SAM BENJAMIN: AMERICAN GANGBANG


The moniker Sam Benjamin currently enjoys, “Ivy League graduate-turned-pornographer”, may be a bit over-simplified, but it gets to the heart of it. To his credit, he was shooting for “Ivy League graduate-turned-progressive-art-pornographer”, but that didn’t quite work out as planned. Luckily for those of us that prefer degenerate voyeurism over degenerate exhibitionism (and I mean degenerate in the best possible way), he’s written it all down for us—a three year odyssey detailed in his new book, American Gangbang: A Love Story.

Since this isn’t a book review, I’ll just steal the description: “In whip-smart, lyrical prose, Benjamin traces his immersion into the world of Hollywood’s bleak, screen glow–lit doppelganger: the southern California sex industry. His rapid ascent from the dingy storefront rental of a starving artist to the multimillion-dollar Malibu villa of a full-fledged porn producer confronts him with the uncomfortably alluring realities of America’s strangest industry: gun-toting actors, high on terrible, drug-induced potency; giggling actresses battling internal demons in wobbly heels and pink fishnets; the insatiable consumer demands to sink ever lower, more exploitative, nastier. The result is the titillating, dramatic chronicle of a young man who invites the deepest, most troubling parts of himself to rise to the surface in order to get a good look at them—only to find that what he sees makes his world seem suddenly very small.”.

Painting of Sam by Paul Beel
All photographs courtesy Sam Benjamin
Thanks to Greg Walloch and Mark Allen from “Pitch!


Weston Bingham:
I don’t want to give away the plot, but when you got into porn you set out to bring some sophistication to the artform. In a nutshell, how’d that work out for you?

Sam Benjamin: Well, my mission wasn’t a total, abject failure, but it was next door to one. I started off with a good head of steam: the first flick I made was a documentary-style porno, where I weaved interview footage in and out of the fetish sex scene I crafted. It came off fairly well, but it was nothing a sane person could stroke to. Sales were pathetic, and it was then that I realized that I was in the business of making and selling smut, and therefore, I had to give the customers what they were looking for. So I dumbed-down the content down accordingly. Straightaway, my sales skyrocketed. My conclusion? Boners seemed to do better with less moral/cerebral/sociological input.

Weston: Besides the obvious, what’s the difference between shooting a gay porn and a straight porn?

Sam: I think the biggest difference is that gay porn had a slightly better vibe to it. Straight porn, at least the kind that got produced in LA in my heyday, always seemed to have a tacit (or conspicuous) agenda of degradation underwriting it. You had to see the girl get squelched, in some way—that’s what the facial was all about. In the gay porn that I shot, the bottom got objectified, but there was never this element of “let’s see him taken to the darkest place imaginable.”

I’m not saying that some nights weren’t tragic, because they were. I shot a lot of tweaker-twinks—a LOT of them. But for the hour or so during which we labored, the atmosphere was quite light and friendly. It was just dudes, sweating out a strange but not overly uncomfortable job, working for that rent.
Weston:
What was the most degenerate thing you did on film? The darkest place you went?

Sam: I can’t even recall. In fact, I don’t even want to go there. I’m shocked and ashamed I even admitted as much as I did in my book. See, because it took me so fucking long to sell the book, I got obsessed with including as much salacious info as possible, with the ostensible goal being to whet the appetites of the editors at publishing houses. Fifteen years from now, when I have a couple of kids and a teaching gig, I’ll probably regret the hell out of being so candid.

Weston: How about the most ridiculous?

Sam: Personally, the most ridiculous thing I ever did in front of the camera was a naked ‘wheel’—a yoga pose that’s basically a backbend—with a Jell-O mold shaped like the United States wriggling around on my chest. I was in a movie called Slide Bi Me (Good Vibrations, 2001). I thought I was making this grand, performance-art-worthy statement about exhibitionism, but I just came off as a very stoned young man.

Weston: What was your awesome porn name?

Sam: Never had a porn name, but years later I realized that “Bert Damascus” (pet plus street name) could have been mine! I kicked myself as I realized I’d missed out on one of the great all-time porn names. That name basically is a moustache.
Weston:
Tell us about you stunt penis work.

Sam: There were a few scenes where the actors couldn’t finish the job properly, and I had to “stand in” for them. I remember this one actress particularly, named Sugarcane. Unfortunately, in her case, the guys having sex with her were black, and in the insanity of the moment, and the money-lust, no one really questioned switching in my average white boy cock for a huge black one. We all agreed it had to be done—porn minus the money shot is hardly porn at all—and no one argued as Sugarcane and I snuck into a hallway bathroom for an abbreviated off-camera canoodle. Then quick, switch the Canon back on, auto-focus, and capture the big event.

Weston: Has your experience in porn fucked up your sex life?

Sam: People always ask me this. I have a pretty vanilla sex life, though—always have. I’m good at finding my way into adventures, and I’m always drawn to weird people, but I’m not super interested in like, locking myself in a hotel room with ten hookers and fucking my way to oblivion. It’s not even a “been there, done that” kind of thing. I enjoyed the anthropological experiment of living with and befriending members of the real sex industry. Even fucking them from time to time. But the sex I found there was so devoid of meaning that despite the pleasure I gained from bedding the conventionally “sexy” bodies I’d always lusted over in magazines and movies, I just don’t have the desire to do that anymore.

My big thing now is that I’m trying to limit my romantic encounters to just women who I’m attracted to. I used to be kind of slutty—I admit that. I’m on an anti-slut mission right now. Selectivity is my word.
Weston:
You’ve said you think that women make the best pornographers—how so?

Sam: Because men have dominated the means of production for pornography for so long, women’s voices inevitably produce a fresh and badly-needed perspective to sex videos. Personally, I like the softcore, narrative-centered type of fare you get with a Candida Royalle-style “couples” video, but I’m also very down for a strong Belladonna-directed gonzo scene that’s all about hardcore. Ashley Blue is a strong voice with a unique flair for dominance through humor and intelligence. Mason produced some thoroughly fucked-up films in the early part of this decade that rivaled anything Rob Black or Max Hardcore had up their sleeve. I just like the variance. If porn is really going to get any better, we need a constant influx of new perspectives. Women directors are the future of sex-positive hetero porn, period.

Weston:
You can’t hear it in a book, but you can online. Let’s talk about the music!

Sam: Maybe I’m biased, but to my mind, music is the secret ingredient that makes porn better than all other genres of film.

“No, Sam,” you may be muttering angrily to yourself. “Porno music is relentlessly stupid; it is insipid, the rhythmic equivalent of drool—sonically offensive beyond our wildest dreams.”

You are right, of course. Chimpanzees banging cast-iron pots against overturned seven-gallon drums have often made better scores to snog to than much of cretinous slop that’s been churned out over the years.

But then, too, there are gems: veritable diamonds in the dustbins. Please allow me to present my top ten porn tracks of all time, culled from crinkling VHS tapes, 1981-1995 and snatched from the jaws of discarded, half-ruined DVDs.

10. John Wayne Bobbit Uncut (1993)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

This haunting spiritual dirge is one of my go-to porno tracks. It’s raunchy and horn-heavy, but cleanly produced, and speaks volumes of personal drama and Jungian collective pathos. As well it should: Uncut was the comeback story of the publicly castrated John Wayne Bobbitt, whose li’l pecker was sewn back onto his root through the marvels of mid-90s microsurgery. Bobbitt managed to have sex with five women in Uncut, and though he achieves only one full erection (by my count), he ekes out several savage, panting ejaculations, proving that he’s “back in the game.” A sequel, Frankenpenis, was produced concurrently, but lacks the same phonic urgency.

9. In Defense of Savannah (1991)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

This driving, sexy guitar serenade from the early 90s comes from a rather boring movie featuring the ever-wondrous, uber-blonde Savannah, who died by her own hand a few years after its production. Sad occasion notwithstanding, this porno soundtrack is decisively high-end: recorded with a microphone not bought at a pawn shop, performed by what sounds very much like professional studio musicians, the dirge features minimal distortion and a traditional ensemble (guitar, synth and hi-hat). What defines it as porn-corn, though, is the endless looping: there’s no progression. It never goes anywhere. Kinda like smoking an eightball of crack, and running in place on a treadmill for an hour—adorable and pointless. That’s why I put it at number 9.

8. Hill Street Blacks (1985)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Now this is mambo fuck music: flutes, hand-drums, trumpets; a high-octane rhythm section for that ass. Truly, the band sounds a little too tight to have been assembled only to score director Scotty Fox’s mid-80s magnum opus. In fact, to me, they sound a lot like Steely Dan, particularly at the :37 second mark and beyond. (Is this Steely Dan?! Did they owe someone porn scumbag a deep, dark favor? Stranger things have happened before, and not all of them have involved yacht rock.)

7. Backdoor Bandits (1989)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Super-dramatic, mildly haunting, with just enough fuck-whispers (“suck it!”) to make things interesting. To me, 1989 was best spent home alone, wanking: the Exxon Valdez had drunkenly careened into a flavorful iceberg; Salman Rushdie was cowering stubbornly into a paperback of The Satanic Verses; I was getting bullied by some skinhead named Bob Thomas in the bathroom of Grey Culbreth Junior High School. Meanwhile, across the continent, some blonde couple is jizzing their brains out on some soundstage in Reseda. Two weeks later, enter the director’s nephew, on spring break from Glendale Community College, where he’s taking a course in Music 101. He locks himself into a bedroom with a MIDI synthesizer and a carton of Virginia Slims, and over the course of the next fourteen hours, creates a mystical, semi-progressive, electric-piano based porno loop that touches all of our hearts.

6. New Sensations (1990)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Is there a musical equivalent for shrunken testicles? This music just makes me think of the sweatiest sex ever. It reminds me of everything 80s: an aerobics instructor with back sweat; ferocious perms; legwarmers up the ass. The sax solo is undoubtedly performed by some coked-up greaseball wearing a bandana who spent his VCA-cut check on fry-chicken and a quarter tank of diesel gasoline.

5. Simply Outrageous (1988)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

What instrument is this? I feel like it may well be a Casio. Someone got a Casio for Hannukah!

Watching Simply Outrageous takes major spiritual fortitude: this particular loop, for example, goes on for well-nigh twenty minutes, without so much as a tweak, and the other backing tunes are just as cheap. Frankly, I love this “song.” It’s troubling. It’s LONELY. And thus, speaks volumes about the experience of consuming pornography. For what is porn, after all? It’s a cinema characterized by acting and direction that is purely lazy. Not to mention boring, and degenerate.

Accidental genius, swathed in the neural bolt of syncopated fuck-garbage. The perfume of champions. Hypnotic as hell.

4. Backdoor Bandits (1989)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

A second entry by the esteemed BDB. This track is included mostly due to the bizzare performance of its ‘lead vocalist.’ Listen to her Grace Slick her way through the track’s dramatic, ‘Chariots of Fire’-style electro-clavichord climax. It’s SUPER annoying, and extra freaky. The amphetamines must have been flowing her way at a double clip the day this scene was filmed.

I never got a good handle on the beast that was the porno actress. Was she participating for the food, the folks, or the fun? This anonymous actress sounds attractively kinky, a credit to her profession.

3. John Wayne Bobbit, Uncut (1993)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Now this shit reminds me of something that would be played in a strip club in North Carolina, Alabama, or Georgia. Little story: I had a friend when I was in college named Rob who went to UNC-Asheville. He was a DJ at a strip club on weekends and holidays. My senior year, he invited me to come see him on Christmas break. I remember getting high in the parking lot with him and then enterin the club. We waltzed in, using strides that felt like they were slow-motion. A fog machine was going FULL BLAST, and it stayed on POUND for like THREE HOURS. I actually think I got cancer that night.

Rob dated a stripper for a while. She was completely enamored of him and told him things like, “You have pretty legs.” I always wanted a stripper to tell me that. “You have pretty legs.”  It never happened.

2. Between the Cheeks (1985)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Director Greg Dark is a weird bird. He came into the porn industry in the early ’80s as a documentarian, making a film called Fallen Angels that came off as a rather harsh critique of the LA hetero smut biz. Sensing the possibility of making some dough, though, in a field with tamped-down competition, he teamed up with producer Walter Dark to make some of the oddest, darkest, raunchiest flicks of the decade, including the pre-Alt-porn sensation New Wave Hookers and the funky, scary, racially insensitive Let Me Tell Ya ‘Bout Black Chicks. Music was always central to his theme. After porn, he went on to shoot music videos for Britney Spears and Sublime.

1. Raunch-o-Rama (1993)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

My top porno track of all time is a straight-up spiritual funk jones: an inspirational ode to pubic hair that reminds me of eating french fries while driving. I would literally kill to find out who created this jewel of abjection, and how. ’70s wah-wah, thought by so many to be the golden age of porn music, just can’t get close to this robotic, Pretty-in-Pink, open-hearted chakra-glowstick Cliff Huxtable-on-acid paean to solo ejaculation.

Frank Zappa said it first: Music is the best. But I’ll say it second: Porn music is second-best. And after all, aren’t we all?

Comments (1) left to “SAM BENJAMIN: AMERICAN GANGBANG”

  1. jose wrote:

    ¿why some pics are always wrong? i love you guys! and i want to see it! so much love from chile! (:

Post a Comment

*Required
*Required (Never published)
 



©2008, 2009, 2010 East Village Boys. All Rights Reserved. Legal Disclaimer
Real Time Analytics