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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Coming Out of My WET SHORTS

By Josh Eliot

 

My first sexual memory was at age 6. My favorite TV show was Lost In Space. Aside from loving the adventure the Robinson family was going through, there was just something about Don. Don West was a dark haired, handsome, masculine guy whose character had a love interest with the Robinson's daughter Judy. I would lie awake at night thinking about Don taking his shirt off, showing his muscular chest and imagining him rubbing and grinding himself on top of Judy. I'm sure it was not the kind of imagery Producer Irwin Allen wanted to achieve when he developed Lost In Space, and I wasn't sure at the time why I was feeling this way, but for some reason I was having the feels for Don.

My next big "red flag" about my sexuality was when I was around 12 years old. In 1974, streaking was all over the news in America. Living in rural Rhode Island, my brother, sister and I were best friends with our cousins of the same genders and age. We would build forts in the woods near our homes and streak naked through the fields. The summer of '74, I remember us being naked all the time! Not just in the field near the forts, but down by the train tracks, in empty factories. We were Free!

One day that summer, my cousin brought a magazine to the fort that he found between his mom and dad's mattress. The magazine was called Mama's Taste for Cock. I'm pretty sure it was all in black and white and maybe not even a magazine, but a newspaper. I don't remember much about "Mama" because it was all about the cock. This had to be the first time I saw photos of an erect dick and it was a real attraction for me. Somewhere towards the last few pages, we saw this white stuff all over Mama's face and we thought what the hell is this? My older brother said that this was semen, and explained it the best he could. He was three years older, so he was already able to ejaculate (with the help of Head & Shoulders) in the shower. A day or so later, my cousin and I were determined to “cum” so we got some shaving cream, took it over to the fort and rubbed it all over our cocks. Nothing happened, as we were too young to ejaculate.

At 16, my friend David and I were in downtown Providence when we walked into an adult book store. Shocked that we weren't kicked out, we started looking through the products. Most of my childhood I collected 8mm movies. Castle films, 50' reels that had about 3 minutes of movies like Frankenstein vs the Wolfman, Abbott and Costello and Dracula, to name a few. I was always shooting short movies on my 8mm camera, editing them and playing them back on my projector. So when I saw a Swedish Erotica 8mm movie for sale at this shop, I just had to have it.

 

Swedish Erotica 8mm reel

 

I saw one with two guys and a girl. I can't tell you what the girl looked like, but one of the guys was blond, masculine with a hairy chest while the other was brunette, bearded and handsome. I would watch that movie on my projector when I knew my parents weren't around to barge into my room. At one point the guys double penetrated the girl. This was eye opening for me; it was the first time I saw this or even knew it was a thing! The first thought that came to my mind was how each of the guys must feel when their dicks were rubbing against each other inside the girl's snatch. I imagined that it made them each get harder because they were touching each other.

My friend David and I were emboldened by our trip to the porn shop and raised the ante by sneaking into the Rustic Drive-in in Smithfield, RI. The Rustic showed a triple feature of XXX movies. David was tall and always looked older, so he would drive the car while I would hide in the trunk or the floor of the back seat with a blanket over me. We watched such classics as Eruption with John Holmes, Inside Desiree Cousteau and Pretty Peaches with Sharon Kane.
 

Rustic Drive-in sign and lot with screen
Rustic Drive-in
 
Sharon Kane in the 1970s (left) and in a still from Pretty Peaches, 1978 (right)

Sharon Kane in the 1970s (left) and in 1978's Pretty Peaches (right)

 

In 1980, after graduating high school at the age of 17, I moved to San Francisco. I attended The San Francisco Art Institute for film studies. One day in class, my instructor George Kuchar brought in a 16mm copy of a movie he wrote and starred in called Thundercrack, co-starring Marion Eaton. The move was shot in black & white, beautifully filmed, with elaborate sets and filled with hardcore sex scenes! This was shocking to me. Being from a small town and closeted about sex, the fact that this film existed and the instructor was showing it to a classroom of students made me feel like this was an art form that was perfectly acceptable to a wide audience. It really opened my eyes and made me see hardcore sex on film from a whole new perspective.

 

Thundercrack poster

 

My first few weeks in the city I lived at the Harcourt Residence Club, a place where you would share a room and receive free meals. The Harcourt was located on Larkin Street on the border of the Tenderloin neighborhood. When I looked out my bedroom window I could see a movie cinema in the distance. The marquee displayed the title: Wet Shorts. Wet Shorts? I was intrigued. This had to be an adult cinema. I was still 17 and could not go in, but I definitely needed to check it out. I walked past the cinema and saw an image that literally burned into my brain until this day. The Wet Shorts movie poster featured a close-up of a pair of blue jean short shorts with some hairy legs and a bulge. After turning 18, I worked for another cinema in the tenderloin selling tickets. It was called the Screening Room Theater. It was an All Male Adult Theater with live dancers.

 

Vintage Wet Shorts poster

Vintage poster for Tom DeSimone's Wet Shorts (1980)

 

Little did I know at age 12 when I was looking at a magazine called Mama's Taste for Cock that I would someday be shooting sex scenes and pulling hard core photos for magazines.

Little did I know at age 16 that when I watched Pretty Peaches at the Rustic Drive-in, I would someday meet Sharon Kane and establish a long working relationship with her.

Little did I know that the Screening Room Theater where I worked in 1980 was the same theater where Sharon Kane worked in the 1970s. Alex de Renzy, who owned the Screening Room Theater, made the movie Pretty Peaches and introduced Sharon Kane in it.

Little did I know that on my 25th birthday in 1987, I would be hired by William Higgins' company Catalina Video. The same company that produced and released the film Wet Shorts.

This is my first blog for Bijou World and I am excited to share some of my experiences and perspectives.


A Note from the Editor:

Little did Josh know that I (Steven Toushin/Bijou) purchased the lease for the Screening Room (at 220 Jones Street) during the time Josh worked there (the manager at the time was filmmaker Frank Ross). After a few months of extensive renovation and a name change (Savages), Savages had its grand opening.


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.  

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Sent through email from W.D.: To Josh Eliot. You're latest Blog, "Wet Shorts", took me on a parallel journey through my own becom... Read More
Monday, 14 March 2022 22:29
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