SCANDAL at the Coral Sands Motel

By Josh Eliot

 

When Catalina Video moved me to Los Angeles in 1989, I developed a great friendship with the post production supervisor Chet Thomas. Chet was a 5'8” fair skinned blond California boy. We were in our late 20s and enjoyed the same interests. Our bonding happened the night we went to a premiere screening of the movie Scandal with Bridget Fonda and Joanne Whaley Kilmer. The movie was about two loose girls and some politicians whose actions created a scandal in England. We both took on their quirky free-spirited attributes and made a running joke of it by calling each other “Sal” - the name they used for the “loose” one in the movie. Chet was the Kilmer (wild child) character and I was the Bridget Fonda (along for the ride) character.

Our hang out spot at the time was the Spike in West Hollywood. It was just a block and a half away from my apartment and within walking distance to Chet’s as well. We would turn on the “Sal” mode whenever we partied there and Chet, being a “loose goose,” was rubbing off on me. It was like a competition of who could score first. Chet always won; it was quantity not quality with him and he was more open to things like running out into the parking lot for a quickie.

 

Scandal poster, the Spike bar

Scandal poster, the Spike bar

 

I did beat him at least once, with a hot muscleman named Moses. Yes Moses, and I have to say he was heavenly. I don’t think Moses ever left his house with a shirt on, or if he did it was always unbuttoned and wide open. At least every time we saw him at the bar he was that way. He was one of those guys that you thought was completely unapproachable, but as things turned out he approached me one night. Chet was pissed the next day, when we caught up with each other, because he was trying to close that deal forever!

Chet knew every hot spot in Los Angeles and would introduce me to all of them, good and bad. One night after drinking he took me to a place called the Coral Sands Motel. Not necessarily a “good” one. This place was a bathhouse disguised as a motel. It was quite a large and in a dingy part of the city between Hollywood and Silver Lake. He didn’t explain a thing to me, just took me there one night after drinking shots at the Spike. The place had two levels with exterior doors in a rectangle, facing each other and a courtyard with pool and sauna in the center. I guess the protocol was that you go to your room (leaving your door open of course for passersby to look in), strip down, wrap yourself in a towel and walk the grounds. How was this possible? Large apartment buildings on each side could look right down into the courtyard! I just followed Chet’s lead and did what he did. Sal and Sal were in full swing, hoping from room to room, talking with the occupants. If we liked them then we would stay for a while, if not we were back to walking the grounds. We ended up in two guys' room that we thought were hot, but once inside it felt like they were straight out of The Sopranos, and maybe on the run??? After smoking some weed with them we made up some story and left the room, continuing our pursuit of happiness on the grounds. This night was probably the wildest I’d ever been I my life. It’s a little embarrassing for me to share but I can write about it now because it was quite a unique experience.

 

Coral Sands Motel

Coral Sands Motel

 

Chet and I had a very close friendship and for about two years we were literally attached at the hip, but it all came to a screeching halt when he met a guy named John. He was smitten and instantly turned from the Happy Hooker to Dolly Madison overnight. It was shortly after this point that I met Mark Rutter, who I discussed in my previous blog “7 Years with Colt Model Mark Rutter.” We were both now pretty much “married up” and slowly started only seeing each other at work. Chet was editing my movies and as our friendship became distant so did our working relationship. In my movies, I started noticing constant “choppy” cuts where I knew there was the ability to make the edits look smooth. We were still friends but if Chet got a hair up his ass about something, you’d better watch out. More and more as time went on, I felt like he was sabotaging some of my movies by including funky sound or choppy edits, etc. Chi Chi noticed it on her movies too. It got so bad that on a movie that was super important to me, Single White Male, he actually reversed the order of two scenes, making the storyline a little messed up. That year I won Best Screenplay and Rob Cryston won Best Actor for Single White Male, but I was still pissed about the out of order scenes which I didn’t catch until it was released on VHS. I walked a fine line between respecting our friendship or totally calling him out on what he was doing. Luckily, things were resolved when I asked the general manager to let me edit my own movies, which he agreed to and purchased a separate editing bay for me to use. Chet and I remained friends, but the “Sal” days were over forever.

 

Single White Male

Single White Male

 

On New Year's Day this year, I was finally able to put the mixed up scenes from Single White Male back into the proper order. It’s not that way in the XXX version, but it is in the PG version I put on my YouTube Channel, which you can take a look at if you like. Rob Cryston slays in that role! Chet Thomas and I first met when he came to San Francisco to shoot The Big One, where we bonded over creating special effects for the earthquake scene in his movie. Upon moving to L.A. we became like brothers, and with brothers there are always some bumpy roads. In this blog I have an obligation to tell the truth, good or bad. The truth is I look at my friendship with Chet, including the bumps, as one of my fondest relationships from the past. Chet, in addition to editing for Scott Master at Nova and Catalina, directed some amazing movies for Catalina including: Sex Crimes, The Getaway, NightForce, Cruise Control and Too Damn Big. He, like many other talents in our community, was taken from us way too early...

 

Some of Chet Thomas' movies

Some of Chet Thomas' movies

 

 

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

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CATCHING UP with Tom DeSimone

By Josh Eliot

 

I remember my first Tom DeSimone movie: Reform School Girls. A large group of us were going on a Friday night and the film was a lot of fun, especially when Wendy O. Williams rode on top of a bus after barreling through the gates. In San Francisco, 1980s, when you had moments like that on film, the whole audience would scream and applaud in delight. My friends and I were constantly at the Castro or Market Street movie houses that would regularly show John Waters, Andy Warhol and other cult movies. When I saw actress Pat Ast was in Reform School Girls, I knew we were in for a good time. I remembered her from Andy Warhol’s movie Heat, shot mostly at the old Tropicana Motel in West Hollywood, where my friends and I stayed on previous visits to L.A. Tom made many popular mainstream movies including The Concrete Jungle, Hell Night, Prison Girls and the cult classic Chatterbox, to name a few.

 

Reform School Girls poster and stars Pat Ast and Wendy O. Williams
Reform School Girls poster and stars Pat Ast and Wendy O. Williams
 
Posters for The Concrete Jungle and Chatterbox

Posters for The Concrete Jungle and Chatterbox

 

Once I moved from San Francisco to West Hollywood and got settled into the Catalina offices, it was a fun surprise to find out that Catalina released and distributed gay adult movies made by Tom DeSimone, under the name Lancer Brooks. In my first blog: “Coming Out Of My Wet Shorts” I wrote about how much that movie poster influenced me. Wet Shorts, Flesh & Fantasy, The Dirty Picture Show, Skin Deep, NightCrawler and Bi Bi Love (with one of my favorite scenes ever in a bisexual movie, featuring Crystal Evans) were all sold by Catalina. I would say my VHS tapes of Tom’s movies were like a “video tutorial” on how to make a great adult movie. His movies had just the right combination of comedy, drama, and titillation, seamlessly edited to create these gems. In Wet Shorts it was the traveling salesman scene, Flesh & Fantasy the jacuzzi scene and Skin Deep’s minimalist yet multilayered story of a writer who befriends a sex worker spoke volumes about his internal thought process. It goes without saying that I was truly inspired. Where John Travis taught me the value of lighting and cinematography, Tom DeSimone’s movies inspired me to write and direct stories with a quirky flair to them. I know the adult movies of today don’t really embrace the “storyline” concept, but we did back then and I always tried to make the most of it.

 

Tom DeSimone DVDs from Catalina

Tom DeSimone DVDs from Catalina

 

After completing my final movie for Catalina Video called Hot Buttered Cop Porn in 2006, my partner Tony and I moved to Palm Desert and continued editing and remastering Catalina movies for release on DVD, until the company was sold to Channel 1. One random afternoon, I spoke to my friend Kurt about how I was remastering Skin Deep for DVD release and out of the blue he told me that he knew Tom DeSimone from The Desert Film Society, as Tom was a founding member and served on the board. I was shocked and elated when Kurt followed up to tell me that Tom said I could contact him. The order of things is a little fuzzy but meeting Tom was so exciting for me, and Chi Chi LaRue (who of course I told immediately when this all came about). I was working for Channel 1 Releasing at this point and Chi Chi was part owner. In addition to being a warm and wonderful guy, Tom was very generous in sharing his experiences within the adult and mainstream industry. Channel 1 gave me the go ahead to set up video interviews with Tom discussing the behind the scenes working of his movies released by Catalina. We shot four interviews, one for each movie - Wet Shorts, Flesh & Fantasy, The Dirty Picture Show and Skin Deep - which were added to the DVD releases of each movie as “Bonus Extras.” Chi Chi and Tom sat on my couch and we recorded them conversing with each other while watching NightCrawler, which then became a “Bonus Director’s Commentary” on that DVD. It was all very exciting to have our Idol (excuse the pun) spending time with us. Tom even invited us to a party at his house where he projected a classic old movie on the big screen in his backyard to a large group of partygoers. I have both the Skin Deep interview and full interview on my YouTube channel if you would like to view them.

 

Tom DeSimone's Skin Deep interview

Tom DeSimone's Skin Deep interview

 

Having access to Bijou Video's amazing streaming service, I recently watched the restored and remastered version of The Idol, and now I know what all the hype is about. This is one great, timeless classic which felt very much like a mainstream movie. Bijou’s streaming catalog also includes many other Tom DeSimone movies like: Dust unto Dust, Confessions of a Male Groupie, The Frenchman & The Lovers (formally titled: The Harder They Fall), Station to Station, and of course my personal favorite Hot Truckin', with Gordon Grant! The Bijou catalog’s vast number of movies never ceases to amaze me! So much content! I’ve heard through the grape-vine that Tom DeSimone’s Catching Up is a real crowd pleaser as well. That is the next one on my list to stream this weekend. Look at this, here I am retired from adult video making and yet I am still obsessed with watching more Tom DeSimone movies to see if I can still learn more from one of the best!

 

Catching Up poster and Tom DeSimone editing

Catching Up poster and Tom DeSimone editing

 

For more on Tom DeSimone's career, see also Bijou's 2019 interview with him: Part 1 and Part 2

 

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

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Mad Scenes

Posted by Madam Bubby

 

Usually a “mad scene” specifically refers to a particular scene from an opera written by bel canto composers of the early 19th century, such as Donizetti and Bellini. A soprano, usually suffering from a romantic love crisis, goes insane, and expresses her insanity, paradoxically, in difficult, complicated coloratura passages that require great vocal control.

The most famous occurs in the opera Lucia di Lammermoor. Lucia, in love with the family enemy Edgardo, is forced to marry someone her brother chooses, Arturo. Lucia kills Arturo on her wedding night. I grew up hearing the gay icon Maria Callas singing this scene on record, and I was mesmerized that she was able to invest the scene with such drama and a dark, complex timbre. Here was no Snow White singing tra la la to the birds. But, interestingly enough, the opera does not end with the mad scene. Lucia dies offstage, and her lover, Edgardo, kills himself. He actually gets a kind of tenor mad scene. But it’s generally the ladies who go mad, which reflects quite blatantly the Victorian view that women, the weaker sex, were more prone to mental disturbance: potential hysterics.

 

Callas as Lucia

Callas as Lucia

 

The mad scene by the middle of the last century started moving to the end of movies, crystallizing to some extent in the grand dame guignol movies of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The end of Sunset Boulevard, the famous “I’m ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille,” scene of Norma Desmond, deconstructs the mad scenes of operas, because she thinks she is playing the necrophiliac Salome. One even hears a bit of music from the Strauss opera as she descends the staircase (that prop usually occurs in Lucia mad scenes). In fact, by the time Strauss wrote his opera Salome, one could even say the female protagonists of many operas written by that time were mad for the entire opera (or most of the time).

 

Noma Desmond at the end of Sunset Boulevard

Norma Desmond at the end of Sunset Boulevard, Source: https://icsfilm.org/essays/the- devil-is-a-woman-sunset-boulevard-norma-desmond-and-actress-noir/

 

Thus, Baby Jane Hudson in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? dancing on the beach with ice cream cones and others of her ilk come out of a rich tradition. The director Robert Aldrich really seemed to build his grande dame guignol films toward a final mad scene for the female protagonist, though in his underrated Autumn Leaves shows a male, played by Cliff Robertson, going mad, and he gets several scenes, but the most terrifying one occurs at about midpoint.

But it is also a scene of horrifying domestic violence (he throws a typewriter at his wife, played by Joan Crawford, after slapping her around). Like Edgardo in Lucia, he accuses her of treachery, but she is innocent. In reality, his father slept with his now former wife (she a willing accomplice), and discovering them together precipitated his descent into what, based on the movie, is paranoid schizophrenia.

 

Joan Crawford and Cliff Robertson in Autumn Leaves

Joan Crawford and Cliff Robertson in Autumn Leaves, Source: http://graham-russell.blogspot.com/2018/10/reflections-on-autumn-leaves-1956.html

 

Aldrich created another mad scene in The Killing of Sister George, a groundbreaking LGBTQ movie on so many levels, not only for its filming a scene in an actual lesbian bar, but, for the fact that the protagonist, June Buckridge played by Beryl Reid (known as George because of the character she plays in a soap opera, Sister George, a jovial country nurse in an English village) is out and proud as a lesbian. Many critics today tend to place this move in the “self-hating” LGBTQ subgrenre. Yes, George is certainly not the most stable person. She yells a lot, drinks a lot, and certainly, which one could argue isn’t really a character flaw in some of the situations she encounters, shows no compunction about telling some persons off in not the most dainty language.

Her relationship with Alice does not strike one as being the healthiest by today’s standards. I remember watching the scene where George, always jealous, punishes Alice for a supposed flirting (with a man) by making her kneel before her and eat her cigar. For the mid 1960s, this scene was risqué, and I perceived that perhaps there was some element of BDSM play involved, but it also seems to be moving into the realm of emotional abuse. And it’s not Alice as the victim of the “bull dyke” George. Alice is blatantly egging her on, and by pretending to enjoy eating the cigar; yes, she does take back control of the dynamic, knowing she is hurting George by, as George both yells and cries, “ruining” it.

Thus, one can see the characters aren’t camp caricatures. The character George plays gets killed off in the series (hence the title), and the fate of her career and relationship gets wound up in the machinations of the cliched reptilian predatory lesbian, played by Coral Browne.

Spoiler alert: she loses her job and her lover; the Coral Browne character in a scene of underhanded viciousness at George’s farewell party at the television studio suggests she get a job playing the voice of a cow in an animated puppets series for children. A gut-wrenching scene occurs when Alice leaves her. Reid masterfully plays it as both horribly hurt and horribly angry together, the emotion much like that of another spurned operatic character, Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana (from the time of whole “mad operas”). Shortly thereafter, George enters the empty studio, smashes the camera equipment, and beings mooing like a cow. She is wordless. No romantic words, no ecstatic high notes like Lucia sings, no cameras for a Norma Desmond close-up.

 

Beryl Reid as George in The Killing of Sister George

Beryl Reid as George in The Killing of Sister George, Source: https://thelastdrivein.com/category/1960s/the-killing-of- sister-george-1960/

 

But, is she really mad? Does she really enter another reality like Lucia and Norma Desmond and Baby Jane? She’s not fantasizing about a marriage that never took place, and she’s not retreating into memories of a forever lost stardom. It seems she’s justifiably enraged, but also, given her indomitable character, understanding that she will do that job. She knows she has lost. She knows it’s degrading.

And like many LGBTQ persons, she knows who she is, and because she knows, she can choose, or at least to try and choose, what happens in her life. What’s sad is that she feels like she can only choose her losses. I just wonder if she’s really at the same level of victimization and its sister, in those cases, madness as the Romantic heroines of opera or the characters like Baby Jane who are both torturer and victim in grande dame guignol cinema.

Similarly. the complex dynamic where the madness, or appearance of madness exists perhaps to crystallize at the highest level of tension the torturer/victim binary, appears in a retro gay porn movie, Drive, directed by Jack Deveau (which Bijou carries on DVD and streaming). The mad Arachne plots to kidnap a scientist and eliminate everyone’s sex drive.

 

Christopher Rage as Arachne in Drive

Christopher Rage as Arachne in Drive

 

Arachne (Christopher Rage aka Mary Jim Sstunning) certainly camps it up as she attempts to set her diabolical plot in motion. But the movie unveils at the end how the one who desires to castrate is actually ferociously repressing her own sexuality. She is last seen in a dungeon with the men she had imprisoned. Secret agent Clark liberates the prisoners, and Arachne is left alone. But this whole mad porn opera contains a moment of somber lucidity. Arachne holds a glass bottle with a severed penis. She knows she is forever trapped in a cycle of endless desire like a spider in a web, consuming its mates but never satiated:

“I hunted at night until it wasn’t enough to hunt only at night, and then I hunted during the day too. I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop. My thoughts were only of hard bodies, rigid with the desire for me — beautiful men swollen with the need for me. They were all around me and I chose the ones who looked most eager.

“Until I saw a man who was so perfect, with a hunger in his eyes that reflected my own hunger — and I knew he was the one. I knew we could feed from each other, claw at each other with a need we didn’t care to understand.

“Drugged with desire for each other’s hot naked skin, tense muscles pushing — and then filling me with his need, white and hot. Crushing me with his strong arms, pressing down on me and into me, until I closed my eyes with the ecstasy and perfection of him, and I screamed for him — and I screamed for me. 

“And I opened my eyes and I was alone.

“And I vowed then that I would bring an end to it all. Man would have to search no more: Arachne would be the answer.”

She knows. She knows who she is, ultimately more frightening than the mad scene at the end, which usually ends in the liberation of death.

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Interview with Director Tom DeSimone: Part 1 - The Early Years & Porn Filmmaking

posted by guest blogger Miriam Webster


Tom DeSimone behind a camera
Image Credit: Tom DeSimone

Mainstream film/television and porn director Tom DeSimone (also credited as Lancer Brooks) was one of the major figures who helped to form the adult industry in the 1970s, during the birth of hardcore pornography as a film genre. Initially shooting films for Shan Sayles of the Park Theatre in the L.A. area, DeSimone made some of the earliest gay porn films within the burgeoning industry, including the very first plotted, feature-length gay porn film, The Collection (1969). DeSimone's porn films typically centered around stories and he made technically high-quality productions - well-made narrative movies with developed characters and performers cast to suit their roles - that showed care for the craft.

Over the span of his porn filmmaking career, which also included sexploitation and bisexual films, DeSimone worked with many important contributors to the industry, including performers Gordon Grant, Al Parker, Jack Wrangler, Roger, Michael Christopher, David Ashfield, J.W King, and Fred Halsted, and filmmakers Nick Elliot, Jason Sato, William Higgins, and Jack Deveau. Deveau's New York-based studio, Hand in Hand Films, distributed several of DeSimone's films (Catching Up [1975], The Idol [1979], and others) and DeSimone also worked behind the scenes with Hand in Hand as the cameraman for three of their releases directed by Deveau (Ballet Down the Highway, Wanted: Billy the Kid, and Good Hot Stuff, all from 1975). (DeSimone extensively discusses his career in the newly released book, Good Hot Stuff, about Hand in Hand and Deveau.) DeSimone also made the historically notable film, Erotikus: History of the Gay Movie (1974), which is part documentary and part porn and which was released as a porn film and played in porn theaters.

DeSimone was one of a small number of individuals from the porn industry who successfully moved into working in mainstream film and television. (See the correction in our previous Casey Donovan blog, which left out mentions of those who did cross over into mainstream work.) This included Hell Night (1981) starring Linda Blair, Reform School Girls (1986) starring punk musician Wendy O. Williams, and extensive television work. (See the bottom of this blog for Tom DeSimone's filmography and links to his movies.)

DeSimone recently answered some questions about his career, which we are excited to share in this week's blog, the first of two installments, this one focusing on his introduction to filmmaking and directing porn films.

Bijou: What are some of your favorite films?

DeSimone: I can't really pick one favorite film out of the thousands I've seen and hundreds I love. On the list are Duel in the Sun, The Letter, 8 ½, The Little Foxes, The Rose Tattoo, Atonement, Pennies from Heaven, Incochine... so you see, I have a lot of favorites. A “favorite” is any film I can watch over and over and never tire of and also one in which I continue to find more and more elements of pleasure each time I view it. Among this list, The Letter is probably my most watched film and it never gets boring and I never cease to discover something new each time.

Bijou: Did you make short films while in school for film? What were those like?

DeSimone: At UCLA, where I got my master's degree, I made three short films. One of them, Wooden Lullaby, won best director at the Cine Film Festival in Washington D.C. Another, The Game, won me a scholarship to complete my studies in graduate school. Both films were screened for the public in the Annual Student Film Programs at UCLA. My film, The Game, got me an interview with Columbia Pictures at the time... but nothing came of that beyond the meeting.

Bijou: What were your goals and philosophy towards making your porn films (especially as one of the people who helped to form hardcore as a genre)? Did those persist or did they change over time as you continued to work in film?

DeSimone: Going into it, I didn't really have a philosophy. That came later. I got started because after film school there just wasn't an easy way to break into the Hollywood firmament. Film students back then weren't being sought after as they are now. I was tired of waiting tables and taking actors' portraits for their resumes.

At that time, adult film theaters were just starting to come out in the open. But they were all straight porn. No one was openly screening gay stuff. Then came the Park Theater near downtown L.A. They were showing “gay loops.” A loop, in the business then, was a short film, no plot or acting but just quickies featuring nudity and not much else... there was NO sexual activity, just implied, like holding hands, walking on the beach, or hugging at sunset... or looking longingly into each other's eyes while reclining – all sorts of innocent attempts to convey gay relationships or gay attraction. And NEVER erect!

Someone suggested to me that I might make a few bucks if I tried something. I contacted the Park Theater, got the name of the owner, and got myself an interview. Long story short, he told me to go shoot something and come back and see him and he'd decide if he was interested in me as a filmmaker. I did a short “loop” and loaded it with sexual activity... nothing hard core but definitely sexual love making... all shot discreetly, of course. I screened it for him and he hired me on the spot, built me a studio with cutting rooms, a sound stage, and anything I needed to turn out features for his theaters. That was the start of feature films for the gay market. That film was The Collection... followed by many more small, insignificant ones to fill the screen across the country at his theaters.

It wasn't until I started out on my own that I started to think about what I wanted to say or do with my films since, by now, I had created a career out of it all and was becoming known. (Or, at least, Lancer Brooks was.)

I soon discovered that films about “relationships” were most successful. So The Idol, Skin Deep, Catching Up, and also The Harder They Fall were huge successes. (The Harder They Fall was also released under a different title, The Frenchman and the Lovers.) I was interested in exploring gays in love or at least relationships. My stories pretty much gravitated to those situations. I was tired of all the films that started with the pizza boy delivering and ending up on the couch. That's not to say I didn't make a few of those, too. But when I really wanted to do something creative and when I got juiced up to do something, it always seemed to go to the relationship stories.

The Idol poster
Catching Up poster

Bob Blount and Eric Clement in The Harder They Fall aka The Frenchman and the Lovers
Bob Blount & Eric Clement in The Frenchman and the Lovers

Bijou: Who was your producer (also credited as a performer in The Collection), Max Blue, from early in your career?

DeSimone: Max Blue was a pseudonym for my partner at the time, Nick Grippo. We often just used silly names on our films because in those days no one was using their real names for legal protection since it was still against the law to make these films. We were always hiding underground. He just pulled that one out of the air since there was a popular film playing then called The Blue Max and he liked it. I chose an even sillier name, Lancer Brooks (just totally made up), but fate took over. When we were meeting with the distributor who peddled our films to theaters, he said to be sure to use the same names we did on our previous one, because they liked our work and he could barter for more money if he told them it was from the same team... so we checked what we had used on our last feature and it turned out to be those two names.

Bijou: Did you shoot other films of Jack Deveau's besides the grouping from 1975: Ballet Down the Highway, Wanted: Billy the Kid, and Good Hot Stuff? Did you do much other film work in New York around that time or were you mostly working in L.A.?

DeSimone: After I did Erotikus and was shopping for a theater in New York, I met Jack. He was operating the 55th St. Playhouse at the time and was running the very successful Boys in the Sand, so he was looking for something to follow it up since he knew it couldn't run forever and he needed product to keep the theater operating. We met, he looked at the film, and was interested in us working together on several projects. Jack was pretty inexperienced in filmmaking but wanted to get into the production side. He figured I could bring something to Hand in Hand. I spent a summer in New York working with him on several projects, then returned to L.A. and did The Idol for his company to release. We remained very good friends up until he passed way due to cancer. He was a great party guy – loved to party hard and long, into the New York underground scene, a lot of drugs and sex and a terrific guy to know... if you had the stamina!

Bijou: Did you know Penelope Spheeris (director of The Decline of Western Civilization and Wayne's World) around the time of Confessions of a Male Groupie (1971)? A couple who are the focus of two of her early short films (I Don't Know and Hats Off to Hollywood) appear in the party scene in Groupie. I was curious about the community of people who make up the cast of that film – I read somewhere that they were a community or group of friends you were affiliated with.

DeSimone: I met Penelope only once at a film festival in L.A. We spoke briefly about the emergence of underground films but we never were involved beyond that meeting. The two people you mention just happened to be in the party. I didn't know them personally.

That big party scene was the reason I made that film. I ran with a pretty eclectic crowd back then and many of the actors who appeared in my films were drawn from that crowd. Many others, who didn't really want to appear having sex in a movie, also wanted to be “in one of my films,” so I decided to make a film featuring all of the crazies I knew and loved. So The Groupie came about – and when I announced I wanted them to all appear in that scene, all hell broke loose and you can see in the film what we were all about. I should mention that, unfortunately - or not, I was on acid while we were filming that scene (most of us were), so I didn't cover as much as I wanted, but what I got was enough to throw together what's up on the screen.
 

Confessions of a Male Groupie party scene
Party scene from Confessions of a Male Groupie

Bijou: It's interesting to learn how many friends you worked with in your movies.

DeSimone: I rarely socialized with the models in my films if they weren't already part of my group. For a number of reasons I preferred not to get too involved in their lives and vice versa. If I used friends, they were already friends and in my social group. In Hot Truckin', the redheaded boy at the end – the one in the threeway – was my partner at the time. He was SO hot for Gordon [Grant], I agreed to let him be the trick they lured into the truck. Everyone was happy, particularly my friend, Bob.

My reasons for being separate, if I could, with the models was only because I didn't care to have them know too much about my life or where I lived, etc. I was strictly interested in them as models/actors. For me it was strictly a business situation. Very few outside my inner group even knew what I did or who Lancer Brooks was.
 

Bob Snowdan in Hot Truckin'
Bob Snowdan in Hot Truckin'

Gordon Grant in Hot Truckin'
Gordon Grant in Hot Truckin'

Bijou: I guess Groupie was a rare exception, as your film utilizing members of your friend group, in that case.

DeSimone: Yes, Groupie was an exception... but as I mentioned, I made it specifically to make a film and use many of my friends. Sweet Lady Mary was a dear friend, Elaine. The rock group, The Electric Banana, was another trio of buddies who fantasized about being a rock group, so I made them into one for the film. All the players were close friends who had wanted to be in a picture, so I concocted one so that I could use them. The party scene was the culmination of all the gang we ran with in West Hollywood at that time. Of course, there were several in the party scene who just showed up to be in the film. Sadly, 90% of them are gone now. The plague taking most, unfortunately. We had no idea then that what we were experiencing would have such consequences... who did? The cute redhead, Bob, was also a victim years later.
 

Elaine aka Myona Phetish in Confessions of a Male Groupie
Elaine aka Myona Phetish in Confessions of a Male Groupie

The Electric Banana, fictional rock band in Confessions of a Male Groupie
The Electric Banana, fictional rock band in Confessions of a Male Groupie

Bijou: How did you get such strong performances out of your porn actors who had no acting experiences?

DeSimone: Getting performances was always a challenge. I always blocked out all the action in my films in advance and also broke down the script, scene by scene, even indicating where the dialogue would be in close up, two shots, or masters. That way I could get what I needed to edit the film and the performances in a cohesive work. I knew these guys would never be able to carry an entire scene in a master shot (a mistake many filmmakers made back then). So I would film short sections, working with them on just those few lines at a time, then cover the scene with the other actor or actors in the scene, and it would all play together nicely. If one of them screwed up or was lousy, it was simple to shoot several takes of a close up until it was good, rather than shoot the entire sequence over and over. I was a master at editing and it was fun cutting together a performance from very little. Many times the actors would be amazed (and impressed) when they came to the screening to see the film.
 

Filming The Idol
Filming The Idol
Filming Kevin Redding & Nick Rodgers in The Idol

Bijou: Which is your favorite of your porn films?

DeSimone: I guess I could say Catching Up, Skin Deep, and The Idol. These, to me, have good plots, good acting, and really decent production values for porn.

Read part two of this interview, focusing on on Tom DeSimone's mainstream film/television career!
 

Tom DeSimone
Image Credit: Tom DeSimone

Tom DeSimone's Partial Directorial Filmography:
(From IMDb and Gay Erotic Video Index)
Links to movies available through Bijou Video

The Collection (as Lancer Brooks) – 1969
One - 1970
Dust Unto Dust (as Lancer Brooks) – 1970
Peter the Peeker – 1971
Lust in the Afternoon - 1971
Gay Tarzan – 1971
Confessions of a Male Groupie – 1971
Black and Blue - 1971
The Gypsy's Ball - 1972
Prison Girls – 1972
Chained (as Lancer Brooks) – 1973
Swap Meat (as Lancer Brooks) – 1973
Sons of Satan (as Lancer Brooks) – 1973
Black Heat (as Lancer Brooks) – 1973
Games Without Rules (as L. Brooks) – 1974
Erotikus: A History of the Gay Movie (as L. Brooks) – 1974
Station to Station (as L. Brooks) – 1974
Everything Goes (aka Anything Goes) (as L. Brooks) – 1974
Duffy's Tavern (as Lancer Brooks) – 1974
Blue Movie Auditions (aka How to Make a Homo Movie) - 1974
Assault (as Lancer Brooks) – 1975
Sur - 1975
Good Hot Stuff – 1975
Aphrodisiacs in the Male Animal (1975)
Catching Up – 1975
Chatterbox! - 1977
Hot Truckin' (as Lancer Brooks) – 1978
The Harder They Fall (aka The Frenchman and the Lovers) – 1977
Gettin' Down (as Lancer Brooks) – 1978
The Idol – 1979
Bad, Bad Boys (aka Bad Boys) (as Lancer Brooks) – 1979
Hawaiian Eyes (aka Gay Guide to Hawaii) – 1979
Private Collection – 1980
Heavy Equipment (as Lancer Brooks) – 1980
Wet Shorts – 1980
The Dirty Picture Show (as De Simone) – 1980
Flesh and Fantasy 1 – 1980
Dirty Books - 1981
Hell Night – 1981
The Concrete Jungle – 1982
Skin Deep (as Lancer Brooks) – 1982
Bi-Coastal (as Lancer Brooks) – 1985
Bi-bi Love (as Lancer Brooks) – 11986
Nightcrawler: A Leathersex Fantasy - 1986
Reform School Girls – 1986
Angel III: The Final Chapter – 1988
Freddy's Nightmares (TV Series, 4 episodes) – 1988/1989
Super Force (TV Series, 6 episodes) – 1991/1992
Dark Justice (TV Series, 18 episodes) – 1991 - 1993
Swamp Thing (TV Series, 3 episodes) – 1992/1993
Acapulco Bay (TV series) – 1995
The Big Easy (TV Series, 4 episodes) – 1996/1997
Coming Distractions (as Lancer Brooks) – 1997
Pensacola: Wings of Gold (TV Series, 1 episode) – 1998
She Spies (TV Series, 1 episode) – 2002

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No More Porn on Tumblr! Why?

I wonder if the announcement that Tumblr was banning pornographic content was perhaps inevitable, but not for the official and unofficial reasons currently being disseminated by the media.

The surface reasons seems to be tied into the confluence between technology and profits. The IOS App Store would no longer allow the Tumblr App because of an isolated child pornography incident. Since most Smartphone users rely on Apps, not allowing it would seriously lessen Tumblr’s overall use and scope. But why target Tumblr? Was it simply the, according to some sources, the 20 percent porn content?

It may seem that Tumblr was directly put between the proverbial rock and hard place, even though the microblog is a free service. An article in The Verge succinctly paraphrases the new policy:

“Banned content includes photos, videos, and GIFs of human genitalia, female-presenting nipples, and any media involving sex acts, including illustrations. The exceptions include nude classical statues and political protests that feature nudity. The new guidelines exclude text, so erotica remains permitted. Illustrations and art that feature nudity are still okay — so long as sex acts aren’t depicted — and so are breastfeeding and after-birth photos.” The wording of Tumblr’s announcement seems to both evoke and invoke arguments about obscenity that occurred in the 1950s and 1960s.

LGBTQ sexual pioneer Chuck Renslow started out as a physique photographer, and he definitely was pushing social boundaries during the 1950s with his homoerotic (as close to nude was possible, and one could often see that the posing straps were painted on) photos. He, like many other in this line of work, were “coding” their visuals, because it was one of the few ways gay men could experience their erotic desires and fantasies safely and privately. Many outfits mailed nude photos and films in plain envelopes, but these were often confiscated by the Post Office and the perpetrators, both the senders and receivers, punished.

Some of these incidents ended up in the court system. Renslow’s case ended in victory, as the judge made the ruling that if one deemed these photos obscene, so would certain masterpieces of art, especially from the Graeco-Roman period.

The Manual vs. Day case, which went to the United States Supreme Court, held that magazines consisting of semi-nude or nude males are not obscene and the Post Office cannot interfere with their dissemination through the mail. The case is notable for its ruling that photographs of nude men are not obscene, an implication which opened the U.S. mail to nude male pornography, especially those whose audience was gay men.

Tumblr of course is certainly not contained physically in brown, unmarked envelopes, but what is interesting is that Tumblr seems to be agreeing with that 1950s judge. Agreeing to some extent, yes, but also opening up once more some of the time-worn arguments about the complex relationship between sexuality, artistic expression, violence, and how this relationship builds and shapes an audience.

Going back to my initial statement, it seems inevitable that something of this nature would happen, because it’s obvious our means of communication have changed drastically since the days of postage stamps and nudie photographs and envelopes, and later, moving images of sexual acts in theaters that charged admission only to adults: physical mediums that exist in a controlled spatial situation.

What Tumblr and those who support restricting what they deem porn (for them, porn equals genitals which equals sexual acts) fail to recognize is not of course the nanosecond dissemination of mostly amateur depictions of sex which could result in more potentially dangerous situations: no, they fail to recognize the aesthetics (which tie into social contexts, of course) of a wide variety of LGBTQ pornography from the 1970s and 1980s, especially.

For example, Al Parker responded to the AIDS crisis by combining sexual acts and documentary in his film High Tech. Jack Deveau offers what one could claim is a documentary of gay life during the "hippie" era in Left-Handed. So many others of that period usually offer narrative structures: the sex acts aren’t just sex acts per se, but components in forms that explore the larger social issues of the time. And even some of the J. Brian films, which were not made to specifically address any social or moral issues, could be seen as living documents of gay sexual history.
 

Three cast members in High Tech
Three men using vacuum pumps in High Tech

Stars of Left-Handed
Stars Ray Frank & Robert Rikas in Left-Handed

The question remains as to how one could apply any standard of evaluation to any medium which communicates the erotic universally, but it seems a rather generalized case could be made that the older the porn, the more chances it could be determined to be aesthetically or historically significant. But the burden of proof would fall on the user, and in today’s lightning-paced communication environment, time is an enemy, rather than, as before, space.

Yet at this juncture, it seems like the only possible solution here is diversification. Perhaps Tumblr’s free-for-all ethos caused this implosion. Given the fluid nature of social media, those who used Tumblr, especially LGBTQ persons who still exist in various states of marginalization, will have to regroup, and unfortunately, some might claim, not return to closets or ghettos, but establish in their own tech-savvy ways other spaces for erotic expression.

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