I was asked to do an interview about vintage gay porn by JC Adams of GayPornTimes.com for a German magazine called “Maenner”. Here is a rough draft of the interview:
1.) Where do you find these clips and magazines?
I’ve been a fan of garage sales and thrift stores all my life. Back in the 80s or 90s I bought some old Physique Pictorial magazines from the 50s or 60s just because I like collecting things from that era.
When I started my first website in 1995, I needed something to put on it, so I started scanning pictures from my vintage porn magazines because I thought they were cool and kitschy.
About 7 or 8 years ago I saw a box of 8mm gay porn films at a thrift store and bought the whole thing. I went back to the same store the next week and saw another unmarked box behind the counter, and even though it had a lid on, I somehow “knew” there were more 8mm porn movies in it! Sure enough, I was right and I now had two boxes of movies and decided I needed to start a website of vintage porn.
I met an older gay guy that runs a combination comic book/porn store that taught me a lot about vintage porn. I spent an entire day at his store sorting through piles of old boxes stuffed behind other crap in his storage room and came home with another 150 8mm films.
My friends are now on the lookout for old porn magazines and movies for me. One friend tipped me off about a Craig’s List ad that a guy was driving up from LA with a carload of 8mm porn. He left them overnight for me to sort through, and I ended up buying 200 movies that day.
Another friend rescued a stack of old porn magazines from a dumpster when his 80 year old neighbor died.
I also went through a phase of buying up everything I could find on eBay. My largest purchase was a batch of 75 extremely rare magazines from a porn store in the Midwest that went out of business.
At this point, I think I am done with eBay. I only collect obscure movies and magazines that are out of print and not copyrighted. I already own every movie I see on eBay these days and the magazines have all gotten way too expensive. Just like any antique product, the price goes up the older and more rare the item becomes.
Not counting copyrighted movies by companies like Falcon or Colt, I have over 500 8mm movies that have fallen through the cracks and haven’t been seen by an entire generation.
2.) What is your interest in putting them back into circulation?
I look at myself as a curator of the genre.
Porn has always been, and to a certain extent, still is considered “disposable”. At one time, Hollywood thought their product was disposable in the early days, too. Many of the old Disney animation cels seen in museums today were found in dumpsters. It took a long time before mainstream Hollywood took film preservation seriously.
Other art forms aren’t considered disposable if the style is no longer fashionable or technically primitive. We don’t dispose of paintings or sculptures by famous artists when they get old or the artist dies. In fact, they get more valuable.
In the old days, a lot of the adult industry was financed and controlled by organized crime as an extension of prostitution, and producing porn was just another way to make quick money. Many producers made their money and walked away. But over a period of up to 60 years, even those that took pride in their work, many have died of AIDS or natural causes.
The shame of working in the sex industry as well as the illegal aspect of it prevented works of adult media from being properly documented and preserved. Coupled with the fact that many gay porn producers died suddenly and without heirs, much of this rich history has been lost. Gay historical societies are only now taking steps to document the community’s political and social history, but hardcore artifacts are generally dismissed as inappropriate for inclusion in those collections.
I have been the Art Director for Alpha Blue Archives (AlphaBlueArchives.com), a company that re-releases vintage straight porn, for about 9 years. I enjoy cleaning up old pictures with Photoshop, and after making more than 300 DVD box covers for Alpha Blue, I’ve gotten very good at it. When I saw how much money he was making, so along with my curatorial interests, I decided to do the same with gay porn and try to make a few bucks.
3.) What kind of work is required to get them viewable again?
There are only a handful of vendors left that have the equipment to professionally transfer film to video, and most won’t work with adult subjects. The vendor I use is a gay-owned film archive called Oddball Films (OddballFilms.com). They treat the film gently and use products to clean the dust and dirt from the film before making the transfer. To them, it’s a labor of love. Once it’s on digital tape I can process the video for the website or DVDs and make necessary color corrections just like any other video.
The problem with adult film preservation is that it was never intended to be “archival”. They cut corners on the original duplication process which, over time, often causes the film to lose color saturation. The inherent “shame” associated with owning porn along with the disposability of it prevented most of the original customers from properly storing the material away from moisture and dust, hence a lot of movies are in bad shape.
State of the art film preservation in Hollywood movies involves digital correction of each individual film frame. Though that process may be used on movies like “My Fair Lady”, it’s not cost effective in porn. I do the best I can with resources available.
With magazines, I bought a copier that has a 11″x17″ document feeder on the scanner. I just remove the staples and I can scan a stack of pages at a time. From there, I crop and color correct the pictures for my website and put them into a slideshow program so you can watch them with no hands (if you know what I mean…)
4.) What is the appeal of vintage erotica, in your view?
There are many reasons for the appeal besides archival. A hot guy is a hot guy and a photo of him can still be enjoyed no matter when the image was created, in the same way records by the Beatles still be enjoyed 40 years later. Fashion, hairdos and interior design all have kitsch value, too. (I could do a whole scholarly study on 70’s bedsheets and wall paper designs used in porn!) But beyond kitsch factor, some fans link the fashions of the day to their own youth and reminisce about their own sexual past through familiar images, just like someone would recall fond memories by looking at pictures of their old hometown.
Though many modern consumers dismiss any porn made prior to the invention of High Definition cameras, one must acknowledge the popularity of an iPhone application like Hipstamatic (Hipstamatic.com) – a program that purposely filters a high resolution image to essentially “degrade” it to resemble 40 year old technology. The same can be said for the resurgence of vinyl records over CDs and digital files among the hipster music scene.
The concept of vintage gay porn being “pre-condom” may have a small factor in it’s appeal, but with the vast amount of new bareback video being produced, the selling point of it’s scarcity is minimal.
5.) How do you answer those who say it’s not appealing to view clips where the guys may be old/deceased? (I hear this one a lot.)
From my experience, I’ve only heard that in regards to more recently deceased porn performers. Ironically, that’s never mentioned about dead people in other parts of show business. The deaths of Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston actually garnered sympathy, respect and increased popularity. The supposed “creepiness” associated with aging or dead porn star stems from the puritanical shame associated with sexual performance on camera.
6.) Have you ever heard from some of those guys in those clips or layouts?
I did an email interview with COLT man Bruno (CLICK HERE), in 2005 and shortly thereafter Mickey Squires saw the interview and contacted me as well (
CLICK HERE). Though I didn’t realize it until a friend pointed it out to me after it was released, Mickey Squires appeared in my DVD “Vintage Bareback: Hairy Muscle Daddy Collection” (CLICK HERE).
Mark Kliem has worked in the gay adult industry since 1994. He won a Cybersocket Award for Best Blog in 2005, he judged the GayVN Awards for 9 years and was Naked Sword’s first webmaster, and founded GayPornBlog.com. He currently shoots fetish video for his website, LavenderLounge.com and curates VintageBareback.com. He has released 4 DVDs of vintage gay porn and 6 DVDs of originally produced material, all available at PornTeam.com. (CLICK HERE)