2013 XBIZ, AVN and XRCO BEST ACTOR AWARD -WINNING THE TRIPLE CROWN

Hey AVN, I need to update this photo soon. ??
Hey AVN, I need to update this photo soon. ??

I have to say that I’m humbled by all the accolades this year for my performance in “Torn”. To some, winning these awards may seem trivial and downright comical. Some even laugh at the idea of awards for adult entertainment.

But the fact is that I’ve always tried to do my best. As with anyone with years of experience in this industry, you develop a love/hate relationship with the Machine. Above all else, I found my way into the industry because I wanted to have a connection with others and sex was one way to do that. Acting was just in my DNA. Some tell me I should have pursued mainstream. As one long time Hollywood actor friend of mine said, “You made a right when you should have made a left.”  So be it. I’m here where I am.

What makes this sweet for me is that it was a difficult thing to play the humanity in a character we probably have all read about, known or experienced. It would have been easier to play him one dimensional-the bad guy. But this guy is more like us than we care to realize. The guy, at a cross roads in life and feeling unfulfilled, finds a connection with someone after committing to another. Who hasn’t had a moment where we say to ourselves, “I want something better!”. It’s an easy brush off to say, ” Midlife crisis, dude” and shake your head in dismay.

But I think that when one reflects on their life, and all of you will at some point, you find that there are genuine pieces of individuals you still love- traits, imperfections, dreams and illusions-that stay with you and become part of you forever. You still love that person but something has changed. You realize you have lost the one thing that drew you together in the first place-joy and wonder. Your expectations for that individual were unfounded and really a projection of one’s self.

But you feel stuck. It makes moving ahead difficult because we beat ourselves up internally. We realize how imperfect we are and how far we are from who we’d like to be. We realize the mistakes that tear us up inside will always haunt us. We realize that we are our biggest critics. And society says, “You’re not happy? Fuck you, suck it up. Neither are we.” No one gave us a rulebook and we  inevitably find ourselves stumbling our way through life on this rock.

Fuck it, go with your heart. Damn the naysayers, it’s you alone who can make you happy. No one else will.

The sweetness of this is also amplified because I met another soul who aspired to give their best but was also stuck like me. Jacky St. James wrote this story and had trouble finishing the script because she couldn’t find a performer who could pull this off the way she envisioned it in her head. This is where I came in. After experiencing a soul crushing/ gun to the head breakup and the collapse of my dream life, I was in need of a role where I could express these feelings. I used my pain to portray another’s.

In the end, even though it is another adult film in a slew of hundreds shot over the years, everyone conspired to do our best work. We didn’t follow trends or worry about whether this was ‘sexy’ enough; we just did what we could do at the moment. We told a story most everyone is familiar with. With no rehearsal or a budget that studio films get, I think we did a damn good job. We may never have that moment again but it is that moment that will stay with me to the end.

Thank you Jacky, Remy, India, Tom, Raylene and Eddie. Thanks to all who watched and loved the movie. Thanks to all the reviewers and XRCO, AVN and XBIZ people. Thanks to the few who care about what they do. Performers, directors, crew- anyone who doesn’t just show up, cruise through and collect a check. John Leslie once told me when we were shooting Dogwalker, “You will look back at this and be proud. Nothing will have the same value as this will.” He was right. I watched it months ago and saw the same guy I see today (albeit younger); me attempting my best. These are the crumbs we leave on the planet that will soon blow away. Make them the best you can.

This is the best I can offer at the moment. And I am proud of my work.

“AFTER PORN ENDS”- A DOCUMENTARY FILM LOOKS INTO THE ‘PLAYPEN OF THE DAMNED.’

A few weeks ago, while attending the XRCO Awards, someone decided to run a preview of a documentary film entitled  After Porn Ends  right before the start of the show. The night was supposed to be a celebration and a chance to honor the performances of the past year and the performers as well, but the silence that descended on the room was akin to someone making cocaine overdose jokes at this year’s Grammy Awards. This was a case where people looked around at each other and mouthed the words ‘what the fuck is this?’. It was a stupid way to start an award show, and while  it made people in the room aware of this soon to be released film, it did so in an entirely inappropriate manner. Imagine showing a documentary about baseball’s steroid era to a room full of  former and present day major league ball players, where (according to Jose Conseco) 80% of the players have used steroids in one form or another. Yeah, dumb.

Documentaries about the porn business are notorious for being ‘Debbie Downers’. The general public may be interested in what a documentary film about the porn industry may has to say, but not  necessarily so for the industry itself. Films like this shows us our scars. It disembowels us as we relive the pain we have all endured and try to  forget and hide. It’s tedious work to put on a smile and act as if whatever the events the person on-screen is speaking about only happened to them and didn’t happen to us; as if we were above it all.

I loathe watching documentaries having to do with the porn business. They make my stomach turn. It’s like watching the 9/11 news footage over and over again. Because I know the ending, the angle, the parting shot. While it may present itself as a cautionary tale, it fails to dig deep or at least examine the stimulus that made each person choose to enter the business. Why they chose to use their sexuality as a currency in exchange for ‘fame and fortune’.

I was very resistant to watching this documentary After Porn Ends”.  Because inevitably, what happens is that the film becomes a pain fest, a ‘whoa is me’ diatribe. Not through any fault of the participants but through the inadequacy of the filmmakers to find the real story, the compelling elements. They fail to properly follow the hero’s quest (or in this case the person being interviewed), and thus the film is somehow hobbled in a weak attempt to present something that is missing a key element; conflict.  Conflict with oneself and conflict with others. That is what drives us to relate to a character; the conflict they endure and how they overcome it. Joseph Cambell wrote about why certain stories resound with us for generations in The Hero with a Thousand Faces and what key elements are hit on that makes the story full and satisfying.

When I first started in porn, I was more than happy to talk to anyone who was doing a documentary on porn. Even with print interviews, I saw an opportunity to peel back the cloak of mystery about us as performers and the business as a whole.  I liked being honest and truthful about what exactly the business offered me. The good and the bad.

That changed over time. I eventually refused to participate in these documentaries because I didn’t agree with the intention of the projects.

And I soon learned that many of these films never saw the light of day. Also, that the directors or producers had their own agenda regardless of how open and honest someone was who had been interviewed. “How can we capitalize on this business and make some money? I know! Let’s tell a sad story.”

In all the years I’ve been around, I’ve seen many attempt to capture the essence of  the porn industry and its performers.  Many times it ends of being a flat note of ‘see kids? you don’t want this to happen to you.”

This film speaks with over 14 former performers in the business (Asia Carrera, Randy West, Tyffany Million, Nina Hartley, Seka, Houston, Raylene and others) and former porn industry critic/blogger Luke Ford and industry historian Bill Margold. Interestingly, they speak with only three male performers, all three having their heyday back in the 80’s; Randy West being the only one who continued performing into the 90’s. (Notoriously absent were Jenna Jameson, Jesse Jane, Sasha Gray, Tera Patrick;  girls who have been the most recent names to have crossed over and experience mainstream  media exposure due to TV shows like Entourage, films like The Girlfriend Experience and Private Parts and Jenna’s book.)

This was the first time I had an interest in seeing a film where I knew and had worked with the women interviewed.

One of the things that became abundantly clear was the fact that they had expected ‘acceptance’; they thought they were entitled to it because they were now on TV. As Bill Margold puts it, “They were looking for credibility, validation and recognition through the porn industry.”

Being on TV, at one time,  meant  you had talent, looks and people were drawn to you as a person. And as there were only three networks up until the last 25 years or so (and before cable television), if you were on TV, you had been chosen from a very small group of people to be the face of America.

But now all that has changed. To be on TV doesn’t mean the same today. Anyone who can be ‘entertaining’ seems to on TV now.

Everyone who grew up watching TV, thought that as they were on TV themselves, they were as successful as the people they saw on TV before, and as talented as well. But I think we’ve seen enough ‘Behind the Music’ type shows to know this is hardly the truth with famous people. Their success was subjective.

I won’t spoil the film but there are some interesting things I noticed. One, many talk of their children as saving their lives. Family seems to be a grounding element in each person’s happiness. Two, while some were able to look at the good and bad parts equally and just observe that part of their lives, some were still ‘in’ their story and seemed to fall back into a cycle of ‘look what happened to me, isn’t it sad?’.

Not to take anything away from the people interviewed. Their story is their story. But some ‘were‘ the feelings they felt as opposed to separating themselves and being able to acknowledge the feelings without ‘being‘ the feeling.

One poignant comment by one interviewee was how they “missed the affection of sex” and ” how they didn’t know how to act on a normal date”. Another saysshe lost that hope” while performing in front of the camera.

Randy West speaks honestly about what the business gave him and Nina Hartley makes a great observation about who is really suited for work in the professional job market.

“When your involved with this industry, you lose your humanity.” Luke speaks about the negative aspects of the human condition as if it only applies to people who work in the sex business. I think it can be applied to any line of work. Politics, law, medical practice and others have all lost a certain amount of humanity simply because they are industries unto themselves and the bottom line, the profit, is the main and only concern.

Losing your humanity is something that occurs when we lose sight of what makes us truly happy. Some recognize it immediately and change while others do not. In the end, it depends on one’s expectations and whether or not the path you’ve chosen will reap the benefits you expected.

I’m curious to know what other documentaries or books about the adult business you’ve watched or read and whether they gave you a better insight into the world of porn. What are some that have been enlightening?

Have you read Jenna’s, Tera Patrick’s or Monica Mayhem’s books? What did these books offer as insight into the porn business for you as the reader?

JOHN LESLIE TRIBUTE-PART 2

Silhouetted by the bright San Fernando Valley sunlight, John stood outside of his hotel room as he lit his Camel unfiltered cigarette and took a deep drag of it. Looking down at the ground, he was deep in thought for the moment. A jangle of nerves, he was preparing to film his biggest feature film with his own money, and the Northridge quake had already postponed his schedule. The house that would serve as our location for the first two days of filming was damaged; the interior walls and ceilings cracked from the 6.7 seismic event. 

John turned his head to me and smiled. “It doesn’t matter.” He said it directly to me but it seemed he was saying it to himself and to the universe. “This is a movie that will be something you can look back later with pride. All the other movies you’ll do after this won’t matter. This will be the one that lives long past you.”

Kathleen, John’s wife, was kind enough to drop by yesterday and give me a DVD copy of the ‘John Leslie Tribute’. I sat there watching and remembering one of my many experiences with John. He had chosen me to play the lead character in his first feature film Dogwalker. When John had passed suddenly in December 2010, I was unable to attend the memorial here in the Southland as I was living in France. I was grateful for this opportunity to see him again, albeit on TV, and to have some time to reflect.

The reasons John is such a compelling person to me are many. He embodied something you just don’t see anymore.

Character.

He carried himself with class. He had passion for everything he did. You can feel it in the way he blows on his harmonica. If you’ve never seen John play the blues, you are missing a fine experience. A long time fan of the blues myself, we both shared a veneration for Muddy Waters, among other great blues players.

You can see his passion in his art. His watercolor work of various street scenes in San Francisco’s Chinatown are simply outstanding.

He had a style no one else had. His movies have a texture many try to emulate but never fully capture. He was opinionated but relaxed. But he could argue his point of view with reason, without the need for histrionics.

He was generous yet demanding. I recall one of the last things he said to me after I left our group read through of the script with Jamie Gillis, Jon Dough and Christina Angel. He told me “I don’t want you fucking any chicks during the time we’re making this film.” He pointed down at my cock. “Those loads are mine. I paid for them. I want every cent I paid.” He was making light of it but he expected me to give everything I had on the project. He was putting his own ass on the line and he demanded the same commitment from me and the others in the film.

He had a passion for making movies. He wanted to tell a story, not just shoot pretty pictures. The mystery of the encounter, the buildup, the lusting, the anticipation of sex was just as important  to show as the sex act itself. What was implied but not said had far more weight than just speaking. Dogwalker, The Voyeur and Fresh Meat series are filled with sexual tension. Many times you would catch him watching a girl for a matter of moments and say “Look how sexy she is.” He was enamored by the female creature.

Being well rounded and having outside interests other than porn enabled him to have an impact on people. His love for his wife Kathleen, his art, music, cooking, entertaining friends; all these things shaped him and made him bigger than the sum of his work. As Kathleen recounted, “He gave me everything I wanted, and I didn’t want much.”

I think there is a model here to follow. Be passionate. Be compelling. Carry oneself with class. Have other interest totally unrelated to porn. You’ll be fuller, content and happy. You will be bigger than the sum of your parts.

A moment came as she looked down at the ground. A pause. Reflecting to herself, she looked up at me and then past my right shoulder, as if someone else was there behind me. She spoke.

“We had a great run together.”

Though she spoke aloud, I’m sure it was not for my benefit. Maybe a bit for hers, but I believe it was all to John.

CAN A FILM DIRECTOR CHANGE YOUR LIFE?

When I was just starting out in the biz, I was doing quite a lot a videos and films that required some acting on my part. I was working with Paul Thomas and Bud Lee quite a bit for Vivid features. The stories were mini movies. Longer than normal scripts, the roles requiring acting from both the actors and actresses. Not just saying the lines correctly or with ’emotion’, but with some apparent structure to the character on paper in the skin of the performer. Did I lose you? Yup me too.

Anyway, simply said, I was doing films geared for couples. Love stories, revenge stories, mysteries, who dunnit’s, mistaken identities,etc. Bud Lee like to say “Babe, there are 20 stories in writing and we’ve shot each of them 500 times!”  He didn’t actually call me babe, that was his “Porn Director” impression he would do on set for laughs.

One day, I get a call from Jim South at World Modeling (this was the senior, most reading this may not even have met him). Back then, there were two agencies only, Jim’s and Reb’s ( that’s a topic for another post).

The phone call would be something like this (insert Texas drawl between puffs on Salem cigarettes) “Steven, I need you to meet with a gentleman by the name of John Leslie tomorrow for a role. Now before you say anything let me tell you something. This guy is one of the best actors ever in porn and you remind me a lot of him so I told him to take a look at you for this film. You’re not as good looking but that’s not a problem,” (Jim loved to tell me I wasn’t good looking) “But he’s doing a big film and he needs a serious actor who can carry the film. Are you interested?”

I said yes and met with John the next day at his hotel room on Sepulvada Blvd. Some puke green hotel I remember, maybe it was Van Nuys Blvd. Shit, it doesn’t matter.

The following AVN Awards (1995), I had my first best lead actor in a film  nomination among other nominations. The film, “Dogwalker”, had many noms and won best film. I think Christina Angel and I won for best couples sex scene. I lost the acting award to either Buck Adams or Mike Horner, I don’t recall. I did however win the XRCO Award for the role in Dogwalker.

After that, I had more work than I could handle. It eventually led to me being the first guy ever to sign an exclusive contract in the business, with Vivid Video.

I tell you what happened in my first meeting with John in another post. And the behind the scenes stories of  the “Dogwalker” shoot.

To this day, I still get people coming up to me and saying  “I fucking loved you in Dogwalker”.

 John Leslie changed my life.