The Bel Ami Mystique
For as long as he can remember, Jack Shamama has been fascinated by Bel Ami. “They’ve always been one of my favorite studios, hands down,” notes the writer and producer, who also did some work for the studio. “I’ve written quite a bit about their stuff on GayPornBlog, and was even interviewed by Salon.com for a piece they did on twins in porn—because I had written so much about the Peters Twins.”
Written, and smitten. And he’s not the only one. Since 1993, George Duroy’s iconic label has been arousing a legion of followers, and the secret to the studio’s success may have a lot to do with, well… secrecy. That’s what excited the gang at NakedSword so much when a long-dreamed co-production by founder Tim Valenti finally came to fruition as “Dirty Rascals” premiered in November. Shot outside of Prague, the effort gave the American studio — and its fans — a rare glimpse into crossover territory.
“Tim and I, we had been trying to work with Bel Ami for a while, and I think Bel Ami is pretty selective in terms of who they work with,” says Shamama. “And I think they have also never done a movie with a plot. All their movies, it’s like sort of plot-lite, and more thematic like “An American in Prague.” Their movies have an aesthetic, but they don’t have full stories.”
Shamama worked with Valenti on the script, a sort of adult gay take on “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” that pits Americans Connor Maguire and Tommy Defendi against a horde of horny Europeans. Director Mr. Pam was equally excited by the project.
“I had seen photos of them and stuff for like 10 years, and they’ve always been a big mystery to me: Where do they get these guys from? How does it work? Where is the Czech Republic, anyway?!” she says with a laugh. “And it was great meeting everybody and just seeing how they work. They’ve kind of been in their own little world for years, so I think they were wide-eyed seeing how we work — and I picked up a few tricks from them, too. It was an awesome shoot; I was very honored to be there.”
The shoot paired the lead Americans with Bel Ami exclusives Gino Mosca, Rick Lautner, Phillipe Gaudin, Marcel Gassion, Brian Jovovich and Tim Campbell, as well as Dato Foland and Darius Ferdynand.
“It was a wonderful experience,” Mr. Pam says. “A lot of times, models in the U.S. — they’re all having sex with each other, possibly multiple times. So to get people from Europe together like Marcel Gassion and Rick Lautner with Connor Maguire, this all-American red-haired dude, it was great. Connor is just so funny, and then with the beautiful Bel Ami boys…it was a great combination. It’s just reaching out to casting people who aren’t really available to us in the States.”
Like Mr. Pam, Shamama notes there are many advantages to working with other studious, and the model exclusivity is especially true with Bel Ami. “For me, it was such a dream come true, for lack of a better cliché, just because they’re so protective of their models. A Bel Ami model never goes and works for another studio, maybe with one or two exceptions. You work for Bel Ami, you work for Bel Ami. So it was kind of crazy to see pictures and video of Bel Ami models in a NakedSword production, reading lines from a script that I had written. Part of what makes Bel Ami so great is that there is something so untouchable about their guys, if that makes any sense.”
When Shamama was in Prague a few years ago for meetings with Duroy (who he says is “incredibly funny and intelligent”), he remembers seeing a lot of the former Bel Ami models in person.
“When they stop performing, (Duroy) gets them jobs, so they’ll work in the Prague office, which is where their web operations are. You go into the office and will see models from five to 10 years ago working there, which I think is pretty cool. George really cares about those guys; he wants to take care of them. So we were in this meeting, and all of a sudden Elijah and Milo Peters walked in,” recalls Shamama. “I’ve met so many porn stars, I’ve written probably 30 scripts and I’ve produced about 50 films and been on 50 sets, but there was something so crazy about meeting them. I knew nothing about them; I had written tons and tons about them and speculated about them (Are they really boyfriends? Do they really love each other?), analyzed every scene that they were in. And then to see them — they had just come from the gym, they were in their gym clothes — I was really star-struck. I wanted to ask them all these questions, but I couldn’t… because I knew they wouldn’t understand me, and I didn’t want to ruin the fantasy.”
That aura comes from a carefully crafted plan from a studio that protects its high-class image — something that is particularly magical to North American fans that admire them from across the Atlantic.
“When you work in the porn industry in America, you have access to and meet so many of these guys at the Grabby Awards or other events. You see them on Twitter, you interact with them. But the Bel Ami guys are really very… I don’t want to say off limits, but you don’t really have access to them. ‘Normal’ porn fans and industry people just really don’t have access to Lukas Ridgeston or any of those guys, and I think that that’s part of the appeal — their guys are so removed from the porn world. They’re not on Twitter, they’re not on social media, so there is like a certain mystique about them, and I think that just adds to what makes them so interesting. Even as somebody that works in the industry, it’s very rare that they come to award shows; you don’t see them at the events that everybody else goes to. They’re very mysterious. George Duroy does a really good job of kind of keeping them separate.”
That might be hard for American studios to emulate or younger fans to appreciate, but Shamama remembers at least one era where it thrived in the States.
“I look back at certain Falcon models from like the ’90s, like Mike Hansen, Jeremy Penn, Mike Branson… guys like that who were like these super Falcon stars, and they didn’t really do interviews back then. They weren’t on social media because it didn’t exist, and so you really didn’t get to know them on a personal level; you got to project your own fantasy of what they were like onto them. And I think because of that, those models became so much more desirable because you didn’t see them. Whereas today, you have these models and you see them on the Internet, and they’ll be getting into fights with other guys on Twitter or freaking out because the airline lost their bag, just having bitch fits.”
Branson — who did nine scenes in his career, all for Falcon — was the perfect example, Shamama notes. “I never knew the story about what his deal was. I heard he was bisexual, I heard he lives in the Midwest, I heard he’s married, that he’s a used car salesman. It’s almost like the less you now about them, the bigger your imagination can be.”
And that’s something that’s next to impossible with the social media firestorm of today.
“To a certain extent, all of that accessibility destroys the fantasy, and I think Bel Ami does a really good job — and I don’t necessarily think they do it on purpose — but I think it has to do with where they are geographically, and also because George is also very protective of the guys that he works with, and also because of the language barrier. So they’re not having Twitter wars. They’re sort of cordoned off from the rest of the world, so you’re able to project what you imagine them to be like, what you want your fantasy to be, onto them.”
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