The Naked Interviewer - with pornographer Paul Morris

Saturday, 16 February 2013

 "In the late 60's I was connected to an underground revolutionary group called The Weathermen... mostly they blew things up to facilitate the downfall of the government... but part of their belief was that to be a revolutionary, you should have a homosexual experience, so I was kind of a gateway. I would have sex with all these young men in order to initiate them."
I first met Paul Morris ('the most notorious man in porn') when I accepted artistic male nude work from his company, Treasure Island Media (TIM). As with other shoots I'd done, I asked to see examples of his work, to make sure I was signing up for something that I could follow through with. I noticed that Paul liked to write a little about his subjects. He liked to analyse them, to draw conclusions about their character from the smallest gestures and body language. As I reached their office in the Folsom district of San Francisco, I decided that I would give him as little as possible.

It seemed that each and every surface of the studio contained at least one bottle of Listerine, one pack of gum and one pack of breath mints. Hindu statues of Ganesh were liberally scattered around.
One of Paul's staff led me to a room and asked me to strip. After I stripped, I was left alone in the room for five minutes. I looked at the titles of the porn films that were stacked in the bookshelf - Skull Fuck, Drunk on Cum, Brad McGuire's 20-hole weekend. Earlier, I'd read something online about the company being shunned by a large part of the gay community because of their specialisation in 'bareback' pornography. I'd also read something about Paul having a sex slave who has 'Property of Paul Morris' tattooed onto his neck, and something about TIM taking an 18-year old man to be 'hypnotised into becoming a cumslut', so I wasn't quite sure what to believe.   
I paced around, occasionally yoga stretching, being careful not to make a bad first impression by pointing my gaping arsehole toward the door. I'd become accustomed to other photographers working hard to make me feel comfortable before I took off my clothes. It was clear that TIM shoots were done on the photographer's terms.
A business meeting made me very late. When I walked in, it was extremely obvious that Sam was angry. I put the chair in front of him. He turned it around and stood behind it like this.
At first the middle finger of both hands were out. He was flipping me off. I said "Let's put the fingers away, ok?" He did, but the tension was thick.

I heard a loud yet polished voice saying something about Mechanically-Assisted Telepathy. He - a man with a silver pony tail and an earring - walked in and surveyed me over his glasses as though I were a toad, ready to be dissected. He chewed gum, which irritated me. Two of his staff followed behind - he gave them lighting directions before he greeted me, which was odd, I thought, considering that he seemed to place such importance on body language and social gestures. He was very aware of my presence, but was choosing to ignore it for now.
"Hello young man.", he said.
I half-smiled in answer.

When he asked questions I gave him one-word answers, or deflected them back with questions of my own. He shot a few incredulous looks at his staff. They remained professional, blank-faced.
"I'm sensing that you're quite the contrarian.", he declared, whilst watching me through his viewfinder.
"No I'm not.", I answered. All three of them laughed. Some of the tension left the room, but I remained still and expressionless, not offering anything more. At this point he must have realised that I was being deliberately obstinate, because he decided to go and make a phone call, leaving me alone for another five minutes.

I had him turn the chair around and sit down. Even though he was obviously angry, I immediately liked him. Maybe it was because he was making his feelings clear. I asked where he was from. "York." One word. "New York?" I asked. "No. Old York. Very old." His accent made his words sound like honey.

"You have a tattoo on your butt.", he said, upon re-entering the room.
"How many people have the Treasure Island Media logo tattooed onto themselves?", I answered.
"A lot. Thousands, probably. There's an Italian guy who got several tattoos. It represents our culture, for which 'real' sex is central. Why did you choose a bomb?" He asked, returning to the subject.
"Because it's big and black, and covering up another tattoo." His eyes lit up, anticipating a new piece of personal information.
"Oh! Another tattoo?"
"Yeah. Anyway, I have a few questions to ask you.", I said, picking up my notebook.
The light left his eyes. He suggested that his staff 'might want to' leave the room. They left obediently.  He wiped his brow and looked down at the floor.

"This is the first and only time that I've done anything like this.", he said, referring to the 'interview' situation that was developing. "I'm wary. "Not just of being misrepresented but of misrepresenting myself, because this stuff is deep.", he paused between sentences, carefully considering each word. "Sex is.... a language through which your identity and your life are composed. For gay men, the fact that sex is removed from reproduction gives an inherently creative freedom. It's what my life has been about, from a time that I was... tiny." He stressed the notion of tiny-ness with his thumb and index finger.
"What's your first sexual memory?", I asked him.
Always with straight men there's a balance between power and desire. Always, this is more serious than it is for gay men. Straight men can know that they are beautiful and desirable, but first they require that you acknowledge their strength, their power.

"My first sexual memory was my father. He worked a night job and would wake me up at three in the morning and make eggs and bacon, it was a great pleasure." He looked into the void behind me as he spoke. "I would sit in my little pyjamas, on his lap, and I remember exploring... something under his pants, which I found very interesting... my consciousness has always revolved around, the male body, around... cock. He would allow me to feel his cock. And then we would talk."
"And he was comfortable with you as a child...", I began.
"Yeah. Yeah. And it lasted for a long time. I like your Moleskine notebook. Interesting handwriting. Are you writing a book?"
"Who's being examined here, me or you?", I asked, smiling.
"You, I imagine. You're far more interesting than I am. You grew up in Yorkshire and you went to Cumbria University, which I learned is a relatively new college. Your foreskin bunches when you sit, and so, as you said, you 'un-scrunch' it. Did you want some coffee?"
"Why don't you allow people to take pictures of you?"
He studied me intently through his glasses. "I prefer to be a non-entity," he said, as though it were an obvious conclusion. "A reflected existence is what I prefer. Like the photographs of the young men that I take. Each one is a reflection of me, through them. Don't you think? I'm trying to photograph those moments when you're aware of yourself because I'm here. All of my life, everything has been guided by the exploration of what YOU are... this male object."
He looked away from me and clasped his hands together. I waited for him to continue. 
"There was a famous San Francisco bath-house, it's closed down now... and because I have very big hands, I've always been a very popular fisting top. I saw a man in there one night, very shiny bald head, and I quickly realised it was the French philosopher Michel Foucault. There were so many things that I wanted to ask him, about his books, but we just spent the evening fist-fucking. And it was ok, because we connected by exchanging information of a different order."
"It reminds me of a famous quote from Sartre," I said, offering some information in return for the first time. "Would you like to hear it?"
"I'd rather blow you.", he answered.
"When did you first become interested in nude modelling?", I asked, ignoring his last comment.

"When I was nine years old I had a friend - a precocious boy named Ronald." Paul answered. "He used to draw dinosaurs, and when you're a kid that's a wonderful thing. He invitied me over to his father's machine shop one day, we walked to the back and there was a nude man." He emphasised the word 'man' with a long, erudite purr.
"I spoke to the artist, and I said how did you make him do that? How did you make him stand still so you had time to work it all out? And so this fellow introduced me to the concept of posing. Before that, I'd been very scientific about it. I'd take money from my paper route and give it to the neighbourhood boys so they would drop their pants and I could draw their dicks. I felt like a scientist, studying the most potent, alluring, dangerous thing in the world. Studying things that could devour me - a fire that you move closer to, wanting to be devoured by it."

For the last shot I had Trevor and Pony come in and hold lights like this, pointed directly at his midsection. He had gone from an angry young man through several dark moods and was finally a stoic soldier being inspected. Afterward, I expected him to flee. Instead he came to my office and asked if he could interview me some more.

"One of the most difficult things to explain to someone in your world...hetero, reproductive, good clean achievement, and so on, is that the most important element of being a creative queer, an arch-faggot, is failing. Constantly failing. Everyone believes that pornography is, in itself, one enormous failure. So if I produce art, I've fucked up.
"My problem with most pornography is that there's no honesty, you don't see the whole thing, you only see the highlights of it, that moment of ejaculation, over and over again, the consciously composed templates, the repetitions of cliche structures that emulate sex. Like in TV shows, in repetitive dance music, as though designed to take people outside of the desperate longing, the realisation that we're all going to die. What to do if you're going to die? I say experience the thing that's going to die. The body."
"Is that why you asked Trevor to ask me if I wanted to do a masturbation shoot as well?", I asked, referencing an email that I'd received earlier that week.
"Maybe.", he answered, unfazed. "Maybe I wanted to see you helpless in orgasm, when everything goes away for just a moment and you die to yourself. Or maybe I just wanted to see your dick, hard. And that would be the last time you'd ever see me. And I wouldn't be in the room whilst you did it, either. Understand that I'm coming from a completely different informational field to you, and in my field, your sex is more important than anything else. And that offer is still on the table."
He seemed to set his sex aside for a moment, and give me a look - a generous look - the content but sad look of a wise man, lovingly watching young, free and stupid people from the top of his lonely mountain of knowledge.

"Although part of me doesn't want you to do a masturbation shoot. I'd be disappointed, somehow. And remember this when you're an ancient fellow like me, and you find yourself hopelessly attracted to a beautiful young woman - there's no preparation for such an experience, and, I'm afraid, no wise course to take."

All photos respectfully purloined from Paul Morris/  Treasure Island Media. If you like fist-fucking, you can buy DVDs of it here.

For more satire, travel articles and micro-fiction, like Sam's facebook page, The Daily Guttersnipe.


Bayle Doetch said...

Another great story!

I like the "I LIKE YOU" bit at the bottom. Someone has been tagging "I like you" around SF.