Straight Guys, Gay Surfers
Like other adult actors, he enjoys being looked at, watched and even admired. But, unlike other straight male talent, he loves his gay male fan base.
In fact, he proactively solicits and encourages their attention.
"To tell you the truth," says Lawrence, "I'd much rather get fan mail saying, 'Hey, we really respect the fact you've opened yourself up to the gay community,' than 'God, you've got a great cock' — even though that's cool, too."
Lawrence became aware of his gay appeal when someone approached him at the 2005 AVN Expo and said that a Yahoo Group had been started by his fans. Currently, the Yahoo Group has more than 6,000 members and Lawrence estimates 90 percent of his online response is from gay men. The 200 paying members of his website have access to photo sets, video and live streams from webcams Lawrence has positioned in his bedroom and shower. Oh, and there's the "crotch-cam," which is fixed underneath his desk.
In September, L.A.'s Gay Erotic Expo was held in Petrie Hall at the downtown Convention Center, where Lawrence had a booth for the third year.
The room was filled with fans anxious to meet stars from various gay studios, including Lucas Films, FlavaMen and Adonis Pictures, as well as performers with solo websites.
As the only straight performer, Lawrence attracted a lot of straight-curious attention, signing autographs and posing for pictures. Fans looked over his offering of DVDs. At one point, he made a quick costume change from jeans into his fireman's outfit, and aisle traffic stopped as spectators gathered and cameras flashed.
"It's actually the most fun weekend of the year for me, and it's the biggest weekend for my website," he says. "Last year, I had about 30 people identify themselves as members of my fan club or my website, which is a decent amount considering it's just people that live in the L.A. area."
On the straight side, that type of interest is usually reserved for A-list female performers. And, in most straight productions, the male talent generally serve as live props for the actresses. There's simply less opportunity for male performers to brand or market themselves.
The Focus on Men
But in gay culture, the male is the focus, and being a porn star is considered a status symbol. More importantly, as a demographic the gay audience is porn-friendly and, until recently, largely has been ignored by the straight industry.
"Porn is just an extension of sexuality, and men are very sexually based," says Tina Tyler, director for Black Viking, Mercenary Pictures' gay line, and a former performer with many bisexual titles under her belt. "The gay community has a lot more disposable income. They're willing to look at things like Internet porn a lot more.
"So the straight men good-looking enough to attract a gay fan base — most of them do nurture their gay fan base because they know those are the guys that are going to be the first ones signing up on the website — they're going to be the long-term members."
Black Viking's latest production is "Handyman 2," a solo-male masturbation series featuring straight performers and aimed at the women's market. Lawrence appears with a lineup of attractive male performers, including Maui Kane, Scott Styles, classic star Herschel Savage and hot newcomer Johnny Castle.
"Handyman 1" sold out twice, according to Tyler. "It got very good gay response, but I expected as much," she says. "Women are pickier about quality than men are, so if I can please the women, I can please the gays."
Considering the availability of gay porn, it's difficult to understand why gay audiences would want to watch straight content, and that may be another reason why the straight industry has overlooked gay consumers.
But Chi Chi LaRue, director and co-owner of Channel 1 Releasing, is in a unique niche that crosses over from gay to straight. She understands the dynamic between the two.
"I have gay friends that love the Private videos where it's a busload of guys and one girl in the middle of a field," explains LaRue. "You can't help but look at the dick. It's kind of a kink for gay people to watch that.
"To me, if the scene is so crazy — they're so into each other, it's so dirty, and the anal is out of control, she's licking his ass and they're going crazy — a gay guy can get off on that. It's just so animalistic and hot, it doesn't matter that there's a pussy in there."
Solo titles are the most direct way for straight male performers to appeal to the gay market. And though masturbation is an act that doesn't require the performer to reveal sexual orientation, many actors may fear being stigmatized by performing in solo scenes.
LaRue, who may have originated the genre with early titles like "Str8 to Bed" and the "Str8 Shots" series produced for his Rascal line, has had difficulty casting these productions.
"I was lucky enough, back in the early 90s, to do a jack-off movie called 'Str8 to Bed' and it starred Randy Spears, Cal Jammer, TT Boy and guys like that," she explains. "What was great about working with these people and gaining their trust was I could get these guys to do things for me, knowing that I wasn't going to misuse it.
"Guys were actually told by some of their friends to not do it, because something shitty will happen to you. And it actually happened to Evan Stone. He told me of his experience where these guys were going to [film] something of him jacking off while he was with a girl, and then splice it into a gay movie.
"I would never betray their trust like that," LaRue adds. "My promise to the guys was they would be promoted in gay magazines, but it wouldn't be marketed as 'straight guys go gay' or whatever, because that's not what it is."
Actors may also feel homophobic or confused about which sex acts will be interpreted as gay. But LaRue says attitudes are changing. Lately, male performers have been contacting her, hoping to land in a solo scene.
"I think what has really blown up in the last two years is the fact that the guys in straight porn realize they have a huge gay fan base," says LaRue. "Kurt Lockwood, he definitely has that appeal." Lockwood, who appeared in LaRue's first "Str8 Shots," had no misgivings about performing a solo scene.
"You have to remember," explains Lockwood, "though this was directed by Chi Chi LaRue, it had a girl introducing each guy. They made an effort to appeal to all markets. Further, when I'm performing solo, it's pretty much just me and the cameraman. It's not like I'm in front of a gay disco on a Saturday night, you know?" But Lockwood has encountered prejudices and misconceptions in the straight industry, and believes it has more to do with personal and career insecurities than with hatred of gay people. "I know a lot of guys who won't even approve male fans on their MySpace page, which is just ridiculous," he says. "Even the perception of throwing the gay fan base a bone leads to a lot of backlash from the adult peanut gallery."
As a performer, Lockwood has appeared at a few events, like Jason Curious' Cocktails hosted at Rage in West Hollywood, to sign for gay fans. As a director for Sex Z Pictures, he says he likes to push boundaries.
"I've even directed female-to-male strap-on sex in a title called 'L.A. Vice,' which was a straight feature," he replies. "I've gotten a huge response for that particular scene from my gay fans, so I think they like what I'm shooting."
Ultimately, it's the fans who create demand for product. An integral part of marketing adult product is recognizing the significance of having a thriving fan base, and catering to their desires.
"I would hope that the guys that are in the industry, gay or straight, realize a fan base and fans are very important," says LaRue.
Jack Lawrence agrees.
"I've gone on Yahoo Groups and seen straight guy groups that are basically gay fans of straight performers, but the performers don't even know they have a site," he explains. "When I do run into those performers on the set, I'll say, 'Hey, you have 2,000 fans that would love to hear from you.'"