I am a God -- at least according to an article in my local
newspaper: "Porn God Takes to the Stage: Jeff Stryker's 'Hard Time' in SF." I spied the San Francisco Chronicle headline over someone's
shoulder in the bus on the way to work. I shuddered.
Jeff Stryker. God. Icon. Superstar. Bigger than Life.
Reporters and critics dig deep into their bags of superlatives when
reaching for an adjective to describe the reigning king of gay male
porn, not to mention the legendary member upon which his carefully
nurtured career rests so securely (sometimes referred to as the "eighth
wonder of the world").
I should be used to it. Let me clarify. I, personally, am not
divine. It is my doppelgdnger, the porn star who took my name, who has
earned the international acclaim and divine status. His star has
ascended steadily in the pornography firmament over his 13-year
career. As a result, the mere mention of our name evokes giggles,
guffaws or more. Being named Jeff Stryker is like being wired with an
ultra sensitive "gaydar" device -- I can usually tell which team people
play on by how they react to the mere mention of my name. With
Stryker's "hilarious erotic comedy" coming to my backyard, I braced
myself for more than the usual ribbing. Overnight, the whole town was
festooned with "Jeff Stryker Does Hard Time" posters, with pictures of
the star behind bars and the fetching tagline, "On the Inside, It's Not
Your Back You Have to Watch, It's Your Butt."
I was Jeff Stryker first. My parents gave me the name after
carefully deliberating to find a moniker unlikely to be twisted into
mean-spirited childhood rhymes or playground taunts. It worked for a
while, at least until Jeff Stryker chose my name over the somewhat
dorkier handle his parents had provided -- Charles Peyton. With the help
of his very own Svengali, porn producer John Travis, Jeff Stryker has
taken my name and made it synonymous with erotic excitement.
Although the occasional upstart (say, Ryan Idol) nips at his
heels, Stryker remains on top, literally and figuratively, in an
industry where careers tend to be measured in months or years, not
decades. He is a name-above-the-title star, with famed videos such as
"Bigger than Life," "Powertool" and "Stryker Force" contributing to his
proud oeuvre of more than two dozen porn flicks (gay and straight).
Along with the movies comes a line of Jeff Stryker products -- playing
cards, T-shirts, greeting cards, a CD (yes, he "sings") and Stryker
Lube ("what that massive super hung Jeff uses for his huge cock to get
into those tight little assholes. Water based, moisturizing, lube gel
with aloe vera and vitamin E. Safe with condoms!" trumpets the ad copy).
Although Jeff Stryker's notoriety is mostly among gay men, every
so often his antics fly on to the radar screen of mainstream popular
culture. One such incident involved a lawsuit over the marketing of his
famed "Jeff Stryker Cock and Balls" -- the dildo fashioned
from a cast of his erect penis. This popular "rubber good" retails for
a pricey $59.95, showcased in an attractively designed box with a faux
velvet pouch. When Jeff Stryker appeared in court to sue the
manufacturer and distributor of his most famous attribute, even the Los
Angeles Times took note, in an article on wacky lawsuits entitled, "The
Scales of Justice Weigh Some Very Odd Things." Odd things indeed.
Stryker claimed that the companies had ripped him off, breaching his
contract and misappropriating what his lawyers at one point referred to as his "intellectual property."
Judge Eric Younger made no secret of the fact that he thought
the dispute was "beneath the dignity" of his court. Finding no legal
grounds to toss it out, Judge Younger swallowed hard and heard the case,
at one point noting that the array of dildos in evidence looked like so
many cordless phones. Ultimately, Judge Younger brokered a deal
between the litigants, granting the defendant companies' request to
dismiss the lawsuit when they agreed to pay Stryker $25,000.
The Jeff Stryker dildo has taken on a life of its own. Not only
has it been litigated, it has been celebrated in highbrow fiction and
deconstructed by culture critics. Consider the hilarious opening scene
of Allan Gurganus' "Plays Well with Others." Hartley Mims Jr., the
narrator of this tale of gay life in 1980s New York, visits the
apartment of his friend Robert who is in the hospital with AIDS. With
Robert's parents on the way from Iowa, Hartley sets about to "straighten
up" the place. The first task is to get rid of the three dozen or so
dildos "piled high, like cordwood" in the broom closet. Hartley surveys
the collection. "Some, I recognized, were actual casts from living porn
stars; there was a Jeff Stryker, a monster, but somehow Roman in its
genial fluted civic beauty."
"Roman in its genial fluted civic beauty." It rolls off the
Or ponder this paper topic from a 1995 Bowling Green State
University Conference in Cultural Studies: "Lesbian Pornography and
Transformation: Foucault, Bourdieu, and de Certeau Make Sense of the
Jeff Stryker Dildo," presented by Mary T. Conway, then a graduate
student at Temple University. The title says it all. It is Jeff
Stryker's world; we just live in it.
I am often asked about the confusion surrounding our identities.
Do we share any attributes other than our name? Well, certainly. I'm a
gay man; he's a gay icon. On the dimensions question, well, suffice it to
say we're both 5 feet 9 and a half inches. We both seek fame and approval, trying to
stoke our respective images as porn god and erstwhile pundit.
What amazes me is that after 15 years on the porn scene,
Jeff Stryker is still going strong. Talk about staying power. With
this doppelgdnger/parallel universe thing going on, it sometimes feels
like the "Picture of Dorian Gray." The yours truly Jeff Stryker could be
the portrait on the wall -- approaching middle age with warp speed,
showing all the signs of wear and tear. While I age, the other Jeff
Stryker has some kind of Dick Clark thing going on. Perhaps it is the
hour he works out every day to maintain his famous figure. (He admits that he refuses to shower at the gym, for fear he might cause a riot.
His fellow gym bunnies might "storm the locker room," he worried aloud
in a cover story interview a decade ago in The Advocate.)
With the advent of the Internet, I've had a whole new rash of
intertwined identity issues to confront. Vainglorious twins, each Jeff
Stryker has his own personal Web site. His keeps track of his personal
appearances, helps salacious surfers find the latest in Jeff Stryker
merchandise and offers extra nasties for "Gold Card" members who pay a
monthly premium. The Jeff Stryker name is such a lure that scores of
porn sites use "Jeff Stryker" as a metatag, posting the name hundreds
of times invisibly behind a site, knowing it will bring more traffic.
My Web site is practically Presbyterian by contrast, just a
straightforward digital risumi, with sample columns and clips. I posted
it with the conceit that Tina Brown or David Remnick would surf by, see
my stuff and option an article or two.
That is a fantasy yet realized. Jeff Stryker did
make it into the New Yorker once, however. Alas, it was my
doppelgdnger, featured in a quite depressing article about the porn
industry by Susan Faludi ("The Money Shot"). My New Yorker debut is
still probably some ways off. Although we live in different worlds, I
cannot help but feel competitive with my namesake, longing for the day
when someone can ask whether I am the Jeff Stryker and I can answer
"Yes" with a straight face.