Crossing the Atlantic

Dan Cameron
Michael Lucas remembers the days when the All-American beach boy was the iconic gay sex symbol. But as the 1990s settled in, the industry started to see more penetration of foreign models. Spearheaded by the huge popularity of Lukas Ridgeston, the movement offered more opportunities than ever before — even if the models’ heritage was still initially seen by some as a selling point (just ask Lucas, whose Russian roots were the marketing emphasis in “Red Alert”).

“The shift happened in the 1990s, particularly after the fall of the Iron Curtain and all of Eastern Europe finally got rid of communism. With that came the freedom for American companies to go abroad and film all of these hot, uncut Hungarian, Czech and Romanian guys,” notes the director/performer, whose Lucas Entertainment has always celebrated diversity and the melting pot that is New York. Lucas shoots about 30 percent of his films overseas, which he started doing in 2001.

“Gay men can use our international productions to shed light on destinations they never knew were thriving with gay life. For example, gay men never thought of Israel as a hot-spot location, but we showcased the beauty of a nation that is full of stunning men, scenery and culture,” says Lucas, who prefers filming in Western Europe and has filmed several times in France, Spain and Israel — where he has signed many exclusives including Jonathan Agassi, Matan Shalev and Avi Dar. “I discovered a unique beauty there and these men are found only in my movies.”

That’s a trend that all of the big studios have helped shape in the last decade, their movies filled with a diverse group of men from across the world. Foreign performers are just a part of gay porn, a far more accepting and inclusive landscape than ever before. The success of films from the likes of Raging Stallion, Titan (which also hit big with its international Fresh line), Hot House and Lucas Entertainment — among many others — have proven it. Names like François Sagat, Logan McCree and Francesco D’Macho are just a few that have hit it big.

“I believe the shift occurred because people like myself and other producers took the chance to seek out ethnically diverse models,” says Collin O’Neal, who made a name for himself at Hot House before launching his own World of Men line, with visits to Turkey, Serbia and Lebanon just a few of his memorable outings. The director/performer believes that part of his success is due to the fact that consumers know he’s shooting on location — and he refuses to use “gay for pay” models. O’Neal recently started his Cum Fly with.... series; one installment will have Tony Aziz visiting Spain, the Czech Republic, the Middle East and Berlin.

“By the time I started doing porn at the age of 28, I had already been around the world several times and seen many different kinds of sexy men…I really wanted to film men from the parts of the world that I thought exuded sexiness, so I moved to London to be closer to the rest of Europe and the Middle East. I also wanted to put different nationalities together, like a Frenchman with an Iranian: Francois Sagat and Said, for example.”

Chris Ward notes that his Raging Stallion is very active in the European market. In addition to populating its American-based films with diverse models, the company also owns High Octane and is closely associated with Stag Homme, the new up-and-coming studio headed by D’Macho and Damien Crosse.

“Some years ago, there were very few major studios in Europe, Cadinot being the only significant one. Then Falcon launched their international line and suddenly an Eastern European porn industry was going strong. Studios like High Octane and Cazzo became industry powerhouses. At first these films were very popular in the U.S. market, but too much of a good thing has long-term implications,” Ward says. “Except for Bel Ami, there is a reaction in the U.S. against European producers. Much of this is ‘gay for pay,’ and it shows. The recession, combined with the flood of cheaper European product, has taken a significant toll on European producers in recent years.”

Ward notices a few trends, including the embracing of bareback action by many European producers. But on a positive note, “Although we usually think of Europe as the primary international market, South Africa, Australia and Asia are going strong — especially insofar as Web porn.”

Pritam Sinha of distributor Pacific Sun Entertainment — whose catalog includes a bevy of international lines — says it all boils down to one simple fact: “Men like men. They come in different flavors, and with the mainstream media adopting more ethnically diverse casts and hosts, the adult market is bound to follow. Anything that is new will always get attention. Men from remote parts of the world are now more accessible, and even though there is still hatred for gays worldwide, those barriers are breaking down,” he says, adding that consumers are curious by nature. “If Israel was knocked up for cock, why not push farther? Americans especially are not as openminded as other inhabitants of foreign lands. If they have never seen cock from a remote region they have to look up on a map, it’s bound to bring in some attention.”

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