Ghosts of New York Adult Film:
Bob Wolfe’s 14th St Studio

Ghosts of New York Adult Film: <br />Bob Wolfe’s 14th St Studio

If adult film in New York has a Ground Zero, it could be an infamous basement studio on 14th Street in Manhattan where Bob Wolfe shot his 16mm loops.

It was here that some of the city’s first hardcore sex loops were regularly shot.

It was here that Linda Lovelace appeared in loops in late 1971, before she went on to star in ‘Deep Throat’ the following year.

It was here that future director Larry Revene worked behind the camera as assistant to Wolfe.

And it was here that a number of future adult film actors started out – Jamie Gillis, Tina and Jason Russell, Darby Lloyd Rains, and Helen Madigan, to name a few.

Ashley West visited the basement studio in search of the vanished ghosts of early New York pornography.

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Larry Revene (Bob Wolfe’s assistant)

The process was simple – Bob had a recurring ad in the Village Voice. ‘Nude Modeling’ or something. We listed our phone number there, so when people called we’d invite them down to the studio on 14th Street and ‘audition’ them.

Village Voice

The audition consisted of taking a black and white Polaroid of the person – which Bob would throw into his haphazard filing system. He’d write their contact details on the back of the picture together with any observations about them.

So every time we were ready to shoot more loops, we’d call a bunch of these people up and get them into the studio…

Bob Wolfe, Larry ReveneUnknown couple, audition Polaroid, 14th St. studio (1971)

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Fourteenth St, New York:

14th Street is a major crosstown street in Manhattan. It’s always been a transitional street, forming the southern border of Union Square, Chelsea, and Gramercy, and the northern boundary of Greenwich Village, Alphabet City and the East Village.

Once an upscale location, by the 1970s it had lost some of its glamour and status as the city grew northward. On the surface, it’s a typical New York cross street, lined with brownstone townhouses, local bars and a few leafy trees, but in the 1970s a number of notorious locations were situated on the street too.

At 500 West 14th St was The Anvil, a decadent gay nightclub that was frequented by German film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Felipe Rose danced there in an Indian costume, inspiring and becoming the first member of the Village People.

At number 400 there was The Toilet, a gay sex club, and just round the corner at 675 Hudson was a triangular building, originally built as a factory, which housed the gay leather club The Manhole. Before that it had been the infamous Hellfire Club. (The building also contained Glenn Close’s apartment in ‘Fatal Attraction’ (1987)). The Dix Building at 116 14th St was the longtime offices of Screw magazine, and 212 East 14th St was the home of Movie Star News, run by ‘King of Pin-Up’ Irving Klaw and his sister Paula, renowned for selling cheesecake and bondage photos of Bettie Page and others.

But the stretch of 14th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues houses a location which has no sign or clue as to its former notoriety or importance in the history of the adult film industry.

It is accessed by stairs that take you down to a basement below the road level. The entrance to the space is through a small door protected by a rusty metal outer grill. The entrance hall and the studio itself has remained virtually unchanged since the late 1960s. It’s now an unkempt office for the building’s landlord, but the walls and floors, and even some of the fittings, are the same as they were 45 years ago.

This is where Bob Wolfe shot his sex loops.

Larry ReveneLarry Revene, shooting a loop in Bob Wolfe’s 14th St studio

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Bob Wolfe:

Larry Revene

I first met Bob when he hired me to edit a film in his studio on 14th St. The film was going to be called ‘Three Women’. It was this documentary idea, with each woman talking about her sexual fantasy, before enacting her idea for the camera.

Marty Hodas (‘King of the Peeps’, owner of the majority of early peep show machines in Times Square)

In the late 60s I got these peep machines into all the Time Square bookstores, and they made me a lot of money. But I needed loops to show in them! I got some from the west coast – because they had more of an industry there back then. But what I really wanted to do was produce these little sex films here in New York.

Then I heard of Bob Wolfe – and you could say I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse (laughs).

Anthony Bianco (from ‘Ghosts of 42nd St’, (2004))

Hodas started making sex movies through a start-up company he called Dynamite Films. The footage was actually shot by Wolfe, a longhaired, Village bohemian photographer who was a partner in Dynamite Films.

Bob Wolfe, Larry ReveneUnknown model, audition Polaroid, 14th St. studio (1971)

Larry Revene

Most of Bob’s loops were for Marty Hodas. He hired Bob to make the loops to feed his Times Square Peep Shows machines.

Jamie Gillis (loop actor)

I always viewed Bob’s studio as the Peep Show factory.

Marc Stevens (loop actor – from ‘10 ½!’ (1975), by Marc Stevens)

Four X (aka Bob Wolfe) was a paunchy prime mover in New York sex-for-sale. They call him Four X because he’s made over a thousand fuck films.

Rumor had it that that his father was an abortionist and his mother a strip queen – but anyway, he was in it up to his beady little eyes, and he loved it.

Bob Wolfe, Larry ReveneUnknown couple, audition Polaroid, 14th St. studio (1971)

Jamie Gillis

I remember Bob being a friendly, hippy type. He had long black hair in a ponytail, and he wore overalls and no shirt. He would often talk about his theories on eroticism and pornography, and it was clear that he took it all seriously.

Larry Revene

Bob must have been in his late 30s, and had long salt and pepper black hair which he kept in a Jerry Garcia ponytail. He was jovial most of the time, but he had a paranoid streak as well – with some justification as it turned out.

Marc Stevens (from ‘10 ½!’ (1975), by Marc Stevens):

He is a typical pornographer. I hate stereotypes, but he looks exactly like what anyone would think a pornographer looked like.

Jamie Gillis

But he was a good guy, and it was fun, and I always enjoyed going there. The first time I went for the work, there was a very attractive girl sitting on the mattress waiting for me, so it was perfect, you know. I couldn’t have been happier.

Bob Wolfe, Larry ReveneUnknown model, audition Polaroid, 14th St. studio (1971)

Marc Stevens (from ‘10 ½!’ (1975), by Marc Stevens)

(Bob was) a funny little man, he was shameless in his lusts and obsessions, and I had to laugh, repulsive as he was.

Harry Reems (loop actor)

I never worked for him. I thought he was a creep.

Jamie Gillis

After I met Bob the first time, he had a quiet word in my ear. He asked me if I want to fuck his wife. He had this small apartment nearby on Perry Street. So I went over and met his wife who was very sweet.

I think Bob invited a few other guys to do the same thing at different times.

Alex Mann (loop actor)

I agreed to his offer, so we set off to his apartment. I think his wife was a little surprised, but Bob excused himself and I explained the thing to her. She seemed to dig it, so we fucked while he watched.

Jamie Gillis

The same thing happened a few times after that. It all seemed to be a natural part of the scene, and I didn’t have a problem with it.

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Loop actor auditions:

Larry Revene

Bob ran an ad in the Village Voice every two weeks. People would call in and set up appointments; they would come down the steps and knock on the gate, because we always kept the gate closed.

And we always kept the windows covered for obvious reasons.

Jamie Gillis

I was living on Waverly Place at the time, in some little closet size room, and working at a little theater company.

I was driving a cab around that time to make money, and also working theater at night. It was hectic and it was hard to do all that. So I was looking for something easy to do for a couple hours during the day.

I picked up the Village Voice looking for a part time job. I thought I’d do something like packing boxes, anything, and I saw this ad under ‘part time jobs’. I thought why not?

Jason Russell (loop actor)

I was married to Linda – who later became the first porno star, Tina Russell. Linda got friendly with this girl whose boyfriend got caught for marijuana. And they needed to raise $5,000 for his bail. So Linda got the idea… well, we can go pose in the nude, and do X-rated films.

We saw this ad in the newspaper – and that allowed us to pull the money together to get him out of jail. That’s what got us started.

Tina RussellTina Russell, in a still taken during a loop filming session at the 14th St studio (1971)

Larry Revene

When the people came in we’d take a Polaroid of them, talk with them a little bit, see what they were about. It was mostly couples and single girls.

Jamie Gillis

When you first went to see him, Bob would take a Polaroid photograph of you. He’d say “Well – take your clothes off and I’ll take a picture, and I’ll keep you in my file.”

So that’s what happened the first time I went down there. I remember stripping off, and just standing there whilst he took out his camera.

Larry Revene

They weren’t exactly files, there was kind of like a desk that he’d throw the pictures into. Sometimes you’d lose a Polaroid, and when we’d find it Bob would say “Oh geez, I’ve been looking for this picture for a year” because it was just heaped with stuff and old food, and it was really funky.

It was what you’d expect the quintessential porn studio to be.

Darby Lloyd Rains (loop actress)

I seem to remember that you wrote your personal contact details on the back of the Polaroid. And then he’d call you if he wanted you for a loop.

Darby Lloyd RainsDarby Lloyd Rains (1972)

Jamie Gillis

Yeah, it all got written down on the back of the Polaroid. Together with a few salty observations from Bob himself. Things like, “crazy girl” or “probably a cop”. Things like that.

Larry Revene

There was one woman who was slightly older than the rest of the girls. She’d showed up for auditions on a regular basis. She wasn’t unattractive, but for some reason Bob never used her. I felt bad for her. She just seemed lonely.

Marc Stevens (from ‘10 ½!’ (1975), by Marc Stevens)

Four X (Bob Wolfe) asked me to do a loop for him. I thought, why not? A fifty dollar bill is a fifty dollar bill. So I decided to do it. It was my first porno film.

Bob Wolfe, Larry ReveneUnknown model, audition Polaroid, 14th St. studio (1972)

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The Studio on 14th Street:

Larry Revene

We’d normally shoot six films a day in this tiny room – which was a stretch.

It was a small space, so we used each corner for a different shoot. Very few out of the six films, maybe only one of them, would use a bed and so the rest were improvised around other props, like a desk or a sofa.

Jamie Gillis

I don’t remember many props and sets. Maybe Larry’s right, you know. But I just remember a dirty mattress over in the corner.

Larry Revene

Bob, bless his heart, was not Martha Stewart. When you stepped into this studio, there would often be a kind of crunching sound under your feet. And it would probably be some food that somebody hadn’t finished.

The studio had an aura and an odor… and when you turned on all those lights and it got really hot. You know, the odor would really… well, you’d start to look for some fresh air. Anywhere.

Bob Wolfe, Larry ReveneUnknown model, audition Polaroid, 14th St. studio (1971)

Jamie Gillis

The mattress was old too. I complained to Bob about it often because it had springs that were popping out and I complained that somebody was going to get hurt one of these days, but he never did anything about that.

It was a mess, dirty, rough. It was a really crappy place. Always hot too.

Marc Stevens (from ‘10 ½!’ (1975), by Marc Stevens)

The only piece of furniture in the place was a bed covered with a stiff sheet that was stained so badly it looked like it almost had a pattern.

Jamie Gillis

People were fucking, and there wasn’t even a shower, just a little tiny bathroom – which was always broken. Bob didn’t care about that side of things, and I wasn’t necessarily expecting anything more, you know, so who cared?

Jamie GillisJamie Gillis, in a still taken during a loop filming session at the 14th St studio (1971)

Marc Stevens (from ‘10 ½!’ (1975), by Marc Stevens)

The set looked like something out of a ‘feelthy pervert’ hallucination. It was a disgustingly dirty, badly lit basement without any ventilation and a smell like a New York subway station.

Larry Revene

Bob had a great old wooden desk, and he had one of the first answering machines.

At first the editing was done in the camera. Later however he had an area dedicated to editing. There was a moviola there because he would edit the loops crudely before dropping them off with Marty Hodas.

Then there was a big safe where we locked up the cameras. In those days we never expected any equipment to be still there the next day unless it was nailed down.

Alex Mann

If there were more than two actors, it got cramped in there. You could hardly turn around without knocking something over.

Larry Revene

Most studios had high ceilings and grids for lights and so forth. The ceiling in our studio was low, and had all of these pipes which we rigged with lights using tape.

I remember once Jamie was working against the wall and some of the tape melted – and the light started to come down on top of him. He was off of that bed in a split second. I mean, I’ve never seen anybody move as quickly as that.

Jamie Gillis

You had to be careful. I always had one ear and one eye out for potential tragedy because that’s the way the place was. It was like a disaster zone waiting to happen.

Larry Revene, Bob WolfeUnknown model, audition Polaroid, 14th St. studio (1971)

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Shooting loops:

Larry Revene

We shot hundreds and hundreds of loops there in the early 1970s – in black and white, and without sound for most of that time.

Alex Mann

In those days, the two main loop shooters were Bob Wolfe and Sam Menning. Ted Snyder did a few as well. Between them they did nearly all the loops in New York. Bob and Sam both used a wind-up 16mm Bolex camera.

Larry Revene

Sometimes you’d be 18 hours in there. You’d come in at ten in the morning, and you’d leave at 2 or 3 o’clock the next morning.

Alex Mann

At first Bob’s loops were softcore, but he was soon given the order to start making them explicit – so he started asking us to have sex for real. To be honest, it was a relief not to have to fake it anymore.

Marc Stevens (from ‘10 ½!’ (1975), by Marc Stevens)

My first porno loop was with Bob. […] It was a gay film with Jamie Gillis. We’re still good friends. We’ve all grown together from the beginning. We’re all getting famous together. Today a come shot. Tomorrow the world.

Alex Mann

I could’ve worked all the time. It was fun to do and the money was better than anything else I was doing.

Marc Stevens (from ‘10 ½!’ (1975), by Marc Stevens)

Four X’s (Bob Wolfe’s) wife, I remember, stood and watched us during the entire shooting, holding her six-month-old baby in her arms. That really freaked me out at the time. She’d never seen two men make it before.

Bob Wolfe, Larry ReveneUnknown model, audition Polaroid, 14th St. studio (1971)

Larry Revene

Jamie always impressed me from the very beginning as being the consummate professional.

Jamie Gillis

I just like to fuck. What’s a consummate professional?

Larry Revene

I guess it’s the same thing in this business, right? Jamie was always easy to work with and could perform.

The length of the shoot was really down to the guy, and how long he would take.

Jamie Gillis

Well, when you’re talking about Jamie Gillis, it doesn’t take long at all. I mean I took as much time as I wanted, but there wasn’t much of a wait with me.

It was quick work. You came in, you did it, and you left.

Bob Wolfe, Larry ReveneUnknown model, audition Polaroid, 14th St. studio (1972)

Marc Stevens (from ‘10 ½!’ (1975), by Marc Stevens)

Four X (aka Bob Wolfe) would shoot both hard and soft core. This way he was able to put together two loops for the price of one.

Larry Revene

The big anxiety that we’d have was whether a guy was going to be able to perform or not.

These people had never done this before… no one had ever done this before! So you just never knew what you were going to get.

Darby Lloyd Rains

Bob had a good bedside manner with the actors – which you needed, because some of the guys took forever…

Marc Stevens (from ‘10 ½!’ (1975), by Marc Stevens)

When I came, the first spurt of come shot out ten feet, hit a hot light and burst the fucker.

Marc Stevens Porno Star was born.

Jamie Gillis

It was fun. I had a lot of fun there. It never felt like work in Bob’s studio. Never.

I couldn’t wait to work there. If I knew I was going there it was great, because I knew there’d be attractive people, and so I came in, had a good time for an hour or so and that was it.

Bob Wolfe, Larry ReveneStill from a bondage loop shot at 14th St studio (1973)

Larry Revene

A number of people who we used in the loops went on to become famous in the industry, but they were nobodies when they came to us.

When Linda Lovelace worked here, she was just another actress… She was a total unknown then.

Eric Edwards (loop actor)

I shot some of my first loops in Bob Wolfe’s downstairs flat in New York, and some of them were with Linda Lovelace. Basically the set-up was Bob Wolfe, Linda, another girl, and her husband at the time, Chuck Traynor. So, we did our scene, it took about an hour or so… and worked out fine. I got forty bucks, she got fifty. I never could understand why the girls got more because I had to do most of the work! But I didn’t care, it was fun.

I got a call from Linda after that and, contrary to her book, she would say, “Do you wanna do another job?”

She was always keen to work. I would say, “Okay fine, it helps pay the rent.” I was a starving actor at the time.

Linda Lovelace (loop actress, from ‘Ordeal’ (1980), by Linda Lovelace and Mike McGrady)

Our destination that morning was a studio down in the East Village. A large room… the usual clutter… the double bed… the movie lights… the cameras… the director, Robert Wolfe – fat and greasy and black-haired.

I looked at the three men. And then I noticed that on the small table directly in front of them there was a gun, a revolver. This was a gun I had never seen before, and I assumed that it belonged to Wolfe or his assistant.

‘Now are you sure that you don’t want to make this movie?’ Wolfe said.

Linda LovelaceLinda Lovelace and Eric Edwards shooting a loop (1971)

Eric Edwards

I saw it all. There were no guns or anything like that to force her into this. I think she actually had a good time. It was a rather strange time of exploration.

Jamie Gillis

The idea that anyone was ever forced into doing anything there was completely preposterous.

Jason Russell

After Linda (Tina Russell) and I did our first loop, we both quit our jobs and just started doing the X-rated business full time. It was too much fun, and the money was too good… so what’s the sense of working a regular job?

Jamie Gillis

Sometimes when I was on the way to drive the cab, I’d call Bob and ask for loop work instead.

Bob was concerned about me being overexposed – this was in 1971! He’d say “I think you’re working too much. You’re going to be over-exposed.” So I don’t think he was eager to shoot me a lot.

Sometimes he would say “Well okay we can do something,” other times he’d pass.

But I guess by some people’s standards though, I was really over-exposing myself…

Bob Wolfe, Larry ReveneUnknown couple, audition Polaroid, 14th St. studio (1971)

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Endgame:

Larry Revene

It all ended abruptly. One day Bob turned up at the studio looking as pale as a ghost. He just said, “Clean out the studio – I’m getting out of town”. Apparently one of his partners had been found dead. Shot in the head out on Long Island.

Bob just said: “Clean out the studio, pack up the truck, and drive it to the west coast.” So Bob left and never returned. That was the summer of 1973.

I inherited his studio for a while. By then I did lots of stuff… still shoots, commercials and so forth. I had no intention of shooting more porn. Well, I didn’t know that I was going to inherit all of these strange characters that Bob had done work for.

So I ended up working for them for a few more years making more sex loops.

Larry ReveneLarry Revene shooting a loop with Terri Hall and Sharon Mitchell at the 14th St studio (1975)

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Aftermath:

Out on the west coast, Bob Wolfe teamed up with a friend, Mike Rector, to create the first safety gear designed specifically for skaters. Prior to this, injuries had been common since most skaters haven’t given much thought to safety gear.

He went on to produce adult features in the 1980s under the pseudonym ‘Lawrence T. Cole’, and was briefly part of the writing team behind the TV soap opera ‘Dynasty’.

The Rialto Report has contacted Bob Wolfe numerous times over the last ten years, but so far he has always declined to be interviewed on record.

In 2009, I re-visited the 14th St studio with Jamie Gillis and Larry Revene. It was the first time they had returned there since the 1970s.

Seeing Larry look around the studio, I asked him if he had any regrets about the way his film-making career had turned out.

He said: “I do have one regret. About 1972, I worked on a commercial that got a Republican elected. That was during the Nixon years. I regret that dearly”.

Seeing Jamie inspecting one dark corner of the old studio, I asked him what it felt like being back in the same small space where his career had started.

“I’m home again”, he said.

Larry Revene, Jamie GillisLarry Revene and Jamie Gillis at the scene of the crime: The return to the 14th St studio (2009)

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For more information about this story:

Check out Larry Revene’s book, ‘Wham Bam $$ Ba Da Boom! : Mob wars, Porn Battles and a View from the Trenches’, and his blog here.

Listen to our audio podcast interview with Larry Revene here.

Listen to our audio podcast interview with Marty Hodas here.

Listen to our audio podcast interview with Jamie Gillis here.

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18 Comments

  1. Marc · August 17, 2014 Reply

    Oh my, oh my, oh my…..

    This is UNBELIEVABLE. All these years after the birth of NY porn… to find these pictures and have this detail…

    Wow.

  2. Henry Nichols · August 17, 2014 Reply

    As usual I’m sat by the computer waiting to see what the Rialto will bring on Sunday – and once again you don’t disappoint. Cool investigative research (now we just need to get Bob Wolfe to tell his side of the story). Thanks as always.

  3. Chip Maloney · August 17, 2014 Reply

    Loved this. I worked for Al Goldstein for a number of years and knew Gillis as well. I never met Bob but had heard of him. As always, great stuff. Thanks for keeping the history alive.

  4. Susie Bright · August 17, 2014 Reply

    I can’t believe this stuff brings tears to my eyes but it does… So very grateful to you for putting it together like this. Talk about the age of innocence. Linda and Eric… The adjective is “adorable”. Says more than any number of memoirs doesn’t it?

    The contrast between the corruption, the law, the conmen… And that hippie starlight in the actors’ eyes. Really gets to me.

  5. Digital DV · August 17, 2014 Reply

    I walked down 14th St all the time in the 1970s – if only I’d known what was going on back then!

    Seriously seeing these pictures is barely believable – don’t know how you guys keep generating new findings but I hope it never stops.

  6. Mark · August 17, 2014 Reply

    I hate reading a full article or invu on a computer screen, but with Ash’s Report…..never a problem. I hope you’re collating all this stuff together for a book later on.

  7. Robin Bougie · August 17, 2014 Reply

    Another fantastic entry into the Rialto ovre!

  8. roy karch · August 18, 2014 Reply

    I haven’t seen the inside of Bob Wolfe’s 14th St basement studio since 1970/’71. My very first foray into the xxx-rated adult world…and as talent! It grew from there…uh, no pun intended.
    Thanx, Ash, for this true walk down memory lane.

  9. rod · August 18, 2014 Reply

    The girl in the first Polaroid is outstanding. Anyone know who she was or what she was in? Also can’t help but notice the bruises on Linda Lovelace’s thigh…..

    • Ashley West · August 18, 2014 Reply

      Hi Rod,

      Larry and Jamie both remembered the girl in the first Polaroid. She was thought to be visiting from Israel, and Jamie thought she had arrived in New York from a working on a kibbutz with her boyfriend at the time.

      She appeared in a few loops that were shot at at the studio – and in fact, she’s the girl in the bondage still that is included in the above article, though she’s wearing a wig that she’d apparently often wear when being filmed.

      I haven’t found any appearances in feature films yet but we’re always looking out for her.

      Thnaks for leaving a comment!

  10. K marshall · August 18, 2014 Reply

    The well oiled RR. Going,driving.
    Keep stamping on accelerator.
    Just can’t get enough. Spoiled now.

  11. Hank Rose · August 21, 2014 Reply

    To think, this was the big bang of porn. It all really started there. It’s like a lost and found museum.

  12. Tony F · August 22, 2014 Reply

    Whoooo! Been waiting for the Bob Wolfe studio feature. It didn’t disappoint. Just wish Bob would let you in for a proper interview. Can’t imagine the tails he could tell. I’ve loved the stories all the other performers and employees of his have shared about the studio on your site in various other podcasts. Keep trying to get Bob on a podcast. Although I’m sure not everyone behind the camera is ready to be candid about what they feel was their private life now made semi-public. So I can understand his reticence, but am hoping that eventually you will persuade him to share.

  13. K marshall · August 24, 2014 Reply

    Probably hard for latecomers to grasp: then, the choice could often be … The Slammer, or two in the hat. 3rd option exercised: Run. Inevitable followup: clam up and denial. Can’t say that my decision would be any different. Tough to explain the context of the times to The Young. Doubly difficult if the Young are…..yours.

  14. Ken Anderson · September 19, 2014 Reply

    THE SCENE OF THE GRIME Thats Amazing! It still looks the same as when I worked there. I started (talent?) just before Larry Revene did. I’m the janitor Terri Hall is riding in that color still

  15. Cheval · October 6, 2014 Reply

    A) you should make a book with all these Polaroids. They have a life of their own, like some old XIXth century daguerreotypes…

    B) please write a portrait of the stunning Terri Hall. Please!

  16. wowza · December 19, 2015 Reply

    Amazing that those all polaroids survived all these years! Fascinating look at the starting era of porn.

    I have a question that hopefully someone here at the Rialto Report can help with. Is it true that Jason Russell passed away sometime back? If so, when did he?

    Keep up the outstanding work!

    • The Rialto Report · December 19, 2015 Reply

      Yes – Jason passed away in October 2005 in Florida. He will be featured in an upcoming Rialto Report about his wife Tina and him.

      Thanks for the kind comments!

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