I recently came across a 1978 issue of Gay Times, East Coast Edition – Issue #69 (ahem).
The news section was dominated by California’s Briggs Initiative, aka Proposition 6 – the first attempt to restrict gay and lesbian rights through a statewide ballot measure. Thankfully, it was defeated that November with 58% of the vote, but the stakes were high when this issue went to press.
It was the importance of this vote which also inspired the centerfold:
The photo is from Robert Bresson’s 1957 film A Man Escaped, a WWII drama based on a true story of a French resistance fighter portrayed by Francois Leterrier (center).
Welcome to 2022, when it all seems painfully current, domestically and abroad.
Ah, but it wasn’t all politics and protests. Editor Pat Pomeroy interviewed The New York Man: Damian Charles. He’s described as an Aries ram, former school teacher, author of 49(!) books of erotica, and a centerfold model. He inspired orgasms in 17 countries! (I have to wonder who collects such statistics and where does one find the raw data?) And also – what quote could encapsulate the era better than “… as I have sex with a succession of lovers under the strobe lights at Studio 54”?
I reached out to photographer John Michael Cox, Jr. to see if he had any recollections of this dynamo. “Charles Herschberg was a very close friend & the writer I most used to conduct interviews – I didn’t like to transcribe interviews so I employed writers. For his nude modeling, he decided on the name Damien Charles, which I never liked. He never had the ambition to do much & mainly posed for me. He never did films but I did shoot some hardcore pix of him with his lover Richard Allan. Chuck died around 1990 in Florida.
“These photos are from the first session we did. I never worked for Gay Times, so Chuck must have given them the prints to use.”
I asked about Chuck’s work as a writer. “I met Chuck when he was writing a piece on (gay porn star) Roger. I came over to the Eros to photograph him and Roger’s manager Jim Bacon introduced us. Typical of Chuck – he never finished the article.”
While scrolling across the internet in search of photographs by George Platt Lynes, I came across one that I had never seen before – a handsome shirtless young gent sitting cross-legged on a bed. Initially I was dubious of its authenticity, as the subject looked so casual and timeless. There is nothing dated about the guy or his surroundings: the image could have been captured at any point in the last century.
I decided to do a little investigating and found that it was, in fact, an authentic Lynes photo. The handsome subject was a fellow named Randy Jack, Lynes boyfriend circa 1947-48. A new Lynes biography also helped to fill in the blanks.
Homer Randolph Jack was born on April 5, 1926 in Lake Clinton, Illinois. He attended Waukegan High School where he enjoyed singing and performing. As a senior, he starred in the high school’s production of the comedy Best Foot Forward. Upon graduation in 1944, he joined the Navy.
After WWII, with his Naval tour of duty completed, Randy Jack settled in Los Angeles, where he embarked on a relationship with ice cream parlor impresario Wil Wright Jr.
Californians of a certain age still swoon at the memory of Wil Wright’s frozen delights, decades after the last shop closed its doors.
In the recently published George Platt Lynes bio The Daring Eye, author Allen Ellenzweig refers to Randy Jack as “Wil Wright’s favorite.” In August of 1947, the two of them rented a room in Lynes’ Hollywood home. The New York-based photographer was in the midst of his “Hollywood period” working for Vogue magazine. Lynes – who always lived beyond his means and was notoriously bad with money management – decided to take in roommates to share chores and expenses.
This arrangement did not last long because, as Lynes wrote to a friend, “Wil can’t bear not to be boss and that is one thing he can’t be. Not here.” Wright also resented George’s influence on Jack, encouraging him to pursue a career as a dancer. When Wil moved out after a couple of months, Randy stayed…. and found his way into Lynes’ bed as well.
Randy Jack committed himself to a vigorous regimen of ballet classes. Although Lynes was aware that Jack was a bit long in the tooth to start training for a career as a dancer, he supported his efforts nonetheless. He wrote to his friend Monroe Wheeler; “He’s too old, 21, but he has a ballet dancers body and a ballet dancer’s soul.”
Randy Jack’s protruding ears – called “bat like” in several accounts – were viewed by Lynes as a further hindrance to attaining success as a ballet dancer. While he could not erase Jack’s advanced age, he could do something to remove this obstacle, so the cards would be “stacked in his favour, to remove whatever flies there may be in the ointment.” He agreed to barter with a plastic surgeon: Lynes would photograph the surgeon’s glamorous wife in exchange for the operation to pin back Jack’s ears. Lynes wrote to his mother at the time: “…I can’t leave things alone but redecorate or remodel anything I can lay my hands on, people as well as houses.”
The photos of Randy Jack taken in Lynes’ library are understandably the most popular.
Ears firmly clipped, Lynes photographed his roomie en tenue de danse at Vogue studios, creating this striking series of photos:
In May of 1948, Lynes’ contract with Vogue ended and he returned to New York City with Randy and their dog Bozo in tow.
As mentioned in our profile of Ted Starkowski, Lynes and his artist friends often shared models. Like Starkowski, Randy Jack was the subject of several other artists’ work, including Bernard Perlin.
Soon after their move to New York, Jack abandoned his ballet studies and began to find work as a fashion model. This proved to be a far more attainable and lucrative goal.
In mid-summer, George wrote to Katherine Anne Porter that he was troubled about the young man, “… I wonder what New York has done to him, or what I have done.”
Whether or not Randy left George or their cohabitation ended by mutual consent is debatable. The fact remains that he moved out in the Fall of 1948… and Lynes’ next boyfriend and muse, Chuck Howard moved into the apartment 10 days later.
David Leddick writes “Jack became one of the most successful fashion models in an industry that was just becoming big business, posing for both photographers and the many illustrators of the time.”
When I look into the life of an artist’s muse from the past, there is always a point in their story that brings to mind the Kirsty MacColl song “What Do Pretty Girls Do?” The answer, she sings: “They get older just like everybody else.”
As his modeling career waned, Jack began his third act as an interior designer. His work with commercial / hotel spaces led him to the Middle East, where he settled on the island of Bahrain and became a restaurateur, opening the Upstairs Downstairs restaurant in 1977.
In 1982 Jack published Upstairs Downstairs Cookbook, featuring favorite recipes from the restaurant’s menu alongside his own illustrations.
In the mid-90’s, Intimate Companions author David Leddick reached out to Randy Jack to talk about his early years with George Platt Lynes. Leddick recounts being tipped off that Jack was living in Bahrain, and that he was able to simply call the local information to get his phone number. Strangely, Jack’s birth name in the book is listed as Randolph Omar Jack, as if the author misheard “Homer” on a poor telephone connection.
A current photo of Randy Jack appeared in Leddick’s 1997 book Naked Men: Pioneering Male Nudes. Shortly after the book’s publication, on June 5, 1997, Jack died in Bahrain. He was 71 years old. The Upstairs Downstairs restaurant is still in operation today. The restaurant’s Facebook page has comments from patrons recalling Randy Jack’s hospitality and the good times they had there.
The kid from Waukegan had come a long way.
You can see my post about George Platt Lynes models / bedfellows John Leapheart and Buddy McCarthy here, and Ted Starkowski is profiled here.
In August of 2020, porn star Koldo Gorantweeted about three fellow performers who had recently died. In one of those instances, Goran’s tweet remains the only public notice that the performer, Dani Rivera, had been murdered. “I realize nobody talks about it, we are unprotected and forgotten;” Goran tweeted “We are humans, people, enough of contempt.”
Most gay news outlets choose to ignore the passing of all but the biggest names in the adult film industry. Porn companies also seem reluctant to broadcast the death of a performer who is still on their roster, forever young and present in their website content. An obit is a real boner killer, ya know? Why jeopardize the profit margin?
Additionally, performers who abandon their porn personas and return to life under their real name often pass away unnoticed by former employers and scene parters.
In 2021 we lost two of the biggest gay porn filmmakers: Wakefield Poole, who basically invented the genre with 1971’s Boys In The Sand; and Jerry Douglas, director of many critically acclaimed gay adult films that were story-based but incorporated hot sex scenes. Poole’s passing was marked with a New York Times article and Douglas’s death was also widely reported in the gay press.
In contrast, some of the porn star passings that we note here have no verification other than the crumbs of information posted on the IAFD database. We remember those that we lost in 2021 to prove Koldo Goran wrong – they are not forgotten:
1. Alex James, one of the most popular performers at Active Duty, passed away of a “heart attack” on 2/15/21, according to the menofporn blog. He appeared in several dozen scenes starting in 2018 with new content steadily released in the six months following his death.
2. According to the IAFD database, Eric Pryor was 38 years old when he passed away on January 12, 2021. No other details were given. The Michigan native primarily worked for Randy Blue from 2009-2013 and also appeared on Baitbus as Mikey McKenna.
Teyon Goffney with identical twin Keyon (l), and solo.
4. Flex-Deon Blake, aka Kevin Moss was a 2004 inductee into the Grabby’s “Wall of Fame” after a 10 year career in the industry. He was the long-term partner of fellow porn star Bobby Blake and founded a Dallas-based ministry to help people resolve any conflict between their spirituality and sexual orientation. He passed away due to ongoing medical issues at age 58 on 3/1/21.
5. Tattooed top Bo Dean, aka Michael Jensen worked primarily for Jake Cruise but also appeared in scenes for Raging Stallion, Lucas Entertainment and Next Door Studios between 2009-2014. In 2015, he was shot in the chest and left paralyzed from the waist down. His cause of death was not disclosed when he died on 3/30/21 at age 41.
6. Treshawn / Treyshawn Valentino appeared in films for various companies (including Bacchus, Lucas Entertainment, Titan, Thugmart and Latino Fan Club) over a jaw-dropping 15 year period. The Illinois native passed away on 4/2/21, according to his IAFD listing. No other details have surfaced.
7. Michael Watts was an Oregon security guard who also worked as a Freddie Mercury impersonator. He chose Freddie as his porn persona when he did two scenes for The Guy Site in 2019. The 37 year-old went missing on May 1st and was found in the Willamette river two weeks later. The investigation is ongoing.
8. Versatile blond Ty Thomas began his porn career at Jason Sparks in 2016 and went on to appear in 30+ scenes for Next Door Studios. According to the IAFD, he passed away on 5/6/21 at age 29.
9. The death of 22 year-old Alex Riley on 5/9/21 was widely reported in the gay press. The popular performer was best known for his work with Helix Studios but had previously worked for Men, FraternityX, RealityDudes, and Next Door Studios. Riley was nominated as Best Newcomer at the 2020 Str8UpGayPorn Awards, and he won GayVN’s Best Newcomer award. Rumors of suicide circulated but were unconfirmed.
10. Muscular Bryce Evans loomed large in the gay porn industry for close to a decade with versatile appearances in scenes for Lucas Entertainment, Men, Pride Studios, Dominic Ford, Men Over 30 and several others. The 46 year-old reportedly suffered a “heart attack” in early June but his death was not made public until three weeks later.
12. On July 22nd, Chi Chi La Rue tweeted “Tommy Ritter passed away. No details have been given. Tommy was a great guy who saved many a movie with his amazing performances, even before he decided to be fully on camera!” Ritter, a versatile Channel 1 / Rascal Video exclusive, appeared in a dozen films circa 2005-6.
14. Mel Grey, aka Elder Packer (missionaryboyz) aka Toby Muck (familydick) was only 24 years old but had been in the business for three years, working with the studios listed above as well as Treasure Island Media. IAFD reports that he was “shot by a random intruder when trying to protect other people present” on 12/11/21.
15. A reader alerted me to another passing: Hoody LaVaye, aka Justin Miley. His film work spanned 8 years, with scenes for FlavaWorks, Rawrods and several other outlets. The Virginia Beach native passed away of a “heart attack” on 12/3/21 at age 33.
It’s that time again… due to popular demand, it’s our fourth installment of WWII-era photos featuring the jockstrap-clad pre-flight training school cadets at St. Mary’s College in California. You can view the first one here. Part II was from last Christmas. Part III was the boys of summer. And now here we are with another look at these strapping young men – many away from home for the first time – photographed as they trained to go to war during the holidays.
I first became aware of these black and white 5″x7″ triptych photos through posts on the Vintage Workingmen Beefcake Facebook group. Listings also turn up on auction sites, where the photos are often accompanied by the index card used to record the physical training progress of the cadet.
The earliest photos (from June 13, 1942) feature the men completely nude, but all subsequent photos feature the cadets in jockstraps, standing behind some sort of grid fencing to better detect posture misalignment and spinal curvature.
There is still some confusion between these photos and the Yale / Ivy League posture pics, since the Navy photos were sometimes used to illustrate stories about the Yale pics. Note that all of these images contain a visible U.S. Navy / St. Mary’s Pre-Flight School placard, even if they have been cropped out in some posts. Similarly the Yale University photos are identified as such within the frame of the photos:
Fortunately for us, multiple photos of some cadets have surfaced, allowing for comparisons of their training progress:
And while there is a lack of ethnic diversity, there are a variety of body types.
My collection now includes close to 600 jpegs of different cadets. While some of these men did perish during WWII, the largest majority that I have researched lived to ripe old ages.
Any surviving cadets would now be close to 100 years old. I recently discovered one who passed away a few months ago at the age of 103.
One thing these young men have in common, as they were documented in timeless photos of their physical prime: they were far from home during the holidays, training to fight for their country.
At this time of year, nearly 80 years later, we again salute The Greatest Generation for their fine forms and dedication.
Hard to believe that it has been 5 years since the dynamic actor/actress, performer, reality television star Alexis Arquette passed away. The youngest member of the Arquette clan was just 47 years old.
Fun fact: 12 year old Alexis was featured in The Tubes’ music video forShe’s A Beauty.
Days after Arquette’s demise, the streaming site XHamster released a statement where they pat themselves on the back for executing a “catch and kill”: allegedly paying $25k to acquire and destroy a sex video peddled by one of Arquette’s ex-paramours. In a blog post about it, KennethInThe212 points out that: a) it seemed like XHamster was pulling a publicity stunt, b) if they were protecting Arquette, why mention a video that nobody previously knew about, and c) how could a sex tape embarrass the free-spirited Arquette, a person who gave zero fucks about other people’s sexual hangups?
When I read about this alleged sex tape, I was reminded of something I had not thought about in years: Piccadilly Pickups, the 1999 hardcore gay porn flick that Arquette appeared in, and that I had seen it at a screening in New York City with Arquette in attendance.
I read an article in the November 5, 1999 issue of The New York Blade about the MIX Film Festival, which featured experimental works. Arquette was hosting a part of the festival called “The Honcho Midnight Blue Movie Series,” which featured midnight screenings of Andy Warhol’s Couch along with other titillating avant-garde fare. Next to this article was a second one detailing Arquette’s recent foray into gay porn, as the resulting film, Piccadilly Pickups would also be shown.
In 1999, Arquette was still publicly identifying as a bisexual male. He was an indie film darling – a member of Hollywood royalty who dared to push the envelope with unconventional film roles and an outspoken personality.
I was intrigued… so I went to the screening at midnight on Saturday, November 13, 1999. Surprisingly, it was, as advertised, a full-on hardcore gay porno. Unfortunately, it was not a very good one. It wasn’t particularly erotic and the attempts at campy humor fell flat. There was also an extended sequence with a character in blackface. Arquette appears in and out of drag as Henri de la Plus Oooh Aaargh, a wealthy American who wants to exploit the hero of the story. The climax of the film is a group sex scene with Arquette joining in.
Hard to stay gender neutral here, but at one point in the group scene Arquette bends down and sucks their own dick. In the audience at the screening, there is applause. Arquette, in drag, goes on to fuck one of the twinks before producing a climactic money shot which also garnered an enthusiastic audience reaction. And that’s about all I remember about this forgettable film.
A few times throughout the screening Arquette, in the audience, drew laughter with comments about the action onscreen, but I was not sitting close enough to hear this real life version of MST3K.
After the screening Alexis got up, took a modest bow and said a few words, leading off with “I know it’s not exactly Citizen Kane.. but thank you for coming.”
And then the film vanished. Although there is an IMDB listing, I was unable to find any reference to the film online for many years, which is odd, because even the vaguest whiff of a mainstream actor appearing in anything close to porn is recycled and re-discovered across the internet repeatedly. (see Stephen Geoffreys, Simon Rex or even Sylvester Stallone, just to name a few.)
Recently a cut of the film popped up on gay torrent and streaming sites. This watered down version appears to have come from a UK DVD release, which is edited like cable porn: Still an X but not XXX. The autofellatio, penetration and money shots are gone, so why bother, really?
Arquette was a favorite subject of Hollywood photographer Greg Gorman, including some nudes featured in his 2004 book As I See It.
Arquette would go on to become a vocal activist and visible leader in the transgender community. The diversity and complexities of this fearless artist should be remembered and celebrated, even if Piccadilly Pickups is not.
Welcome to our third installment of photos celebrating WWII-era men of U.S. Navy pre-flight training at St. Mary’s College. These images of naked or jockstrap-clad cadets were taken at the school in Moraga, California when it was requisitioned for the war effort between 1942-1946. You can see more photos in our previous posts here and here.
Only the earliest photos – dated June 13, 1942 – feature the men completely nude. An anonymous person offers a helping hand as the men are photographed in profile.
All subsequent photos feature the cadets in jockstraps. In all of the photos, the men stand behind some sort of grid fencing to better illustrate misalignment and spinal curvature.
The photos were taken to measure the fitness progression of each recruit as they underwent extreme physical training. Each picture was accompanied by an index card containing body measurements and physical achievement test results over the course of several months.
This allows for some contrasting images that Weight Watchers might want to consider emulating.
This installment focuses on photos of cadets as they underwent summer training in the California sun. The results speak for themselves. #tanlines
My collection of photos gathered from around the internet now includes close to 500 different cadets. I have taken my pastime a step further by researching the origins as well as the fates of these brave men. Those featured in this post passed away as young as 22 and as old as 94.
Whether the photos of these handsome young men are literal snapshots near the beginnings of their lives or tragically close to the end, all of the subjects are equally, timelessly captured here in prime physical condition, sun dappled as they trained to serve their country. Nearly 80 years later, we salute and admire their fine forms and dedication.