boardwalk empire

Boardwalk Empire Erotica; Gay Erotic Romance; What’s Gonzo Porn?

After watching the season finale of “Boardwalk Empire” last night, and watching a highly erotic BDSM scene (erotic for TV standards), I couldn’t help wondering whether or not the writers on BE had been influenced by “Fifty Shades of Grey.” And while I’m seeing a lot more erotica in the mainstream in all media forms, I’m also seeing this almost Victorian attitude toward gay fiction. This all does tie in, so stick with me. 

When I write posts like this I like to step back and remain objective. And that’s not always easy to do. But I often find gay books being promoted as erotic and yet I don’t find any erotica in them…or very little erotica. And that’s interesting in itself because gay fiction and erotica have historically been almost synonymous. It’s part of gay culture and gay history…my culture and history. Yet what I’ve seen lately are books that seem toned down in an erotic sense, with bland sex scenes, almost the same way films used to be toned down in the golden age of Hollywood film making. They are far from representative of gay men in most cases, and if you’re a gay man it gets a little confusing. But more than that, I have seen true gay erotic books, in spite of excellent sales numbers and an obvious strong, discreet readership, absolutely slammed by the gay erotic police.

When I released “Chase of a Dream” in two versions, one with sex scenes and one without, I thought I’d at least see a balance. If anything, I thought the erotic police would be happy to finally have a gay romance minus only 7,000 words of strong sex/erotic scenes. But they went blank, not even one review on the book without sex scenes. Interesting. And the uncensored version of “Chase of a Dream,” sold a lot of copies to the same wonderful discreet fan base I’ve had for years, which is why I didn’t let them down. I really thought that by releasing two versions I was doing this for readers…giving them what they wanted. It’s now evident that I was wrong. And I won’t self-censor another book again. I may write gay fiction without any sex scenes. I’ve done that before when the book called for it. But no more duel versions in my lifetime.

The other night I was watching a film titled, “Beware of the Gonzo,” and when I went to look up something about it later that night I did a search and came up with tons of links to “Gonzo Porn.” My reaction was shock. Here I thought I knew it all and I honestly did not know there was such a thing. I know what Gonzo Journalism is, but didn’t have a clue about Gonzo Porn. According to Urban Dictionary, this is Gonzo Porn:

When it comes to pornography the term ‘Gonzo’ refers to a style of film making pioneered in the 1990s by directors such as Seymore Butts and Ben Dover.


Gonzo porn took the storyline out of adult movies and headed straight for the sex. No longer would the pornoholic have to fast forward through 10 minutes of inept dialog to get 5 minutes of sex. They got sex throughout the whole video.
Gonzo porn was not always shot in the first person or in point-of-view fashion as some have suggested here and the quality of the movie depended largely on who was producing it.

So after reading about Gonzo Porn, I couldn’t help thinking about a lot of the blog posts I’ve written in the past about the differences between erotic romance and porn. I’ve never tried to define porn and I never will, but I have always maintained that erotic romance and erotic fiction is basically fiction that has both a strong storyline and strong sex scenes. If you take the sex out, like I did with “Chase of a Dream,” you still have a story. I think there’s always been a market for readers who enjoy reading erotic romance and erotica and I think there always will be. The sex in erotic romance or erotica is supposed to take the reader to another level and move the story forward. And by taking the reader to another level it creates a deeper more personal reading experience that books without sex don’t have. I think the sex should also be exaggerated a little, like all other aspects of fiction. That’s why it’s called fiction.
 
And yet I’m finding more and more gay fiction without sex and I’m starting to wonder why. I just finished writing a scene for an upcoming book in the bad boy billionaire series I’m writing for ravenous romance. And I wrote a tongue-in-cheek scene that I hope will be received as humorous, but I don’t have *high* hopes for this. It’s a lot like the burping dick scene I wrote in “American Star” and people actually took that scene seriously. I’m still smiling about that one. But I digress. In the scene in the new book, “The Vegas Shark,” a hapless young male stripper shoots ping pong balls out of his behind. It’s his individual “gimmick” at the fictional club where he works and customers line up to see his ping pong ball show once a week. Oh, he’s very big there. This is supposed to be both funny and erotic. When they wrote a scene like that in a classic gay movie twenty years ago with a woman people couldn’t stop talking about it. Of course I had to alter my scene because it’s not physically possible for a man to shoot ping pong balls out of his behind (I don’t think it is). But I figured something out that worked. And yet I can’t even imagine, as Dorothy Parker would say, what fresh hells await me with that scene when the book is released.
 
It’s not Gonzo Porn. There’s detailed, very emotional storyline in this book, as there are in all of the highly erotic gay romances and stories I’ve read in the past. So while I have nothing against Gonzo Porn, and it’s obvious the millions of other people who watch it don’t either, I don’t write it. I also wonder if this trend to censor strong sex out of gay fiction is going to continue or if it’s just a trend that won’t last. I have read gay fiction recently where you’d think gay men didn’t even have sex…or it’s so vanilla it’s like going back to the old days of TV where Lucy and Ricky had to sleep in twin beds. Of course we all knew Little Ricky didn’t not arrive via the stork, but that was the implication and Lucy and Ricky were absolutely sexless creatures. I doubt Fred and Ethel ever saw each other naked for that matter.
 
I’m writing another post this week about an actor who did a film in “yellowface” and how THAT fresh hell was received by the Asian community when they heard about it. In a way, I think what I just posted about gay fiction, Gonzo Porn, this need to censor, and current trends in gay fiction have a lot in common with actors putting on yellowface. But I don’t see gay men getting as upset about it as the Asian community is about actors in yellowface. That’s interesting in itself. My theory is that gay men just move on, dismiss the ridiculous, and don’t give it a second thought.  
 
But then again a lot of this comes down to book sales…just like Gonzo Porn. There’s obviously a strong discreet market for gay erotic romance and erotica, just like there’s a market for Gonzo Porn. Although the two are polar opposites because there’s no storyline in Gonzo Porn, my hope is that sales will win out this time and what I’m seeing is nothing more than a passing trend in gay fiction. And the most interesting thing about all this is that it’s not the straight community that seems to be doing the censorship. I’m not actually sure where it’s coming from…I sometimes imagine this secret group hiding in the wings…but it’s obvious with books like “Fifty Shades of Grey,” and scenes like the one in “Boardwalk Empire” last night that the straight mainstream community it just as interested in erotica as anyone else.
 
Photo from morguefile.com   
 

Best Gay Beach in New Jersey; New Jersey Publisher Hits Big

Due to all the devastation in New Jersey this past week, I wanted to post two things a lot of people might not know about New Jersey…one, a private gay beach, and two, an independent NJ publisher that did very well with a book that was adapted into a highly respected TV series on HBO.

I live in Pennsylvania now, and I love where I live. But I’m only one mile from the NJ border, and I still have trouble thinking of myself as a resident of PA…for twenty years now. It was so hard for me that it took me ten years to actually switch my driver’s license from NJ to PA. I had a business in NJ and used that address all that time. But ten years ago I knew it was time to change and I turned in my NJ license and applied for one in PA. My hand shook and I didn’t sleep for a week.

New Jersey receives a lot of bad press at times, with cheesy TV shows like “Jersey Shore,” and jokes about what metropolitan North Jersey looks like from a plane (the back of a radio). But I was born there, grew up there, and went to college there. I was born in Newark and spent my summers in Lake Hopatcong (the largest lake in the state…48 miles around by car). I grew up in Southern NJ in Salem County, which is more like Texas than anything anyone ever sees on TV or reads about in magazines. They even have a rodeo. I wrote about that in a short story once titled, “Kevin Loves Cowboys.” And I went to college in Madison NJ, at Fairleigh Dickinson University, a college town surrounded by other private universities like Drew University and Saint Elizabeth’s. So the picture of what people get when they see NJ at a glance is far from accurate in most cases.

One of my favorite places in New Jersey has always been Belmar. It’s a small coastal town that’s one hour from New Hope, with a quiet gay beach near 2nd Avenue.

The next most well known gay beach is in Belmar at 2nd Avenue and the boardwalk. This location has been LGBT friendly and frequented by gays for more than 30 years. 2nd Avenue is at the northernmost area of Belmar’s great boardwalk. Make sure you get a beach badge for a day at this beach or you will be fined plenty. There are bars and refreshment stands within a convenient walk from the gay beach.

It was the first gay beach I ever went to and I was scared to death. The moment I got there, and saw the quiet streets and well kept homes in Belmar, I stopped worrying. It’s not the kind of gay beach where you’ll find a lot of cruising or nudity. At least I never did. But it is the kind of beach where gay people can meet other gay people without working too hard at it. I still go whenever I get the chance. And even more interesting is that the gay people blend right in with the straight people and no one seems to notice, or care. It’s always been that way as far as I can remember. Unfortunately, you don’t hear about that part of New Jersey often…not even in gay circles.

I recently discovered this information while I was writing a post about a full frontal nude scene on the TV show, “Boardwalk Empire,” with actor Bobby Cannavale.  An independent publisher in New Jersey pubbed the book, “Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City.” The publisher is Plexus Publishing, Inc, and they are based in Medford, NJ, which is considered South Jersey, not far from Philadelphia and New Hope.

I’ve been watching the TV show for years and I never knew this. I had to dig around while writing a blog post to find out by accident. I just always assume, like most people, TV shows like that are either concepts or based on popular books pubbed by larger publishers. For a small publisher to have a small book turned into a hit TV series on HBO isn’t bad, not by any means. Only you never hear about that anywhere unless you look for yourself.

Last week New Jersey was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, and right now they are in the process of putting everything back together. Tomorrow there’s supposed to be another nor’easter coming up the coast that might cause more devastation. And I wanted to post something positive about New Jersey no one ever hears about. Especially the part about the gay beach in Belmar. The gay community tends to be trendy, and the old circuit boys who are now filled with botox, covered with acne from too many steroids, and way too tan flock to Ft. Lauderdale in droves. It’s also cheap to live down there right now. Some wind up in Palm Springs because that’s another trending gay city. And others still gravitate toward cliched Key West where the crowd isn’t quite as filled with botox, but they are still hanging on to their mustaches and old disco music from the 70’s. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I like to visit all those places. Following trends is part of gay culture and probably always will be. And that’s no stereotype that’s a fact.

But there are other aspects to gay culture and New Jersey we don’t hear about often. There are well respected publishers doing excellent things right now. There are excellent colleges and universities like Princeton. And places like the gay beach in Belmar, NJ, offer an alternative to gay people who don’t want to be part of the gay cliche. I have no doubt NJ will come back in full force from what’s happened in the past week. In fact, I think it will come back better than before.

Male Full Frontal Nudity: Boardwalk Empire; Bobby Cannavale

We don’t often see full frontal male nudity on TV, or even in feature films. And as an erotic romance author with over one hundred published works of fiction, I’ve always found that interesting. I do think there’s a reason for this. I know some might disagree, and some would think this topic isn’t important. But it’s not something I see discussed often and when I see male full frontal in films and on TV I get curious.

We see breasts, a lot of ass, occasionally vagina, and pelvis shots, but never full frontal penis shots. So is there a double standard? Some might say we objectify women more than men. I think that’s true to a certain extent, but I also think there might be another reason. More and more men are being objectified these days, but they still aren’t showing everything.

I actually remember a web site a long time ago that was devoted to this very theme. They would follow films and TV shows where there was male full frontal nudity and post about it. It was always sketchy at best, with very little to see. And as I recall, there was a huge “thing” about Colin Farrell’s male full frontal scene being removed from A Home at the End of the World because everyone thought it would be too distracting.

But last night on Boardwalk Empire Boddy Cannavale, who plays Gyp Rosetti, bared it all in a kinky sex scene that rivals anything I’ve seen on TV before with regard to male full frontal nudity. He not only showed penis, he showed it in a scene that lasted more than a split second. As one of my pithier writer friends on facebook would say, “Jebus Crisp, that thing was swinging back and forth.”

It even bounced a few times, too.

And that’s because it couldn’t help itself. Anything that big is NOT going to remain stationary while a man walks naked down a hallway. And Bobby Cannavale was walking slowly. If he’d been running he would have had to hold it down with both hands.

The scene in which he showed all his full frontal began with Bobby having sex with a woman, both naked in a sleazy hotel room, with one end of a belt tied around Boddy’s neck and the other tied to the bed post. Actually, that would have been enough for one book reviewer I know to shudder and cross her legs. But that scene led into one of those glorious fake gruesome massacres, with fake guns, plenty of fake blood, and everyone in the scene dying except Bobby Cannavale. When everyone was dead, Cannavale got up and started walking around in a daze, with the belt still tied around his neck and his penis swinging back and forth.

Of course you had to watch closely. I DRV Boardwalk Empire, so I rewound the scene a few times just to be sure I wasn’t imagining it. Even though it was a longer full frontal shot than most, you could have missed it if you turned for a moment to get a snack. A few times Cannavale’s head blocked the view. But it was there, in a rare moment of male full frontal we never see anywhere in the mainstream.

My theory as to why we rarely ever see male full frontal in films or TV shows is that most male actors are not willing to show what they have because they might be afraid is doesn’t measure up to what viewers might expect of them. Would Tom Cruise have become the star he is if we’d seen a full frontal shot of him early in his career and it didn’t measure up to what we expected? What about Ben Affleck?

I doubt anyone would throw Bobby Cannavale out of bed if he hadn’t been blessed with something that impressive between his legs. He’s a seriously good looking guy, in his forties, with a great body, and he’s an excellent actor, too. But Cannavale is lucky in this respect. In this department there’s a lot of pressure on men with regard to penis size and I’m sure a lot of actors don’t want to take that risk. There was a great parody of this subject in a recent film I saw with Owen Wilson where Wilson is intimidated by a guy with a large penis in a locker room scene. And I wouldn’t throw Owen Wilson out of bed for anything.

Women in films can get away with more in this regard because there seems to be varied opinions about breast sizes. Some like them big, others like them little and perky. But you rarely hear anyone say, “Wow, I like the smallest penis I can find, especially when it’s little and perky.” And, at a glance, vagina is vagina. I’m sure some would disagree with me here, but I’m talking about at a glance.

So I doubt we’ll be seeing more male frontal nudity in the near future, unless they use stand-ins or some kind of prosthetic. It’s just too intimidating for some actors and there’s an unspoken bias that seems to linger beneath the surface all the time. We hear all the time that size doesn’t matter. I’ve seen articles and blog posts written about how cliched it is to write male characters in erotic romances with extra large ones. But would people read an erotic novel if the main character had a small penis?

They say size doesn’t matter, but I disagree…at least with respect to male full frontal nudity in films and on TV. I doubt Bobby Cannavale would have opted to do THAT scene if he’d been born with a pinkie finger between his legs.