Chi Chi LaRue
If you want a history lesson about LaRue leaving Minnesota for L.A. in the 1980s, a Google search yields some 639,000 hits. But if you want to hear what she is saying right now, about what’s going on with adult entertainment right now, just read on. XBIZ recently spoke with the industry icon about just these topics.
XBIZ: Let’s get the camera talk out of the way up front, because we want to hear from you about so much more than that. But that’s where it starts, the camera — so what do Chi Chi features get shot with?
LARUE: We use the Panasonic VX100A and it has worked beautifully for us.
XBIZ: Now, I have heard that you are a real Hollywood-style director…
LARUE: …barking orders from a director’s chair, you’re darn right!
XBIZ: But surely you’ve done some camera work yourself, right?
LARUE: Oh, sure, I’ve been known to pick up the camera. In fact, I shot some stuff on the road for Club Channel 1. But mostly I get good people and leave them alone to do their best work. And I have a great crew, they’re absolutely great professionals — as well as great people.
XBIZ: Letting good people do their best work – what a concept. It seems like common sense, but that’s become anything but common these days, with everybody picking up $150 camcorders and getting chairs that say “Director” on the back.
LARUE: So true, and so sad. For a while there, it was like everybody with a camera thought that with they could make a movie. You know, not to name names, but you can put together shaky camera work, bad lighting and make all kinds of other mistakes, then just call it alt porn.
XBIZ: Do you think, though, that alt-porn is somewhat vindicated by being a reaction to porn that had gotten, let’s say, too slick?
LARUE: I don’t mind variety, and some of the alt-porn is cool — but hey, I like slick! Of course, I like retro, too. In fact, retro and slick together can be a good combination. Variety is good as well, and we’re doing really well in that department after buying All Worlds and now Catalina, with all those classics. We have a great variety now, and it’s all just fabulous.
XBIZ: But what drives those creative decisions? Some flicks just don’t seem to have been created with the viewers in mind. What is the buyer’s role in the LaRue creative formula?
LARUE: Well, they’re the bosses, ultimately. Look, because of Channel 1 and because I’m traveling so much around the country — in every state and Europe, too — I really do hear what people say, and know what people want. People are always asking me, telling me, calling me, sending me emails. I am definitely plugged into what people want.
XBIZ: Your sales certainly reflect that. But beyond the content consideration there is now the big “digital convergence” issue, the whole VOD vs. DVD thing, right?
LARUE: A lot of people — including me — really don’t want to step all the way into this so-called “digital age” when everything is beamed into some computer or little device in your pocket. Who would want to watch a good, hot porno movie on a 2- or 3- inch iPod screen?
XBIZ: And some people just like DVDs, don’t they?
LARUE: Right. In fact, a lot of the DVD-buying public, including the older gay generation — and not just them, but a lot of our regular customers — like the hard product. They like the pictures, they like the liner notes and they just like having something in their hands to make it all real, to make them a part of the whole thing.
XBIZ: So what about all those “death of DVD” stories?
LARUE: Frankly, I am not so sure about this “death of DVD” thing. People still ask for VHS, even. Now, of course, we are certainly heading toward a VOD world, you know, and that has advantages. People can click into a movie wherever they want to see who they are into seeing, and I understand that. But I think we have at least five years of good DVD sales still. We’re doing great with NakedSword.com and many others, and I like the DVD sales and the VOD both, as long as they don’t cancel each other out.
XBIZ: How will we know that the time has come, that we’re at that “tipping point”?
LARUE: Until everything can be comfortably gotten on your TV, there’s going to be people calling for DVD discs. Like I say, people still call us up for VHS. And not everyone’s a computer geek, OK?
XBIZ: Let’s talk a bit about your latest release in the “Link” series, “Link: The Evolution.”
LARUE: Well, thank God, the consensus is that “Link: The Evolution” is hot, hot, hot. As a matter of fact, if there is anyone who says DVD sales are in the toilet that is most assuredly not the case here. This one is really selling through the roof, which is good, because it cost a lot of money to make. You could call this a vanity project, one of those things that you do as a fan appreciation thing, a way to thank the DVD buyers for buying our product. And it’s probably going to be the most successful of all the “Link” productions.
XBIZ: So many producers and directors jump on the latest bandwagon, which makes for a very incestuous and uncreative industry. Where does your inspiration come from? Where do you get the fresh ideas you need to stay cutting edge?
LARUE: Well, I am very much influenced by pop culture. Keeping an eye on pop culture keeps you young, keeps you in step with things. The creativity is in the presentation, because there really are some things that don’t change — a hot man is a hot man.
XBIZ: Michelangelo’s “David” goes back a ways, and he’s pretty hot, right?
LARUE: If you see anyone like that, send him over. Honestly though, right now I am just loving my stable of exclusives. They range over every shape and size, color and style, and they’re all so fine.
XBIZ: You are one of the few gay directors, and the best known, who directs straight films, too. Your tenure at Vivid, for example, produced some cutting- edge product. How was that for you?
LARUE: I totally enjoyed working for Vivid. I really did get off on putting my gay sensibility to work in straight scenes. But there are definitely things that work in straight porn that don’t work in gay porn, like the gonzo where there’s no faces shown, just bodies and genitals. For me, people’s faces turn me on by their reactions, so when I am doing rimming or sucking or whatever I really need to see the face of the person it’s happening to. And that’s a big difference between gay and straight turn-ons.
XBIZ: Now that their name has come up, tell us why you’re not working with Vivid now.
LARUE: It’s not because I don’t love them and all, it just comes down to the safe sex issue. Right now people are skirting the issue. There are a lot of producers and directors who say they stand for safe sex, but if you say that then you shouldn’t shoot and sell bareback, or cumming in the mouth, either. If you say you’re for safe sex, if you are an advocate for safe sex — well, don’t be hypocritical. Get that condom ready.
XBIZ: Apparently it’s not a no-brainer for everybody yet.
LARUE: People think that showing unsafe sex is going to sell more movies. I don’t buy that. “Link: The Evolution” is dirty and nasty and as hot as anything, but I make only safe-sex movies. I think it’s almost a fetish thing now, the bareback scenes.
XBIZ: As always, you’ve been generous with your time and completely open. On a somewhat personal note, I was looking at a funky, punky old gay magazine from the early ‘90s called “Skin,” which was designed by Sabin and printed by MagCorp — and there you were, in all your glory.
LARUE: I remember that! Of course I remember MagCorp, and Sabin is a dear friend. You know, I just heard Sabin’s selling his house, and wow, that brings back memories. I shot so many movies in that house, I felt like I lived there. Joey Stefano and Karen Dior and all of us would be congregating in that house, day and night … so many memories.
XBIZ: Before we wrap it up, tell our readers what you’ve been up to, personally — you know, how you’re treating life these days.
LARUE: Well, I’ve been enjoying the DJ thing. And the reason why I started doing it was to get out of the center of nightclubs but still be able to keep the flow of the party going — you know, without having to do too much partying myself. Hey, I am going to be 48 this year, so I am going the gym, taking care of myself, eating right. Of course, it’s hard when you’re traveling around so much, but I’m trying. I must say, it’s weird how things change. I mean, I feel like I am still 25, but I am about to turn 48.
XBIZ: So, what have you noticed about yourself, now that you’re pushing 50?
LARUE: You know you’re getting up in years when there you are, in full gorgeous, glamorous drag, on the red carpet or in front of the photographers, and someone whispers to you that the lights are reflecting off the hair coming out of your ears.