John Stagliano by Violet Blue

XXX Files January 2003

In the glaring eye of our culture, the men in porn are only seen for one thing: their dicks. It’s interesting to note that in a superficially focused industry where the women are judged harshly by viewers and pornographers for their looks, men are seen as simply a penis. For observers such as C. Everett Koop, there is nothing beyond the surface; they are, as he puts it, “throwaway people.” And to ratings gold diggers like Diane Sawyer and Frontline, there is nothing beneath the surface that doesn’t represent either a victim or a perpetrator; porn is a study in black and white. But dig deeper, to see the world in color, and you’ll find that many of the men in porn are interesting and fascinating characters: well-read scholars, artists, men comprising the stuff of seedy legends, Rat Pack-style myths, and yes, sometimes lost little boys.

In the adult industry, the pay for men is much lower than for women. It’s an industry where men who must perform more often to make the same pay as female performers. There are fewer male performers than female due to the specific physical requirements of the job, and just a few men are in literally hundreds of films. But quite a few of the guys have, for power, money or artistic reasons, become writers and directors of their own films — with much success. Each develops his own style, appeal and personality, or sinks into the sea of male-ego-driven porn directors with all the rest.

With John “Buttman” Stagliano, it’s all about the booty. Beautiful, lush, buoyant, bouncing, round and enthusiastic booty. If you like backsides, anal sex in all its permutations, and women who like it too, any film by Buttman is a gold mine. Stagliano has done for women’s asses what Russ Meyer did for women’s breasts — elevated them to objects of worship. Stagliano transgresses taboos in pursuit of an iconic fetish, and he has committed his adoration and obsession to film. And though he shoots in a “gonzo” style, where he is consciously part of the action as the cameraman and director, unlike those of most other gonzo auteurs, Stagliano’s tapes have high production values and great quality all around. They have interesting locations, often being shot in Europe and Brazil, and sport terrific lighting, no music, excellent camerawork, respectful interactions and gorgeous performers who really want to be there and are really enjoying the sex. It’s easy to see why his work is so highly regarded, and why he himself has become legendary.

Born in Chicago in the early 1950s, Stagliano moved to Southern California in the early ’70s to go to school, intending to pursue economics. He began to pick up jobs for extra cash as a nude model. By 1979 he was a Chippendale’s dancer — can you imagine Chippendale’s parties in the late ’70s? Whoa. At any rate, by 1983 he was involved in porn, and produced videos with Bruce Seven until 1989, when he formed Evil Angel Video with Patrick Collins. The name came from his old stripping name, Evil John, and a former girlfriend, Angel.

The Adventures of Buttman was released in 1989, changing the face of porn forever with the introduction of gonzo-style shooting, also seen around the same time in Ed Powers’ Dirty Debutantes. These no-plot, all-sex, “horny guy with a camera” adventures were groundbreaking and well received by porn consumers. Over the years, Stagliano refined his fun-loving, butt-grabbing Buttman persona and his own filmic style.

Stagliano performed in his videos until he contracted HIV, when he openly announced his condition and retired from filmmaking. Since then, his life has become an open book for the industry, which you can see in Buttman Confidential, where he talks openly about his outlook and about his experiences with sexual risk-taking, contracting HIV, and working in the adult business.

Fortunately for us, Stagliano returned to his place behind the camera to direct more Buttman videos, turning out his highest quality work yet. In addition to his gonzo work, he’s now added feature films with outstanding character-driven plots. His new work has extremely high production values, is well-developed in cinematography and story arc, and when shot gonzo-style, it’s still unscripted and improvised. And the scene framing is clever as hell.

The sex acts in Stagliano’s films are not for the porn novice. You’ll see lots and lots of anal sex, group scenes, masturbation, cunnilingus, deep throating, rimming, ass-to-mouth*, spanking, facials, voyeurism, domination, very light S/M, face sitting, fetishwear and toys including various butt plugs, nipple clips, anal beads, dildos and vibrators. There can be some gaping (spreading open the anus or vagina in between acts of penetration), spitting on genitals (and in faces in a loose dominant/submissive context) and some grabbing of the women’s heads and throats — this stuff, though consensual in Stagliano’s videos, is not for everyone. There is intense chemistry between performers. Some even feature real-life porn couples, such as Jazmine and Nacho Vidal. Safer sex choices are left to the performers — so condom use is rare.

His recent features are some of his most mind-blowing work to date, creating feature epics that look and feel just like a big-budget Hollywood film, though they contain (sometimes literally) hours of sex. The remarkable aspects of Stagliano’s latest videos are particularly evident in The Fashionistas, which took an unprecedented 10 awards at the recent AVN video awards show. Here, Stagliano presents a story that is driven by the main character’s sexual obsessions, and when the male character is seduced and delivered his sexual fantasies on a very clever, remarkably disguised platter, we have a reason to believe that the ensuing sex belongs in the film — no easy feat.

Keeping up with Stagliano will be very interesting as he continues developing his high standard of filmmaking. To see a very hot Buttman flick, check out any recent editions of Buttman’s Bend Over Babes.

* “Ass to mouth” is when a finger, penis or sex toy is inserted anally and then orally. It is a common practice in porn, though it is considered unsafe and is the main transmission method for contracting Hepatitis A. Don’t try it at home.

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