Our CALIGULA Moment

By Josh Eliot

 

In 1979, Bob Guccione and Penthouse Films cast mainstream actors Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren and Peter O’Toole in the hardcore movie Caligula. In 2003, mainstream actress Chloe Sevigny gave a blowjob to Vincent Gallo, complete with a cum shot in the mouth, in the film The Brown Bunny. In 2022, where is gay cinema’s Caligula or Brown Bunny moment?

 

Caligula and Brown Bunny posters

 

The story behind the making of Centurians of Rome, a 1981 film starring George Payne, Eric Ryan and Scorpio has all the “Red Meat” moments that, if ever pitched to Hollywood, has the potential to draw in first rate mainstream actors, writers and directors. My obsession with this true story led me to seek out and find an extensive report in The Daily Beast.

 

Centurians of Rome DVD cover and vintage ad
Article with headline reading Brinks Guard Vanishes with 1.85 Million

 

On August 15, 1980, 25 year old George Bosque sat in his Brinks security truck, depressed because his lover Carl ended their relationship. After picking up 7 million dollars from the San Francisco Airport, and taking advantage of the fact that the driver was talking with an airport official, George drove off in the truck, abandoning it at the Airport Hilton. At gunpoint he accosted a hotel chambermaid, loading two bags of money into her car and speeding off. Bosque, who in 1979 ran for sheriff of San Francisco, was now a fugitive.

 

Younger George Bosque and during his San Franisco sheriff run

Younger George Bosque and during his San Franisco sheriff run

 

First stop for George was New York City, where he took on the assumed identity of J.R. Lewis, Philanthropist. Keeping his money in several suitcases that he never let out of his site, he couch surfed on Fire Island for the summer. He bounced around to Chicago, Denver, Dallas, Florida and Peru, always staying at 5 star hotels. He was embraced into society and was invited to fundraisers, balls, and extravagant soirees for the wealthy, attending a $500 per plate fundraiser for Jimmy Carter. He made Greenwich Village his permanent residence, and while out on the town one night met and befriended Chris Covino, aka John Christopher a straight adult film director. The two became close friends and when George suggested they make a lavish all male film together, a partnership was formed. The budget: $100,000, a massive amount for the day, which ended up ballooning to around $170,000. The making of Centurians of Rome could be a central part of this movie idea as the three stars, Scorpio, George Payne and Eric Ryan all have “life stories” just as compelling as the behind the scenes stories of the making and release of the film.

 

George Payne, Scorpio and Eric Ryan in promotional images for Centurians of Rome

George Payne, Scorpio and Eric Ryan in promotional images for Centurians of Rome

 

With a $150,000 reward for his arrest, George Bosque returned to San Francisco. He called his friends regularly, trying to get information regarding ex-lover Carl’s whereabouts. One of George’s friends tipped off the police and he was arrested at a Safeway parking lot phone booth on November 22, 1981. He’d been at large for 464 days. The young federal prosecutor assigned to his case was Robert Mueller – yes, him! You can’t make this shit up! Mueller pushed for a strong sentence due to George’s lack of remorse and he got 15 years.

Lloyd's of London, who insured the 1.8 million dollars, tried to sue Bosque but he was basically penniless so they tried to get ownership of Centurians of Rome. The defense attorneys for Hand in Hand Films, the studio that had taken over the completion and distribution of the film, had an idea up their sleeve to try and stop them in their tracks. They displayed photographs from the movie around the courtroom with shots showing anal sex, George Payne fisting Caligula and the gladiators in an oral daisy chain. A red faced Lloyd's of London did not want this publicity and made a hasty retreat.

 

George Bosque wanted poster and article about Lloyd's of London

 

Bosque received early parole in 1986 but sadly passed away from an overdose at the age of 36.

Article with headline reading Guard Who Stole 1.8 Million Dies

 

Could this true story become gay cinema’s Caligula and go all the way with mainstream actors and hardcore scenes? Or should it take the streaming service limited series approach? However you package it, all the elements are there to become a huge international sensation. But first it needs to be pitched, which takes a layer of flesh in itself. Somebody please pitch this movie! The one with the “balls” to make it, in my opinion, is a certain GLEEful, HOLLYWOOD, AMERCAN STORYteller. (You know who I mean).

 

You can watch Centurians of Rome's trailer and find the movie on DVD and Streaming through Bijou!

 

 

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

 
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Arrested for Murder!

posted by Madame Bubby

I was going through the files at the Bijouworld office, and I happened across a packed file for one porn star who does not appear in any of our titles. But the contents of the folder were certainly both enticing (lots of pics from the gay magazines he appeared in) and disturbing.

Tim Lowe, a prolific porn star from the 1980s and 1990s, worked for major studios like Vivid, HIS Video, Catalina and many others, according to Gay Erotic Video Index. Movies he made frequently referenced in sources include Fratimony (All Worlds) and The Main Attraction (Image Video).

He was also arrested for murder and spent 14 months in prison.

According to the many newspaper clips in the folder, Tim Lowe (his real name was David Cody) was arrested on January 21, 1992, for strangling 52-year-old Allen Kinkead on January 8. David aka Tim apparently had been living with Kinkead in the Haight-Asbury district of San Francisco. Kinkead's body was discovered bound and gagged, and his credit cards and car were missing.

Cody and a female companion (girlfriend?; Gay Erotic Video Index claims he had a wife and two kids too?) were arrested in Mexico driving the stolen car. The pair pleaded guilty.
 

Newspaper clipping with headline: Porn Star Arrested in Murder
Source: Out, April 1993

In February 1994, the charges were later reduced to involuntary manslaughter, as upon further investigation, the circumstances in the death were open to question; the death was possibly accidental, and Kinkead had taken meth, pot, and poppers before his death. (Lowe claims in the interview I reference below his roommate suffered a heart attack.)
 

Newspaper clipping with headline: Charges Against Lowe Reduced
Source: unknown

In an interview with Jerry Douglas for Manshots magazine, Lowe gives some details of his stay in prison (not exciting), mostly lots of waiting, lack of privacy, and smartly, he laid low, stayed aloof, not making friends.

After getting out of prison, he made more films, up to about 2004. According to the interview, he does make much out of getting counseling and trying to figure out where he made that wrong turn. He also makes much out of reading that pop psychology book of the period, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Hmm ... Lowe also claims he did not steal anything. Hmm …
 

Lowe Manshots interview
Source: Manshots, October 1994

What's interesting is that I don't get too much distinctive about him as a person or a performer from what I found. Physically, he is what I would call cute young guy with a conventionally great bod and a well-formed dick, but he just strikes me as vaguely “kind of hot,” with, from what I can see in the facial expression, a hint of cocky. Just a hint.
 

Tim Lowe photo in Mandate
Source: Mandate, date unknown

In fact, the general consensus from the many performers and directors that he worked with is that he was “nice to work with,” in that case, meaning probably amenable, agreeable, delivered the goods without drama.

But nice? Wow. There's so many implications here, but it's hard to really follow up on them specifically, due to lack of evidence.

I am trying to figure out what stance to take. All I can see is a pattern I see time and time again in so many relationships in the LGBTQ community, and this isn't going with the tired stereotype of porn stars generally gravitating toward “fucked up” situations on many levels.

It's the often fraught with peril on so many levels dynamic between the older guy and the younger guy, often one exploiting the other (and in this case, it's hard to tell who was exploiting whom) based on unrealistic expectations regarding sexual attraction which often results in a blurring of fantasy and reality. In the case of Cody aka Lowe and Kinkead, Kinkead apparently had been a fan of Lowe, as the place was filled with Lowe's videos.

I just think overall that not enough attention has focused on the tragedy here: Kinkead lost his life. Lowe lived to read self-help books and do interviews make more movies.

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James Fee
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Friday, 28 February 2020 23:20
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Queens and Rough Trade: The Enigma of James Pope-Hennessy

posted by Madame Bubby

London in 1974 was a turbulent place. The 1970s inflation global crisis was in full swing, and thus the average Briton was suffering more than usual difficulties in making ends meet. Disillusionment with the welfare state was beginning to show, and the monarchy, not immune to criticism but still beyond the reach of the tabloid culture, was viewed as either dowdy and out-of-touch or useless and decadent (compare Queen Elizabeth to her sister Margaret).

On January 25, the New York Times laconically reported that James Pope‐Hennessy, the writer, died in a hospital of injuries received in a knife attack at his home. He was 57 years old. The police said they believed he was the victim of a gang that raided his house in Notting Hill. His valet escaped from the house and raised the alarm. Mr. Pope‐Hennessy was found bound and gagged with knife wounds and head injuries.
 

Pope-Hennessy murder headline

James Pope-Hennesy was gay, or rather, using the term more suited to his cultural milieu, homosexual. Born on November 20, 1916, the son of an army general and an author, he was most famous for his still seminal biography of the current Queen’s grandmother, the indomitable Queen Mary (yes, the ship was named after her, and her fabulously jeweled tiaras will soon become the properties of Kate and Megan). He began writing after choosing not to pursue, like most males of his class, an education at Oxford.
 

Queen Mary book by James Pope-Hennessy

Lately some interest in his career has resurfaced, as notes he made while researching his famous biography have been published by another Royal historian, Hugo Vickers. In these notes, James reveals a detached yet deliciously insightful perspective on who were the celebrities of that day and those who interacted (or didn’t) with them.
 

Book - The Quest for Queen Mary

For example, his description of Queen Mary’s mother, Princess Mary, Duchess of Teck, a granddaughter of Geroge III of American Revolution fame (Fat Mary; she was, unusually so in a day where one mostly burned off calories despite a high calorie diet) waving to the adoring crowds. The Duchess of Teck with her popularity and tireless charity work, as well as her spontaneity and love of children, made her a kind of proto-Diana without the physical beauty:
 

Princess Mary, Duchess of Teck
Princess Mary, Duchess of Teck

The eye-witnesses recall the Princess’s quick, graceful movements, despite her bulk; the nimble way she stepped from a carriage, the easy gesture with which she would give her hand to be kissed. It was part of her charm that she herself made jokes about her weight and would allow small relatives to test it on her velvet-covered scales…

Or, his description of the Duchess of Windsor, which one could argue is horribly elitist, remains quite vivid, and given James’ penchant of detail, accurate in its evocation of her unique appearance and personality:

I should be tempted to classify her simply as An American Woman par excellence, were it not for the suspicion that she is not woman at all. She is, to look at, phenomenal. She is flat and angular and could have been designed for a medieval playing card. The shoulders are small and high; the head very large, very large… the expression is either anticipatory (signaling to one, “I know this is going to be loads of fun, don’t yew?") or appreciative – the great giglamp smile, the wide, wide open eyes, which are so very large and pale and veined...
 

Duchess of Windsor
Duchess of Windsor

All in all, he evokes in words a non-PC world long-gone, of which the Queen is perhaps the last representative, of shooting parties, armies of servants, German princelings, hyphenated last names, gilding, and real, painted, yes painted, pictures that hang in actual homes, not museums or galleries. And lots of smoking and drinking.

But all the while, despite his success, he was drinking and spending (he mentions in his notes of knocking out two Blood Marys in quick succession, and that was just the beginning of a long, long day and evening) prodigiously, and apparently, picking up rough trade or other unsavory characters. Despite the originality of his writing style, his personal life seemed to have followed the pattern for many well-heeled gay men of that time, split between the grand (and one might say campy) artistic and café society circles and the sexual underground of back alleys and dark bars.
 

Gay London, 1950s/1960s

And, to add another layer to the portrait, he went to Mass. He was staunchly Catholic in a culture that moved in his lifetime from the establishment Anglican of the deeply religious current queen, her mother, and grandmother, to a secular nihilism.

By the early 1970s, despite his social and literary successes, James was broke, and he had lost his somewhat dashing good looks (I find the photo of him by the campy gay photographer Cecil Beaton enticing), but he had just gotten a cash advance for a new book on the late Noel Coward (one can see a confluence in this paragraph of three “old queens.”) James’ killers assumed the money was in the house, but they were wrong.
 

Younger James Pope-Hennessy
Younger James Pope-Hennessy

After the murder, over the next few days three men were arrested and charged with the murder.  They were: John James O’Brien (aka Sean Seamus O’Brien), 23, Ladbroke Grove, Edward John Wilkinson: 22, Arlington Road, Southgate Terence, Michael Noonan: 25, Tisdall Place, Walworth. They eventually stood trial and were each found guilty of murder and burglary.  

But it turns out that these guys hung about in the rough trade or rent boy set of those days, “Dilly Boys.” O’Brien had been living at Pope-Hennessy’s flat for a few months prior to the incident.  He had been in a sexual relationship with both Pope-Hennessy and his valet Leslie Smith (who also lived there).  In fact, Pope-Hennessy and Smith were both users of the ‘rent boy’ scene in Piccadilly.
 

A Dilly Boy
A "Dilly Boy"

And what was even more humiliating, it turns out that James did not die of actual stab wounds, but from choking on his own blood from a lip wound suffered in the attack.

According to Smith, he was lying on the floor with three men standing over him.  One was hitting him with a ‘wooden thing’ whilst the other two were holding him down by his arms.  He then heard one say “Kill him, Chris,” and “You are going to die."  Standing over him with a knife, one said, “Do you want this in you?"

Smith escaped, but by the time he returned with the police, the perpetrators had fled.

James’ legacy as a writer remains untarnished despite his frankly sordid end, but one wonders in these days of unsafe Grindr hookups, social media shaming, and Instagram if something of the schizophrenic split between talent and celebrity and public and private James suffered has resurfaced, but in a more virulent way.

I think the appeal of James to me is his way with words, painstakingly detailed but not pedantic, which really stands out in a time when reality becomes a nanosecond photo or a quick video on a smartphone. James struck, in his life and in his death, to the heart of realities that were built on illusions. Can we do the same?

Sources:

James Pope-Hennessy, Queen Mary

Hugo Vickers and James Pope-Hennesy, The Quest for Queen Mary

https://scepticpeg.wordpress.com/2017/07/12/the-soho-connections-murder-of-the-royal-biographer-1974/

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