Wakefield Poole‘s landmark film ‘Boys In The Sand’ (1971) starring Casey Donovan pre-dated ‘Deep Throat’ by six months – making it one of the earliest porn films to achieve crossover success and mainstream respectability.
The film, whose title was a parodic reference to the Mart Crowley play and film ‘The Boys in the Band’, was produced on a budget of $8,000. It’s a loose collection of three segments depicting Donovan’s sexual adventures on Fire Island, NY. Promoted by Poole with an advertising campaign unprecedented for a pornographic feature, ‘Boys in the Sand’ premiered in New York City in December 1971 and was an immediate critical and commercial success.
Since then Jim has released the excellent documentary ‘I Always Said Yes: The Many Lives of Wakefield Poole’. From this summer the film is available for digital purchase and rental on the major VOD retail platforms worldwide, including Vimeo, iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play. It’s also streaming on Fandor.
The Rialto Report recently re-visited the stunning house featured in the final segment of ‘Boys in the Sand’ to see how it has weathered the 45 years since the film was shot. We’re pleased to report that nothing much has changed…
‘Boys In The Sand’ (1971) – The ‘Frank House’
The ‘Frank House’ was designed by the architect Andrew Geller in Fire Island Pines, Fire Island, NY, in 1958.
Rudy Frank, an ice cream entrepreneur, and his wife, Trudy, a free-lance fashion illustrator and artist, were living in Astoria, Queens, and spending their summer weekends on Fire Island.
The Franks had gone on vacation to Mexico and visited the Mayan ruins at Uxmal and Chichen Itza. They fell in love with the ancient stones and showed Geller their snapshots of the temples and the great stepped pyramid. Inspired by the ruins, Geller came up with something thoroughly modern but with ancient undertones in its battered, inward-sloping walls.
“A month later he came back with this design,” said Frank. “We didn’t have to make a single change.”
The seemingly incongruous link between Mayan temples and twentieth century beach houses may have seemed arbitrary, but both are dedicated to the worship of the sun in one form or another.
The Mayan ruins and the Frank house
The Frank House was built on top of one of the highest sand hills along the beach, floating amid the stunted pines and with panoramic views of both the Atlantic Ocean and the Great South Bay. There were wide decks on three sides of the house; Geller included a catwalk that crossed the open living area and penetrated the all-glass facade. It then cantilevered 12 feet out from the front of the house like a pulpit.
The Franks in front of the newly completed house c. 1960
Some doubted the design would ever work structurally. “There were bets among Fire Island residents as to how long before it fell down,” Geller said.
The Frank House was featured in a full-page spread in the 7 July 1961 issue of Life magazine:
By the early 1970s, the Franks had sold the house.
Wakefield Poole writes about coming across the Frank House in 1971 when scouting for locations for ‘Boys In The Sand’ in his autobiography ‘Dirty Poole‘:
There was still one problem of finding a house for the third segment. Ed and I both had been aware of an elderly man who we called ‘the count’ because he reminded us of Dracula. He was European, about 6 foot 6 inches tall, thin but well-toned, and elegant. He was also hot and had a knockdown gorgeous young stud lover. To top it all of, he had a modern house, designed after an Aztec temple. All the walls were wood paneled. Fearlessly, I just went up, knocked on the door, and asked if I could use his home to shoot a porno movie.
Much to my surprise, he was interested, so much so that I thought I might have trouble with his wanting to watch the filming. But that was not the case. He was so generous that when we arrived for our shoot at 8am, he showed us around the house, pointed out a large container of cocaine, another of grass, and a box of poppers.
“Help yourself to whatever you need, and I’ll be back around sundown,” he said before taking his leave. Now that’s what I call a good host.
It was an easy shoot, just the three of us. Cal (Casey Donovan) and Tommy were evenly matched, both liking everything. They also had no sexual preferences with one another, so there’s no top or bottom in the segment. I still think it’s one of the best sex scenes I ever filmed.
When the film was released, Wakefield had the audacity to put his real name above the film’s title. And to make sure everyone knew about it, Wakefield created a sensation by advertising the film in the New York Times.
Use the vertical slider in the following pictures to see the location from ‘Boys in the Sand’ – both in the 1971 film and today.
By the end of the century, the Frank house had been neglected and was structurally unsound. However in early 2002, a three-year restoration project returned it to its former glory. In 2012 it was featured in a Long Island magazine:
Andrew Geller re-visiting the Frank house before his passing in 2011
Wakefield Poole re-visited the Frank House recently:
‘I Always Said Yes: The Many Lives of Wakefield Poole’ (2013)
‘I Always Said Yes: The Many Lives of Wakefield Poole’ tells the story of a sometimes overlooked gay liberation and independent film making pioneer, and features extensive interviews with Poole, ‘Boys in the Sand’ producer Marvin Schulman, and many contemporaries.
Poole was an outspoken and articulate artist in a turbulent, passionate time. He didn’t think of himself as a pornographer. He was a filmmaker who used his dance and theater background to create beautiful, erotic art films that ‘challenged the mind.’ To many, though, Poole just made dirty movies.
Jim Tushinski’s documentary ‘I Always Said Yes: The Many Lives of Wakefield Poole‘ is filled with gorgeous archival footage, excerpts from Poole’s lushly photographed films, and entertaining and illuminating interviews with Poole’s contemporaries and colleagues. It is a story of artistic integrity and disappointment, self-destruction, reinvention, love, sex, fortitude, and a little musical comedy.
From this summer the film is available for digital purchase and rental on the major VOD retail platforms worldwide.
Here’s the trailer for the film: