That dick! Those lips. The legend.
The mantle of legend demands an epic quality and universal recognition that few can command, especially within the turnstile world of porn.
If there's a face of gay porn, it's larger-than-life Jeff Stryker -- he of the hillbilly drawl and raging ramrod -- the rarest of stars whose status extends beyond the porn arena and secures an immortal place in the collective consciousness.
Stryker's ascension to stardom in 1985 during smut's Video Revolution is the mythic porn equivalent of Marilyn Monroe's.
Young Midwesterner Charles Peyton was discovered via a typical modeling ad by directors Matt Sterling and John Travis.
As Norma Jean was made over into Marilyn, Stryker was manufactured into the cherub-faced, Goliath-endowed hard body we know today (some claiming as with Monroe that a cosmetic facial enhancement was involved in bringing the new creation to life) and thrust into the spotlight with a PR machine at his back.
It would be his second film, 1986's seminal (in more ways than one) all-male Powertool, that propelled him to god-like dimensions.
Powertool is considered the definitive gay porn title that set the standard for every high-gloss opus that followed. The film was also a baptism for many young queers into the world of adult video.
The man called Stryker was showcased in all his redneck rough-trade glory as he bore his battering ram into every orifice that stood in his path. He was one of the very few male stars who could venture into straight features like Jamie Loves Jeff and Ladies' Man. Still, gay porn was his bread and butter and Stryker was promoted as a strict Top Man only.
At heart he was a shrewd businessman who wisely followed the advice of his handlers: make as few high-profile features as possible so as not to burn out his appeal. He kept his wits about him, avoiding HIV in the pre-AIDS studio system, steering clear of the overdoses and run-ins with the law that plagued many of his counterparts, and keeping his off screen life scandal-free.
By the start of the 90s, Stryker had become a brand name, so much so that he was even knocked-off in the form of Rick Stryker, a supposed half-brother, which even if true (it's more likely a marketing ploy) would make him the Frank Stallone or Joey Travolta to Jeff's Sylvester or John. A merchandising blitz of endorsements and products ensued with posters, lubricants, playing cards, a Dutch-issued postage stamp, penis pumps, 976 numbers, a prosthetic cast of his prodigious prick, and even a 12-inch action figure.
That's not to say that Stryker didn't tend to polarize his audience. For all those who love him, there are others who find his appeal too chilly and aloof.
John Waters and Margaret Cho extol his virtues, but Camille Paglia finds him and his type to be "doom laden" and fearful of genuine same-sex eroticism in the wake of AIDS, not as brave as out-and-proud gay stars who embody "beauty, vitality, and brutality...the archaic vigor of nature."
Mark Simpson's book Male Impersonators: Men Performing Masculinity dismisses him and all the Ken Rykers and Ryan Idols as empty and remote, their sex play inhibited by macho theatricality.
The two have a point. Why is it always straight studs who become the gay icons as their harder working gay co-stars play second string?
While other models engage in every conceivable sex act with reckless joy, it's the Strykers who get the red carpet rolled out for them simply for bothering to kiss a co-star or condescending to suck a cock.
At times Stryker is just too obviously phoning it in, as evidenced his bored slip of the tongue in Big Time wherein he forgets that his blond slave boy is servicing his ass and not his dick. "Yeah boy, suck my...hole" he stammers, seeming to realize that he's trotted out the wrong generic command relied upon by every gruff trade. There's no real investment in the moment, just a lot of going through the motions.
That may be the essence of the Stryker persona: he is the ultimate selfish top, ever preoccupied with his own pleasure and never willing to reciprocate. Stryker is the male spin on the Bitch Goddess -- beloved but resented in all his obliviousness. He commands us to worship him but promises us nothing in return. It's enough that he plunders our deepest recesses and satisfies his own vanity.
Have a listen to his mind-bending stream-of-consciousness dialogue in Underground as he waxes orgiastic about his libido:
"I don't know where to begin. I was walking through the city. See, I got a huge cock. I have desires. I need to fulfill them."
Is it spoken word performance art, porn speak as poetry? His voice hovers over the whole movie, directing the players within and the audience without, telling us what we want.
In one glory hole scene where he isn't even physically present he both narrates the action and drives it like a disembodied puppet master. "Nasty hunk of meat! Yeah, tongue it ya nasty fuck! Look at that nasty dick! Stick your tongue in there! Oh yeah! You'll suck it boy! You nasty man you!"
As Stryker talks directly at us, we experience the ravings of a sociopathic sex pig whose will is boundless. He's a monomaniacal Tom Cruise dancing on the couch to declare his endless love for himself, a meth-fueled Jim Jones presiding over his own cult of personality. Creepy? Yes, but weirdly hypnotic at the same time.
In unguarded moments Le Stryker harbors an inner dork who rears his head despite his best efforts to play it cool. Behold his dazzling array of martial arts moves in Stryker Force and the dopey way the plot casts him as some kind of defender of imperiled gays, as if only a gay-for-pay tough guy could be our avenger. He dispatches a musclebound gang in what should play as a fusion of Rambo and Jean Claude Van Damme. His heroics are undercut by the goofiness of it all, probably the result of him being juiced up on too many Karate Kid viewings.
Stryker's trademark twangy delivery -- sounding like Elvis with a frontal lobe lobotomy -- can at times lend an element of high comedy to his barrage of dirty talk. Check out the scene in Big Time where he utters the uproarious line "Why don't ya peeeeel off yer pants and let me show you what it's like to fly United!" It provokes clearly spontaneous laughter from his two co-stars, so we have to wonder if Stryker demanded script approval and took it upon himself to write his own dialogue.
As has been the case with other porn stars wanting to prove their legitimacy, he also seems intent on revealing his inner self to a public who only wants him for his body. He's taken a stab at the standard issue path to mainstream success: the singing career. Amazingly, his foray into country music (?!) didn't light up the charts, nor have his acting attempts in German short films, Japanese animation voice overs, and Italian-lensed zombie flicks convinced the world that his talent doesn't hang between his legs.
As a single guy, Stryker suffers from the same crisis of self that's usually reserved for female sex symbols; as much as the public desires him as a myth, he remains perennially single as a real man.
Being a legend is lonely. Stryker's recent well-publicized battle of wills with a noisy folk music club bordering his Hollywood office give us a glimpse of how mundane his life just might be off-camera.
In our minds we see him at wild L.A. bacchanals where he's serviced by adoring concubines. Instead, he apparently works late at the office and complains about the noise. Reports have him haranguing the club's patrons, employing his karate routines and blaring disco music to intimidate them, and possibly resenting that he couldn't perform one of his non-hit country songs in the venue.
There's something distressing about the world's biggest dick suffering the indignity of being snubbed by a folkie crowd who find him to be a nuisance. Even beauty and tremendous endowment can't always guarantee acceptability and a hot date.
What hope is there for any of us mere mortals when Jeff Stryker is dateless on a Saturday night and stuck on the dark side of the velvet rope?
Never has Stryker come off as more real than in his televised interview regarding the horrifying 2004 school attack in which his own son was beaten and stabbed by a group of classmates. Reportedly the incident was racially motivated, but some have questioned whether the perpetrators discovered that the boy's father was a gay porn star, prompting them to commit a by-proxy bashing.
Whatever the motivation, watching the footage with a pained Stryker was strangely profound. What we saw was a single father fearful for his son, looking somewhat haggard, despondent, and so much more diminutive than the stallion adorning video box covers. The Adonis showed some cracks in his facade and for the first time his dick seemed secondary to his troubled heart.
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