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On this episode of The Rialto Report, we present a previously unheard interview with the late Jamie Gillis, the adult film actor whose career started in 1971 and spanned the next 35 plus years, including memorable performances in films such as The Opening of Misty Beethoven, The Story of Joanna, The Seduction of Lyn Carter, and Neon Nights.
This conversation focuses on his start in the business, with tales of early loops with Bob Wolfe and Sam Menning, still photo shoots with Harold Kovner, performing in live shows, the true story behind the dog who appeared with Linda Lovelace, Tina and Jason Russell, Susan McBain, Plato’s Retreat and the Hellfire Club, being busted on All In The Sex Family, appearing on Tom Snyder‘s TV chat show, Times Square, Carter Stevens, and much more – all on this episode of The Rialto Report.
This episode running time is 61 minutes.
Do I need to say anything else?
There are so many interesting filmmakers and actors featured on The Rialto Report, but Jamie Gillis probably personifies the golden age of New York adult films more than any other person. Simply put, I can’t imagine the period without him. And when he died in 2010, the world became a less interesting place to me.
He was almost 30 when he started his porn career in early 1971, initially in loops, fetish stills, pseudo sex-documentaries, and then the early one-day wonders.
But there was already much more to him than porn. He’d spent large parts of the 1960s traveling in Europe – he worked on a kibbutz in Israel, acted in a mime troupe in Holland, stayed in Rome, Paris, and Hamburg, and lived in an open relationship with two sisters. And their mother. Nothing about Jamie was ever conventional.
He could have done many things with his life, but he chose to act in pornographic films and never regretted it. It was something he fell into almost by accident, but something that he never stopped enjoying. He told me once that a producer had been desperate for him to act in a new film. When the producer asked Jamie how much money he wanted for one day’s work, Jamie said that he’d do it for $500. At the end of the shoot, the producer made fun of him saying: “if only you knew me better, you’d have known I’d have paid you $1,000”.
Jamie smiled and said to the producer “If you knew me, you’d have known that I’d have done it for free”
He was a controversial figure, complex, polarizing even. And he was aware of that, and was amused by his dark public persona and the stories that circulated about him. Sometimes he embraced it too. I remember him saying that he’d once heard the composer John Cage say “If my work is ever accepted, I must move on to the point where it is not”. Jamie liked that.
His adult film career was long but I’ll always think of him in the early days on the screens of the New York grindhouses. He used to go to the theaters regularly too. For a time he had a girlfriend who he’d meet in one of the porno theaters. Every Monday afternoon. She was called Angie and every time they met, he’d take her into the theater’s tiny, dirty restroom where they’d have sex. Even by Jamie’s standards this restroom was filthy – he reckoned no cleaner had been near it for weeks. One day Angie didn’t show, so Jamie took another girl into the dirty restroom instead. And when he emerged, there was Angie standing by the door in tears. “How could you go in there with someone else”, she said. “That’s our special place”.
This is our place. And this one’s for you, boss.
Jamie Gillis, with Tina Russell
This is phenomenal – just listening to it now!
I never thought I’d get to hear Jamie talk at length about his start in the business – so sad that he is gone.
I was moved to tears by the ending of this episode.
Thanks Rialto for this.
Jamie is a true Hall of Famer and was a complicated guy. In the late 90’s he had a series Back on the Prowl that featured a beautiful porn star named Kiki Morgan who did films in 1997-98. Jamie had a stranger bang her while he watched and later masturbated in front of Kiki. He had a website at the time and would answer emails. I asked him why didn’t he have sex with Kiki Morgan too? He said he couldn’t that he cared about her a little too much. Considering the amount of scenes and girls he was with I felt that was a strange answer but he was a complicated guy. Maybe he had something going on with Kiki Morgan off camera and didn’t want to share her? RIP Mr Gillis
Another great job, Ash. But I must admit it made me sad. I miss Jamie. RIP Jamie RIP
Carter, thanks for having me on the “set” of The Hot Oven, a film strip of which you gave me then (1975).
Well – you’ve done it again. The opening story of JG in a Times Square restroom brought a lump to my throat, and Jamie’s last story about his ashes made me mourn his presence in this crazy world.
Jamie – you are sorely missed x
X’s “Darkest Knight” glows here, laughing with his lullaby voice, as he remembers the good old days. I absolutely fell in love with the man the moment that I met him back in 1974, and seriously regret never telling him that. Perhaps I’ll get the chance the next time that we meet…on a dirty mattress in Hell!
I had met Jamie Gillis in person back in the Summer of 2009, my partner at Wildeye Releasing had Gillis come down to the Pioneer Theater for a night of old porn flicks supplied by myself on 16mm. During my conversation with Gillis I had asked him if he’s do an on camera interview for a documentary on 42nd St cinemas that my partner and I were working on at the time (in fact it’s still on going). Anyhow, in agreement I promised to transfer his 8mm loops to a DVD for him (including the loop with the girl and the dog). We interviewed him in the Fall of 2009, at his place of residence which was owned by the woman he lived with, her restaurant was right next to her home. The interesting thing was that I had a female writer friend who had also interviewed Gillis and she had nothing good to say about him, hence I thought I wasn’t going to like him. It was the exact opposite, I found him to be a very kind person, I got along with him beautifully. My wife was with us during the interview, she got to meet him as well and also thought he was a very nice person. He never told us he was dying, didn’t say a word, I was stunned when I heard he had passed on. This was a great interview, thanks for posting it.
Thanks so much for your fine podcast with Jamie Gillis. Knowing that He passed in 2010, I never thought that an interview with Jamie would be on the Rialto Report. Great stories from Mr. Gillis on his entry into the Adult Film Industry. Loved his take on the Linda Lovelace/Dog Movie.
Again, loved your choice of intro music. Spot on, as usual.
Jamie Gillis was a kink master in love with sleaze who put on no airs and his thrill was the joyful adventures of professional sex and not just adult fame and fortune. He was all at once a porn star for the voyeurs as well as the Cary Grant of X. I have an old box cover of one of my old movies signed by both him and John Leslie. It’s priceless.
Gillis did the very first scene in the Dirty Debutantes series, he received a bj from a beautiful 19 year old Mia Powers. What happened with Jamie and Ed Powers? Ed went on to become rich and famous with the Dirty Debutante series and Jaime kind of just faded away after starring in several volumes when they first started. I thought that series would have been a lot better if Jamie was the star and Ed Powers just filmed the scenes
Ed Powers had a factory-like work ethic for the series and wanted to keep churning out the volumes non-stop. Jamie said in an interview that he was turned off by this approach and opted out of the series. He later sued Ed Powers for royalties on the series, with Powers claiming in response that they were never friends and Gillis was just an employee on the series and not a partner. Gillis probably didn’t deserve anything more in terms of royalties, but Powers was doing his best to revise history. I never understood why Gillis never got rich as a contract director to a major company as John Leslie and Joey Silvera did. He had the name value and the connections, so the only explanation must be that he was just not interested in that.
Thanks Christopher, I just thought Gillis was such a strong performer and he had so much charisma that even if he started his own Dirty Deb type of series he would have been a success. Ed Powers did not have Jamie’s screen presence, was not very well endowed, and could come off as very annoying in front of the camera. It would have been interesting to see Jamie with his own series and go head to head against Powers. I feel Gillis would have sold more VHS copies and Powers would have just been a footnote.
It’s funny that when the series first started it said they were The Nasty Brothers right on the box, and later Powers said they weren’t even friends?
Early in 2007, I left a message at the residence of Jamie Gillis. My hope was to ask Mr. Gillis if he would grant an interview for our biography (still in the works) about John Holmes. Jamie was the first person I’d contacted on my own to interview for the book, so I was nervous, and honestly, didn’t know what to expect. I’d read and heard many stories about him, good, bad and indifferent. I’d been informed that Jamie could be somewhat of a recluse and since he had absolutely no idea who I was, I didn’t seriously entertain the idea that he would return my call, much less agree to an interview. To my great surprise, when I got home from work that day, Jamie had left a rather lengthy and amusing message (in that distinctive, seductive voice) asking that I call him back at my convenience. When I returned his call that evening, he was warm and funny and said he’d be delighted to interview for the book. He immediately put me at ease. Deciding it might be best to strike when the iron was hot, we arranged to interview that week — over the phone. Once again, our conversation flowed; Jamie was endearing and shared some funny and touching stories and I promised to send him a copy of the book if we found a publisher.
During our chat, Jamie happened to mention that something he’d always wanted to own was the poster for the 1982 film Marathon because he and Holmes had shared top billing. He gotten a kick out of the caption for the film which read: “An incredible contest of the mighty giants.” About a month after our interview, I found and bought the Marathon poster at Amazon and mailed it to his home. He was absolutely tickled. When the book was close to being released in the summer of 2008, I emailed Jamie to invite him to our launch in Los Angeles. He corresponded shortly afterwards to say that as much as he would have loved to have attended, he didn’t fly and New York was just too far “these days” for him to travel by train. I understood completely. Instead of attending the gathering, Jamie offered to write a couple of lines of praise for the biography and added that he was very proud to have been a part of the project. As a couple of novices, those words meant the world to us.
I remember when I heard about his passing, I was surprised and sad. The mere mention of Jamie’s name has the power to oftentimes polarize people but I suspect he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. My experience with him was top notch. He was a gentleman and he was kind.
Thank you, Ashley and The Rialto Report for enabling Mr. Gillis to share in his own words the many facets that comprised the man.
Great interview. I cried at the end. Wonderful wrap up at the end if it. Ashley you do a terrific job, as always!!
I met Jamie on a set for my friend Jeff Coldwater in the movie Goldenrod where I played one of Jamie’s henchmen. In one scene he proceeds to slap me across the face full force! I was stunned and it shows in the final film. A few years later I saw him at Elegant Angel and he popped his head into my office to say hi. Always a very down to earth and cordule guy! Even when he’s hitting me and calling me names!! “I will slap your fat green fucking face! Do you hear me!!!”
Great interview, a very controversial figure Jamie he was, but he was truly the boss Ashley like you said. I ‘ve heard this interview a few times over now, lovely over a spliff and a scotch. I hope you have more material with the greats, I am gutted that John Leslie, Jamie, the converted Harry Reems and others have passed away since 2010, as if they were timed. Looking forward to more podcasts.
I know he is probably dead too by now like these other porn champions we lost in the last few years but I would like to find out whatever became of King Paul the black porn star in all those Diamond Collection loops? I heard in the early 80’s he worked as a front door man in a club in San Francisco then seemed to drop off the radar. King Paul had a charm about him that just made the white girls melt, not to mention that big black salami of his
Very bright, alive and content with his journey through the years.. Indeed no one can imagine the industry without him.
Nice piano at the end..
The gold standard of actors.
The gold standard of interviews.
The gold standard of golden age research.
I keep listening to the poetry of the last minutes of the podcast. Rest in peace Boss. We miss you.
Love the interview, thanks! Jamie was definitely one of the greatest from the Golden Age.
Here’s to Jamie fixing the plumbing of the luscious blonde angels in heaven!
Can we have pt. II Ash?
Love this man…
Dark Garden Revisited 2014 ~ 15 Years later.
In 1999, an incredible group of people got together to make a film.
Sadly… Gone, are these days and many of the people involved in this project.
I hold on to these moments tightly.
As if, losing them would scar my very existence.
Jamie Gillis was a friend for about 15 years and he told me the most wonderful stories about the business and the people in it as well as just being an excellent conversationalist on nearly every topic. A few months before he died, I gave him a book called The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker. He told me that he truly enjoyed the book yet never gave a hint that he was dying. Amazing guy. I currently possess video footage of Gillis playing Polnius and Hamlet in some audition scenes for me as well as some scenes from my own scripts. I wish I had some way to transfer these to DVD so I could upload them to youtube. People should see what a great actor he was.
VERY nice interview! What’s the name and recording of the song at the very end? Nice wrap up to the interview and, yes, it made me cry. Thanks!
The haunting song that closes the interview is ‘Reality or Not’ by Howe Gelb from his ‘Dust Bowl’ record.
What’s the name of the song at the end?
Hi Frank – the haunting song that closes the interview is ‘Reality or Not’ by Howe Gelb from his ‘Dust Bowl’ record.
Perfect ending! I cried also. This is such a good site.
Rest in peace Jamie ill never go past show world without thinking of you…
Thanks Realto Report great interview with a true free sprit…
[…] Jamie Gillis: New Yo… November 17, 2013 […]
I am probably the very first person to interview Jamie. I had met Tom and Teddy Kariofilis, owners of the Capri Cinema on 8th Avenue in NYC (long story) in 1973. Shawn Costello asked if I wanted to interview him, since we were both Columbia men. I said “Sure!”. He and I talked for about two hours – a little about the movie (which Tom, Teddy and Shawn didn’t much like) and a lot about Ivy League stuff – Kant vs. Hegel, the work of James Baldwin, you name it. For whatever reason, we clicked, and for whatever other reasons we saw each other on and off for over a decade. I always thought that the “mean” Jamie was a character he played on screen and sometimes off screen but was not, to me, “him”. In 2004 when Columbia celebrated its 250th Anniversary, I found his address and sent him a C250 t shirt. We corresponded after that but just when I was going to meet up with him again, he passed away. He was part of what we referred to in adult cinema as The Big Four: John Leslie, Jamie Gillis, Paul Thomas and Joey Silvera – whose brother was an instructor at Columbia. Some loop, no? Sadly, I lost the cassettes of our interview in a move. But he was during his career – and after – considered the best actor ever to do X, even better than John Leslie, which is a stratospheric bar. RIP and Roar, Lion, Jamie.
This blew me away. Thank you for releasing these tapes. If there are more, I’d love to get more. Even though you edited this fantastically.
So dark, and beautiful.