Category Archives: Opinion

Last Chance to See: What I Learned From Porn @ Fringe NYC

[I was hoping to post this earlier as there’s only one more chance to see this show – the work and theatre friendly time of 2:00pm this afternoon.Hurry, you only have three hours.]

On Tuesday night, I ran into NYC to see “What I Learned from Porn” a one-man show starring Steven Kates, who is better known to porn viewers as non-sex performer Frank Bukkwyd.

When I first started watching porn, what drew me in (beyond the obvious) was the low-budget production of so many late-80s/early-90s productions.  New Wave Hookers had a grunge aesthetic and its sets were literally made of cardboard. The productions were thrown together and some of my favorite performers from that era had a gameness to their performances that I would really appealing as a college theatre/TV student.  The Randys, Spears and West, were often found in movies written by Cash Markman, and they were my favorite “plotted” porn at the time; light, breezy and a little bit cheesy.

So when I heard that Markman’s protege was doing a one-man show as part of the Fringe NYC festival, I felt compelled to check it out.

I did a little research and found out that the show had been written and first performed back in 2010 during a workshop run by Ann Randolph and then done sporadically since then, so the piece had time to be developed and it seemed like a pretty good fit for the Fringe.

I got into NYC earlier than I expected and I had some time to kill, but I didn’t want to go far because I wasn’t able to purchase tickets ahead of time, and I’ve had times when I’ve missed a Fringe show because they’ve sold out at the door, and I didn’t want that to happen.

I stopped off and grabbed a sandwich at one of my favorite neighborhood spots and then hung around the lobby of the theatre, charging my phone, waiting for the box office to open at 8:45.

Finally, I got my ticket and a few minutes after the opened the house, I went in.

I was alone.

Ruh-roh.

Happily, a second guy came in a few minutes later and right after the show started a girl snuck in, so we were an audience of three.

Frank opened the show with this public service announcement:

Pretty entertaining! But the energy of the show faltered a little as we moved from multimedia to real life. Some of this was no doubt due to the fact that there were only five people in the room, two of whom were involved in putting on the show.

The stories unfolded with ease and video clips and slides were used help illustrate some points.

Somewhat to their detriment, stories were mostly told generically, without mentioning names.  While I knew who he was talking about when he told the story of the time he “was working with an actor-director-producer on a script for a movie about the sad tale of his ex-girlfriend who got into porn, got caught up drugs and the Sunset Strip rock club life and passed away…”  I found it a little distracting that he didn’t just say  “I was working with Buck Adams on the story of Savannah‘s life and suicide for a movie called Little Girl Lost…”  (especially since everyone involved in the story is dead.)  I’m not sure what was gained by his coyness, where the details of adding names could only help increase the understanding.  Maybe he didn’t want to seem namedrop-y? But each time, it took me out a little bit.

The other times he didn’t use names I was fine with as he created pastiches of performers which weren’t always flattering, but seemed like they could have been composites more than actual biographies.

Towards the end, the story got a little dark as he moralized a little about the damaged people who also find their way into the adult industry, and while it was difficult tonal shift and seemed to run a little contrary to his “porn production is weird and fun” platform,  the sequence was effective. There *is* an underside to this thing called porn and not everyone in it is as well adjusted as Nina Hartley.

I thought it was odd coming in and out of this transition and would look for a way to ease it in.  The section was accompanied by a stark lighting shift (“dim, serious lighting!”) in a show that had very few lighting cues, so that made it extra jarring.  Perhaps if the lights were a little more jumpy in response to various sections of the text it would be easier to make the transition between sections (“Ah!” we should say to ourselves “A new thought brings new lights!”).

A small, related gripe: the presence of a music stand with notes on it.   In a workshop setting, perfectly acceptable — but a Fringe show is supposed to be half-a-step beyond the workshop, so I kinda expect a performer to be off-book.  It didn’t help that the A/C blew the pages off the stand a couple times.  Perhaps the multimedia design could be reworked so that slides introducing sections could be used as the crutches or signposts that the notes were providing.

Overall, I have positive feelings about the production and hope Kates is willing and able to further its development, perhaps with the help of someone with a little more experience in the one-man-show department; as I think the one-man-show is a special animal and a special kind of writing.

I really wish more people were in the room when I saw it, and that may be the fault of the publicity materials.  I’m not sure what the goal was in having the sole image for the show appear be a tribute to Salvador Dali or Frank Nelson, or more currently, The Yes Guy.  The picture doesn’t really look like Frank — granted I’m not as intimately familiar with his roles to say “Oh, that was most famous role as “Not the Yes Guy” in “Simpsons: The XXX Parody” (Real movie, fake character) — but I don’t think its the kind of picture that would bring in someone who didn’t know who Frank Bukkwyd was. Maybe a 9 panel Brady Bunch-y collage of his various looks and appearances (which he shows off to very funny effect via video in the show) or something more staged that had a bit of a punchline to it. (Him in a towel looking clearly out of place on a porn set; tho maybe that’s more an image for Dave Cummings to use…)

The show isn’t so serious about itself or about its subject, and while he says the show isn’t for everyone, it’s far from filthy; in fact, he seems to go out of his way to keep it from veering there.  Only briefly does he touch upon the discipline required to be a porn performer and the accouterments needed (douche, lube, condoms, etc.)  and its only in those moments that he really talks about sex in anything resembling graphic.  He teases the phrase “anal intercourse” through the course of the show, but it seems done in a way to counter the fact that he really doesn’t talk about the sex all that much.

And that’s fine, because he’s a non-sex performer, and before that, a writer.

The show’s program doesn’t mention a director and the publicity materials only credit “Alan Smithee’s Second Cousin” and that’s probably the show’s biggest failing.  With a good director to help shape the piece and force Kates to be a little more present at times, I think there’s a real entertaining (and tourable!) story to be had here.

Related links:

Rebecca Bardoux: Think Before Porning

Recently over at AINews.com,  Rebecca Bardoux posted a column that sums up a lot of what we’ve known about getting into porn, and I’d like to quote a little bit of it — the part that means the most to us, as we think it bears repeating over and over and over — since we tend to be a part of the internet that doesn’t forget. . .

. . . you can’t even get a civilian job if the person interviewing you saw your double anal scene on the internet and does not want a porn star working for their company. If you are lucky enough to get a job, most people you work with will remember you from that double anal and not want to be associated with you. So, you may end up eating your lunch alone.

That double anal scene will never go away. Your grandchildren will be watching it on the internet one day. It’s sort of like getting a tattoo on a drunken night. It will not go away, and everyone will be able to identify you with it. So, think long and hard about it, because how you feel about things at age 20 is not the way you will feel about them when you’re 40. That is a fact!

And when you’re 40, you’ll probably be sending us email asking us to remove your history, and since our goal is to preserve that very same history, we’re going to have a conflict of opinion… We share Rebecca’s opinion — think long and hard before committing carnal (or even non-carnal) acts to video that will someday be posted on the web.  The internet, like porn, is forever. #dontdopornwithoutthinkingitthru

 

 

“Porn For Valentine’s Day? Well, OK!”

This story by originally appeared on YesPortal.com, a now defunct adult news and commentary website.  It was rescued thanks to the Internet Wayback Machine and can be found there via this link.  I have reprinted it here because I think it’s worth sharing…

Porn For Valentine’s Day? Well, OK!
by Henri Pachard
02/14/03

It figures. Once again, my favorite adult news and gossip group, Adult DVD Talk, has sparked my interest for today’s column. The contributor who began the thread calls herself “Fast Forward,” and has previously described herself simply as “just another married girl that likes to watch porn.”

Appropriately, the thread began with: “Help me find the perfect movie for Valentine’s Day.” Then she includes “I want to see stuff that turns us both on…”

Then “Fast Forward” listed seven “should haves” — if possible — to be included among any titles suggested. These included “Pro-performer attitude”; just enough, but not too much plot; lots of “b/g action,” including anal, “dp,” “facials,” natural breasts, decent-looking guys with decent cocks, and with minimum “bd-sm” and circus acts.

It seems that “Fast Forward” not only knows about the kind of product that’s selling, she knows the group she’s writing to. She’s not looking for the kind of porn that your father used to watch.

I was impressed by some of the responses that followed; here are some of the titles suggested for viewing on Saint Valentine’s day: State of Bliss, It Had To Be You, a classic piece of porn from the late seventies; Desires Within Young GirlsHooray For HollywoodWhite Lightning“, Red Vibe Diaries and, surprisingly, the eighth volume of Gang Bang Auditions.
Veronica Hart’s titles, Torn and Taken, were strongly recommended. Even performer and director Hamilton Steel confessed his shared passion with his wife, also a performer and director, Kelly Fire, when viewing Taken. I shot this couple in a scene once, and anything that gets their attention is a great compliment to any director. I hope Veronica checks out Hamilton’s own words.

A couple of responses couldn’t resist the fun of suggesting two of the most extreme, and nasty directors known for their sexually degrading stuff; which was anything from Max Hardcore and Brandon Iron’s Swallow My Pride.

I would not have expected any of today’s producers to suggest any of their titles as being appropriate for most couples to share on Valentine’s day; fearing that it might scare off customers. But nevertheless, Jeff Mike from JM Productions suggested Jim Powersthirty-fifth volume of Perverted Stories. I guess if a series can make it to that high of a number of releases — then, why not? Whenever I run into Jim Powers, my first thoughts stir up the visions of “that blonde’s” head hanging up-side down, with her own saliva drooling down her face while her mouth is getting relentlessly fucked (a shot I stole at my first opportunity).

To suggest a porn title — especially the kind that’s popular today — as something suitable for sharing with your lover on Valentine’s Day somehow seems weird to me. In fact, I’ve often offered the opinion that perhaps anyone’s favorite porn would be whatever he or she keeps secret, and watched only when alone. It’s obvious to me now, that this is not a very popular concept.

Saint Valentine’s Day implies and reminds us to celebrate intimacy among couples. I can’t think of too many of my own titles that I could recommend, except perhaps one. But it only has one scene in it that’s both pornographic and with a special message of intimacy. Ironically, this scene got me into enough “trouble” with VCA, a few years ago, that Veronica Hart felt it necessary to wait for VCA’s owner, Russ Hampshire, to return from out of town to approve the content. Knowing Russ, I didn’t blame her.

It happened to be my favorite scene in True Hooker Stories, which was about a very tough guy (Tyce Bune) and a blind, paralyzed hooker (C.J. Bennett), with her “caretaker” played by Tina Tyler. I intentionally wrote in Tina’s character to allow the viewer to disapprove of Tyce’s character and the way he openly abuses and degrades CJ’s blind, crippled body. He begins with dragging her by her lifeless ankles across the bed and makes her blindly search for his cock with her mouth.

His attitude was that since he’s paying to fuck her, he can fuck her any way he wants to. Tina tells us that this is “bad business.”

Then after Tyce finally finishes her with the good old facial, he catches his breath and goes into the bathroom and gets a washcloth with warm water. Instead of using if on himself, he brings the washcloth back to CJ and very tenderly washes her face. He whispers to her that if she ever needs anything — whatever it is — to let him know. He lets her know that he will always be there for her. Before he leaves her, it becomes clear that this crippled, blind whore is the only person in his life that he can trust. That scene was my favorite, because it was about the meaning of intimacy. Intimacy is trust.

For Valentine’s Day, don’t come home without it.

Kickstarter: american ecstasy

Just want to throw a plug out there for a Kickstarter project we’ve donated to because it’s something that we, as classic porn fans, are pretty excited about.

Barbara Nitke was a stills photographer on porn sets in NYC back in the 1980s.  Now, thirty years on, she’s compiling some of her photos into a book. She needs to self-publish because the big publishers don’t want to touch a book that can only be bought by people over 18.  So, she’s using Kickstarter to fund the project.

She describes her book as:

American Ecstasy is my memoir of those roller coaster days.  I shot the pictures in this book while working as a stills person on 300 hardcore porn shoots in New York over the course of twelve years.  My images reveal the contradictions inherent in the business ” great beauty, tinged with sadness, punctuated by surreal silliness.  I loved ironic moments when, in the middle of an orgy, they’d have to cut to put more film in the camera.  Everybody would yawn and look at their watch, hoping against hope there would be something decent for lunch.

As of now, she’s 2/3s of the way there, but she needs the last $8,000 to reach her goal and get the thing published, and I for one can’t wait to see the book.

Porn producer and performer Rick Savage send an email around in support of the project which said of the photos: “This set of photos gives you a beautiful and profound look at the people who worked in that world.  I absolutely cannot say enough about these photos and how easily and magically they touched me.

You can see a sample of her work here: http://barbaranitke.com/americanecstacy.html and in the Kickstarter video over at the American Ecstasy page.  (My favorite is of Henri Pachard, on the set of Passion Chain (1987), giving direction to Nina Hartley as she’s sitting on Damien Cashmere‘s face. Priceless.)

You can donate as little as a dollar and from there, the only limit to your generosity is your own.  You get rewards depending on how much you can donate to the project and for a minimum of $50, you’ll get a copy of the book.  Under $50 and you’ll get a small print of one of the photos; over $50 and you’ll get the book plus some other swag.

She’s also got a Facebook Event page set up for the project and those interested in finding out more about it…