He might be a hunk, but he's only human

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He might be a hunk, but he's only human

I’ve always been a trusting, naïve person by nature.

When you admit this to someone in almost any scenario you encounter in life, it’s because, for one reason or another, you’ve let your guard down. You’ve inadvertently exposed yourself to hurt, pain or rejection. Something negative has happened. That friend or family member will usually give you a look of pity, shake her head and mutter, “Well, bless your heart” (If you’re from the South, you know this isn’t exactly a compliment, but rather a syrupy sweet way of stating that you’re an idiot).

Longtime fans of Bob Mizer, Physique Pictorial, or any other project even remotely located within the Athletic Model Guild nucleus have to admit that we can all be naïve, too. Mizer sold the men on the Physique Pictorial to us as bastions of good health and clean living. Especially in the 1950s and ‘60s, the Mizer and other physique photographers marketed their models to readers as morally upright Supermen. The reality was, these men were more Eddie Haskell than Clark Kent.

Those who do not accept male physique photography as art and instead lump it in with the very different industry of pornography would will always be quick to point out that involvement in or obsession with adult films can only lead to lives ruined and dreams shattered.

A sheltered child, I didn’t pick up my very first porn magazine until the first semester of my freshman year at college in the mid-1990s. The cover model – not handsome in the same way as the Mizer models of the ‘50s – resonated with me instantly. He had long facial features, a toned body, he was tall, and, of course, it helped that his member was a sizable 10-and-a-half inches.

For the purposes of this column, let’s just call him by a pseudonym -- ‘Wade North.’

As far as porn careers go, Wade was nothing special. He was no Jeff Stryker or John Holmes. His career, like most, barely lasted half a decade, with only a handful of films and photo shoots to his name.

And yet, it seemed like he was the center of my budding sexual world.

Like any horny young man unable to keep my love for porn under wraps, I kept a centerspread of Wade splashed across my dorm room wall. I didn’t care who saw it. When I wasn’t sexually involved with a boyfriend – or even a friend, for that matter – my favorite Wade North film “kept me company” and saw to my needs.

Years later, after his porn star had seemingly faded long ago, I found Wade North listed on a gay escort site. Having amassed some vacation time at work, I took a few days off to travel out of state and hopefully meet with my ‘idol.’

The communication process was laborious, to say the least. When I landed, I texted Wade to let him know I was in town, and that I wanted to take him for coffee, as well as get a couple of selfies and some autographs.

Though we arranged to meet the next morning, my first wave of panic set in when he texted only moments before our meeting time and asked to reschedule to later that evening, as he was stuck at work.

My naivete quickly gave way to premature feelings of regret. “Oh my god, he’s going to cancel, or I’m going to get stood up,” I thought to myself all afternoon as I sipped martinis at the hotel bar and watched slovenly tourists waddle in and out of view throughout the lobby.  

My mind raced to the mixed reviews I had read about Wade North on various escort sites. Roughly half praised his ‘laid-back’ attitude, friendliness, and giving nature in the bedroom. The other half were adamant in their warnings to stay away from a washed-up has-been who sometimes cancels appointments at the last moment or neglects to show up at the scheduled time altogether.

I was fortunate enough to find myself in the lucky 50 percent -- the former group -- as he promptly arrived on time at our agreed-upon location (a sushi restaurant).

My very first thought was that Wade was much shorter than I imagined him (almost diminutive – but then again, I’m sure the deft photowork of his porn studios had made him look taller), and my second thought was that it was obvious he had just left his blue-collar work in landscaping. He looked as if he had dressed hurriedly, slapping on a pair of jeans and a hastily buttoned gray shirt.

Though I was expecting for Wade to look older than his photos, which looked as if they had been taken a decade ago, I wasn’t expecting such a dramatic departure from the hunk of my memories. He looked tired. His face wore the signs of a man who was paying the price for living a fast life and then crashing just as spectacularly.

He looked, in a word, very human.

We sat down, and Wade began talking almost immediately – in fact, he kept talking for the next two hours, and I barely got a word in edgewise. As someone who is used to interviewing others, however, I find that I enjoy listening infinitely more than talking.

The fabric of Wade’s life seemed to unravel at an early age. He told me about his attempts to study in the medical field at a community college. He dropped out and moved out of state, where he quickly found work as an exotic dancer. He burst onto the porn scene only a short time later, and also into a life in which he went out and partied until sunup ‘literally every night of the week.’ Cocaine and ecstasy were constant companions for the next several years, and even though he couldn’t save his two marriages from his party-boy ways, he expressed gratitude at the fact that his marriages produced three beautiful children.

Wade said more than once that he had several regrets in his life, and he seemed almost apologetic at his lack of education and his reliance on a blue-collar job in this, his post-porn life.

If I had been 20 years old and had heard those words from Wade North, my heart would have leapt out of my chest and I would have felt like a puppy being gently nuzzled by his master.

My admiration quickly melted into pity as I heard the life story that likely has been told hundreds of thousands of times in the porn industry – though, with Wade’s focus on a clean life (relatively speaking, I suppose), his is a kind of success story. At least he didn’t end up in prison for crimes ranging from theft to murder, as did many of Bob Mizer’s hunks. 

Sheepishly, I handed to Wade a black Sharpie and several magazines to sign. His face lit up and he smiled as he thumbed through the photo spreads and gazed down at the younger, nude version of himself, splayed across a bed or gripping his erect cock and sneering at the camera. 

“You know, you’re good people,” he chuckled at me, unable to make eye contact. 

If I had been 20 years old and had heard those words from Wade North, my heart would have leapt out of my chest and I would have felt like a puppy being gently nuzzled by his master. 

But this was no longer 1998, and these tales of addiction, broken relationships, financial struggles, and regrets humanized Wade North in a way that I needed to see and hear. This was a guy whose image I jacked off to in college. That’s it – he was one of many, many men chewed up and spat out by the adult film industry. 

Before we parted, we took a couple of selfies (he complained about the bags under his eyes), and he hugged me and kissed my cheek. Wade’s supporters were right. He was friendly, he was easygoing. And he was incredibly flawed. I needed to hear that for myself. 

Like my own porn hero, Bob Mizer’s men dealt with their own personal and professional struggles. In fact, that’s what made so many of them appealing. The stereotype of the ‘bad boy’ in gay culture is pervasive, and it is enticing. Mizer knew this, and, smartly, he capitalized on it. But we have to remember that those men on the page and those men on the screen are very real, and the fantasy we have will always remain at odds with the reality they present. 

-- Corbin

(Author’s note: Our Physique Pictorial relaunch, coming this August, will include a lengthy feature on Bob Mizer’s bad boys and what happened to them after they posed for the Athletic Model Guild. You can reserve your copy here. And don't forget to catch our weekly feature "Wanted: The Bad Boys of AMG.)