Sex always sells but did you know it likes to cuddle, loves Mom’s lasagna and would kill to see Edward Norton nude?
Those are just a few of the gems spoken by the stars who personify sex in Owen Keehnen’s new book of interviews with 60 gay porn actors.
Keehnen, a former columnist for Penthouse Forum magazine (yes, Penthouse; and no, he doesn’t know if the letters to the editor were real or not) says Starz was a way for him to show these “human sex machines” are real people, too.
Plus, it was “a way for me to express my appreciation for all those good times I shared with my VCR,” he adds.
Keehnen noticed a need for Starz (spelled with a ‘z’ to convey, he says, “the fact that these guys are stars, but with a decided difference”) while working in a “lesbigay-oriented bookstore, Unabridged to those in the know.”
When customers kept asking for something about porn stars “my little capitalist-friendly brain started to churn. I wrote up a proposal, pitched it a few places, was met with lots of interest and a Starz was born.”
Some of these starz have been fucking since the big bang (Nino Bacci, Zak Spears); some are almost newborns (Michael Soldier, Sean Storm); and some are old quasars reborn as new starz (doe-eyed Chet Roberts is now beady-eyed sex pig Tag Adams).
Each interview is accompanied by publicity stills and the starz answering questions like: “What’s the most turned on you have ever been on screen?”; “What’s the most uncomfortable sex position you’ve ever assumed on screen?” and my personal favourite, “What’s the best way to get you in the sack and what do we do with you once we get you there?”
Keehnen says he wanted his project “to open cultural windows on the men behind the porn star persona and beyond the stigma.”
He suggests I “wipe that obscene smirk” off my face when asking if he sampled any of his subjects. “I didn’t want some tawdry scandal to come back and haunt me after I won the Pulitzer,” he says. “Sure we talked sex, that goes with the territory, but it was all very on the, ahem, up and up. Rest assured, no bodily fluids were spilled in the writing of this book.”
Still, he admits being hot for Michael Soldier that he was a “goofball interviewing him, seriously. Everything but writing our initials inside a little heart on my notebook after we chatted. He turned me on physically and, more importantly, mentally. He radiates a wonderful enthusiasm and love of life. That’s such an attractive quality, especially in this sometimes-cynical world.
“I just heard from him last week,” Keehnen adds. “He’s doing a horror movie now called Gay B&B Of Horror.”
Tag Adams, meanwhile, was “sweet and funny, cute as a button,” Keehnen continues.
In his interview, Adams says the first name he used in porn was Chet Roberts, “the name of a guy [who] contributed to my years of hell [in] high school.”
He switched to Tag Adams because “Tag is more aggressive, more dirty, and knows what he wants from his men.”
Keehnen says Adams/Roberts “lost his virginity to a plastic banana! It cracked me up when he said that the banana is still there in the entryway of his mother’s house and he sees it whenever he goes home.”
Other surprises include Chad Hunt saying porn pays for his child support, and Brad McGuire leaving the movie set for a piss break and the director giving him “a bucket so they could film it.”
But writing the book “wasn’t all dildos and daffodils,” says Keehnen. Some starz pulled their interviews and one was offended talking about penis size.
“Oh, that was so insane,” Keehnen says. “I mean I’m interviewing porn stars. It seemed a pertinent thing to put in a questionnaire. If I was interviewing the guy for a job at The Pottery Barn or WalMart then I could see throwing a hissy fit-but if you’re a XXX star? Come on!”
As for Keehnen, he loves the “old Joe Gage stuff. Love it! The sexual tension is palpable in Kansas City Trucking, El Paso Wrecking and LA Tool And Die.
“Gage is really able to capture and sustain that delicious moment of sexual potential before the action occurs, which is much more amazing to see on film than simply two guys going at it,” he explains. “Those three films compose an amazing trilogy that in my opinion has never been matched. I am so happy to see Gage back and active as a director — and he still has that touch.”
Turning to the starz of today, Keehnen singles out a few that personify sex for him. “Donnie Russo, Bobby Blake, Zak Spears, Enrico Vega, Nick Piston, Parker Williams… all those guys somehow channel pure Eros or something,” he says.
“These guys have no awareness of the camera. It isn’t about a show and camera consciousness or the paycheque or the co-star — it’s about the sex. That focus is what makes a scene especially charged.”
Still, he says, he’s concerned about the future of the industry. He echoes porn star Steve O’Donnell who warns that the pirating of porn may lead to its demise.
“If you like porn,” O’Donnell says, “buy it. Or it won’t be around much longer. I promise.”
Adds Keehnen, “the Internet has probably hurt the XXX industry more than the pirating of tapes. If anything, the effect on the industry is we may see fewer DVD releases, more amateur work, fewer polished productions, and fewer studios.”