R.I.P. Carter Stevens (1944-2020)

R.I.P. Carter Stevens (1944-2020)
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Carter Stevens, one of the adult film industry’s true originals, passed away this week.

He started to make his first feature film before the landmark success of Deep Throat, and he was still in the sex business thirty years later.

For a time it seemed like he was everywhere. In the 1970s and 1980s, he directed a series of increasingly popular and ambitious films that included Lickity-SplitTeenage TwinsRollerbabies and Honeymoon Haven. He was just as prolific as an actor too, and was a regular, uncredited crew member for many mainstream and adult film productions.

He made loops, directed a series of films for the Avon Theater chain, and fought battles with drugs and charges of obscenity and of hiring an underage actress, before re-emerging in the 1990s with a successful fetish newspaper and publishing business.

Ashley West remembers Carter, and the role he played in creating The Rialto Report.

This episode running time is 71 minutes.

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When I was a teenager, and into old blues and folk records, I read about the life of John Lomax.

Lomax was a pioneering musicologist and folklorist who did much for the preservation of American music in the first half of the twentieth century. Back in the 1930s, he became concerned that much of the blues and folk music that he loved was in danger of being lost – and along with it the stories of the people who created it. This was because the people who had made much of the music hadn’t made a lot of money and over time they had simply disappeared. So in 1933, Lomax got a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies, and acquired a state-of-the-art, 315 pound phonograph disk recorder which he installed in the trunk of his Ford sedan. Then he set out on the first recording expedition – traveling around the country and meeting many long forgotten musicians and singers. His mission was simple: he would set up his recording equipment and then get out of the way, just preserving whatever he got. These recordings became priceless as they enabled the world to hear directly from the artists themselves.

Twenty years or so ago, I was talking about John Lomax with the adult film director Carter Stevens. I’d found a website that he’d set up, and it listed his phone number – so I gave it a call, and shortly afterwards Carter and I were having a wide-ranging conversation about films, music, politics, and New York in the 1970s. Carter made a comment that he wished someone would do what John Lomax had done – but with the pioneers of the adult film business. In other words, travel around and capture the stories about birth of the X-rated film world directly out of the mouths of those who’d been involved.

I liked the idea, and we made a date to do a field recording of our own. The following week, I went to Carter’s house in the Pocono’s and set up some cheap recording equipment, sat back and let Carter talk.

Now it’s fair to say that I was no John Lomax. After recording three hours of memories, Carter’s roommate walked through the room, tripped over the cable, disconnected everything, and we lost the whole recording. Thanks to Carter’s kindness, we decided to repeat the whole conversation over the phone a few days later so I set up a phone recorder. After another long interview with him, I realized that I’d forgotten to press the record button.

I learned a lot from Carter, not only about the adult industry, but also how to make sure my equipment was working.

That interview with Carter was the first I did – and since then I did hundreds more. Somewhere along the line, these field recordings turned into The Rialto Report.

Carter passed away a few days ago. He was a real pioneer on the adult film scene, a genuinely engaging and kind man, and I owe him a lot.

 

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Carter Stevens

 

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  • Posted On: 3rd January 2021
  • By: Ashley West
  • Under: Podcasts

12 Comments

  1. Frank · January 3, 2021 Reply

    Thanks for sharing this news, I had no idea. I remember my limited interactions with him with great affection. He was a sweet gentleman – rare in any world.

    God speed.

  2. Hank Rogers · January 3, 2021 Reply

    I’d love to see a Rialto feature on Punk Rock, a fascinating time capsule of the music scene combined with the porno world.

    • Bondurant · January 3, 2021 Reply

      A film I would like to see. There was a R-rated cut too, correct? Curious the box office for each.

  3. James Bracken · January 3, 2021 Reply

    Very sad to hear this news.

    While one or two of the remaining directors from that era of NYC filmmaking have proved themselves online to be prime industrial grade assholes (.. I trust most will know who I’m referring to..), Carter was a truly kind and gentle person.

    I love this interview as it is an honest and candid appraisal of his own life.

    • Brandon · January 3, 2021 Reply

      RIP. I went back and watched Rollerbabies Saturday and found my self in tears with laughter. He was my favorite adult director by far.

  4. Jeff Robertson · January 3, 2021 Reply

    We like extend our condolences friends and family of Carter Stevens really interesting article Godspeed thank you

  5. JEC · January 3, 2021 Reply

    I think the musicologist you referred to was actually Alan Lomax, not John.

  6. S. · January 10, 2021 Reply

    Had him as a facebook buddy for many years after listening to the original podcast. He had a great presence there. I thought he was a tough cookie and that he’d stick around for years to come. RIP Carter.

  7. ElGarrotrro · January 10, 2021 Reply

    John and Allen Lomax’s LOC recordings of Southern secular and sacred music and mid- late 20th century adult oriented entertainment. Two art forms I am passionate about. Thanks for blending them in this wonderful oral history. Salud mi camarada!

  8. Gary McEwan · January 26, 2021 Reply

    Such sad news “Pleasure Palace” is one of my all-time great films. R.I.P. to a great man.

  9. David Moser · June 21, 2021 Reply

    Seems like most of the porn actors, technicians, writers, etc , end up in poverty late in life. This seems to almost be a recurring theme with most of the people you interview. Sad.

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