The History of Gay Porn is Bigger Than LifeBigger Than Life

Reviewed by Lawrence Helman

Attempting to write a history of gay porn seems like a task worthy of an astute cultural historian/sexual anthropologist, or possibly a task undertaken by a crazed porn-watching wordsmith with a burgeoning collection of VHS cassettes and DVD’s, or perhaps a bit of both.

Author & sexual critic Jeffrey Escoffier has taken on this gay sexual Goliath of a topic in his new tome, Bigger than Life - The History of Gay Porn Cinema from Beefcake to Hardcore.

Written with clarity, well researched footnotes and insight, Bigger than Life navigates the history of the beginnings of gay porn with late 1940’s inimitable films such as Kenneth Anger’s Fireworks (1947), and examines the homoerotic nature of early, lesser-known Andy Warhol films including Kiss, Blow Job, and Couch.

The book tells a social history of the gay porn industry set in the context of the gay male community's changing patterns of sexuality, which includes the impact of AIDS, and the evolution of the medium itself – from beefcake magazines and 8mm loops to hardcore film, through the video revolution, and up to the internet.

Escoffier gives detailed examples of many of the early films and directors who forayed into this uncharted gay erotic fantasyland including Bob Mizer (Athletic Models Guild), Paul Morrissey (Flesh, Trash, Heat), and also of early and almost forgotten film exhibitors (then turned to filmmakers) Shan Sayles and Monroe Beehler.

The book is structured by and large chronologically discussing the changes of consumer viewing beginning with 8mm loops, moving to 16mm in “art” houses, to the once new and innovative VHS cassette and the VHS player, which made porn viewing at home achievable, desirable and de rigueur for the mounting number of porn enthusiasts. jeffrey escoffier

Not to be overlooked and rather central to the book are the porn stars themselves.

As an ardent viewer of gay porn, I was engrossed regarding the lives of the “models” who gave so much of their sweat and other body secretions to act out the fantasies of many viewers, often for who these porn fantasies were a major way to maintain a sexual life with the growing threat of HIV/AIDS and other STD’s.

Profiled are some of the major stars and their brief time as “supermen” on screen, including Casey Donovan, Scott O’Hara, Al Parker, Glenn Swan, Kip Noll and the power tool himself - Jeff Stryker.

How they got into the biz and how their careers fizzled are well documented with a number of stars. Some major porn performers are omitted and some are glossed over, but Escoffier does his research efficaciously and bios many of the performers addressing the panoply of personalities who got into the jizz biz.Kip Noll

While significant luminaries are profiled at length including studio heads and directors such as Chi Chi LaRue (All Worlds), Steven Scarborough (HotHouse) and Chuck Holmes (Falcon), it seems an omission to not discuss other contemporary studio players such as Chris Ward (Raging Stallion) and Brian Mills (Titan). Could there possibly be bad blood there?

AND, the most glaring omission for a subject such as gay porn is the shock that there are no photos anywhere in the book! Gay porn without photos? To me that is akin to fat free half and half. What’s the other half? I am sure there is a reason for not including photos, but it would have made for a tastier historical contribution.

Still it’s a great read and one can only hope for more volumes about this subject, which has a long history and keeps on growing and getting bigger.


BIGGER THAN LIFE
THE HISTORY OF GAY PORN CINEMA FROM BEEFCAKE TO HARDCORE
Author: Jeffrey Escoffier
Publisher: Running Press
(2006, 367 pages) Book Hardcover
ISBN: 978-0-78672-010-1
Publication Month: June 2009
List Price:  $24.95
Available at: Amazon.com, RunningPress.com


 

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