Industry Pays Tribute to Jack Wrangler

JC Adams
CYBERSPACE — The adult entertainment industry is paying tribute today to the late Jack Wrangler, who died early Tuesday in New York City. He was 62 years old and had been suffering from complications from lung disease. The prolific performer's career encompassed gay and straight adult films throughout the 1970s and '80s. He is survived by his wife, singer Margaret Whiting.

His life and career was the subject of the 2008 documentary "Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon," which last month won Best Alternative Release at the GAYVN Awards for its distributor, TLA Releasing.

Some of those who appeared in the film talked to XBIZ about Wrangler and his impact on pop culture. Even the notorious gossip and culture vulture Perez Hilton took note of Wrangler's passing on his well-trafficked blog, and his death was noted in a brief story by the Associated Press today.

"The world just lost a gay hero," director and Channel 1 Releasing principal Chi Chi LaRue told XBIZ.

"Jack was one of the earlier pioneers in helping to bring awareness to the gay community by being open about who he was and about following his dreams," said Lewis Tice, director of marketing and publicity for TLA Releasing. "We are deeply saddened as he is an essential part of our gay history. Our sympathies go out to his family."

"Making this film was a great opportunity to pay tribute to a man who lived his life with grace, humor and confidence," “Wrangler” director Jeffrey Schwarz said. "Jack and the filmmakers he worked with were true pioneers in the industry, and I hope this film can remind us that porn can be revolutionary, inspirational and just plain fun."

"It's very bittersweet, the GAYVN win," said Erik Schut, managing director at TLAVideo.com. "A few mere weeks ago I was on stage with Steven Scarborough and Kyle King from Hot House Entertainment along with [co-host] Janice Dickinson accepting a great honor on behalf of one of the true legends of gay porn, and today we're mourning the loss of him. I can't emphasize enough how honored TLA is to have released the film that will forever tout his legacy. Mr. Wrangler was a true pioneer and gentleman, and there will never be another one like him — ever."

Following are more Wrangler tributes, as told to XBIZ:

William Margold, adult industry historian: "He was one of the crossover performers — he crossed back and forth like a sexual trapeze artist. Very comfortable with himself, truly a hero on both sides of the coin. He truly was a legend of erotica."

Jamie Gillis, performer and former costar: "He seemed to me to be a good man with a big, earnest, unselfish heart."

Joe Gage, "Kansas City Trucking Co." director: "Jack was truly one of a kind. He took great pride in his work on 'Kansas City Trucking Co.' and gave me everything he had. His laser-focused dedication and unique sex appeal still shows on the screen all these years later. A special word: lung cancer; he smoked like a chimney for years; give it up while there's still time, or even better, don't start."

Bruce Vilanch, writer/comedian: "Jack Wrangler was the first straight-for-pay gay porn star, and while you're figuring that one out, try figuring out his enduring marriage to a legend of American pop music. Jack and Margaret didn't care if you got it or not, they were getting plenty. A smart, warm, anchored guy, he straddled both sides — he straddled almost everything, come to think of it. And a lot of it is on film. Like all pioneers, there'll never be another one like him."

Michael Musto, commentator and Village Voice columnist: "Jack was an iconic '70s porn star — the work he did with a corn on the cob was virtuosic and amazing! More seriously, he was a theatre guy at heart and lived for writing and directing on the stage, from dinner theaters to Broadway. He always seemed like a nice, down-home guy who got sideswiped into porn en route to the legit theater. He excelled at both of those, and was a charmer to boot. A real class act."

Jett Blakk, writer/director: "Jack Wrangler's films were the first ones I saw when I began watching gay porn. He was the first porn 'actor' and for me, that made a huge difference. His ability to develop a character that you cared about elevated both the sexual heat and the dramatic tension in the movie. 'Navy Blue' was the perfect example of this, and 'Killing Me Softly' combined passion, dirty sex and dark themes. His films influence me to this day."

Gino Colbert, performer/director: "Truly a star in every sense of the word. And there are none out there today who even come close. I always felt honored to have had the opportunity to work with him and maintain a friendship. He was a great guy."

Jerry Douglas, writer/director: "There were really only two stars at the beginning of gay film as we know it. One of them was Jack. The other was Casey Donovan. It's very sad to see these two exquisite men in their youth are gone now. Their legacy on film will always be there. And that's what matters."

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