No one really knows the sexual proclivities of the thousands of models who appeared before Bob Mizer's still and video cameras, but one thing is clear -- both the modeling and adult industries have a long history of employing straight men to perform for a largely gay audience.
"In the early days of Physique Pictorial, Bob Mizer marketed his publication as a way for readers to view amazing specimens of masculinity, all in the name of pursuing a lifestyle of good health," says Dennis Bell, president and CEO of the Bob Mizer Foundation. "Certainly, there were models who really did believe that was the one and only goal of the publication. But for every model who innocently believed he was posing as a fine, upstanding example of fitness, there were many, many more who knew that gay men lusted after them."
Perhaps only Mizer himself knew for sure which models were gay, which were straight, and which were fluid in their sexuality.
"Part of the appeal of Bob Mizer's models are those elements of mystery and ambiguity that surrounded so many of them," Bell observes.
Nick Dent, New York-based model and performer
Nick Dent, a New York-based model, says his experiences both in modeling and the adult industry have taught him much throughout his career. Dent cites as one of his biggest influences in bodybuilding to be Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor-turned-politician who famously posed for Mizer in 1975.
"I first started out in amateur bodybuilding at around 20 years old. I had been lifting weights since I was 15 and wanted to be like Arnold Schwarzenegger, big and in the movies," says Dent. "After one show I received a phone call at my parents' house. My mom gave me the phone and it was a photographer who wanted to put me in Playgirl Magazine. It wasn’t until 2008 that I got in Playgirl. But I did get the privilege of gracing the cover of their second to last issue as well as appear in the calendar of the last issue."
Dent went on to work in the adult film industry for nearly a decade, mostly with Lucas Entertainment, performing solo, gay and straight films under the stage name 'Reese Rideout.'
"Everything after the solo scenes was pretty much 'gay for pay.' My very first time doing something with another guy -- I didn’t know if I could," he recalls. "But something was always playing in the background that was of my liking. I would get one good thought in mind and ... (although) the money was great for a small-town boy, my eyes were on something bigger."
Dent, who says he made more money as a model and performer for gay audiences, believes there may be several reasons why straight men posing or performing for gay men remains so popular and lucrative.
"It could be the thought of (something forbidden), or maybe it’s against our will or possibly the idea we may end up being turned," he says. "Either way, I always got such a good response from all the fans."
Whatever the reason, Dent says he remains appreciative to all of his fans for their support throughout the years.
"The community as a whole has been so, so supportive and accepting," Dent says.
Brendon Knox, Vancouver-based model and performer
Further north of New York City, model and adult film star Brendon Knox of Vancouver, British Columbia, maintains a robust following on social media. Knox laughs as he explains how many times he receives prepositions from gay fans online and has to remind them that he is heterosexual.
Knox, another Lucas Entertainment veteran, says it was never made clear to him that often, some straight performers would be expected to shoot same-sex scenes. Like Dent, he found it difficult to perform at the beginning, but soon found his groove.
LIke Dent, Knox says much of the appeal of straight models posing for gay fans lies in the idea of the forbidden or the unreachable. And in some cases, Knox adds, gay models have even been expected to perform with female partners.
"It's the same as a straight man seeing two women," Knox explains. "In part, it's about the unattainable -- what you can't have, you want even more. ... I've known a few gay men who have received backlash after playing it straight for a scene. It's tough to find straight men who will do it for work. They're not easy to come by, but the scenes need to be shot."
Knox says, like Dent, that there are better fans and money to be found in straight men performing for gay audiences.
"I actually have a bigger fan base in the gay world. In a way, there's less B.S. and more money," he says. "I can't even remember the last time a woman complimented me. Regardless who gives me (the feedback), it's nice to hear. I mean, who doesn't like to be complimented?"
Bell says that Mizer, as well as other photographer/filmmakers of his day, knew the value of their fan base and gave them what they wanted.
"Bob was always looking for feedback from those who supported his work. Gay men specifically tend to be very loyal to certain models, regardless of their sexual orientation," Bell says. "Bob repaid that loyalty by listening to them. He was so good at that."