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It was early summer in 1977, and the adult film actor, Jamie Gillis, should have been on top of the world.
He was perhaps the most successful and recognizable male figure in the relatively new, relatively glamorous, world of adult entertainment. He’d just starred in The Opening of Misty Beethoven (1976), the most accomplished sex film to date – and he suddenly found himself to be a public star of sorts, fielding offers for mainstream films and theater productions, appearances on chat shows, as well as being offered plenty of easy money for more porn movies too.
So why was he experiencing such a dark existential crisis?
Jamie was a world-weary 34 at the time, hardly an old man, but nevertheless an aging one, and he was more acutely aware of decay than most. He was a tormented soul, a unique combination of dry self-confidence and wry self-loathing. His doubts plagued him: the choices he’d made in life, the future that seemed to be coming far too quickly, the potentially imminent end of his career in adult films, and his lack of money. “I belonged in a Rolls Royce or on the Bowery: I just couldn’t tell which,” he said.
He was a mess of contradictions: he felt old for the first time yet was unavoidably attracted to youth, he was haunted by thoughts of death yet still felt like a little boy, he didn’t enjoy many other people but he was afraid of being alone. And above all he was driven by, and was almost a slave to, his uncontrollable appetites. Food, art, sex. Especially sex.
So in the summer of 1977, Jamie was at a crossroads – and embarked on a trip to Europe. Or in his own words, not so much a voyage of self-discovery, rather one of self-destruction. In truth, he wasn’t sure he’d ever come back. He took the boat from New York to France and selected cities that would match his most profane and insatiable appetites. He started in Paris, before going to Berlin, Copenhagen, and finally Stockholm. He intended to stay until he spent all his money, or until he ran out of hope. He almost didn’t come back at all.
But if this story isn’t about adult films, why is it relevant to The Rialto Report?
The answer is simple: the real story of the golden age goes far beyond just the movies. And it revolves around the people who were making the films – who they were, why they became pornographers, and how they felt about it. And to this day, Jamie Gillis undoubtedly still remains one of the most intriguing, enigmatic, misunderstood, controversial, and elusive of all adult film performers.
Jamie didn’t take much with him on the trip – some clothes, cigarettes, travelers checks, and a book or two. But he did take a cassette player – and each day and night he recorded his experiences, thoughts, and feelings in an uncensored manner: the thrill of the chase, the emptiness of feeling lonely, the ecstasy of sex with a new person, the perversity of being different, the joy of new food, the fear of growing old, and vivid dreams of Tyrone Power – the Hollywood film actor whose character in the 1940s film ‘The Black Swan’ Jamie had been named after, who haunted his dreams continually.
And remarkably, after his initial despair, Jamie’s trip became a revelation: somehow, against all his expectations, he found a form of redemption, and even love.
That journey is recorded in these hundreds of hours of intimate cassette tapes that have never been heard before. They add up to a 1970s travelogue, a confessional, a sex tour. But mostly they are a portrait of a complex man trying to find his own brand of beauty within personal darkness. And if you know anything about Jamie, you’ll know this journey is not for the faint-hearted.
This podcast is 77 minutes long.
Jamie Gillis in 1977
Ok, ok, ok. So I know it’s been said before. Not by me, but by the many people who avidly consume The Rialto Report’s incredibly deep, intelligent, and extensive content. But I can only repeat it.
How do you keep unearthing such incredible items??
Jamie Gillis’ freakin’ audio diaries???? Almost 50 years later?? This is incredible.
Incredible – and you deserve every credit that comes your way.
Interesting to hear Jamie Gillis in his own words. Some great Gillis nuggets that stand out: noting the difference between just an erection vs “the happy hard-on”, his reference & affinity to the original “Nightmare Alley” film (the recent re-make is fantastic), and his childlike squeal of glee.
This was just a beautiful, moving listening experience. Quite right we now know him even less – what an enigma he was. I wonder if there might be a volume 2?
Thank you so much Walter – we really appreciate it!
Love the content thank you so much! Please tell me the song /artist during the beginning monologue.
So there are going to be anti-Jamie thoughts and comments, I get it. Probably from people who haven’t listened to this podcast in its entirety. But ignoring the misguided…. this is quite extraordinary. Leaving aside that these tapes actually exist, and that they have been kept for so long…. the story that is revealed is revelatory. I thought it was going to be one porn story after another, but then, hearing JG talk about Hans Christian Anderson or being a balloon seller or talking to works of art almost moved me to tears. Very special indeed.
Thank you Sara!
Have to admit, as erotic memoirs go, this is up there with Casanova, De Sade, and the rest! Except that the humanity that shines through makes it particularly human and intimate.
Awesome Article Jamie Gillis And Podcast Keep Up Good Work Happy Thanksgiving
Jamie being a Danny Kaye fan, the Hans Christian Andersen statue in Copenhagen was a wonderful moment. The enchantment he experienced like when he was a child was totally unexpected. How many hours of tapes did you go through? Great episode
Thank you John!
This is great. Really great. Thank you.
Thanks so much Paul!
Unexpectedly moving and affecting.
I’m going straight back to listen again.
Jamie’s Life stories outdo Henry Miller’s.
I know that feeling too well – to do something bad and then want to hear, “You must be terribly hurt to’ve done that – what can I do to help you?”
I learned, though, that doesn’t happen often, so self-comfort and -healing are my watchwords.
Thank you for sharing this with the world.
Thanks for listening L.A.!
Sending best wishes for a relaxed and restorative Holiday!
The Rialto Report Team always takes the DEEPEST dives… but this is all together different (with profoundly, perfect artistry). Just the sound of the cassette player turning on and off sends delightful chills up our spine.
JG’s definition of Truth and Beauty live on… He can’t ever be denied.
We appreciate it TC!
Wowwwww Again Wowwwww. Continue to bring Excellent Journalism. Ashley I know your the Executive of Jamie’s Esate and it undoubtedly is Endless. Sunday’s in the fall for me was always about the NFL, now I also Anticipate The Rialto Report. Thanks for such intriguing Journalism
Thanks very much Mort!
Wow. Adult film history had come a long way since the amateurish film reviews on DVD Maniacs, and the cod-intellectualism of academia.
This podcast alone reveals more about the psyche and motivation of one of the industry’s leading performers.
Damn entertaining as well.
Harry @ I’m surprised that someone has mentioned(and remembers) DVDManiacs,which is a separate topic(about its Rise and Fall) that can be discussed in a more proper time as you’re right about how the on-line examination of the history of adult/porn cinema has indeed come a long way courtesy of the many knowledge filled adult cinema historians that have come along to keep its history vividly alive and well. And yes,those Jamie Gillis cassette tapes are truly incredible as someone ought to make a hard R-rated mainstream film about that European vacation period in Jamie Gillis’ life.
A rollercoaster ride.
Frankly mind blowing – not just Jamie’s words but the editing, storytelling, music, and presentation.
All of your sharing has made Jamie Gillis live on in a unique way because nobody, even the most avid fans have been exposed to much of this. I wonder if he might have had that thought before he died, in allowing you to have this material he kept to himself. Because of all he had been through, I somehow thought he would live forever, it seems. So his passing was definitely unexpected at the time, and the world was definitely more interesting with him in it. The Dos Equis pitchman “The Most Interesting Man in The World” had nothing on Jamie Gillis!
Thanks for the thoughtful comments Christopher!
I hope you can update this interested reader about the Jamie Gillis memoir.
Phenomenal. Thanks for having the courage to publish this raw content.
The fact that The Rialto Report accepts no ads or sponsorship and is not beholden to any external organization is one of the key reasons it is so successful. You clearly do what you want all the time.
Don’t know how you fund it though but am eternally grateful that you do.
Thank you so much Marius!
Jamie was the king. This is an incredible show—thanks so much for bringing these tapes to light.
You’re very welcome Vivi!
This was absolutely fascinating.
Honest to a fault (as is the way with diaries) but so absolutely in touch with all facets, feelings and thoughts (faults?)
This episode was very well put together (as usual!) and I’m sure great care went into selection and final delivery.
Thank you for all that you do – stories like this are very much appreciated.
We appreciate that Matt!
A wonderful Thanksgiving treat. To echo what so many others have said, this site is a treasure and I can’t thank you enough for your efforts.
It’s glib to say, but much as Jamie was a product of his time, he’s also one of the actors of that era who seems very current to me, especially his very clear-eyed views of his sexuality. I sometimes think of where he would be if he started today.
I’m always fascinated by the number of actors in those years who truly did believe mainstream and porn would merge into one. I think that’s one of the reasons more of them, even those who were just slumming, took their work a bit more seriously. I think that’s one of the reasons I find myself more drawn to ’70s performers, especially the male performers; once you get into the ’80s you start to just get the people – not to generalize, because there are some who started in the ’80s that I think highly of (like Tom Byron) – who focus more on it being a factory, or it being a joke, and there’s less of the real star power, and presence, and dedication.
Thank you JL3!
Jamie will always be my favorite “dark sider”my vicarious escape from a mundane routine.
Have you ever seen his “private tapes”?
Or his collaboration with Peter Sotos?
This is real nasty stuff. 😉
This is absolute GOLD!!
I savored every word. Jamie was a true hedonist.
Any chance of releasing the rest of the tapes for a Rialto Report audiobook? I would gladly pay.
This is a project that could be outsourced, I know you guys probably don’t have the time.
Thank you, Rialto Report! It was so good to get inside Jamie’s head and hear his thoughts.
I intend to go back and play this again immediately.
I certainly hope it will be a volume 2.
‘Rock Bottom Riser’
I remember more than a decade later Jamie walking me and my dog 50 minutes outside of Florence to see Giambologna’s iconic sculpture. I was barely past my teen years and he was in his 40’s but he had no age. When it came to art his enthusiasm was palpable.
I am so glad you are sharing this. The majority of the public think that people who make adult films are one dimensional and the images rob them of humanity. I appreciate your work restoring the humanity to people I knew and those I did not. They all deserve to be seen as the full people they were.