Pride Time #4: gay porn and gay bioflicks

In recent U.S. mail, a flyer for Falcon Studios (now in Berkeley CA), announcing the ambitious, elaborately plotted gay porn flick Earthbound: Heaven to Hell 2, with a large cast, including (in a key role) Brent Corrigan. Corrigan leads to the recent movie King Cobra, a dramatization of his life story; which leads to James Franco, who played a major character in that movie; Franco leads to the movie Milk (a dramatization of the life of Harvey Milk), in which both Franco and Corrigan have roles; then on to the movie Howl, in which Franco plays Allen Ginsberg; along the way, these three gay bioflicks take me to the topic of fictobiography, memory, and fidelity.

(Warning: discussion of men’s bodies and mansex in street language, plus sexy, though not technically X-rated, photos. So not for kids or the sexually modest.)

Earthbound. X-rated photos are in a posting on AZBlogX: the cover of the DVD; one shot each from six episodes, with Brent Corrigan fucking Skyy Knox in the last; plus two shots of Corrigan getting fucked (with wonderful facial expressions), by Sean Zevran in 2014 and by Theo Ford in 2015; and a full-frontal body display by Knox. The cover photo, cropped to conceal those pesky pornstar dicks:

(#1)

The Falcon Studios’ wonderfully overwrought ad copy:

12 years ago…Falcon Studios released Heaven To Hell, one of the most talked-about and successful gay porn movies of all time. An epic story of good versus evil finally continues in Earthbound: Heaven to Hell 2…

The Master of the Underworld rules with a harsh hand and his soulless Dark Angels do his evil bidding. Dark Angel Rogue refuses to accept this fate and escapes to the world above, making him Earthbound. He finds that Earth is just as dark and unforgiving, but he discovers that the only way to escape his eternal hell is to find true love. Rogue’s ray of goodness reveals himself in the most unlikely form: a male erotic dancer named Lucky. Meanwhile the Master of the Underworld has unleashed his Dark Angels on a mission to retrieve his Rogue.

Human kindness is put to the test as lust and desire fuel the suspense in this highly stylized, erotic, XXX thriller where sex is king but love conquers all!

Some major characters:

(#2)

Lucky is played by Brent Corrigan. His Falcon model information file:

(#3)

Brent Corrigan/Sean Lockhart (hereafter, C/L). The Wikipedia entry, which is not terribly illuminating:

Sean Paul Lockhart (born October 31, 1986) is an American film actor and director, known for Milk (2008), Judas Kiss (2011), and Triple Crossed (2013).

Lockhart’s career started as a gay pornographic film actor mostly using the stage name of Brent Corrigan, except in The Velvet Mafia parts 1 and 2 (2006) and Best of Roman Heart (2008) in which he used the stage name Fox Ryder. In 2010, he left porn to focus almost exclusively on gay-themed movies and indie films, such as Judas Kiss, Sister Mary, Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild!, Welcome to New York, and others.

C/L’s initial career in porn was extensive, and he returned to the business in 2014. Then there’s the wild part of the story, which is omitted from the Wikipedia piece (probably by C/L’s doing); I’ll get to it in a moment. First, two photos that suggest C/L’s porn appeal.

C/L, more or less clothed, looking cute:

(#4)

C/L, even less clothed, looking young, lean, and hung:

(#5)

Fictobiography: the story of (part of) a life made into a fiction: a short story, a novel, a play, an opera, a musical, a film (a drama, a comedy, or a musical). All biographical works involve focusing on some material over others and weaving this material into a story with a point of view, but a fictobiographer has great freedom to make what is known about a life into a coherent work of art, filling in things that are not known and shaping a better narrative by altering details both small and large, omitting much of the messiness of real lives, and adding characters and events.

The result is always, inevitably, unsatisfying to almost everyone who knows something about the people involved and the events of their lives. It will strike them as false in many ways, even outrageously false. Despite this, fictobiographies can be great tales and can in fact illuminate personalities and events.

Things are in fact more tenuous than this, because so much of the material from which fictobiography is composed is first-person reports and memories, both of which are subject to extraordinary distortions — a topic I post about here every so often, as in my 6/26/10 posting “Memory and fictobiography”.

King Cobra. The first of the three gay bioflicks. From Wikipedia, a minimal description:

(#6)

King Cobra is a 2016 American biographical crime-drama film about the life and early career of Brent Corrigan. It was directed by Justin Kelly and was based on the book Cobra Killer: Gay Porn, Murder, and the Manhunt to Bring the Killers to Justice by Andrew E. Stoner and Peter A. Conway. The film was released on October 21, 2016, by IFC Midnight.

The film centers on the 2007 murder of gay porn producer Bryan Kocis (named “Stephen” in the film and played by Christian Slater) by two aspiring producers (James Franco as Joe and Keegan Allen as Harlow) who wanted to buy out Corrigan’s performing contract.

Franco is the big star name, but Garrett Clayton as C/L is the center of the film. C/L himself disliked the project. From Out magazine 10/21/15, “Brent Corrigan Responds to King Cobra Craze: The adult film star is not happy about Franco’s movie” by Glenn Garner:

The Internet recently went crazy over James Franco’s new queer-bait project, King Cobra. Franco posted a revealing photo of himself and Keegan Allen in Nasty Pig underwear shortly after Molly Ringwald and Christian Slater took a selfie as castmates. Today, Garrett Clayton posted a photo of himself scantily clad in his costume.

(#7)

Allen + Franco, in Nasty Pig wear

(#8)

Real-life C/L on the left, Clayton on the right

The porn biopic is about the murder of Cobra Video owner Bryan Kocis (Slater) at the hands of rival producers/pornstars, Harlow Cuadra and Joseph Kerekes. Their homicidal plot was an effort to steal Cobra’s star, Brent Corrigan (Clayton), who was in a legal battle with Cobra at the time regarding his being underage.

… One person not crazy about Franco’s new film is Corrigan himself. The pornstar posted a statement to Facebook about his refusal to be a part of the film and plans for his own version of the story

A year later (10/3/16), a story on the Queerty site, “Brent Corrigan Thinks James Franco’s “King Cobra” Demonstrates “Contempt” For Queer Culture” by Derek de Koff:

In case you missed it the first time, Brent Corrigan has reiterated that he doesn’t at all approve of James Franco‘s King Cobra.

Based on Corrigan’s porn career and deeply bizarre relationship with Cobra Video founder Bryan Kocis, the film received its first official US trailer last week and is finally coming to theaters on October 21.

In response to a Twitter fan asking about the veracity of the film, Corrigan said, “No true telling about it. Not approved by me. It tells a story with contempt for queer culture & mockery for porn.”

He also claims the film makes a “mockery” of the gay adult film industry.

The story involves C/L lying about his age to get work in gay porn and the underage C/L involved sexually with the boy-obsessed Kocis. You can certainly argue that 18 is too high an age of consent for sexual relations and for porn acting, but neither the ambitious and seductive C/L nor the manipulative obsessive Kocis comes off well in this part of the story. On the other hand, showing that on film is scarcely an indictment of the gay porn industry or queer culture, any more than it is a wholesale indictment of the movie industry or sex in American culture. This part of the story is sad but familiar.

The rest of the story, involving Cuadra and Kerekes and their incomprehensibly vicious murder of Kocis, is truly shocking. The murderers are gay and in the porn industry, but the motive for the murder seems to have been money — so this part of the story counts as an indictment of queer culture and the gay porn industry only if you understand the events as involving psycho homo killers, those mainstays of movie mythos — an interpretation that some commenters have in fact embraced.

The basics of the events in this part of the story are not in dispute, but their interpretation is. Remarkably stupid greedy murderers? Or monstrous faggots on a bloody rampage? I see King Cobra as built on the first interpretation, but some see the second.

I don’t see the monstrous faggot interpretation in the movie, or in Cobra Killer, the Stoner and Conway book the film was based on. Nothing from Justin Kelly, the writer and director of the movie, or the principal actors suggests otherwise, but if you find the figure of the Psycho Homo Killer compelling, well then, there you are.

Harvey Milk. More appalling murder, also in recent times, but now with very substantial documentation, of many kinds, about the central figure. About the film, from Wikipedia:

(#9)

Milk is a 2008 American biographical film based on the life of gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk, who was the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California, as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Directed by Gus Van Sant and written by Dustin Lance Black, the film stars Sean Penn as Milk and Josh Brolin as Dan White, a city supervisor who assassinated Milk and Mayor George Moscone [in 1978]. The film was released to much acclaim and earned numerous accolades from film critics and guilds. Ultimately, it received eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, winning two for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Penn and Best Original Screenplay for Black.

… The film flashes back to New York City in 1970, the eve of Milk’s 40th birthday and his first meeting with his much younger lover, Scott Smith (James Franco).

… [In San Francisco:] Frustrated by the opposition they encounter in the once Irish-Catholic neighborhood, Milk utilizes his background as a businessman to become a gay activist, eventually becoming a mentor for Cleve Jones (Emile Hirsch).

A fine movie, with a stunning performance by Sean Penn. But of course it messes with the facts in ways large and small, to make a better story, and most of the dialogue is invented. (Several of my gay friends complain in particular about the outsize role given to the Cleve Jones character.)

(C/L does indeed act in the movie, but in a role much smaller than the listing in his Wikipedia entry would suggest: the character Telephone Tree #3.)

Well, you say, Milk was based on an award-winning documentary about Harvey Milk; surely the documentary is factual. Yes, but… From Wikipedia:

(#10)

The Times of Harvey Milk is a 1984 American documentary film that premiered at the Telluride Film Festival, the New York Film Festival, and then on November 1, 1984 at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco. The film was directed by Rob Epstein, produced by Richard Schmiechen, and narrated by Harvey Fierstein, with an original score by Mark Isham.

… The film was produced after Milk’s death using original interviews, exclusive documentary footage, news reports, and archival footage, so that Milk is credited as the lead (posthumously). Other politicians including San Francisco mayor George Moscone (who was assassinated with Milk), and Moscone’s successor and now United States Senator Dianne Feinstein appear in archival footage. The movie opens with a tearful Feinstein delivering her announcement to the media that Moscone and Milk had been assassinated by Dan White.

Also featured in the film is schoolteacher Tom Ammiano, who would go on to be a member of the California State Assembly.

… The film won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1984

Now I should tell you that it took the film-makers six years to put the documentary together (and others were laboring during this time to assemble funding for the project; financing documentaries is a nightmare). The fine film that you now see is the result of a huge project of collection and winnowing, guided by the film-makers’ take on the personalities and events. Others might have made it into a sad story about Dan White, or an attack on LGBT people wresting political power for their community, or a reflection on justice. Instead, it’s about Harvey Milk, a character who’s passionate, charismatic, canny, and heroic — also sometimes really irritating (he had his hysterical queen moments).

James Franco has taken us through two gay bioflicks. Now, a third, but without C/L:

Allen Ginsberg. From my 3/6/11 posting “Obscenity and literary merit”:

Yesterday’s viewing: the 2010 movie Howl, an evocation of an era and a celebration of Allen Ginsberg, with stunning performances, notably by James Franco as Ginsberg. The film interleaves three stories: a dramatization of the 1957 U.S. trial of Lawrence Ferlinghetti (of City Lights Books) for publishing obscenity; the story of Ginsberg’s life up to that point (especially the episodes that are transformed in the poem); and an animation of the poem.

Often described as an “experimental film” it combines two pieces of fictobiography (retelling Ferlinghetti’s trial and Ginsberg’s life story) with an animated dramatization of a poem (which is itself autobiographical to some degree).

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