For this review, Judge Brett Cullum hosts the...um...biggest, longest, and hardest roundtable in Verdict history.
Sex—Life in L.A. Part 2: Cycles of Porn is a documentary following the lives of two generations of gay porn stars in Los Angeles. Half the film details what life is like for several of the subjects seen in the first film, Sex—Life in L.A., who are out of the business, and the other half concerns several guys currently working in the industry. As you can imagine, a lot has changed since 1997 when the first film was started. No need to have seen the first installment, but it will help you be familiar with the older subjects like Cole Tucker and Kevin Kramer. Fortunately this second chapter gives you enough of their backstory to catch up easily. New participants include a group of young hunks hoping to get noticed by living in a hotel with webcams on them all the time, and a group producing "bare back" features out in Palm Springs. Sex—Life in L.A. Part 2: Cycles of Porn is not rated by the MPAA. Though it is not pornographic, it does not shy away from showing what these guys do and how they do it.
In the interest of a fair and objective judging by peers, I decided to call in a couple of favors and assemble my own version of a "Supreme Court Review." Joining us in the courtroom today will be several real porn stars who wish to remain somewhat anonymous, so no last names will be used. I worked in broadcast radio back in the '90s, and routinely interviewed porn stars for a rock and roll station, and they're all close personal friends from a past life. So I coordinated a special viewing party in Houston made up of guys and gals who work in the sex industry to help me out with this title. The following is a court transcript of their reactions to the movie after we all viewed it together.
Justice Cullum: So, Jenna. You've been in the porn industry for a while. Did anything shock you about Sex—Life in L.A. Part 2: Cycles of Porn?
Jenna J: To be honest I had never thought the gay porn industry was so different from the straight one. I have been working in heterosexual porn for decades, and here comes this film that is a sequel to a previous documentary released in 1998, right? And surprisingly all the guys who were just starting off back then were essentially done by the start of this film's period in 2002 until 2004. They were all "has beens" inside of less than four years. To me that seems like an awfully short career, and they weren't getting paid much at all. The film showed that poor guy who had to do a live show on the Internet with a dildo for three whole hours. And he got, what? One hundred and fifty dollars? Honey, I wouldn't get down to a g-string for that kind of lousy coin. It must suck to be a male porn star. Whoops! I didn't mean that literally.
Nina H: Sure you didn't. You suck plenty!
Jenna J: Don't start with me, Ms. Sexpert! I just thought it was sad to see these guys used, abused, and then forgotten about. One worked as a video store clerk, one went home to Baton Rogue to be a hairdresser, and one of them died. The whole film shocked me because these guys don't seem to be getting anywhere fast in the business. These guys were big names back only a few years ago. I saw them at the Adult Video News awards accepting Best New Cummer trophies and Gay Adult Video Stars of the year statues. I mean that doll, Kevin Kramer, did a great impersonation of Bette Midler in Going Down And In And Out and In and Out of Beverly Hills. Now only his mother cares?
Justice Cullum: Hey Ron, you look like you're having a thought.
Ron J: I was just glad to see nobody was as hung as me!
Justice Cullum: Funny, I thought the same thing!
Ron J: All right, let's not get cocky in that robe! But I was amazed at how much these guys had to primp and preen. I have a lot of body hair, and I can't imagine having to wax or shave like those guys. And my hat's off to Mr. Cole Tucker who came in to the business at forty-five or however old he was. I probably wouldn't have the guts to try that. I was lucky to be in Playgirl in my twenties. But for a fifty-year-old man, he looks amazing still. And I get tested every week for HIV, and he's been positive his whole adult life and still was a porn star at the top of the industry after admitting that. Wow! That shocked me, because in straight porn your career would be over. It was an amazing story, and one of the more hopeful ones.
Justice Cullum: He went out on top too.
Nina H: Are you sure about that? Be careful honey.
Justice Cullum: Well…at the peak of his career anyway. Damn this double-entendre-laden review!
Ron J: But he obviously had a career before and after his stint in porn. I wonder if I could sell real estate! I met him once, by the way, in Vegas. Sweetest man you ever knew. Nothing like he was on screen, I tell you. A real mensch!
Justice Cullum: It would mean a major lifestyle change for you to sell real estate, Ron. But that guy in Deep Throat, Harry Reams, did that too. And he was in that Girl Meets Girl thing I had to review a while back. Real estate seems to be a hot after-career for porn people who get it together.
Ron J: Oh please! I think it would be easier than chasing after legitimate movie parts all the time.
Nina H: I did Boogie Nights, babe! Not that hard.
Justice Cullum: Ryan, you were "gay for pay" back in the '90s. Did anything shock you about Sex—Life in L.A. Part 2: Cycles of Porn?
Ryan I: I was shocked to see how these nineteen- and twenty-year-old kids got into porn by living in a house which had web cams all over it. I can tell you, when I did my first movie I even had a "stunt dick" to do anything involving that area, if you know what I mean. These guys have to be the real thing twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week. I wouldn't have been able to do it, because reality is selling more than fantasy now. It used to be you could fake it, now you can't.
Jenna J: Oh please, I fake it all the time and people swear it's real. Guys can't tell!
Nina H: They can't?
Ryan I: No, I mean I was a straight man in porn faking sex with other guys and nobody minded back then. The illusion was hot. But now these guys are there on the Internet, living in a house where strangers can ask them to do anything, and they have to do it on the spot. You can't fake an erection like I could with Viagra or the shots. They are living what I pretended to do, and that's hard, man. That can't be healthy to have people watching you all the time. It was like gay pornographic Survivor.
Justice Cullum: Thanks, Ryan. Now I've got Richard Hatch in my head. Not pretty! Was anyone else shocked about the lack of condoms when they showed the bare backing company? Anyone find that offensive?
Jenna J: I could see how it could be, but straight porn still to this day does not always use condoms. And I can see how some people find that a turnoff in their fantasy life. I mean you rent a porn, and it's latex?!?! I'm sure there's a market for anything, and it's not illegal.
Nina H: Well, not after that Supreme Court case it isn't.
Jenna J: Right, but you know what I mean? Sex is natural, and these guys are seen as outlaws.
Justice Cullum: I think some people see it as a health risk and irresponsible. Maybe Hot Desert Knights is glorifying an unsafe practice, and maybe this documentary is too.
Jenna J: Yes, but they are consenting adults. And it was interesting that they were the company using all the older guys. And what about that scene where the guy had trouble finishing? He took TWO days and still couldn't quite deliver the money shot! And here they were documenting it on film.
Nina H: I was laughing so hard!
Ron J: Never had that problem!
Ryan I: I did. There's no shame.
Justice Cullum: Okay, no good can come of this. Let's summarize. Good movie?
Jenna J: Lots of naked men bareing their souls. Gotta love that!
Nina H: No good tips on getting in the business, but great lessons about what it does to people who don't know what they are getting in to. There's a lesson in there somewhere. I guess it would be "know who you are before you try something like moving to L.A. and getting in with the sex industry."
Ron J: I appreciated the even-handedness of it. No judgment. Just straight up people talking about their lives in and out of the business. Some were fine, some were dead. Life happens to the best of us I guess. But I was shocked at how much it showed as far as actual porn shoots and intimate moments. Very X-rated. Not for the prude or squeamish. I mean that guy with the huge hand-shaped thing up in his…um…
Ryan I: It's brutal, it's frank, it's raw. But do we care? I mean unless you know these guys, it's going to be hard to have sympathy. Do people even know porn star names? I always get people saying, "Were you a model? You look familiar." And they blush when I tell them it's only because I'm dressed they don't recognize me. But if you don't care about porn or porn stars, this is not a good title for you. If you do, send me cash. I could use it!
Justice Cullum: Sound, picture, extras?
Nina H: Good old fashioned HD digital makes things so clear. Fullscreen? I hate, because width is important to a girl like me. Nice presentation. Stereo sound was clear. I could hear it when that guy was jerking off. If only we had surround sound!
Ryan I: Let's not go there. Only extra was the interview with the German director. Not much at only fifteen minutes, but a nice capper to the piece. Just don't watch it until after the movie—it ruins the surprise of what happens to everyone.
Jenna J: I like how it's a sequel, but you don't have to see the first one. They summarize the state of the gay porn industry today quite nicely. Why can't there be one for us straight sex workers? But I left the picture absolutely loving Kevin Kramer and Cole Tucker. They should e-mail me through you at your little site here. I would hang out with them!
Justice Cullum: Thank you all for participating, and I think that does it for us here in the Blue Room of the DVD Verdict complex. I'd say this title is one of the riskiest things we've ever reviewed, but I thank you all for being so tactile…I mean tactful. Someone get Michael Jackson on the phone…
Nina H: Gross…why?
Justice Cullum: Not that Michael Jackson! The one that runs this site. Tell him I think I may have finally written a review that ID Lube or that KY Warming stuff would pay for an advertising banner on.
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