What Price Fame?

Porn stars balk at a celebrity’s cost; Lotto winner is eager to buy it

“Why take a chance on garbage when any film remotely worth seeing will end up at the Quad?”

That’s what one friend replied—and he’s hardly alone in his sentiments—when asked about checking out this years New York Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (aka the NewFest).

Pity.

In the world of micro-budget gay cinema, there really is a fertile middle ground between the atrocious and the commercially viable. The two documentaries I was lucky to preview, “Naked Fame,” about porn stars struggling to go legit, and “One Man Show,” about a guy from the Bronx who becomes a winner, may never be snapped up by a national distributor, but they each make for a absorbing diversion nonetheless.

Coincidentally, both films spotlight middle-aged gay men at a crossroads who aspire to become singing sensations and money—or lack of it—dictates their every move. One guy is hot and the other is, well, not.

The hot one, Glenn, is known to the world as Colton Ford, the muscled, manly star of hardcore Chi-Chi LaRue porn epics. His equally studly boyfriend, Peter (Blake Harper), has also stimulated many a libido with his 60-plus skin flicks. The guys are fed up with the porn biz and, naturally, are having a tough time shifting to life in the mainstream. “Naked Fame” focuses on Glenn, who is determined to launch a singing career, though he prefers to say resume since he sang onstage years ago and resuming sounds less farfetched than launching.

Director Chris Long skillfully illuminates the former porn stars surprising depths, revealing Glenn and Peter as clever mavericks who don’t take shit from anybody. This includes unwelcome, groping fans and their inept songwriter/partner who yaps while their demo is playing in pitch meetings. Long captures the good stuff that other filmmakers might miss’—flowing tears, vented anger, hand-holding in subways, and a probing discussion about drugs that asserts a rare anti-crystal message. Despite their many tribulations in landing a record deal, their love and devotion for one another shines through.

Long takes us behind the scenes at the “Live & Raw Hotel” a 24/7 web site where voyeurs can watch their porn faves fuck, sleep, and urinate. But this life ain’t no party. There are no windows, and the performers must sleep with the lights glaring so viewers can see. Masturbation becomes a chore. On the wall is a big schedule for their obligatory live chat room duty.

We learn that Peter, as Blake Harper, arguably one of the biggest names in gay porn, earned only $30,000 in his peak year. The men supplement their incomes by working in the webcam and hawking their soiled underwear to hungry fans. Peter also has a nursing degree to fall back on.

Long has garnered some amazing interviews from Glenn’s gushing parents to porn king Chi-Chi LaRue perched in front of a sling. Hollywood writer Bruce Vilanche, New York party impresario Marc Berkley, and club divas Lonnie Gordon and Amber also make welcome appearances.

Chi-Chi claims that legit Hollywood is more cut-throat than porn can ever be. Despite some slack patches and a hodgepodge of a soundtrack, “Naked Fame” does a wryly incisive job of illustrating just that.

It doesn’t matter that the subject of “One Man Show” is not so hot looking, because he’s filthy rich and wildly funny. John Falcon (no, its not a porn name), hit the New York Lotto big time in 1999, winning $45 million, and he refuses to apologize for living large. In no time he traded his tiny one bedroom apartment in a fourth-floor walkup for a glass palace on Sutton Place, and later, in Trump World Tower.

For this starving artist who harbored delusions of grandeur for years, life was not always Easy Street. A decade before the windfall he was brutally bashed by homophobes and was laid up with injuries for months. Known more for his righteousness than for his work ethic, Falcon was booted out of F.I.T. for being a bad influence. His partner, in life and in business—they ran a tchotchke store for a few years—bilked him out of $85,000 to support a nasty coke habit and vanished.

But Falcon persevered, attempting a series of short-lived enterprises, including a clothing design business and creating a cabaret act titled, “A Short Puerto Rican Guy Sings Songs of Angst.” Since no producer would touch it, the entrepreneur used some of his winnings to stage the show himself for a one-night, invitation-only extravaganza. He even blew $50,000 to self-produce his own CD.

Director Ira Rosenzweig has unearthed a creepy yet captivating character in Falcon. With an infectious, Paul Lynde-style laugh, he’s got a knack for telling witty tales. He hosts lavish parties where he gleefully hands out scratch-off lottery tickets to salivating guests, like the infamous club kid Michael Alig dispensing ecstasy tabs at Limelight.

“I’m not really gay ’cause I don’t like men,” says Falcon. “What I like are penises.”

His friend remarks that now he can buy all the penises he wants.

This deceptively sophisticated film sometimes resembles a twisted episode of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” except here the subject is way gay, such as when the camera pans over his shiny new and improved digs. Loved ones past and present are interviewed about Falcon’s woebegone existence before he hit it big, and how he’s changed. They mince no words, with one friend accusing Falcon of making a deal with the devil.

”Now he’s Mr. Upper Class,” snips his estranged gal pal, who played Shirley to his Laverne back in their days at F.I.T. Falcon’s feisty mother, who steals every scene she’s in, is worthy of her own documentary.

Falcon even admits, unblinkingly, to having lipo surgery and spending $175,000 on total dental reconstruction. He actually believes his new purple contact lenses look great. I wished for a scene at a tony hair salon where his long ponytail gets lopped off—or one where he gets voice lessons—but they never happened.

Falcon would do well to drop the singing altogether and divert his funds to more worthwhile ventures, like to Glenn, a truly gifted vocalist who deserves to show his stuff on a legitimate stage. Surely, the two driven men can strike some sort of mutually beneficial arrangement.

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