Sometimes it’s good to pay tribute to dead gay pornstars and celebrate their lives by jerking off to their best scenes. Porn is not a career that lends itself to longevity. Most well-known performers have a couple years in the spotlight and then retire. Unfortunately, a lot of them also overdose on drugs, and in the ’80s and early ’90s, many died of AIDS.
Joey Stefano is arguably one of the most famous pornstars of all time. He died Nov 26, 1994, at the age of 26 from a drug overdose. I remember his death — I was devastated. Joey was popular from the late ’80s until he died. His fame is partially due to the niche he created for himself — that of the “power bottom.” Before Joey no other bottom had achieved his level of success; big, manly tops like Jeff Stryker ruled the industry.
Compact body, average-sized cock, gorgeous ass, stunning lips and eyes, trademark floppy dark hair — Joey was a total star. Even in the scenes in which he comes across drugged out and numb, he radiates a beautiful sexual energy. Madonna picked him to appear in her 1992 book, Sex. He allegedly dated David Geffen (pre-coming out) and other closeted celebrities.
His biography, Wonder Bread and Ecstasy: The Life and Death of Joey Stefano, came out after his death. It’s a fascinating portrait of a sweet yet damaged soul. My business partner, Mandy Goodhandy, had just opened her first club, Playground, in 1990 and she flew Joey in. He was the biggest attraction ever to appear at the legendary afterhours venue. “Joey was a delightful young man, great to work with,” says Goodhandy. “We expected an ego and there was none.” Joey got a lot of private clients when he was in town, and it turns out he spent much of his earnings on other boys. “He was attracted to the ones that were gay for pay. We had about four of those types, and it turns out he was paying for their services. He had a very high sexual appetite. He had to have everybody.” Goodhandy confirms that he was as disarmingly gorgeous in person as he was in photos and videos. “He just had that star quality, that ‘thing’ about him,” she says.
While Joey appeared in dozens of movies, his strongest performance was in Jerry Douglas’s More of a Man. While I’m not a big fan of plots in porn, there is a time and a place for everything. More of a Man, released in 1991, was a character study of a closet-case Italian dude (played by Joey) who slowly graduates from casual hookups in restrooms to getting fucked in the hollow compartment of a Pride Day float. It is a simple coming-out story, one that has been told many times over in books, television and mainstream movies, but in a porn context it was charming and very sweetly executed. It’s funny how in 1991, with thousands of porn movies produced, I could tell instinctively that this one would end up a “classic.” If you Google it, you’ll see it still has a big following.
Joey Stefano, you lived a short and hard life, but I have not forgotten your contribution to gay culture. As the late gay activist George Hislop once said, “Joey Stefano gave bottoms a good name.”