A few weeks ago, The Rialto Report received an email with the following teaser:
“My mother recently married a man who was a roadie for my Dad’s band back in the late 60s / early 70s in New York. My dad passed 13 years ago, and they started a romance a few years after. Growing up, I always knew him as ‘Porno John’ because we’d heard rumors that he did a few adult films many years ago.
Long story short, he’s become part of the family, and after listening to your podcasts I asked him if he knew any of the people that you talk about. He said he hung out with Jamie Gillis and Harry Reems, but he didn’t go into further detail.
I think he’s got some stories to tell if you’re interested.”
We couldn’t resist contacting ‘Porno John’ to see who he was, and to our surprise, it was John Buco – an early actor we’d been trying to find for years.
John starred as the hero cop in Water Power (1977), as well as working in films by Radley Metzger, Harry Reems and Roberta Findlay, and was friends with Marc Stevens, Jamie Gillis, Tina Russell and Georgina Spelvin. It turns out that he’s hardly thought about his X-rated film career in the last 45 years, so we sent him some information and pictures to jog his memory, and arranged an interview.
Then he told us his story.
What did you do when you graduated high school?
I went into the army in 1969. I served mostly stateside, starting out at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, where I went through basic training. From there, I decided if I wanted to move up the ranks, I had to play the game, so I went to OCS (Officer Candidate School) and got a commission out of that. After that I went to flight school and flew helicopters for a while. Nothing spectacular, and when my service was over, I left.
How did you first get involved in performing?
Before I left the service, I started working in radio at a small southern radio station. I had a friend who was a disc jockey. I used to hang out with him at night, watching him spin records.
One day he said to me, “You have a good voice. Do you know how to read?” He asked me to do the news for him that night. It was the old ‘rip-and-tear’. News came in over a Teletype and you’d rip out the stream of paper and then cut it up to make sentences. I got a kick out of doing it, so I started doing it every night.
His boss heard me and wanted to know who I was, and he ended up giving me a job at the radio station spinning records from 6:00pm to midnight.
How did you get your start in adult movies?
I’d always had an acting bug. I was in a lot of plays when I was in school. So when I came out of the service, I decided that’s what I wanted to do and I started pursuing it where ever I could. I wasn’t sure where to go, or what to start with, but I answered an ad in the Village Voice.
That was Bob Wolfe.
When would this have been?
It couldn’t have happened until mid 1972, because I didn’t get out of the service until February of ’72.
I’m gonna assume it probably would have taken me a while to get back into the grind of the city, so I’m thinking probably May or June of that year, when I started trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.
What happened when you responded to his ad?
He told me to come into his studio, and I thought I was going on a straight acting audition. I was so green! I turned up wearing a blue pinstripe, three-piece suit, with a blue dress shirt and matching tie.
I walked into this basement apartment, somewhere around 14th Street on the west side of Manhattan. It was an unfinished basement, and he had a sheet hanging off the back wall to hide the furnace behind it.
There wasn’t much furniture, just a table with some makeshift hand and ankle straps, and Marc Stevens stood there in a Nazi uniform, complete with swastikas and SS insignia.
When I walked in they said, “We’re gonna to be shooting this loop called ‘Nazi Ass Fuckers’. You wanna be in it?”
Bob said, “You’re not gonna have to fuck anybody, you just have to stand here and look like you’re torturing this girl.”
He gave me a fedora and an armband and said, “See… now you’re in the Gestapo.” Apparently, it was some sort of a sadomasochistic anal thing going on – as the title would suggest. Then they started shooting.
And that was my first foray into the business…! (laughs)
What was your reaction to that first experience? You’d turned up looking for a regular acting job, and you ended up acting in a 8mm loop with a striking plot. Most people would have been shocked.
Why I didn’t walk out is beyond me… I don’t know why I was open to it. (laughs) Perhaps I was too embarrassed to back out, or stand my ground and say, “No, I’m sorry. I can’t do this.” So I just went with the flow and figured, “What the hell. If this is where you have to start, this is where you start.” And that was basically it.
I took it all in my stride. I’ve always been an accepting person, so it didn’t faze me… (laughs)
How did the shoot go?
I stood at the head of the table where the girl could blow me, while Marc was at the rear doing his thing. So I guess they were lying about not having to have sex.
I got paid $75 for four hours work.
What do you remember about Bob Wolfe?
He was short and stocky – a bit plump and round, with long, dark hair, and a full beard. I only met him once or twice after that. We didn’t work much together again.
So it all started with that loop?
Yes, and after that, Marc said to me, “You seemed pretty comfortable doing that. Would you like to work more?”
I said, “Yeah, why not?” so we exchanged phone numbers, and I started getting phone calls from him offering me a job somewhere whenever they needed an actor. It was pretty much Marc who opened the doors for me.
What do you remember about Marc? His sexuality has always been the subject of much discussion.
When I first met him, my first instinctive impression was that he was gay, or at least if not gay, bisexual. I never asked him directly, and we were always amicable with each other. It didn’t bother me. I wasn’t offended by that or intimidated in any way – which surprises me sometimes given my Christian upbringing.
What was your upbringing like?
I was a product of Brooklyn parochial schools right through high school. Jesuit priests, Franciscan priests, Vincentian nuns… you name it.
I don’t know if I was just rebelling against all of that, but nothing in the adult film business seemed to bother me.
Did Marc have a big ego? He marketed himself as ‘Mr. 10 1/2’ after all…
Not that I saw. He seemed to me genteel. Not feminine at all, but genteel. I rarely saw him as a prima donna. He didn’t have a huge sense of entitlement because of who he was in the industry.
But he was well-endowed. One time we were shooting in a loft. There was a break in the filming, and Marc and I ended up standing face-to-face, totally naked, upright, and Darby Lloyd Rains was between us on her knees. Marc and I were aroused and erect, and I happened to look down and saw myself next to Marc, and I just started laughing. I said, ” I can’t believe it. This is ridiculous. This is like David and Goliath!”
I do remember his vanity showing just once. We were shooting a scene, and Marc was lying on a mattress. The overhead lights exploded, and some of the hot glass landed on Marc, burning him. Everybody was in a panic for a few moments. I saw that Marc had some minor burns on his skin as a result, but he obsessed over them creating a big drama. You would have thought that he just lost half of his body. I thought that was a bit overdone.
Did you socialize much with Marc or any of the other XXX actors?
There was a core inner circle of actors that would hang out together. People like Marc, Tina Russell and her husband Jason, Jamie Gillis, Georgina Spelvin, Herb (Harry Reems), and a few others. They saw each other quite a bit outside of work.
I went out with them a few times. I remember one night we went out drinking in the Village. We’d been shooting on the west side that day. Marc lived in the area. Shaun Costello was with us too. Georgina lived down on the Bowery, in a building called The Pickle Factory, and we ended up at her place. She’d just gotten it, and she was like a little girl running around, excitedly showing it to us. And it was like a large pickle barrel that had been converted into a big loft apartment. God knows how much cocaine we did that night. It was just a drug binge for the entire evening.
Who else do you remember working with in those early days?
There was a very attractive Black woman who went by the name Candy Love that I worked with once that came through Shaun. She usually wore a wig.
I remember Steve Tucker (aka Ashley Moore). He was a little on the flabby side which surprised me. He had the love handles and I thought that was always odd, but he was able to perform, was well endowed, and was easy to get along with, so he worked a lot.
And there was a French woman named Ani Mathieu who was friends with Steve. Steve was friends with Jamie and Shaun, and they worked together quite a bit – Ani was part of that scene.
Ani and I worked together a couple of times, including once when she sat in my lap for an interview we did together in the sauna room of the Henry Hudson Hotel for the first ever International Porn Festival. Everybody who was there was in the industry one way or another… actors, producers, financiers, whatever.
Ani Mathieu, with Marc Stevens
Marc brought his boa constrictor snake to that event. In fact, he let me take it in the swimming pool. He said, “Just keep his head above the water, and you’ll be fine.” The thing was six or seven foot long, it was a big old snake.
We got a lot of attention at that festival, some of it unwelcome. Some guy approached me and wanted to go down on me. I told him, “Sorry, I don’t go that way,” but he tried to push himself on me… I almost decked him.
What do you remember about Tina and Jason Russell?
I first met them when we were on a set doing loops.
The way it worked was that if there were four people, on a good day, you’re gonna end up with four different loops, using all the combinations, because they switch you around and everybody works with everybody, and then there’s usually a big orgy at the end in which everybody is involved.
That’s how I met Tina. I thought she was stunning from the first time I met her. She was beautiful. Her eyes, her long hair, the way she carried herself. There was something about her that was almost regal.
But the first time I met her, I was told that I wouldn’t be working with her because she didn’t know me, and she only worked with people that she knew. I remember Marc was there, and of course Jason, her husband, was there. So I said, “Okay, I understand. That’s fine.” And it wasn’t until subsequent shoots that she finally got comfortable enough with me that she said we could do a scene together.
During that time, I got to know her and Jason because they were all over the place. Every time I went somewhere, they were there. They worked together and they also worked separately, which I thought was interesting in terms of how their open marriage worked.
How did you react to this new world of porn?
I’m a Brooklyn boy at heart so I’m used to things being on the raw side. That’s just the way it is. So here I am, surrounded by all these male stud figures, porn stars, and they were all not the macho types that you’d think they would be.
They were all soft, kind, almost delicate in their ways and in their mannerisms. If they weren’t doing porn, you could imagine some of them being academics.
What area of Brooklyn did your family live in?
I lived in the Flatbush, Kings Highway, Marine Park area. That’s on the East side of Brooklyn.
I graduated from St. John’s Prep, on the corner of Hart and Lewis Street off Myrtle Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Where did you live when you started making X-rated movies?
I always lived in Brooklyn and commuted from there. I was actually living in my parent’s apartment. They had a four-family house on Coney Island Ave and Avenue N. There were 4 units, so they lived in one, and they rented out the other three.
Eventually I moved out and got an apartment of my own in that same area. But I always stayed in Brooklyn.
How much did you got paid for the loops or films in which you appeared?
The average was about $75 for the day. For that you’d shoot four loops, and you might work 10 hours. If you were lucky, they bought you lunch, but most of the time you went without.
Shaun usually bought lunch. Shaun was good to work for. He treated his people well. Most of the time, I don’t ever recall getting paid by check, it was always cash.
Once I worked for this guy from Queens. He was married, with a blond trophy wife, a really sexy looking lady. He was producing loops in Manhattan, and he paid $110 for the day. I said, “Wow.” That was great money. $110! (laughs)
Do remember the first of the films you made?
I remember that one of the first was Devil’s Due with Cindy West.
I was the high school principal, and I brought her into my office. There was a bad cutaway of me slipping a pill into her wine, and then she feigns passing out and I rape her. Later when she gets into a devil-worshiping group, I’m one of the people she takes revenge on.
I wore the same suit as the principal in that movie that I wore for my first audition with Bob Wolf!
How was the experience?
Oh my God. It was horrible (laughs). I never watched my movies but I saw this one… there was a scene where I was supposed to cross the room from the couch to my desk after I’d finished raping Cindy. Instead of getting up proudly, I was clearly embarrassed and so I bent over like I was trying to hide my erection from the camera. When I saw myself on screen, I thought, “Oh my God, I can’t believe they kept that in there.”
Do you remember Cindy West?
Yes. She had thin, long hair. She was like a little cherub, the way she was built. Very soft-spoken woman, soft eyes. She and I worked several times, mostly in loops.
During this time, I presume the films and the loops weren’t your sole source of income?
No, I was doing whatever I could to survive. I was a tour manager for Larry Coryell. In the mid 1970s, he was a popular jazz-fusion guitarist. We toured the country doing concerts, playing with people like John McLaughlin and Chick Corea. I went on the road with him whenever there was work available.
And then I waited on tables. And I did porn.
Where did you wait tables?
Harry’s at the American Stock Exchange in downtown Manhattan. I worked at the Copacabana for one night, that was just crazy. And in a lot of the diners on the East side of Brooklyn. There was the Venus Diner on Flatlands Avenue in Canarsie, The Arch on Flatlands and Remsen, and The Foursome Diner near Marine Park, on Coyle Street and Avenue U.
It sounds like you had two different lives.
I had a double life! (laughs) In Brooklyn, I was neighborhood guy who worked in diners and bars, and in Manhattan I was the porno actor. I was like a ghost that flew between crowds. I was pretty successful at compartmentalizing my life. I had the Brooklyn world that I grew up in, and then I discovered this crazy new world in Manhattan.
You used a large number of different performer names, from Fred Cambell, Bob Farley, Dan Oslow, John Shaw, Elmen Steel, John Taylor, Jesse Winchester – even Biff Boom and Lankey Tootu! Was that because you were trying to conceal your involvement in porn?
That’s funny. The only one I can take credit for is Lankey Tootu. That was a spur of the moment thing. A magazine writer turned up to do some interviews while we were shooting Slip Up (1975). Someone asked me to sign a release form. I said, “What name do you want me to put?”
He said, “Whatever you want”.
So I said, “Okay,” and wrote Lankey Tootu. I thought, “That’s stupid enough, I’m gonna use it.”
But the rest of the names they used, the producers came up with themselves. I never gave them a last name and I never signed anything. Keep in mind, this business was not a legitimate one. We just were hoping not to get arrested on set when we were working. It was interesting because at that point in time… you could buy pornography, you could go see pornography, but you weren’t allowed to produce pornography. So just by being on a set of a porn movie, you ran the risk of getting busted.
Did you ever get busted?
Fortunately no. The closest I came was when we were shooting The Enema Bandit (1976) (aka Waterpower).
For some reason, they wanted to shoot car chase scenes in the Garment district in Manhattan. And out of all the actors on the set, no one owned up to being able to drive except me.
I said, “What do you want me to do with it?” Shaun said, “Just go around the corner real fast… make some noise.”
We were out there for two or three hours doing it again and again. They got so many takes from different angles, and the people that were living up in the apartments were shouting out of their windows, “Enough already. You got the shot or not?”
Of course, we didn’t have permits for anything. We just got our shots between traffic. Shaun was very bold, he was always taking chances like that.
That day, I had a cousin who worked in the Garment district, and he walked down that block on his way home. He saw me standing in the middle of the movie set, and he asked, “What are you doing?”
I said, “I’m working. We’re shooting inserts here.”
He says, “Inserts?”
I said, “Yes, Kojak. Kojak. We’re shooting Kojak inserts.”
So I lied my way out of that one.
What do you remember about Shaun?
Very easy going. He had a dry sense of wit. And good hair… parted down the middle! (laughs)
I did a lot of loops with him, as well as a number of features too. We worked together quite a bit.
He was the rare example of an actor who was also a director.
This wasn’t a career choice that you expected. Did you ever experience performance issues sexually?
Not really, but you had to develop your own little tricks and techniques.
I didn’t realize I was doing this, but Shaun once said to me, “I noticed every time you start a scene with a woman, you have to hug her. Why do you do that?”
I said, “I do that because the touch excites. So a full body hug… excites.” I couldn’t just lay down and start working. I needed something more than that.
What do you remember about Slip Up? It was shot by Walter Sear in his recording studio, Sear Sound, in Manhattan. Steve Ziplow directed.
I vaguely remember Steven Ziplow. I remember they were trying to do something tongue-in-cheek, if you excuse the pun. It was corny.
Anyway, a magazine ran an article on the movie featuring photos of all of us. A friend of mine, who was an old roommate when I was in the military, was stationed in Germany, and somebody brought a copy of this magazine into his barracks. He opened it up, saw me, and sent me a letter. He said, ” I got this magazine and that’s you in there. What the hell are you doing!?” So I guess, I made it to Germany… (laughs)
John Buco in ‘Slip Up’ (1975), with Darby Lloyd Raines and Erica Eaton
What do you remember about the locations where you shot?
Most of the locations were loft apartments in Manhattan, which were a big thing at that time. We’d walk in, and most of the time the crew was there ahead of us and they already had everything wired.
The power requirement was more than a regular apartment could handle, so the tech guys and the camera crew usually knew how to get into the main breaker box, and tap into it. They’d run some extra lines so they could pull whatever wattage they needed for the day without burning the place down.
Do you remember shooting outside much?
I remember shooting out on Long Island, on a boat that was hired in a marina. After we shot on the boat, there was a ramp off a dirt road that led to the marina where the boat was, so you could literally drive a car down the road and onto the dock. The director came up with the idea of driving the car off the dock into the bay.
It was a rented vehicle, and again, I was the only one who was stupid enough to try this. So at the end of the day, we rigged something on that car and I drove it off that pier into the bay (laughs). I heard they waited two or three days to report the car stolen after that.
How open were you about making the adult movies to your friends and your family?
Oh boy. My family knew nothing. My Mom and Dad, my two sisters… I didn’t tell them anything.
I had a cousin, who lived out in Long Island. She was a good Catholic schoolgirl who was dating a nice Catholic schoolboy, and they went on a double date with another couple. And they decided to go see a porno movie. I think it was Devil’s Due.
A while later, they came to my parent’s house to visit. My cousin pulled me aside, and she said, “Mike and I went to a sex movie last week with friends of ours, and… that was you on the screen! How could you do that?” She started giving me this whole Catholic school trip (laugh).
I said, “Let’s get this into perspective. You paid to see me do something that I got paid for doing. Let’s call a spade a spade. How could you do that?! At least I got paid…!”
What about your childhood friends in Brooklyn. How did they react to the films?
My friends knew. My personal friends in the neighborhood. They thought it was cool.
When I was 14, I’d worked as a short order cook at the King George Restaurant in Brooklyn. It was on King’s Highway and 18th Street, next door to the Avalon Movie Theater. And there was a group of young rich kids who all owned a bunch of Corvettes, and they were referred to as the Corvette Club of North America. Every Saturday and Sunday they’d rally in front of this restaurant and they would raise mayhem. They were a funny bunch of guys and they’d come into the restaurant and grab a bunch of eggs and go out front and throw the eggs at the buses going down the street. I remember a pretty girl who was one of the members of the Corvette Club. She came into the restaurant often. The memory of her stuck with me.
Ten years later, I was working on a Shaun Costello shoot, and I saw a familiar looking girl. And then finally I realized who it was. She was the girl from the Corvette Club. She remembered me and so we had a great time catching up, before we got on with the scene. She was going by the name of Clea Carson, and she’d been acting in porn films for a few years.
We cost Shaun a day’s work, because things got really out of hand on that set. I think everybody shot their load before the camera was ready for it. We had to work an extra long shift that night to make up for it (laughs).
Clea Carson, in Water Power (1977)
How did people react when you told them?
I had a job working for Jack LaLanne Health Spas, because I liked to work out, lift weights.
The manager at the spa went to a porno theater around the corner one night after work. And the next day he comes into the office and he pulled me into a room and he said, “I have to talk to you.” And he told me that he saw me on the screen.
I admitted, “Yeah, that was me.”
He said, “Great! Can you get me some?” (laughs)
I got outed like that several times.
Did you keep yourself in good shape because of the movies?
Not really. I was always in shape. In fact, Marc used to tell me, “You’ve got a great body, but it looks too ‘worked on’. People who watch films prefer something that looks more natural.”
I hold a second degree black belt in Japanese Ju-Jitsu. I started that when I was about 14, and it just became a lifestyle.
Did you date any girls who you met while making movies?
I became friends with Sandi Fox. We spent a few of days together. We worked on a movie, went out for dinner, and I ended up at her place in Queens where I stayed for a bit.
We became very comfortable with each other because we worked together many times. She was good people. She’s gold.
Sandi Foxx and Steve Ziplow, in ‘Slip Up’ (1975)
Did being a sex performer affect you in your private sex life?
It did in a lot of ways. It was just so different from my Christian upbringing in Brooklyn. Adult films were really extreme… really outside the norm. I found the film experience actually gave me a good sense of balance in terms of where my head was at personally and sexually. I was okay with everything and my attitude has always been to be curious and to do no harm.
There was one girl I remember, we just finished having sex, and her comment to me was, “Somehow, when I’m having sex with you, I feel like I’m getting a performance.”
And I looked at her and I said, “What do you mean ‘a performance?’”
She said, “It’s something about the way you move in bed – it’s not what most people would be doing.”
And I think it was all the gymnastics that I was used to in the films. A lot of that stuff had started to seem natural and normal to me.
I got that a few times. A girl would look at me like, “Where did you learn this stuff?!” And I didn’t know how to answer that. Most of the time I wouldn’t say anything. I’d just mumble, “I like to do what feels good and move in a way that feels good.”
And then sometimes a girlfriend would be intimidated by knowing that I had a history in porn films because they felt that they had to meet a certain performance level themselves. I could see it was always on their minds: “Am I doing what he expects?” Or “Can I meet that level of performance?”
So there was a good and bad to it, I suppose.
What do you remember about The Enema Bandit, which is now more widely known as Water Power.
I remember that I was the detective hero in this film. Jamie was the Enema Bandit.
I remember shooting one of the final scenes in the film when I come running into the room to save C.J. Laing. I don’t recall if Jamie was in the scene or he’d already left, but she was in the bathtub, bound, with an enema bag set up and inserted.
C.J. Laing and John Buco, in Water Power (1977)
And I had to run into the room and remove it, and get her out of the bathtub, and then yell, “It’s okay, you’re gonna be alright. It’s all over, we got them,” that kind of a thing. I remember that scene pretty well.
And then this week, I watched the movie after you sent me a copy. I’d never seen it before, and I got a kick out of it. It’s interesting on many levels; production, plot, acting.
What surprised me the most was the ending. The bandit gets away?! I was also pleasantly surprised at my acting, which wasn’t as bad as I remembered or thought it was. As for the dialogue, even that was a revelation. As far as I can remember there was no script. We ad libbed the dialogue based on whatever we were told the plot was about. If we rehearsed anything it was done on set between takes.
John Buco and Phil Morini, in ‘Water Power’ (1977)
Which characters stood out most in the world of adult films?
I remember Vanessa del Rio. She had this beautiful head of long curly hair. She was heavy set, a big girl. We worked together, mainly in loops. I remember spending time with her. We weren’t exclusive, but we had a strong mutual attraction.
Harry Reems was easy to talk with, he was open. He was an A-type personality. All that energy was constantly there, so you got it all. But he was a funny guy. He was very comfortable in his skin. I recall easy, fun times, even working with him. There were times that I worked with him as a fellow actor, and times that I worked with him as a producer and me as the actor on the set. Because I think he also did loops.
There was Bobby Astyr. Small in stature, but he had an intensity about him that was almost manic… I think it was the way his eyes glared all the time.
And I met John Holmes too. He was in town to meet with Marc about some sort of deal.
Was it ever your intention to find more mainstream acting roles?
Yes, mainstream was my first ambition.
I went to the Actors Studio for two years. They had night classes that you didn’t have to audition for: as long as you paid the tuition fees, you got the benefit of their education.
How successful were you in pursuing mainstream film roles while you were working in porn?
I had a friend who was a photographer for Barbizon Modeling. I hired him to help me put together some head shots for my portfolio so that when I made my cattle calls, I had photographs to show.
I didn’t get many films roles: I was in a crowd scene for the remake of King Kong (1976). I didn’t get any credit for it, I just got paid for a day’s work.
Ironically, the next film role I got was years after I left New York City. I was living in Albany, New York, and was working in a 9-to-5 job, and I got a role in the Jack Nicholson film Ironweed (1987) which was being shot in the Albany rail yards. I worked as an extra for seven days. The scenes that I did centered around a big town brawl and fire, as they were chasing the hobos out of the rail yards.
I worked until 4:00 in the morning each night, I didn’t make a lot of money, but they fed us and I was on set with Jack Nicholson!
It brought back memories of being on set in the adult films again because of the technical aspect of what was happening around me. I enjoyed it.
How about theater work? Did you act in any sort of off-off-Broadway productions?
Yeah. I did an off-Broadway play called ‘Dover’s Donkey’, which was produced by a guy called Jay Hamburger and in the vein of Greek theater. It was at a little theater on the west side of Manhattan, somewhere around 9th or 10th Avenue in the 40s, which probably held about 75 people.
My failure to get into the legitimate side of the film industry was frustrating. At that time, if you didn’t have an agent, you couldn’t talk to anybody. And if you weren’t in SAG, you couldn’t have an agent. So if you didn’t have an agent you couldn’t get into SAG. So how did you break through that boundary?
So I stayed in porn.
What was the turning point for you?
I wasn’t getting any big mainstream movies. And as a tour manager, I wasn’t working for the Rolling Stones or The Beatles either.
After doing adult movies for a while, I started to get concerned about whether they were going help or hurt me. From a technical side, I learned a lot about film production and editing. But in terms of being an actor in front of the camera, I was concerned that this stuff would show up somewhere and I’d be finished.
I finally decided that I was tired of being a starving artist, and I needed to do something else to put bread on the table. I wanted something that would somehow have some sustainability and legitimacy to it. I think part of me also thought, and maybe this was the Christian upbringing, I didn’t want people to look at me and first think of the size of my dick.
I said, “Okay, this is where we just have to stop.”
What did you plan to do at that point?
To to be honest with you, I had no idea.
Survival became the priority. And what skills did I have that would enable that? As a kid, I grew up in restaurants so my first thought was, “Okay, I’ll go back to being a waiter.” But I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t respect myself in that position. So I decided to move to Schenectady, New York, and become a hairdresser.
Something about it was creative, and it seemed like it had a lot of possibilities.
Did it live up to expectations?
Being a hairdresser was like a bowl of granola: you had fruits, nuts and flakes. I was the psychologist, the best friend, and the hairdresser for every client. You had to adapt from one person to the next in a matter of minutes. Every person in your chair was a whole new personality to deal with.
And like some of the other decisions I’ve made in my life, the reality was far different from the fantasy. So I eventually got out of that business.
What did you do next?
I applied to Capital District Off-Track Betting in Albany, New York. They had a cable television station, and they were looking for a staff announcer. I auditioned for that and passed. I did that for nine years, and from staff announcer, I moved up and eventually became director of corporate marketing. And that was my political exposure to what was going on in New York politics. I had access to the governor’s office.
I left when I had ethical concerns about how the place was being run. Sure enough, about six years after I left there, I got called into the Attorney General’s office to appear as a state’s witness because they were investigating the entire operation.
After that I drove a truck delivering cakes and sweets to stores and schools. Drake’s Coffee Cakes and Devil Dogs and Ring Dings. I bought a truck, I bought a route, and I was back on the road for three years.
After I sold the Drake’s Cake route, I had a short stint with the Post Office. But I didn’t make it through their probationary period, which is another story. I was older at that point and I was clearly singled out because of my age. I could’ve fought it, but I was tired of the politics so I walked away from that.
I ended up becoming a New York State income tax auditor, before retiring.
Working for the state, did anyone ever recognize you from the films?
No. I basically disappeared. There were a few people that I disclosed it to. I don’t know why. Maybe just because I didn’t want to be ashamed of it. Or maybe because there’s something about it that I find humorous.
But as far as anybody finding anything, no. I was fortunate on that note: the proliferation of the porn industry, thanks to video and satellite technologies, didn’t really start happening until after I left the business.
I assumed that a lot of the old celluloid on which I appeared had faded and was no longer usable or viewable.
What was your reaction when I got in touch with you?
I didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t even aware that I’d done that much work in the adult film business. I thought I’d just done maybe three or four full-length features – so I was shocked when you sent me the list of thirty or so films. I remember doing a lot of loops though. Now that I think about it I probably did a couple of hundred.
What do you think of the films you made now?
I can’t really say, because I’d never seen any of them before this last week!
The only film of mine that I’d ever seen was Devil’s Due, because someone told me about a porn site where you can search and he said it might be there. So I went on there one night and all of a sudden there it was, and I thought, “Holy smokes, this thing is still out there!”
I watched a part of it, but it was so bad. It certainly didn’t do anything to arouse me. So there wasn’t that exciting element to it. It was like looking at raw meat. There was something missing there, like intimacy or sensuality. I remember seeing the softcore films that Shannon Tweed made in the 1990s, and they were far sexier than anything I did in hardcore porn.
But I’m looking forward to seeing the ones you’re sending me.
How did you come to get married recently?
I was friends with this guy named Tony when I worked as a road tour manager back in the 1970s. Over the years the band members and tour crew all stayed in touch with each other. That’s how I met his wife. Tony passed away a few years ago. I moved out here, and we saw how it went and it worked out. So we did it, we tied the knot and we got married two years ago in August.
If you had told us back in the ’70s that we would end up as man and wife today, we both would have said, “You’re out of your mind, it’s not gonna happen.” But here we are (laughs).
She has two sons, and so I asked her, “Do your sons know about all of the X-rated shoots?”
She said, “Oh yeah, everybody knows.” Turns out that Tony had told them stories about me, so to them it’s a joke. I’m known as ‘John the Porn Guy’.
I’m still adapting to it because there are so many people that I meet that go, “Is it true you used to do porn?”
I say to my wife, “Is there anybody you haven’t told?!” (laughs)
I’m not sure what they think of it. They probably think, “Well, that’s Porno John, and he’s a little crazy.”
So it hasn’t held you back today?
No. What I find ironic, especially in today’s times, is that I could run for office and this would be a badge of honor. We’ve come a long way since the old days I suppose.
It’s funny when I think about my time appearing in porno movies today, it’s like a faraway dream that never happened, and yet… it’s like yesterday.
It warms my heart to see this story. There are a number of “unknown” performers from the early days that cross my mind every so often. I wonder what happened to them, how their life turned out, and whether they are happy.
John is one example, and it thrills me to hear about him. He was a good-looking charismatic performer, and I always loved seeing him pop up in film after film.
Great to hear from you John! Hope you are as happy as you’ve made me!!
Never thought I’d see anything about him… but that’s the wonder of The Rialto Report – and what a life.
I loved every bit of this.
Anything about WATERPOWER is welcome, and this interview is sensational.
John Buco was awesome x-rated film star from the 70s 80s and early 90s 1970 through 1993 that is really interesting article keep up the good work
Holy crap.. is there no one you can’t find?!? John Buco, owner of the best porno-stache- sorry Harry Reems- was great in Waterpower and I always thought he should have been in mainstream cop dramas like Pelham 123 or French Connection. Shame he was never given the chance.
Anyone care to tell me where I can procure a copy of Nazi Ass Fuckers?!? 😉
I’m sorry to see John Buco’s mainstream acting career didn’t pan out. He had a very New Yorkishness about him that even the best Hollywood actors can not duplicate. Did you ever see the movie Sleepers? none of those Hollywood big shot actors could do a real New York accent, they sounded silly trying. John Buco would have been perfect for the 1974 film The Lords of Flatbush. It could have been a breakout role for him, I can picture him now walking with the guys in his LORDS leather jacket. I also could have seen Buco in Saturday Night Fever as one of Tony Manaro’s crew, they filmed that movie right in his area, I wonder if he was an extra?
If there’s ever a John Buco biopic, Larry Thomas can go from playing Soup Nazi to playing Nazi Nazi. Which begs the question, who would play Shaun Costello?
So good. John seems like a really solid guy. Kudos!! He’s great in Waterpower.
Thank you so much for this. Thank God for the both of you. I have been waiting for something on John for sometime now. I never dreamed you would be able to do an interview with him. This is beyond awesome. I always thought John was so cute with that moustache and curly hair. Very under-rated actor. He was my favorite character in Water Power.
I remember John Buco and wondered what his story was. Glad to hear his story and that he is alive and well. He did really stand out in Water Power especially – very believeable as a NYC cop. He had a nice lean, muscular body and it looked great in his sexual scenes, he knew how to move in a sexy way. One of the more sensual male performers back then.
Some of the women he mentioned in the interview have intrigued me as well, such as Cindy West and Clea Carson. Both were attractive in a almost wholesome type of way. Have you managed to track either of them down? I hope both are still living today.
Keep up the amazing work you do.
This is a surreal experience for me. I thought I was the biggest (only?!) John Buco fan out there, and I’ve kept this secret to myself for years………….. and now I find that I’m one of many!! I can only hope that John reads these messages and sees that he was appreciated and loved!
To everyone who has replied to this post.
First Thank you ALL. I had no idea of the impact I had on the Adult films industry. On that note, I will be putting something out there for you to see and respond to. Anonymous said its was surreal. All of this comes as a complete and pleasant surprise to me as well.
Thank you all. Thank you to The Rialto Report for finding me. I wasn’t hiding. I just didn’t know. I’ll be back.
I grew up in Canarsie and Flatlands in the 1970s and reading this was like a walk down memory lane. You probably served me breakfast at the Arch diner lol.
Seriously though, wish you the best of health and happiness and congrats on your marriage.
Buco was so ripped back in his prime I am surprised after he left adult films he didn’t become a professional bodybuilder? If he added just a little bulk he could have placed in the Mr USA contest
Also… I’m surprised Buco and Vanessa Del Rio didn’t get serious into a relationship. Vanessa always had a thing for muscular Italian men!
PS.The Ashley Moore story was funny, I always noticed the same thing. He didn’t look fat in his clothes? yet when he took his shirt off he had these huge love handles and hips that flared out like a women’s
I’m glad to see you’re doing well and are happy and healthy. I expect you’re probably a bit surprised so many of these 40+ year-old movies are still around and that the celluloid hasn’t disintegrated into ‘nothingness’!
I remember reading about the late Levi Richards onsite who was astonished so many of these films were still extant.
Take care, Mr. Buco.
Waterpower was a riot! the contrast of absurd story and how serious the actors seem to take it was very
entertaining. clea carson was so cute and in that scene in the bathroom with jamie g when she freaked
out she was NOT acting!
I found a streaming version of the film Waterpower on the interwebz. The rape scenes were blurry and grainy. Nothing to complain about as I fast forwarded through all the sex scenes. I think it was a German version because of the subtitles.
The movie reminded me of Bill Lustig’s Maniac. The cinematography isn’t bad at all. Gillis does a good job of acting and looking perverted. Was it really an act? My theory is that he was just perverted. He would have done these movies for free if it meant he could have sex with anyone.
I contrast this film with a Gillis non sex movie that Elvira showcased on her syndicated show back in the 80s. That movie was horrible and I thought Gillis was bad in it. Maybe it was just the material. He could act. How sad a non sex feature film was worse than most of his sex films.
Glad to hear that John is rediscovering his films!
ANOTHER home run by the wonderful folks at the Rialto Report!
WATERPOWER was one of the first films I saw in a porn theater (the Ronkonkoma Art Theater on Long Island) when I was a teenager (my friends and I dressed to make ourselves look older!) — I thought that film was INSANE but saw that the actors all seemed to be having a BALL making it!
It’s great to know that John is alive and well — you never know how much people appreciate what you’ve done until you hear from them in a special format like this one.
Take care, John….
Thank you so much Chris!
Great story. I wasn’t familiar with Mr Buco’s work, but it seems that he was well liked and appreciated. Two things from this story: Larry Coryell was a smoking guitar player! OTB! My parents went there all the time, which meant so did I . I still remember the little pencils.
Now, how can we get Sandy Gazelle on here(?)
Very good story!
Excellent interview, he comes across as very authentic and sympathetic. Thank you!
Thanks for the interview. Very interesting. I didn’t know him very well in the films, but he seems to be a very kind person. All the best for him & his famuly.
I’m not sure it would be a badge of honor but it wouldn’t be a scandal like it once was.
I relate to his opinion about Shannon Tweed’s movies. I had never seen a hardcore movie until I became an adult. In fact, I think I was well into my 20’s. I did watch a lot of softcore; however. Shannon’s unrated movies were awesome. Really, who wants to see John Holmes naked? Gross.
These hardcore pictures do nothing for me other than interest me on a level of how they were made and who the actors actually were. John is one of those people.
Now once in a while they’ll be a nice lesbian scene in these classic films and they can get me interested.
Cheers to, John. Hope he has many good years with his new bride.