LATE NIGHT LAVENDER

LATE NIGHT LAVENDER

Thursday, November 19, 2009

JOEY STEELE: INTERVIEW WITH THE SEX STAR



JOEY STEELE: INTERVIEW WITH THE SEX STAR

     In person, the 6'2" Joey Steele makes a striking appearance.   However, his long hair, slender physique, absence of tattoos or piercings, and a persona that seems more European than American doesn't strike one as being the "look" of a porn star in a biz that's currently dominated by twinks and "bad boy" types.  Nevertheless, Mr. Steele is one of the busiest performers in the adult entertainment biz today.  More than just performing in videos, he's also a prolific producer of erotic video and photo work.  Steele travels all over the country for photo shoots and live appearances at clubs, events, and adult bookstores.  When we met on a mild Sunday night in Manhattan, he had just come back from a special appearance at SBNY, where he was one of the original "shower dancers" years earlier when the club was still Splash.  As a model, Steele also does a great deal of mainstream photography.  In all his projects, he's serious about the aesthetic and artistic qualities of the work, revealing some provocative as well as hilarious insights. We may laugh at how supermodels talk about how "hard" their work is (standing for hours, burning under hot lights...), but there's a partial truth to it.  It only looks easy!  Steele recalls one photo session where he was being shot while climbing up a water tower in downtown NYC, naked.  That shot meant hanging-- not just hanging out-- all day to get that beautiful image just right. (See photo.) But, as Steele recalls, the end result was worth it.   Joey and I spoke about his career and his upcoming appearance in Chuck Cannon's "Homo Erotics"-- a "gay porn choreopoem with music", in New York City's Crowne Theater on December 6th.

JR: Hi Joey!  Congratulations about the upcoming show.
JS: Thanks!

JR: One of the first things I noticed about your career is that you don't work with the major adult film studios.
JS: I used to... and, every once in a while, I'll still do a studio project. But, I learned a long time ago that the real money is in owning your own material.  For example, in terms of print photo material, I own tens of thousands of photos of myself from shoots that I've either bought outright or have negotiated the rights for.  What I'm concentrating on now is producing my own material, my fan membership sites, distributing it through the web, and selling it to other sites.  DVD's and videos are dead anyway.  You can download everything!  Distribution that way is very expensive, and the market keeps shrinking.  That's happening with print media too.  Everything's digital, everything's online.  So if you're not doing that, and not out there online, and not producing for the web-- whether it's still photos or live action-- then you're not gonna be anywhere.  But the one interesting thing is what I call "multiple leverage" in terms of being across the web.  Once you create material, it can grow legs, and you can re-sell that material on and on and on... whether it's clips, feature length, stills, print, or what have you.  So, that's what my interest is right now.  Look at the example of a certain performer who has a lifetime contract with a Falcon Studios.  He doesn't own his material.  He's basically a slave to the DVD production and what not.  Falcon is slowly but surely moving to the web.  Slowly!  But, they're all gonna have to do that.  Because, no one is really gonna be going to a video store.

JR: I still do! (Laughs)
JS: In a few years, they're gonna disappear.  It's like "Playgirl".  "Playgirl" is online now. "Men" Magazine is online now.  I mean, no one is buying the actual magazine as much anymore.  That's all gonna disappear.  I do a lot of artistic projects too.  I generally get shot for fine art or fine art photography.  I think it's almost like a novelty-- an up-and-coming thing for more and more porn stars: appearing on runways or other kinds of shows, and putting in personal appearances.  There's a real interest in doing portraiture of adult film stars.  It's a big seller, and it's very lucrative to sit for portraits.  I'm usually hanging in a few galleries upstate and in Canada. (Laughs)  But that's primarily where my focus is now, and of course I still do events constantly.  I'll look at anything anyone sends me, just to see what it is.  I do find that the days of shooting video for DVD distribution and all those kinds of things pretty much is dead.  I remember shooting five films in two days once.  It nearly killed me!  But, that's all going away.  Performers need to adjust to that, and certainly need to take control of their own material.  On my site, I own everything.

JR: You also recruit models for photo and video work, right?.
JS: I work with a stable of pros, including Diego Santana and a few other professionals. I also do recruit new talent.  The thing that I find is that people are trying to get into the industry need to be worked out and trained.  I've had a lot of people go through me that have ended up going on to other labels.   Michael Lucas and I have shared a number of people! (Laughs Brandon Aguilar started with me, then went on to Lucas Entertainment, then he's gone on to other things.  Kyle Douglas is another one.

JR: What do you look for in the guys that come to you?  Is it a specific look, or personality, or that they have a big dick...? (Laughs)

JS: I'm actually not a size queen! (Both laugh)  Sanity helps!  That's one thing.  But generally, I look whether there's something about him where the whole look works together, and there's something interesting and different about him.  The thing that's been true of my career, and of anyone that's gonna make it in the industry, is that you have to be different.  If you're the blond bodybuilder type and surfer boy... they're a dime a dozen.  You'll get some work.  But I'm more interested in getting somebody who has more of a unique look or something about them that might actually have longevity.  All the people who have been around a long time are very unique.  Mike Dreyden is a good example.  He's not like every other guy who's out there.  That's the thing I look for.  Because, the other thing is: What people are looking for in terms of my fan base, they want to see me with something different every time in some way.  What is it about this guy that's different?  I've shot with Gary Plenty like six times over the past five years or so, and he's primarily a straight performer.  What's unique about him is that he's black but he's "carypso"-- from the Caribbean.  So, he's a little bit different. Very ripped body and that kind of thing... but what makes him unique is that I'm the only gay performer he performs with.

JR: That must be a big turn-on for the audience, because it blurs that line of sexuality. He's straight but he performs with men.

JS: Absolutely.  Another one is Joe Unity.
JR: "Joe Unity"?  He sounds very all-American.
JS.  You're right.  He's a totally straight performer.  And yet I've fucked him on film.  So, I look at what's different, what's got an edge.  Also, I generally pay better than most of competitors.  I go out and actively try to recruit people.  I'll look at any and all talent that submits.  I do interview heavily before I actually work with someone.  You want to feel out their motivations for doing this.  A lot of people have a fantasy of doing it, which is very different from reality.  Some people just want to be like, "I want to do a porn film to say 'I did that!'"  That's something they probably fantasize about when they're watching a video.  So, that's something you have to sort out.  I really only want to work with people who at least have some kind of career motivation, even if it's only for a short time... but not like a one-time fantasy thing.  Generally, what I find in that case is that the shoot's not gonna be good.  I've been lucky.  I've worked with a lot of good people, a lot of good photographers and videographers.  Right now I actually have a couple of newbies who might have some potential.  We'll see.  I do screen them.  I just interviewed one.  He's 21, straight, wants to have a modeling and porn career, very good "look"... but he has an arrest record! (Both laugh)  You get all kinds.  We'll see...

JR: I'm sure that would be a big turn-on for some!  He's got "street cred".  While we're on the subject of looks, it struck me that you have a very unique look yourself.  Do you feel that there's a certain "look" that's popular in porn and that you break away from it?

JS: There's a certain standard look that I call "the turnstile look".  It's a revolving door of what they think people want.  That could be the "jock next door" look or whatever you want to call it.  But, just as we've seen happen in the industry, we have more interracial, more fetish and all that kind of thing.  Anyone who lasts has something different about them.  For example, with my look, or even in the case of Manuel Torres or someone... you'll stand out because you don't look like everyone else.  It will take a little bit longer to build up that type of fan base, but I've learned that there's much more of an interest in you by photographers.  In Europe, I'm actually quite big.  The market's a lot wider than it used to be because of the web.  So, you can have global appeal if you have a look that appeals beyond a certain segment.  I'll pick on them a little bit: Catalina Video.
JR: Are they still making movies?
JS: Sort of! 
JR: I remember how in all their ads, all their models no body hair, and they all oiled themselves up.  So, when I hear "Catalina", I think of guys with very greasy bodies.
JS: Now, name any of their performers...
(I really think hard but can't think of any names, then finally one name comes up...)
JR: I do remember one... "Beau Beaumont" was his name.  Don't tell me you knew him!...

JS: (Laughs)  I don't know Beau Beaumont.  But that is a lot of it.  You need to be memorable.  Jake Deckard-- I've known him for years.  He's got a great body and decent face and everything, but he's not somebody that fits a norm or stereotype as a "porn star".  But, he's been around and has had name recognition for decades.

JR: Wow!  So, what is more satisfying for you-- still photography or video?
JS: Creatively, it' s still photography... because you can actually create something that's more "capturing the moment."  Video sells... and it's fun!  But photography is really more where the creativity is.  You're setting up the shot, and getting a certain thing.  Generally, whenever I shoot film, there's always a certain amount of still photography mixed in.  Even on my fan site, there's always a photo gallery as well as video-- never just one or the other.  Will still images, you get something much more interesting than you do with video.  Plus, you can do a lot of things with photography to get a certain image: body paint, or a special effect...  That's always been where my passion has been.  I'm lucky that through all these years, a lot of photographers seek me out and want to shoot me... and they usually pitch some kind of idea or concept.

JR: What do you feel has been your biggest contribution to the adult film business?  Or, put another way, what makes Joey Steele different from the other performers: Is it your look, your persona, your attitude towards sexuality?...
JS: That's a very interesting question! My God, I'm gonna sound like Dustin Hoffman, but here it goes: I've been told that I've been the "porn star for porn stars".
JR: Really?
JS: I think that's mostly just because I do tend to try to take it up a notch in terms of artistry.  I do focus more on photography.  I think that the body of work that I have out there just in terms of images is enormous, compared to a lot of guys in the business.  They have their centerfolds, spreads, publicity shots, videos, and stuff... but they haven't actually cultivated and pro-actively tried to create a large portfolio of photographic material, or worked with a lot of different photographers.  They just haven't done that.  I think that I'm one of the few that has a body of work out there that is significant.  I hope more guys in the industry do that.  I've gotten to know Peter Berlin, which has been very flattering.  That was his thing... creating an iconographic body of work.
JR: He liked to photograph himself, right?
JS: Yes.  I don't photograph myself, at least!  I'm also much more of a regular on the club circuit than the other guys.  I think I'm much more approachable than most of the people in the business.  I'll do things for charity, I'll be out and about, I still do a lot of mainstream stuff.  But, I think that's the thing that's so different about me: the body of work.    

JR: What can audience members expect from the upcoming "Homo Erotics"?

JS: For me, it's almost like a return to what male burlesque used to be, a part of New York that's gone away.  It's taking it back to what it was, when there were a lot of live sex shows.  That was "so New York" at one time.  It was really thumbing our noses and really putting people's face in it, back to the days of "We're here, we're queer" and that bkind of thing.  Live sex shows were a big part of that: pushing the envelope.  So for me, a lot of it is seeing me back doing something I used to do.  But hopefully, it may start to open the door to bringing that whole part of New York gay life back.  Personally, I love Grant (Grant Philipo, a former New Yorker who launched a "Gaiety"-style male burlesque in Las Vegas), but we shouldn't let Vegas have all the fun! Come on! New York's always been the firebrand city.  The fact that we don't have these things anymore is a little strange!

Joey Steele can be seen live in "Homo Erotics" at the Crowne Theater on December 6th

Homo Erotics
A Gay Porn Choreopoem with Music
Sunday, December 6th
2PM, 4:30PM, 7PM
The Crowne Theater at The Producer's Club Theater
358 W. 44th St.
$30
For reservations call (302)224-0598
or e-mail Chuck at chuckcan2002us@yahoo.com
(Note: This show contains nudity and sexual situations.  21 and over only!)

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