Few stars can lay claim to so iconically embodying the Me Decade as statuesque Bill Henson can
The face that was a mix of Sixteen Candles’s Jake Ryan by way of American Psycho. The body by Soloflex. The blow-dried, gelled-to perfection coif.
Bill Henson is as gloriously ’80s as acid wash, Masters of The Universe, and Iran-Contra.
Even if you experienced him the first time around, you might still feel somewhat muddled in placing him in context. That’s because there were several performers with the exact same surname frequenting the biz during that decade. Superstar Mike Henson was well-known thanks to top-line titles like Big Guns, In Hot Pursuit, and Hot Rods: Young & Hung II, while blond Steve Henson — featured in Pizza Boy, Giants, and The Other Side of Aspen II — was actually spun-off/passed-off by producers as Bill’s younger brother, this despite nary a passing resemblance between the two.
Yes, it’s all clearly indicative that gay porn needs a name generator with better permutation capabilities, but by any other name, Bill was certainly distinguishable by virtue of his marbled Michelangelo physique, cool brunet mystique, and adamantine ass that both begged for a pounding and could no doubt deflect lightning strikes.
Though he only appeared in four features lensed over a single year — all now considered indispensable classics — Henson remains a pretty formative figure revered by many the viewer of the day. His appeal is boosted by the almost mythical Eddie & The Cruisers-style supposition surrounding his post-porn fate. This is a man whose life is shrouded in so much second-hand lore and gay urban legend that he’s virtually impossible to completely pin down. In our current era of TMI porn stardom, Bill Henson continues to remain a biological cipher, and that’s an essential aspect of his immortality.
First, the few relatively known knowns. By most accounts, Henson debuted in gay porn in 1983 with the hope that dipping his toe into hardcore would translate to a career as a legit model. Colleagues cast him as a man who wasn’t especially game for man-on-man action (who’d nevertheless admit, when pressed, that he liked to take it hard) and who could turn up the heat quite nicely with the right direction.
He graces the stunning cover of Huge’s seminal A Matter of Size — decked out in a jock and leaning back on his arms all come-hither — which finds him, appropriately enough, drawn into ass play with a chum when a game of softball turns erotic.
Falcon’s Winner Takes All (a collection of loops assembled into a feature) continues the horseplay theme, with Henson’s segment having him put his sweet ass up as the ante when he wagers that he can best Aaron Gage in a swim-off — or get fucked trying! First appearing as a billboard come-to-load-blowing-life, he’s later lured into a very memorable threeway with Kristen Bjorn and Nick Harlen in Falcon’s The New Breed, his persona as the easily-seduced guileless naif fully realized.
It’s William Higgins’s pastoral classic Sailor In The Wild that emerges as his star-making turn. In this opus, he’s a park ranger with a penchant for crankin’ shaft in the great outdoors who gets mounted by Brian Thompson under a cerulean lunar sky backdrop. As if all these onscreen antics weren’t enough, it’s the film’s promotional art — depicting Henson standing nude astride a bluff like Talos from Jason & The Argonauts — that arguably stands as one of the most awe-inspiring gay porn images ever conceived, no mere feat when you take into account that he’s not the sailor of the title and indeed only a supporting player in the film proper.
Now for the conjecture, all of which will vary depending on the source. After calling it quits on a burgeoning porn career — prior to or during which he was rumored to be a U.S. Marine sergeant — Henson is purported to have made a few inroads into mainstream modeling in Europe that were ultimately quashed when his film career came to light. Daunted by legit success and haunted by continuing blue movie fame, the talk is that he took to sporting a full beard and shades so as to avoid being recognized in public by fans. He either was married while doing porn or shortly thereafter, in some accounts hitched multiple times, in others marrying into money. More lurid assertions have him succumbing to AIDS circa 1990, others going so far as to allege that the disease killed both his wife and his young daughter as well.
Is the truth somewhere in all the details, or none of the above? Who knows? Only D.B. Cooper and Mikey from the Life cereal box have more convoluted life stories. Anyway you slice it, Henson will always be the Neoclassical man-nymph of Sailor In The Wild — beckoning starry-eyed mortals off into the sun-dappled, carefree carnality of the badlands.
Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild!
© 2011, Shawn Baker. All rights reserved. Nightcharm.com