Joseph Stryker: Live Sex… in Show World, Avon Theaters, Melody Burlesk, and Adult Films

Joseph Stryker: Live Sex… in Show World, Avon Theaters, Melody Burlesk, and Adult Films

Chances are, you’ve probably not heard of Joseph Stryker.

No big deal: but we know you’ll have heard of many of the places he worked in the 1970s and 80s as a live sex show performer… from Show World to the Avon Theaters, the Melody Burlesk, plus a handful of adult films and loops thrown in for good measure.

There was nothing quite like Times Square in the mid 1970s. It was the connective tissue between the city and the suburbs, ushering hundreds of thousands of people a day from their split-level houses to their multi-story offices. It was home to some of the biggest musical productions of the day like Chicago, A Chorus Line and Ain’t Misbehavin’. And it was the undisputed center for the sex business in New York and America.
 
Joseph Stryker, real name Michael Lawrence, grew up just a borough away, and came of age as the depravity associated with Times Square was at its height. Just back from serving in Vietnam, he dove head first into what the Deuce had to offer. He started at Show World, handing out change and screening porn films at the newly opened sex palace. He went on to live sex shows at the notorious Avon Theaters run by Murray and Stella. Joseph’s wife and live show sex partner Brandy danced at the Melody Burlesk. And he wound up in movies with some of the biggest names of the day like Sharon Mitchell, Sue Nero, Rhonda Jo Petty and Veronica Hart.
 
How does a young man from a good Baptist family who serves his country and longs to be a police officer become one of the regulars of the early New York sex business?
 
This is Joseph Stryker’s story.

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Joseph Stryker: Beginnings

You’re a Brooklyn boy, right?

Yes. I was born in the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital in December 1949 and grew up in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood, which is where I currently live.

What was Bed Stuy like back then?

It was racially mixed when I was kid, just like the public school I went to. And everybody knew everyone else’s business. I remember once, I was walking back from school and by the time I got home, my mother yelled at me for cursing. Turns out my sister-in-law had heard me along the way somehow – and she called my mother right away. There was just no privacy. It was ridiculous.

Michael LawrenceA young Joseph Stryker, when he was Michael Lawrence

What were your parents like?

They were from Georgia. They met, married and had three children in Georgia before moving up to Brooklyn. Then they had my sister and finally I was born. I was the baby.

My father and his brother had to leave Georgia. I’m not sure why my uncle had to leave – knowing him it was probably because of a woman. But my father had to leave because he broke a white guy’s jaw. He was a chauffeur for a family and he had taken the wife and her child to the movies. One of the guys in the theater made a rude comment and my father wasn’t one to tolerate that. So, my father hit him and broke the white man’s jaw.

After that he knew that if he stayed around there’d be a noose waiting for him. He and my uncle already had another brother in New York so they left, and came up north.

What was your dad like?

He was very stern, very stiff. My older siblings got away with more because my father had to divide his attention among them. But I was a change-of-life baby – my mother had stopped her period and everything but then I come along. Both my parents doted on me since I was the youngest by far.

My father was so strict that for a long time I thought he didn’t have any emotions at all. I found out later when I left for Vietnam, he was so upset that he broke down and cried. That’s when I realized that he had this emotion in him.

But his relationship with his father was like that. His father was a lumberjack and a sharecropper, growing up under Jim Crow laws. As a grown man, my dad showed my grandfather respect… but no outright affection.

What about your mother?

She was more demonstrative with her love. She was a great mother; always there for me, caring. When I went to school, I was reading at least four or five grades ahead of everybody else thanks to her. She tricked me because when she read to me, she went really slowly and I’d get frustrated. I’d try to speed her up and she’d say if I wanted to go faster, I should learn to read myself. So, I did. Education was very important in my family.

But if I stepped of line, she was the one to administer the punishment. If my father ever joined in, I knew I had done something really bad. If it went past the level of my mother, I was like, “Oh God.”

Had your family been settled in the south for a long time?

Yes. My great-grandfather on my father’s side was a slave. He was the son of the slave master. I have a family portrait of him in my home now – if you didn’t know, you’d swear he was just a Southern gentleman.

My mother was also the granddaughter of a slave. On her side, there was also someone Jewish back there with blue eyes and blonde hair. In every generation of our family since, one of the kids will come out light enough to pass for white.

Overall it was a relatively large, close-knit family in Georgia. In the town where my parents lived, the cemetery is filled with Lawrences – my last name – and Holders – the name of the family we mixed in with by marriage.

And what were you like as a kid?

I was quiet, but I was also a bit of a smart ass. I was curious as hell. I could say things that people didn’t catch on to right away because of my advanced reading. I used to spend a lot of time in the library. If I wanted to know something, I’d go there and look it up.

Do you think back on your childhood as a happy time?

Yes, very. I was allowed to be a kid. I was allowed to screw up, get my ass whipped, but still know that my mother loved me.

I played handball, punchball, stickball. When I went to high school, I got on the fencing team. I didn’t want to go for something that everybody else went for. And I sucked at basketball.

Was your family religious?

My father and his brothers were deacons in the Baptist church in Georgia, but when they came to New York, not a single one of them went to church. My parents wanted me to go but I was like, “Look, if you’re not going, I’m not going.” I used to play hooky from Sunday school. I eventually ran across a passage in the Bible that says, “Where you are is the house of God. You don’t need a church to pray,” and I was like there it is. I learned early on that there’s a difference between spirituality and religious. I trust the spiritual person. A religious person, not so much.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to either join the army or become a cop: it’s even in my high school yearbook. Maybe that ambition came from the fact that my uncles were in the military and there were photos of them in uniform around the house. And my brother joined the Marines when I was still in elementary school.

As I approached high school and things were heating up in Vietnam, it still didn’t dissuade me from the military. Combat didn’t scare me. I knew going into something like that might mean I might not come home, or all of me might not come home, but it never really scared me. When you’re young, you think you’re invincible.

Michael LawrenceMichael in high school

Did you experiment with drinking and drugs at all?

Some drinking but that was about it. From that point of view, I was pretty innocent.

When did you first get interested in girls and in sex?

In early elementary school, I had a female teacher who used to wear short, tight skirts with stocking and garters. When the boys got in trouble, she’d make them sit under her desk as punishment. I had to sit under there a couple of times and when I did, she opened her legs and let me touch her thighs. She never moved or discouraged me while I did it. And there also was this woman in my uncle’s church that always used to come into the boys bathroom and watch us urinate. All that ignited my curiosity.

I lost my virginity when I was nine. There was a young girl who lived in my building and her older sister had a reputation. Once when her sister was having sex, the guy left the door open so all the neighborhood kids could watch. Me and her sister stood there, watching all the details. And then we decided to try it for ourselves. Somehow, even though I didn’t understand what I was doing, I was able to get an erection and penetrate her. I know it felt great.

After that, I didn’t have sex again until I was 16 and in high school.

What was dating like for you in high school?

I didn’t really date much because I was kind of reserved around girls. But I learned a lot about women and what they want from listening to my sister-in-law and her friends talk. When they got together, I just sat quietly at the end of the table, invisible in the background and soaking it all in.

Then in my sophomore year I met a girl who had been left back a couple of times. She wanted to be the older woman in a relationship and teach, and I become her willing student. We’d get together every Friday and do different things. And she’d basically test me on everything she taught me. She’d try her best not to come – but if I could make her do it, she’d pass me.

After that I started messing around with other girls, my sister-in-law’s friends for instance. I was 16 and sleeping with a couple of her girlfriends who were in their 20s.

Then I met Brandy who would eventually become my first wife. We went to high school together, and became hot and heavy. Brandy got pregnant right after I graduated and she was in her senior year of high school. She was dating a couple of other guys at the time but she believed I was the father, so I felt I needed to step up and help.

But Brandy kept dating one of the other two guys and got pregnant again. She wound up marrying that guy for a time but it didn’t last.

Brandy LawrenceBrandy in high school

What happened when you graduated high school?

I went to Kingsborough Community College to study journalism. I’d always liked writing and figured I could learn a thing or two before becoming a police officer. Also, to move up the ranks of the police department, it helped to have a degree. I was the first one in my family to go to college – my parents were ecstatic.

I studied there for a year, but I was broke all the time. Even though CUNY colleges were free then and I was living at home, I hated not having any money. So I decided to take a year off and work. I got a job with Bell Telephone. They had been brought up on charges for not hiring Blacks in certain roles, so I was part of a push to correct that. I became a technical installer.

I worked there for a year and liked it. Sometimes when I showed up at a house, the owners were racist and didn’t like a Black technician coming in. But most of the time it was good – I worked in a lot of office buildings and hotels. There was a lot of problem solving as you tried to figure out wiring that hadn’t been touched in 15 years. I thought maybe this could be a career.

Then in January 1969, I got my draft notice.

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Vietnam

What did you do when you got your draft notice?

At that point I could either enlist or be drafted into the infantry. I knew that if I enlisted, I’d get more choice about the type of service I would do. So, I went down to the military office and tried to get into the Air Force, but the guy was always out to lunch – literally. An Army guy approached me and made his pitch. He tried to entice me by saying I could drive tanks or jump out of airplanes but I was like, “No, no, no.” So, he changed tack and told me I could be an office – as a clerk or in finance. I knew if I did that, I could make more money so that’s the route I went.

What did you make of the war in Vietnam at that time – did you think it was a just cause?

There had been protests even while I was in high school. And I didn’t buy the domino effect argument that we had to hold the line on democracy. But the Pentagon Papers [outlining secret government objectives that was damning to the war effort] hadn’t yet come out. So, while I was skeptical, I knew I was being drafted regardless so I just tried to take as much control as I could.

Where did you do your initial training?

My basic training base was Fort Gordon, Georgia. The whole experience was like extreme culture shock. They push you to your limits. It’s non-stop screaming in your face. It’s basically running, puking, sit-ups, more running, more puking, pull-ups, chin-ups, walking 20 miles, more running, more puking. It was a grueling eight weeks.

But it definitely does what it’s intended to do – it breaks you down as an individual and builds you back up. By the time you’re done, when someone barks an order at you, you don’t think at all – you just reflexively react. Which is intended to keep you and your fellow officers safe on the battlefield. If you stop to think out there, you’re dead, or the guy next to you is dead, or both. You’re not fighting for your country; you’re fighting for the guy in the same foxhole with you.

Joseph StrykerMichael makes his feelings about basic training known

What happens after basic training?

I moved on to what is called Advanced Individual Training. That’s another eight weeks, this time at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. There I’m doing more of the clerical training, but still running and still puking. Think a 20-mile march in unforgiving combat boots with a 40-pound pack on your back, carrying ammo, rifle, helmet – in the pouring rain.

You march to a camp where they teach you close-quarter fighting. How to kill with your bayonet, your shovel. How to make a small blackjack out of your sock and some rocks or sand.

I finished my training but rather than become a clerk typist, they put me in communications because I’d worked for Bell Telephone. I wasn’t happy about that because now it was more likely I’d be deployed into the jungle rather than hang back at an office.

And after that training, you were deployed to Vietnam?

Yes, I deployed in July of 1969. It was my first time out of the country and it was another culture shock. I thought I’d board a military plane, land, be handed a gun and walk right into a base and a combat situation. Instead I flew over on a commercial American Airlines flight and was met by a guy in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt with flip flops, eating an ice cream cone.

I remember when the plane landed and the vents opened, the smell of Vietnam wafted in. It was heat, rotting vegetation, humidity and shit – because you have rice paddies all over the place and they’re fertilized with buffalo shit. And there were almost no flushing toilets – it was all outhouses.

As we got off the plane, there were soldiers boarding to go home. We were in crisp new uniforms with fresh military haircuts; these guys were grungy with three-day-old beards and a vacant look in some of their eyes. You could immediately tell which ones had seen action. Some had the look of stone-cold killers – you could see it in their faces.

What happens in the first couple of days?

They took us to the replacement depot to find out our units and deploy. I was assigned to an artillery right on the demilitarized zone between North and South Vietnam. That’s when I tried my first joint – someone saw where I was going and said, “Here, you’re going to need this.” That first night I smoked and drank quite a bit. And it may have saved me because I was hung over and missed my flight up north the next day – a flight that took guys to Hamburger Hill where most of them saw a lot of action.

I wound up about a mile from Con Thien, which itself was a quarter mile from the DMZ. When we got there, we still weren’t given any weapons right away and people seemed relax so I was thinking this isn’t bad. But a couple of days later we came under fire – they shot rockets and mortars at us directly over the demilitarized zone. I quickly learned to recognize the ‘boop’ sound the rockets make when they’re flying in.

We were so close to the DMZ that when I looked over the border with binoculars, I could see the guy on the other side looking back at me with binoculars.

Joseph StrykerMichael in Vietnam

What was your experience of Vietnam like – was there a lot of violence?

Not a lot of direct, first-hand violence. We did lose a few guys to mortar fire. And I was once with a group that got hit by shrapnel. Nobody died but one guy had his entire bicep ripped off. Another time a guy fell back into the treads of a tank. You learn to recognize the sound of bullets whizzing by you.

I lost that sense of invulnerability about two months in. Then a feeling settled in that when it’s time to go, it’s time to go. For example, I was with my lieutenant once trying to evade mortar fire. He run in front of me to jump in a hole but twisted his ankle and fell the other way. Seconds later the hole he was aiming for was directly hit by a mortar. Dumb luck saved his life.

Also, I had to live with the knowledge that I had personally killed people. It wasn’t up close so I didn’t see their faces but it seeps into you. I wasn’t actively haunted by it. Anybody who says they don’t suffer from a little PTSD is lying. I still jump at loud noises. Fourth of July is horrible for me.

Drinking and smoking weed definitely helped us all cope with the stress.

How long were you in Vietnam?

I did two tours of 12 months each. The first tour was ’69-’70; the second tour was ’71-’72. In between I came home to Brooklyn for a few weeks and then went to Germany for a few months.

Joseph Stryker

How was coming back to Brooklyn after your first tour?

It wasn’t that difficult with my family since a lot of them had served in the military so we had that connection. But there was definitely a feeling of separation from other people. You realize that the world doesn’t revolve around you and that it doesn’t stop when you’re not there. While I was over in Vietnam life at home went on. People just kept on living. I looked at people and thought, “Damn. You were sitting here drinking sodas while I was over there.” It makes you feel a bit different.

How was your second tour in Vietnam compared to your first?

When I got back to Vietnam, I was now the experienced guy. In the first couple of days I hear the familiar sound of mortar fire coming in and immediately take cover while the new guys just stood there. I worked on radios this time. Once again, I had a few close calls, where other guys were wiped out and I could have been, but I made it.

One of the saving graces on both my tours was the R&R leaves. I took full advantage of them. Some of those leaves were in Vietnam, a couple in Hong Kong and one was in Sydney, Australia. I had a ball. R&R is basically a time for sex with prostitutes. You arrive, take a shower and a bath, have a drink, then sex. After that you go out to the club to dance.

A lot of guys go AWOL after leave, but that’s dumb cause you just get caught. American soldiers stuck out like sore thumbs, especially in Asia.

VietnamSome R&R in Vietnam

As your second tour was winding down, what were you thinking comes next?

I was still interested in becoming a police officer. In the last three months of service, they had a program to help prepare soldiers to return to civilian life. I moved from Germany to Fort Hood, Texas for that.

I asked to train as a police officer, but my captain and I didn’t get along. He said, ” I don’t think you’d be a good police officer in New York City” and he wouldn’t allow me to go to the class. I wrote to my congresswoman – who happened to be Shirley Chisholm – and explained the situation to her. She must have made a few calls because shortly after that, I got called into see my captain. He told me the police class was full but I could take any class that wasn’t. I wound up taking data entry because I thought it would be a good basic skill to have.

Also, while I was down in Texas, Brandy and I got married. She’d started writing me when I was in Vietnam about difficulties she was having in New York. She’d split from her first husband and we missed each other. So, she came down to Texas for a spell while the girls stayed with her mother back in Brooklyn and we wound up getting married. She went back to New York before me, but the idea was when I got back, we’d be a family – me, Brandy and the two girls.

Joseph StrykerMichael prepares to come back to New York

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Return to New York

Where did you live when you moved back?

I briefly moved back home with my parents. I worked as a security officer job for a bit, and then Brandy and I were able to move in together with the girls. Brandy was working in a local supermarket so with our combined incomes we could afford it.

Brandy LawrenceBrandy, now Mrs. Lawrence

How easy or difficult was it to re-integrate into everyday life after Vietnam?

It wasn’t that hard because it’s not like I was gone for 20 years. In the military, you’re institutionalized to a certain degree, but you’re still out in public. You can still taste, sample and see civilian life. It’s not like prison.

So I came back ready to make a real go of civilian life.

What was your long-term plan for work?

When I came home, I immediately went down to my local precinct to try and take the police exam. I went on the Friday I returned because I was told that was the day the test was being administered and it wouldn’t be given again for a long while after that. But when I got there the officer behind the desk told me the exam was in fact the following Friday and I should come back Monday to pick up an application.

Well, turns out he lied. The test was in fact that first Friday so I missed it due to his misdirection. It was just down to racism. Years later I heard from an ex-cop that a memo went around the NYPD in the mid 1960s stating young Black men should be arrested so that they’d be disqualified from applying for the police force.

I couldn’t do anything about it. I wasn’t going to try and fight the cops, then walk around my neighborhood with a target on my back. Also, this was 1973 and by the mid 1970s there were massive layoffs in the NYPD due to the city’s budget crisis.

That’s why I went to work as a security guard. My brother-in-law owned a methadone center and I went to work for him – first at the head office, then at one of the centers. But when my supervisor found out I was related to the boss he and some of the other guards started giving me a hard time. So, I left and got on unemployment to figure out what to do.

Joseph StrykerMichael on early dad duty

*

Swinging

Your relationship with Brandy was good?

Fine. Brandy and I had gotten into swinging. She had told me that this was something she was interested in. Honestly, my first reaction was, “What, I’m not enough?” But then I thought about it and felt well, if she gets hers, I’ll get mine. So we decided to explore it.

We bought one of the magazines that catered to swingers – it basically has ads from couples looking to connect with other couples. We saw a couple we thought looked attractive, answered their ad and got together for an evening. We enjoyed it, so we started to do more of it and go to the parties you hear about once you get into the scene.

Who participated in the swinging scene in the mid 1970s?

It was a mix of people. When we started there were mostly house parties. This guy named Leo Peters had a lot of private orgies at his penthouse. Once we went to a house party and it was all cops and correction officers getting their freak on. But because they were house parties, they were typically small gatherings – which could be a problem. If you only have 20 couples at a party, you might not find someone you’re attracted to, but if your partner wants to sleep with someone, you may feel an obligation to have sex with that person’s spouse.

Brandy LawrenceBrandy enjoying the swinging scene with Michael

But then the bigger clubs started opening. The first one was on 27th street in Manhattan, down the block from Le Trapeze, which opened in 1980. It had a disco on one floor, and then above that were two floors where couples could have sex. That place could easily fit a hundred people so you had more choice.

Then Plato’s Retreat opened. We’d already met Larry Levenson and his girlfriend at the house parties. And there was Hellfire, which was an S&M swingers club. Once a famous film producer came in with his wife – a statuesque blonde with fake tits – and two guys with a Doberman. I won’t get into details but… that was a freaky scene.

Did the swinging impact your relationship with Brandy?

Not really. We still fucked like bunnies at home. She was still the woman I found most attractive. It worked for us as a couple.

And we kept the swinging thing pretty contained. The only person we ever really became friends with from the scene was Larry Levenson’s girlfriend and a woman named Carol who introduced us to Le Trapeze, and also to Ted Ross – the guy who played the Cowardly Lion in The Wiz (1978). He was a big swinger and used to throw a lot of orgies at his house. I also used to see Nate Bowman – the Knicks basketball center – at those parties a lot.

Joseph StrykerMichael taking a quick break from the swinging scene

*

Show World

How did you first get involved in the adult business?

Actually, it was Brandy who first got involved. She wasn’t making much at the supermarket and a friend of ours from high school suggested she become a topless dancer. She brought the idea to me and we discussed it. We knew the money would certainly be better and it would be fewer hours which would mean more time with the girls. We decided to give it a try.

Brandy was nervous at first. But I’d been to quite a few topless bars and all the dancers seemed relaxed and safe so that put her at ease. I also went with her the first night she danced. I pretended to be a customer and sat in the audience.

She was fantastic. I have to say Brandy is one of the best natural dancers I’ve ever seen in my life. In fact, she briefly appeared as a dancer in a Broadway play, but the backers got into a fight and the production fell apart.

Brandy wound up liking the stripping work. The money was good – in particular, the tips. And when we got home that first night, she was horny as hell after being the center of all those men’s attention the whole show.

Brandy LawrenceBrandy starts stripping

How did you feel about the sexual angle to the work?

Fine. The fact that we were already swingers helped.

So how did you get involved in the sex industry?

I started working at Show World. It’d just opened up, and they were looking for a projectionist for the XXX movie theater.

Did you pursue that job or did you fall into it?

I fell into it. I met this guy at a bar and we hit it off. He told me about Show World and said that he knew some people there looking for help. So, I went over with him and he introduced me. When they heard I had camera experience from the Channel 13 training program, they offered me a job as a projectionist right away. After a while I also started working as one of the guys giving out change for the peep booths.

Times Square

Had you ever seen anything like Show World before?

I had seen strip joints before, but they were rinky-dink compared to this. Show World was light years ahead of everything else on the street. Some of those other places, you go in and you’re afraid to touch the machines. And some of them didn’t even have private booths – the machines were wide open and you were standing there next to a guy who’s looking in through a visor to watch a loop. Show World was one of the first places that had booths where you could go in and actually close the door and watch a movie –  by yourself.

Can you describe Show World?

Show World was L-shaped, and there were two entrances. The main entrance was on Eight Avenue, under the big marquee. When you walked in that front door, there was a staircase down to your right, which led to the movie theater. And just outside the movie theater was the peep show area. There were small glass windows with shutters – you put in a token, the glass went up. After a bit, the glass went down again and you needed to put in another token. Next to that area there was a dressing room for the girls.

On the main floor, if you went straight back from the entrance, you walked down a row between two sets of booths for private movie viewing. Then in the back, you had a desk manned by one of the change guys that’s set up a little higher, overseeing the floor. Behind that desk there was an office that the manager used. If you made a left before that elevated desk, there were more booths, and all the way in the back you had a bookstore where the movies and magazines were sold. There was an exit that went out onto 42nd Street through that store.

Back at the main entrance, after the staircase that went down to the movie theater and peep shows, there was another staircase to the left that went up. Eventually, upstairs is where they would have the live shows with sex teams. It was a huge space with a bar where you could buy non-alcoholic drinks. Sometimes I’d see famous people there. One was a guy who was a regular on Star Trek. Another time I saw Robert Lansing eating out Monica Kennedy on stage in the theater.

These stars clearly didn’t want to be recognized – so you didn’t approach them.

Show WorldStripper publicity photo

Who was the typical Show World patron?

They were everyday New Yorkers. A lot of the time, it was guys going to and from work. They would stop in Show World either on their way to work from the Port Authority or on their way back to get the bus home. I’d say the age range would start in the upper 20s and go all the way up into the 50s.

Was Show World crowded from the beginning?

Yes. Like I said, it was totally new. No place had a movie theater in it and also a space for strippers. And nobody else made it look classy. It was bright, it was cheery, it was inviting. Richie [Basciano, the owner] knew what he wanted and was very hands-on.

Show World actually owned the entire building. Which was convenient because there was a bank in the building – it’s a drugstore now, but it used to be a bank. If you went downstairs and went through the girls’ dressing room then made a right followed by a left, you’d get to a door that would take you into the basement of the bank. That basement housed the alarm system for the bank so it was full of wires. But there was also an elevator that allowed us to take the money from Show World straight up to the bank without ever having to leave the building.

Each booth at Show World held $400 in coins and each one filled up 2-4 times a day. And there were at least 30 booths in the place. That’s almost $50,000 each day! We’d fill large rolling garbage cans with the coins and wheel them to the bank a couple of times a day.

The main floor didn’t have access to an elevator so they had to roll the garbage cans with quarters for that floor onto 8th Avenue and into the bank. Nothing ever happened to those guys though – there were tons of people around at all times, including cops, and most everyone knew that Basciano was connected to the Mob. No one dared rob Show World.

StripperTopless dancer and live sex show worker

What went on in the Show World movie theater?

It was like any other theater showing porn movies at the time. But what I did notice as the projectionist was that a lot of couples came in looking to pick up a guy. Once I heard this woman scream out, “I need more dick!” She’d come in with her husband and screwed all the guys in the theater until there was no one left, but she still wanted more.

Of course, you had the guys who just came in to masturbate and go home. And sometimes we had gay guys hoping one of the straight guys would get desperate enough to do something.

The weirdest was adult actor Jamie [Gillis] with his girlfriends. He used to bring them in, head straight to the bathroom and then he would appraoch every guy in the theater to service the woman. The theater would empty out immediately, and there’d be a long line outside of the bathroom.

Did you get to know Richie Basciano?

I met him a few times. He was always a nice guy with me. He started out organizing the newsstands – that was his thing. Obviously, he was family; he was part of the Mob. I didn’t know that explicitly at first, but I caught on real fast.

I remember early on, one of the security guards who worked the place said to Richie, “Hey, why don’t we open up something like this down town in the Village for the gay crowd?” And Richie responded, “Well, if I did that, I’d have to let another family in up here.” That exchange occurred right in front of me. I knew then that there were bigger forces involved.

Who actually managed Show World when you first got there?

There was an Italian dude that was general manager of the complex. I can’t remember his name but he was a little short guy who wore lot of gold around his neck. All he really did was walk around and keep his eye on things. He was a bit of an asshole but, at that time, a lot of the guys who worked in the business were. I could tolerate him.

Show WorldShow World and Melody dancer

How many other people worked there in the beginning?

Well there were about five guys giving out change at any given time – the one at the main desk when you walked in, a couple of more roaming the main floor, one downstairs – which was often me – and one manning the peep booth down there.

Then you had the guy that roamed around with a mop. I don’t remember his name but he was a tall Black dude whose claim to fame was he had 12 inches – and he made sure all the girls knew about it. He whipped it out a couple of times for them while I was around – if it wasn’t 12 inches, it sure looked it.

I remember one night Vanessa Del Rio was dancing there and someone stole a mink coat she had brought with her. She wanted Richie to pay her for it but he refused, so she defected to the Melody to dance. After a few weeks Richie realized the money he was losing by not having her there, so he reimbursed her and she came back.

Brandy wound up working at Show World as well, correct?

Yes. I told her to come in and audition because she could make more money at Show World than at the other places she was stripping. She got the job and worked the peep show in the basement where they had the semi-circular stage surrounded by windows. The window shades would raise when guys put in tokens and reveal the girls stripping. Once the girls were naked, they would lay down and open their legs so that the guys could see everything. It was about a six or ten minute show – very short. The girls would finish and go back to their dressing room until they were next up.

It was good to have Brandy there. The money was better and it was safer, because Show World was a step up from the other clubs. All the guys who worked at Show World knew we had to look out for the girls. We all came from the streets so we could take care of things if there was trouble.

On top of that, the cops had our backs. Some of them were customers. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Richie [Basciano] had some kind of arrangement with the NYPD.

Brandy LawrenceBrandy preparing to perform

How did you get into live sex shows?

About six months after Show World opened, they introduced live sex shows. The management saw the success Murray and Stella were having with live sex teams over at the Avon theaters and wanted to get in on the action. So, they set up live sex downstairs where the peep shows were.

One day, one of the live sex show teams didn’t show up. Brandy ran up to me where I was giving out change and said that I have to come quick. I thought some guy was messing with the girls so I rushed after her. When I got downstairs Brandy looked at me and said, “Get naked fast – we have to go out there and fuck.” I didn’t have any time to think or process anything.

Did you have any trouble performing?

No. I was already comfortable in crowds thanks to the swinging scene. And we did the live show downstairs in the peep area. When the window shades went up so guys could watch I couldn’t really see them thanks to the position of the windows and the lights.

We must have done a good job because the new manager of the live shows that they had brought in asked us to make it a regular thing. So, Brandy stopped stripping, I stopped working projection, and we became a full-time love team.

Who was the new manager of the live shows?

I forgot her name, but she was a trip. She was a Black chick, about 50 years old, but she used to tell everyone she was 30. She also said she was a virgin but she was having an affair with the 12-inch mop man. She had a pretty face and a big, round ass. Loud, gregarious, open. She didn’t take any shit. She basically hired all the sex teams, did the scheduling, and ensured all the shows ran smoothly.

She liked us but it was tough work because she wanted 12-13 shows a day. I didn’t have to come every time and holding back made me hornier but it was still hard on the stamina. That’s what made us decide to audition for Stella and Murray over at the Avon theaters.

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Avon Theaters

Who did you audition for?

We auditioned for Stella’s lover over at the Avon 7. She was a rough and tough glasses-wearing butch, but she loved us.

An audition was really just doing a live show. We got on stage in front of an audience of customers and did our thing. The audience was huge – a couple of hundred guys – which was something. It was the first time I could see the audience as a live show performer.

At Show World I never saw the customers – I just heard the window shades going up and down all the time. And sometimes the strippers would hang at the edge of the stage to watch and I could see them. They wanted to get in on the action because they saw all the money that was being generated. I did a few shows with other girls – like with a dancer who went by the name Sapphire and went on to write the book that the movie Precious was based on – but mostly I worked with Brandy.

At Avon, the guys were right there and I could see them. But Stella only asked for four shows a shift and the money was still really good. In fact, we made more at Avon doing four shows than we did doing twelve shows at Show World. The shows at Avon were a little longer – about half an hour – and there were no tips, but it was still more money overall. I think it was $350 each per shift, cash. That made it easy for us to pay all our expenses, including the babysitter who looked after the girls.

Joseph StrykerMicheal, now Joseph, and Brandy performing a live sex show

Was that the end of Show World for you?

For me it was. Brandy was open to still dancing there but a few years later, Ron Martin started an agency to book the girls there. After that, in order to get a dancing job at Show World or any of the associated clubs, like Les Gals, you had to book through him and he got a percentage – so less money for the girls. I’m not sure how he convinced Richie to do this, but he did. So there was a separate office on 43rd street you had to go through for that agency.

What did you make of Murray and Stella?

They were quite a pair. Murray was tall and very thin, wore glasses, grey hair. He didn’t say much. But when he talked, Stella would stop and listen. He was strictly business. Murray lived in Florida and most of the time Stella would run things. But Murray would travel in once in a while – not often, but when you saw him you knew something was going on.

Stella on the other hand was one of those loud women who yelled all time. She was matronly at that point but I saw pictures of her when she was younger and a stripper and she had a body on her. When I met her she was older. She was also a racist. She called Brandy and I ‘Schvartzes’ which is a Yiddish slur against Black people. But because we were making good money, I just tuned that out. And really, it wasn’t just Black people she didn’t treat well: she wasn’t nice to anyone. She was just civil with Murray and Phil Prince.

Luckily, I didn’t have to deal with Stella much – only when I was working the Avon 42 where her office was. Her girlfriend worked up at the Avon 7 and also ran The Doll nearby.

Who else did live sex shows at the Avon theaters?

We got there just when Phil Prince and his wife Teresa were stopping their live sex act, and Phil became manager of one of the Avon theaters. Jane Hamilton performed there with her boyfriend sometimes.

Veronica HartJane Hamilton, who later become Veronica Hart

 

Veronica Hart boyfriendJane’s boyfriend and live sex show partner

Did you get to know Phil and Teresa?

I would see Phil around since he managed one of the theaters. He struck me as a goofy white boy with a weird laugh. But I got along with him. He was easy to get along with.

Brandy become pretty good friends with Teresa and with a woman named Marie, whom Teresa had introduced as her cousin. Brandy had met Teresa at the Melody Burlesk where Brandy began dancing when we weren’t doing the sex shows. Teresa always struck me as nice and laid back. I didn’t realize that she and Phil were having any sort of issues until Brandy mentioned it to me. Brandy heard it from Marie, Teresa’s cousin. We had a threesome with Marie at one point and after that, Brandy would talk to her a lot.

Marie used to work around the Avon theaters. I’m not exactly sure what she did, but she was around a lot. But mostly Brandy would see her at Phil and Teresa’s place. Phil and Teresa were selling a lot of weed out of their apartment. That’s where Brandy learned that Teresa was pregnant and didn’t want the kid, while Phil did. She wanted to have an abortion but Phil was totally against it.

Phil PrinceTeresa and Phil Prince

Do you think Phil had something do with the murder of Teresa and Marie?

I do. I think he got these two guys who worked at the Avon theaters to kill Teresa because she was going to get an abortion and leave Phil. One of the guys was named Al. I can’t remember the name of the other guy – all I remember was he had the biggest dick I’d ever seen. He was doing a live show with his girlfriend one time and when he pulled out, it seemed to take forever to get hard because of the length of the thing.

Al was just a nut. He was also a martial arts expert – something people didn’t expect because he was a skinny guy. But he was badass. I once saw him get into a bar fight with a guy who was a third-degree black belt, and Al beat that man like he was a child.

Marie, who was with Teresa that day and was also killed, also leads to Al. Marie had trained with the martial artist George Cofield in Brooklyn. George was famous for saying, “No mats in my Dojo, because you’re not gonna’ find a mat on the street. And you women, you’re not gonna fight each other, you’re gonna’ fight men, ’cause more than likely the men are gonna be the ones trying to hurt you.” His training was notoriously tough so whomever attacked Marie had to be something else.

Years later I was talking to Al’s ex-girlfriend, a woman named Sharon, and she told me she felt he had something to do with the murders. She also said that from what Al shared, it seemed Phil was involved too.

Phil and some of the police said the murders were drug-related, but whomever killed the women didn’t steal the drugs. The cops followed some bloody footsteps from the apartment to the incinerator and found a bunch of pot there. In fact, Brandy was going to stop by Teresa’s the day of the murders to pick up a little weed. Brandy had called the apartment and nobody answered. Brandy mentioned that to Phil and that’s when Phil went home. I was still at the Avon theater when he called Stella a little later to tell her what he found. He was screaming, “They’re dead” over and over. He was screaming so loud I could hear it all the way across the room. Thank goodness Brandy didn’t head over that day.

After Teresa’s murder, the cops came around asking about Al and the other guy. They both were nowhere to be found the day the murders happened, but were back at work after that. Phil on the other hand had specifically been around the day of the murders. Teresa had called him a couple of times to come home but he said he couldn’t.

After a few days Phil was back at work at the theater. But after the murders, he lost some of his jocular nature – his smile didn’t come that easy to him anymore.

Do you remember when Phil started making films for Avon?

Yes. He first started making them with funding from Murray and Stella. Then he went out on his own producing the films and selling them to Murray.

When he went solo, he paired up with Murray’s daughter, Honey Bee. She basically acted as his production manager, taking care of day-to-day administration and the talent. She was a nice person though a bit quiet. She had a really addictive personality. She was hooked on drinking, on drugs and on sex. I remember the guy she was dating was a real asshole and treated her like shit. How much of that played into her drug use, I don’t know. Nobody will ever know since she died of an overdose.

Phil PrinceHoney Bee

By this time Phil was hanging out a lot with another of the Avon managers, a guy called Pat. Pat was the guy that Phil would go on to rob the ice cream parlor with. Pat was strange. Old guy, straggly hair. He was also a projectionist at one of the Avon theaters and he was just odd. He and Phil were thick as thieves.

Anyway, Phil used a lot of people from Avon in his films. He had these crazy ideas and then Honey Bee would keep things on an even keel and make them happen. She was a steady force when making the films, but drugs got in the way for her with everything else.

Were drugs a big thing in general at that time?

Mostly it was weed being sold in midtown. You could get cocaine but it hadn’t exploded yet like it would in the 1980s. If you wanted coke in the late 70s, you had to go to this bar on 50th street, called something with Brown in the name. A half of gram was like $50.

Some of the girls who worked at the Melody later got caught up in drugs. This drug dealer that rented a place near Bernard’s hooked a bunch of them. The girls would leave the Melody and go directly to his place to score. It got really bad in the 80s when crack cocaine became a thing.

Did you ever face any legal trouble?

Brandy and I got arrested a lot when we worked for Stella and Murray. It was an inconvenience but it wasn’t a huge deal. Stella and Murray would pay for a lawyer and pay the fine each time. It was a basic desk summons – you went down to court, paid the fine, and that was it. These were just considered minor violations – not sex crimes or anything.

The funny thing is, we went to court one day and the ADA (Assistant District Attorney) who handled the case was talking about how bad what we did was. Three weeks later I saw her in Plato’s down on her knees.

Did you ever tell your family what you were doing?

No. My brother knew. And my niece found out because her husband came by one of the Avon theaters one day. He owned a limo company and brought a bunch of Japanese tourists there. After that we made it a regular thing where he’d bring the people and we kept a split of the money.

But aside from that, I figured it was none of my family’s business. I was a grown man, paying my bills. And I really didn’t want to engage in their opinions on what we were doing because I knew they’d be negative. I don’t know if my parents ever knew. We certainly never talked about it.

Joseph StrykerBrandy and Michale, off-duty

With all this trouble – legal issues, murder, etc. – did you ever question what you were doing?

Yes. I remember at one point explicitly saying to myself, “What the fuck am I doing? This is not the world I’m looking for.”

I tried to apply for the police department a few more times but it didn’t pan out. The first time I tried again, the interviewer told me I didn’t qualify because of my arrests for the live sex shows. Which wasn’t true – you only were disqualified for a felony, and my arrests weren’t even misdemeanors. But he turned me away. The last time I tried to apply, I recognized the interviewer as a former singer in an R&B group. That gave me an ‘in’ and the guy said he’d make sure I passed through. But by that point it turned out I was six months too old to join. So that was it.

Outside of that, nothing we looked at doing brought in the money that the sex work did, so we decided to just keep on going.

Was there camaraderie among the performers?

It was a mix. There were a lot of great friendships that were made. But like any workplace, it could also get petty and gossipy. Sometimes it was competition among the men, especially those whose egos were wrapped up in their dicks. And some of the women could be catty with each other. But for the most part, it was more good than bad.

Brandy LawrenceBrandy takes a break but sex is never far behind

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Melody Burlesk & Bernards

When did Brandy start dancing at the Melody Burlesk?

It was while we were doing the live shows for Stella and Murray. We were getting a little burned out from the live sex work so I started working as a projectionist again, and Brandy started dancing again. Some of the girls had told her about the Melody so she went there.

Brandy wound up dancing there for a bit. She would dance for three or four days, then not do it again for a week. It depended on how much money she made the days she was on. The schedule was different for the girls who did the Mardi Gras [lap dances] though since they worked the audience directly.

Melody BurleskBack stage at the Melody

Did Brandy do that or the boxed lunch [allowing audience members to perform oral sex on the girls for tips]?

Yes, she did. In fact, I was her first customer!

When Brandy worked at the Melody, that’s when we started going to Bernard’s, the bar/restaurant across the street. Bernard worked there but the place was owned by Fred Cincotti, who was also part owner of the Melody. And as you know, Fred was an assistant state attorney general in New York.

What was Fred Cincotti like?

He was friendly with me. One day at Bernard’s, Freddy was sitting with a few guys. He called me over to the table and introduced me, joking that I was the guy he wanted to be when he grew up. He asked me to sit down for a drink so I did. But then he started talking business, and I said okay, “You know what guys, I’m gonna’ go back to the bar. You guys have your conversations.” But he said, “No, stay,” and kept talking. They were all talking about all this illegal business… so I did my best to close my ears because I didn’t want to become anybody’s loose thread.

Freddy was never at the Melody but he was often at Bernard’s. He met girls he wanted to date there – and he dated quite a few. One was a Melody dancer named Desiree Du Soir. She was one of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen in my life and luckily, I got to have sex with her later on. Brandy and I also swung with Freddy once or twice when he brought in other girls he was dating.

But mostly Freddy and I just hung out at Bernard’s. After the bar closed at night, they’d pull the gate down half way. Then Bernard might leave, but Freddy and I would hang back with a couple of bottles at the table and talk.

Brandy LawrenceBrandy after a good night at the Melody

Can you describe Bernard’s for me?

It was across catty-corner from the Melody, right next to the Longacre Theatre – if you’re facing Bernards, the theater was on your right and the Melody was over your left shoulder across the street. You took two steps down from the side walk to get in.

When you walked through the door, there was a telephone curved bar and a small table in the window to the right – right by the pay phone. Then you had this wide-open area to the left where the table and chairs were. Up front there was an arcade game and a small number of tables. Then the room went all the way back, with the longest row of seats in the back up against a dividing wall. I’d say the place could comfortably hold 50-60 people when it was full.

If you want to see what it looks like, watch old episodes of Saturday Night Live. The bar they designed for use in the “Wild and Crazy Guys” sketches with Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd – they designed that to match Bernard’s, just flipped. The SNL writers used to drink at Bernard’s.

Who frequented Bernard’s?

Well, first of all there were the people that worked there. You could usually find Bernard behind the bar. And there were a few regular waitresses – Greg “The Hammer” Valentine‘s sister was one; Rosa Ocasio was another that went on to become a New York police officer. And Jimmy Ricks was the bouncer at Bernard’s for a while. He used to sing with a group called The Ravens. He helped Melvin Franklin of The Temptations perfect his bass voice.

As for the patrons, at first it was basically strippers from the Melody. Then I started bringing in some people from the live shows. After that, the men’s magazine publisher Peter Wolff started bringing in some of the adult film performers.

Sharon MitchellSharon Mitchell and Melody dancer Azziza at Bernard’s

Even though there were film people coming into Bernard’s, the film and live sex show scenes were pretty separate in the early days. Also at that point a lot of the New York actors were starting to take off to California. This was before the Traci Lords scandal hit in the mid 1980s and they all came running back to New York to get away from the investigation.

A bunch of theater people used to come in, like the cast of Ain’t Misbehavin’, including its star Nell Carter. Nell used to get cocaine from Bernard. Because she was famous Bernard would front her the drugs but she eventually stiffed him for a $5,000 tab.

Bernard’s became a little like a home away from home for me. When our girls were young teens, they used to meet us at Bernard’s when we were working. They would sit up with the barmaids who would watch out for them and serve them Shirley Temples while they played video games.

Brandy LawrenceBrandy goofing around

What did you tell the girls you did for a living?

We said I was a projectionist at the theater. And I was again because I briefly did that for Stella and Murray. And they knew Brandy was a dancer, but they never questioned what kind of dancer. We didn’t tell them what we did fully until they were over 18. And then they were fine with it. They always had what they wanted and we’d raised them well.

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XXX Films

How did you start working in adult films?

It started with a few loops I did for Carter Stevens in the late 1970s. I first met Carter at Plato’s Retreat and then used to run into him at Bernard’s. We got to talking and he asked me if I wanted to give it a try. Brandy came down with me for the filming though she wasn’t in the loops herself.

Loop actressPerformer Joseph met while shooting loops for Carter Stevens

Once you did the loops did you think film could be an avenue for you?

Not really. While it was quick and easy money, I was doing fine financially with the live shows so I didn’t really need it.

Plus, I was a little starstruck with some of the bigger names that were coming out of the business. I’d watch them have sex for an hour with a few different people, not thinking about the fact that it was probably shot across a few days.

Sue Nero was one of my major crushes from film. There was just something about her. To this day, the woman is absolutely gorgeous. I finally wound up meeting her when Brandy and I worked on Centerfold Fever.

How did you get connected to your first feature film?

I knew Richard Milner from the theaters. At the time, he was a projectionist at a nearby theater but I recognized him from a book he wrote about Black pimps in the early 1970s. I always found it fascinating that he wrote that book with his wife – and then she left him for one of the pimps.

Richard and I become friendly. He stopped working as a projectionist when he became editor of Stag magazine but we stayed in touch. He called me when he was making Centerfold Fever and asked me and Brandy to come in. He had this idea for a little comic scene – a non-sex scene. We filmed at Le Trapeze, the swingers club. It was fun – and certainly a step up from the loops in terms of production value. It was very professional – that impressed me.

Richard MilnerBehind the scenes of Centerfold Fever: Richard Milner, with (from left to right) Bobbie Feilen, Lisa Be, Susaye London, Sue Nero, Kathy Harcourt

Did you think that was the start of more features for you?

Not really. I looked at is as something I could do on the side.

After Centerfold Fever, I got a call from Ken Yontz – who was Seka‘s partner. I first met Ken at Bernard’s when he came in with her. After they broke up, he wanted to do this movie called Starmaker. It had a bunch of people from the adult film scene like Lisa Be, Lisa Cintrice, Jamie Gillis, Marc Stevens, Veronica Hart and Sharon Mitchell. Ken wanted to include a foursome with me, Brandy and Tish and Dave Ambrose. Brandy and I already knew Tish and Dave from the swinging scene and got along great with them. Tish was such a sweetheart – outside of Brandy, she’s the love of my life. Before she and Dave moved to Hawaii, Brandy and I used to have sex with them quite a bit.

Tish AmbroseTish Ambrose

You used the name Joseph Stryker on the features – where did that name come from?

I actually had picked that name when I was doing the live sex shows for Stella. She said we should come up with different names for the marquee as we probably didn’t want our real names out there. I chose Joe because it was my favorite brother-in-law’s name, and Stryker came from a John Wayne movie. When I moved over to film, I just kept that name. One day I want to write a novel with a lead character by that name.

Who else did you wind up making films with?

I wound up meeting Vince Benedetti through Annette Heinz who I knew from the Melody and Bernard’s. Vince wanted her to do an interracial scene – and Annette said she wanted to do it with me. I had a crush on Annette so it was fun. We went out to his studio in Queens for that – I remember that David Morris was living upstairs from the studio. Vince liked having him there because that way he was always available to work. Vince had a great sense of humor and was very accommodating. I remember when we were out there filming once we all got snowed in and Vince put us up at a local hotel.

I remember shooting a scene once at Dave Ruby‘s house up in Yonkers. I hung out a bunch at Marc Steven’s apartment on Lexington avenue. And I became friendly with Fred Lincoln‘s brother – we used to get together and play chess a bunch.

The last film I did was Hill Street Blacks Part 2. I think I was listed as ‘Michael Like’ in that. That movie stands out for me because I got to do another scene with Sue Nero. Working with her went beyond my wildest expectations. Aside from the fact that she’s incredibly sexy, she’s such a nice person – you feel that kindness in the sex.

Sue NeroSue Nero

How was your marriage to Brandy faring during all of this?

Through the late 1970s we were doing well. Then as the 1980s rolled in, she started having extramarital sex without my knowledge. It was one thing when we did it together, but when she started to lie to me, that put a strain on our relationship.

In 1982, she got an offer to dance in Japan. A dancer she knew had gone and said the money was great. And at that point Brandy and I were getting less work as a sex team. Stella at the Avon and her girlfriend had broken up, and Stella wanted us to pick a side between the two of them. Brandy and I had become friendly with Stella’s girlfriend so Stella had a grudge against us. She started cutting our bookings. Brandy was trying to make up the loss by dancing more at the Melody, but it wasn’t enough. Japan was offering a lot of money.

So Brandy decided to give it a go. It was a bit of a rough time for her in Japan as it wasn’t just about dancing – the girls were expected to do live sex shows with guys from the audience. But the money was good. She said that she’d send some back for the girls, but she never did.

 Brandy LawrenceBrandy performs in Japan

Did you continue with the live sex work while Brandy was in Japan?

I was hesitant to find a new partner for the live sex shows. It’s just such a commitment to work with someone in that way. But there was a sex team named Jack and Jill that broke up, and Jill was interested in working with me. I needed the money and Brandy was fine with it so Jill and I gave it a go. Stella loved Jill so we started getting work right away.

Working together like that, Jill and I started to develop feelings for each other. Brandy came back from Japan after eight months to visit and I told her what was happening. But I said if she stayed, I would break things off with Jill so we could focus on us. Brandy wasn’t interested. She decided she wanted to go back to Asia full time. I think what was happening with Jill was just an excuse for Brandy to do what she wanted to do. There was no explicit conversation about the relationship ending – things just stopped. Once again she said she’d send money back for the girls but she didn’t. And the girls were like, “Well, where’s mom?” She walked out on all of us. Brandy gave me power of attorney and I kept full custody of the kids. The girls were teens by this time.

I needed more money for the girls so I started to work security again in addition to the live sex shows I was doing with Jill. I’d always been healthy but I started catching colds regularly because I was so run down.

Joseph StrykerMichael puts Joseph Stryker to bed

What happened with you and Jill?

Jill and I became a couple for about five years. She wound up moving in with me. She brought her two boys with her so there were 6 of us in the house. It was OK for a while but then things started to fall apart. She was jealous of my daughters because they always came first. She cheated a couple of times. Then she began telling me I’d never find another woman who would want me. Things were not going well.

One day I ran into Sharon, the woman who had dated and eventually married Al, the guy involved with Phil Prince. Al had eventually gone to prison for something else so Sharon was single. Sharon was gorgeous, and we started a little fling. When Jill found out, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. We ended our relationship – both personal, and professional. No more live sex shows.

Did that mark the end of your adult industry career?

Pretty much. Once my relationship with Jill was over, I didn’t want to start up with another live sex show partner again. I just wasn’t in the mood to try again with someone else. When you work with someone like that, you can’t help but get emotionally involved. Their problems become yours and vice-versa. It’s hard to keep life separate.

I was still doing the projectionist thing now and then, but it only paid by the hour. The money was good, but not that good, mainly because I wasn’t in the union. The theater owners had some kind of deal with the unions – they’d hire one or two union guys and the rest would be non-union.

While I made most of my living from the adult industry from the mid 1970s until the end of the 1980s, I had always worked straight security jobs on and off so I would have something to fall back on. By the late 1980s, I decided it was time to pick that up again full-time.

Joseph Stryker

Where did you end up working?

I began working for a real estate development company. I started in security and then became a messenger for the company because the money was really good. Since then, I’ve basically stayed in the world of security when it comes to work.

How do you look back on your adult years?

With amazement. It was a moment in time and place that will never be again. We had great friends, we had great sex, we had a great life. We were hanging out with stars too. You’d go to the club with Tiny Tim or sit in Bernard’s with Nell Carter.

It really is like a fantasy. And for most of the men I knew in the business, it was the same. For the women, it could be a mixed bag. Some were happy to be there and were doing what they wanted to do. Like Tish Ambrose – she knew what she wanted to do and did it. Or Veronica Hart – she and her boyfriend lived up the block from me in Brooklyn while they were working for Murray and Stella and she was centered and happy. Others you could see struggled. For some it was drugs. For some it was their pasts.

I remember many years after I got out of the business, I was up in the Bronx at a video rental place to get a movie. As I was browsing the new releases, a woman walked out of the adult section with a copy of Rimshot in her hand. I was on the cover and she kept looking back and forth between the box and me. Finally, she shook her head and said, “Nah…” out loud.

Any regrets?

Just one. If I could go back, I’d make sure I took the NYPD exam. I should have ignored all those racist officers and pushed through. Then I could have had a straight job that gave me a great pension. And while I don’t regret the adult work, I didn’t need it for the sex. I was having plenty of sex through the swinging scene and my relationships. And the sex work doesn’t come with a pension.

But the adult business provided me, my family, and my kids with a good standard of living. I’m grateful for that.

Do you miss the sex?

Well, I got married again to a beautiful young woman after Brandy. She was a lot younger than me and it turned out her father had worked at Peep Land in Times Square while I was working in the area. It’s a small world.

We divorced a couple of years ago, but I’m still having good sex. There’s a place out in Jersey I go for parties.

It was all a good ride. I’m a lucky guy.

Michael LawrenceMichael Lawrence today

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  • Posted On: 9th August 2020
  • By: Ashley West
  • Under: Articles

18 Comments

  1. Sandy D · August 9, 2020 Reply

    Thank you for this story. You’re right: I hadn’t heard of the subject, but one things for sure…. if it’s on this site, I know I’m going to find it interesting, informative, and intimate. I love this trip down memory lane.

  2. Bob Halton · August 9, 2020 Reply

    NYC in the 70s lives on….!!!

    Great HIS-story!!!

  3. Mikey · August 9, 2020 Reply

    What a great story from a great guy. He just tells it like it is, and shows that normal people with healthy libidos were part of the sex trade. He goes against the stereotype, and I for one am happy to know he did not become a police officer. Keep collecting the oral history RR!

  4. Guest · August 9, 2020 Reply

    What do I remember about Joseph Stryker? that he wasn’t used enough in films! He was a very dependable performer that could have carried films. He should have been given 2 to 3 scenes per movie. Would have liked to have seen Mr Stryker perform with such legends as Samantha Fox, Chelsea Blake, Tiffany Clark and the Melendez sisters Lisa and Melissa when they came to New York in 1985 to do films for Video X pix. But who knows? maybe Joseph got to hook up with some of them off camera, looks like he was pretty active in those days

  5. MURFY · August 9, 2020 Reply

    BIG FAN OF HIS. THANKS FOR THE STORY

  6. Cathy Gigante-Brown · August 9, 2020 Reply

    Really enjoyed learning more about Michael. Fascinating story. What a gentleman and a kind soul.

  7. Shawn · August 9, 2020 Reply

    I think it’s interesting to hear the lesser- known stars stories as well, and hope you can share some of the others you’ve conducted.

    And the in the photo of the guy captioned as Veronica Hart’s boyfriend and live sex show partner also had short career in front of the camera usually under the name Bill McKean (or named similar to that). He performed with Veronica in a few films as well with other women. His IAFD page: http://www.iafd.com/person.rme/perfid=billmckean/gender=m/bill-mckean.htm

  8. Rick · August 9, 2020 Reply

    The male performers in the Golden Age of Porn were mostly blue collar guys who had to deal with the Vietnam War draft, and their comments have been insightful. I think the Rialto Report has done more accurate reporting about the Vietnam War than most mainstream newspapers did *during* the war! And the insights of the African-American performers such Joseph Stryker, Angel Kelly, and Johnny Keyes have provided a kaleidescope of viewpoints into how race is a lived experience in America.

    How is it that a guy from England with a “pehfectly wahndeful, old chap!” accent created a site with some of the most revealing Americana I have ever read or listened to? Confess, Ashley, you’re actually from Nebraska or someplace, right? 🙂

  9. Steve · August 10, 2020 Reply

    This is why I love this site so much! You do in-depth stories about some of the little known, or even unknown players in the 70’s adult world. A lot of us know about the bigger stars of classic porn, but were it not for The Rialto Report, most of us would never even know about people like, Mary Stuart, Ken Scudder, Phil Prince, Randy Paul, Pat Barrington, and now Josepeh Stryker and numerous others that you’ve brought to life, and to our attention. I’ve loved every one of their stories! You tell these human interest stories with such empathy and compassion, yet never try to make us feel sorry for knowing about them. I’m glad to hear that Michael feels good about the life he has led and the girls he has raised. Kudos to him. Well done Ashley and April, well done indeed!

  10. Jose Verschaffel akaJose Duval · August 10, 2020 Reply

    He is a great guy, our roads crossed a few time, we did one video togheter,and we probably swing at Leo Peters

  11. Richard · August 10, 2020 Reply

    My favorite scene of Joseph’s is with Rhonda Jo Petty! This dude was good, and had a natural groove about him. Another amazing job from Rialto, as they keep finding the stars of the Golden Age!

    Awesome job guys!

  12. Nanker · August 11, 2020 Reply

    “Jane’s boyfriend and live sex show partner”

    Isn’t he the guy who performs fist-fuck in Damiano’s “Satisfiers Of Alpha Blue”?

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