Saturday, 22 March 2008

Gillis!


[WARNING: XXX RATED LINKS AHEAD]

That Uschi mega post was so much fun, I think I've just gotta do another. No, not another Uschi post, another mega post - but this time one on the male of the species.

I speak here of Jamie Gillis, who many will know as a familiar face from classic 70s and 80s porn. He could be funny or intense, smouldering or maniacal, but he was always interesting to watch.


Others may know him as the Godfather of Gonzo, whose 1989 On The Prowl series broke the barrier between porn fantasy and everyday reality (and notoriously inspired that scene in Boogie Nights).

Or they may know him from his Walking Toilet Bowl series of scat films. Or his work with John Stagliano on the Buttman series. Or with Ed Powers on the Dirty Debutantes series. Or even as Devious Old Gillis.

Often cited as the greatest actor in porn, frequently reviled as being too extreme or too hardcore, Gillis embodies
many of the more emotive aspects of male sexuality: charm and seduction, humour and intelligence, fearlessness and lust, disgust and rage. His range is elastic, his performances are visceral. He effortlessly conveys gravitas and ease onscreen.

Jamie Gillis could be three or four separately interesting guys (the great porn actor, the funnyman, the innovator, the sicko), and the fact that he's all of these simultaneously - and that he's still alive at 65, still going strong - is pretty remarkable.

In reading through all this material, the picture that emerges is honestly one of a smart guy who was free of inhibition and, simply put, extremely interested in sex (or as Vanessa Del Rio put it, "he was wild and very horny").


Director Shaun Costello:
"He was the most sexually uninhibited person I've ever known, but in all other parts of his life, he was possibly the most inhibited guy on the planet. He didn't drink. He didn't do drugs. His vices were Gitane cigarettes, and gambling. Other that his personal sexual depravity, he was really quite straight. He was certainly not the usual one dimensional type that you find in the porno business...(he) had a bit more animal appeal. Women loved Jamie, and he had his way with them."


Former lover/porn star Serena:
"I lived with Jamie Gillis for two years. It was very hot. We were in lust. We'd go by train across country because he wouldn't fly. We were very in demand as a couple, so we'd be going back and forth all the time. We'd rent a car with a bed, then we'd go stalking pretty girls in coach and drag them back to our bedroom. And we'd be doing that for three and a half days. It's pretty hard to say no to Jamie. He's very much into S&M and he could go either way. So he'd either give them spankings and then he'd beg them to let him cum on their high heels. He'd always do something strange. But he was interesting. I learned a lot about the dark side with him. I was this white angel and he was the dark devil, but I loved him."

Gillis himself:
"Q: You have the reputation among the actresses as being one of the best lovers, one of the guys they really enjoy working with.

A: That's because I usually care about whether or not the scene is working. The sexual scene or the scene of the film, so...I want it to work, so usually that means that you want the girl to get off or be into it. And usually I am into it. I'm very sexual, I guess, so it's not that hard. I like to fuck."


Part of my motivation for doing a post on Jamie Gillis came from the discovery that some materials were available online now that I hadn't been aware of before. Gillis has been more forthcoming about his past than had previously been the case, and indeed has a new credit this year, appearing in a documentary about Jack Wrangler, the iconic 1970s gay pornstar (who also appeared in straight porn).

As much of this newly available material is YouTube supplied (thanks to the contributions of one Cliff Rialto), it's impossible to say how long it could stay up for. So check his stuff out while it's still there; it could disappear at any time (like the sadly missed Redboard forums). Thank you Mr. Rialto.

***

A selected filmography of highlights should suffice to impress the uninitiated:

Illusions of A Lady

The Seduction of Lynn Carter

Angel on Fire aka Angel No. 9

Defiance of the Good

Sometimes Sweet Susan

The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann, The Opening Of Misty Beethoven, and Barbara Broadcast, all directed by the great Henry Paris aka Radley Metzger

Boynapped

The Story of Joanna

Through the Looking Glass

Waterpower and Midnight Desires, both directed by Shaun Costello

The Violation of Claudia

the infamously 'lost' first 35mm first 3D male sex film Manhole

Ecstasy Girls

Vista Valley PTA

Roommates

Amanda By Night

playing Dracula twice (!!), first in Dracula Sucks and then again in Dracula Exotica

the relentlessly bleak Midnight Heat and Corruption, both directed by the late great Richard Mahler aka Roger Watkins of Last House on Dead End Street infamy

New Wave Hookers




Born in New York City, on April 20th 1943, Gillis trained as a professional actor and graduated from Columbia University in 1970. In the early 70s, while performing in off-Broadway shows and driving a NYC cab part-time, he answered a Village Voice ad for nude modelling, and this quickly lead to work in live sex shows and porn loops. During these live sex shows, Gillis would reportedly ensure socially redeeming content, and thereby avoid arrest, by reciting poetry or reading Shakespeare (ay, there's the rub?).

Of the early days of shooting porn, he has said:
It was a fly-by-night thing happening in a counterculture. So on top of the sex, you had this attitude: "This is our generation doing something different than anybody else would do." Even though it wasn't explicitly political, in the sense that some of the rock and roll was — it was of the time, like smoking pot or dropping acid. It had that vibe: "We hang together because we have some kind of consciousness, and we're also making some bucks and getting our rocks off." But then you had this complete change in technology in the business, and now there's nothing countercultural about the scene — nothing "outlaw" about it.


Though it wasn't unusual to appear in roughies or rape porn in the Swinging Seventies, Gillis stood out by virtue of his genuine enthusiasm, his gift for verbal abuse, and his willingness to go that extra mile (even requesting an interview with the real-life Enema Bandit before shooting the notorious Waterpower). For much of the 70s, Gillis was also one-half of the most notorious couple in the adult industry with porn legend Serena (also known as the S&M couple for their usual off-camera proclivities).

Commenting in January 2000, Gillis told Gene Ross:
"My feelings are that we're talking about sexual fantasies that are being acted out by paid performers. This has nothing to do with dragging girls off the street and beating them up. There are a lot of girls, a lot of men, for that matter, who love being abused, sexually both in fantasy and actuality. And why people who are not into that particular thing feel that they cannot allow this, is stupid, outrageous, hypocritical crap. I can't tell you how many girls have come to me over the years because I have that reputation. They tell me they can't find this kind of treatment, that men are wimps, men won't do this. 'You try to get a guy to do something like this and they don't want to do it. They don't understand it.'"

And from an earlier interview:
Q: I saw you do dominance in a movie and it was very convincing. I sort of expected you to be almost that type.

A: Well, I am. I get cast into that a lot, because I do a lot of that.

Q: Is it a real aspect of you that we see?

A: I have lots of aspects, and it's one real aspect. I could be very dominant or I could be a lot of things-very passive, whatever, little boy. Whatever works, whatever works.


Over the last ten years, Gillis has become increasingly comfortable opening up about his past in interviews and various pages online (who knew he was such a big Thin Lizzy fan for instance?).

As he recently revealed in an excellent interview with Susie Bright:
"I've always had this funny image of myself as a straight guy who just happens to have more fag sex than any fag I know. Because when I was coming up, gays were the only ones that were really sexually crazy. Before there was a Plato's Retreat, there was a place called Continental Baths. It was the exact same location. And I used to go to the Continental Baths, because that's where you could have crazy, wild sex! Nobody else was doing that. And I remember walking around that fucking place thinking, "If only there was a heterosexual place like this. Wouldn't that be amazing?" And I didn't even dream that it would happen — but it did, like about two years later, with Plato's Retreat. It was this straight place with all these hundreds of girls going there. In my ideal world, if you were walking down the street, there'd be a place where you could just touch people. There would be a grope club."

This willingness to go either way sexually is yet another division between Jamie Gillis and your 'average porn star'; in the 1970s, Gillis may have restricted himself to interactions with men on his off-time, or the very occasional on-screen encounter (most famously getting blown by Zebedy Colt in 1975's The Story of Johanna). Of course that's not to say that there had to be gay sex onscreen to attract the attention of gay men!


He quickly became known as a superior woodsman and moved up to doing porn feature films; subsequently, Gillis has become one of the most prolific actors in the business, with nearly 500 films to his credit at the IMDB, and countless more private films and loops besides. As well as porno, Gillis has also appeared in a few 'mainstream' films (perhaps most notably Sylvester Stallone's Nighthawks) and the ocassional cheesy B-movie as well.

After an incredible run in the 1970s, working on many of the greatest porn movies ever made, Gillis went on to work in video as the 1980s progressed and gradually lost interest in endless films with dire scripts. His solution was to go out in a limousine with a beautiful porn actress and attempt to convince perfect strangers on the street (or in adult video stores) to have sex. Sound familiar?

Gillis told San Francisco's Spectator magazine 10/99:
"On The Prowl was the first video of its kind to be labelled "gonzo." These days, however, everyone else is really not doing what I consider gonzo. My idea was to do live, spontaneous stuff with real people who were not connected to the porn industry. I wanted to find people on the street and say, "Hey, buddy, you wanna get laid?" I mean, that doesn't always work, either; people are a little bit mystified by the whole thing. But the upside is that they're not performers with really fake energy which you see so much of in porn today, which I hate. It's that 'ooh-ah, ooh-ah, do-me-baby' thing. Gimme a break. It was boring for the most part - and today it's even worse. And after I did the original On The Prowl, other people caught on and made it more of a set-up situation, more of a commercial product."

Gillis went with the gonzo direction for several years - also helping to get the Buttman and Dirty Debutantes series started - and then switched directions again about 1990 and began making underground films of intense degradation, sometimes wearing a mask to do so.


The nastier side that came out so theatrically in the 1970s and verbally in the 1980s was now reaching a fuller expression in increasingly harsh fare of the 1990s. Gillis worked with Bizarre and Redboard, and was to specialize in such films upwards of the late 1990s and even into the 21st century (2001's Edge Play with Marilyn Chambers was, by contrast, rather vanilla).

It's important to note here that Jamie was again happy to play both sides of the fence, acting in the submissive role with aplomb as well as the dominant.



Nowadays, Jamie seems content and relaxed, indulging interests like poker or boxing. A possible autobiography and/or book of verbal abuse/scat transcripts (with which author Peter Sotos was tied at one point, Sotos referring to the book as being called Pure Filth) has been the subject of much speculation over the last few years; will it ever come out? How much of the dirt will Gillis dish? How far will he go? For those that have followed his thirty-year-plus career in porn, you know the answer is Very Far Indeed. Probably farther than you'd like to go. Maybe even farther than you'd feel comfortable reading about. Hopefully it won't cost $700 like Vanessa Del Rio's.


Asked about how he has changed with age (from the recent Susie Bright interview):
"I don't feel I have to fuck everybody I meet. Of course, also, the girls also don't feel they have to fuck me as much. But you're a little more in control, particularly if you've had as many women as I've had. You sort of know what they're like. And you can appreciate them more just for themselves. You can talk to them and have a good time. And you can just sort of look at one of them and have a good idea of what it's like to fuck that one. And you can think about that and not have to go through with it."


For those that might still consider the man a misogynistic pig with a sex addiction, it's interesting to note that at least twice now Jamie Gillis has given up porn at the insistence of a girlfriend - the first time (lasting a year), he sold everything he had, and wound up broke and kicked out; the second time was only a few months ago, for famed restauranteur Zarela Martinez (the lovely couple pictured at left) - hopefully that's going a little better.

Only time will tell if he has truly retired from it all or not.

I'll give the last word to the man himself, here again with Susie Bright:
SB: As you get older, does the sizzle endure?

JG: It never ends. I remember — there used to be an old Jewish dominatrix in New York called Belle du Jour. And she was popular. I would go to her place just to hang out sometimes because it was interesting. Guys would come in.

This old guy who must have been close to ninety comes in, and he goes in the back with her. And she has these black, thigh-high boots on. And he falls onto the floor, and he's lapping at her boots. And I'm thinking, "My god. It never ends." You know, you'd think when you were ninety, you'd have a little dignity. Something would change. But it doesn't! It just goes on.

Gillis himself may be reached through his minimalist website jamiegillis.com ("It's not really a big site. I think of it as putting myself in the phone book; if somebody wants to find me, I'm available.").

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

He's an interesting clip of Gillis, a woman and Transsexual on xhamster.

http://xhamster.com/movies/194162/crystal_sync_jamie_gillis_and_tranny_3-some.html

Anonymous said...

You paint an interesting portrait of Jamie and provide a lot of information I had never seen before. He is easily one of the most interesting, complex individuals I have ever met and I think your post does justice to this complexity. I think his life would be an interesting sociological study for whoever would really attempt to understand a period of American history as manifested in one person.

Pius said...

Thanks very much for the kind words.

I agree with you that Jamie represents a remarkable span of history & change in one person and their experience(s). Not to mention the fact that he remains quite charismatic, and has a great way with telling stories and anecdotes.

Gillis' life has all the makings of a really amazing biography and/or documentary. Let's face it, there's not too many male porn stars that have received the feature-length mainstream documentary treatment. I can think of only two: John Holmes and Ron Jeremy.

I think, compared to Jeremy's comic, slightly pathetic existence, and Holmes' sordid dead-end tale, Jamie Gillis comes off like high literature, he's just in a different league altogether. It's about the sex itself rather than drugs or crime or celebrity that's attached to it, the thing itself rather than its distractions.

Imagine: a thinking individual who operated with intelligence, self-awareness, and a true passion for what he was doing. Acting in porn films (for decades). Exploring avenues most leave unseen and unconsidered.

I wish somebody with some real talent would get on it and tell the man's story.

Toy said...

I actually found this page a while ago but wanted to give my thanks for the run down on Jamie. I absolutely adore him and his work and always appreciate any page that focuses on his talent!

Grk! said...

RIP.

Anonymous said...

Rest in peace, Jamie.

Gram the Man said...

Fantastic article. I am borrowing, crediting, and linking.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, now we know how things turned out between Jamie and Zarela....but let's hope and pray that the time they had together was soulful and beautiful and sexy and everything he would have wanted it to be...RIP baby, and NO, it never ends, it just transforms into energy....

Jack said...

I wrote before anonymously about your blog but I just want to post here again and say that it's even more important that you have such a great page about him. I really think you're right about that documentary. It really should be done. I have done a lot of work recently on Henry Miller and I talked to Jamie about him and in a way, Jamie went much further than Miller and just like him, he really lived an amazing life that gave him enormous "street cred". I happen to possess some extraordinary and unique footage of Jamie playing Polonius in Hamlet for me at an audition with a bunch of actresses. The film quality is bad and the focus is often on the actress (because Jamie was already cast) but people should see it so they can know what a great actor he was. I'm going to try to put it together for the net and maybe for documentary purposes.

Pius said...

That's amazing, Jack. You've got me wanting to make a documentary on Jamie myself. Please let me know if/when you do make that footage available. Thanks for commenting.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know where I can find the original "On The Prowl" (1989)??

I can't find it any where.

For something so influential, it's a shame it isn't even posted on any of the YouTube-style porn sites.

OM3GA said...

I hadn't even realised that Jamie Gillis died this year (after a long struggle with cancer), until I came across your blog (I was looking for "Dracula Exotica" at the time).
RIP Mr Gillis...

Leksi Wit said...

I can only speak to the limited contact I had with Mr. Gillis, but he was polite in contributing a photo to his filmography about a year before his passing. The man had class, and showed character, at least towards the end.

Anonymous said...

http://xhamster.com/movies/593967/fucked_up_abuse_by_fire_ice.html

He doesn't look much like a good guy to me

Anonymous said...

I think he did gay in his earlier "career"? I wonder what he might think today how much money the gay-for-pay actors make for films as opposed to actors who perform in only straight movies where the women are the stars?

Escorts in London said...

Pornography is best platform for earn money in short timings. They are tons of porn star who had worked as porn star only 5 to 6 years and become millionaire.

Anonymous said...

"Pornography is best platform for earn money in short timings."

Words for to live by.