Why you should care

Because you’ll never get this close to the business end of the business without being in the business.

I need to apologize almost immediately here.

For?

Probably for my relatively dispassionate take on what you might have been led to believe was my “brief” sojourn into the porn world. But you see, that’s what we call “hiding in plain sight.” And the sight that was to be seen during my time working for Larry Flynt got much more confusingly, um, involved, not too long after the last take ended.

Let me paint the picture for you. After fighting tooth and nail with Flynt himself, who was wary — if it can be believed — of letting any dint of the porn world mark his nonporn men’s fashion magazine Code, I had finally convinced him that we should profile one Mr. Marcus.

Marcus was a porn-world star and staple back in 1999 and up until he was revealed to be Patient Zero in a San Fernando Valley syphilis scare. He had movie star looks and was routinely stopped on the street by more established stars who proclaimed, against better judgment, that they were fans of his work.

Besides, the New Yorker and Esquire had already run pieces on porn stars of the age and stage T.T. Boy and Peter North. So why not us?

Mr. Marcus standing in a parking lot

Mr. Marcus: on point

Source Paul Warner/Getty

So the go-ahead was given, and after a very fashionable photo shoot that involved thousand-dollar scarves and other men’s apparel, I followed up with the reporting, in this instance very specifically: A Day in the Life of Mr. Marcus. The occasion was the runaway success of his World’s Luckiest Black Man, a video wherein the very fit Mr. Marcus displayed how his luck had played out by screwing no fewer than 101 women.

First thing I asked him, after all of the brief niceties and as I slid into the oversized SUV that he picked me up in: “How’d you feel after something like that?”

“Um. Tired,” Marcus said. “It took three days. I came 16 times. Wait. No, 13 times. I had to rest up a bit after that.”

A bit?

“A day off. Just one.”

And as he wheeled his car through Beverly Hills and out to Venice, where he was filming that day, I got the whole Horatio Alger-dealie on Marcus: He was discovered on an escalator in Vegas. Completely bypassed the old World Modeling Talent Agency auditions for male “talent,” which involved standing pants-less in a roomful of other guys standing pants-less, in front of producers and being told to “get it up.” (Those who could were in. Those who couldn’t were out.) Failure to get erections in the pre-Viagra days was just a waste of good on-set time.

But Marcus had been lucky, bypassed all of that, busted out of a job at Home Depot and was some version of a star now. And while spending time with him, from a porn shoot in Venice to the article’s end, I became some kind of friendly with Marcus. Which, in these terms, meant I received endless invites to endless parties. The functional utility of a sympatico journalist, while not first and foremost in Marcus’ mind, probably seemed fairly significant. Besides that, unlike many in the Valley That Porn Built and Hollywood, I was not on the make.

I didn’t want anything. Didn’t come to take anything. Didn’t have an angle other than this moment right now: writing about it.

Uh hunh.

But the first and most liberating thing about hanging out on the porn street of dreams?

“Eugene! I don’t care what they told you!” (The caller was an Adult Video News Hall of Famer named Domonique Simone.) “I am NOT on drugs!”

The complete disengagement from anything vaguely resembling time, or responsibility for it. Meetings at very specific times, say Tuesday at 3 p.m., could just as easily result in the person showing up at 3 a.m. Or Thursday 3 p.m. And even better? No one cared. It was like being a rock star without all of the gear to carry and much more nudity.

And the stories accreted. And even more than the stories, my involvement in the stories grew.

“Eugene! I don’t care what they told you!” (The caller was an Adult Video News Hall of Famer named Domonique Simone.) “I am NOT on drugs!”

I glanced at my bedside clock. The time was 5 a.m. “Of course,” I said. “All of my friends who are not on drugs call me at 5 a.m. to tell me that they’re not on drugs.” Or …

”Some undercover cop just busted me for prostitution,” said the uni-named Olivia in a call from lockup in Chicago, where she got pinched on a bullshit bust that resulted in her signing jailhouse autographs before they let her go. “And I hadn’t even had sex with him.”

And then, after I got a contracting gig for a Russian-Israeli multimillionaire to start a media property, a kind of Zagat’s guide for his porn business, play became business. And then we were at all of the awards shows, interviewing stars, starlets, producers. And despite what you might expect me to say, I say this: They were all to a person sweet and sometimes even sweetly damaged. Producer John Stagliano, director Jules Jordan, director/producer Brandon Iron, Vince Vouyer, Erik Everhard, the aformentioned Olivia and Domonique, Belladonna and more.

All except for Max Hardcore.

The progenitor of gonzo porn and the man probably single-handedly responsible for the turn to rougher, Max Hardcore, while always very nice to me, had co-signed on to some very substandard professional behaviors in an industry built on suchlike behaviors. But standing at a urinal at some big industry confab, only some of those behaviors were evident as Max drunkenly regaled me with a detailed breakdown of what he was going to do to “those scumbags.”

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The author and Syren

Which scumbags? Totally unknown.

Until one of the aforementioned scumbags walked into the men’s room. Clearly a barbell boy, pushing the scales at about 240 pounds. Now zipped up and facing the scumbag, Hardcore starts in, the scumbag gets his back up and I zip up and make my way for the sink since this imbroglio’s got nothing to do with me. Until I hear those fateful words.

“My friend EUGENE here is going to KICK YOUR ASS!”

And for the first time, I notice Max Hardcore is standing behind me and the scumbag is advancing toward the both of us. A positional drag, no matter how you cut it. I wave off the angry man, who’s juiced up — very likely on a potent mix of steroids and whatever else — and make a rapid exit, while Max is still screaming at the scumbag about what his “friend” Eugene was going to do to him.

And the party went on until it suddenly didn’t anymore. People aged out, or killed themselves, or got arrested, or changed careers. And despite producers’ ever-optimistic report projections, the porn industry is suffering from the same things that ail the music industry: file sharing, overabundance of product, market disruption. Finally, the Russian-Israeli multimillionaire sold his business, and without the party being paid for, the party has to stop.

So stop it did.

“You know, people think that this is easy,” Marcus said to me during one of the last times we met for a meeting that he was two hours late for. (On account of having locked his keys in his car. After a four-hour shoot of four hours of screwing on two hours of sleep.) “But that’s really one of the last things it is.”

“Believe that,” he said, changing his shirt by the open tailgate.

Oh. We most definitely do.

This is the ninth installment in a series of True Story takes from the eclectically and electrically lived life of OZY’s own Eugene S. Robinson.

Earlier takes include Advice From Andy Warhol, unexpected Affliations With White Supremacists, Wild Orgy Nights at Stanford, Is It a Riot if It’s Just the Four of Us?, Tattoos, Tough Guys + the Travails of Making a Living, Full-Force Fathering, Breaking the First Rule of Fight Club, and Larry Flynt + Me.

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