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Johnnie Keyes passed away this week from complications following a recent stroke in Seattle, Washington. He was 78. He was best known for his role opposite Marilyn Chambers in the 1972 Mitchell Brothers’ film Behind the Green Door.
When you start a podcast series like The Rialto Report, focused on people who were active 30 or 40 years ago, you have to expect that sooner or later they will pass away. It’s always sad, but it happens, and it’s part of the reason we want to help preserve people’s memories and achievements before they leave the stage permanently.
But the passing of Johnnie Keyes feels somehow more significant. The golden age of adult film arguably started with two movies, Deep Throat and Behind The Green Door. And the stars and directors of both these films, Linda Lovelace, Marilyn Chambers, Harry Reems, Gerry Damiano and the Mitchell Brothers have all passed on. Johnnie was the last man standing.
His landmark interracial scene with Marilyn in Behind The Green Door was legendary. Johnnie claimed that it resulted in death threats that affected him personally for the rest of his life. It may’ve taken place almost 50 years ago, but take a listen to how he was still being remembered in a recent episode of Saturday Night Live on the occasion of Black History Month.
I first met Johnnie several years ago at the annual AVN ceremony where he was getting a lifetime achievement award. He was in hilarious form, posing for pictures with people, and breaking into song at every opportunity.
He called me ‘Dog’ when he addressed me. As an impossibly white man, that made me feel great.
Several years later, after I started the Rialto Report, I called him up and said I’d like to interview him. I told him his story was an important one, and that it was critical that it was told in his own words. He shouldn’t rely on others to tell his story for him.
He agreed, and told me that he’d be happy to share his story – but that he had a price.
“I won’t accept less than $2,000,” he said.
I told him that was disappointing because we just couldn’t pay for the interviews we do. However I said that I’d consider an honorarium to compensate him for his time.
“How much were you thinking, dog?” he said.
I told him $100.
“You got a deal,” he replied, laughing his head off.
The interview that you’re about to hear was the result, and what was so gratifying was that his life was so much more than just the adult films he’d made. He’s been a boxer, fought in Vietnam, starred in the musical Hair, and much more. As he said in the interview, “Guys would jump over the Niagara Falls to live my life.”
I kept in touch with him over the phone after that, and he was always sweet, good-natured, and polite.
One of the last phone messages he left me was at Christmas. As usual his gentle and kind personality shone through.
You’ll be missed Johnnie Keyes.
This podcast is 78 minutes long.
Johnnie Keyes, with C.J. Laing
Johnnie Keyes, with The Rialto Report’s April Hall
With all due respect to your other fine work, this is one of the best interviews I’ve heard. Definitely the best with an adult film character.
God bless you Johnnie. You got the chance to tell your story. It’s a good one.
RIP Johnny Keys.
You were the best.
I LOVE this interview, and the new introduction is very moving. Thank you for such a warm and beautiful rendering of a life well-lived.
I wish someone could have made a documentary with him before he passed.
Is there any recent footage of him?
A natural storyteller, and a sad, sad day in the history of this business that we love.
Thanks Johnny Keyes. Thanks Rialto.
“I was like a fat cat in a cheese factory”.
A true trail blazer! today no one thinks twice about interracial scenes but that wasn’t the case when Johnnie entered the business almost 50 tears ago. He always was a great performer with his scene usually the best in any film he appeared in. Though he got to work with some of the hottest actresses of the 70’s Marilyn Chambers, Leslie Bovee and Annette Haven, I would have liked to see Johnnie with Seka and Jesie St James too. I wish he would have made his way to New York and also worked with Samantha Fox and the one and only Vanessa Del Rio, Johnnie would have been great with all of them.
I was also a big fan of the other black leading man of that time King Paul. Paul did not have Johnnie’s looks, athletic appearance or charisma and was second string to Johnnie but King Paul also did some amazing work in the Diamond Collection loops and did get to do scenes with Aunt Peg, a young Tiffany Clark and of course Jesie St James. Paul was known for a huge load and would sometimes wear a crown in his scenes.
I was hoping when Johnnie Keyes surfaced a couple of years ago we might get to hear about whatever happened to King Paul too, but considering Paul looked a few years older than Johnnie I guess the chances of him still being around are not good. RIP Mr. Keyes you were a true original, thank you.
He’s one of the subjects of “After Porn Ends 2,” which is on several streaming platforms including Netflix and Amazon Prime. His is actually one of the longer profiles.
R I P , Johnny!!
. . . heavenly desire!!
The new intro brought tears to my eyes. I originally discovered the Rialto Report when I was googling Johnnie Keyes a couple of years back. This is one of your best interviews ever! Can’t believe the great man is gone…
Thank you so much Henric!
I gotta say, I do love that photograph of Johnnie grabbing April Hall’s titties. We’re really fond of saying ‘it was a different world back then, but a picture like this reminds us that for some people at least, our values haven’t changed all that much and some people can still take a goddamed joke without calling the cops, the lawyers and the twitter mobs for a reputational lynching.
Yeah America is a little schizophrenic We produce the most porn by far but if you patted a friend on the butt 10 years ago your career is over. Don’t even get me started on the hyperinflated Sex Offender registry…One million and growing.
Godspeed to you sir!
You were one of the best!
No black male performer in porn today could ever, and I mean EVER, hold a candle to you!
Thank you for your work!
You will be missed!
Field Marshall Bradley was every bit the performer Keyes was and more! The Field Marshall stood 6’4 was always rock hard not to mention huge and thick. With workman like fashion FM Bradley plowed through every star of the 80’s. Still not convinced? then ask Amber Lynn, Tamara Longley, Stacy Donovan, Ona Zee and all the rest. Where are you FM Bradley?
I found it odd that Alicia Monet and FM Bradley were never in a scene together despite being in so many of the same movies?
Johnnie’s acapella “IN THE WEE SMALL HOURS OF THE MORNING” in the end is just plain spooky. Great job Rialto for tying up the loose end.
I’m sorry to hear about Mr. Keyes passing. The great day’s of the golden years of porn, 70’s & 80’s. What ever happened to San Franciso Loop star King Paul? King Paul was a little ahead of his time, and my personal favorite!!
The intro is so sweet & VERY touching…Thank You for what You are doing Dear Kind Sir. My name is eileen & about 50 years ago when i was 15 years of age i use to attend Mission High School in S.F.CA & The famous Owner of Fillmore West & East owned a Beautiful Victorian Home that He would place Musicians in the FIRST Group i knew from there was a Band called “Sanpaku” from Sacramento CA They played with Jethro Tull & Big Brother & Holding Co (lead Singer Janis Joplin) Santana before They broke up early 70s after that Guitarist Ronnie Montrose (whom Eddie Van Halen gave BIG credit as His main influence as Guitar virtuosity) a Band called “Sawbuck” later played with Sammy Hagar & Edgar Winter, Van Morrison etc… & also a couple of The Cast of The Musical “Hair” moved in Starr Donaldson & JOHNNIE KEYES I’d hang out EVERY day there as it was on my way to school Johnnie was ALWAYS on LOL & could be very deep too however back then i stayed away from the “adult” activity mostly just Babysat Ronnie & Jill Montrose’s Baby & smoked a little Weed back then They were WAY “older” to me😉 i was young & innocent i didn’t have a “Boyfriend” till i was almost 17 lol …but THAT Thin Blue House was amazing SO much creativity ALL the time 1 time Johnny sat down to take time to ask me what i thought of Life & All that swirled in Thin Blue Universe… i was very touched as He acted as a Older Brother because mostly He was always a “Ladies Man”😉 so when He took that time to ask how i was out of His crazy busy Life it was a kindness…otherwise He was to me always hustling always going & doing something & most always laughing & smiling… as an Adult now i look back & see that many times as We all can do those gregarious times are many times covering a sadness too…i was sad He had gotten into porno i actually in my Heart think He was deeper but the times were INTENSE lots of leftover racism just like NOW btw Black Lives MATTER. So the times took a toll…We make mistakes trying to survive & Life for TOO MANY in this socio-economic SLAVE SYSTEM is a challenging test to be sure. Care Infinite Sincerely eileen Maize Carey aka Hoes BEE 4 BROS NO G.M.O.S 🙏🌰🌱💗🌠
But I am still wondering… how far did he get with Uschi and Candy in that loop? All fake?