3 min

Naked on stage

Ryan Idol bares his soul

IDOLATRY. Porn star cum theatre actor Ryan Idol says the love of the gay community helped him turn his life around. Credit: Xtra files

It’s hard to know what force has played the biggest part in shaping Ryan Idol: the gay porn industry and its cult of the body, the American dream and its promise of self-transformation, or his 1998 drug-and-booze-fueled jump from a third-floor window.

The jump left Idol with a shattered pelvis, mangled left arm, severe concussion and whiplash. Three years later, at age 34, he wears granny glasses to correct a vision problem he says resulted from his injuries. Idol’s body got him to where he is today, but he’s had a wake-up call from “the universe” (what he calls God) that his body is a fragile commodity.

“Getting older has been the greatest thing that’s happened to me,” says Idol, who’s in Toronto for the remaining two-weeks in the play Making Porn (as a mid-run change in casting). Idol plays Jack Hawk, a straight actor turned gay porn icon, a role he played in previous productions in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

He spends much of the play naked, but Idol says it’s the message that counts.

“My vehicle to get out there for the continuation of the gay revolution is to go within and not be so superficial and body conscious. Well, be body conscious – that’s a good thing – but don’t lose all the other facets of life,” says Idol. “Right now I’m exploring my mind, exploring my talents.”

He’s still an avid gym and tanning salon patron, who admits he has a “man’s body now,” more hunk, less twink.

Idol made his gay porn debut in 1989 in the star vehicle, Idol Eyes. His primary sex scene was with Joey Stefano, who also started a career in porn that year. The two legends make an interesting contrast: Stefano was openly gay, Idol preferred (and still prefers) mystery about his sexual orientation; Idol was an total top who didn’t suck a dick on video until 1993’s Idol Thoughts, Stefano was a total bottom. Both let their self-destructive tendencies lead them to death’s door; Stefano crossed the threshold, from an overdose, in 1994.

“I’m really sentimental about Joey. It’s sad he went the route he did. I actually went the route he did. But I lived,” says Idol.

Idol says he never really knew his popularity in the gay community until after his fall.

“I was in the gay Pride festival in West Hollywood within a few months of that, and I never felt so much love in my life. I was expecting people to be like, ‘Oh, you washed up porn star. Get the fuck out of the parade, you’re a has-been.’ They were like, ‘Ryan, we love you. We’re so glad you’re still here with us.’

“I had gotten tastes of my popularity, but I never really understood it until that moment. That defines the definition of my new path.”

The new path also included no more sex-for-pay. Idol doesn’t speak ill of the industry and he’s working on producing a porn project of his own (“It’s called Idol Gods. I’ll be in the production of it; I’ll be in it but I think it will be a non-sexual role.”). But it’s clear that, like the character Jack Hawk, he has always had his eye on a non-sexual acting career, and that he’s still unsure whether porn was a detour or a launching pad.

“I don’t really watch my videos because I never really put my heart and soul into it. Well, I actually contributed, put my two cents in, with the creations of anything I did. The projects have always done better because of that,” he says. “But that’s the past.”

In Making Porn, the character of Jack Hawk allows Idol to replay his own ambivalent porn career, but with a redeeming twist.

“Jack has a bit more integrity than I did. I brought myself up as a child. I had abandonment issues. I didn’t have loving parents. I thought that money was going to make me happy. Jack knows it won’t.”

Because of Making Porn, Idol and his production company, Blue Suit Productions, got involved with the play Scent Of Rain, a pastoral gay comedy which has toured in the US. It features Idol as farm hand Bill Tom, who helps a gay man find his way to love. Sure, Idol’s nudity figures large in the show’s entertainment factor. But it’s yet another step away from the world of cum shots, another step toward roles where acting is more important that a shaved ass.

“With my other projects, I always try to bring what I brought to XXX. Respect, glamour and glitz,” he says. And Idol certainly likes the good things in life. He says he chose to drive a Mercedes rather than a Porsche, “not for pretentious value, but because I want to become more mature, disciplined.” He dresses well and decorates his southern California home “with casual elegance,” which includes a classic oak desk, “almost like the president’s.”

As for leaving his sunny warm home for a stint in wind-chilled Toronto, Idol says one of his great grandmother’s was French Canadian.

“When I come up here, I feel like I’m coming home,” he says.