Rogers' Suicide Continues to Cause Controversy

Jeff Berg
ATLANTA — The suicide of gay film star Barry Rogers, better known as Johnny Rahm, star of “The Devil and Danny Walker” and “Badlands,” has caused a spate of controversy played out in the pages of GLBT newspaper Southern Voice, with a bevy of accusations and finger-pointing about the cause of the 39-year-old adult star’s death.

Rogers, who was raised in a fundamental Baptist household and attended Bob Jones University before moving to California at the end of the 1980s, hung himself from the fenceline at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens on Nov. 7, according to police.

According to roommate Adam Kahn, the HIV-positive Rogers had grown increasingly frustrated in the months leading up to his death as he attempted to get federal assistance to purchase his own home.

A column printed in the Southern Voice last month laid the blame at the doorstep of the gay adult industry, though, insinuating that Rogers’ death was caused by harsh working conditions and the small amounts of money paid to gay adult stars.

“Something’s rotten in San Francisco and L.A. and everywhere porn is produced,” wrote columnist J.D. Cerna. “What’s rotten is that most porn ‘stars,’ like Johnny, are broke.”

“I bet Johnny Rahm thought his ‘stardom’ would lead to lots of money,” Cerna said. “But what he mostly got was signs saying ‘Not Welcome’ from the opportunities many of us take for granted.”

In the same issue of the Voice, though, Rogers’ brother Scott penned a letter suggesting that the star’s death was caused by serious depression brought on by problems pertaining to government benefits and not by the gay adult industry.

“After retrieving his personal belongings, and spending countless hours reading his personal journal, I can say that nothing in his writings offered the faintest hint that his on-camera role had anything to do with his suicide,” wrote Scott. “His journals, as well as his suicide note, offered overwhelming evidence that it was because he was turned down repeatedly by Social Security for disability benefits.”

“There are several government entities that I hold responsible for his depression and subsequent death, but I do not think that his role as Johnny Rahm had anything whatsoever to do with it,” Scott said.

The issue was raised again this week as the Voice published a piece written by former Falcon star Gus Mattox, who said that he found working on a Broadway show significantly more exploitive than working for in the adult entertainment industry.

“While I don’t consider myself a cheerleader for the gay porn industry, I would like to offer an insider’s point of view of this understandably controversial subject,” said Mattox. “I certainly understand how many young men might not feel the self-worth to decline a prospective gig (especially when the rent is due), but I think it’s safe to say these insecure, low-self-esteemed porn actors would also be insecure, low-self-esteemed waiters and paralegals and graphic designers.”