The first time I ever wrote about the big wide world of pornography, it was the mid-1980s and I was the "X-rated screen advisor" for the now-extinct Forum magazine. What a popular feature it was: I received enough letters to keep Miss Manners occupied for years. The questions ranged from "Who was that girl with the beautiful crossed green eyes who did the double penetration in a movie that started with an 'F'?" to "Can you recommend erotica for the very, very shy?" There was one question, though, that arrived in my mailbox almost every week: "I am a guy who would like to be in a porn movie. How do I get in?"
How to get in is indeed the question, and I'm not talking about the porn starlet's panties, but rather how to infiltrate the extremely small, elite and testy world of the men who walk the X-rated line, the actors known as "woodsmen."
Thousands of women have starred on the erotic screen since hardcore debuted in the early 1970s, but in all that time, there are only about a dozen men who have appeared regularly in straight porn. Those who joined the scene in the early days had theatrical training and/or movie careers -- veteran porn stud/director/producer Paul Thomas still makes me smile when I see him playing John the Baptist in "Jesus Christ Superstar."
These men came to the industry because it sounded like a blast, having sex with pretty girls on camera. They often stayed because they'd found an unusual gift in themselves, something that in other contexts might be considered a disability. A porn star cannot roll his eyes back in his head and get all soft and squishy thinking about pretty girls. He is expected to achieve his hard-ons on cue, over and over again, until the director calls for his ejaculation. Male porn performance is about discipline, about cutting yourself off from outside influences until you're a relative emotional outsider to the sexual experience and inside your own world.
In other words, "getting wood" is a strange gig, not for everyone and not always the most pleasant way to get laid. To stick with it, you need to appreciate both the camaraderie and the pressure of the porn world, thrive on the sexual variety and, of course, get a great deal of creative and erotic satisfaction from people watching you fuck.
The other bottom-line qualification -- besides single-minded exhibitionism -- is that you be a master of masturbation. I'm talking about a guy who can successfully beat off under extreme time constraints -- with and without ill-fitting condoms, reciting baseball scores in his head or talking to his mother about her broken radiator on the telephone. Nerves of steel equal balls of steel.
One thing, however, has changed the porn entrance exam for the average guy. In today's amateur video boom, where anyone with a camcorder could be taping the next top-10 video, the easiest way to get into a porn movie is to make it yourself.
The final way to land a job as a porn actor is by pure dumb luck, which is exactly what happened a month ago to an ex-lover and good pal of mine. Jack has never done more than daydream about being a porn stud -- and for that matter, he's daydreamed about being a fireman and the president, too. But Jack got invited by Shar Rednour and Jackie Strano, mutual friends, to perform in a new couples-oriented porn movie they're directing next weekend (it's called "Bend Over Boyfriend 2"), and he accepted on the spot. He'll play a doting, romantic husband, and he and his on-screen "wife" will take turns fucking each other. It's almost like Tom and Nicole!
Why did Shar invite Jack, a total porno virgin? "He's part of our tribe, I can trust him," she says.
"And he's got a pretty cock," was her second explanation, which I couldn't resist asking more about. "How would you know, Shar, seeing that you're a lifelong lesbian?"
"I don't know," she replied. "Maybe I'm dreaming, but I actually think dykes are more objective about this sort of thing!"
Jack, meanwhile, feels fine about his penis, but is a little worried about everything else. "Whoever heard of a 35-year-old man making his porn movie debut?" he asked me, looking a little dazed. "In the beginning I said 'yes' right away, because it was like someone asking, 'Do you want to fly to Hawaii? Do you want to win a thousand dollars?' But now I wonder, what the hell am I doing?"
Jack was telling me this while filling out the required HIV-test forms for the movie and also a new grant proposal for one of the gigs he does at local hospitals -- he's a social worker in his "real" life.
"Do you think anyone at S.F. General is ever going to see me in this flick?" he wondered. "Do they need to be forewarned?"
"It's the 'fore' part that's tricky," I said. "You're not pleading for redemption because you made a blue movie long ago. Whoever heard of PRE-demption? 'Oh, by the way, Boss, I'm going to be making a fuck film a few weeks from now.'"
Jack decided to be discreet and pick a stage name -- but no apologies later if asked. "It's one thing to be pro-erotica in theory," he said. "It's been easy to do that all my life. But someone actually has to put their body on the line and take some pride in making something new."
On to the next topic: How to prepare his body? It's only seven more days, and he called me last night to ask, "Should I hit the tanning beds? Dye the gray? Pluck my nose hairs? Wax my ass?"
"It wouldn't kill you to moisturize," I offered. "You need to ask your director this, not me, but really, if you're not used to major beauty treatments, a week's notice is not a good time to begin. One false step with the Grecian Formula and you could look like Bozo the Brunet by Saturday. I think you should calm down. You have a great body. Everyone is going to think you're a fox, and after all, when it comes to comparisons, just think two words: Ron Jeremy."
We talked about the hard-on question too. Jack feels pretty relaxed about this. After all, it's only one time, a small, low-key production. What Jack doesn't know is how he'll get along with his scene partner, a professional named Chloe, who just won the female performer of the year award at a recent Oscar-style porn event.
"The one thing that would turn me off," Jack said, "is if she clearly rejected me; if she was cold or hostile. "
"Oh, c'mon, you're paranoid from watching too many Traci Lords biographies," I said. "You know how most porn stars are, Jack. She'll probably be a working-class tomboy with two kids at home and the ol' 'can-do' spirit. She wants to like you, she wants to look good -- unless she thinks you thrive on disdain, she's not going to play that card."
Will Jack and Chloe find true wood and fine chemistry on their upcoming porn shoot? Stay tuned for the next column, where I'll give you the full report.