Porn Pulse: Paper Dreams - Porn Before Porn

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Toby Ross, one of the more notable porn auteurs from the early 1970s, now offers his fans a porn history lesson. In the 75-minute documentary "Paper Dreams" Ross fondly recalls the "nudie cutie" magazines which titillated gay men during the years before the filmed porn industry became legal.

Ross himself was one of those gay men. In "Paper Dreams" he speaks of perusing such a magazine in Switzerland, where he was living at the time. The cute, scantily clad, sometimes nude boys and men that he saw in those pages inspired him to move to California, where he launched his porn career, first as a photographer, then as the director of numerous early gay classics, including "Cruisin' '57" and "Boys of the Slums."

Later on in "Paper Dreams" Ross shows us a 1970s film clip which recreates a photo session from one such magazine. Ross himself, a handsome man then in his early thirties, appears in the film as a TV host interviewing the photographer. The photo session itself is quite hilarious.

"Smile," says the photographer, as the cute young model complies. Eager to please, the adorable young man opens his shirt and drops his pants as the photographer clicks away. The obviously horny photographer "grabs" every chance he can to touch his model, not because he's attracted to his subject--heaven forbid! No, he's just trying to be helpful!

Most of "Paper Dreams" takes on a more serious tone. Ross reminds older viewers, and teaches younger viewers, that it wasn't always so easy to be out or to celebrate our sexuality. There was a time when being gay was an absolute taboo.

For many closeted younger and older men of that era looking at magazines with names like "Muscle" and "Demi-Gods" were the only validation of their sexuality which was available to them. These publications were marketed as "educational," though what lessons they were teaching is never quite made clear.

At first nudity was strictly forbidden--the models wore jockstraps. Slowly but surely it became OK to show a penis or two. Here's where we get a real history lesson on forgotten gay culture. Ross tells us a little bit about Brian Idol, a stunningly beautiful man who was one of the few models during the 1960s who appeared to have a full-time career posing for these magazines and for short films in which he would do jumping jacks or jog in place while naked. Ross also remembers Bob Mizer, a photographer and filmmaker who began working during the late 1940s--Mizer's artfully lit, carefully posed photos were considered to be the genre's highest quality. It's important that we remember the work of Idol and Mizer--at a time when being gay was still a crime, Idol and Mizer not only celebrated who they were, they let that closeted gay kid in Des Moines--or South Florida—know that it was OK to be who they were. Through these magazines, those kids learned that they weren't alone.

Ross doesn't shy away from the truth. Sometimes there were police raids, with photographers and publishers facing criminal prosecution. Among those arrested was the son of actress Loretta Young, a major movie star during the 1930s and 40s. This is where Ross shows some over-the-top humor. As the "dark cloud" hanging over the industry is discussed, thunder and lightning are shown.

The film's narration can also be amusing. With the passage of time, as more and more penises are shown in these magazines, a reference is made to the legendary Summer of Love--the hippie era. The narrator emphasizes the "love" part: "the Summer of Loooooovvvvve" he says as he lowers his voice a few octaves. It's amusing.

But overall, "Paper Dreams" is an important work. We can't understand who we are unless we know where we came from. In terms of our sexuality, "Paper Dreams" tells us where we came from.

"Paper Dreams" is available on DVD at Amazon. 

Toby Ross, one of the more notable porn auteurs from the early 1970s, now offers his fans a porn history lesson. In the 75-minute documentary "Paper Dreams" Ross fondly recalls the "nudie cutie" magazines which titillated gay men during the years before the filmed porn industry became legal.

Ross himself was one of those gay men. In "Paper Dreams" he speaks of perusing such a magazine in Switzerland, where he was living at the time. The cute, scantily clad, sometimes nude boys and men that he saw in those pages inspired him to move to California, where he launched his porn career, first as a photographer, then as the director of numerous early gay classics, including "Cruisin' '57" and "Boys of the Slums."

Later on in "Paper Dreams" Ross shows us a 1970s film clip which recreates a photo session from one such magazine. Ross himself, a handsome man then in his early thirties, appears in the film as a TV host interviewing the photographer. The photo session itself is quite hilarious.

"Smile," says the photographer, as the cute young model complies. Eager to please, the adorable young man opens his shirt and drops his pants as the photographer clicks away. The obviously horny photographer "grabs" every chance he can to touch his model, not because he's attracted to his subject--heaven forbid! No, he's just trying to be helpful!

Most of "Paper Dreams" takes on a more serious tone. Ross reminds older viewers, and teaches younger viewers, that it wasn't always so easy to be out or to celebrate our sexuality. There was a time when being gay was an absolute taboo.

For many closeted younger and older men of that era looking at magazines with names like "Muscle" and "Demi-Gods" were the only validation of their sexuality which was available to them. These publications were marketed as "educational," though what lessons they were teaching is never quite made clear.

At first nudity was strictly forbidden--the models wore jockstraps. Slowly but surely it became OK to show a penis or two. Here's where we get a real history lesson on forgotten gay culture. Ross tells us a little bit about Brian Idol, a stunningly beautiful man who was one of the few models during the 1960s who appeared to have a full-time career posing for these magazines and for short films in which he would do jumping jacks or jog in place while naked. Ross also remembers Bob Mizer, a photographer and filmmaker who began working during the late 1940s--Mizer's artfully lit, carefully posed photos were considered to be the genre's highest quality. It's important that we remember the work of Idol and Mizer--at a time when being gay was still a crime, Idol and Mizer not only celebrated who they were, they let that closeted gay kid in Des Moines--or South Florida—know that it was OK to be who they were. Through these magazines, those kids learned that they weren't alone.

Ross doesn't shy away from the truth. Sometimes there were police raids, with photographers and publishers facing criminal prosecution. Among those arrested was the son of actress Loretta Young, a major movie star during the 1930s and 40s. This is where Ross shows some over-the-top humor. As the "dark cloud" hanging over the industry is discussed, thunder and lightning are shown.

The film's narration can also be amusing. With the passage of time, as more and more penises are shown in these magazines, a reference is made to the legendary Summer of Love--the hippie era. The narrator emphasizes the "love" part: "the Summer of Loooooovvvvve" he says as he lowers his voice a few octaves. It's amusing.

But overall, "Paper Dreams" is an important work. We can't understand who we are unless we know where we came from. In terms of our sexuality, "Paper Dreams" tells us where we came from.

"Paper Dreams" is available on DVD at Amazon.

 

 

 

 


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