Top Billing

Chris Steele
In August 1995 I was in a meeting in the main offices of HHO Construction Inc., the operating company for three gay bars in Dallas. At the time, I was the general manager of all three nightclubs and the agenda of our meeting — which included myself, the club owner, club managers, assistant managers and club DJs — was for us to browse the slick glossy pages of recent gay porn magazines and choose which porn star we wanted to book for a live appearance.

We booked a porn star every month and the criteria was always the same: who was the biggest name in gay porn? Times were different then. We didn’t have the trusty Internet to pull up thousands of suggestions. We had to rely on the fact that many of us were porn fans and had our favorites.

We did this ritual monthly — arguing over which porn star would be the biggest draw at the club and why we thought so, defending our positions as if we were fighting over what football team would win the Super Bowl.

Sure, there were the obvious three big names at the time: Ryan Idol, Jeff Stryker and Ken Ryker. Who didn’t know them? Ryan was iconic in “Idol Eyes,” Stryker dominated in “Powertool” and Ken was hung like a horse with a man’s body and a baby face.

We had booked Idol at The Brick, our main dance club, before. He was a great choice and filled the bar to the rafters — until he decided he wanted to be a singer. Then, we couldn’t afford the $10,000 price quoted to us by Stryker’s agent, John Travis. (Ironically, I would later do my first movie, “Uncle Jack,” with Travis.) And, according to my future agent David Forest, Ken Ryker was too shy to strip. So we were left to make our decisions from the pages of those glossy mags and the latest blockbuster porn to come out on VHS.

Who was a big name in gay porn? It was always a toss of the dice because a big name is a matter of perception. We booked Chase Hunter and Tony Di Angelo, his lover at the time. They packed the house but ended up getting us shut down for a week when Chase decided to fuck Tony live onstage and photos of the scene “mysteriously” turned up at the local Vice Department. Live sex was definitely a no-no in the conservative south.

We booked Christian Fox, Matt Gunther, Blue Blake and Jeff Palmer. We had Aaron Austin, Tony Brocco, Rick Donovan and Adam Hart, who almost burned the club down with his fire act. We featured Johnny Hansen, Cliff Parker — these are just the names I can remember. When you’re booking a different porn star every month it’s impossible to remember every name that hits the marquee. But I remember those names because, to us, they were big names in gay porn.

When guys start out in the business with stars in their eyes and dreams of being famous, they ask me: “How do I become a big name in gay porn?” I always tell them the same thing: “Get out on the road and take your clothes off.”

It’s not so simple, really. The clubs won’t book you unless they know who you are. So you have to crack that riddle. The best decision a brand new porn star can make starting out is to sign an exclusive contract with a studio. Not a website, a studio that makes movies. The reason I say this is because a studio will put their marketing dollars behind a contract star and give that star the best roles in the best movies.

New guys only have one shot at landing a contract — and the only bad thing that can materialize is greed. They’ll start getting offers from every big studio and take every one of them. Taking every offer will blow all the exclusive contract opportunities away immediately.

You have to be patient — however, if you just want to make some quick cash and don’t care if anyone knows who you are, then go for it. Do 20 movies in six months and finish your career the next year, because by then you’ll be so overexposed that no one will want to book you. But if you want to be a big name in gay porn, wait.

During the five years I did porn I only appeared in 21 movies. That comes to about three or four movies a year. There are some guys who do more than 20 movies in their first six months in the business.

Waiting for the right opportunity is what separates the men from the boys. There is a clear criteria for being a star. You need to possess three elements: a handsome face, a nice body and a big dick. And you need to get some good photographs before you start applying to studios. Whatever you do, don’t use your cell phone to take your pictures in a dirty bathroom mirror. If you’re serious and you want to be a big name, get some good photos. Assuming you’re hotter than hot, your next dilemma should be what studio to choose. Pick the one you like. One you will be proud of.

Then it’s time for you to perform.

Here’s the thing, this is a tough pill to swallow and I’m sure some people won’t agree, but the tops are the stars. If you want to be a big name in gay porn, fuck like one. Learn to talk dirty. Take control and be a pushy, nasty top. If you do that, you’ll be on your way — big time.

If you’re versatile or a total bottom, that’s fine, you can still be a big name but you’ll have to work harder at it. Keep your dick hard while you’re getting fucked and then turn around and give as hard as you took. Don’t wait for the director to tell you what to do, take charge and fuck your co-star’s brains out. Whether you’re gay or think you’re straight, do it, and do it like you mean it. For all I can tell you about everything else, it’s all for nothing if you don’t deliver the goods.

I’ve seen many guys with great potential to be big not make it because of their performances. They hold back. I think it has to do with the way we’re raised. We’re taught that sex is bad — we have to have manners. All that crap must go out the window the minute the director says, “Action!” If you’re going to be a big name in gay porn you have to make your performance No. 1.

But what about the body, you ask, the six-pack, the perfect hair, the tan skin? That’s all good but it won’t mean anything if you don’t burn up the screen. Take the dialogue seriously. I always spent the night before a movie memorizing my lines. “Who cares, it’s porn,” right? Well, I care because that performance is going to be there for everyone to see for the rest of my life. It’s forever when it’s on video.

As a director I’m always amazed when guys show up for a movie after staying out all night partying. They don’t know their lines. They complain about everything and when the movie comes out they can’t understand why the reviewers and fans didn’t like their performance. It’s simple. It’s because they didn’t take it seriously and their performance sucks. If you want to be a big name in gay porn and get top billing, take it seriously.

So, you have all three qualities, you’re serious and you’re going to fuck like a champ — now what? Get that exclusive, one-year contract with a studio. No more. Staying under contract too long can hurt your career as well. And say what you will, big names in porn do movies, not scenes on the Internet. Honor your contract, take it seriously and let that studio promote you. I assure you that if you do that, when your contract ends you’ll have offers on the table waiting for you.

My contract with Studio 2000 ended October 27, 1999. On October 28, I flew to Malibu where I shot “Steele Ranger,” Chi Chi LaRue’s very first Rascal Video production. That one year under contract with Studio 2000 laid the foundation for my career because I took it seriously.

After “Steele Ranger” I was cast in “Heat” for Titan Media and then offers to perform live started coming in — along with more roles in movies where I got top billing. I only did 21 movies, remember, but if you look up the titles I did you’ll see a common thread: I’m the star and I’m on the front box cover of almost every one of them. The reason? I took it seriously and put in the effort. I didn’t take every movie offer. I turned down several and not because of money, but because the role wouldn’t promote me in a way that was beneficial to my career.

By then I was making more money from performing live on the road than from movies. One thing I learned is that you can’t get overexposed doing live appearances. The only wrong things you can do are be an asshole and complain about everything. I had a website that made money, too. I did live shows on my site and on other sites but the main money I made came from headlining nightclubs.

I’m retired from performing now. I write, cast, produce, direct movies and run a company called Jet Set Men. I oversee films from inception to completion and beyond into the marketplace.

I most recently got an email from a tanning salon in Singapore asking to book me for a live appearance. I told them I was flattered but I had stopped doing live shows in 2003. They replied that they knew exactly who I was and they would be honored if I would come to Singapore as the first gay porn star to ever make an appearance there. I spent five days in Singapore where I appeared at three venues. It was an awesome experience and most of all, it was nice to be recognized as a big name in gay porn once again.