Short stories and essays by Shaun Costello, as well as excerpts from manuscripts in progress.

Posts tagged “Porn

A LETTER TO LAURA HELEN MARKS

(I recently came across a letter I wrote to Laura Helen Marks, in response to some questions Helen asked about two films of mine, and about my old friend Jamie Gillis. She was doing research for her book:

PORNING THE VICTORIANS: Erotic Adaptations and Gothic Desire

I found the letter interesting, particularly my insights on Jamie, so I am posting it here on my Blog.)

 

A letter to Laura Helen Marks

 

Hi Laura,

I should preface any remarks by reminding you that, in the case of Dracula Exotica, I am not the author. Ken Schwartz, who I had known for several years, wrote the screenplay, lifting the story from the screenplay of “Love at First Bite”, which had done surprisingly good box office six months earlier. Schwartz vehemently denied any connection, even claimed he had never seen “Love at First Bite”, but the similarity was too extreme to be coincidental.

Jamie Gillis made a sensual, brooding Dracula.

 

I am attaching a link to my Blog, that describes the production of Passions of Carol. Please feel free to lift any quotes that you might find useful.

 

https://shauncostello.com/2010/10/11/113/

 

Answers:

In the case of Dracula Exotica, although I was not the author, I did make story changes and adapted the screenplay to my own sensibilities, as I saw fit. I read Bram Stoker’s Dracula when I was in High School, and it remained food for thought forever after.

I think I’ve seen most of the motion pictures adapted from Stoker’s novel, but most of them lost their way, the screen writers having no clue as to what Stoker was up to. The silent “Nosferatu” is probably the closest to the original. The whole vampire myth is dear to my heart.

Dracula Exotica poster

The silent Nosferatu was probably the closest to Stoker’s book.

Do I believe that Romanian bats bite tourists who then spread a plague of blood-lust throughout the civilized world, that only the crucifix, symbolizing the ultimate sacrifice that saved humanity from the fires of eternal agony, could put an end to? No, of course not. Do I believe that humanity, reduced to a state of pure passion, is capable of anything? Yep!

 

I worked on a documentary for Broadway producer David Merrick in Haiti in the 1980’s. I witnessed Voodoo rituals up in the hills. I met zombies. They do exist. Although, not in the common, fictionalized form. The local medicine man, or Ngana, gains power, and income, through terrorizing the indigenous proletariat. And what medicine man, or wizard, has not been, first and foremost, an alchemist. The Ngana administers a drug to his victim, that slows the heartbeat to almost nothing, and proclaims him dead.

Ngana takes life. Ngana gives life. Long live Ngana

Because the temporarily deceased is barely breathing, the oxygen in his coffin is sufficient to sustain him for three days, after which he is exhumed. And, to the horror of the locals, he has come back to life. Ngana takes life. Ngana gives life. Long live Ngana, who gladly accepts donations of chickens and goats, not to mention cash, from the terrified believers, to prevent their following in the zombie’s footsteps. Control through terror. The big lie. Hey, it worked for Hitler.

The inventor of “The Big Lie.”

Although the zombie is still alive, after his subterranean adventure, the lack of oxygen in the coffin invariably causes brain damage, and that far away look that reminds the locals to give generously when the Ngana passes the collection basket.

 

Zombies are about fear and superstitious belief, but Vampires are much more complicated, and like their Haitian cousins, also exist in superstitious belief. A myth, believed in passionately enough however, can become real, particularly if wrapped in the tendrils of sexuality. The Vampire is a very sexy boy. He is irresistible. He is the apocalyptic bite me/fuck me.

The Vampire is the Apocalyptic “Bite me/Fuck me”

And the welcome antidote to repressive, inhibited, Victorian sexual mores. The ruined maiden’s lament, “What could I do? He bit me. I was in his power. He willed me to do his bidding. I was helpless to resist his foul demands.” So, the girl got laid and it wasn’t her fault. A violation of her carotid artery, followed by an eternity of sexual conflagration and moldy coffins. Unless, of course, there’s the intervention of a stake, or a silver bullet.

 

Dracula is all about the sacrifice of virginity to the forces of evil, on the alter of responsibility. The two drops of blood on the wedding sheets. The two incisor-driven puncture wounds on the virginal neck. “It’s not my fault. He bit me”. If this isn’t porn fodder then I’ll have sex with Ron Jeremy in the venue of your choice. Please don’t hold me to that.

Sexually repressed Victorian England is the fertile crescent for sexual deviance.

 

Passions of Carol is another story altogether. But playing with Vicorian mores by layering them into blatantly sexual realities becomes contrapuntally delicious. This was my first screenplay, and while writing it, I realized that the closer I stuck to the original, the funnier and more satisfying the movie would be. Sexually repressed Victorian England is the fertile crescent of sexual deviance. (See the movie “The Ruling Class” – the world’s first S&M Musical, starring Peter O’Toole)

The last question – Yes it was my idea. Somehow including the inability to ejaculate to the many inconveniences (blood drinking, infanticide, late hours, dirty finger nails, etc.) suffered by the living dead seemed only fitting.

Read the attached and quote at will. I hope this helps.

Shaun

 

The second letter:

 

 

First of all, you are not bugging me in the slightest, Laura. I support what you’re doing, and I’m happy to give you any information that might be helpful. OK, you’ve read the piece on Drac, and you’re probably aware that Jamie and I were close friends for many years, sharing many a late night adventure, prowling Manhattan’s dark canyons, looking for, and often finding, the shit. You’re familiar with the films I made back then, and you should be aware that I seldom made a film without Jamie. He was reliable, attractive, and on film sets, where most of your time was spent waiting for all of the elements to be in sync, allowing you to get a shot off, Jamie was fun to have around. He kept the cast and crew amused with funny songs and stories, and the females in the cast found him seductive and passionate to work with.

Like Dracula, Jamie was dangerous.

That said, what was Jamie’s attraction? He was a good looking guy, but looks alone don’t seduce, except in the extremely shallow. He had a substantial penis that needed little encouragement to stiffen, but penis size alone, even if it’s always hard, is not the answer. He was intelligent, engaging, and curious about everything, which are attractive traits, but intelligence, while the ultimate aphrodisiac, is not the answer either. So, lets put them all together. He was good looking, had a handsome and active member, was passionate and entertaining, and engagingly intelligent – a pretty handsome package. But there was something else, something beyond all these positive elements, something few people understood. Jamie was dangerous.

And it was this danger that lurked somewhere deep in his psyche that, when added to the aforementioned,  made women swoon. Although he seldom acted out, the possibility of an eruption of passion, whether caused by anger or frustration, was always present. And that possibility, even in its dormant stage, made him irresistible to women.

If Dracula’s appeal was bite me/fuck me, Jamie’s was scare me/fuck me. Long before I was offered the directing job on Dracula Exotica, I was aware of Jamie’s Vampire-like qualities. It was something we talked about many times.

Even as a teen, there was a danger to Jamie Gillis.

Something he was aware of, and nurtured. Like Dracula, Jamie Gillis was dangerous. No slam bam thank you Mam, he. A girl who took him home took a risk. And risk is very, very sexy.

I hope this helps,

Shaun

 

*

© 2017 Shaun Costello

 

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THE ASHLEYFICATION OF SMUT

THE ASHLEYFICATION OF SMUT

by Shaun Costello

The actual “Deuce” way back when.

 

(Below is a link to a Village Voice story that describes how Ashley and April Spicer helped David Simon and George Pelecanos research their new cable TV Series, The Deuce.)

https://www.villagevoice.com/2017/09/12/how-the-deuce-recreated-the-naughty-bawdy-gaudy-world-of-old-times-square/

 

So, rather than researching the era with people who actually lived it, David Simon and George Pelecanos, the producers of the new Cable TV series, The Deuce, chose Ashley and April Spicer, neither of whom were born when all of this happened. Amazing. Now I understand why neither Simon nor Pelecanos responded to my offer to help. Ashley obviously told them not to. I stood up to Ashley’s Nazification, or is it Ashleyfication, of the history of the adult film world of the Sixties and Seventies. Ashley Spicer actually thinks he owns the rights to any people or events that he chronicles from those days. My publicly expressed disdain for Mr. and Mrs. Spicer has gotten me banished from the pages of their web site, a fate I relish. Mr. Spicer is an investment banker with a hobby – the yesteryear of smut. He has used and abused many in his efforts to become the Ayatollah of smut history.

Mr. Spicer has left many victims in his wake.

No matter how many people Mr. Spicer interviews, no matter how many pieces of archival material he collects, the fact remains that he wasn’t there. His connection to that era is second hand. He never lived it. He is a revisionist historian on a mission. I am amazed at how easily people can be fooled. The porn people he digs up are flattered by his interest and seduced by his persistence. He demands exclusivity from his discoveries, like a real estate broker with a fresh new listing. He has hoodwinked almost the entire population of an era, with his adorable British accent, and his attentive manner. And when he has milked his victims out of every ounce of information, farmed their memories, sometimes painful, until they have exhausted their use to him, he simply discards them, like yesterday’s news; with the understanding that he now owns the rights to their memories, in perpetuity. Mr. Spicer is a charming con man, who has left a long string of victims in his quest to become the curator of an era that has fascinated him since adolescence. And, I suppose, he has succeeded. When Simon and Pelecanos needed to research the smutified world of The Deuce, who better to call on, then the undisputed Nabobs of Seventies 42nd Street, Ashley and April Spicer. So Mr. Spicer’s dream has been realized. His expertise in sleaze is recognized by those who don’t, unfortunately, know any better. He sits atop his collected mountain of memorabilia like a Pasha with his harem. But the fact remains that all he has collected is hearsay. His encyclopedia of erotica is strictly second hand. He has no direct memory of any person or event he has so painstakingly chronicled. He speaks the words of those who lived them. Those words are not his own. He was never there.

Ashley and April Spicer, the Nabobs of smut history.

 

*

© 2017 Shaun Costello


THE FIRST REVIEW OF “WILD ABOUT HARRY”

Harry cover alternative two

From The Erotic Film Society in London

The first review of:

WILD ABOUT HARRY

by Shaun Costello

For such a prolific director – at least 66 films between 1973 and 1984 – Shaun Costello remained one of the New York XXX scene’s best kept secrets for many years. One reason is the number of noms-de-porn he worked under.

He made more than his fair share of films that are now recognised as classics but not always under the same name – he was ‘Kenneth Schwartz’ for FIONA ON FIRE but ‘Warren Evans’ for DRACULA EXOTICA, for example – and this prevented him from getting due recognition until relatively recently.

For notorious roughies FORCED ENTRY and WATERPOWER, he was ‘Helmuth Richler’ but ‘Amanda Barton’ made the sensitive PASSIONS OF CAROL. At Avon Productions he was ‘Russ Carlson’ and for a while he was even ‘Oscar Tripe’; plus there were numerous uncredited one-day-wonders.

In ONLY THE BEST, published at the dawn of the video era, critic Jim Holliday indicated that one person was behind some of these pseudonyms; but pre-internet it was pretty much impossible for even dedicated pornologists to crack the Costello code.

Public outrage at Deep Throat's popularity

Public outrage at Deep Throat’s popularity

With the advent of the web, the IMDb and IAFD and dedicated discussion forums where smut-hounds could compare what they’d discovered, facts began to surface.

Then something occurred that every film historian dreams about; Shaun Costello himself joined the forums. He posted on IMDb. He corrected. He clarified…   And suddenly his incredible career came into sharp focus.

Not just those 66 films that he helmed but around the same number of appearances from 1971 to ’89 – and that doesn’t include loops – plus at least 50 films he produced and a similar number of writing credits. It’s a wonder he ever found time to sleep.

On the evidence of WILD ABOUT HARRY, his by turns hilarious and moving memoir about his friendship with Harry Reems, during the pre-DEEP THROAT days of Big Apple hard-core, sleep was often the last thing on his mind.

Whether he was editing into the early hours – the only way he could afford post-production facilities – or heroically carousing with his buddies – ‘the Three Musketeers of 42nd Street’ – those years in the late 60s and early 70s seem to have been one madcap adventure, where anything was possible.

Harry and Linda Lovelace in DEEP THROAT

Harry and Linda Lovelace in DEEP THROAT

A voracious film fan, from art-house masters to grindhouse smut, Shaun absorbed everything. He fell into the pornographic loops business by happy accident, just as they were on the borderline of becoming legal, or at least tolerated, in the adult bookstores of the Deuce.

And he was there when a handsome, young, legit actor – still known by his birth name, Herb Streicher – made his debut in an explicit 8mm film destined for ‘under the counter’ sales.

(Assumed names were cast aside faster than underwear: Herb wouldn’t settle on Harry Reems for a couple of years, after he’d tried on ‘Tim Long’ among other aliases.)

It wasn’t just the start of a professional relationship – Shaun cast Herb/Harry as a disturbed Vietnam Vet in FORCED ENTRY, his first feature as director – it was the beginning of a deep friendship.

And now Shaun has published this memoir of those heady days – and that double entendre is very much intended – as a tribute to his buddy, who passed away in March of this year.

Anyone who knows the recipe for Automat Soup (a container of ketchup and hot water, if you’re asking – gourmets break some gratis crackers on top to simulate croutons) will probably already have a copy.

The United States of America v Harry Reems

The United States of America v Harry Reems

But what if you’re not a dedicated devotee of the Deuce and are wondering whether to purchase? Or what if you – horror – have to ask, ‘What’s the Deuce’? Well, let Mr Costello explain…

‘The Times Square subway station, my portal to the neighborhood, was an intense assault on the senses. A sudden, almost overwhelming surge of smells and filth hit you as the train doors slid open to the rush of urine, and cotton candy, and damp humanity, and hot dogs on their revolving spits, and vomit, and baked goods like crumb cakes and bran muffins and pretzels, and the garlicky pungent scent of Gyros slowly rotating, and everything suddenly interrupted by someone chasing a pick-pocket through outstretched hands asking for dimes, and a tidal swarm of the disenfranchised huddled in groups, trying to stay warm. And this entire sensory phantasmagoria was musically scored by the overmodulated sound of Kool and the Gang wailing “Jungle Boogie” from the cheap speakers over the door to the subterranean record store. And then the cold again as you climbed the stairs to the street, and there it was, “The Deuce”.’ (from WILD ABOUT HARRY © 2013 Shaun Costello)

From this vivid evocation of arriving at 42nd Street, you should immediately have discerned that our guide to all this decadence has a very neat turn of phrase indeed, which he puts to fine effect throughout the book.

Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty come to Harry's rescue

Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty come to Harry’s rescue

It’s prose that encapsulates the sights, the sounds, the smells, the animal excitement of the city – and the only reason not to enjoy it is that it makes you break down and cry, lamenting the passing of such delightful debauchery.

Herb being Harry, and enjoying himself

Herb being Harry, and enjoying himself

‘Delightful debauchery’? Well, yes. Shaun Costello is aware of the oxymoron. On the one hand, he’s a cultured chap, dating a wealthy heiress. On the other, he’s working his way up the porn ladder.

And he’s having fun all the way, along with his lifelong friend Jimmy and – of course – Harry, who is seemingly ever ready for an adventure. Such as one hallucinogen-fuelled romp which takes them from Times Square to the East Side via various apartments whose inhabitants are woken at unearthly hours, before disgorging them on a pitch-and-putt golf course by the beach… all described with a panache that matches Hunter S Thompson’s knack for conveying altered reality.

When DEEP THROAT made Harry a porno chic superstar, his world suddenly became a round of press and promotion and personal appearances, followed equally swiftly by the traumas of the authorities’ attempts to prosecute him for merely appearing in the film.

During this period, Shaun lost contact with his buddy, so he has to rely on the interviews that Harry made when he reappeared from anonymity (he’d become a real estate salesman in Colorado) in the wake of the documentary INSIDE DEEP THROAT, to describe what happened.

Initially I was worried that this could turn into a cut and paste job, but Costello has chosen and edited the quotes with great sensitivity.

Fanny was a Puerto Rican stripper who taught young Herb everything he knew about sex

Fanny was a Puerto Rican stripper who taught young Herb everything he knew about sex

It’s rather like that moment in a jazz number, when the star soloist comes forward. We’ve enjoyed Shaun talking about his friend and now we get hear Harry’s own voice.

And what a lovely voice it is, especially talking about his conversion to Christianity and the spiritual belief that saved him from alcoholism (with the aid of a 12 step programme).

This sort of tale could so easily be preachy. And how often have former porners turned on the business, their former friends, their whole past life, when they found God?

But Harry – or Herb – was clearly such a sweet guy – and his story of salvation comes over as so genuine – that even if you don’t believe yourself, you can’t help but feel glad that he found that faith because it saved his life.

And then there’s a coda: a meeting years later; a final phone call. It’s deeply touching and heartfelt. Shaun Costello has written as beautiful a tribute as anyone could imagine. Any quibbles? Just one. I was left ravenous for more of Shaun’s own autobiography. From his contributions to various forums, I know he has great tales to tell and that he tells them in an exceptionally entertaining manner.

Herb/Harry found love, God and happiness in the mountains of Utah

Herb/Harry found love, God and happiness in the mountains of Utah

   WILD ABOUT HARRY

is available as an eBook

http://store.blurb.co.uk/ebooks/384584-wild-about-harry

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WILD ABOUT HARRY

WILD ABOUT HARRY

A friend who knew him well

remembers HARRY REEMS

by Shaun Costello

AVAILABLE NOW

WILD ABOUT HARRY (Coiver)

AVAILABLE NOW

On March 19th, just three weeks ago, HARRY REEMS, the star of Deep Throat and many other adult films of the 1970’s, died of pancreatic cancer, at a VA Hospice in Salt Lake City, Utah. Before the media circus that surrounded Deep Throat created the fast talking, Burleaque-comedic actor know as HARRY REEMS, he was just a young man, trying like so many before him, to make it in show business. He was born Herbert Streicher to a Jewish family in Brooklyn, and was a close friend of mine. When I read the news of his death I was devestated. So many rich memories. Such an important friend. I knew I had to do something, so I put everything else aside, and sat down to write a personal reminiscence of my friendship with Herb. I have worked almost around the clock, since the day after his death, and finished the text yesterday. I’m very pleased with how it came out. I think Herb would be too.

Herb and Harry – a dichotomy he leaves behind for the rest of us to puzzle over. As Herb he was a son, a brother, a Bar Mitzvah boy, a High School track star, a student, a Marine, an aspiring actor, and a loyal and generous friend. As Harry he was a porn icon, an international celebrity, a darling of the TV Talk Show circuit, a victim of judicial overreach, a convicted felon, a finally-absolved and victorious defendent, a drunk, a drug addict, a Twelve Step Champion, a converted Christian, a successful real estate executive, a scratch golfer, a semi-pro skier, a loving husband, and, at long last, a happy man.

WILD ABOUT HARRY is a hard cover, eight by ten, four color book – text driven, and including over a hundred four color and black and white, fun images of HARRY’S life. It’s being printed on an on-demand basis and is available now at the link below:

http://www.blurb.com/b/4214470-wild-about-harry

 I’m quite pleased at how this story came out, and, for those of you who have a fascination with the Seventies, the birth of the adult film industry, the First Amendment trial and media circus that surrounded the prosecution of Deep Throat, and the complex character that was HARRY REEMS, you will be too.

AVAILABLE NOW – CLICK ON LINK BELOW

http://www.blurb.com/b/4214470-wild-about-harry

****************

NOW AVAILABLE AS AN eBOOK FOR iPAD: $ 9.99.
Keep SHAUN COSTELLO’S BLOG up and running.
Creating and maintaining this BLOG is time
consuming. If you like what you’ve been reading,
please help me keep it going.
DONATE ANY AMOUNT Through PAYPAL at: