‘He is a truly, truly beautiful young man!’
(Quote by Marlene Dietrich.)
I met Joey once, and this singular encounter had a lasting effect on me. At the time I had watched just one of his films—Idol Eyes—and, to be honest, did not quite know what to expect, meeting him in the flesh after seeing so much of him in the flesh, so to speak. We met, as will be seen, courtesy of Madonna (who I did not get around to meeting!), the day before I visited my friend Marlene Dietrich at her Paris apartment. Marlene surprised me by revealing that she had a photograph of Joey tucked away in her files. Needless to say, I was completely bowled over by his charm.
Gay actors working in the porn industry in the 1990s differed vastly from their heterosexual counterparts in that they were generally much better-looking and took much better care of their bodies. Indeed, nothing has changed over the years in this respect. No one would ever have called John Holmes, Harry Reems or Ron Jeremy cute, even at a stretch, but the whole point with them was that they inspired hope amongst straight male aficionados of porn—or so the studios believed—spawning the myth that even the most unattractive man really can ensnare the prettiest girl, not always the case in the real world unless wealth is involved. And of course, as these films were being aimed at a straight male audience, the male performers were more often than not secondary to the action taking place. The same applies to the majority of so-called “sex tubes” currently to be found on the Internet, where pretty young women are frequently partnered—and often exploited and humiliated—by older, unattractive men. The gay world was and still is completely different, and in a medium then as now populated by copious beauty, it would be inadequate and almost offensive to describe Joey Stefano as merely handsome—the man was ethereal! In his world he was a pioneer, and as such will never be superseded.
Yet with such intrinsic Italianate perfection there came not the slightest trace of vanity. Joey was as warm and down to earth as they came. He was unique in that he was the first major gay porn star to have been almost exclusively what is known in the industry as a “power bottom”—the receptive partner in anal sex. Pre-Stefano, models bottoming in films were invariably effete and dispensable—
viewers were almost always interested only in the buffed, muscular man on top, who himself was frequently billed as straight, or “gay-for-pay”. Joey changed all of this. He was a butch, manly man, innovative in that he was the first passive partner to be completely in control of a coupling within a gay porn film. Even acknowledged, aggressive beefcakes such as Gino Colbert and Jon Vincent became submissive pussy-cats when partnering Joey Stefano!
In the two decades since he left us, and on account of the manner of his passing, much has been written and discussed on the subject of Joey’s supposed having spent his whole adult life with his finger pressed firmly on the self-destruct button. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is but a part of the myth that has sprung up around him as often happens when a famous person unexpectedly dies while in their physical prime and at the zenith of their career. For those who knew and worked with him, Joey was invariably described as breath of fresh air, a witty and cynical young man who loved life, whose generosity towards his friends knew no bounds, but sadly a man who was all too frequently taken advantage of by those who saw him as a “soft touch”.
This is his story…