Dean Phoenix Rising
I first heard about Dean Phoenix when I was assigned to review "Exposed," a 2004 documentary about the making of the hit Western "Buckleroos." The story of the film's origins didn't interest me much, but when Phoenix appeared on camera, a star was born. He was Old Hollywood gorgeous, with thick brown hair and eyes, a dimpled smile that belonged in "Tiger Beat," a chiseled, just-puffed frame, and, oh yeah, a nine-inch cock. "Buckleroos," you see, is a porn flick, one of the most successful of its kind, and Phoenix, along with a guy named Marcus Iron, is the main event.
Ironically, Phoenix's physical attributes weren't what initially stunned me. On the DVD, he's asked why he got into the business. Phoenix (whose real name is Curtis Hutchinson) tells the interviewer that, since he'll never find love, porn's a great place to be. Then he nonchalantly walks away as if he's just said he prefers Coke over Pepsi.
Marilyn had her orphaned childhood, Madonna had a bus ticket, and porn has a longing singular to the form. We've come a long way from Linda Lovelace and gunpoint blow jobs, and even "Boogie Nights," Paul Thomas Anderson's 1997 drug-ugly-porn shoot 'em up. Porn in 2010, and gay porn in particular, is not only mass-marketed, it's fun!
Guys who spend their on-camera days sucking and fucking and rimming and cumming are, during off-hours, smiling on Facebook, parading their wares at clubs and on floats, and dating Republican politicians. They're not just in sex videos, and they're not just "adult film actors." They are stars. In a world where Kate Gosselin has no credentials for fame except children and a personality to grate cheese on, and Tom Hanks' "Toy Story" alter-ego is a bigger draw than he is, it's not only fitting, it's inevitable. Scorn you might, but in the charisma scale between a porn star and Melissa Rivers, the dicks come out on top.
Hutchinson's "If no one will love me, everyone will" declaration is more akin to movie star thinking than the sleazy sex tales of '70s porn stars like John Holmes, who died of AIDS-related causes in 1988. That's not surprising, given that Hutchinson entered the business in the '90s, an age when gay-porn DVDs were replacing creepy Triple X movie theaters and mainstream New York theaters were starting to show off naked men doing pretty much nothing but help sell tickets. By 2009 the porn industry would garner 12 billion dollars a year, 57 billion worldwide.
"Porn is so addicting," Hutchinson says now, in a soft-spoken voice that sounds more like a professor discussing tenure than a guy prone to hearing the word "un-cut" in front of his name. "I knew I'd never date; being a porn star meant I was promiscuous, not to be trusted, and unable to connect. I got to have sex without being in a real relationship, and I got the fame."
While Hutchinson never hung out at Schwab's drugstore wearing a tight sweater, he had the equivalent boy-beautiful stardust. He was 22 when a guy approached him at the San Diego gay bar where he worked, asked if he'd consider modeling, and left his phone number. Hutchinson, true to his "Exposed" sentiment, had just left a bad relationship and felt unlovable. He wasn't told the "modeling" was porn until he showed up at the guy's office, doe-eyed and eager. He stripped for the camera, front/back/full erection, and a career was born.
In former little boy blue movie stories, this would be the part where we delve into the abuse or the rape or the rent that couldn't be paid, and all the degradation; that tragic arch to justify such an unsavory lifestyle. But that angle is so mustaches and hairy chests. For Hutchinson, "Porn was very professional. You fill out a 1099, you shoot your load, you get your check."
Dean Phoenix ("My middle name is Dean and I had a crush on River Phoenix") went on to make approximately 60 porn flicks until his retirement this past year. For "Buckleroos," he received an unprecedented $20,000 for a two and ½ week shoot (quite an improvement from the reported 200 bucks Sylvester Stallone made for his pre-"Rocky" "Party at Mary and Stud's" skin flick), and kept bartending after moving to Los Angeles. While the Silver Screen's Demi Moore had to bare her breasts to make her "Strip Tease" millions, Colt Studios' Phoenix had to Bottom for the extra cash. "It was a complete virgin day for me," he says of the scene. "I didn't eat the night before and I was actually water-logged."
Hutchinson did have precedented concerns over the "stuff" that gets edited out. "One time I was Topping a guy on a white canvas background. When I pulled out a bunch of green stuff came out...it wasn't pretty."
Turns out, being on top is a lot like being a Top. On the one hand, you get the adoration -- "I just got serviced by Dean Phoenix" is a running joke from guys who order drinks from him -- on the other hand, shit happens. A couple years back, Hutchinson fell off a Gay Pride Day float at noon and wound up in the hospital; he was drunk. Soon after, his manager at the bar warned him about coming into work intoxicated; Hutchinson would spend all day drinking margaritas in that glamorous L.A. sun. Before filming, he'd often take a shot of liquid courage, or sometimes do a little Cocaine. After friends had an intervention, Hutchinson headed to a 12-Step program and started a whole new chapter in the life of an icon.
There's no sob story in this part of Hutchinson's tale, either. Producers didn't shove powder up his nose, and liquor wasn't proffered up at work. "Anything I did, I did off-set," he says. "The only hush-hush drug around porn is Viagra." Even that pill Hutchinson had little use for. "If I worked with someone I wasn't attracted to, and the erection went down, I closed my eyes and thought of someone else. Boom! It's done."
Hutchinson left porn but didn't quit his job at the bar ("Would you rather have a bartender who's drunk or one who's sober?"), but he updated his resume. He's a licensed drug and alcohol counselor, and spends his days counseling teens. "I have a passion for it and a heart for it and patience for it," he says. "I see people at the bar who are wasted, and it's a reminder of the disease. I don't want to black out again." He plans to take his counseling further, especially as alcohol abuse and crystal meth are on the rise. "I want to help porn stars down the road. If they need to get cleaned up, I'm someone they can look up to or relate to."
If there's anything better than a Happy Ending, it's a surprise twist. In 2009, Curtis returned to porn and Dean Phoenix rose again, albeit briefly. "I wanted to see what it would be like to make films sober," he says. The experience was enjoyable, but at 36, and "a daddy," he's decided it's time to put the clothes on. "I don't want to be fifty and still doing porn. They always want fresh meat, and once you reach your longevity you're not asked back. I'll always have Dean, but now it's time for Curtis to emerge."
Hutchinson's longevity in the business allows him perspective newer stars don't have. "People can download porn for free now, so guys aren't getting paid as much," he says, doubtful that the $20,000 fees are going to be as prevalent in the future. "I think bareback sites will increase because there's a demand for it." He's also not one to judge. "If two guys are positive, go for it," he says of the trend. "But there needs to be a boundary." Hutchinson admits that he was never required to disclose HIV tests, a stark distinction from other porn stars who've discussed the topic. "The producers I worked with always promoted safe sex; the gay industry is so aware of it that it's a given."
One area that confuses even a veteran like Hutchinson is the gay-for-pay genre. Asked about Randy Blue star Chris Rockway, who says he's straight, Hutchinson's response is, well, straightforward. "He's not that good of an actor," he says. "He's gotta like it." Hutchinson agrees that the draw of gay-for-pay is the fantasy of a hetero being converted, but "Anyone who does it has some kind of wanting to be gay. They're gonna miss it ten years from now."
While Phoenix no longer does porn, Hutchinson does do dating. The man who's been providing release for countless viewers over the past 15 years even Speed-Dates; a far cry from those pizza-delivery romances we'd all like to think are real. His views on love have also changed. "I haven't found Mr. Right, but I feel different about relationships. The guys I go out with don't care that I was a porn star; they admire that I lay my cards out on the table."
Hutchinson says he usually waits till the third or fourth date to tell someone about his former career, sometimes before S-E-X. "It can save a lot of trouble," he laughs. "If they look me up on the Internet, they will already know a lot about me."
I'm guessing the hidden treasure of Curtis Hutchinson is what's never been exposed.
If you want to know more about the counseling work of Curtis Hutchinson, visit www.kleantreatmentcenter.com or www.my12stepstore.com. For more of Dean, visit http://www.coltstudiogroup.com/pornstar.php?actor_id=8952.
Dean Phoenix Rising is my first in a series on porn stars. Stay tuned...