Leslie died of an apparent cardiac arrest.
"It is very, very sad news," said Evil Angel general manager Christian Mann. "We’ve been reaching out to our staff and John’s fellow directors [at Evil Angel] and vendors that he had close relationships with like Christoph [Clark] and Rocco [Siffredi] in Europe. Ken from Art Attack, everyone in the Evil Angel family. Everybody is very, very stunned and experiencing grief.
"Beyond that we don’t know much more about the arrangements. I spoke with John’s wife Kathleen this morning who is obviously devastated but holding tough and being strong. Joey Silvera is on his way to go be with her and help her get through the next immediate period of time. John was only 65 years old and as far as we know had no history of cardiac arrest."
Mann continued, "John was at his home at his computer and when his wife came home and found him he was already gone. This is a tremendous loss for our company and for our industry and yet John was so much more than just a member of this industry. He was a guy who loved art, music, an accomplished cook, an interesting man who led a very full life."
Fellow Evil Angel director Silvera, Leslie's best friend, had just spoken with him on the phone on Saturday.
"We talked about college football," said Silvera, who has known Leslie for 34 years. "He just shot down here [in L.A.]. Two weeks to the day he went home. He stays at my place when he shoots so… This is a heavyweight. It's very shocking. I thought he’d be around a few more years. It's pretty sudden."
Silvera told XBIZ that Leslie’s last visit, during which he shot scenes for one of his signature series "Fresh Meat" among others, just felt special.
“He was absolutely thrilled with what he was shooting. And there were a lot of people that were thrilled to work for him,” Silvera observed. “There were a lot of young performers. They all just really loved John and loved working for him… He’s always been respected, but it seemed like he got more respect this time than he ever got. All the girls were thrilled to work for him. I don’t know if it was unusual, but it really was a special group that he shot. It was kind of exciting to me how sincere they were.”
A native of the Pittsburgh area, Leslie was a big fan of the University of Pittsburgh Panthers football team and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"And he loved the San Francisco Giants," Silvera said. "He had huge passion for them."
Evil Angel founder John Stagliano said there was no one like Leslie.
"John was one of kind," Stagliano said. "Anyone who ever heard him play harmonica and sing the blues could see what a great talent he was. He was a gritty, dirty talking, sexually sophisticated artist. He formed a blues band in the mid-90's, 20 years after his last gig. He did it because he loved music, just like he loved the art of porn. He had an eye for emotion. Watching his movies was like watching him fuck in a scene from his youth."
Stagliano continued, "We talked for hours back in the late 80's, while we were both trying to figure out how to create this art that we loved. Anyone who ever questioned whether or not porn is art, never had a conversation with John, or saw his movies. He is part of the fabric of the art of porn. He lives on."
Director Kevin Moore was also Leslie's production manager and still photographer for the past several years.
"He was a legend," Moore said. "It's a shame sometimes because the newer performers don’t understand what he represented, who he was, how important he was to this business. It sucks."
Moore continued, "When he would come into town to shoot, I was almost literally chained to his side. It was 24-7 John. He didn’t live here in LA. He lived up in San Francisco. He would come down a couple times a year and shoot for seven, 10, 14 days, two scenes a day. There was a lot of planning involved. And he was very specific with what he wanted."
He added, "People just don’t shoot porno the way he shot anymore. John only focused just on the sex. There wasn’t a lot of goofy stories. John still stuck to that style that he had."
Moore said that Leslie's work was his inspiration.
"There were so many movies...'Catwoman,' 'Chameleons,' 'Drop Sex.' He is why I wanted to make porno. I wanted to do this because of John Leslie."
Moore said Leslie was "a fountain of knowledge about everything."
"And he was an amazing musician," he continued. "He was a blues player, and he put out a couple of albums. He also was an incredible painter. He went to art school."
Leslie's medium was water colors.
"When I saw it for the first time, I was blown away," Moore said. "He really was a renaissance man, a talented, talented guy. He was one of the last guys who was genuinely so nice and good-spirited. Sadly in this industry, it’s sort of rare."
Leslie started out as a performer in the mid 1970s, appearing in more than 500 movies. He went on to direct more than 140 titles, including innovative series such as "The Voyeur," his longest running and perhaps most popular line with 37 volumes, and "Fresh Meat" which reached its 28th volume this year.
Prince Yahshua, the 2010 Urban X Performer of the Year, was distraught Monday when he heard Leslie had passed, saying that Leslie was his idol.
"I just worked for him. He just invited me, right after [the Adult Entertainment Expo], he said 'I want you to come out to my area in Northern California and spend a week with me at my house, you can get to know my wife.' Everybody knows John Leslie was like my porn father. To say that I idolized this dude was a fucking understatement," Yahshua said, fighting back tears.
"Oh my God. I don’t think nobody in porn loved this dude the way I did. It’s crazy because when I was 12 years old I went into my mother and father’s home — and that’s when they had the reel-to-reel movies — the first movie I had ever seen in my life was the guy that became my fucking mentor, which was fucking John Leslie."
Yahshua continued, "I had the honor of meeting John exactly three years ago [at AEE]. He actually had seen some of my work, and he had the nerve... This man had the nerve to tell me that he was a fan of mine. Wow...
"This man that had me humbled like I was a five-year-old child, for him to say, 'Hey I’m a fan of yours. I would love to use you in this movie.' You know how when people say they’re scared to death they almost piss themselves? I almost pissed on myself. I’m actually in front of a living legend…"
Yahshua, who recently came back to performing after suffering a torn urethra in August, said when he shot for Leslie two weeks ago that after the scene that they sat talking on the set for "two to three hours longer catching up."
"Because he was so happy to work with me again after my accident," Yahshua remarked.
The performer remembered his first time working for Leslie in 2008.
"I almost threw up because I said, 'oh my God, I’m working for the man I revered since I was 12 years old. I went to the bathroom and when I came out I had 12 pieces of gum in my mouth so it looked like I had a jawbreaker in my mouth because that’s how nervous I was.
"Before the scene I said, 'Mr. Leslie, what do want me to do?' He said, 'Your name is Prince, do what Prince do.' And that was the most calming effect I ever had and I knocked out the scene."
Yahshua, who is also the CEO of Silverback Entertainment, decided to shut down his Silverback shoot Monday in Leslie's honor.
"I can’t even work today," Yahshua said. "I feel like I really lost my real father right now."
Numerous industry personalities paid tribute to Leslie on their Twitter feeds Monday.
Performer Jenna Haze tweeted, "A real industry legend and inspiration has left us."
Performer Rocco Reed said, "It was an honor to work for you and it was a pleasure knowing you. Without a doubt you left your mark forever on the industry."
Producer/director Jules Jordan: "The adult film industry has suffered a great loss today."
Producer/director Alexander DeVoe: "Condolences to the family and friends of filmmaker John Leslie... He was one of the pioneers in the adult industry and an inspiration to many."