Shortly before the upcoming new decade some influential actors, directors and producers have passed away. Among the deceased in December are William Higgins, one of the most important pioneers of gay pornography in the USA, George McDonald, one of the first male porn stars ever, and the 1990s legend Jeff Marton, who accompanied the transition from VHS to DVD at studios such as Evil Angel.
Last Saturday one of the important pioneers of gay pornography died in Prague of a heart attack. The US director and producer William Higgins was 77 years old. His career began in the early 70s and lasted for over four decades. Just one day before his death, he published an article on his video blog.
During his career, Higgins shot and produced over 3000 movies and influenced numerous stars, including LGBTQ icon Chi Chi LaRue, whose Channel 1 Releasing acquired Higgins’ production company Catalina Video in 2007.
Higgins’ most famous films include numerous classics of gay pornography in the USA: A Married Man (1974), Pacific Coast Highway (1981), Sailor in the Wild (1983) and Big Guns (1987). In his Cinéma Vérité-inspired works he has worked with legendary porn stars such as John Davenport, Jan Dvorak, Rick Donovan, Kip Noll and Jack Wrangler.
In 1978, the director founded his own production company Catalina Video, which he operated from Amsterdam and Prague for a good quarter of a century until it was taken over by C1R. In 2016, after a break of almost twenty years, a new production of Higgins was released there. The title of the movie was »Uncut and Raw«. C1R also released Higgins’ older classics.
In an interview in 2018, Higgins said that he first saw a gay porn film in the Kit Kat cinema in Dallas and then went on to get films from the influential Falcon Studio on 8mm reels. When the studio had to stop shipping the films for legal reasons, Higgins decided to produce porn films himself. Yet, according to Higgins, he never thought that gay porn would ever become as popular as it is today.
In the interview, he said: »I certainly had no idea that it would grow to the dimensions that it has. I went to one GayVN Awards in Los Angeles—one of the few they actually had for just the gay side—and there were 4,000 people there. I was already over here, but I went back to be inducted into the GayVN Hall of Fame, and there must have been hundreds and hundreds of directors and producers and everybody working in the industry. When I started, there were, I don’t know, four or five people in L.A., five people in San Francisco, maybe four people in New York—and all working part-time except for the people in San Francisco. Whoever knew that it would grow any bigger? But trust me, those days in the 1980s were the big profit days. We didn’t realize it, but it turned out that way.«
Chi Chi LaRue said of the directing legend: »William Higgins gave me my start. He believed in me the second I walked in the door. I will never forget getting on the plane and flying to San Francisco for the first time to direct. He was very private and introverted but we had a bond, a special bond. He came to see my drag shows, and we’d talk to boys together; I’d ask them if they wanted to do porn movies. When I went to Prague, he would take us around to all these fabulous places. He started to look like Santa Claus in his later years but he was always fashionable and chic.«
William Higgins died unexpectedly at the age of 77 in his adopted hometown of Prague. His website can still be accessed.
Former porn star George McDonald also died at the age of seventy on 16 December this year. Many considered him to be the first male porn star ever.
With »Behind the Green Door« McDonald became famous in 1972 and a star in an industry that hadn’t known any stars yet.
Shortly before his death, the porn history website Rialto Report was able to conduct an extensive interview with McDonald. It is therefore known that McDonald was first a promising athlete and then fought in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. According to the Rialto Report, he was very interested in politics and started working as a porn actor in California in the early 70s. For a while, he worked with John Holmes on a live sex show in Hawaii.
McDonald later also wrote an autobiography under the title “Dirty Movies” and was considered by many companions to be the first male porn star ever.
The Rialto Report writes: »This was an era of shame and secrecy when no one used their real name, and most people didn’t use any name. But for a time, his name was everywhere — he once counted nine theaters showing his films in San Francisco at the same time. He started in the era of short, silent 8mm films and saw firsthand the progression to full-length pornographic features within a couple of years. He was in the industry so early that one of his last films was the Mitchell Brothers’ ‘Behind the Green Door,’ which is often cited as one of the first adult films.”
The 99-minute interview with George McDonald with the Rialto Report can be viewed here.
The popular porn actor Jeff Marton, known in the 90s as »Hatman«, died in early December after a long illness. His active career lasted from 1996 to 2003 and he also took part in some mainstream productions as a musician and dancer.
At the peak of the relatively short DVD era, Jeff Marton was a successful and easily recognizable porn star. His trademark was a hat, which he sometimes put on on his sex partners and a goatee beard. In an astonishingly high number of films, he did not have sex on camera, a sign that his presence in itself was already an enrichment.
He shot for studios like Anabolic, Nasty Pixxx and Outlaw Productions and worked several times with director Christoph Clark. In industry circles, he was also known as one of the spokesmen for Evil Angel.
Marton himself might have thought about his active porn career as a marginality in a colorful long life. After all, he could look back on years of stage experience as a dancer and musician in performances alongside Rod Stewart and as a member of the dance group Dancing Machine. In 1986 he appeared as a dancer in the Hollywood movie »Knights of the City«.
The charismatic actor even left his mark in literary history. The US author David Foster Wallace mentioned him in the essay »Big Red Son« about a porn fair in Las Vegas.
The producer Jules Jordan said in the first reaction to Marton’s death: »Jeff Marton was truly one of a kind. He would give you his shirt off his back for you. When I joined Evil Angel in the early ’00s he was working there and that is when I met him. The stories he would have about John Stagliano, Joey Silvera, John Leslie and Rocco Siffredi were incredible. He really was a free spirit and enjoyed being in the industry — he was definitely an industry ambassador. He later went on to work for me after my Evil Angel departure and I valued his employment and insight.«
Marton died on December 2 at his home in the San Fernando Valley from lung cancer and respiratory disease.