Roy Stuart is a renowned modern-day high-art erotic photographer and filmmaker. He lives in a beautiful 19 century Haussmanian apartment in Paris, a space he also uses to shoot some of the stills and movies he is famous for. From his home to his lifestyle, Roy comes across as quintessentially European.
Except he isn’t.
Roy was born in New York City, and spent many of his formative years in New York’s underground arts scene in the 1970s. It’s in New York that he met Rod Swenson and started working at Show World. It’s where his go-go dancing girlfriend asked him to make a loop with her. Where he met Jane Hamilton and performed in live sex shows with her. Where he started an S&M theater company that Al Goldstein praised in Screw magazine. And where he made adult films with the likes of Lasse Braun, Bill Milling, Henri Pachard, Leonard Kirtman and Chuck Vincent.
With over five decades of experience in the adult industry to share, April Hall from The Rialto Report visited Roy earlier this year in his Paris loft to hear his memories of the golden age of adult film.
For more information about Roy, including how to purchase his films and books, visit roystuart.net.
All photographs are courtesy and property of Roy Stuart.
Roy Stuart 1950s-1960s: New York, Paris & London
I grew up moving between Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. Then I got into high school in Manhattan.
Just before I started high school I traveled to Europe for the summer. I was in Paris at the beginning of the 60’s. It was a great time to be there. Everyone was smoking Gauloises. We’d drink coffee in the morning from big bowls. It was the time of French new wave cinema. Plus, there were a lot of drugs around. Yeah, the drugs were really good. There was a whole lot of atmosphere. Even the metro smelled nice.
I came back to New York for school and discovered the Village scene. And the Beat scene. And more drugs.
After high school I went back to Europe for a while before returning to New York again.
Back in the city I got a job in a color film laboratory. Photographing, processing film, stuff like that.
At the same time that I was working in the film lab, I was a musician. Growing up I had studied percussion with Howie Mann, a drummer from New Jersey. I remember his name for some strange reason.
I was doing a little music now that I was back in New York, playing in a band. It was just after The Beatles, so it was a bit of rock ‘n’ roll. But there was also the jazz scene, and there was still the folk scene. I met Bob Dylan once – he was very young.
I was living in a big loft on West 37th St. It was a big industrial building and there were a lot of musicians and poets there, including Patti Smith. Madonna rented a room from me there before she was famous. Her band would come up and meet with her in her room. She’d be yelling at them – she was horrible. She invited me to her rehearsal upstairs once. It was punk and it was really awful, just terrible. I finally asked her to leave. She moved upstairs and lived with my Kung fu teacher for a while.
In fact Kung fu helped me stop taking drugs. I didn’t have a problem per se… but I was using heroin a lot and after a while your body doesn’t react so well to it. For a long time it’s really very good. You don’t need anybody or anything. You become like a monk. You get to the state where monks are – it’s perfect, except for that it’s artificial.
Later on in the 70s Sid Vicious would come by the loft to score heroin – this was right after he was charged with murdering Nancy Spungen.
In the mid 1970s I was in a band with Arthur “Killer” Kane from the New York Dolls. After the Dolls, he formed a band called Corpse Grinders. I was in it just briefly. Killer later became a Mormon.
After a while I got a job at Show World as a stage manager. I can’t quite remember how I got that job. I know I met Rod Swenson [proprietor of Show World and co-founder of the punk band the Plasmatics] and thought he was very creative.
My job at Show World wasn’t very complex. I would set the small stage, handle the spot light, things like that.
The shows were… well it’s too bad that no one really filmed an entire show. There would be different things going on. Sometimes Rod had me wearing roller skates. He would announce “hold on while the stage manager resets the stage on his roller skates”. Wendy O’Williams, the Plasmatics singer, would stop by sometimes.
I worked at Show World for quite a while, a year and a half or so. I enjoyed it.
Roy Stuart: Getting Started in Loops
I made my first loop when I was working at Show World.
My girlfriend at the time, she was younger than me and she was dancing topless at the Metropole Go-Go and other places like that. Someone told her that she could make loops. She asked me to make one with her but I didn’t want to do it. I just didn’t like the idea. If you’ve never done it before it can be scary. And I was more or less more prudish at the time. But my girlfriend convinced me.
Once I decided to do it, it was like a challenge. It was also interesting because even though it was just a loop, there were still a lot of people around. I remember the shooter, he was very business-like. He smoked and said, “This is it. You get paid…” – I don’t know how much he said, $100 something like that – “You got to get it up, and you got to get it right.” That’s what he said to inspire me. Even in France where they have a rep for being direct, they don’t talk like that. It just makes the guy nervous.
When my girlfriend and I were finishing the loop, the guy told me the cum shot should be with another girl who I’d never seen before. But what they didn’t tell me was that they were going to film the cum shot in slow motion. It was not like today where you just slow down the film digitally. Back then, they had to shoot more frames per second so they had to use a special motorized camera that made an incredibly loud sound – like “gggggggrrrrr”. It was off-putting but somehow I did it. When I finished, the crew, the few people that were there, they all applauded.
They took some still pictures and they actually gave me some of them but I never got to see the loop. And after we shot that one my girlfriend never really wanted to do more.
Roy Stuart: Live Sex and S&M Shows
I wound up putting together and acting in a live S&M show. It was like an acting troupe and we called ourselves the Aubrey Cross Players. I made up the name and had this English guy help us write the dialogue. I still have tapes where you can hear some of that dialogue.
Newspaper review of the Aubrey Cross Players
It was a whole scenario where we captured this nun played by Sandra Hillman. The nun was accused of abusing some girls. We’d say, “You have been found guilty by the high court,” and then we’d incorporate the audience. We’d ask them, “What should we do to this woman? Should we whip her?” Usually the audience was very quiet but one time a guy enthusiastically yelled, “Yeah, whip her!” Then he got embarrassed.
A fight scene would then ensue. The curtains would go up and you’d see three guys dressed all in black doing kung fu moves. My kung fu teacher was in the show as were some of the other students. There was a lot of stylized martial arts.
Dave Ruby played the main guy rescuing the girls abused by the nun. He would have sex with the nun, yelling at her, “Suck harder, you’re not sucking good enough.” He also got to have sex with the rescued girls.
It was a really good show. Al Goldstein said it was the best S&M show he ever saw. We performed it at Club O at Fantasy Manor on West 21st St.
Jane Hamilton was my roommate at the time. I met her when I advertised for roommates for the loft on 37th St. She was with me backstage one night after the show and a man came up to us. He said he would pay us $200 for a private show. We’d have sex in the dressing room and he would just sit there and watch. I said, “I don’t want to do that…I don’t want a John right up next to us.” But Jane convinced me to do it.
We start having sex and the guy who was paying us, he’s sitting right up next to us and he’s saying, “So beautiful, how beautiful,” and getting really exalted from the whole experience. I think maybe he touched Jane on the shoulder while we were fucking. “Oh, wonderful,” he said.
When we were done, Jane explained it to me. “This is a guy, he goes to work every day. His wife probably doesn’t do anything with him anymore and every day he’s in New York and it’s gray. We put a little brightness into his life.”
Sometimes I say that to models nowadays. “What are you doing? Well, you’re making some people very happy.”
Roy Stuart: Early Adult Films
The early adult film directors and producers, they wanted to make something better. They filmed with 35 millimeter cameras, they tried to tell stories. But in actual fact, the films were still pretty bad. I look at a film like ‘American Desire’ and say, “What was in Lasse Braun’s head?!”
Lasse Braun on set on ‘American Desire’ (1981)
It was really fun making the films, but I don’t think we had illusions that it had anything to do with real cinema. Except that when you were on a set, it seemed like real cinema because there was actual equipment and crews. It was sometimes the same crews that worked on big films.
And even some of the actors worked in straight film. Like I had worked on “The Godfather: Part II” for example. I played an Italian soldier and had a speaking scene with a girl I think Coppola slept with – a really pretty girl. There’s only a little bit of me on the screen. I remember Coppola came over to me at some point and offered to put me in a bigger scene but he said, “You have to cut off all your hair.” He was eating a big sausage sandwich when he asked me. I declined.
But the adult scene, the whole scene was really quite nice. We would hang out and party. Lasse Braun and I became friends. I was very flattered because he came to New York and he had the choice of all the actors in the city. But he didn’t take Jamie Gillis, who I was told was the best actor. He chose me, and he chose Robert Kerman to play the main guy and he chose George Payne, who wasn’t an actor at all, but he looked good. I played the rapist.
I didn’t see Lasse directing anything. He just made like little documentary clips. He never told a story. I did one take with Jane. I said, “Let’s do it again, that was really terrible.” But Lasse said he was happy with it and that he wanted to save money on the film stock.
We got a script but nobody rehearsed – except George Payne. We were in the country and George and I were sharing a room – and all night long he’s up rehearsing the five lines that he had. He drank a lot of Coca Cola over ice to stay up.
But while George cared, Lasse didn’t seem to care at all. He just waited until the food came around. He liked S&M and cocaine. Lasse and I were friends but he was a terrible director.
Roy with Annie Sprinkle
I wound up composing the music for ‘American Desire’. Lasse played the film for me and I had to decide where to insert music. He actually paid money to go into a recording studio. I played keyboards as well as composed.
Even though the films were mostly terrible, I liked doing sex pictures back then. I once had a big scene with Seka and another guy. After shooting the scene, the guy drove me home and he and I just sat in the parking lot outside my house staring out the car window. We couldn’t believe we had just been with Seka. It was like being with Marilyn Monroe.
I stayed in New York until a developer paid for everyone to get out of the 37th St loft in the early 1980s. He paid us all a lot of money to get out and with that money, I moved to Europe permanently.
Roy Stuart: Moving to Europe
I first went to London where I started photographing in earnest. I was photographing women – some for fashion and some sexual pictures. I was selling a lot of the erotic work to France, to companies in Paris. There were a lot of men’s magazines in Paris, magazines and books. It was very lucrative.
There was a creative aspect to the erotic photography. You could be very creative, you could do all kinds of sexy, interesting things.
Bob Guccione of Penthouse, he really liked my stuff. He bought a lot of it. I also sold to High Society, Cheri and tons to French Playboy. London soon became too conservative for my work so I finally moved to Paris.
The magazines were how I met Dian Hanson. I did a lot of work with her for publications like Leg Show magazine. Dian paid me a lot. It would be something very simple like shooting up a girl’s skirt – it would take me an hour to shoot and I would get like $6,000.
Dian eventually moved over to Taschen books and that wound up being very good for me for a while. She organized a meeting between me and Benedikt Taschen and that meeting resulted in my putting out a number of books with them. Those books sold well and helped me secure a lot of work.
Then the Internet came along and I began to struggle. Someone said, “make a site.” But I didn’t want to make a site with just pictures.
I made a few more books for other publishers. But the books didn’t sell as much. Even Taschen books, they just didn’t sell. But it builds publicity for films.
Today Roy lives and works in a beautiful loft in the 9th Arrondissement of Paris near the Folies Bergere. The loft is typically French with high ceilings, wooden floors and big windows – like some impossibly cool location you’d find in a Jean-Luc Godard Nouvelle Vague film.
He doesn’t have many contacts with the modern day adult film industry back in the U.S. – though actor / director Paul Thomas remains a close friend.
Roy continues his work in the world of erotic photography and film. He is perhaps best known nowadays for his Glimpse film series focused on female pleasure. The series began when Roy started filming some of his erotic photographic sessions and stitching the documentary-style footage together into a more narrative composition.
Much of his work is shot in his loft which is full of equipment, costumes, props – and one lazy but discriminating cat.
The girls today, some come to me because they want to explore their sexuality. Or they want to do some explicit stuff and don’t know where to do it because nobody in France – I don’t think in Europe even – is doing anything hard core with a proper budget. Some girls come just to see what it’s all about. There’s a lot of stuff being produced for the internet but very little is being professionally shot.
I used to advertise for models in sort of a tourist newspaper, but it doesn’t exist anymore because of the Internet. It’s now word of mouth, basically. The girls come for castings. I ask them to audition to make sure they are able to perform on film.
There’s so many girls who are really indoctrinated in a certain way, basically fucked up. I’m not sure how to say it in English anymore, but you’ve been programmed. You’ve been programmed to behave as a girl a certain way; to be ashamed. Boys are programmed one way and girls are programmed another way.
I tell the girls this and some say, “you’re just trying to program me as well.” I say, “I’m just trying to deprogram you and get all this stuff that you’ve learned that’s totally useless, just get it out of your head. Leave it. Leave it at the door. When you leave, you can pick it up if you want. I’m not trying to get you to do anything. I’m just trying to get all the stuff that’s totally useless out of your head. ” It can be very difficult because a lot of girls, they intellectually understand what I’m talking about, but it’s in so deep in.
I had to be deprogrammed too. I wasn’t brought up in a religious household; it was just being in society, sex was taboo. But being male, it wasn’t very difficult to deprogram me. First it was my young girlfriend with the loop, and then Jane helped. But with girls, it can be much harder.
People nowadays think it’s so simple, “Oh, I’m going to make a film.” But they can’t. To make a feature film, you have to know how to do it. It takes a lot of experience to tell a story well.
I’ve had a lot of experiences.
To purchase Roy’s films and books, including his latest Lovers and Madmen, visit roystuart.net.
I was bought one of Roy’s magnificent books off eBay last week and wondered about his background…………. it all comes together on The Rialto Report! At the risk of being a boring sycophant, another triumph for the Rialto team.
April Hall flies to Paris for the latest report – damn you live the life I want. Are you hiring?
Roy’s pictures are stunning works of high eroticism. Like a cross between Henry Paris and Tinto Brass for the 21st century. His books are highly recommended.
It is interesting to see the roots of Roy’s aesthetic in grimy, sleazy 1970s NYC.
DAVE RUBY……!!!! He gets everywhere!
Thanx for this interesting Rialto Report bringing back names from the early days of the thing we dobelow 14th St, FYI Rod Swenson, from before Show World and during The Plasmatics craze, brought the first Ms Nude America onto my Underground Tonight Show in 1976 at The Cafe Wha for quite a revealing erotic night on McDougal St.
I was lucky enough to meet Roy when I worked with him on Jeffrey Michelson’s book ‘Artcore’ (I wish I had a copy) back in 1984 and then I kind of became Roy’s right hand man as first assistant and trusted stud for the next 5 years. We shot stuff in Longleat House, Clandon Park House, Ragley Hall, Brocket Hall and many many sets in the studio in Fulham Palace Road. Roy learned and honed his craft during this period and has now rightly become a modern day photographic genius second to none !
Great to get this update and piece of xxx history recorded. Wonderful photos of Veronica Hart! Hi Roy! I love the photo of Roy and I but can’t remember where or when it was taken. Any clues? Keep it up!
Roy – that’s quite a life! You are one of the few who survived the 1970s industry to become a real artistic success in the world of erotica. You developed a unique and intelligent style which is all you own. Long may your creative career continue.
There’s a case to be made for Roy being the most artistically successful of all the 1970s golden age pioneer.. I can’t think of anyone who is accomplished as Roy?
Never met Roy, when I was photographing at Show World, but did meet him when I worked at High Society and would purchase his photo sets for the magazine, even had lunch with him. Cool guy and always liked receiving his new sets to look at and buy for the publications. He always did his own thing, his own way. Happy to read that he is still at it. Keep it up, Roy!
My favorite Euro actress was the amazing Deborah Wells, she looked like a fashion model who just happened to do porn. She filmed many scenes in the US too, she was known for having amazing legs and was 5 foot 10. She really towered over 5 foot 6 Ron Jeremy and Ed Powers in her scenes with them. I once saw a great photo layout of Deborah that looked like it was shot in France in the magazine Leg Show, I believe it said the photos were shot by Roy Staurt. The photos had a high fashion look to them and I remember thinking this guy is a good photographer, I just wish the layout had more photos.
April in Paris. ? Living large. Cool story
‘American Desire’ was the first movie I had seen. I had found the videotape at my parents home and had it secretly watched.
It’s funny that years later I have found out that the film was made by Lasse Braun. This is because I collected 8mm tapes and old magazines with his work.
I thought when I saw the first Roy Stuart photographs they were from the 70s. The whole atmosphere in the photos… I fell in love with his work. That’s why I started a website about erotic photography. Though I have a love / hate relationship with the internet regarding photography. Printing on paper is real. Tangible and has a soul.
Through my website I got in touch with Roy. He told me he was in ‘American Desire’ ( I see a red line ;)) Someday, I hope to meet him. Many of the questions I wanted to ask him have already answered in this very interesting and good interview. Thank you!