Let me begin by saying that I am NOT against the Joey Stefano biopic, the brainchild of Chad Darnell, said to be "in pre-preduction". As Joey's biographer, however, I feel qualified and entitled to have my say.
First of all, like the biopics of Montgomery Clift, Ramon Novarro and Diana Dors, that have also been "on the stocks" for years, I cannot see Joey Stefano: The Movie ever seeing the light of day. The scripts for Monty, Ramon and Diana all contain wall-to-wall men and sex, and this was NOT what they were about. Likewise the proposed project about Joey, which is not based on any book in particular, but on interviews with some of his "friends".
There is a misconception that, because Joey was a gay porn star, that his life comprised a 26-year-long saga of sex, drugs, and seediness. It did not. Regarding the drugs, he was no better/no worse than many of the rock and movie stars of his generation. Regarding the sex, he was promiscuous on the screen because this was his job. Away from the screen he had many less lovers than most of his so-called legitimate film contemporaries. I would even say that in my time, even I had more than him. Away from the screen he was a decent man, and not some mincing queen. There are even those today who claim that he was not even gay, but straight and gay-for-pay. I wouldn't go that far, but having met him I can avow that he was an extremely manly man, very much in the stamp of Rock Hudson. At the time of his death, he was engaged to be married to a woman he had known for years.
We will always be grateful to Chi Chi LaRue for launching Joey's career, to Madonna for making his name just that little bit more international, and to the likes of Karen Dior (Geoff Gann). I spent some time with her in Chicago, and she told me some wonderful anecdotes about Joey during which we laughed and cried. These people have my utmost respect.
What worries me are anecdotes from the likes of Doug Smith, a hustler friend of Joey's of whom I will say, "With friends like him, who needs enemies?" Smith would not be able to lie straight in bed. To be honest, I thought he would have self-destructed by now. He told the story of how Joey called him one day, and during the course of their chat just happened to mention that he was HIV positive." I never believed this for one minute. The story continued that Joey wrote out a list of "grievances" and gave this to his last lover, Alberto Shayo. One of the items listed was "HIV Positive!", with an exclamation mark. Here's what I wrote about this:
As previously stated, there is considerable doubt relating to Joey’s supposed casual admission over the phone to Doug Smith back in 1990 that he had been HIV positive—and the fact that he appears to have told no one else. Such secrets, shared with gossipy individuals, rarely remain secrets for long. But had Joey been tested recently? And if so, and if he had tested positive for real this time, would Alberto Shayo have reacted to such an admission from his lover with apparent indifference, having slept with him? One very much doubts this.
“Joey bottomed most of the time in his work because this was what had been expected of him,” Karen Dior said. “Away from the camera, he was versatile. He liked to be the one on top because he hardly ever did this on film.”
In other words, had Joey been HIV-positive, any partner might have been put at risk having sex with him, but more so the passive partner. Yet Alberto Shayo is not on record as having panicked about Joey’s admission, therefore one may assume that he never took this item on his list seriously, and neither should we.
It's probably against protocol, I know, but I contacted the hospital where Joey died (he did NOT die in a motel room) and, after some wrangling, managed to get out of them the contents of his death certificate. He was NOT HIV positive.
There are other stories told about Joey, mostly by Smith, which I accuse them of making up:
One anecdote recounts that Joey was slumped on the staircase of a four-star hotel, with a needle in his arm, and that blood was streaming down this and on to the stairs...moreover that guests were walking past him, oblivious to this. Really?
Another states that Joey was slumped on the pavement outside a New York bar, and that he had called a "lover" in New Jersey to say that he taken an overdose and was dying. According to the lover, he drove to New York and found him still on the pavement, three hours later. Absolute bullshit! If the story was true, didn't any of the hundreds of people who walked by notice anything? Then I checked up on the story. On that very day, Joey was IN New Jersey, shooting a film, and he was hale and hearty.
Then there is the unpleasant anecdote related by someone who is said to have been interviewed for the Joey biopic. The fact that a report came in to the Advocate that Joey had committed suicide by slashing his wrists at the Days Inn, on 1 January 1994, his birthday. I called the Days In, and was told that Doug Smith had called them to say that Joey had called him, to announce his death...that the receptionist had called an ambulance, only to find Joey sitting alone in his room, feeling despondent because he hated his birthday, which was also the birthday of his father who had sexually abused him as a child. One week after this supposed event, Joey shot About This Night, insisting that the cameraman zoom in on his wrists to prove that Smith had made up the story in a drugs-induced haze. There are no scars.
The worst treatment of Joey by these so-called friends occurred during the last days of his short life. He was staying at the La Brea Motel, and according to one story was discovered TWICE by these people, unconscious and with needles sticking out of his arm. And what did they do...summon help? No, they left him there knowing that he might die, according to one story. If this is true, then in my opinion they should have been questioned by the police and held accountable for their actions. Save that the story of the first "drugs overdose" is NOT true, for when Joey was supposed to be slumped in the shower after taking an overdose, he was actually on the phone to a mutual friend of ours, said to be quite chirpy. Sadly, the second part of their story IS true, and the fact that they all went off shopping...that the man who sold him the drugs, apparently well-known to them, absconded and got away with it. Had they got Joey to the hospital, he would have been saved...not that he mightn't have done the same again at a later date, with the same end result, had he not received the treatment he obviously needed. We shall sadly never know.
Is this then the scenario that is to be transferred to the big screen, one which will relay the message to the world that Joey Stefano was not a nice young man, extant of the raunchy sex-machine we see in his films...but a dirty, perverted, neurotic, hopeless, drug-addicted loser?
If so, let us hope that this project will be assigned to oblivion. If not, then I wish Mr. Darnell all the luck in the world and when it appears will swallow the biggest chunk of humble-pie known to man.
Also we are yet to learn, after NINE years, who is going to be playing Joey Stefano. All that we know so far is that for one of the parts, an "actor" has been hired who goes by the name of Alaska Thunderfuck. Imagine that on the billboards!
Heaven Have Mercy!