Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Remembering Gillis!

Well, it's been a couple of days now and the news of Jamie Gillis' death at 66 from melanoma still has me reeling. Skip the first two paragraphs if you don't want to hear about it, but I'm shocked at how much it's affected me, really - what a funk it's put me into. I guess we all have certain people in life we don't know personally but feel a strong connection to nevertheless: James Ira Gurman was a really big one for me.

I regret my timidity in not simply emailing the guy - as I almost did many times - and thanking him for his work, maybe seeing if he'd answer a few questions. I did try & 'friend' him once on Facebook a couple of years ago, and he thanked me for the interest but politely said he was limiting himself to real-life friends. I know he had a history of answering what he felt were erroneous online accounts and commentary about his life, and I hope that, if he ever saw the profile I did on him, he approved of it, at least overall.

What are we left with? The films of course and, for those that knew him personally, the memories. Looking around online, it's strange, and a bit sad, to see the traces he may have left behind -- an old poker account, for instance. Such things are the flotsam and jetsam of our existence online, and all too soon they'll be washed away and disappear.

His love of many years, Chef Zarela Martinez, has put some wonderful photos of Jamie up on her flickr page. A quote atop her restaurant's website reads "Alone one can not share life" -- my thoughts turn largely to her now, the woman Jamie ended his life with, the woman he left porn for, and with whom he finally seemed contented and even happy. I hope that she finds herself surrounded by loved ones, and will continue to share life (and food) for a long time to come.

As to tributes, I will link the best of what I've found thus far. I'm pleased to see so many people recognize what a unique person he was and how lucky the world was to know him. Will the years to come see any kind of in-depth biography*, whether in print or on film? The subject is there, the life lived. Certainly Jamie moved in circles filled with the sort of talent that could make such a project happen; only time will tell now.

Susie Bright's Journal (contains audio interview)
The Blood Spattered Scribe
Gram Potante
Dangerous Minds
Cinema Sewer
John Holmes: Inches
The Blog of Pro-Porn Activism
AV Maniacs Board
The Gore Gore Girl
Alan's Corner
Midnight Fright
Georgina Spelvin
Annie Sprinkle
CJ Laing
Penn Jillette
Randy Squalor
Denise LaFrance
Luc Wylder
Jamye Waxman
Richard Pacheco
AVN again

There's a particularly good quote in this one, ha ha.

And here's another audio interview I just discovered tonight.

*At present, the closest things we have that I'm aware of are probably Metasex #4 and a chapter in Nicolas Barbano's 1999 work Verdens 25 hotteste pornostjerner. Whether Gillis had in fact written memoirs remains to be seen.


Nicolas Barbano said...

It is very sad to learn of the death of Jamie Gillis. I interviewed him at length for my book, and talked to many of his business associates (such as Radley Metzger, who graciously gave me a tour of the New York location where he shot “Barbara Broadcast”, co-starring Gillis). This left me with the impression of Gillis as a performer who deeply and openly explored all corners of his canvas, as you would expect any great artist to do, while remaining a very warm and honest human being. He certainly deserves to be remembered with much respect and affection.

Lisa Be said...

BURYING JAMIE (Part 1 of 3)
Sunday, November 7th, 2010

I waited more than six months before putting online this denunciation of many of the people who were, at one time, my peer group. Both morally and intellectually, I have retreated not an inch from the anger, sadness, profound alienation and gloomy self-awareness which motivated me to employ the written word as catharsis and metamorphosis in this instance. For, I was miserable when I learned Jamie Gillis had been honored, and beyond: my eyes opened. That world of porn really, really was worse than I had ever thought after all, and I was in denial of it for thirty years.
Speaking as a former minor pornographic film star who made about 20 movies in 1980-1981, I was shocked and disgusted to learn that Annie Sprinkle, whom I considered a friendly acquaintance, had held a “wake” for the late Jamie Gillis (who died of cancer recently). I was more shocked and disgusted that 50 people attended.

I worked at the old Melody Burlesk from 1980 to 1985, and like all the other stripper/lap dancers working there, hung out at the bar named Bernard's directly across the street which had the same owners. The strippers found safe haven there, the porn directors whose offices were nearby on Broadway went there to talk business, and the porn stars—male and female—went there to drink and socialize in an atmosphere considered friendly to the X-rated world. In part, the male porn stars went to Bernard’s to try to capitalize on their adult entertainment celebrity and pick up the strippers. Harry Reems was a gentleman, Ron Jeremy was a mensch, Ron Hudd was kind of cool and detached from the point of view of personality but certainly wasn’t dangerous, and though I didn’t care for Paul Thomas’ egotism, he was kind to me on our one night stand. David Morris and I were onstage lovers.

But, all of us knew never to go with Jamie Gillis, whose reputation preceded him; everyone had heard that he was cruel and violent, and liked to lure, then hit, hurt, and humiliate. Only the youngest and most naïve newcomers went off to have private encounters with Jamie, which turned hellish.

To tell the ugly stories I heard about Jamie would be hearsay, and besides, he can’t defend himself (so I won’t tell them). But, the fact that he was sadistic was not exactly a state secret; he practiced not only consensual sadomasochism —as with his partner Serena—but nonconsensual sadism. In a (quote) normal (end quote) S&M relationship, the person playing the bottom has ways of signaling the person playing the top that he (or she) is going too far, and then, it’s the top’s turn to subtly obey, by slowing down. I saw Jamie stop forcing a dildo onto the sides of Serena’s mouth in a movie when her eyes, and also a gentle touch of her hand, informed him that she’d reached the limit of pain she wanted to feel. But, in the movie “900 Fantasy Lane,” in the dungeon scene at the end, a young actress’ face fills the entire screen as she exits, for she has a bruise on her cheek, and she yells at Jamie: “You goddamn bastard!” (No signals honored then.) The insult is real, and wasn’t in the script, and the film editor left it in, just as the director had let the scene proceed. (At least, her physical abuse is documented.) Jamie apparently beat her way beyond the limit of what she thought she was getting paid for.

—Lisa Be,
Harlem, New York City

Lisa Be said...

BURYING JAMIE (Part 2 of 3)
Sunday, November 7th, 2010

Sometimes (but certainly, certainly not all the time) Catherine MacKinnon is right: porn is violence against women, and not after the fact when we debate what effect certain scenes might have on a mentally unstable person in the audience. On very rare occasions, what’s being filmed is an assault in progress.

I thought Annie Sprinkle was a free speech advocate, a voice in the fight against breast cancer, and an environmentalist. Why had she no respect for that actresses’ experience? Was she, when she honored Jamie with a wake, in denial of whom and just what Jamie was? How could she be in denial when she’s been in the X-rated business since she was eighteen? More confounding and disturbing: how could 50 people be in denial of what a shameless, violent woman-hater Jamie was? I have to admit that past a certain point, I myself was a bit corrupted by that cultural milieu, and said some ugly lines in movies I didn’t want to say, and began accepting too much disrespectfulness from directors, managers and customers alike. But, I soon realized that my personality was degenerating and exited that world. So, is it possible that familiarity, over a very long period of time, with an individual who is obviously corrupt, deprives people of the perspective which would be needed to see a bad person as they are? (We may get used to substandard ethical behavior in ourselves; we may get used to bad people outside of ourselves at the same time.)

I learned something from the expert on torture named Darius Rejali recently interviewed on NPR. When a professional in a different walk of life, that is, a journalist, physician, lawyer or politician, witnesses official military personnel practicing torture, why does he or she so rarely take action? One: the sense that he, the witness, is already implicated. Two: peer pressure (a complicity of silence involving everyone there). Three: confusion in the mind of the witness as to whether the person being tortured is really a terrorist (so then, is the torture justified?) or not.

In terms of the porn world, the first two conditions outlined above are sufficient to explain why so many fellow porn stars, directors and film crews in the X-rated world took Jamie’s sadism lightly, and as for the third, some of us suffered honest confusion also—as to whether Jamie was practicing consensual S&M or non-consensual violence (read—whether he was a terrorist or not, but he was). “Why do they not notice the elephant in the room?” Rejali provocatively asks, saying: “it’s the situation, not the disposition, that [may make] us evil.” So, people in the porn world who thought of themselves as quite conscientious could have ignored Jamie’s cruelty. Most people cave in, Rejali notes, but not all.

For veterans of porn, the X-rated world is a Rashomon tale, with some of us looking back with shame and bitterness, others with joy and smiles—like me. Only what is devastating to me about a well-attended wake for Jamie Gillis is that the event tends to validate Catherine Mackinnon’s proposition that the purpose of the porn industry is to subordinate, beat, force and harm female human beings. After all, R. Crumb made pictures of women having their breasts bitten like cheeseburgers and having their thighs carved with knives, only he didn’t do it, he drew it. Jamie really did threaten, subordinate, force, beat, and harm. Did nobody at that ghastly wake remember or care?

Thankfully, some of us porn veterans have a very different ethos than Jamie Gillis. Some of us think the purpose of porn is to provide sexual companionship for lonely people, to provide a direct route to biological gratification through explicit images (not necessarily degrading ones) for those who need some help, to assist couples bored by the commonplaces of their lives together by providing needed sexual stimulation through fantasy material, and, not least, to provide us porn stars with good memories.

—Lisa Be,
Harlem, New York City

Lisa Be said...

BURYING JAMIE (Part 3 of 3)
Sunday, November 7th, 2010

I should like Catherine Mackinnon et al to know: only once was I hurt and degraded in the making of a porn movie; I enjoy remembering almost all the other scenes.

Indeed, most of the time when I was in the X-rated world, I was neither being harmed nor in denial (that is, of my own experience), but wide awake and quite myself—for example, the night in Bernard’s when Jamie Gillis slammed the full weight of his body up against my back and ass as I stood at the bar having a drink, saying: “I heard this was a good place to pick up girls!”
Man, what an intelligent opener, Jamie. You know, I always knew you were a thinker, an original and a Renaissance man.

“Get away from me,” I said reflexively (and he did). I considered his come-on pathetic, I found his sadism disgusting, and I also thought he was hideous, for after all, beauty is as beauty does.

Jamie, I always thought you were a worm, and I’m glad worms are consuming you now. So far as I’m concerned, you probably should have died much sooner, and I know I’m far from alone in thinking so. I hope some testimonials from the numerous sexual partners Jamie Gillis falsely imprisoned and actually injured over the course of many years have the courage to come forward, but being taken advantage of can provoke shame, and the fear of being ridiculed. That has to stop—Right on, Sister.

And Annie Sprinkle, since you honored the predatory emblem of pornography’s Fascist wing, I no longer believe you stand for anything worth considering.

—Lisa Be,
Harlem, New York City