During this holiday week, when most of the world’s gay porn stars and directors are on vacation with their two boyfriends, or home with their families who supposedly support everything they do and even watch their porn, I was forced to do what so many other bloggers and columnists before have done before me: make a top ten list of my favorite columns of the year.
Seriously though, this year has been a real blast. I’ve gotten to talk to some of my porn idols, met newcomers and established industry folk both clueless and remarkably wise, and spotlighted porn-adjacent artists making fascinating new work. I really have to thank The Sword for giving me the chance to do this, my editor J.W. Waxner-Herman, all my readers and especially, the commenters, even the negative ones (oh wait, they’re the only kind). I’ve looked through my columns from February to December, and picked out my personal favorites and the ones that made a big impact. If you missed any of these, now’s the time to take a trip down memory lane. Did I pick your favorite? Be sure to let me know in the comments section, below. And have a happy new year, kids! I’ll be home, watching porn, of course.
THE TOP TEN
“John: I forgot what the question was.
Adam: I’m not sure it would help to reiterate it.”
When I interview someone, I always aim to reveal more about the background and the character of the person I’m interviewing. Hopefully by doing so, my interviews can serve as a tool for understanding why people – in the case of this particular column, porn stars, directors, and artists – behave the way they do and make the art that they make. Usually, most of my subjects are very eager to talk about themselves, and explain their choices, which is why my discussion with zine creator John Gutierrez was so strange and compelling to read. Throughout our conversation, Gutierrez (whose bizarro gay porn spoof slash “Village Voice for go-go boys” zine Ruff Haus is my favorite queer zine of the year) proved himself to be either completely, hilariously deranged or terrific at playing that type of character. Among the things Gutierrez claimed during the interview: 1. He is desperate to turn his zine into the kind of publication that gets strewn about in the street like trash, 2. He hopes to be invited to secret parties populated with escorts and underage kids thrown by corporations like Nestle and Coca-Cola, and 3. If he makes a lot of money from selling his publications, he would probably use the money to dress underage high-schoolers in fabulous clothes and pay them to stand outside for 24 hours. Attempts at clarifying his out-there statements led me down further rabbit holes until, at one point, I started to look around for hidden cameras, figuring I must be on some kind of gay prank reality show. But whether it was all a put-on or the god’s honest truth, Gutierrez’s interview was a bizarrely fascinating and frequently hilarious change of pace.
“I think the beauty of queer sex is you don’t just have to say, “This is the only type of body that I’m attracted to.” You can be attracted to multiple types of bodies and have different types of experiences. Most people are happier when they allow themselves that room, and it’s like also true within gay male circles, [there are] people who say, “I’m only gonna have sex with twinks or gay muscle bears.” They miss out on people who don’t fit that narrow physical image of all they’re into. Bodies matter but also other things matter.”
Without a doubt, my conversation with FTM porn site Bonus Hole Boys’ founder Cyd St. Vincent proved to be the most controversial — and most commented on — piece I published all year. Trans-hating commenters insisted that St. Vincent and his co-stars were not men, that the sex they were having qualified as straight or bi sex because some of the boys used their front holes as well as their backs, while other commenters seemed unable to look at a vagina without screaming and crying like they did when Will and Grace got cancelled. Others argued back at the haters, insisting that trans men are real men, that the sex they have is most definitely queer, and that, as St. Vincent noted in the quote I posted above, there are different strokes for different folks. I, of course, agreed with the latter bunch, being a New York liberal fag who believes that sexuality is fluid and has enjoyed sex with transmen in the past despite defining myself as gay. Yet, beyond politics, I found St. Vincent a pretty inspiring figure for trying to take the ground broken by Buck Angel and continue to expand and redefine it. And though St. Vincent couldn’t resist fighting back against the commenters, he did it hilariously: “To all the men worried I’m trying to steal their precious man seed with my transgender riteousness (sic) – it’s cool girl, I’m not gonna sit on your face and smother your face with my pussy till you agree that trans men are men… Its just porn, and if you’re not into it you can not watch it, it’s gonna be ok.” Hear that? It’s gonna be okay, everyone.
“Adam: What’s been the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you on set?
Levi: I farted in Pierre Fitch’s face. We were posing for a picture and I was upside down and flexing everything and then it happened. My legs were on his hands and I was spread eagle with my ass facing his face. Also Bravo Delta did the SpongeBob laugh during a scene and I couldn’t get off afterwards. He sabotaged me. But other than that things are pretty chill.”
Is Levi Karter the anti-Johnny Rapid? One of the porn industry’s most popular twink performers, Karter’s got a beautiful body, delicious cock, and pliable ass that doesn’t yet resemble the Grand Canyon, even though he’s the regular recipient of huge cocks belonging to guys like Connor Maguire. He also doesn’t require a shit-ton of editing to make his scenes look good. In our conversation, the lovable Levi revealed his desire to stay in porn for life, his determination to study and become a director with the help of his mentor and boss Jake Jaxson, and his disinterest in becoming an escort, unlike many of his colleagues. In the fall, Karter’s self-made porn version of Tarnation, Fuck Yeah Levi Karter, was screened for audiences at the Berlin Porn Film Festival, where audiences flipped for him. (A sequel may be on the way…I’m told) With the departure of Cockyboys’ two biggest stars, Jake Bass and Max Ryder (aka George Alvin), Levi and his new co-star and bestie Liam Riley are poised to take their place. I’m only glad I got to talk to him before he went really, really big.
“I don’t believe in the six-hour douching. I think it’s pointless. Especially if you’re only taking 11 inches of cock, which is the maximum people will ever take, you literally just need to do a simple douche of the first little bit. Also you’re inside someone’s ass. Shit happens babes. Don’t freak out if you pull out and there’s a little bit of corn on the end of your cock. It’s like, bad stuff happens. Wipe it off and keep going. Why is everyone so squeamish? I mean, yeah if you pull out and shit goes on the walls and everywhere, then yeah, that’s a problem.”
During my Kate Bush-motivated pilgrimage to London this past September, I got the chance to sit down with the mad (in the best way possible) Ashley Ryder, a legendary performer who began as a cock hungry porn twink before turning into boundary-pushing director who practices what he preaches, regularly hunting for fists, enormous cocks, and other large objects to shove up his hole. During our nearly two-hour interview, Ryder took me through his traffic cone routine at Soho’s The Box, showed me a picture of his rosebud, and explained what “dirty love nuggets” are. It was the kind of interview I like the best, filed with filthy sex stories told by an unabashed slut with no sense of guilt over his work in porn. It also continued long after our interview, as we spent the remainder of the day hanging out on Old Compton Street, swapping stories and porn gossip. But beyond the filth, Ryder’s interview is special because of the insight it offers into the UK gay porn scene and the way censorship laws there make the kind of work Ryder and others do a real challenge. When I asked Ryder if he would consider decamping to the US to make his life easier, he insisted he’d prefer to stay in the UK and campaign for fisting to become legal. With the latest batch of censorship laws making that look unlikely, it’ll definitely be interesting to see what choices Ryder makes in 2015. Here’s hoping he at least comes to visit, if only so we can finally see the Rocco Steele episode of Fisted By The Stars Ryder promised us.
“I just love playing with dad-boy energy. One of the things that I love about his movies is they have this kind of – they’re not literal and they are at the same time. It’s almost a comedy in some ways, what’s going on in them. But you can’t act like you’re in a comedy. You take the whole thing seriously, and yet these situations are so fantastical. These guys are just constantly throwing themselves at Dad. His boy wants him to fuck him. It’s fantasy. I look at it as fantasy and that kind of power play that most of us have fantasized about.”
Though I’ve known Allen Silver for several years, and we’ve even slept together (horn-tooting accomplished), it wasn’t until he and I sat down for our interview that I really felt like I got to know the man behind the porn persona. Silver’s story is one of those remarkable only-in-San-Francisco type tales that fascinates me. He went from a terrified, closeted gay man growing up in the shadow of AIDS to a specialized sex worker focusing on “sacred intimacy”, helping often traumatized individuals begin to explore their sexual sides. He then took things one step further, with the help of directors like Joe Gage, and became an atypical porn star – a dirty daddy with a tender core. In doing so, he became both an object of lust to the younger daddy-obsessed generation, and an object of inspiration to older men like him who might mistakenly think their sexual days are over. In films like Chainsaw he flirted with incest themes, and in the Dad series, he took things much, much further, earning even more fans, and a considerable amount of controversy which carried over to his scene with James Darling for Bonus Hole Boys. Watching him in action on the set of Joe Gage’s American Bukkake a few months earlier, I was amazed at how much more he seems to be enjoying his work than the average porn star. As he told me after that shoot was finished, “There was a moment when we were getting ready, and I’m in the back looking around waiting for my cue, and I was like, I’m the luckiest fag in the world. It was a blast.”
“I like role play. Before when I lived in Berlin I used to be really into sex with weapons, like hunting knives and guns. I would cut up my boyfriends chest with a hunting knife, and he would scarify me, or I would be into bloodsports. That would be a big thing for me. But I was not into S&M gear, I wanted to use household gear. That you don’t go in the porn star and buy chains, but tie someone up with two socks. I raped my boyfriend once with a bronze sculpture I made. It was really long and it had a thing at the end.”
My conversation with Norwegian art provocateur Bjarne Melgaard will go down in Sword history as our first article to ever get mentioned on New York Magazine’s famous Approval Matrix, under “Highbrow and Despicable” no less. What led me to talk to Melgaard was his entry in the 2014 Whitney Biennial, a hilariously perverse room in which disturbing porn and violent images clashed on sculpted sofas and projected wall decorations while a soap operatic art porn spoof starring Dale Cooper played on a screen in the corner. Yet the conversation between Melgaard and I quickly turned away from his artwork to a series of bizarre and shocking assertions, including the disturbing revelation that he raped his ex-boyfriend with a sculpture while high on meth. At that tense moment, I was faced with a difficult choice. Should I have – as some of my friends later insisted – stopped the interview and walked out of the room? Or was I right in my decision to continue the conversation, state my disgust at it, and let readers have a glimpse into the true character of one of the world’s most famous artists? I’m still trying to figure the answer out myself.
“He remembers a few times when friends would walk by the theater and see him smoking under photos of buff nude men, and quickly walk past, trying not to make eye contact. “Like you know, they didn’t want to acknowledge me. I’d be like, bro I’m just working here, what is your problem? And even if I was, what was your problem?” he says.”
I swore all year that I would do more essay format articles, but things kept winding up working better in interview format. Jose Ramos was a different story. A schoolteacher by day, porn projectionist at both gay and straight Times Square porn theaters by night, Ramos’ story demanded to be written as a short piece. (I cribbed the style from Josh Friedman’s amazing, now hard-to-find book Tales Of Times Square, full disclosure). Ramos is the type of character I simply love to talk to, someone who lived through the good old bad days of New York City and the smut industry, before everything became a digital mini-mall. It’s his recollections of the nuts and bolts of the theaters, their designs and the activities he spotted there, that make this a must-read for anyone seeking insight into porn before VHS. PS. Ramos loved the article, but felt that the gifs of people fucking on the side were “too distracting.”
“In the 1980′s I watched a few, and one they became so formulaic, and I’m not interested in anything, what do you call it? Gay for pay. I made movies about people who wanted to fuck with each other. Not just people who wanted to make money. People said, “What makes your films different from everybody else’s?” I said, “The people that I used, really wanted to make love to the person they were with, or I didn’t use them. I made sure there was some chemistry there. I didn’t say, “Okay now you fuck him and now turn over and fuck him. Lick his ass.” I never did things like that. I made the things happen, and I was the director.”
Though Kenneth Anger, Pat Rocco, Peter de Rome, and Andy Warhol were responsible for setting the stage for hardcore gay porn to emerge in the early seventies, the man most responsible is, of course, Wakefield Poole, who directed the “one that started it all”, Boys in the Sand, and its follow-up Bijou, a film I consider to be the greatest porn movie ever made. Though I’d read Poole’s autobiography, and had seen I Always Said Yes, Jim Tushinski’s terrific bio-doc, I still approached my conversation with the porn pioneer with much trepidation. But when we called each other for the interview, my fears soon fell away, as Poole eagerly answered all my questions about everything from the influence of Powell and Pressburger on his work to what it was like fucking Rock Hudson to what he really thought about Jake Decker’s Boys in the Sand “tribute sequel”. Impossible to cut nearly anything Poole said from my final interview, I ended up stretching it into two parts, which, given his importance, seemed fitting. If you haven’t yet purchased Poole’s restored and remastered films from Vinegar Syndrome, now’s the perfect time to do so.
“I’m pro-safe sex. I believe negative should stay negative. I’m positive, there’s nothing I can do about that. What I can do about it is be responsible. When I’m barebacking in real life or in porn, I bareback with other undetectable people, not just positive but undetectable people, because I can still catch another strain of the virus. It doesn’t mean I’m 100% risk free, but those are ways I can minimize transmission of my strain or somebody else transmitting their strain to me. If I’m having bareback sex with a negative person, its their decision, and I’ve had several negative actors that I’ve been wanting to be able to do scenes with, and they’re bareback negative actors, but they only bareback with negative tops. That’s fine, I respect it. It’s their decision and it’s fine, I wouldn’t want them to put themselves at risk.”
While the year’s biggest trend amongst gay men was the popularization of Truvada as an HIV prevention drug, one of the big trends of the year in gay porn was the popularization of the openly positive bareback porn star. This meant that I could finally interview someone like Rocco Steele and not worry about how we would have to hide or dance around the topic of status so as not to hurt his career. When we finally got together, I was able to not only discuss some of his darker struggles with drugs and alcohol, but also play devil’s advocate and talk about the moral and ethical grey areas surround barebacking and their potential to inspire unsafe behavior amongst viewers. The result is a provocative conversation that I hope more porn stars and viewers will be able to have in 2015. How will our view of bareback porn change next year as Truvada continues to spread? And will we be able to stop shaming and criticizing HIV-positive sex workers and porn stars and treat them instead as human beings? For the sake of my interview subjects, I really, really hope so. Hey, even if you don’t agree with Steele’s choices, or his views, you’ve got to admit he’s one gorgeous daddy with a beautiful fucking cock – thankfully on display in a set of amazing Isauro Cairo photos.
“Quite frankly, in my opinion, and this is probably the quote that’s gonna fry me in all the blogs, to me there’s no such thing as a porn star anymore. There really isn’t. I think they were a dying breed and I think I was probably one of the last of the dying breed. It seems like today, boys do one or two movies, call themselves a porn star and by the time they get to five they quit.”
It took me a long time to track down the reclusive 00’s porn titan Chad Hunt, but the wait was most definitely worth it. Hunt gave a juicy and very articulate interview about his path from married father to the biggest name in the business. Even when he chose not to speak about something, like Michael Lucas and his attempts to create a PR stunt surrounding Chad’s supposed rival Ben Andrews, it still managed to cause a stir, resulting in a predictably nasty rejoinder to The Sword from La Lucas. Yet there was another controversy that haunted my comments feed all year – the debate over gay-for-pay porn stars and their place in the industry. Hunt, who has always identified as bisexual, had some rather elegant words to say on the subject, and though I hoped they might be the final word, the bizarre and fascinating war between the anti G4P commenters and Hunt continued long into the comments below the article. In short, my favorite piece of the year.
Adam Baran is a filmmaker, blogger, former online editor of Butt Magazine and co-curator of Queer/Art/Film. His short film JACKPOT, about a porn-hunting gay teen, won Best Short Film at the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and was recently featured on The Huffington Post, Queerty, and Towleroad, among others. He is a features programmer at Outfest Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival and NewFest in New York. In his spare time, he complains about things to his friends. “Fisting for Compliments”, his weekly musings about the intersection of sex, art, porn, and history, will appear every Monday on TheSword. You can contact him at Adam@TheSword.com and follow him on Twitter at @ABaran999. Check out his previous columns in the Fisting For Compliments Archive.