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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