The Darling of Gay Porn

Homme Fatale

OK, here's a quick gay-porn primer: Two of the biggest-name actors in the industry are Jeff Stryker and Ryan Idol, and the guys who achieve such star status are the ones who appear on top during the action. Joey Stefano was the first, ahem, "bottom guy" to get top billing and appear on the box covers of videos.

When Stefano was 15 years old, his father died, and Stefano quickly dropped out of school, started doing drugs, went to New York City, and realized men liked him -- a lot. He became a hustler and was soon stripping in gay clubs. Stefano then went to Los Angeles and became the darling of gay pornography. That was in 1989. By 1992 he was a has-been, overexposed, and no longer able to find work. In the fall of that year, he died from a drug overdose at age 26.

Joe Waterman, who acts out Stefano's tragic life in the one-man production of Australian playwright Barry Lowe's Homme Fatale, is gay, happens to be 26 years old, and lost his father about a year and a half ago. The similarities between the Chicago actor and his role end there.

Details

Through Sunday at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach (305-674-1040), then opens Wednesday, December 1, and runs through December 12 at the Wilton Playhouse, 1444 NE 26th St., Wilton Manors. Curtain for all performances is at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $25. Call 954-571-7909.

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"I don't have a porn collection," Waterman says, "so it's sort of a whole new world I'm stepping into." He didn't even know who Stefano was before he read the script for the play. So like any good actor, he did research, watching some of Stefano's early videos and reading the Stefano biography Wonder Bread and Ecstasy by Charles Isherwood, as well as a tell-all volume by Chi Chi LaRue, the transvestite who directed a number of the nearly 50 blue films in which Stefano appeared.

Stefano's death opens the play, the rest of which is performed as a series of monologue flashbacks from the setting of a gay strip club. Props trigger memories: A man's shirt prompts Stefano's remembrance of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of his father. Snorting a packet of cocaine brings back memories of both happy party weekends in New York and those of strung-out low points in Stefano's life. Waterman also goes on stage naked and appears to shoot heroin and drink alcohol.

Racy stuff. But without glorifying or condemning the porn star, the show instead reveals Stefano as a sort of gay Everyman, claims Waterman. Stefano's life might be an extreme example, he says, but many gays deal with issues of drugs, sexual identity, and acceptance.

"I've had people come up to me and say, 'I saw the show and I've really been thinking about my life and the way I live my life… and the show really had an impact on me,'" says Waterman. "That's the goal, [to] make people at the show think about their life."

 
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