Avon Films: Elroy Brandy – Part 5, The Shooter

Avon Films: Elroy Brandy – Part 5, The Shooter

In this edition of The Rialto Report, we return to the scene of the crime: Avon Films.

After breaking the stories of the man behind the Avon theaters, as well as the filmmakers Phil Prince and Joe Davian, and the procurer of talent, we speak to the man who shot six of the Avon films, Elroy Brandy.

In addition to working with Phil Prince, Elroy Brandy (real name Phil Gries) also worked with Gerard Damiano, Cecil Howard and many others. But far from working exclusively in the adult film industry, Brandy alternated his XXX credits with work for people like Oprah Winfrey, Bill Moyers, and Montel Williams, and documentaries about John Ford, Abba, Maria Callas, Audrey Hepburn, Danny Kaye, Vermeer, Humphrey Bogart, Lassie, and hundreds of others.

So how does he remember working on some of the most outrageous films of the 1980s?

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Elroy Brandy – Interview

Where are you from originally?

I was born in Brooklyn in 1943. I got a Bachelor’s Degree in Film Production from City College of New York, and then a Master’s degree in Fine Arts in Film and Television from the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA).

Had you been interested in film from an early age?

Yes – my parents bought me an 8mm model 43 Wollensak camera when I was 14 as I always wanted to be a cameraman. I started work as a freelance cinematographer in Los Angeles in 1970, and joined the N.A.B.E.T cameraman’s union. Between 1974 and 1978, I worked as a cinematographer / editor at the University of Wisconsin Green-Bay & WPNE, the Public Television Station (PBS) affiliate.

When did you return to New York?

I came back in 1978, and worked on documentaries for the BBC. In fact, I worked for the BBC for 20 years, and was involved in 183 documentaries for them. Sometimes I did the whole documentary, other times I just worked for a day – but there were a lot of them I worked on between 1979 and 1997.

So at this point I’m back in New York, looking for work, and wanting to make contacts.

Is that how you became involved in shooting adult films?

A dear friend of mine was Steve, who went by the name of ‘Captain America’. He was the sound guy for a few Gerry Damiano X-rated films in New York between 1979 and 1980 – doing audio dubbing, foley, and sound effects. He introduced me to Gerry.

Was Gerry looking for a cinematographer?

Yes. João Fernandes, who’d shot almost all of Gerry’s stuff, was going out to Hollywood to start a mainstream career, so Damiano needed to find a new DP.

I went out to Adventure Studios to be interviewed. I’d never done anything that was X-rated at that point, so I had nothing to show Gerry. It felt like I didn’t have any credentials. So I thought: what do I have to show Gerry Damiano so that even though he’s not seeing bodies and X-rated moments, he’ll still appreciate that maybe I can take his work to another level.

So this is exactly what happened: I took him an industrial film I’d made about the Presto pressure cooker. There were a lot of macro photography moments, such as spring string beans with butter oozing over them. There were all kinds of tilts, pans and slow zooms.

Gerry asked me, “Can you do that with people?” I still remember his quote…

Elroy BrandyOn the set of Satisfiers of Alpha Blue’ with Gerard Damiano and Paula Morton

Did you have any reservations about working on an adult film, and what it could do to your established, mainstream career?

I just used a different name. I had joined IATSE Local 600 union, so I certainly didn’t want to use my own name. I came up with the name, ‘Elroy Brandy’, because I had two dogs named Elroy and Brandy. I also went under the name Elroy Right.

When you’re starting out, you’re just looking to have a pay day, and I’ve always been adventurous. It didn’t bother me at all doing these films. It was all an education. My main objective was to do them as creatively as possible from a photographic point of view, because the camera has always been my love. So to get a job that would last for a couple of weeks – where I could experiment – was great. And we were usually paid in cash by some stranger who would open a valise and dispense hundred dollar bills to yours truly and my crew.

How did the money compare to the mainstream stuff? Was it equivalent to the kind of money you would make on a mainstream film?

Most of the time, I would make more money doing union jobs. But at that time, I was making $300 a day for DP work on adult films. I took some XXX jobs that made less money when I really needed the work.

What did you know about Gerard Damiano before you met him?

I knew about Deep Throat, of course. In fact, the first thing I did after he hired me was I bought Linda Lovelace’s book ‘Ordeal’. It had just been published. When I read ‘Ordeal’, it put some red flags up. It gave me a little sense of how salacious this type of industry could be.

Had you seen ‘Deep Throat’ when it first came out in the theaters?

No. Never saw it.

Had you seen any other pornographic films before that?

Yeah. You’re a red-blooded American, you’re going to see some porno. The very first introduction was as a teenager, seeing ‘nature films’. That’s what they called them, ‘nature films’. They were nudist colony films. I’d play hooky from junior high and go to Manhattan and there’d be theaters playing these films. It may seem primitive now, but this wasn’t 100 years ago either. It was in the late 1950s.

Later when I was in college in L.A., the Pussycat Theaters were all around us. That’s where I first saw an adult film, at the Pussycat on Wilshere Boulevard. I remember the tile, Love is a Four Letter Word (1966).

When you first met Gerard, what was your impression of him?

He was very workman-like, and likable. He knew what he wanted. He created a number of big, elaborate sets for his film, The Satisfiers of Alpha Blue (1981), at Vince Benedetti’s Adventure Studios. Vince was Gerry’s production designer. Gerry’s young teen age son, Gerard Jr., was given the job of working on the sets.

Gerry hired me for Satisfiers, which was my very first introduction into making an adult film. And, that was a big deal. I was working for Damiano, and he was a big name. I think there was a quarter of a million-dollar budget. I approached it as if I was doing ‘Ben Hur’.

Satisfiers of Alpha Blue

What equipment did you use for ‘Alpha Blue’?

We shot ‘Alpha Blue’ on 35mm. I didn’t own a 35mm camera, but after that I would use my own 16mm camera, because I could also rent out my equipment and make more money.

Satisfiers of Alpha Blue

What was the ‘Alpha Blue’ film experience like?

Gerry and I got along very well, and the film went smoothly. He accepted many of my suggestions and most particularly, my handling of the opening of the film which I shot in silhouette, creating a long take slowly zooming over our stars in the process having sex with titles running through the sequence.

But we did have a falling out at the end.

What was that about?

I remember getting a call from him after all principal photography was completed over a period of two weeks. My dad was dying with cancer so I was at the hospital, and I actually got a call in the hospital. Gerry had seen some of the rushes and gave me his vitriol.

What was the problem?

I’d started to be creative, doing things out of the box. A little more experimental. I thought he would actually love what I had done, but to my surprise he was critical.

I was working with mirrors, I was rack focusing, I was going all around the place. And maybe some of the footage was excessive. I think he was a little miffed that I shot footage that he felt he could never use.

Jody MaxwellWith Jody Maxwell on the set of ‘Satisfiers of Alpha Blue’

So he thought that it had been financially wasteful?

Yeah. But the only thing I really have against Gerry is that I had a mainstream shoot lined up the following week. He wanted me to shoot one day of inserts for ‘Alpha Blue’. I told him I could not. So he hired another person, James McCalmont, who replaced me.

My issue was that when the director of photography title card comes up in the credits of the film, this other camera person shares the credit under my name, even though I did 99% of the film. In fact to this day I cannot spot any footage in the film that I did not shoot. Not being credited as sole DP for all the work I had done for Gerry was not right. That’s just something you don’t do. I think it was Gerry’s way of getting back at me.

We never worked together again, which was unfortunate, because I received a lot of critical praise for my cinematography in his movie.

Elroy Brandy

Elroy Brandy

After ‘The Satisfiers of Alpha Blue’, you worked with Phil Prince next. How did you connect with him?

Again, it was through my friend Steve. Everybody knew everybody in this industry. In fact, I can see from my notes that my very first meeting with Phil Prince was on September 29th, 1982 at the Avon 42nd Street Theater.

What was the theater like?

That was just a weird place. I remember going in, walking up the steps, and thinking it was like a set for a Vincent Price horror movie. It was winding and dark, and you couldn’t see where you were going. It just had an ominous feel.

I got upstairs and that’s when I first met Phil Prince.

Had you heard anything about Phil prior to meeting him?

No. Your interview with him opened up knowledge to me that I had no idea about. For instance, I didn’t know about his sex escapades in the ’70s. [RR: Phil previously performed in live sex shows in Times Square.] I didn’t know about his wife being murdered. I didn’t know of his mafia ties. I knew none of that. We never talked about it. Later I heard through the grapevine that he went to jail. But there were always lots of stories.

What was the purpose of your meeting with Phil?

He’d made a film that had put him on the map – which was The Taming of Rebecca (1982). Sal Sodano had shot that, and it provided the template for his films going forward. He’d directed another two films. One was called Angel in Distress (1982), which he made using the name ‘Joseph Scarpelli’, and a film called The Temptress (1982) under the name of ‘Samuel Summers’. These were very low, low budget films, very amateurishly filmed.

Sal had gone to California and decided not to come back, so Phil needed another DP. That’s where I came in. We made six films together, over a total of 13 days of shooting, across five months (Oct. 1982-March 1983). We shot a total of 37,000 feet of 16mm film, all with my personal 16mm Éclair NPR and 16mm Canon camera which was used for slow motion ejaculation shots.

What was Phil like, personality-wise?

He was a likable guy. Easy-going. I found him to be quite personable and friendly. He let me do my thing. He was not officious, not very demanding. I think he trusted me.

I knew he had little experience, because he hadn’t made many films up to this point, so when he hired me, I put together all the crew – assistant cameraman, sound man, boomer, gaffer, second electric, grips – from my circle of contacts. We were all much more experienced than he was. We knew what we were doing. We took time to light a set and we knew how to do it, so he was in good hands and it didn’t matter as much that he was a novice.

What were the first two films you shot for Phil?

Tales of the Bizarre (1982) and Dr. Bizarro (1983). We shot them both over the long weekend of October 15th to 18th, 1982.

‘Dr. Bizarro’ had two working titles. It was named ‘Bondage Doctor’ but initially it was named, and nobody’s going to know this except me, ‘Dr. Sullivan’!

Where did that first name came from?!

I have no clue. No clue.

And you used your camera this time?

Yes. The camera that I used for all six Phil Prince films was my camera. It was an Éclair NPR, 16mm, and I charged $200 for that a day.

Elroy BrandyElroy’s notes for Phil Prince films

How did Phil pay you?

We were all paid by check. And it came from PAJ Theater Corporation. That was Murray‘s company.

I remember the check was signed by a woman called Shelia at Chemical Bank at 150 Broadway. I had to go to the bank to get it.

I made $2,000 for the two films which were shot over four days. $300 a day for my DP work; $200 a day for the camera.

The crew I assembled came out to an additional $3,800. So, Phil spent $6,000 on those first two films for the production team.

Elroy Brandy

Elroy Brandy

Elroy BrandyElroy’s invoices to PAJ Theater Corp for Phil Prince films

And a month later, you returned to shoot two more films for Phil over another long weekend?

Yes. We shot Kneel Before Me (1983) and Oriental Techniques in Pain and Pleasure (1983) over the long weekend of November 18th to 21st, 1982.

I’ll tell you, out of all the films, the one which was the most bizarre and weird film was ‘Oriental Techniques’. That was really over the top. The cast included Mistress Candice, Annie Sprinkle, George Payne, Ron Jeremy, David Christopher, and Phil Prince himself.

But just to correct something that Phil told you: it was not my wife who was the author of ‘Kneel Before Me’… it was the wife of my sound man, who did the boom. That was her script, and she was the one who got $200 for it!

Did it feel different working with Phil compared to someone with the experience of Gerry Damiano? Was Phil more of a passive director, for example?

Oh no. Phil was very active, and demonstative when he felt it to be necessary . He was vocal and assertive, and you’d hear him all the time. Usually when you know what to do, you’re very quiet. Anybody with great experience and competence doesn’t yell at all. Phil was loud!

But you’ve got to give Phil credit for being perceptive. He knew what he wanted. He knew what he was able to offer. He was learning the ropes, and at the same time creating the most outrageous adult scenarios bordering on the extremes of obscenity. And interestingly his career as director lasted only a year and a half, writing, and directing approximately 10 films in total. Many of his IMDB credits are erroneous and not films he worked on in any capacity.

Have you seen the short documentary film The Prince of Porn? That’s how Phil was! In fact, if you watch that movie, you can hear me. That’s my voice off-camera that you hear all the time. You can hear me telling Ron, “You got to move a little to your right.” To be fair to Phil, he let me do it. He didn’t say, “Shut up.”

What was your reaction to seeing ‘The Prince of Porn’?

That film was made up of all the loose ends of shots because I would keep the camera rolling. Even when Phil would say, “Cut.” I shot those films with a ratio of about two and a half to one, which was pretty low when you think about it. It doesn’t leave much room for second takes. Film was expensive!

Another reason why I didn’t stop filming was so that I didn’t have to do another slate, another take. I’d have to get the AC to slate the scene again, so by letting the camera roll for a few more seconds without stopping the camera, we could just pick up the scene after Phil Price would communicate (feed lines) briefly to talent.

I’m glad Brian O’Hara was able to assemble ‘Prince of Porn’, because it’s rare to see behind the scenes. Really rare. It gives everyone an opportunity to go back in time and actually experience what it was like, behind the scenes.

What was it like to work with Phil?

It was a little wild. There were so many different characters. Everyone was downstairs snorting coke, and you had a whole different environment of work than I was used to.

I just focused on the art, and my ambition to fulfill technical excellence. I didn’t partake in the craziness, the drugs, or the extracurricular activities.. But there were crew members who were taking advantage of… ‘offerings’, put it that way. Not only drugs, but advances by the actresses too.

Phil told me that a day or two before one of his films, he would go away and write a short script. Do you remember that?

I don’t think I ever read his scripts. We’d come on the set, and we’d do a little bit of a blocking. Phil would tell people what to do and what to say. They’d probably read the script, but a lot of these young girls, they couldn’t memorize lines. That’s probably why he’d yell at them.

I do remember one time during a lunch break when Phil came back on the set with streams of toilet paper he’d written dialog for our next set-up on. It was all very spontaneous at times. In retrospect, why toilet paper! Funny!!

Elroy Brandy

Phil’s films are known for pushing the envelope, and being a more extreme sexually.

Oh, very much. As George Payne once stated, these Phil Prince films, if made a few years later, would never have seen the light of day in New York. They would have had to be sold out of the country first…they were that extreme compared to other adult films being made at that time. They were truly unique, and created quite a stir and following.

What were your personal feelings about that?

I felt they were pretty extreme and outrageous. In retrospect the Phil Prince productions were truly reprehensible and reflected illusions of someone tripping on acid…imagining and acting out extreme hallucinations.

Did they ever offend you?

No, they didn’t offend me at the time. I’ve always looked at life as a multi prism. I remember seeing Mondo Cane (1962), a documentary that showed bizarre real life phenomena all over the world. I loved it. It was real.

As a cinematographer I strive to capture visual reality as a reflection of what I am experiencing, whether it is real or fantasy. My philosophy is… if it happens, if there are people willing to do these things, why be offended? It’s their prerogative. It doesn’t offend me.

But now I look back at these cult money making wonders as abstract filmic aberrations which appealed to a certain type of audience that was surely not mainstream.

What did you try and achieve with your involvement in Phil’s projects?

We wanted to make good films. Everyone was committed to that. The budgets were low, and we had little time, but we wanted to make good films, which had a professional look to them.

I think the favorite film of all of them, and it was the shortest one, was The Story of Prunella (1983). I didn’t often get the chance to get out of the studio, so this was the chance to film a prison break, or put on a wide-angle lens and do those running shots. That was fun. I had more opportunity to do that kind of thing with Phil, so I enjoyed working with him. We did do numerous exteriors day and night which added to the production values.

One day we shot in the area where Phil lived with his wife and kids. There’s a scene where Ron Jeremy pulls up, he’s one of the detectives, and they go past the window of an apartment. That’s Phil’s home. The interiors were shot later at Adventure Studios, but the exteriors were shot in front of Phil’s home.

Elroy Brandy

Do you remember an actress named Cheri Champagne who appeared in ‘Prunella’?

I do. I liked her. I did. Some of the other actresses, they were very tense, very high. I’m not saying that Cheri wasn’t high and distant at times, but she came across very naturally, more low-key than some of the others.

I ask about Cheri because I recently contacted her to ask for an interview about her experience. She was upset, saying that she was sex-trafficked against her will to make these films, and that she hadn’t wanted to be there. She said she was held under duress. So I was curious if you ever picked up on anything like that being around her?

Obviously, that’s an unfortunate story. That’s horrible. This guy who came from Maine. He was taking these young girls and driving them down to Queens. I don’t know what hold he had over the girls. It must’ve been much more than I know. Of all the girls, I think the one that probably seemed to be most uptight was Ambrosia Fox.

There was another girl called Velvet Summers. A very small girl, who looked young. What she went through, it was crazy. It was wrong. Really wrong, especially If they were doing these films against their will once they began to realize what was asked of them.

Did you feel uncomfortable at the time? Or was it only in retrospect looking back?

More so in retrospect. At the time, I kind of divorced myself. I had very little knowledge of where they came from… I knew nothing about who they were or where they lived. I assumed they lived in Manhattan or Queens.

Do you remember any of the other actors?

Ron Jeremy: his films for Phil were towards the beginning of his career. He was an interesting character in many different ways, he had a wonderful way about him. He started out as a school teacher, and he was very outgoing and likable. But he could be relentless too. I remember a moment where he was hurting a young girl…first day doing an X rated scene in her life. She literally started to bleed. It seemed to be a role he was playing, divorced from any pain he may have been inflicting on another person.

So when you saw the recent news, did it shock you?

No. His imprisonment for multiple cases of rape does not shock me. Look how much he got away with for so many decades. Eventually you reap what you sow. You just do. I think it’s the DNA/Karma of the planet.

I remember George Payne too. George and I probably formed the closest relationship over the years. Up until fairly recently, I was still in touch with him and his wife Diane. I loved them very much.

You heard that Diane passed away a year or two back?

Yes, very sad. I actually helped them out a few years ago. They were broke in Vegas, so I wired them money a couple of times so they could temporarily get by.

On set, George was funny. He would come up to me after each take and say, “How did I do? Was I okay?” He took his job very professionally and seriously, wanting to perform the best he was capable.

He cared so much about what he did. I liked him. He was someone who could really get into character. I’m sure he had his own demons, but he was doing a ton of these films. If his fate was different, I feel George Payne could have been a Dennis Hopper type of actor and very successful.

Actually, the last adult film I ever did was for George and Diane. They wrote, produced and directed a feature called Deep Voyage (1986). Nobody knows about the film, and I don’t know if it ever even came out. It starred everyone from the adult film industry at that time. They even hired Professor Irwin Corey for one day to make a cameo. I got a big kick of working with him for one afternoon. Very funny man.

We shot on a boat that was the size of my Betacam camera. In retrospect it was a fitting end to my Elroy Brandy career. My voyage was over.

Jamie Gillis

Marlene WilloughbyStills from ‘Deep Voyage’

‘Deep Voyage’ seems to have disappeared, though Diane gave us a copy.

It’s an interesting story. The film was funded by Diane and George. They put up the money themselves. Diane was a dreamer. The film was completed and I saw a copy of it, but I don’t know what happened after that.

It was my final entry into X-rated filmmaking.

Did you have any involvement with Phil’s films in post-production?

No. Brian O’Hara edited them. I never met him and didn’t know anything about him. I give him credit for his creativity with regards to his editing. He did a very good job most times. Of course, Phil had all these bizarre ideas – crazy ideas. For example, I studied Chinese in college. he added a line once that somehow gave his character the knowledge to decipher a cryptic note by stating, “I studied Chinese in college.”

I got a big kick out of the trailers for Phil’s films, they were really off the wall.

How did your involvement with Phil come to the end?

Our final shoot, the fifth and the sixth films we made together, were shot on February 28, March 1st, March 2nd and March 3rd, 1983. They were The Story of Prunella (1983) and Forgive Me I Have Sinned (1983). Those films were released in the summer of 1983. I remember Murray’s daughter Honey Bee being on the set for them.

Did you meet Murray in person when you were working with Phil?

No. He was not around the sets. In fact I never even knew there was a Murray Offen, until I read your previous Rialto Report on the history of AVON, 35 years later.

I remember going to one of his theaters, the Avon 7, to see ‘Alpha Blue’ playing. I was curious about what it was all about. It was a small theater but there were big posters outside. Murray evidently did well. He was in the right place at the right time, and he made a killing. If he wasn’t doing what he was doing exactly at that time, who knows what he would’ve done in his life to make a living?

Phil Prince

Elroy Brandy

Did you keep in touch with Phil after you stopped shooting for him?

No, I never communicated with Phil Prince again. It was only many years later that I learned of his conviction and the years that he spent in prison.

You made six films with him, but he – and you – are credited with several other films after that. He told us that he wasn’t involved in them though.

A lot of the other films that you see listed on IMDB never happened. I have credits on those films too, but I never worked on any of them. I tried to have them deleted from the internet but they persist.

Films like Savage Sadists, Den of Dominance, Pain Mania, Simulators, I never worked on those. I’m positive that Phil Prince never worked on them either. Phil may or may not be credited but he didn’t work on them. He might’ve done Johnny Boy Blue. I don’t know.

What do you know about Johnny Boy Blue?

I don’t know anything about it, except that it is purported to be a film about pedophilia. I didn’t work on it even though I was given a credit on it. Was it ever even made? I don’t know.

After you worked with Phil, it was a couple of years before you’d made your next adult film. Was that by choice?

Well, that’s mostly true. I did get involved with a mainstream feature in 1982 for Meir Zarchi who previously made the infamous “I Spit on Your Grave.”

It was not until 1984 that I returned to the screen as Elroy Brandy, or maybe it was as Elroy Right.

You are credited with shooting films in the 1980s for Lasse Braun and also Richard Mailer, aka Mr. Mustard.

I don’t have any recollection of working with Lesse Braun. Maybe I made a film that I can’t remember, and then it was edited into a number of other films? That happened quite often…one film then created into four other films with the original outtakes from the first film use to create other similar films with a different title.

I did film one production with Richard Mailer called Pretty in Black (1985). I have few memories of working with him or that film.

I do remember one film that I feel was a serious attempt at an adult film – and that was Turn on with Kelly Nichols (1984). It didn’t have a cockamamie story plot and it was an attempt to make something documentary-like. I thought that was one of the better adult films I shot.

The director was Lawrence Talbot, someone using Lon Chaney Jr’s Wolf Man name!

Why did that film stand out?

It was interesting for me as a DP in that there was a very small budget. We were shooting at Adventure Studios, and we wanted to do some things that were more creative than just set up, shoot lock off shots…wide, medium and close-ups. I went to a Dollar Store and bought these multi colored filters that were like plastic gels. I taped them over the lens and that’s why, when you see the film, there are moments where the images are very diffused with extreme color attached to it. Any back light would flare out.

Then I did something which I really loved: I had the grip build a large, lazy Susan. Instead of me going 360 degrees around the talent, I put the talent on the lazy Susan turntable which rotated. I could zoom and pan and push pack, and just let the lazy Susan go around. I was able to get some really wonderful moments. I shot longer takes too, because I varied the focal length of my 10-100 Zeiss zoom lens constantly as couples would go through every position imaginable. That was a satisfying creative moment for me.

You made a few films for Vince Benedetti at Adventure Studios?

Even though I am credited in IMDb working for him I do not remember shooting any footage for him. But I knew him well. He was a very likable, laid-back guy, not threatening at all. He was someone who initially knew nothing about the industry. At first, he had no clue what the heck was going on, but he got to know Gerry Damiano, and Gerry taught him the ropes and hired him to do sets and stuff.

His first credits were working for Damiano on The Satisfier’s of Alpha Blue which I filmed. Vince rented out his Adventure Studio for the shoot and Gerry also hired him to work on costumes and production design. And that’s how it began for Vince. He went on to become a producer/director later on.

What do you remember about Adventure Studios?

It was not a huge studio, but it was in a great location in Queens, not out in the country somewhere. Anybody could come by and a lot of films were shot there.

It had a downstairs area which we called the holding pen. And all the talent were instructed to go downstairs, and not hang out on set during the scene when others were performing. So everybody went down there when their scene was done.

And you worked for Cecil Howard too. How did you connect with him?

I don’t remember, but I first got hired by Cecil Howard in 1984 to film ‘Hidden Sin’ which at the time was the working title. That was followed by Snake Eyes II (1987) and then in 1985 I filmed what I consider to be the best of the Adult Films I worked on, Firestorm II: The Angel Blade (1987) which was not released until a couple of years after production. Then we did a bunch of other films together.

Firestorm II really had some merit. That was an example of when I was able to really be creative photographically. I hold the great distinction of winning the best cinematography AVN award for Firestorm II in Vegas in ’88 – although I never got a physical award! In fact, it was George Payne who years later told me that I’d won.

I said, “What award?” I looked it up and saw that he was right. It was amusing.

Firestorm II is literally a who’s who of who was in an adult film at that time. John Leslie, Eric Edwards, Sharon Mitchell, Paul Thomas, Sharon Kane. John Leslie won a Best Actor AVN award for Firestorm II as well. It all came together.

Firestrom II

Firestorm IIOn the set of ‘Firestorm II’ with Rhonda Jo Petty

What do you remember about Cecil Howard?

Out of all of the people that I got to meet creating adult films, he was most professional and the most intuitive as to what he wanted to do. More so than any other director. His wife, Anne, wrote the scripts, and they were always together. And again, he let me do what I needed to do so I appreciated that. He was one of the most skilled directors in this genre.

I remember at one location, which was a club on Third Avenue in Manhattan, I did one scene which was a long take. I always wanted to do longer takes, but not just have a set lock-off shot. Do a medium shot, then do a close up, and then do a reverse. I wanted to have movement.

I also always loved to use mirrors, so I had a mirror reversing the image during sex scenes and then swish pan to the actual non mirror image, which created an added intensity to what was going on. I felt very good about that.

Most directors are conservative or impatient when additional time is required to set up a complex visual. They prefer not to push the envelope too much. Maybe they’re a little more anxious about something that’s not going to work. They go by the book – instead of going by a feel and a flow and a vision.

Howard Winters

 

Howard Winters

After working for Cecil Howard, you didn’t do any other adult films.

Well, most of the adult work started to go to video. And a lot of it went to the west coast.

In terms of video, it become cheaper. You weren’t doing even multiple days – you were just doing one day. It was less creative. It was more amateurish. People got involved because they thought they could make a lot of money, even though they didn’t know what the heck they were doing. It was all just sex. There wasn’t anything that kept a thread to what you were doing, no semblance of a story. You would shoot over and over again a sex scene for, oh my God, like 12 minutes. Then a pay-off and then you go for another 12 minutes. Then another couple having sex using every position in the book and after four or five of these sequences the end titles would come up.

So it just got less interesting and less lucrative for you?

Yeah, and then I moved more heavily into other areas, including commercials, features, behind the scenes on major theatrical films and TV series, a ton of work for PBS like Frontline, Nova, Infinite Voyage, American Masters and The Story of English. I spent 20 years working on almost 200 documentaries for the BBC, and later working on reality series, including ten years shooting freelance for Entertainment Tonight.

The more you are away from something, you lose the contacts… and it becomes history, as was the case with my work on adult films and those relationships I formed during the 1980s.

So you weren’t in touch with Phil towards the end of his life?

No. And I was really taken back when I saw your picture with him. I didn’t recognize him. He did not look like Phil Prince to me anymore. He was so thin and frail. So, it was not surprising that I learned of his passing two weeks after you interviewed him in August 2018.

Looking back, how do you remember your period making adult films?

I’m very grateful that I had the opportunity to do so much diversified work. If it wasn’t for my friend Steve who introduced me to Gerry Damiano, and my adventurous curiosity to delve into something I had no prior experience in, a world that most people only read about and vicariously view would have not been a personal experience in my life – an experience that in many ways has enriched it.

Life is really serendipitous.

Elroy Brandy

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  • Posted On: 5th September 2021
  • By: Ashley West
  • Under: Articles

18 Comments

  1. Chris Williams · September 5, 2021 Reply

    It’s a shame you were never able to interview Jody Maxwell. She had a rather amazing story, meeting Gerard Damiano when he came to speak about pornography at her school, the University of Missouri Kansas City, he convinced her to star in a film that he would make starring her, Portrait. She didn’t make very many films, but had a long career as a columnist for Cheri magazine and in phone sex.

    She was a friend of our family. My dad worked for her dad, Ralph Martin, when he was the prosecuting attorney for Jackson County Missouri. She would call our home phone number and just talk and talk and talk.

    I used to mow her lawn on occasion.

  2. Jeffrey Zandrowicz · September 5, 2021 Reply

    loved it !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Liam W. · September 5, 2021 Reply

    Always great to hear more about the iconic Avon films!

    Deep Voyage sounds very interesting! Never heard about it before. From the stills you posted Jamie Gillis and Marlene Willoughby are in it. Who were the others that starred in it and what was the plot about? Hopefully this surfaces someday. I guess it would too much to ask for you to upload it somewhere. I can dream, I guess. 😉

  4. sloinker · September 5, 2021 Reply

    It may be my perception or maybe it’s the transfers of old film generations to VHS/CD/DVD but many of these films today from the Avon catalog seem dark and dull visually with many jump cuts. I’ve seen many that are mentioned and they were pretty shocking at the time I suppose, but that was long before the days of the internet. The personal histories are interesting but what is apparent is that the degree’s of separation between the actors/directors/producers/technical people are quite narrow in the area of actual individuals during this era of NYC porn films. Very incestuous. Keep up the very interesting good work!

  5. Jeff Robertson · September 5, 2021 Reply

    Happy Labor day weekend Keep Up the Good work Article

    • Joe · September 6, 2021 Reply

      Once again the historians of XXX deliver an amazing price of research.

      I read a fan boy profile of Bill Landis a few months ago, and it amazed me that there is still anyone who actually still rates him as being an accurate source. Good writer, yes. Evocative chronicler of the era, yes. Factual and accurate, sadly no.

      Thank you Rialto for setting the record straight. Without these pieces, history would be lost.

      • JCA · September 12, 2021 Reply

        Merely a question for my own edification:

        Given what has been said about Landis (here on RR and your own comment), should I then assume that the Sleazoid Express book is a moot reference to use for movie nights? Should I be using…I don’t know, Cinema Sewer? Some other site? RR?

      • April Hall · September 21, 2021 Reply

        Thank you Joe!

    • April Hall · September 21, 2021 Reply

      Thanks so much Jeff!

  6. J. Walter Puppybreath · September 6, 2021 Reply

    This is what you do best, RR!
    Fantastic hearing how these things were put together. It’s WAY better than actually watching them. 😉
    What’s the deal with this ‘Phil Prince’ dude? I like my porn, but if he was ‘performing’ live in front of me, I’d ask for a refund.

  7. Gary McEwan · September 10, 2021 Reply

    Absolutely and utterly BRILLIANT!!!!!!!! Thank You! You guys just keeep on giving us film nuts out here non stop treasure. Loads of great info, love to The Rialto Report, any episode on the Avon era is fantastic by me.

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