The Gay Porn Blog Interview: David Forest Talks Zeb Atlas, Sharon Needles and The Tricky Business of “Live”
Flamboyant porn impresario David Forest wants to reignite the live porn appearance business — and the legendary talent manager is setting his sights on Menjo’s, a historic gay club in Detroit. On September 14th, Forest will bring Zeb Atlas, Ryan Rose and Hot Rod to the club to show that a well-produced big event can still bring out the throngs.
But Forest is the first to admit that, thanks to the death of the big gay clubs, the live event business is in need of reinvention. I gave him a call to talk about the big money days, on-the-sly sex, and Hot Rod’s mischievous 10-inch dick.
You don’t see many porn star events any more. What happened?
The business goes in trends. So the porn stars got crowded out by the disco divas, the club divas. And then that faded out and the new replacement are these drag queens, the RuPaul [Drag Race] queens. They getting good big money and they’re all over the place. Doesn’t do me any good cause that’s not what I book. My friend who owns Menjo’s … he’s doing live acts. He’s doing those drag girls, but he’s always liked the porn stars. So he said to me. “David, the days of the single porn star live performance days are slim. We know that there aren’t many ‘stars’ anymore anyway. What if we packaged together three, using the three areas — muscle daddy, collegiate all-American and the specialty, the ethnic. And get the biggest star from each area, spend the money to bring them all in — the hotel rooms, the airfare — and call it “I Want to Meet A Porn Star.”
And, I said “are you financing it?” And he said yes.
How expensive it is??
It’s not that expensive. I think one of those [Drag Race] girls costs as much as three of the porn stars.
For us, it’s $3000 for the talent for the night. Plus plus. Three airfares. Three hotel rooms. But for me, that’s not really all that expensive. And everyone’s [rates have] come down. Even Zeb, because they’re more modest in their expectations because they want to work. They don’t really have any nightclub anymore, and the gay porn stars love flying to a city and doing those nightclubs. There’s something to be said about being adored by your fans. Stars that do movies don’t get that adoration, don’t get that one part of the whole thing which is just feeding off of that enthusiasm. I used to see it from Ryan Idol, the crowds would just swarm him.
So what changed?
The problem is that the door charges in these cities has stayed at five dollars for ever. Maybe they’ll do $10 for this. I’ll tell you, when the clubs have these [Drag Race] girls, some of these girls like Sharon Needles and all, they’re getting $2500 or $4000 and they require an assistant and they require first class air. They’re getting overpriced. But the clubs — still they can get ten or twelve dollars admission. But for this now maybe they can. But they have to stop doing these little boys, these $750 a night once a month. Those are the things that killed it.
Like bringing in someone who’s not that big?
Not that big. Does’t mean that much. There are so many boys on the air these days. I look through it and there are so many.
So you bring together three, and you show them that it can make money if it’s done right.
The crowds at the gay porn clubs, they love multiples. They don’t really get that much off one guy just wiggling around and signing autographs. They like a complete show. But this isn’t much different from what goes on at rock shows now. You bring a lot of different type of bands together so that you can sell a big festival, like in Indio. Lots of diverse talent. Will it work here? Will Hot Rod’s fans stay to see a muscle daddy? Will the muscle daddy fans stay to see a black performer? We’re hoping they all get into it. I don’t know if this threesome I’ve put together is going to bugaloo together, but I hope they will. I hope that Zeb, and Hot Rod and Ryan Rose will join him for a little hanky-panky on stage.
Do you have to be careful of anything legally? You mentioned Texas and I thought, “Oh.”
There are still laws in some cities about the t-back or the full-back, or hand-to-hand tipping. But there’s nothing I can do about it. Some men were doing that thing, reaching into the crotches of the performers, and there’s been some problems. Detroit doesn’t have a problem with thongs or t-backs. But nudity is a problem everywhere. But does it happen? Is Hot Rod going to swing his 10-inch dick out? I don’t know, but if he’s doing a thing with the towel — the towels always seem to fall down. Certainly the club owner doesn’t want to get in trouble.
And any action between the boys on stage — that has to be very matter of fact. It’s not going to be able to be very explicit. They’re not going to be humping on stage. But I hope they’ll do a little something at the end of the show.
Is it different doing a show in Detroit as opposed to San Francisco or LA?
The problem is, San Francisco and LA could give a shit about porn stars. They see them ever day at the bus bench. In fact, in San Francisco they can see them jacking off if they want. I mean, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen a porn star appear in San Francisco at a gay dance nightclub where they come on as the star. Same in LA. … Jeffrey Sanker used to be a good customer of mine. He’d invite Ryan Idol and Caesar and Billy Herrington, but the problem is, there’s so few of them left. So LA and San Francisco wouldn’t be our target markets for this. This is more for the mid-west and maybe Texas. I’ve gotten some inquiries from Columbus, and Orlando and I’m hoping this is the start of the return.
What’s it take to be good on stage? I’m sure it’s different than film.
You get a boy that gets very popular on film, and yet he can’t do shit on stage. When I had Ryan Idol, he happened to be excellent on stage. The boy that started it off was Leo Ford. He always wanted to perform. But I’ve seen guys who can’t do anything. They don’t have to do very much. Zeb Atlas is not a Michael Jackson dancer. But he’s sexy. And there’s a way of doing moves and letting people paw at you. A stripper is no good if they’re not into it. And you know, with not a lot of stars — a lot of the clubs haven’t done a porn thing in five years.
When was the hey day?
The 90s. When I had Scott Baldwin and Christian Fox and Ryan Idol and Chris Steele. It all started dwindling down about ten years ago. The whole business has gone anti-star, and for the live appearance market you need a star. Who headlines in Las Vegas? Stars! That’s what sells tickets. There are very few guys, the Ken Rykers … I feel like even Shane Rollins was a star. He got $15,000 for Justice. Zeb Atlas, a studio comes and says we’ve got big money for your guy — $2000 a scene! And the studios are in control. Without the stars, we’re not going to have live appearances. There are so many boys on the air these days. I look through it and there are so many…
It is different than on the straight side? I always heard on the straight side, you didn’t make the money on the films, you made it in live appearances.
There are these gentleman’s clubs that will do a featured girl for four days. And those gals make a lot of money, because they sell their picture and they get their tips and they get their privates. This is another thing for those live appearance market for the boys — the [private meetings]. You know, men are spending less and less money on privates … Hopefully these boys will be able to see a few privates on these trips. It used to make a lot of sense, if Ryan Idol was getting $1500 for a show, and then he’d pick up a $500 hour before the show, and a $500 after the show. So suddenly he has $2500, and then it becomes meaningful. And I’m sure Zeb Atlas is already booking his Detroit tricks … Most all the boys are dibble-dabbling about the privates. It’s hard for them to turn it down, you know?
Tickets/Info: I Want To Meet A Porn Star