VOYAGER of the Damned

By Josh Eliot

 
Cover of Catalina's Voyager

Cover of Catalina's Voyager

 

In 2000, Catalina Video was invited to shoot a movie on board the Pillage & Plunder Gay Cruise, departing from Tampa. As with the maiden voyage of the Titanic, the Pillage & Plunder's initial venture at sea was just as much a disaster for the Catalina Crew. Don’t get me wrong, the cruise itself was a smashing success for the passengers and organizers of the event, so much so that it was repeated for many years to come. My experience however, through no fault of the Pillage organizers, was one that I tried hard to “douche” from my memory. I’ve never been so stressed out and distraught while on a “vacation” of sorts. The flight from Los Angeles was uneventful and we had a nice overnight stay at a Sheraton in Tampa. The next afternoon we made our way to the port.

 

Catalina Crew: Mark Jensen, Brad Austin, Peter Romero & Josh Eliot

Catalina Crew: Mark Jensen, Brad Austin, Peter Romero & Josh Eliot

 

Arriving on board the Regal Empress was like: “Are you kidding me? Is this girl even seaworthy?” I referred to her as a “rusty barge,” and that was a compliment. The Regal Empress’ maiden voyage was on October 15th, 1953 and she was put out of service March 9th, 2009. For my sake, couldn’t she have been put to rest 9 or 10 years earlier? The ship ended up leaving port six hours late, which I could deal with, but for some reason unbeknownst to me (until we were on the ship and ready to shoot some dialogue) we were told that we could not shoot anything until we were in international waters. A majority of the storyline setup was to take place on deck as the ship was leaving port, with the background of the passengers on deck celebrating. Because the ship left port around 10pm, we did not get to shoot our footage, so a whole chunk of the storyline which I set up in Vermont, Los Angeles and the Tampa pier went bye-bye. The schedule was so tight on this cruise and this, coupled with the fact of only being able to shoot when we were told we were in international waters, made it impossible to reschedule these crucial scenes. I thought fuck it, we’ll fix it in post-production as we so often did. I’ll make some montages or something. Always troubleshooting on my toes, I pulled out our third camera, the L-1 that looks just like a home movie camera with less than desirable quality, and ran around the ship shooting generic shots of the passengers while I pretended to be a tourist shooting home movies. I needed to have something!

Now like I said, I douched a lot of this out of my brain, but I do remember seeing porn star Enrico Vega on one of the decks running around in barely anything, flashing his dick to the passengers. That footage of us stumbling upon him is in the finished movie. I honestly am not sure if we hired him “on the spot” to be in the group scene for the movie or if we had already booked him. I really think we added him into the cast after meeting him, turning our upcoming five-way into a six-way. This all doesn’t sound too bad, right? Guys running around flashing their hard cocks to anyone who wants to see them, unlimited drinks, sailing the coast. Well, things went cock-eyed the morning of our big group scene on the main deck.

 

Regal Empress, cast in action, Josh with Steve Rambo

Regal Empress, cast in action, Josh with Steve Rambo

 

Steve Rambo, Tuck Johnson and Caesar, three of the six models in the big six-way, came to me while Ray Harley, Mike Radcliffe and Enrico Vega were in make-up or having their stills done. They dropped the bomb on me that there were too many passengers piled up along the railings to watch the filming and they didn’t want to shoot their scenes in public. I was a bit annoyed because they knew from the moment I cast them that this was the deal. But from a humane perspective, I personally wouldn’t want to lay it all out there in front of a crowd either, so I found a hallway with emergency doors that we could close to give them a spot out of the public eye. They were grateful and I was fine with it, except the beautiful background of a cruise ship on the open seas and the majestic scope was now a small cramped hallway that could have been built on a soundstage. In addition, I couldn’t shoot the six guys together in that hallway so I split it into two groups of three. This was less than ideal… bye-bye six-way, hello two three-ways - twice the work! The other three models were all exhibitionists so they thrived on the fact that they were being watched. Oh happy day until we heard the sudden roar of a horn and the ship’s smokestack started blowing out black engine exhaust! As soon as that horn blew, so did one of my two cameras and its videotape deck. There was a surge from the ship outlet that destroyed the camera and deck! Luckily, camera two wasn’t plugged in yet and was still working. This was a disaster; we’d been shooting with two cameras on every shoot since 1987! You can capture twice the shots in half the time, plus two angles on the cum shots, which was what we were known for at the time. Well, we were down to one camera and I was too afraid to plug it into the wall, so we used battery power. Because we were on battery, we could not use the TV monitor to check lighting, exposure, framing and focus, so I was forced to do the camerawork myself because how else would I see how it was framed? I shot and hoped for the best.

 

Ceasar in Voyager

Ceasar in Voyager

 

I shot the first group of guys in front of the passengers , then re-set up everything and shot the guys in the hallway. The crowd wanted to see Caesar so badly they kept pushing open the emergency doors while I was filming, ruining my shots and annoying the boys. It was like a slow painful death that day, and when we wrapped all I wanted to do was throw back a few shots at the bar with the crew. But that wasn’t in the cards. In 2000, it was common for models (at their own choice and discretion) to use Viagra or a penile injectable to keep an erection. Well, with all the stress of working in front of a hungry crowd, one model gave himself a little too much of the injectable. His erection would not go down, so we took him to emergency on the ship. The erection lasted for hours and the doctor on board was concerned it could cause long term damage to his functionality. It was horrible. I felt so bad for him. I kept going in and out of the medical suite to check on him, until finally around 11pm the erection subsided.

The next day, we laid anchor in Key West, made our way to the Oasis Guest House to shoot our final scene (with one fucking camera), then spent the night at a go-go bar that DJ Tommy Rocker (Catalina promotions associate) was spinning records at. We had a ball, then went back to the rusty barge, slept and were first in line to get off that Muther-Fucking Ship in Tampa. Never to return.

 

 

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

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An Alphabet Soup of Powders and Pills

By Will Seagers
 
Big handful of pills

 

From as far back as I can remember the use of drugs was inextricably woven into the fabric of gay sex and clubbing. Although trends and the drugs of choice for that day have changed over the decades, there is still an unspoken need for their presence.

The chronology for all of this is not meant to be exact. But, having been there personally for a lot of this, it will be anecdotally close to the mark.

Weed was and still remains the favorite for the widest audience. Its effects were calming (for the most part). In the "Summer of Love" - 1969 - with Woodstock and the ever expanding gay bar scene in the major cities, it became ubiquitous as part of a good time.

For myself, my episode with marijuana (by itself) was rather short lived. I liked it in conjunction with LSD to take off some the harsh edges that were encountered. That was one of the first combos that I can remember.

 

Assortment of drugs

 

LSD was one of my favorite adventures. On my first trip with orange sunshine at the age of 18 or so, I remember being at my friend's house and being so high that I was watching cartoons in my cupped hands! Acid in the early days was QUITE powerful and should have been done in small doses. Hey, what did I know? I'll tell you what I didn't know at first. It took a good 45 minutes to come on. So, if you were an impatient kiddo like me... you took another hit! Ha. And, then the space ship took off! I found sex on acid was very bizarre - I did not like my partners morphing in front of me! Lol.

In the early 70's, some RXs were handy - if you liked downers. Seconals, Tuinols, Placidyls, and of course the ever popular Quaalude! One could get quite messy on any of these. And, there was no such thing as inhibitions either. If you could remain alert enough... the sex could be a lot of fun. I also need to mention Valium. Although a downer itself, it was quite a rescue pill in the case of a bad trip. I always remember them being brought out at the end of a long Saturday night/Sunday morning on Fire Island!

 

Seconal pills

RX had nothing to do with it!

 

On the other side of the rainbow were the "stimulants." In the early days, the good ones required an RX, too. Black Beauties were first prescribed by "Diet Doctors" as a quick way to shed pounds. Side effects - life in the (very) fast lane and no need to sleep for at least a day or so. "Christmas Trees" - Dexamil - were more fun in that they were half an upper and half a downer. From that you attained a pleasant "sideways" condition that lasted for hours. I was given my first of these Bi-Phetamines by a fellow flight attendant. They did the trick on overnight flights! Recreationally, they were taken with acid for a little additional color!

Edging into the 80s, another chapter unfolded - MDA and all of it sister derivatives. This had to be the best drug for sex and dancing that ever rolled down the pike. Being the ancient grandmother to ecstasy, it did race up the heart to achieve its goals. Regardless of the injury rate, it remained at the top of the list for the first few years of the 80s.

Looking back at all of this, it was amazing to see what new drugs came out and how they changed the culture. As nightlife became "morning life," cocaine and speed became more and more popular as the need to stay up increased. Cocaine supplanted weed for many as their drug of choice. Its "rush" coincided with the more rapid pace of the mid to late 80s. Valiums to the rescue at the end of a coke weekend!

Right on the heels of the coke phenomenon came crystal in the mid to late 80s. It was the ultimate expression of the "up for three days" culture. Although its primary feeling was that of raw sex, it had the downside of creating a lot of impotence! So, out of necessity a little blue pill (Viagra) came on the scene - to bring everyone back to life! More than any other drug, crystal was extremely dangerous. It was highly addictive and destructive to major systems in the body. I speak with experience with regard to this "ex-friend." I literally moved away from S.F. to save myself from what could have been my demise. I had been a member of the "up for three days club." With some soul searching and brief moments of sanity, I made arrangements to move back east and rehabilitate myself. It worked!

I am looking back at this and sharing this in almost disbelief... How did I make it through all of this? It was the most decadent of times with no guard rails to be seen anywhere! I am just glad that with a little angel on one shoulder and a little devil on the other, the angel prevailed! That alphabet soup of powders and pills is all in the past... with some astonishing memories!

 

 

Bio of Will Seagers:

Will Seagers (also credited as Matt Harper), within his multifaceted career and participation in numerous gay communities across the country in the '70s and '80s and beyond, worked as a print model and film performer. He made iconic appearances in releases from Falcon, Hand in Hand, Joe Gage, Target (Bullet), J. Brian, Steve Scott, and more, including in lead roles in major classics like Gage's L.A. Tool & Die (1979) and Scott's Wanted (1980). He brought strong screen presence and exceptional acting to his roles and was scene partners with many fellow legends of classic porn.

 

Will Seagers, present day image

 


You can read Will Seagers' previous blogs for Bijou here:
Welcome Matt/Will
What's For Dessert?
On and Off the Set of L.A. Tool & Die
Wanted, Weekend Lockup and Weekends in Hermosa Beach
Honeymoon in the Palms
Birds of a Feather
The Stereo Maven of Castro Street
The Pass Around Boy
The Ecstasy and the Agony
Fitness and Fantasy: The Early Gyms
Chasing the Boys and Chasing the Sun: My Story of Sun Worship and Where It Got Me
Becoming Invisible
The Reverse Story of Dorian Gray
Pin Money
One Organ Leads to Another! Part 1
The Wheels of Steel
Feast and Famine: The 1970s to the 1980s

 

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Somebody, Call a FLUFFER!

By Josh Eliot

 

I can’t tell you how many times over the years I get asked about fluffers on the set. It seems once someone found out what I did for a living, their first words were, “Do you need a fluffer?” or “Are there really fluffers for the actors?” It’s almost like the impression of a fluffer is a cool and positive one. Well, let me tell you, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the only thing worse than needing a fluffer on the set is when you need to hire a stunt dick (yes, that’s a real thing). I’d like to think that when I hear the word fluffer, it takes me back to the time when my mother packed our school lunches with a fluffernutter sandwich. A peanut butter and fluff sandwich on Wonder white bread, a true American classic and staple of the East Coast. The only place you can buy fluff in California is at a specialty market, and every year or so I have a craving for it. The sandwich is dripping with white creamy marshmallow fluff, the complete opposite of what we want to happen when a fluffer goes to work.

I’ve said “fluffer” so many times in the last paragraph that I’m starting to have anxiety, so let’s just change the word to Mr. F. As a director of gay porn movies, when a model needs the services of Mr. F, we know our shoot day will extend from 5 to 6 hours for a full scene to anywhere from 8 to 10 hours. Your heart drops and you realize that all your hopes and dreams of a hot sexy scene have gone right out the window in an instant. The worst part of shooting porn is when there are erection problems, especially in gay porn where there is not a cute “vag” you can shoot to take up some screen time. You cannot move forward without a hard on, and all the momentum is lost. There is a place and purpose for flaccid dicks to be photographed and a porn movie is not that place.

 

fluffernutter

 

In the late 1980's when I started with Catalina Video, William Higgins' vision for the company was to cast young collegiate men with fit bodies and All-American looks. The model pool in the late 80’s with Scott Masters (Nova Video) as our producer and sometimes director was mostly made up of guys who were gay for pay. This made the chemistry on the set between the models very wooden. If we matched a gay guy with a straight guy, sometimes things would work out, but straight with straight... forget it. Because of this dynamic, our sets had no similarity to what I (and probably everyone else) thought a porn set would be like. I’d always envisioned Joe Gage’s Closed Set as the epitome of a California gay porn shoot. Or even 1984’s Best Picture Winner, Steve Scott’s classic Screenplay, with hot sexy gay actors portraying directors and casting agents. Our sets did not have that sexual energy.

 

Stills from Closed Set
Stills from Closed Set (DVD | Streaming)

Screenplay VHS cover

Screenplay VHS cover (DVD | Streaming)

 

With our gay for pay models, Mr. F was not a man but a VCR, unless one of the model’s girlfriends happened to be on the set (I can count on one hand the number of times that happened). A man’s mouth would not do the trick, so we would wheel out the TV/VCR combo from the make-up room onto the set. We would shut off the 1k soundstage lights to make the model comfortable and let him watch a porn scene to get hard. Oh the hideous memories of models rewinding and fast forwarding the tape, trying to find their “perfect shots to watch.” The clock is ticking! Take your hand off that fucking remote and put it on your dick already! Once the model was fully erect, we would turn the lights back on and run to our cameras as the model jumped into the set, stuck his dick in his co-star’s mouth or ass, while we'd shoot for 10 to 15 seconds until it was flaccid again. Over and over and over, angle, after angle, after angle. Torture.

As time progressed, more gay guys with the All-American look got into the model pool. Sexy passionate sex was now a regular occurrence on our sets because the guys were actually into each other. That’s not so say that Mr. F wouldn’t show his ugly face, but that was usually in the form of a magazine to help a hard dick get rock hard or, on the rare occasion, a crew member’s mouth (or piece) would come in handy. Then on March 27th, 1998, a miracle happened in the form of a little blue pill. This was awesome! The cob web covered TV/VCR combo was thrown right into the trash and we could make real plans for the evening because we knew we would get out of work on time. Hell, we could even add a third fuck position into the scene we were shooting, just because we knew we could! Mr. F simply faded away out of our lives and took all that anxiety with it.

 

Man holding Viagra pill

 

Fluff now has it’s good name back and Mr. F is more than welcome on the set... as a sandwich.
 


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

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