Chi Chi LaRue: Channel 1's Queen Bee, Part 1
Yes, the prolific director is extremely well known behind the camera, having helmed close to 500 adult movies, mostly in the gay genre but in the boygirl and girl-girl niches, as well. And, yes, LaRue is also an all-out celebrity as that unmistakable, easy-to-spot over-the-top drag queen everyone loves.
Additionally, Chi Chi is one of the five owners of Channel 1 Releasing (C1R), the biggest gay-owned porn production house in America. And at C1R, the (seemingly) non-stop-directing LaRue is completely at home, being in charge of the company’s production department.
But LaRue was encapsulated by porn a long, long time ago — well before initially directing the stuff in 1989.
“I lived in a small town in Minnesota called Hibbing,” recalls the 49-year-old LaRue, “and I would have to drive 100 miles just to go to a porn theater. I distinctly remember sneaking into one of those theaters at age 16 to see Alex de Renzy’s “Pretty Peaches,” the first adult movie I’d ever seen — and I instantly became addicted. Porn became an obsession for me. I just wanted to be in the public eye. So I started doing drag, and that kind of put me in the local public eye. And when I came out here in 1987, I kept the drag thing going.”
It was after moving to California that LaRue started working in the sales department at Catalina Video, eventually graduating to director status two years later.
Having lensed scores upon scores of gay titles since that time in the late ‘80s, LaRue also started directing boy-girl and girl-girl titles in 2001. Moonlighting over at Vivid — while still ceaselessly directing gay flicks — Chi Chi worked with such porn celebs as Jenna Jameson and Tera Patrick.
LaRue even directed a mainstream music video — subtly titled “I’m A Pig” — for legendary Judas Priest vocalist Rob Halford and his solo band Two; and featuring such classic porn stars as Janine, Jeanna Fine, TJ Hart and Stephanie Swift.
Says LaRue of the Halford experience: “You know what’s great about all of those Judas Priests songs like ‘Jawbreaker’ and ‘Breakin’ the Law’? — they’re all about gay sex. So it was fabulous to hear Rob tell me the stories behind all of those songs.”
And now her circle is complete: for just as Chi Chi started out at Catalina Video, her co-owned company Channel 1 Releasing has bought the entire Catalina Video movie library. In turn, fans will be thrilled to know that C1R is re-releasing the Catalina’s catalogue of classic titles on DVD. C1R now has over 2,000 titles, making it the largest gay-owned adult-movie company in the U.S.
And let’s not forget about Chi Chi’s disc jockey work — now on an international scale, no less — and the ever industrious celeb’s own Hollywood-based retail outlet called (you got it) Chi Chi LaRue’s.
LaRue sat down with XBIZ in late-August in the director’s modest, cozy office on the second floor of Channel 1 Releasing’s headquarters — a huge, nondescript white building located smack dab in the heart of Hollywood.
XBIZ: So, Chi Chi, I’ve read that you’re pretty good friends with cult-film director John Waters.
CHI CHI LARUE: Yeah! We met at a party some time ago. Bette Midler and Greg Gorman and (the late) John Schlesinger (director of “Midnight Cowboy”) were among the guests, and, yes, John Waters was there. He was so excited to meet me. And I remember how excited I was to meet him, as well, because I’ve been a huge fan of Divine and “Pink Flamingos” and “Female Trouble.” And Bette Midler was just looking at John like, ‘Why are you so excited about this person — i.e., me — who just walked in? Who is this person?’ (laughs)
XBIZ: Describe your position here at Channel 1 Releasing.
LARUE: I’m one of the owners, and I’m also in charge of production — along with one of my partners Steven, as well as Doug Jeffries. It’s been 10 years now since I’ve been with C1R, which has been around for about 11 years.
XBIZ: C1R produces and distributes its own movies, so it’s very much a self-sufficient outfit.
LARUE: That’s one of the great things about this company, and I have to praise my partners for it, because they’ve always stood by the mantra, ‘We don’t want to borrow money from anybody to make a movie.’ There are other companies that are getting money from other places to make movies, and then they owe all of this money back to these people — that’s crazy to me. I never understood that concept. And my partners especially don’t understand that concept. So, we pay for our own movies, we distribute them and we make the money. You have to put egos aside: if you don’t have the money to make a big movie, you don’t make a big movie; instead, you make a small movie. Or you don’t make a movie at all. You save that money; and by the time you’re ready to make another movie, then you’ve got the money to make it.
I did, however, shoot a very big-budgeted title this year called “Taken” which is one of my big, splashy, leather, fetish, dirty movies which usually seem to sell quite well. You make a regular movie with four scenes and eight or 10 guys in it, and it sells okay. Then you make these big, leather fetish movies, and they pay for themselves (snaps fingers) right away.
Read Part 2 of LaRue's interview in next month's issue.