Friends With Benefits: Even Porn Stars Gotta Pound The Pavement

With My Mind On My Money

Only two highly symbolic locales ever seem to be perpetually invoked to embody the disparities of our fiscal meltdown: Main Street and Wall Street.

Are Andy and Opie Taylor having to ally with those hillbilly moonshiners in order to continue to afford their fishing lures, and is Patrick Bateman's Amex Gold Card being refused when he tries to order a coterie of high-end escorts after killing his accountant with a power drill?

But what about Easy Street in Pornopolis? Does no one care about the sacrifices and indignities our favorite gay porn gods have had to endure in a sharp and jagged downturn?

Gay porn is really a subsidiary of the male escort/sex worker scene, lucrative in its own right, but still mainly functioning as a virtual PR firm and calling card for the sex brokers. Long-believed to be recession-proof along with other "vice"-related industries, even All-Male Action has taken a serious hit in the past two years. Revenues not just for DVD and magazine sales are down, but so are the returns for Web-based smut and the dancing circuit. Many is the urban escort who's resigned himself to turning fewer high-roller tricks in favor of a more economy class clientele, and personal training and/or massage therapy bullet points are not necessarily placed in ironic quotations in resumes anymore. A top-tier star's name and face just don't ring up the dollar signs like they did five years ago.

So how does a hot porn piece branch out and diversify in a volatile market? The answer: one-on-one fan encounters.

Mo' Money, Mo' Problems

Like me, you're likely already thinking, "Um, isn't that already the game plan?," but no, this new form of transaction is actually not explicitly sex-based; this is more of a chance for porn connoisseurs to connect with their favorite headliners in a more friendly and approachable milieu, like a blue movie equivalent of Comic-Con or a Dinner With A Soap Star Sweepstakes.

Scoff if you like, but encounters like these -- once just the occasional one-off easy score for on-the-take studs with recognizable catalogs of DVD titles and measurable fan bases -- have slowly started to edge out movie work and club appearances as the second biggest slice of a performer's pie in a time when both gigs are no longer sure-fire windfalls. Porn stardom and a good head for business haven't always walked hand in hand, so stars whose sugar daddies' 401ks crashed and burned, whose own glitzy lifestyles outpaced their means, or who are otherwise talent-deficient are signing on for a spin on the fan circuit.

It all sounds so much like a threadbare, much-recycled plot from a high-concept '80s mismatch romantic comedy or the all-purpose narrative arc from the current glut of beautiful-dish-can't-get-a-goddamn-date flicks. I can't help but try to picture this sort of exchange in my mind. I've never paid for sex -- I'd just be too embarrassed, and I don't how I'd quite articulate what it is that I want to a total stranger -- so the idea of shelling out cash to just hang out seems almost quaint.

I envision any number of scenarios playing out: maybe Leo Giamani and I trying on outfits in a playful montage?; Francois Sagat and I high-fiving after I beat his muscle ass in a jog-off?; Parker Williams watching the season premiere of Lost with me over take-out as we exchange every-other-minute "The fuck?!" looks of disbelief?

Money Shot

The permutations are endless, and then, as friendship slowly turns to love, it all threatens to come apart in the third act, because all romantic comedies seem to based on the notion of someone pretending to be something they're not to impress a love interest who needs a pity date for a wedding. "You told me you were an ad exec, not a hack porno scribe!," he'll accuse, and I'll fire back, "Well you don't live on Mulholland Drive either, Bluntfuck! More like the Valley!"

He'll run out into the rain, and I'll pace woundedly to a folky pop tune. It'll all work out for the best, though, when he -- insert bathetic denouement here -- interrupts a sporting event to declare his love for me or flags me down just as I'm about to board a plane to France.

I'm not sure why people would part with their earnings for a meet-and-greet but not for sex, but it seems to be happening nonetheless. Power agent/porn pimp David Forrest is leading the trend, claiming it's not necessarily a trick thing (doubtful) while offering up some pretty tempting talent in the mix for a fee self-likened to a country club membership: $995 to $1495 to join in, with "green fees" (!) of $300 to $3000 per star and per length of visit. The service even offers to track down models who've retired from the movie biz but still make house calls.

It's all out of my league, but somebody's clearly game on both ends, with familiar faces like Samuel Colt, Mark Dalton, and Zeb Atlas -- who received a hefty chunk of change a scant two years ago from for his scandal-laden starring vehicle with Falcon -- as selling points. Most tellingly, Ken Ryker, a massive star in his heyday and retired since '04 after finding religion, a corporate sex lube sales position, and a real estate do-over, is on board and ready to take your calls.

When the market takes a powder, even the mighty can go from porn idol to just plain idle.