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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David's Chicago Sexual Underground 8/10/22 & P(r)ick of the Week

stigma - BijouBlog
David's Chicago Sexual Underground header

Greetings P(r)icksters!

Long time, I know. Haven’t fallen off the planet (yet), just an incredibly crazy spring and summer. Things have somewhat settled down, but I have branched out into a new focus.

Life got overwhelming in the spring. After two years of covid interruptions, we at Touché had planned to host our Mr. Chicago Leather contest in January. That was until omicron came along at the beginning of the year. So we postponed the contest to April.

In the intervening time, I had staffing issues, trying to bring on new staff while others came down with covid and/or had time off for vacations, etc. I spent several nights behind the bar and, a couple of times, just limited hours of operation based on who was available to work.

We hosted a huge, huge MCL contest weekend. While we did not sell out the contest, the bar was packed all weekend and I literally just stood by the bar and watched my crew frantically serve the crowd. It was almost like watching the numbers turn at Mc Donald’s (remember when they used to post number of burgers served?).

All this made me behind schedule in planning parties for Memorial Day weekend when Chicago hosts International Mr. Leather. We figured we would see a pent-up increase in folks wanting to get out after this event was put on hold for two years, too. It was just that!

I was just as frantic trying to line up events, porn stars, dancers and everything else that goes into a six-night run of parties. Not kidding, it was just on Friday the week before everything would kick off on the following Wednesday when I nailed down the last details.

Then we jumped right into Pride planning, including lining up our local clubs to host our leather & kink contingent in the parade. On the heels of the Pride parade, I was also putting together my family reunion back in Ohio over the 4th of July weekend.

Coming back after that is where I took on my new focus, namely monkeypox. After IML & Pride, cases began to take off here in Chicago and it was a scramble to get ahead of it.

I first reached out to Chicago’s Department of Public Health but could only get a “leave a message” response. I could not speak to an actual live person.

Then I reached out to Howard Brown Health Center, they have a clinic just a half block from Touché.

A little history here, Howard Brown was here back in the 1970’s when I first arrived in Chicago. Back then, their focus was on STDs. It was basically a doctor and a nurse in the basement of a church. You had a drippy dick, they’d swab it and give you a shot of penicillin. Gay sex was taboo, most guys didn’t want to go to a doctor who would want to know how you got gonorrhea in your ass. Howard Brown was gay providers taking care of our community discreetly. It was drop in, no appointments, no fees, simple. You needed care and they did it.

Then came HIV/AIDS in the early 80’s. Howard Brown ramped up their efforts to care for gay men in the early days of this disease as some mainstream healthcare was paranoid of this new and deadly unknown illness. In the early days, Howard Brown would line up a medical van to pull up in front of a bar to offer free STD tests and eventually HIV testing in the 80’s. Howard Brown went from a small group of volunteers to a full fledged health clinic. Still lots of volunteers but a growing staff of doctors, nurses and more.

Howard Brown secured federal grants to treat and develop research into HIV/AIDS and continues to play a pivotal role. As they succeeded in treating people with AIDS, they took a more traditional role of healthcare, primary care, women’s healthcare as agencies like the Lesbian Cancer Project were brought under its organization. Howard brown expanded from one clinic in the gay neighborhood to several spread across Chicago. Also, HB would develop connections with other healthcare businesses; you can find a Walgreen’s pharmacy in their clinics.

I thought after our early days of working with Howard Brown on STDs and then HIV/AIDS, they would be jumping on this latest health crisis centered on our community. My first call to the clinic by the bar should have been a indication. This poor kid answering the phone had no knowledge of Howard Brown’s history or mission. He just answers the phone at this health clinic.

Eventually I got a name and email address (not a phone number) and began trying to get something set up to help keep our customers and community safe. Several back and forth emails over a week led to an actual conversation on setting up vaccine events at Touché.

In the meantime, I was contacted by Project WISH at the University of Illinois Chicago about hosting vax events. In a couple of days, we set a day and time for our first Vax Party. Before this, the local bathhouse Steamworks had begun hosting vax events there in late June. This Project WISH would offer vax shots at the baths, usually 100 shots at a time and there was at least twice that number showing up.

Other than Steamworks and now us, folks were scrambling to find vax shots at their doctors’ offices, some city health clinics and hospitals to get vaccinated. Even Howard Brown was offering vaccines on an appointment basis, but they stipulated in the first few weeks that you had to be displaying symptoms to get a shot. As you might expect, it has been just nuts to get ahead of monkeypox. Guess we learned nothing from covid.

Anyway, Project WISH has hosted two vax nights already at the bar, with more to come every week. They run it pretty simple. Folks need to fill out a two-sided form, then line up for a shot. No restrictions on whether you live in Chicago, Illinois, whatever. Our first night was crazy; we planned to start at 9pm but when we opened at 5 that night, the bar filled quickly. (I had to scramble to get staff behind the bar and open the second room.) We learned right away to be ready.

Our second vax party was last Wednesday, and we began prepping right at 5 pm. Had to, as when I arrived at 1:30 that afternoon, there was a line outside. To make it run smooth, I stood outside when we opened and handed each person a numbered ticket and the form they needed to fill out. I was told we would get 140 vax shots that night and I handed out tickets to the first 140 in line.

Once folks got inside, they could mingle around and wait until their number was called. We tried our best to make it a party with music and drinks. Even the medical team administering the shots enjoyed the night. It took them about 90 minutes to jab all 140 doses into arms. They’ll be back today, Wednesday the 11th, with hopefully 200 doses, and back again this Thursday the 11th.

Knowing monkeypox spreads by close extended physical contact, we’ve encouraged guys to slow down at the bar. We stopped showing porn on our screens and backed off some promotions that may entice guys to get touchy feely. It has hit us in the pocketbook, but we survived AIDS and now covid. We’ll keep working to get folks vaccinated and put this pox crap down. It may take a bit more time than we hope, but we can do it. Besides, we still have covid to contend with as well. Guess you can call me Dr. David now.

I’ll be back soon, as our Pride was fun and I have stuff from that to share. First, I’m going to get another round of vax parties lined up and set a couple of days aside to go rider some roller coasters.

Take care, get your vaccines for covid and monkeypox. If you have to quarantine or just hold back till we get the pox vax out, you can still grab my P(r)ick and enjoy yourself. Here’s a couple of fun choices for you to consider.

David

To order from Bijou, visit bijouworld.com, call 800-932-7111, or email bijou.orders@gmail.com

Prick of the Week header - images from M.A.G.I.C.

M.A.G.I.C. images
M.A.G.I.C. (D01681) - On DVD and Streaming

Inches images
Inches (D00044) - On DVD and Streaming
 

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Stigma

posted by Madame Bubby

‘Porn is not destroying the environment.” – recent tweet by Steven Toushin, owner BijouWorld.com


I’ve noticed on Twitter, that is, on my own account especially, a stigma, and this stigma is connected to a larger stigma.

The stigma isn’t homophobia specifically, nor is it what I term a type of classism or elitism, or that somehow only certain persons with certain academic credentials are worthy of a voice in discussing serious issues.

The stigma is what I call pornophobia. It manifests itself in this case, specifically, that because our blog is part of a website that sells gay porn, it is somehow cheapened, deemed unworthy of respect (not that anyone has directly criticized it), and perhaps for diplomatic reasons, persons ignore it as not worthy of artistic or intellectual study. If the blog was located on a not for profit site like an archives or a museum or a library, I think, the stigma would not be as prevalent.

Porn is an integral party of LGBTQ history, in fact, human history, and to just assume that it is a manifestation of “baser” instincts is wrongheaded and bigoted. Some of the earliest gay pornographic films were products of an artistic motivation to incorporate sexual experiences into narratives with story arcs, developing characters, and profound symbols.
 

Poster and images from The Idol
Vintage poster & images from Tom DeSimone's The Idol (1979)

VHS cover for Blue Angel
VHS front & back cover for Jurgen Bauer's The Blue Angel (1986)

They were liberators for the newly liberated. Watch The Idol and The Blue Angel, among other films we make it our mission to preserve and disseminate. They may be somewhat anomalous in their depth and scope, but there’s a range here, and even some of the early J. Brian titles, which feature unabashed sex and not much else, convey their own unique ambience of carpe diem, imply that the cultural composed connection between gay sex, in fact, any type of sex, and shame is as breakable as a bruised reed.
 

Stills from Seven in a Barn
Stills from J. Brian's Seven in a Barn (1971)

Too much literature and art has been created, I think, and this dynamic includes even LGBTQ persons themselves, that focuses on the relationship between many forms of harm and porn, ranging from the stereotypes of the gay porn movie as inextricably linked to an oppressed audience suffering from frustrated sexuality and exploitation, to even condemning all porn as fundamentally misogynistic.

I am not claiming that all porn is of artistic merit, nor am I making any claim that the porn industry (distinguishing between the industry and the product) has not been part of exploitative and oppressive structures.

But any action that involves bending or breaking taboos is indeed a risk. Taking that risk in expressing one’s sexuality means confronting and continually reimagining the primal center of human life, in fact, all life.

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