Crazy World of Jack the Zipper

There is a mummified French clown in a glass sarcophagus out back at the California Institute of Abnormalarts. His name is Gilles Chatouilleu and he died in 1912, but he still has his makeup on. He is tiny, shrunken. It seems like he would get cold on winter nights in the backyard like that, but Jack the Zipper said he loves Gilles.

In the main room are red-andyellow striped walls, with a red-and-yellow diamond pattern on the floor and glittery red curtains on either side of a raised stage. On the stage, there is a big black box with holes in its sides and on the top. On the back of it, Jack has painted “Enter the Peep Show.”

The production crew was milling around listlessly; they’d been there since 9 in the morning and it was almost 7 p.m. The male talent was waiting, texting, shooting the breeze — Justin Synder, Sledgehammer and Pike Nelson.

Down a psychedelic hallway, black-lit and painted with fluorescent blue and orange interlocking squares, Jack called me into the bathroom.

There, perched on the handicapped railing that wraps around the toilet, starlet Jayme Langford had her legs wide open; tulle skirt hiked up and high-topped boots propped on the cool, stainless steel tubing. She is like a porcelain doll — so petite — with brassy, strawberry blonde tresses all around her; a jeweled golden flower glittering in her hair.

She’s masturbating with a slim pink vibrator and Jack is holding the Canon XH from underneath, cradling it in his hand like a nine-pound baby, shooting from below, moving slowly from side to side. Without knowing it, he made reassuring little choo-choo noises and muttered about what a beautiful girl Langford is. Then he instructed her.

“Laugh like a crazy person,” he said, but reminded her that she didn’t really have to make noise because the audio will all be covered over with music anyway.

So, she pantomimed madness, throwing her head back and then pitching forward to look directly in the lenses with a crazy grin.

Meanwhile, in the other room, where there is the corpse of a dead fairy and the preserved skull of the world’s smallest Freemason, starlet Sasha Grey seems right at home, listening to Nine Inch Nails and being tied in Japanese rope bondage like an elaborate gift. She is getting ready for the gloryhole gangbang scene.

Not much later, Grey is lying in the bottom of the box onstage, with a straightjacket over the ropes and tall, black hobble boots with lots of buckles on her coltish, splayed legs. She’s an escape artist writhing on the floor, and fetish photographer Bob Coulter is shooting stills through one of the holes.

Jack, who avoids being photographed, is dark and bearded, tall and built kind of thick. Some say he has a reputation for being difficult, but on the set that night, he seemed happy and content. He took measurements with the help of a lighting assistant and got ready to start the scene.

Watching Grey, he smiled and explained in a low voice, “I want to shoot her in her predicament.”

Later on, some time after the shoot, I ask Jack about his predicament — the difficulty of being an adult filmmaker in an industry that mostly overlooks opportunities for art and vision. He explained his aspirations, which seem to be motivated by a desire to evoke the audience’s response to sex magic and alchemy, as opposed to making product that can be commercially packaged and sold as a crude masturbatory aid.

“Porn is a powerful industry but it’s a bastard art form. There is no reason why the human race has to make a dirty secret or a joke out of something so basic and intrinsic and vital to our nature,” he explained.

“Everything I do as an adult director is an attempt to rise bove that — making XXX makes me think about life and death — the life-force and how mysterious and precious it really is, embodied in these beautiful, beautiful women. It’s sad that as a society we don’t try harder to elevate these ideals in each other. Pornography as its defined now has a power and significance that’s largely untapped, in my opinion.”

With that, you’re welcomed into the World of Jack the Zipper — and, now, fuck it.

“Fuck the World” and “Enter the Peepshow” are two upcoming titles from the Spice Downtown line, produced by Playboy and directed by the elusive Zipper. He is one of the new wave of auteurs taking Spice in a different direction, guided by their Faustian producer Bob Johnson.

In the sunlit quarters of Playboy’s Glendale, Calif., facility, where original Vargas pin-ups line the walls, Johnson is in his office having dark visions of using the Bunny to work some new tricks.

“It is a more underground, subversive approach to adult filmmaking that we feel is going to revolutionize the business. There’s a change a’ coming,” Johnson said.

“The directors that we’re tapping, like Gingerman and Jack the Zipper and Joe Gallant, who are going to come onboard — that is not quite the norm in the porn world. It’s disturbing, Hitchcockian to an extent — more mysterious and definitely not alt,” he said, explaining how they will define a new genre.

Gingerman’s “Rocksuckers” was the first flagship title for Spice Downtown, and NYC madman Gallant is about to unleash “Hell’s Kittens,” which has vampire supermodels infecting the city with their sex spawn. Jack the Zipper already has his two in the can for the Downtown line.

Johnson described “Fuck the World” like this: “It’s a difficult movie to describe. I wouldn’t want to give away — it’s unlike anything that has been seen. I know that’s vague, but it really is true. It combines a post-nuclear feel with an almost burlesque undertone — very dark, very sexual, extremely explicit.”

With “Enter the Peepshow,” Jack has already given a look inside the circus, so to speak. There’s Grey’s gloryhole sequence and a sensual onstage girl/girl between Langford and Alexandra Silk that night on the set. Jack said there also will be a swordswallower getting a blowjob — and that’s just for starters.

“That’s more of a freak show,” Johnson said of the movie. “That really takes someone through a sideshow of sexual proclivity. He had Stanton LaVey, who is the grandson of the founder of the Church of Satan, do a cameo in that movie, so there’s some crazy bits in there. Zipper’s whole thing was that he really does bring the burlesque, and this is more of a perverted burlesque appeal.”

Not what you would typically expect from demure Playboy, with its mainstream-friendly persona and magazine centerfolds that never show any pink. But as Johnson pointed out, perhaps rightfully so, adult companies can no longer produce cookie-cutter porn and expect to stand out in a bloated, sluggish market.

“The content has to stand out, but it also has to be intriguing,” Johnson said. “The intrigue lies within something they have not seen before.”

Jack also is developing a series for Spice’s sister company ClubJenna, that will feature fresh, new girls and a “post-gonzo” approach. It will be “fast, loose and real, with lots style and attitude,” he said, and as hardcore as his feature work, maybe even harder.

He has only a handful of movies to his credit. The self-produced “Stuntgirl,” in 2004, established him as an award winning director right out of the gate. Signing with Hustler in 2005, he helmed “Squealer,” a horror-themed homage to “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Deliverance.” That was followed by the unreleased “White Witch,” also for Hustler.

Then, the title that defines his style so far; Pulse Pictures’ “Blacklight Beauty,” with its intense blowbang sequence featuring hardcore muse Faith Leon. After that, he directed his one-time fiancée Kimberly Kane in “Naked and Famous,” and since then, Kane has become a notable director in her own right.

“Razordolls” introduced post-modern porn star Stoya to the scene in 2007 and, last month, Vivid Entertainment released “King Cobra,” a full-on biker flick that features Leon, Grey and Vivid contract babe Lanny Barby in a tribute to movies like Russ Meyers’ “Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill” and “Mudhoney.”

Despite Jack’s short list of influential films, it has also been hard to fit him into a category. Moving around from studio to studio has caused some to speculate that he is a temperamental artist and more trouble than a mere porno film is worth.

“I think it’s hard to make any kind of movie, let alone a good movie,” Jack said, “and that has occasionally put me at odds with what is basically a factory system. I freely admit to being stubborn at times, about quality and preserving my vision in my escapades with the business end of the porn industry. I answer to the audience.”

So, strangely enough, it might be that the Zipper comes into his own, in the house that Hef built. At least Johnson seems willing to put his bet on a dark horse.

“I embrace those rebels and mavericks and out-there auteurs,” Johnson said, “because I think they are the geniuses that will make the industry progress far beyond what anyone envisions.”

The ideas that are cooking in Jack’s head have been simmering there for a long time. The very first time he saw pornography was in magazines — Hustler, Penthouse, Club and Oui. Out riding his bike one day, he found a rotting stack of mags in a barn and remembered “peeling them apart to reveal the treasures inside. All those swollen natural breasts and curly thick pussy fur. Very intense.”

The first XXX film Jack ever saw was projected on a wall at some teenage basement party; the legendary “Dog-O-Rama,” featuring a young Linda Lovelace and her German Shepard co-star. Beyond bestiality, he recalled “how flawless she looked. Her body was the kind of ripe that occurs during about a 6-month window in a young woman’s development.”

I asked him what the most beautiful thing is about a woman, and he told me, “The way she moves.”

If there is one thing that stands out about Jack’s work, it’s his ability to take some of the most beautiful women in the business and put them in the most perverted onscreen action, and somehow, it makes them even more glorious to behold. They transform from porn starlets to the personification of feminine power and primal animal lust.

Other key elements — fast edits, savvy art direction, lighting effects, colorization and smoldering original music — only intensify the experience.

Jack admires the superstylized film work of veteran pornographer Andrew Blake [who, conversely, is also a fan of Jack’s], as well as the edge-dwelling hardcore work of industry legend Jamie Gillis.

He once tried to pitch an idea to Gillis, who is a friend, about doing a scene with Sasha Grey in a cage on the roof of a New York City apartment building, but couldn’t quite get it to come together.

But on the “Peepshow” set that night, the Zipper managed to at least get Grey in the box.

Once out of her restraints, with the male performers in place, Grey worked the two cocks protruding through the gloryholes. Using her mouth and her hand, she switched it up, going back and forth to either side.

The Zipper went in for a tight shot, with the lighting guy right over his shoulder, as Grey stood on tippy-toes to reach up at the cock hanging through the hole in the ceiling. Spit dripping down her chin, sweaty under the lights, long dark hair sticking to her face, Grey craned her slender neck up to take it in her mouth.

Finally, when the pop came raining down from above, Grey looked directly into the camera and leered, dragging wet fingers down her face, and then smeared the load all over her breasts.

“Beautiful,” Jack said. “Beautiful, baby…”