The Passions of John Stagliano: A TRPWL Interview

Jan 10, 2014
Adult Business News
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John Stagliano sat down with Michael Whiteacre for a conversation about his conspicuous independence, the quest for perfect half-light, deadlines, the origins of gonzo, RoccoLand — plus a sneak peek at an as-yet-unreleased episode of his erotic vampire epic, Voracious.

John Stagliano

The word ‘legend’ gets tossed around a lot – over-used about as often as ‘genius’ — but if there’s a man in the world of adult entertainment who has earned the appellation, that man is John Stagliano.

A former UCLA economics major, he made his adult movie debut as a performer in an 8mm loop in 1974. Following a career as a male stripper for Chippendale’s, Stagliano jumped into the world of porn in 1982, at age 30.

In late 1988 he started his own production company, Evil Angel, and – with the release of his seminal movie, The Adventures of Buttman the following year — sparked the “gonzo” genre of adult movies, wherein the performers “break the fourth wall” and demonstrate an awareness of the camera.

Stagliano is renowned for his libertarian worldview and fierce independence. For me, the quintessential John Stagliano anecdote springs from a crisis meeting of stakeholders in the world of adult production during the 1998 HIV outbreak. One of the major players of the day, VCA’s Russ Hampshire, suggested that every producer agree to go condom-only, so that no company would have a competitive advantage over the others by releasing more profitable condom-less product into the market. As an enforcement mechanism, Hampshire suggested that if anyone broke ranks, he would drop the unit price of his VHS tapes so low that he would put everybody else out of business.

Stagliano stood up and calmly informed the group, “I really don’t like ultimatums…” (and almost immediately a wild west saloon-style melee broke out — those were the days).

In 2008, Stagliano was indicted on federal obscenity charges. He went to trial two years later, resulting in a dismissal of all charges and the judge citing “woefully insufficient” evidence.

Among countless awards and citations, Stagliano was inducted into the AVN Hall of Fame in 1997, and was named XBIZ’s Man of the Year in 2011.

Performer and Evil Angel director Dana Vespoli describes her boss as “an artist who continues to hone his craft. Even though he doesn’t necessarily need to shoot anymore, he is still passionate about it, and his work has integrity. He believes in what he does. He’s quick to remind you he doesn’t know everything — that he is still learning. I think that is the mark of someone who lives truthfully within their element; the recognition that there is still so much to discover. John is a pioneer in this industry, and he is the primary reason I wanted to be here.”


When I look at your stuff, I see a body of work by a man who created the things that he was passionate about, and the audience came to him, as opposed to someone who’s just jumping onto trends.

Yes, there was a lot of that, although I do always listen to what people like. Anytime people are talking about things that they like, that are interesting to them as a fan, that’s interesting to me. That bit of information goes into my brain, and somehow influences my decision-making, the major part of it however coming from what I intuitively like.

How do you gather this kind of information?

Hours sitting in front of a fuckin’ TV, jerkin’ off, that’s how I find it. [laughs] I don’t know. “Ooh, I like that, let me freeze-frame on that.”

I do these video captures all the time now, my caps of porn, because I like still frames. In fact, I didn’t shoot hardcore stills at all on my vampire movie, but now I go through every one of my episodes – I just did about 150 video captures on a 50 minute episode. Because it’s my art. “The lighting’s interesting here, look at that facial expression…” The quality isn’t as good as a hi-res picture, but it’s so much more interesting that I think it’s worthwhile. And stopping a sex scene to shoot hi-res stills in the middle of it is disruptive and is a negative for the overall product. I’d rather have a better scene.

I could show you what I just did last night, it’s really good stuff.

I’d like that.

Yeah? Okay. In my self-indulgent stupor of looking at my movies I tend to think that what I’ve created is art.

I’ve always resisted the term “self-indulgent” – who would one indulge if not oneself?

[Laughs] That’s a good point.

[Stagliano turns his MacBook Pro towards me, then joins me on the other side of his desk to walk me through the set of images.  In this scene from Voracious, adult starlet Samantha Bentley has been captured by Rocco Siffredi. Stagliano speaks passionately about the scene, often dropping to a whisper as he describes what’s occurring in each screen shot.]

It’s for my next episode update: a scene with Samantha Bentley, a British girl who’s out here right now. Rocco recommended I hire her, ‘cause he likes British girls. They’re really perverted.

Rocco the vampire [Vlad] gets woken up, that’s the story, and she was trying to kill him. So he’s pissed at her — that’s the premise of the scene.

What’s the origin of this series?

[Stagliano shows me a stuffed vampire doll on his desk]  This is what I looked like as a male stripper. I was at Chippendale’s in their first show and one of the acts I developed shortly thereafter was a vampire. So, I always had an affinity for doing vampire stuff.  In the summer of 2011, I knew that I couldn’t spend money like I used to on features. I was just getting over my trial from the year before, and shooting Stretch Class and easy stuff.

[Stagliano continues the slideshow]

Samantha Bentley, Mira and Rocco Siffredi in Stagliano's Voracious

Samantha Bentley, Mira and Rocco Siffredi in Stagliano’s Voracious


I notice that, visually, you seem to like stacked shots – subjects stacked in the frame, so you don’t need a cut. You can have multiple people playing to camera.

Yes, and you get depth in the shot. And I was playing with back light. I had one assistant with a fill light here, so this is very low budget compared to the Fashionistas movies.

The staging and the lighting reminds me of Joe Sarno’s movies in the ‘60s and ‘70s. He also used dark rooms with pools of light, and he staged seduction scenes with the predator coming up behind the prey where both of them would be facing camera.

Yeah. The whole point of shooting that way was to create eroticism. The reason why I wanted to do vampires was because I could create something erotic. There were many premises and story ideas, and it became a real test of my filmmaking skill. This was like an exercise. It wasn’t going to make much money; in fact the first movie didn’t make much money.

So, it was an exercise in…

In telling a story. I was of the opinion that — what I used to do in the ‘80s was I’d go out with no crew at all and I’d have a camera on my shoulder and the recording pack on the other shoulder….

[His voice trails off — Back to the slideshow]

She has this stack of water balloons that were filled with holy water, because holy water supposedly burns vampires. we didn’t really develop the idea too much. I stared to explain it to Rocco, because I thought he was just gonna throw ‘em at her, but, umm, he just went all out.

Water balloon 2

Bubble pak

I cannot take full responsibility for this scene. They thought of most of this stuff themselves, and I was just following along.

How much of your approach to a sex scene is giving specific direction and how much is you providing the set-up and letting a performer like Rocco take the initiative?

The water balloons were my idea, and this was their idea – the bubble pack.  And most everything Rocco does he comes up with himself. Like the scene that won Most Outrageous Sex Scene last year at AVN [“Clothespin-Head” from Voracious: The First Season], with Brooklyn Lee. Rocco puts his fingers down her throat and there’s spit all over the place, and her puts clothespins all over her body. That part was me, those two ideas were mine – everything else was Rocco.

Here, in this scene, there was even less of me; mainly just the lighting and figuring out the set.

Samantha, here, is somebody whose boyfriend was killed by a vampire. She was out there stalking Rocco’s compound, to kill him, but James Deen was sending her text messages telling her not to take on more than one at a time because it’s too dangerous. And now she’s bearing the consequences of not listening to James Deen, who’s a vampire killer that we’ve seen in earlier episodes.


And lots of water; it was a hot August day in Budapest at Rocco’s compound. I call it RoccoLand. There’s this huge building. It’s in the farmlands, and he has this huge field that’s the equivalent of six football fields where he flies his model planes and helicopters. There’s a running track which is great [to shoot] as a landing strip; his wife was complaining because it cost 50,000 Euros to build it and he’s only used it in one movie (that I’ve seen).

He also has a garage where he stores all his motorcycles and toys, and he shoots in it. He has a whole house there, not for living in, just for shooting. There’s a full motocross track in the back with all the hills and everything.

What are your feelings about shooting in your own residence, your own personal space?

I don’t shoot in the place where I live. I hadn’t shot in the place where I lived until I got together with my wife, in 2000. Once in maybe 2001, we shot a scene. At my Malibu house, I don’t live there, I only edit there. I like shooting there because, it’s so comfortable to be able to shoot in a nice place where you can work there over and over again, and work on the lighting and props and things like that. It’s so much better than going to somebody else’s place; you’re figuring out problems for the first time whenever you go to a new location.

It’s comfortable, and one of the things about shooting good sex is people being comfortable. And when people show up multiple times to the same set, they can perhaps reach another level of intimacy.

Karen and John Stagliano

Karen and John Stagliano

Today, adult movies feature these monster sex scenes with short bursts of exposition between them, but the way adult films used to be shot in the golden era was there’d be a lot of dialogue, like a mainstream movie, with short sex scenes interspersed throughout.

It was really closer to TV shows, like a TV show format, in the ‘80s.

Up until the ‘80s it was also very common to see traditional ‘coverage’ in sex scenes – different camera set-ups from various angles that required breaks in the action to re-set. Today, though…

I don’t want to take much of any credit for that, but I do believe I was instrumental in starting the gonzo thing. Even back in the early ‘80s when I was first starting to shoot camera and work with other people on productions. I remember working on Mark Carriere’s first movie. I wrote the script, and it was re-written by somebody else and directed by somebody else (Carriere didn’t know I was gonna be a big star. [laughs])  J.D. [famous as John Leslie’s cameraman] was setting up a strip shot in a nightclub, and he’s doing “cut” and “cut” and “cut.” And I’m thinking, ‘There’s no energy there, why don’t we pan?’ and I’m trying to get him to do handheld and stuff – because I’m the one who wrote the scene.

That was a 35mm film. Shortly after that Bruce Seven and I produced the first video for Video Exclusives, Carriere’s company. We had a little falling out because he actually said he was going to pay Bruce Seven and I a little royalty on the first movie, and he never paid us a penny.

What were your shooting schedules like back in the day for features?

Well, in the spring on ’89, I did two movies: The Blonde and Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven. I believe I rented the equipment for a week, and I shot the two movies in a week. So roughly 3 days per, with a day off in between. I’d shoot two sex scenes a day, sometimes one, with dialogue and stuff like that. I didn’t like to book lots of days, but three-day shoots for a feature was a good amount of time. But I’ve also shot some features in one day. For me three days was indulging, because I wanted to do it a little better.

[Stagliano’s attention returns to the screencaps from Voracious, scrolling through them as he speaks]

Water balloon 1

The resolution on this is not great, but my whole point in shooting this movie was to do things dark. I wanted it to not look like a Jay Sin movie, so to speak….

There’s one moment here where [Rocco] stuffs his hand in her butt and literally lifts her up. Not completely — she’s kind of crawling up on her own…. It’s a little too dark here, but that’s because they’re moving around and I’ve got no time to change my iris on my camera…

Rocco puts her on the floor, and then I’m the one who goes down and gets the shot.  So we work together really well as a team.

Samantha on floor SFW

The first three episodes are 2 hours and 25 minutes long, and they’re going out on a DVD on Valentine’s Day…

[next screen cap]

And then he spits in her eyeballs, too…

cum crop

Stagliano says, “I framed this shot like this because Rocco would often make no noises when he’s cumming. I didn’t like that. But he knew I was framing his face into it, so it was a much better shot.”

It’s got very little story in it, too. I always feel like I have to defend my skill by saying, “But I did a lot of story, too…” However, this is the episode that has the least story.  There was going to be more to it but it was 1 o’clock in the morning or 1:30 and it was raining and Rocco wasn’t going to sit there any longer.

Obscenity prosecutions. As someone who’s been through one not that long ago, do you think we’ll be seeing more of them?

Well, the Justice Department busting pornographers on a national level, appears to be over for now.

The FBI’s Obscenity Taskforce is no longer active.

The division is gone. There could, however, be a shift back to that with a more conservative president; if somebody got elected and they felt they owed the religious right an anti-porn thing. But I think the culture is progressively moving away from that mentality, and that it’s not likely to happen again, at least not in our lifetimes, hopefully.

I’d like to talk a little about the state’s latest moves against they adult business, which rather than being led by prosecutors and vice cops, seem to regulatory and legislative in nature — including ballot measures, such as Measure B.

From a practical point of view, it’s whether or not there’s a perceived crisis. Everything the government does is influenced by politics and whether or not the masses of people are up in arms over one thing or another. If in fact there had been an HIV crisis that was in fact fueled by people doing porn movies, then, the way the government is structured right now, that would be their mandate to do that.

They could claim a legitimate state interest.

A legitimate state interest. As a libertarian I disagree with that, still, because I believe the legitimate state interest should be in protecting private property rights. That’s the reason the state exists, and it should be the overriding state interest, however with the progressive era, and Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson and all those people, the government has taken on the role of being our nanny.

Measure B is currently being challenged in court. It’s a law that, had sections not already been ruled unenforceable, would have empowered the state to enter private property at will, without a warrant, to inspective the genitals of adults engaged in constitutionally-protected behavior. What are your feelings about that?

It makes me angry, but I could go through a list of a thousand things that the federal government and the state and local governments do that I believe infringe on my property rights which I believe the government should be protecting. It’s simply one of them.

I’ve been involved in libertarian politics, I put up a few hundred thousand dollars for an animated movie that explains the Federal Reserve. It’s called The American Dream, [and] it’s on YouTube.  Anonymous picked up on it. I look at central banking as being a way the government abuses the public in a much bigger manner than certain Fourth Amendment rights of some pornographers.

I was also executive producer on a documentary that’s just come out, called America’s Longest War, that the Reason Foundation did.

It’s about the war on drugs.

Yes, and all the violence associated with the drug war. It’s a horrible situation; a make work program for violent criminals.

I went up to San Francisco last year for Treasure Island Media’s Cal/OSHA trial, and I had an interesting conversation with Paul Morris. He had an idea that I found compelling: that people in the world of adult need to stop using the term “adult industry.” The latest attacks on the adult business have been via regulation, and if you think about the public’s opinion of “industries” – I mean, what is supposed to get regulated? Industries! When the FSC goes out there to talk about the rights of “the adult industry”, and opposing overburdensome regulations, it falls on deaf ears. The public tunes out. But if we were instead to talk about performers, directors, small business owners…

Yes — individuals. Yes. I like that.

I have a problem with the FSC organization in principle – I mean, what they do and what they advocate has been fine and good, but in principle it’s group action, and as you said, we’re not an industry, we’re a group of individuals protecting our rights. I don’t really like groups.  But we live in a political environment where our rights are affected politically, and so we have to organize to protect them.

Which spotlights successful ventures such as AIM – which was voluntary in nature, but universally subscribed to. There are legalities that prohibit businesses from getting together to agree on certain sets of…

You can’t, but people in this industry have often had that conversation. I’ve often told people who’ve said, ‘we need to get together and keep our prices up’ or something – “What the fuck are you talking about? Don’t you know what anti-trust law is?” And I never like being part of groups anyway, so even if there weren’t anti-trust laws I still would not agree with such collusion.

This brings us back to that meeting at Sportsmen’s Lodge. Russ stood up and said…

“…we’re gonna get together and do stuff.” Right.

You have a fairly relaxed shooting schedule these days…

I haven’t been in the trenches producing a movie every month. I shot my Fashionistas Safado movies in 2006, it took me two years to edit the damn thing — it’s 8 hours and 45 minutes – while I was doing my dance show in Las Vegas.

Well, I shoot – big projects. What I’ve never wanted to do was one movie a month like most of the directors feel compelled to do at my company – which works for my company. Feel compelled — I use that phrase because I’ve never told people, “You have to do one movie a month.” I’ve never told anybody that. Instead I’ve said, ‘you know, it’s maybe better that you don’t do one movie a month. You know, you put more time into individual products.’ But the economics of the world, and the nature of what they’re shooting, has led to just churning it out.

I mean, if the market demanded features, complicated things that were finely edited, and … if there was a big reward to that, I would have directors that were spending more time on that and putting out less product. But the market doesn’t demand that, the market demands more – like, really pretty girls, new girls, good sex, and that’s the bulk of what’s sold. Mike Adriano’s average movie will get more viewers than episode 6, my beautiful scene for Voracious [laughs] and I have to live with that, even though I will have put ten times more work into that one scene.


When you were shooting more, earlier in your career, were you good with deadlines?

I was definitely an anti-deadline person. My first year, I did eleven releases at Evil Angel. That was the most I’ve ever done. And that was when Evil Angel only had me, when I started it at the end of ’88. The beginning of ’89 was the first release.

EA logo

I’d been selling movies to other companies. Actually, VCA didn’t want to buy two of my movies because they said they couldn’t cut the soft version very easily, which I managed to cut pretty easily myself. I think maybe they just didn’t – they said they wanted them, and then they changed their mind. So, I kept those two movies, made two more, better movies, and then my eight movie that year happened to be this new idea called Buttman. A first-person POV reality-type thing. And it became a sensation.

In that timeframe I had deadlines. There were eight nights that I counted in the year 1989 where I had to stay up all night and into the next day finishing editing something because it had to get out on time, because of some commitment that I made. Since then, I’ve managed to fuck with my deadlines. [laughs]

I would always edit my own movies, so I’d shoot a movie and then it was two months, three months before I could shoot again.

Do you encourage your roster of directors at Evil Angel to edit their own stuff?

I have and I did, and John Leslie was in that mold. Of my directors, Dana Vespoli is a filmmaker, a real filmmaker. I really like Dana. Most of my guys are performers, and they’re not as technical about it.

John Stagliano's The Adventures of Buttman

What inspired Buttman?

The summer of ’89, Michael Keaton starred in the first movie of the new film incarnation of Batman. I wanted to do a butt-obsessed movie, and I wanted to do a first-person POV where I’m in the movie as the cameraman. It was an idea I’d heard about and had been seeing some hints of it.

Can you think of an example?

There was a salesman for some company – it might’ve been VCX or something – and he said, “I wanna do this movie, an amateur movie, the camera is on a tripod and these couples come up – they introduce themselves, ‘we’re the Smiths’ and ‘we’re the Joneses’ and they look right into the camera, and they say ‘we’re gonna do a movie about our sex life.’ What was interesting to me was that they were looking right into the camera. Also there had been still pictures from the ‘80s – the Diamond Collection comes to mind – where they put right on the cover, this huge cock in this girl’s mouth and she’s lookin’ straight at the camera. This was 1982, ’81; nobody was doing that.

So, all this stuff was in my head, plus that meeting with that salesman – we never did that amateur movie – and two or three years later I’m doing Evil Angel, and I’m shooting features. Big budget things; I was trying to survive doing more complicated stuff. So I had this idea of doing an “easy” movie in the summer – I’ll be in the movie as the cameraman, it’ll start on its side, and I’ll be obsessed with butts. I wanted a butt-obsessed movie because butts were undervalued, for sure; everybody likes tits and whatever, but I get turned on by ass. You couldn’t find any ass stuff. I put that all together in the summer of ’89, shooting on a betacam camera…

Which was huge…

A big thing (which I was getting pretty good at shooting), but it was reasonably portable. I could move it around – if you look at the first Buttman movies, I’m in a park getting chased by people and shit like that. And I get captured by Randy Spears, and he’s got a gun and he’s pointing it at me – right at the camera.

I also had a cable running from the camera to a TV set. So they’re playing with their images from my TV. And then they’re starting to show off sex. That’s the first Buttman movie, which is playing with looking at yourself on camera, and looking right into the camera. And that was just an easy idea to do instead of a complicated feature. It was cheaper and it would fill in between my features. And the butt idea and the first-person POV idea were both unexploited ideas at the time, which found an audience.

How obsessive are you on set? 

‘Thousand takes John’ is my nickname, from the ‘80s, which everybody learned about on the vampire movie. I’ll do, like, eight takes on somebody and finally I’d get it the way I want it. The great thing about that rainy night [in Budapest] was I had to shoot lots of things one take.  [laughs]

Perhaps you should schedule more shoots during rainy season…

I tend to be always moving the camera, and I’m thinking about five different things I want in the shot. I want to get the timing just right here and this person says the line there — maybe you’ll see a shadow when I move the camera? – maybe I jerked the camera a little bit – or what often happens is I didn’t communicate exactly what I wanted to the actors.

What I love in your stuff is that, whether you’re shooting dialogue or sex, features or gonzo, it’s visually exciting action, there’s camera action…

Yes, yes, the camera is moving. I like that a lot. The camera I shot with [in Voracious] was this little 1080p camera. I purposely wanted to use a little camera so I could move, but perhaps I moved a little too much.

Have you tried any Bolex-style camera stuff?

I’ve never used a Bolex, but I’ve had conversations with Andrew Blake about him shooting with his Bolex.

Andrew Blake once told me he’d brought his lighting package with him to Europe. I asked how he could afford to do that and he smiled and said his lighting package was a 10K and a shiny board, which he’d put near a window.

A 10K and a shiny board! [laughs]

He’s a master of lighting, and with Mr. Blake, as you know, the location is crucial. He understands to get the right location, and how to light it for his purposes.

Coz he knows – that’s my whole point with the vampire movie. It’s not about how much money you spend, it’s how smart you are in utilizing the resources that are available. Now, the problem with the vampire movie is, I refused to do the cheat where vampires could be out in the daytime. So, I couldn’t do any natural light things, I couldn’t do the beautiful kinds of things [Andrew] was doing with daylight. And I’m not all that skilled with lights.

Your Fashionistas movies have some impressive lighting.

I had this guy [Don Crane]. He was a Buttman fan in ’92, and he sent me a fan letter. He was talking about different lighting things; talking about kino flows, when nobody was working with kino flows. I wound up meeting him, and he shot Facedance with me – we passed the camera back and forth. We stayed in touch, and then, nine years later, we shot the first Fashionistas movie. In 2006, for all the European stuff, he worked on the lighting there. He’s done a Jane’s Addiction music video, he did a low budget feature that had Robert DeNiro in it. He’s really good.

I think the gritty look works well in Voracious. That kind look, the realism, is scary.

There are things I haven’t mastered yet. I’m playing with it. I’m playing a lot with backlight, with things that I found in episode 5. I put up a light and then shoot into it, basically, and then ‘fill in’ in front. Now I’m working on getting more half light on a girl’s beautiful skin and body, where you can see the contours, and you get the light coming just into the ass crack, and the shadows. The half light is very pretty, and I should’ve done more of that. Next time I will do more of that. This time it was primarily Minority Report lighting, you remember that? He did everything backlit, backlit…

One of the things we try to do at TRPWL is provide resources for people who are either in the adult community, or are simply curious about how things work. One of the most important topics is HIV/STI testing, and the science behind it – particularly because there was been a lot of misinformation or disinformation floated around on some websites. So we’ve begun linking to primary sources – scientific sources.

Good. Good job. My advice to anybody who tests positive is to get on the meds as soon as possible, because the hope for cure appears dependent upon smaller reserves of the virus in your body after you go to nondetectable. The faster you get to that point — where you have smaller reserves of it — the easier it might be to eradicate. Which could happen, there could be a breakthrough in the next few years on that.

What’s your position on FSC’s PASS protocols, and the need for of a unified, standardized system of testing and test verification in the adult industry.

As a libertarian or as an economist, one would argue that if that’s the better way to do it, then those entities will develop in the marketplace. People will choose to want to have safety through some kind of verifying agency — the government does a bad job of that; I like private groups to do that – and that’s exactly what Free Speech [Coalition] has done. It was what AIM did for a long time, and it’s what PASS is doing, working – thank God – with TTS.

People will find the answer through testing and competition, and what should develop is what is in fact developing now in the adult business. As opposed to a group saying, “we can find the right answer, let’s figure it out and then we’ll make sure everybody follows the right answer.” That, to me, is too dogmatic… and what was it I said to Russ Hampshire?

“I don’t like ultimatums.”

Ultimatums, [laughs] That’s kind of what I was talkin’ about. The truth will out; you have to let it.  People will say, ‘Okay, we thought we had the right answer, and then this other thing happened that makes it not the right answer, so we need to find some other way of testing, or whatever.’

An interesting article on your site was by Owen Hawk. He’s been positive for a while and he’s talking about positive men doing bareback movies and they don’t talk about HIV. He made some really good statements, one of which was that trying to hold porn performers up as role models is not fair to porn performers, or you’re just defining role models in an incorrect manner. If you’re a parent trying to guide your child to the best behavior, that’s one thing, but when they turn 18, and they become an adult, they have to make decisions for themselves. Sometimes those decisions might involve risk; there’s no way to be 100% safe about anything. So people, through that process I was just talking about, will find their own level of risk that they’re comfortable with, and sometimes they make mistakes, like in my case.

I love what you said about putting up the real research about testing on your site so that people can make decisions on their own. Many of the people in this business haven’t followed the science of it.

There is a real world truth I believe we have to face that until and unless there is a vaccine and a cure, some people are going to contract HIV. I think we have this tremendous fear that’s cultivated and harvested by groups like AHF, and as you noted earlier, the County bureaucracy is moved to action by public outrage.

Kelly Holland [Managing Director of Penthouse Entertainment] recently said on the Vivid Radio [CEO] Roundtable that they should be thanking us because we provide employment for people on the fringe of sexuality in our culture, and we’re testing them. If they weren’t in the porn business these people would just be out there in their regular lives and they wouldn’t be getting regular testing like they do in the porn business. So therefore, we are on the front lines, and we are helping people that are the most vulnerable and the most likely to get HIV; we’re getting them regular testing that they wouldn’t otherwise be getting. We’re helping society and making it safer, in fact.

The irony is, the entities that have been doing a not-so-great job of HIV/STI education and getting people tested are the ones who are attacking the people who are doing it best.

The only sector that’s doing regular testing!  I’m not going to complain much about the County health services because they seem to be behaving in the best manner they can, because they’re bureaucrats, and they have an impossible job – as bureaucrats, they have to respond to politics; if they were proactive that would be like Nazi Germany, or something. Because what they have is the use of force; it’s not voluntary interactions that they have with people.

Michael Weinstein of AHF understands this, and we had a situation, with the AIM clinic, where AHF forced bureaucrats into action via complaints that they were compelled to investigate. Once called into action, they became what I call “jack-booted bureaucrats.” When you look at who some of the bureaucracies’ leaders are – such Deborah Gold at Cal/OSHA – it appears to me that much of this problem arises from the amount of emotion that the subject of HIV/AIDS has been wrapped in from the very beginning. I asked Paul Morris what it’s going to take to change this, culturally, and he told me that you and I and he and Weinstein and Deborah Gold, all of us, have to die off. The generations whose views about HIV were shaped by watching friends and loved ones die in hospice care in the 1980s.

I saw that about Michael Weinstein in the article about him in the L.A. Times.  That’s a very interesting observation.

Instead of coming at it from an emotional place based on experiences decades ago, we can start coming at it…

From the current reality, as a controllable disease and people not dying, as opposed to the reality of this unknown terrible thing.

Owen Hawk said something I thought was really right on – imagine if you’re gay, you’re sexually active, you’re in your twenties, you wanna get laid, you wanna have fun. But you’re always worried about getting HIV, it’s like this big stress. And then you get it – and the stress is gone. Now you just have to deal with having it. And you deal in that other culture and it’s a problem and it’s a whole different set of stress, but in a way, because there’s this large group of gay men [with HIV], I can see why they find it attractive and why some of them are not afraid, and why I’ve heard stories of guys that wanted to get it. Because it relieves that stress. 

One of the great things about the advent of the internet has been the rise of the citizen journalist, and the blogger, but it’s also created a platform for blowhards to bully their way into the public discourse. Blogger Mike South has repeated an anonymous quote he attributes to someone in the adult business who allegedly said he didn’t know who the top 5 players in porn might be, but he knew that “4 of them send Mike South Christmas cards.” And I’m trying to find out who these guys might be; I’ve been asking everyone. Is Mike South on your Christmas card list?

No. Why? Should he be? I met him like once in my life, maybe twice, when he was trying to be an agent and he had girls from Atlanta that were getting into the porn business. We’re talking maybe twenty years ago.

What’s the future in terms of the delivery of adult content?

We’re in a business that in kinda fun to be in, and as in all intellectual property rights areas where you’re creating something that’s fun to do with, or on, the internet, the return to those jobs is dropping dramatically. All over the board — to journalism, and to sex and showing off.  I was on Tumblr yesterday, thinking ‘These are girls who are showing off for free!” This is the psychology of what they’re doing.

It seems like we still have a strong market for product that’s taken and delivered efficiently through something like, which is successful and growing. It’s a huge site, with way more content than I ever envisioned it would have, or understood what as site should have. We have so many updates and so much content. That plus the VOD platforms – AEBN and HotMovies and Gamelink and stuff like that – manage to put together a package of money, combined with DVD and broadcast. That’s the only way we make it today.

Ten years ago, you could get by just on DVDs and VHS. That could be your whole revenue stream. Now you have to have multiple revenue streams, and it’s gonna change some more – the whole webcamming thing is very exciting and interesting, although I’ve never actually consumed a webcam performance. I feel like I really need to do that, but then it’s like, don’t I look at enough porn? [laughs]

I think we’re seeing that people are still willing to pay for an interactive experience, despite the slow death of strip clubs. In a sense, webcamming might be to live adult entertainment what VHS was to porn theaters – suddenly you could get yourself off watching porn at home…

Yeah. There’s some kind of qualitative difference in the experience. As opposed to somebody as a director, some other person, creating a porn image, you’re interacting with the performer and creating your own porn images. That is significant.


The 5th episode of Voracious Season Two is now available on



Listen to an audio excerpt from this interview:

Copyright 2014 TRPWL

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10 years ago

RT @mrwhiteacre: The Passions of John Stagliano: A TRPWL Interview via @trpwl

10 years ago

The Passions of John Stagliano: A TRPWL Interview —- @trpwl

10 years ago

RT @SiriPornStar: Must read –> John Stagliano interviewed by @mrwhiteacre for @TRPWL !!


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