“RAW! UNCUT! VIDEO!”— Safe Sex During the Aids Epidemic



Safe Sex During the Aids Epidemic

Amos Lassen

“Raw! Uncut! Video!” is a new documentary about inventing safe sex during the AIDS epidemic and the gay fetish porn studio Palm Drive Video which was created by leathermen Jack Fritscher and Mark Hemry during the 1980s home video revolution. It was a homegrown mail-order company that expanded the boundaries of sexual experimentation and promoted kink as an integral form of safe sex during the height of the AIDS epidemic.


“As AIDS devastated queer communities, a pervasive fear of sexual activity overtook American culture – and drove many LGBTQ folks back into the ‘closet’. Because fetish does not require an exchange of bodily fluids, Palm Drive Video was founded as a safe-sex service that offered viewers new sexual possibilities in an age of plague. Using rugged men hand-picked from small-town bars, rodeos, county fairgrounds, body-building contests, construction sites and back alleys, the studio focused on a diversity of all-male fetish scenarios – from extreme BDSM to mud worship, medical torture, and leather cowboys. With unlimited access to the Fritscher-Hemry archive, intimate observational footage of Jack and Mark today, and interviews with other legendary experts on gay fetish, RAW! UNCUT! VIDEO! reconstructs an erotic underground of hot men and wild sex that paved the way for sex-positive activism and a proliferation of LGBTQ community-building around niche sexualities.” www.rawuncutvideo.com/ @rawuncutvideo_

However the movie cannot be finished without some help if you can.

“Why We Need Your Help:

Our project looks beyond the lurid sensationalism often associated with ‘adult films’ to examine the powerful and positive impacts that fetish pornography has historically had for LGBTQ communities. Nevertheless, fetish and pornography are still taboo for many people and there are persistent stigmas around both alternative sexualities and ‘adult’ entertainment. Most traditional funders of independent documentary hear the description “a film about gay fetish porn” and run away as fast as they can! Thus, raising the budget necessary to complete RAW! UNCUT! VIDEO! has presented our producing team with many challenges. After three years, we are finished with production and are now editing the film. To date the majority of funding for the project has come from our own pockets and from the generosity of individuals who are interested in seeing this documentary get made. Editing and post-production is one of the priciest and most time-consuming phases of any documentary and, while we continue to apply for grants, we are still in need of community support to finish the film.


How Your Contribution Will Be Used:

We currently have a rough feature-length assembly of the documentary. Funds raised via our crowd-funding will enable us to hire a professional Editor to finesse and complete the film. Additional funds will be allocated to other critical post-production costs such as hiring a composer, sound mixing, and color grading. We are so close to completing the project and we need your help! Please consider contributing – any amount, large or small, gets us closer to the finish line.”

“Director’s Statement:

AIDS continues to pose a massive health threat around the globe, and understanding the diversity of tactics that communities in the Global North used to battle the epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s remains critical in sustaining efforts to control the disease. Media outlets have reported extensively on the role of governments and activists in promoting safe-sex practices to help combat the transmission of AIDS. But, on top of completely devastating communities, AIDS also brought with it a pervasive fear of sexual activity that drove many LGBTQ people back into the ‘closet’. There has been scant mainstream coverage of efforts to mitigate infection by underground fetish and porn communities through the promotion of sex-positivity and alternative safe-sex practices. We are inspired to create RAW! UNCUT! VIDEO! to explore the historic significance of gay fetish porn during the height of the AIDS crisis in the U.S., to trace the dedicated efforts of two leathermen (Fritscher and Hemry) to produce erotica that allowed queer men to safely explore their sexual boundaries in an age of plague, and to resurrect an assortment of wild characters who shared their own sexual kinks onscreen to help diminish the many impacts of AIDS.

Our approach to RAW! UNCUT! VIDEO! is to use archival-focused storytelling to provide a fresh and contemporary exploration of a little-known form of AIDS activism. Current footage and interviews introduce our primary characters and highlight Palm Drive’s efforts to produce safe-sex videos that would appeal to a diversity of kinky queers. Although, our story truly comes alive through Palm Drive films and behind-the-scenes material that is edited to create ‘observational’ sequences that immerse the viewer in the vintage world of Palm Drive Video productions. Throughout the film, our characters’ serious drive for activism and sexual exploration is countered by their constant sense of humor, the uniqueness of the experimental fetish scenarios that are explored, and the infectious enthusiasm of the Palm Drive stars to push their outrageous sexual limits for a greater good.

Ultimately, we hope that the film reveals the complexities of historic efforts to combat AIDS in the U.S., and in so doing, expand the discussion on best practices to continue fighting the epidemic around the world. At the same time, we hope to cast light on the importance of embracing non-normative sexualities and overcoming moralistic frameworks that only accept human sexuality in extremely limited terms.”


The characters include:

Jack Fritscher is director and co-founder of Palm Drive Video. Former Editor-in-Chief of the influential Drummer Magazine and one-time lover of Robert Mapplethorpe, he is a prolific writer and a living legend in the gay leather scene.

Mark Hemry is editor and co-founder of Palm Drive Video. Partnered with Jack Fritscher for 40 years, he was the technical backbone of the porn studio while also maintaining a career as a scientist for a federal government agency.

“Thrasher” (Steve Thrasher) is a Palm Drive superstar – and a heterosexual man. As a young handyman on the Fritscher-Hemry ranch, he perfectly fit the blue-collar aesthetic that Jack and Mark were looking for and was cast in some of their most iconic films.

Donnie Russo is a gay porn legend. Early in his career he starred in five Palm Drive films and posed in numerous still photos by Jack Fritscher. His work with Palm Drive has reached cult status.

Mickey Squires is a Colt model and a renowned performer in adult films. He collaborated with Palm Drive Video in the 1990s when he was in his mid-40s and was re-establishing his porn persona as a Daddy and a Bear.

The Men of Palm Drive include Mr. America Chris Duffy, Colt Studios star Tom Howard, Raging Stallion co-founder JD Slater, plus countless “real men” hand-selected by Fritscher and Hemry. They are all intimately immortalized in hundreds of hours of videos and behind-the-scenes footage from the massive Palm Drive archive.

Other Participants (to date):

Susie Bright – Writer

Darryl Carlton (Divinity Fudge) – Artist/Performer

Rick Castro – Photographer

Durk Dehner – Tom of Finland Foundation

Roger Earl – Filmmaker, “Born to Raise Hell”

Jeffrey Escoffier – Porn scholar

Peter Fiske – Chairman Emeritus of the 15 Association

Lucas Hilderbrand – Media Historian

David Hurles – Old Reliable

Owen Keehnen – Grassroots Historian

Mr. Pam – Porn director

Steve Parker – Porn star

Susan Shaw – Thrasher’s mother

Ron Suresha – Writer

Gary Wasdin – Executive Director of The Leather Archives & Museum



Ryan A. White – Director/Producer

Born in Big Sur, California, Ryan White is a documentary filmmaker whose award-winning films have screened around the world. He spent four years in Hanoi, Vietnam working as Film Advisor for the World Wildlife Fund’s Greater Mekong Program, then relocated to Bangkok, Thailand, where he produced and directed two documentary features, Camp Unity (2010) and Mondo Banana (2013). His short film Cruising Elsewhere (2016) was recently awarded Best Short Film at the Tampa Bay Gay & Lesbian Film Festival and Best Documentary Short at CineKink NYC. Other documentary credits include co-directing Dirt McComber: Last of the Mohicans (2018), producing The Organic Life (2013) and associate producing Out Run (2016). Ryan also lectures in documentary and film/video production at California State University, East Bay.


Alex Clausen – Director/Producer

Alex Clausen is an artist that lives and works in Guerneville, California. Clausen earned a bachelors’ degree in Art and Physics from University of California, Davis, and a graduate degree from the California College of the Arts. He was awarded a Graduate Fellowship at the Headlands Center for the Arts for the 2006-2007 year. Clausen has exhibited work at Rena Bransten Gallery, the San Jose Institute for Contemporary Art, the Contemporary Art Museum in Houston, Kala Art Institute, the Exploratorium and is part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco collection. He is currently an active collaborator and board member of Earthbound Moon, an arts non-profit based in Eugene, Oregon.


Todd Verow – Producer

Todd Verow attended the Rhode Island School of Design and the AFI Conservatory. He made short experimental films and worked as a cinematographer before making his feature film debut with Frisk in 1996 (Sundance, Berlin & Toronto). Starting his own production company Bangor Films, Todd has directed over twenty-five features and numerous shorts, establishing himself as the most prolific auteur emeritus of the New Queer Cinema.


Charles Lum – Producer

Charles Lum, aka clublum, received his MFA in Photography from the School of The

Art Institute of Chicago in 2004, after 25 years scouting and managing locations for TV commercials and classic feature films like Wall Street, Fatal Attraction and Sid & Nancy. His short videos have screened internationally in museum, art and film venues.


Paul Lee – Producer

Based in Toronto, Paul Lee has produced, co-produced, and associate-produced over 50 films – more than half of which have been award-winning LGBTQ films. LGBTQ productions include San Francisco filmmaker Jenni Olson’s Berlin-premiered Blue Diary and Sundance-premiered The Joy of Life, and the Berlin-premiered Below the Belt by Toronto filmmakers Dominique Cardona and Laurie Colbert. Since 1991, Paul has organized, programmed, and curated film festivals in 25 countries around the world. His own films, Thick Lips Thin Lips (1994), These Shoes Weren’t Made for Walking (1995), and The Offering (1999) have screened at hundreds of film festivals and won numerous international awards.









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