked. “Oh hell no… You’ll freak him out.” Chet told me that the only way to communicate with Costello was to write a note with the type of music you wanted and slip it under his door. “You’ll never see him in person, he’s a bit of a recluse,” Chet explained. When William Higgins high tailed it to Amsterdam then Prague, he allowed Costello to move into a private space in the warehouse. Evidently Costello Presley only left that room after everyone went home for the night. No one ever saw him, or if they did it was a rarity. So, I wrote my note and magically a cassette tape was waiting for me one morning with the song “Beauty, Beauty,” with music and lyrics by Costello Presley. The only problem was that by the time I got that cassette in my hot little hand, Hard to Be Good was already finished and released, so I held onto it and used it in my future movie Easy Riders. (Honestly I’m not 100% sure he wrote and recorded it for me or if he had used it for something in the past and gave it to me as “new for you.”)

Again I found myself wondering what was going on “behind that door” of his to cause such a delay of my request. I’m pretty certain that it wasn’t as exciting as what was going on behind Marilyn Chambers' Green Door! (If he was living there, where did he shower?) About a year later, the Catalina offices moved to a smaller facility in Reseda. During the move, I actually saw Costello Presley for the first time! He was leaving with a couple of knapsacks filled with his belongings, as he wasn’t allowed to “shack-up” in the new building. That day, the music stopped; Costello Presley walked out of the Catalina offices and we never heard from him again. It was kind of sad. We continued re-using music from his cassette tape collection and credited “Music by Rock Hard” on the movies, until we met Sonic Seduction, who scored our movies until the company was sold to Channel 1.

 


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?

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Don't Wear "Short Shorts" on the #38 Geary to LANDS END

By Josh Eliot

 

When I read Will Seagers' blog last week, it got me reminiscing about my years in San Francisco and, even though I was there nearly a decade after Will, I fell in love with the city just as much. So… Flashback, 1981. When I ended my second blog, FRANK ROSS: The Boss, I was still working for the Screening Room Theater in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district and the summer of 1981 was approaching. It’s a little fuzzy as to whether the theater had an ownership change to Savages at this point, but I do remember Frank Ross being in a very different head space. One day on his way to work, Frank was walking down Jones Street and, when he was just a block away, a man jumped from the top of a building and landed not more than five feet in front of him. This messed him up immensely, and justifiably so. I was in the ticket booth when he came in trembling and with a face full of tears as he told me what happened. I jumped up from the stool and just hugged him, while he shook uncontrollably. It took a long time for Frank to get over what had happened; some things you just can’t “un-see.” My on-again, off-again quickies with TK, the hot stripper from the theater, had settled into the off-again stage permanently as he became involved with an equally hot blond stripper more around his age.

 

Savages Theater, formerly the Screening Room Theater

Savages Theater, formerly the Screening Room Theater

 

I was 18 years old and could count on one hand how many sexual trysts I'd had. I didn’t count the customers at the theater who would cruise me from the lobby while I sat in the ticket booth. Occasionally when the coast was clear I would step back into the theater, during a ten-minute break, and let one of them blow me if they were cute enough. That didn’t count as sex in my book, just customer service at it’s finest. I was still settling into the fact that I was now out of the closet and not very experienced. On one of my days off, I decided to throw caution to the wind and set off for a day trip to Lands End. Months earlier, TK and the strippers took me there after a night at the Trocadero Transfer Disco and filled me in on its history. There was a nude beach you could hike to on a path that started at the Cliff House and old Sutro Bathhouse. It was a downhill trail all the way to a cove, and supposedly along the way there were men in the bushes going at it.

I’m embarrassed to say, I put on my favorite corduroy brown cut off, “short shorts” and headed to the beach, knapsack attached, on the #38 Geary street bus to Lands End. The ride there was uneventful and when I arrived, I basically used my “gay-dar” to follow a group of men to help me find the right path. It worked like a charm, and before I knew it I was on the trail headed to the cove. What a “wonderland” of excitement, as the trail did not disappoint. Clusters of men in circle jerks, blowjobs and more. Single men sporting big bulges, with the help of cock-rings, inviting the passers by to have a feel. I bypassed all of them, probably because I was too intimidated, and spent the day at the cove. I spread my blanket, got some sun, went up to my waist in the frigid water and at one point talked with a guy who came up and sat with me. We exchanged numbers, but I never called him. Not really my fantasy Lands End experience, but I wasn’t exactly an aggressor either.

Around 4pm, I hiked back up the trail and to the bus stop to catch the #38 Geary home to the Tenderloin. The bus was packed, standing room only, because everyone was leaving the coast. It wasn’t until we got several blocks into our trip that things took a turn. At one of the stops, a tall gentleman came aboard and shimmied his way through the isle where we were all standing there crammed against each other. I thought to myself, OMG this guy looks just like JOHN BECK. John Beck starred alongside Susan Sarandon and Marie-France Pisier in what was my favorite book and movie of the time. The Other Side of Midnight was a #1 bestseller and hit movie with very controversial content, and I just loved it! Anyway, John Beck, to me, was the hottest thing since sliced bread.

 

John Beck with Susan Sarandon and Marie-France Pisier

John Beck with Susan Sarandon and Marie-France Pisier in The Other Side of Midnight

 

I must have been gawking at him because on his way down the aisle our eyes met and he ended up stopping right next to me. The bus continued on its journey and he kind of just stood there, one arm on the bar to keep balance and the other arm holding a book at his waist. He refused to make eye contact, just kept staring off into space, when suddenly (and this was impressive to me) he started rubbing his knuckles back and forth over my crotch, using the book he was holding as a shield. All the time not making contact but knuckling me non-stop which, at 18 years of age, immediately caused me to get a full boner. I was mortified when I saw a lady in one of the seats looking at me with judgment on her face because these shorts were so fucking short my underwear was pushing below the fringe, exposing my cloth covered boner. Oh the depravity! But it wasn’t enough to make me to move away from those knuckles. Finally, my own personal John Beck was making eye contact with me and cracked a very sexy smile. I was jumping out of my skin, but no words were exchanged. At some point seats opened up and we both took separate seats, still eyeballing each other. We both rode the bus until the end of the line and it wasn’t until we un-boarded that we first spoke. I told you I was shy.

 

Crowded #38 Geary bus

Crowded #38 Geary bus

 

We both over-shot our stops, had a laugh about it, then he invited me to his place. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. All too often when someone pops their cherry, like I did that day, it’s an uneventful situation. This one had it all: the anticipation, the courting, the foreplay (in silence), then the foreplay in bed followed by my first time bottoming. There was even a follow-up dinner date at his place, but that was it, I moved on. Of course, the first time hurt like hell and I really didn’t enjoy most of it, but he was very sweet and even bathed me in his tub afterwards because I was trembling. I guess it’s normal for middle-aged men to bathe their children!

I’m not saying, “Don’t Wear Short-Shorts on the #38 Geary to LANDS END,” but if you do, you might just get your anal cherry popped! (Again.)


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?

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