More than any other part of a man's body, I'm obsessed with noses. Specifically the big, strong angular ones. It's why I always used to melt when the man who would become porn star Adam Ramzi would walk into Akbar or Faultline back when I lived in L.A. A few months later I returned to New York, and forgot about him until earlier this year when a friend asked me if I would interview Ramzi, who was my friend's current porn obsession. I hadn't heard of him yet. When I found out Ramzi was my big-nosed crush, I knew it was time for us to chat. I wound up back in L.A. this past week, and though Ramzi's since moved to San Francisco, we were at least in the same time zone and able to Skype more easily. For the next forty-five minutes we talked at length about his unusual entry into the industry, how porn gives his younger self a chance at victory, and the perception of his work and persona in the Armenian-American community.
Adam B: Adam, I knew you only from sight when I spent some time in L.A. a couple of years ago, and I just remember you were always the hottest guy in Akbar at all times. But I didn’t know that you were destined to be this super hot porn star. How did you get into the industry?
Adam R: Well, I was in a program at Antioch University, working on my masters in LGBT psychology and while that was happening I was approached by Chris Ward, the head of Raging Stallion, because he saw pictures of me somewhere. He said, "You’re exactly what we want for our brand. Would you be interested in something like this? We’d make it very great and very fun." At first I scoffed at it and was thinking that’s not really something I’d be willing to do. It’s too risky. It’s too weird. But then the more I thought about it, it seemed to make a lot of sense, and I tried to think of a way to tie it into my studies. Because a lot of what I was looking into in my program was about the shame around gay sex, bottom shame, guilt, just a lot of feelings around gay sex and how the word’s been stigmatized, and also people’s reactions to sex work in general, even my own reactions, thoughts and judgments on what it really meant to be in porn. So I just thought it would be kind of a risky little challenge that I could set for myself to try one scene and see what I thought about it. I ended up getting kind of a lot out of it and decided to keep doing more. Each scene has been its own experience, its own adventure, its own set of circumstances, and I really enjoyed it.
Can you take me through some of the ways that you feel like you’ve developed in each scene, with specific examples?
I mean I could talk about that for hours because every scene you get something different out of, depending on the kind of chemistry you create with your scene partner. For me chemistry is really important, and I always thought that what I wanted to do was establish some kind of connection with my scene partner that translated to my scene. The scenes where I was able to establish that chemistry was exciting in their own way but also you learn a lot from when you don’t have chemistry with them, and that’s where the performance aspect becomes really important. For example, my very first scene was with Joe Parker. He and I basically hit it off instantly and I thought it was the coolest thing that it felt like we were teammates, you know what I mean? It was interesting when about five scenes later, I worked with someone that I wasn’t really interested in. Even attraction-wise it wasn’t there. I thought if I tried that whole teammate thing that would work. But we didn’t connect on any level. So it became a very inward experience, which was also interesting and kind of gratifying. In other scenes I think the director’s also really important. I had one scene where the director and I didn’t get along very well and that was eye-opening in a whole different way and I realized that at some point you have to be careful, because I felt like I was selling sex out. Sex is really important to me, and I think it’s really special, and I hated that I was doing something involved in sex that was absolutely no fun. It just really depends. There’s a lot of nuances as to how to make a scene go well and sometimes even if it doesn’t go well during the filming the performance aspect of it really shows up on camera, onscreen. You can still make a really great scene based on editing and if you’re a good performer or not and if the director’s involved.
Can you explain a little bit more about what you were studying that led to this porn work being your subject? I find this fascinating that your entry into the porn world comes from a place of queer theory and sex studies than the typical “I was down on my luck and needed the money” stuff like that.
Well, see, even that, what you just said, is what made me want to explore it. I think a lot of people have an idea that doing porn comes from this place of desperation. That’s what I wanted to explore about it. The stigma around sex, the stigma around sex work, and what kind of thoughts we have around gay sex in general as members of the gay community. For example, I thought it was really kind of noteworthy that somebody that I had dated long ago wrote to me when he first started seeing pictures pop up in his Tumblr feed and he wrote to me and was like, "So is this you? Did I actually see pictures of you doing porn?" I thought he was gonna pay me a compliment. I was excited to hear from this person again. He basically wrote me this big tirade of how disappointed he was. He wrote, "I really hold you in high regard and this really demeans you as a person and I’m really disappointed." In none of what he wrote did he ever ask me how I was doing. He never said, for example, "Is everything okay? How are you?" I was like, "If you actually asked me any of that I would tell you that I’m actually kind of inspired by what I’m doing and getting a lot out of it." That’s just an example of some of the reactions I’m getting. I had this really big discussion with my sister as well. She didn’t admonish me for doing porn, it was more about the fact that I kind of have this role in my family as the person who stirred shit and made weird decisions. So it became a discussion about that.
Like why do you always have to do something like this?
Yeah. "Why are you always doing crazy shit like this?" she said. And I said, basically, "You know what? You’re just going to have to trust me that I’m doing something that’s good for me. And get over your shit." So I think it’s been sort of cool that I’ve been able to maybe maintain this goal to just explore what it brings for other people, and what it brings up for me. I think maybe even I in the past might have had these notions of people who were doing porn. That it came from a place of desperation and the reason why I think it makes sense for my studies is, what I’m trying to explore about the gay community and how it sees itself is that a lot of theorists in LGBT psychology who are in their fifties or older, they come from a place of such wound, such damage. "We are a damaged community and we need to fight our way through this damage." Whereas I feel like now the next generation of gay kids are feeling very empowered by being gay and times are changing. Equal rights and all this shit. I feel like that kind of translates the same way into the porn world where people are kind of coming into their own by getting into the sex trade and sex work and becoming a more fully realized individuals and I’m excited about exploring that because that’s what it’s done for me. And sometimes to the detriment of my social interactions with people which can get kind of weird. I left L.A. a couple of months ago, when the porn wasn’t as prominent and I’d start getting text messages from people for the next few months who write, "I’m at the Faultline and I’m seeing you get pounded on the screen right now." For some people it’s probably really weird and for some people it’s exciting. It was nice to hear from the people who are like “Good job, this is great” and others are like, "Can you please stop littering my goddamn Tumblr feed." I’m like, sorry... It’s fun to see people’s reactions and I feel it’s given me a chance to really narrow down who my real friends are.
That’s interesting. I think it helps, though, that you’re so fucking hot. I know that’s a weird thing to put out there but I’m curious if you’ve considered that how we respond to your body might be determining how people react to your decision to do porn. That’s historically a common thing, the way gay people determine their bodies and what body types they like from porn.
To be honest I’m really surprised by some of the reactions that I’ve gotten because while I appreciate the compliment of course, I don’t think I have a very typical porn body, per se. I’m a little thinner than most and I kind of thought that that was going to be my downfall. I was expecting to see a lot of comments on the Internet like, "Who the fuck is this guy?" But for the most part the reaction’s been really positive and I’m really flattered by some of the shit people are saying. So I don’t think I want a porn body because this one’s doing me just fine.
Definitely. I try to be a little careful. I already really enjoy taking care of myself. It feels really good. I also think it’s been fun to move to a place like SF where people are not quite as body conscious and getting the reaction from people that I’m getting up here. Even the negative reactions have been funny. I walked into this bar in the Castro, and this woman in the corner was smoking a cigarette and she goes, “Where are you from honey?” and I say, “I’m from Los Angeles,” and she points up and down my body and says “That explains everything.” And I said, “I’ll take that as a compliment even if you didn’t mean it as one.” She winked at me. At the same time it was really fun to be flown up to San Francisco to do Cockfight with Landon Conrad and Shawn Wolfe, and Landon and I were on the same flight and we hung out before our flight, and he was like “You wanna get a slice of pizza?” My immediate thought was, “Are you kidding me? We’re about to fuck each other tomorrow are you sure you want to go on camera the day after wolfing down a slice of pizza with your scene partner?” But instead my answer was, “Fuck yeah. Let’s go get a slice of pizza.” It was great. And I think I looked alright in that movie. It’s easy to get in your head about shit like that but I’ve been working really hard on not letting myself go there. I think I look like a normal person. I’ll never do steroids ever, but I really enjoy taking care of myself. I think maybe being in the porn world has helped keep that going.
What I’m struck by in the past 17 minutes we’ve been talking is how much insight you have into your own experience which I find in varying degrees in some of the porn stars I’ve talked to. You’re obviously a very learned guy. Now your sister said that you’re the kind of person who stirs shit up in the family, but I’m curious if there are other moments you’ve had doing porn that make you look back and say oh that’s sort of similar to something in my past, or that’s like this moment when I was growing up. In other words, if I was telling your story Orange is the New Black-style with you doing a porno and flashing back at key moments to how you got there, what would the moments be?
My favorite example I’m going to give you is my second scene, which was in Timberwolves with Tommy Defendi. Working with Tommy was really great because I learned a lot about what it meant to be a sex performer and the thing that was really great about it was that as a kid I was always fascinated by sex and by men. I went to a really small private school and grew up in the Armenian-American community of East Los Angeles. It’s a small community and everybody knows each other and looking back on it, I was pretty obviously the gay kid, and it wasn’t so much about being gay that was scary to people, it was just that I was different. All the guys in my class liked Tupac and I was raving about the new Bjork album. And I loved playing that shit up. But at the same time I think there was a part of me that really wanted to be embraced by these guy’s guys. I loved watching these guys play basketball and take their shirts off and stuff like that. So there was a point during my work with Tommy where I couldn’t really get a read on his chemistry level with me, and I didn’t know if there was any and so at one point we were talking and kind of bro-ing out the day before our shoot. I basically said to him, “Tommy clearly you’ve been doing this a while. I’ve never seen any of your work but people seem to love you, they keep having you back and they love you apparently. But I just want you to know that I’m new at this, and I need to look you in the eyes tomorrow. Know what I mean?” He said, “Not really. What do you mean?” I said, “I need you to make me feel special.” And he looked at me and said, “Okay, I can do that.” He has his own process of how to get into his head and make the scene look great and while we were filming that scene I felt like that boy I was in high school had a victory. I felt like all those boys that I wanted that attention and validation from — I was getting it in this scene. That really translates on camera and I think that’s why that scene did so well. It got so much attention. We were both nominated for awards for it. Every time that I watch it I have to jerk off because I know that when I watch that scene I am living for it.
I have known lots of Armenian people and I always heard that it was a very anti-gay community and I’m curious how the reaction to your coming out has been and if your family has thoughts about your porn work?
Um, yeah, that’s a tough one. It’s really kind of sweet because it was definitely rough at the time when I first came out but it’s been sort of cute since then. I’m 32 which — I’m no spring chicken, but it was kind of cute, because I don’t really hang out with a lot of Armenian boys in the gay community, at least not in L.A. and it was really cute when I started seeing them come out to the Eagle and I’d always be polite and say hello here and there and there was this one who finally started talking about my place in the community and he was telling me that I was well-known and I said what are you even talking about, how do people know who I am? I just show up to these parties. He said, girl you’re like a pioneer, and I just thought that was so sweet because he was calling out that I was one of the first in the community to come out and be shameless about being a faggot. So taking that into the porn arena. It’s like alright, the cat’s out of the bag, he’s gay but then to take it that extra step further, I think it’s gonna be really weird when it becomes common knowledge that that’s what I’m doing because not many people in the community know about it. My siblings know about it. They each had varied reactions. One of my brothers said, "Okay that’s weird but that’s cool. Good for you.” The other brother said, "Why, why, why did you do that? You know it’s just going to ruin shit.” I had a cousin of mine who won’t speak to me because he just feels so uncomfortable. He basically found some photos when I got tagged on something on Facebook as Adam Ramzi and he basically called my sister and was like “Do you know about this?” I wish she hadn’t, but she said “No I don’t know what you’re talking about,” because she didn’t really know what to say, and he was like if your dad sees these he’s going to have a heart attack, we need to get these off the internet right away. It was like too late for that, homie. So basically I probably am going to have to get to a point where I’m comfortable enough to talk to my dad about it. But I did tell my mom about it after my first scenes, and she had her initial, “Oh dear’ reactions but the more I talked about it and I told her my intentions and she said, “You know what, you’re a smart guy and I’m glad you have your intentions clear and you have your head on straight so I’m with you ever step of the way.” My parents are not together and they’re very different people, so it makes sense I got that reaction from her, I’m not quite sure how it’s going to go over with my dad. But I feel like if I tell my dad I’ll feel more comfortable to go public with it, because eventually I want to write a book about it.
It could be the subject of a really good book and you seem like the ideal person to write about it.
I’m really excited about it actually. Like I said it has been an inspiring direction. It’s given me a lot to consider. I’m currently working on a licensure towards my marriage and family therapy and obtaining hours up here, so I was thinking that maybe once I finish my license I could maybe get into a PhD program and that would be what I would want to study and it would give me an excuse to publish. So far that’s the plan and if things go in a different direction I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. But that’s what I’d like to do.
You were obsessed with guys when you were young, when were the first time you did something? I’m assuming that the reaction was one of shame.
You mean the first time that I actually did anything with a guy? Oh absolutely. The first time that I was actually I went with my sister to a rehearsal. She was in a band at the time and she was 19 and I was 15 and she was in a band with all sorts of misfits and um, I came with her to her rehearsal and started getting very obviously flirty with her guitar player who was this bro from Orange County and he was flirting back and you know, he was 26 and he kept drinking beer after beer and before I knew it he followed me out to the bathroom and basically shoved me against the wall and started making out with me and I think the experience of it was so exhilarating and shocking, it felt like a dream. I had had a few beers myself and at 15 you can imagine what that’s like and I was almost hyperventilating because I was just so in shock and then when I heard my sister’s voice go “What the fuck?” and he jumped off me and I looked at her and I pretty much completely denied that I had any part of what was happening. He actually kind of took the fall for it. He didn’t want to get me busted so he basically said, “Yeah I’m drunk, I’m sorry he’s cute I went for it.” That was that. But that haunted me for so long. Over the next two weeks I wasn’t eating. I just felt terrible and for so many reasons, not only because I was caught but because it was clearly something was happening within myself and I think even the residual effects of that lasted a while because even with my first boyfriend in college I think I wouldn’t commit to the gay label because I just kind of thought it was something I was doing for a while. I was like I like guys they’re attractive, you know. I was getting laid which wasn’t happening before. I think I kind of thought of it as a phase. It wasn’t until my second boyfriend when I started actually feeling like it was nothing to be ashamed of anymore. That’s when I broke free from those confines and did it in a probably pretty dramatic way.
That’s fascinating, another example of the way that we’re a product of our childhoods. I also think that there’s something to be said that there is very amongst the It Gets Better and all this rah-rah language there’s often this glossing over of the experience that you described and which I also experienced, which was the first time is both exhilarating and produces psychic scarring sometimes and a deep sort of shame that results from, "I can’t deny this, I have done this."
Yeah. It became real.
Is there a place to which you are working and you feel like when you hit that spot you’ll stop? Or is it just something that you’ll know when you feel it?
I think I’ll know when I feel it. I’m already starting to feel it personally. I’m not saying it’s come to an end. I feel like at this point I’m feeling like I have gotten a lot of what I needed out of it. At this point the rest is just for fun and for money. I don’t think that especially because I — think I mentioned a little bit earlier — I recently had a really bad experience on set, and I feel like I’ve come to a place in my porn career where I don’t think I need to do anything that makes me feel like shit, ever again. So I feel like I’ve become a lot better at detecting what I want from the experience from making porn. For example, Cockfight. I made a lot of money from that, it was an amazing product, but shooting for four days in a row, I don’t think I need to do that ever again. Then also I feel like I know enough people in this business to know who are the good people to work with and who are not and I think, you know. I don’t need to put myself through any torture ever again. That’s basically where I’m at. I’m not done working but I will only do it if it’s something I feel will be 100 percent good for me and my soul and will make me feel good about the people I’m working with. I recently had my first shoot with NakedSword and mr. Pam and it came just a few days after my hellish shoot that I had prior to that. There was so much joy on the NakedSword set. There was times when I had to ask them to shut up because everyone was having such a good time — her crew are so nice and she’s just such a bubbly personality herself and it was just nice to be in that space rather than a space that included anxiety. I would just rather be in a play that is joyful about it. I think sex should be celebrated. And I don’t ever want to be in a situation where sex is not fun.
Is the shoot that was torture the one for Kink where you were actually being tortured?
No, actually that was amazing. I can’t wait to work with Kink again actually because that was another thing. That was a really exciting shoot the first time I did Men on Edge. What happened was my notion of being on a Kink set was called into question because you think Kink.com and you’re basically being tortured and humiliated and all this stuff. So I kind of went there feeling very nervous and then it was really neat to be in a waiting room full of other models and makeup artists and everyone was like, “Oh my god this your first time? Welcome! You’re gonna have the most amazing time everyone here is so amazing. Welcome!” There was so much joy involved. Everyone was so excited about producing this product that was based on kink sex. And it really was exciting. Once I got on set I was just able to let go and have fun. They gave me all these warnings of what it might be like. They gave me a safe word and you know how many times I used that safe word? Zero. I was like, "Gimme more." I liked getting my boundaries pushed, and it was really fun to be game. No, the Kink shoot was not a torturous one. It was wonderful.
Overall in your life what is the best sexual experience you’ve ever had?
Oh my goodness. The best sexual experience I’ve ever had? Should I go cheesy on you?
No I don’t have any of that. I would have to say being in love produced the best sex I’ve ever had. It’s something that I miss a lot. My notions of what relationships should be like have changed over time but there was something really special about being in love. I had a partner who I’m still kind of stuck on a little bit, if I’m being honest, but we haven’t been together for three years. We had this thing we called love boners because if we said something sweet to each other, it wouldn’t even be sexy. We would say something sweet to each other and our dicks would start to rise. And I thought that was really special and unique and it is very rare. So I miss that a lot.
And very not porn in a way.
So the interview’s over, but what’s the rest of your day got in store?
I’ve been horny all fucking day. First though, I have to go pick up my car and spend a thousand dollars which sucks, so I’m going to reward myself by going to hang out with a good friend who’s a great cuddler and has a huge dick.
Watch Adam Ramzi flip-flop with Sean Zevran in Falcon Edge's Stunners:
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.