You know you’re a media-obsessed moviephile when you watch gay porn and dig the sets.
It used to be that actors and directors were the ones to watch when it came to mainstream crossover status; now, the sets themselves are turning up in big legit products and later getting outed in all their if-these-walls-could-talk iniquity.
The Age of Porn Creep is such that an Academy Award-nominated movie like The King’s Speech could be lensed on a former jizz-spattered UK Naked Men set. Even pop stars like Lady Gaga and Beyonce find themselves seating their royal asses in locales once occupied by bare-assed gay porn stars. How long before a glitzy Hollywood epic and its downmarket porno double filled with lookalike tableaux and stars simply opt to divvy up their shooting schedules between day and night?
The digital era has changed porn just that much — not just how it’s made but where it’s made. Yes, the sex acts themselves are still highly-contrived and intricate, but porn is losing some of its theatrically in terms of actual production value. I’m one of the rare people who’ll admit to liking the artifice of studio-produced porn over guerilla amateur porn; I like the idea of a movie about sex. The days of fuck flicks being filmed in tiny movie studios and outdoor lots — often converted from warehouses and even grocery stores — is dwindling. Today, a typical porn shoot takes place in otherwise mundane flipped private residences, known in the industry vernacular as “porn houses.” Usually, these are owned by producers or directors, or lent out to crews by private management companies on a film-by-film basis. They tend to be fairly easy to distinguish for the keen-eyed viewer; a generic rent-a-home will have a blandly anonymous showroom look, while a director’s domicile will often boast a disco ball, headache-inducing day-glo paint, a Gay Interest bookshelf, and an immense painting of Cher circa Moonstruck looming over it all.
Only one question remains: with the trend for prefab cookie-cutter gay porn production in full swing, which elements of old skool all-male action shoots will adapt to the new standard, and which will fall by the wayside like a flimsily painted backdrop?
On Location, Location, Location
I’m sensing that the heyday of the big, lavish, star-studded gay porn epic shot in some far-flung locale may be waning. Everybody has their faves like Sailor In The Wild, Heat, Catalinaville, or The Other Side of Aspen. The reason they’re starting to seem like something from another time: outsourcing.
With more gay porn productions moving over to Eastern Europe for the talent pool willing to work for less, we’re still likely to get plenty of Prague- and Budapest-set entries like Umberto, Umberto: A Young Man’s Sexual Awakening, but comparatively less domestic-produced product where the set is essentially a beach, the mountains, or a ski lodge — all of it requiring permits and work visas for models flown in from all over the world. Even gloriously fakey indoor jerry-rigged sets made up to look like barns or camp sites aren’t nearly as common today as they were back in the ’80s. Overlit sets that could pass for soap opera living rooms and boudoirs are everywhere. And that makes me sad.
Rinse & Repeat
Anyone else noticed how prevalent bathrooms have become in gay porn? I don’t mean public restrooms — I’m talking fucking gigantic private baths that you could stage a Maria Montez bathing sequence in with enough room for several handmaidens, a Nubian palm frond waver, and an ocelot. Wealthy people are obsessed with having immense bathrooms with ornate tile and brass fixtures, so all of these cookie cutter luxury porn houses have them.
One of my all-time favorite movies is Cowboy because it has such perfect visual context — sex in a cabin, sex on an outdoor table, sex on a tractor, Caesar getting banged from behind as he clutches the ladder of a hay loft on stilts that looks ready to topple, and an excellent threeway between bald guys in a shower that’s way too nice for the white trash plotline. The cabin the movie was shot in was owned by actor-turned-director Blue Blake, who later sold the property to Modern Family actress Julie Bowen. Bowen was so in love with the tiling in particular that just prior to the property exchanging hands she held a dinner party and played the DVD for her gal pals, telling them to ignore the three skinheads sucking dick and marvel at the bathroom tiles she’d scored.
Fluff ‘n’ Fold
Supposedly, this is a total myth that gay porn viewers have perpetuated among themselves: the notion that there’s a guy or guys on set who are there for the expressed purpose of sucking or cranking off the talent to keep them hard between shots. It is pretty hilarious to picture some muscle diva sitting in a canvas director chair between takes, selecting an underling from a line-up, and commanding the Eve to service him. Are they paid? Do they volunteer like interns? Most industry insiders will tell you the idea is ridiculous, and we can probably assume that with porn taking a big economic hit as of late, if this position ever did exist, it’s been phased out as a luxury.
The division of labor on a gay porn set is not as defined as you might expect. Models will often lug equipment, hold boom mikes, operate lights, and even act as cameramen. Actors are game to fluff each other, and directors are also amenable to lip-locking on a rod for the sake of their art. Models have confessed that sometimes directors can get carried away and ignore their warnings that they’re about to pop off, resulting in more than a few loads ending up in their mouths, making the ingenious fake cum shot — employing shampoo or dish soap generally — a necessity.
The Corner of Dope Street and Desperation Blvd.
I’m just gonna say it, because we all know it’s true: no real city street or alleyway can ever compare to what a gay porn set dresser can dream up. The graffiti’s never as good, the steam emanating from manhole covers never as effective as a smoke machine, and the trash cans are never as perfectly placed. In my dreams, I don’t live on a tree-lined suburban street or in a fashionable gay ghetto. My fantasy block has an all-night garage full of ex-con mechanics, a porno theater, a psychic, and a biker bar — my apartment a noirish pre-war walk-up tinged with the light of neon signs outside.
Alleys are hotbeds of sluttony in gay porn flicks, and with good reason, given the anonymity and thrill they provide, and since you only have to worry about running afoul of a Cruising-style killer in real life, that’s gold. If gay porn’s veracity can be trusted, then metropolitan alleys across the nation are replete with dirty cops, bartenders, off-season bodybuilders, tomcatting hubbies, and virgin college students just waiting to drop trou. Why, it’s downright unwholesome watching Tom Katt get pounded atop strewn-about newspapers in Alley Katt. The incredible Ass Lick Alley features Jason Branch and Black Harper gettin’ it on in an ingress complete with a clothesline, humpy Bruce Hill eagerly watching from an adjacent window, the whole scene backdropped by the type of depthless scenery you’d find in an 80′s sitcom. Is it so wrong that I want to be part of the epic fuck train composed of both staff and patrons who piledrive open-all-night Spike atop a discarded mattress outside of a restaurant in Gangbang Cafe?
Talk about scenery-chewing!
Fire Walk With Me
It’s a real turn-on learning that a porn movie is lensed in a real setting. Someplace you could really go to — maybe a resort, bar, sex club, or gym.
Or maybe a firehouse…
Part of the thrill of watching something like the Playing With Fire series — the definitive fireman flicks for me — is knowing that not only was the first installment shot in a real firehouse, but that director Thor Stephens neglected to tell the man leasing it to him that he was directing a porn flick there. When the man saw the parade of men entering the building, he immediately turned to Stephens and deadpanned “Gay porn, right?,” at which point Stephens came clean.
Candidly, I have to admit finding the idea of a No Homo setting like that being hard up for money and reduced to letting gay porn directors rent out the space by night to be ridiculously hot. Could the firemen ever fully grasp that Ty Fox and co. were collectively cranking shaft in the communal shower? Could they appreciate Billy Herrington’s muscle ass cheeks being pressed up against their fire truck for hours at a time? Would it change everything for them if they beheld Steve Cassidy clinging on the back of it for dear life as his ass gets tenderized, causing him to utter the immortal line “Yeah! Rape my hole Chief!”?
Because I think that constitutes landmark status.
Opening black and white image from photographer Ken Probt’s book: Pornegrafik. Available here.
© 2011, Shawn Baker. All rights reserved. Nightcharm.com