The “Rabbit ripoff” episode was the first of the misfortunes that would make the production of “The First Big-Budget Erotic Extravaganza Shot Entirely on Videotape” seem jinxed.
On the day before shooting started, the production company renting me cameras and recorders cancelled out; their client, Bank of America, had threatened to drop them if they got involved with porno.
Only one other outfit in the Bay Area owned the Ikegami HL 79 cameras that Joe and I insisted on using. Compared to other broadcast portables of the time, the “Ikki 79” was like a Mercedes among Mavericks.
Specializing in shooting rock concerts, this outfit had no compunctions about porn. They agreed to rent their gear for the standard one day rate for a full weekend. But when Joe and I arrived for the equipment early Saturday morning, the owners demanded two days rental–paid in advance.
The male leads pulled a similar ripoff. Looking like the obese southern sheriff I’d always imagined casting him as, Michael Morrisson splayed his cowboy-booted feet, hooked his thumbs in his belt and drawled, “Me and Jon only agreed to work a HALF day for $500, not a full one.”
Even porn’s top male, John Leslie, didn’t charge more than $750 for a full day, and these guys weren’t stars.
(Note: In 1981, $750 per day was top pay for a male star.)
Morrisson’s expanding gut was getting big enough to block penetration, threatening his porn career. He’d been feasting on the excellent cooking of the porn actor who shared his new Mill Valley home, skinny Jon Martin, who looked to me like a butch Rosanna Arquette. Some referred to the duo as “porn’s Laurel and Hardy.”
Voices rose, anger flared. Morrisson turned to his sidekick and snapped his fingers, “C’mon Jon, we got a house to paint.”
Martin hesitated. He seemed perfectly willing to accept $500 for a day of sex with beautiful women, but he followed his partner.
It was too late to find replacements. I gave in to their demands and frantically rewrote the script during breaks, so the two studs would be out in half a day.
Next: Shooting ALL THE KING’S LADIES Part 4: Screw-ups and Sizzling Sex
A pornographer’s worst nightmare is the actor who can’t get erect. The moviemaker must then either shoot the scene “sim (simulated)” and cut in hardcore close-ups from previous shoots or pay the flaccid actor a “kill fee (a small goodbye payment)” and hire a replacement. At least the pornographer has options. But the poor guy who can’t perform suffers a worse fate: no more work. Men have suffered nervous breakdowns over penis limpus and at least one (Randy Potes—AKA Cal Jammer) has committed suicide. To continue in a lucrative career, porn studs develop unique ways to get aroused.
Having a beautiful woman available may not work. She was every surfer boy’s fantasy: blonde and petite, with breasts that stood out from her tan like scoops of ice cream fallen on smooth sand. But Gayle Monica’s patient fellatio didn’t “fluff up” her porn-partner husband. He wasn’t looking at her. (Too familiar?) Instead he stared at Boobs ‘n Buns magazine. It didn’t help. Then, male star Mike Ranger strolled into the room, sat on the bed and began fondling Gayle. Her startled husband suddenly became hard. Lesson: The unexpected can work wonders.
On the same shoot was a guy whom Ranger derisively dubbed “Right Sider.” He had to lie on his right side and masturbate in order to function. When ready, he’d scramble to get in a few pumps with his female co-star before he lost it, then he’d revert to his right side.
With big bucks dependent on male performance, the “reliables” hogged all the stud work. (My favorites: Jamie Gillis, Billy Dee, Willem Lowen, Joe Elliot.) One of the best, the late John Leslie, insisted that his craft was a form of method acting—drawing upon emotions and memories to play a scene. In one of the first loops I ever shot (in 1977), Leslie demonstrated his “method.” Ignoring his female co-star, he’d close his eyes and stroke himself up.
A man whose performance depends upon the charms of his partner won’t have a long porn career. The best men rely on fantasy imagery, ironically doing exactly as the fans who envy their access to porn queens: they’re masturbating.
Richard Pacheco learned this lesson during his porn debut, in Candy Stripers. In an Erotic Film Guide article, he described going limp after seeing Nancy Hoffman grimace from 45 minutes of kneeling on concrete: “People were lying around sleeping, snoring, just plain waiting for me to get it up…Nancy even fell asleep on my thigh…I sat there masturbating myself and praying for the Russians to launch a surprise attack.” Finally, Pacheco had an inspiration: “I closed my eyes and started all over…I was back on the couch of some rec room with the first girl who ever let me finger her. I could hear the Kingston Trio on the record player. There was life in that old memory yet.” When Pacheco reached his climax, he “heard the cheering of millions.”
The late director Henri Pachard claimed that the best way to treat stud failure was through ridicule. “Point a finger at him and go, ‘Ha ha ha! Look at this wimp! Look at that shriveled little putz! Guy thinks he’s a stud; he couldn’t get wood in a lumberyard.’ “You get the guy mad, get his blood pumping. Next thing you know it’s ‘wood city.’ Works every time.”
The Pachard theory reportedly worked when Matt Daniels failed during Anthony Spinelli’s The Party. His screen partner—and real-life girlfriend, Heather Lere—cussed him out and according to witnesses, the agitated actor slapped her butt and proceeded to—in Lere’s term—“spring board.”
The most unusual hard-on aid I’ve ever witnessed was moi ! That’s right: yours truly. I was working “boom.” The job is physically taxing. You stand there with arms raised, holding one end of a boom, which is a long pole (“fishpole”) that has a microphone on the other end. The mike is suspended over the scene, above the camera frame but still close enough to capture crisp dialogue. Holding the pole in position is damn tiring. I was standing on a chair, near the ceiling, the hottest part of the room. I was sweating, muscles straining. I had a weird feeling of being watched. I glanced down and into the eyes of an actor (a known bi-sexual) who was furiously stroking himself. And staring hard at me! I turned my gaze to the microphone, and froze in position, like a statue. (Literally a “statue of David,” but thankfully with pants.) The actor was able to perform with his designated actress.
Hi Willy. I’m glad you are enjoying the book and thanks for your questions. Sorry for being so late in replying, but I’m still learning how to work the technology. Couldn’t get reply box to work, so I finally decided to answer your questions as a new post. (Why didn’t I think of that before?) Sadly, John Leslie Nuzzo died of a heart attack on December 5, 2010 at age 65. He was a consummate professional. I recall him rushing off to catch up on a TV football game between camera setups, then he’d return to the set erect and ready to proceed. Directing him was easy, since he was such a fine actor. He was a bit arrogant but that was no problem. Women loved him because his expertise made their job so much easier. After a shooting day John loved to share a joint with his best industry buddy, director Anthony Spinelli. Their sharp repartee kept me in stitches. I thought Boogie Nights was an accurate portrayal of porn’s behind-the-scenes. The partying in the movie was a bit excessive. Most porn stars of that period lived far more sedate lives. Burt Reynolds’ portrayal of an archetypical pornographer was so accurate that it gave me chills. I can’t offer a prognosis about porn’s future because I’ve been away from the business for so long. Internet piracy can’t be defeated. But popular porn stars can (hopefully) count on their loyal fans to buy their movies before the pirated versions come out. Thanks again for your kind comments, and in the future I hope to be able to answer your questions more promptly.