Rob Spallone Courts HBO
"I shoot a movie a week," Spallone says after asking the second caller to call back in two weeks' time. "Tomorrow is 'Older Woman Orgy.' That's mature women. Eight of them. I do that once a month. I just finished 'Bang My White Tight Ass #50.' I'm in the middle of maybe beginning to shoot 'Sopornos #9,' and hopefully I'm going to do a deal with Wicked called 'Porntourage.'"
The final project, "Porntourage," is, of course, a takeoff on HBO's cult hit "Entourage." Although still in the planning stages, its success is all but guaranteed thanks to Spallone's proven ability to play himself on camera. In the title, non-sex role of Bobby Soporno, Spallone has turned the East Coast tough-guy act that has propelled his adult entertainment career since moving to California in 1998 into its own genre: method gonzo. Equal parts candid dialogue and improvisational sex, the genre has caught the attention not only of bigger-budget production houses such as Wicked Pictures but also HBO.
Spallone says he is currently working on a reality series pilot that would rest heavily on his improvisational skills as both a performer and producer.
"I approached [HBO] a few years ago with the idea of a reality series based on what it's like to be a porn movie producer," Spallone says. "They weren't into the porn, so I made sure there was no sex in what I wanted to do. Then, about a year ago, this documentary series called 'Pornucopia' came out, and I happened to be in two episodes."
The success of the "Pornucopia" series has been driven, in large part, by a desire on the part of HBO to exploit the safe harbor premium TV content. In the case of "Pornucopia," the network chose to air everything short of full penetration close-ups, setting up the possibility for even more ambitious concepts in the future. Seizing the opportunity, Spallone re-pitched the reality show idea, this time making a special point to emphasize the fast, cheap and out of control production process that has become a Star World trademark.
"When you shoot a movie, it all happens in the last 15-16 hours," Spallone says. "The fights, the arguments, the directors who think they're remaking 'Gone With the Wind.' About three or four weeks ago, I'm shooting 10 black blowjobs. The last guy, there was no way he was going to be able to perform. All I need was the cum shot to go home. The white guy who owned the house delivered the pop shot. Real glamorous."
Rather than waste his stories on fellow industry insiders, Spallone says he would like to expose it all to the camera lights and let the chips fall where they may. Although he doesn't yet have a deal, he says a female executive at HBO has promised to give the pilot a look once it's delivered.
"She said, 'I'll tell you what: Shoot something. Bring it to New York. I'll make sure it gets looked at. And if we don't take it, I'll put you in the right direction.'"
Born Into The Biz
Building the concept behind a reality show yourself might seem like the ultimate display of California narcissism, but Spallone, a realist raised in Queens, N.Y., sees it as a savvy way to escape the economic box created by commodity porn making. Although born into the business — Spallone's parents, Joe and Barbara Spallone ran Gourmet Video, one of the first adult industry companies to make the transition to video tape in the 1980s — Spallone spent much of his adulthood playing the prodigal son, working a succession of jobs in the construction and bread wholesale delivery businesses back in New York City. The latter industry introduced Spallone to the perils of operating a volume business. "We sold 4,000 loaves a day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year," Spallone says. "It was hard shit."
After relocating to the West Coast in the mid-1990s, Spallone found himself in a somewhat similar business model, albeit one that offered more days off. Everywhere you looked, he says, porn producers were struggling to squeeze pennies out of an industry beholden to too many middlemen. After a few months of handling "odds and ends" at Gourmet Video, Spallone took over the job of booking talent for the studio's own productions. As his Rolodex quickly expanded, Spallone decided to take the natural next step and hire the talent he'd just booked out to other studios, cutting out the agents who'd referred them in the first place.
"I was meeting everybody," Spallone says, looking back. "I said to the directors, 'Why are you paying these agents $600 for each shoot?' I opened my own agency and charged cheaper."
Spallone says his aggressive poaching put him on a quick collision course with Jim South, owner of World Modeling Talent Agency and one of Gourmet's biggest suppliers of talent, until VCA Pictures chief Russell Hampshire scheduled a peacemaking sit-down. Since then, South says, he and Spallone have developed a lucrative arrangement in which Spallone comes up with the production concepts and Hampshire comes up with the necessary talent to make those concepts reality.
"Rob's pretty inventive when it comes to new ideas," South says. "He'll come up with something unusual like an older woman doing a girl-girl thing with a younger woman. When you have lots of these movies out there competing with one another, it helps to be different. He seems to come up with ideas that everybody is not doing yet."
Such inventiveness has, in turn, allowed South to expand his number of model bookings at a time when talent costs are flattening across the board. "As we speak right now, we're in the process for this Wednesday of booking five older women with five younger girls," South says. "Maybe these people don't get the work that some stars get, but they do need to eat and they do need to make money."
Another converted admirer of Spallone's is porn blogger Luke Ford, a devoted chronicler of Spallone's early battles with South and his more recent crusade against Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation, the HIV-testing clinic Spallone accuses of having a monopolistic lock on the industry. Ford says his introduction to Spallone dates back to a rumor item published on the old LukeFord.com website back in 1998.
"Someone told me that [Rob] was going around intimidating people with a baseball bat," Ford says. "I wrote a story about it, and Rob called and told me to come down and meet him."
Not knowing what to expect, Ford says the two men quickly hit it off.
"He basically believes the industry's filthy, stinky and filled with dishonesty, so it's a refreshing change," Ford says.
Spallone admits to having a negative attitude about the business but says he relies on the slick, professional image the industry has worked hard to acquire over the past two decades to fuel the notoriety of outlandish concepts such as his "XXX Fat Gangbang," a 2003 stunt Spallone pitched to poke fun of the recent trend of "world's largest" gangbang features, and an upcoming, as yet untitled "for-the-troops" production involving women in uniform. The same goes for the "Sopornos," a series that rose above the background noise of non-scripted gonzo features thanks in large part to Spallone's on-camera rantings.
Given such success, Spallone sees a reality show as the next natural step. At worst, it will attract enough controversy to fuel sales of future DVD products.
"I'll show them how it really works," Spallone says of mainstream television viewers. "Years ago, way before the reality thing even hit, people were always telling me, 'Rob, you should fuckin' film this.' So that's what I'm finally gonna do. I'm gonna film it. What you see is what you get with me."