The good, the bad and the better

[OutRage, October 1997)

In the second of a three-part series on gay male video pornography, OutRage video reviewer Rod Pounder makes some suggestions for the gay porn Hall of Fame.

Last month I attempted a general survey of the rise and fall and rise again of the gay male video industry. Some readers have been kind enough to say nice things about what I wrote. I thank them. Others have pointed out various errors and omissions. I thank them, too, though slightly less graciously.

Errors of a certain sort are inevitable in this area. Kristen Bjorn, for example, is not a Scandinavian, as I said, but an American using a Scandinavian pseudonym. But one can only know this if one is plugged into certain levels of video industry gossip which I am not plugged into. I watch the videos and I read some of the industry press, but I am not personally linked to the industry and its various scandals and secrets.

This will become even more obvious this month, when I write about porn video actors. All porn actors use pseudonyms, and most don't want their real names or the details of their personal lives revealed. Journalists should respect this and generally do, even if they know the actors' real names. With a few exceptions, I do not know their real names: living in Australia one is a long way from the circles where porn actors mix, anyway. I did once see Kevin Williams at Sleaze Ball, but I had a date with me!

So I am going to write about porn video actors here as they present themselves to the viewing public, as sexual fantasy objects. I am not going to discuss whatever I may happen to know about their off-camera lives. I am a video critic, not a sociologist. So I don't want letters telling me that so-and-so is dead and so-and-so has AIDS and so-and-so is a drug addict. I know some of these stories, but I don't want to know any more.

I am often asked who the greatest porn video performer of all time is or was. The answer always is of, course, that it depends on what you like. Was Richard Burton a better actor than Marilyn Monroe, or Margaret Rutherford than Macauley Culkin? These are silly questions, because such widely differing talents cannot be compared. So it is with porn actors. If your great turn-on is dominant well-hung bearded daddies, then blond teenage twinks will leave you cold, and vice versa.

There have been thousands of porn videos made, and neither I nor anyone else can claim to have seen more than a fraction of them: one does, after all, have a life away from the VCR. So any selection I may make will inevitably be based on partial knowledge and on my biases. But I have tried to be balanced in my judgements. Al Parker doesn't do a thing for me, for example, but I know size queens the world over drool at his very name, so I have included him. I have left out some of my personal favourites, because I know I have strange tastes.

A final point is that any survey of actors discriminates in favour of Americans and against Europeans. American porn companies, mimicking the Hollywood tradition, give top billing in their videos to actors, and only secondary credits to directors, most of whom remain shadowy figures, and probably just as well. The European directors consider themselves auteurs, and give top billing to themselves. Jean-Daniel Cadinot, for example, uses a different set of actors in each film: the only link being his own directorial stamp. Johan Paulik (of whom much more in a minute) is the first genuine European porn star.

So let's begin by trying to answer the question above: who is (or was) the best porn actor of all time? Taking my own advice, I will divide the field into two categories: Best Top and Best Bottom. Most porn actors fall into one or either category, though some are completely versatile. Being a good top and being a good bottom are completely different talents, each deserving of recognition in its own right. But since tops call the shots, I will give them first billing.

Best top of all time: Chad Douglas

There may be some surprise that Jeff Stryker is not automatic choice here: more of why not shortly. My winner is Chad Douglas, who was, in my opinion, everything a really star-quality top should be: mature, tall, dark and (after a fashion) handsome, hairy and powerfully built, stupendously hung, almost completely silent (there is nothing worse than a top who opens his mouth and spoils the fantasy by talking about curtain fabrics). Chad was no great actor. His performances were somewhat one-dimensional: he came, he grunted, he fucked, he grunted again, he left.

But oh what fucking! When Chad got going, he was almost painful to watch. A man with a genuinely big cock (not just clever camera angles), always rock-hard, Chad fucked with a concentrated savagery that made the viewer's eyes water: god knows what it did for his co-stars. Only actors very sure of their ability to take really big ones really hard got into the ring with Chad. Sadly he seems now to have retired, but his immortal performances live on.

Best seen in: Big Guns, a quite eye-popping performance with Kevin Wiles. Chad fucks Kevin's bubble butt in every position except hanging by his ankles. Splash Shots II, with Leigh Ericson and then Jamie Landon. Another amazing performance: Jamie can hardly stand up afterwards. In Yours Wildest Dreams, with Kevin Williams (see next).

Best bottom of all time: Kevin Williams

It breaks my heart not to give this award to Chad Knight. Chad, you know I love you, but there was one greater than you, and his name was Kevin Williams. Kevin was the ultimate blond twink, blue-eyed and fresh-faced, with a cheery smile and a gorgeous little body. He could even act! But his best attribute was his butt: firm and round and snowy white, shaved so smooth you could eat your breakfast off it.

And could this boy take it! Kevin specialised in playing the wide-eyed innocent, but once his Calvins were down, he revealed a receptive talent clearly born of great experience. Kevin was a pretty mean cocksucker as well, but this was always just a warmup to the main event. He took whatever was going with scarcely a blink, cooing and gurgling with delight. "I didn't think I'd like it but I love it!" he says in one scene, and obviously he does.

Best seen in: Big Guns (again), with Mike Henson, a classic seduction scene. Out of Bounds, with Jim Pulver (as in pulverised, get it?). This one also featured Kevin's equally fuckable brother, Chris. In Your Wildest Dreams, with Chad Douglas. Yes, the Greatest Top and the Greatest Bottom did a scene together! Chad was the gym instructor, Kevin the willing pupil. Kevin almost meets his match with Chad's massive honker, but he's a brave boy and it all goes in! Chad is his usual merciless self. This scene is burned in the memory of every viewer.

Other memorable tops

Good tops are few and far between, in video as in real life. The early William Higgins films brought us the talents of Rick 'Humungous' Donovan and Michael Christopher (memorably seen porking a long-forgotten twink or two in Printers Devils). The earlier Falcon films gave us the surly Italian Georgio Canali, absolutely ruthless with Jim Bentley in Splash Shots I. The bearded and aggressive Al Parker ruled the roost in Inches and The Other Side of Aspen. The Huge Video series featured such hard hitters as Tony Stefano, Tom Brock and Jim Pulver in titles such as Inch by Inch and Like a Horse. Then there was Mark Jennings, also known as Dan Parks, not much to look at but hugely hung and a powerful performer in films like Popular Mechanics.

If size alone is your main criterion, Rick Donovan was hard to beat, but he always had some trouble keeping it up. He recently made a comeback, still as big as ever, in Falcon's The Big Ones, co-starring with Josh Taylor. Currently, Cody James and Kevin Dean are at the top of the league sizewise, though both have baby-faced looks that don't really go with their monster endowments, and Kevin is not strictly a top. But the best of all is Dick "13 Inches" Masters, whose nickname appears to be nothing but the truth. Watch Rick Coleman sit on his huge honker in Falcon's Manrammer and you'll know the meaning of suffering.

But what about Jeff Stryker? Well, Jeff certainly is hugely hung, and his performances in films like Powertool and Stryker Force are certainly memorable. But I've never liked his looks, nor his attitude, nor his unstated but obvious dislike of gay men (he does straight porn, too). And it's well-known that he has to stand on a stool to look as tall as any of his costars. I consider this cheating: tops are supposed to be tall, dark and handsome, and Jeff is only dark. So no prizes for Jeff. Many will disagree with this admittedly subjective view, as is their right. If you want to sue me, join the queue.

Other spectacular bottoms

All of Jean-Daniel Cadinot's videos feature gorgeous French boys who have quite mouthwatering derrieres and know how to use them, but none has been allowed to attain star status. My favourites are Friedrich Saxe in La Maison Bleue, Didier Hamel in the rather disturbing Les Minets Sauvage (warning: very realistic rape scenes!), Eric Vespucci in Corps d'Elite and Les Minets de l'Info, the charming Alexandre del Faro in Charmants Cousins and Pierre Buisson in All of Me. Pierre is the only porn star to have become a literary icon, featuring in Dennis Cooper's nasty little novel Frisk.

Back in Hollywood, Chris Williams, alleged brother of Kevin, certainly deserves mention. His scenes in Out of Bounds are nearly as good as Kevin's, and he is also memorable in Spokes II. In this one he stars with Casey Jordan, the best of a long line of bubble-butted blond bottoms, seen to his best advantage in Perfect Summer. Casey is still making videos, but his looks have (in my opinion) not held up as well as his physique. In the golden age of Falcon, Jeff Quinn was the best bottom in the business, all the more so because of his all-American good looks. He is best seen in Splash Shots II, Big Guns and Inch by Inch. The legendary Jon King must also get a mention, if only for the classic These Bases are Loaded.

If sheer physical beauty is what you want, the late, great Kurt Marshall should still rule your heart, as he does mine. This curly-headed, radiantly beautiful blond combined angelic looks with a slutty sexuality in a way that I for one found quite irresistible. Savour his scene with the tennis coach in Splash Shots to see what I mean. For looks of a different kind, the dark latino beauty of Domino was hard to beat. He takes on the powerfully hung Rex Chandler in Manrammer, and also features in Bjorn's Manhattan Latin, though he doesn't get fucked there.

Some fine all-rounders

Not all actors can be classed as either tops or bottoms, and it would be unfair to leave out those who were equally at home giving or getting. Chief among these were two of the biggest stars of the Golden Age, Kip Noll and Leo Ford. Kip and Leo starred in a string of Higgins titles in the early '80s, mostly set outdoors in California or Hawaii. Both went top or bottom with equal enthusiasm, though I think Leo preferred bottom (he certainly liked a big load all over him). See Leo in the original Spokes or the charming Leo and Lance. Another great performer of that period was Bobby Madison, a small but perfectly formed, and hugely hung, young performer whose you-do-me-and-I'll-do you scene with Ken Colbert in Higgins's Pipeline was one of the hottest ever filmed.

The best of the current crop

Most of those mentioned above have been absent from videomaking, for one reason or another, for some time. Recently, three of the greatest stars of the '90s, Christian Fox, Joey Stefano and Matt Gunther, have died, leaving the ranks of working superstars somewhat depleted. Joey Stefano, the self-styled Hollywood Pussyboy and friend of Madonna, was the subject of a recent book, Wonder Bread and Ecstasy. Both he and Christian were talented bottoms, while Matt Gunther was versatile. For a wonderful three-way with Christian on the bottom, see Falcon's Summer Fever. Both Joey and Matt star in the excellent Idol Eyes, where they outshine the rather over-rated star, Ryan Idol.

Of current tops, all the best ones seem to be at Falcon. The enormously hung Brad Stone and Australia's own Sean "Footlong" Davis star with Christian Fox in Summer Fever, while Matthew Brannon is superb in Midnight Run. Hal Rockland is a powerful top in Flashpoint. Trevor Hansen stars in Buttbusters and Someone's Watching. Trent Reed is very mean in Billy's Tale, while the blond godling Drew Nolan is star top in Possession, despite his boyish looks. Devyn Foster is quite gorgeous in his starring role in Vivid's Centre Spread and other titles. Brett Winters is another boyish top currently appearing in many videos. But I have to say none of them are in Chad Douglas or Rick Donovan's class.

But for bottoms, this is a new golden age, since it is the age of Chad Knight and Johan Paulik. Neither is strictly speaking a bottom, since both go top if required (Johan more than Chad) but both are at their best taking a big one where it feels best. Chad is a hardworking boy and has made a long string of titles. He is best seen in Buttbusters with Matt Gunther (also starring the insatiable blond muscle-bottom Steve Fox) and Someone's Watching, in an almost unbearably good poolside scene with Scott Hogan. The very talented and versatile Dkota is also in this one. Johan is of course the star of the Bel Ami titles, Lukas' Story I , II and III , Frisky Summer and many others. In my opinion he outshines Lukas Ridgestone, the title boy of the Bel Ami trio, for looks, charm and talent. But that, like everything else here, is a matter of opinion.