Siedelmann, Marco, Jack Fritscher and Toby Ross. “California Dreamin’: West Coast Directors and the Golden Age of Forbidden Gay Movies”, Editions Moustache, 2016.
Creating Gay Cinema
In terms of American culture we are aware of the differences between the west coast and the east coast. This was even true in terms of gay porn until recently when the Internet broke the coast together.
It might be hard to believe but it is gay porn that gave rise to gay themed film in that early porn had stories and actors to relay them (they just did not have a lot of clothing). There were stars also— Jack Wrangler, Casey Donovan, Peter Berlin as well as may others whose faces and bodies meant money at the box office. They also had sexual charisma that drove audiences wild.
“California Dreamin’” concentrates (naturally) on the West Coast and that time in American history when gay porn was illegal. Editors Marco Siedelmann and Jack Fritscher bring us conversations about the porn industry and we get some real insights on the industry.
We have interviews with J. Brian, Gavin Geoffrey Dillard, Roger Earl, David “Old Reliable” Hurles, Jim West and a guest article by cult filmmaker Toby Ross and numerous pages of pictures and photo art by Tom Bianchi, David Pearce, John J. Krause, Tom of Finland, Tom Kellie, and other gay artists.
I am not what you would call a porn aficionado but I must admit every once in a while it is an escape especially after reading some really awful gay romance novels where sex is evident only in the minds of the characters. I have wondered why we have not had any books by former and/or present gay porn stats and I can only surmise is that they do not know now to write or are under contract not to. This is a great about making porn that we do not know. I am sure that there are little secrets to be told.
In reading this I realized how little I do know about porn and how many films I have missed. I am not sure how to review a book made up entirely of interviews mainly because each is so interesting and to summarize what is there spoils the read for some. One of my favorite gay poets, Gavin Geoffrey Dillard (whose interview is great fun) summed it up like this:
“The magic of cinema is everyman’s fantasy.
Ahhh. But we can dream, can’t we!”
Toby Ross tells a fantastic story about how he became involved in gay porn but the two characters that really stand out from the others are the editors. I have been an email and Facebook friend of Jack Fritscher for years now and we share many academic areas in common although his life is so much more exciting than mine. His is the very interview in the book but then Jack was all over the scene and he worked hard to introduce diversity into the curricula of universities. He not only was a professor but he was also the editor of “Drummer”, a magazine that made people become stars and popularized those in gay culture like filmmakers who needed a little push. Fritscher also was aware of the differences between photographers on each coast and he used Mapplethorpe to photograph a cover for “Drummer” in 1978 and the world soon knew of him. Fritscher also sees that today the two coasts are very close in terms of gay culture even though it is very difficult to pull New York out of a New Yorker and vice versa (did I use that correctly? I am never sure). Anyway, as Fritscher tells us, “hot is hot” and sexy is sexy regardless of coast. While Fritscher is the interviewer, we still learn a great deal about him but then he was, for me, at least, someone I was always aware of and it has been a great pleasure to chat with him about common interests, mainly Tennessee Williams and Mapplethorpe. I knew nothing about Marco Siedelmann before reading this. He wrote the introduction and conducted three interviews: Robert Earl, Gavin Dillard and J. Brian.
There is a great deal of information in these pages but it is not for everyone; the language is raw but there are no full frontal photos (damn!!). Nonetheless, if you are looking for some sexy reading here is a book you do not want to miss. This review has really not done justice to the book and I apologize for that. You will understand what I mean when you read it (or just look at the pictures).