Jamie Gillis' Biography
Born in New York City, Jamie Gillis trained as an actor and graduated from Columbia University. He appeared in off-Broadway plays and drove cabs to pay the rent. He was, in all sense of the word, a regular guy. It wasn't until he answered an ad in the Village Voice for nude modeling that his career in the adult entertainment business began. He started with live sex shows and porn loops. During the live sex shows, Jamie would read poetry and recite passages from Shakespeare's work to ensure they contained socially redeeming content and thus avoid arrest.
For much of the 70's, Gillis was the other half of the most notorious couple in the adult industry with porn legend Serena. They were known as the S&M couple for their usual off-camera activities. And while it wasn't unusual for actors to appear in roughies in the 70's, Gillis stood out by virtue of his genuine enthusiasm, his gift for verbal abuse, and his willingness to go that extra mile. Commenting on the subject in the year 2000 in an interview with Gene Ross, Gillis said: "My feelings are that we're talking about sexual fantasies that are being acted out by paid performers. This has nothing to do with dragging girls off the street and beating them up. There are a lot of girls, a lot of men, for that matter, who love being abused sexually, both in fantasy and actuality. And why people who are not into that particular thing feel that they cannot allow this, is stupid, outrageous, hypocritical crap. I can't tell you how many girls have come to me over the years because I have that reputation. They tell me they can't find this kind of treatment, that men are wimps, men won't do this. You try to get a guy to do something like this and they don't want to do it. They don't understand it."
Gillis was known for being totally uninhibited on set, willing to perform straight sex, bi-sexual sex scenes, and gay scenes. Often cited as the greatest actor in porn, Gillis was also reviled as being too extreme or too hardcore. His performances were erotic and visceral, and had the ability to either attract or repel an audience at first glance. Of his early days of shooting porn, he has said: "It was a fly-by-night thing happening in a counterculture. So on top of the sex, you had this attitude: 'This is our generation doing something different than anybody else would do.' Even though it wasn't explicitly political, in the sense that some of the rock and roll was - it was of the time, like smoking pot or dropping acid. It had that vibe: 'We hang together because we have some kind of consciousness, and we're also making some bucks and getting our rocks off.' But then you had this complete change in technology in the business, and now there's nothing countercultural about the scene - nothing 'outlaw' about it."
After his incredible run in the 70's, Gillis moved on from the long storyline scripts and expensive sets to something a bit more exciting. The 80's had him taking to the streets in a limousine with a porn actress and attempting to lure perfect strangers into having sex on camera. He became known as the pioneer of gonzo style films with his wildly successful series On The Prowl. He also helped to produce the popular Dirty Debutantes series with fellow producer Ed Powers. In a 1999 interview, Gillis told San Francisco's Spectator Magazine, "On The Prowl was the first video of its kind to be labeled 'gonzo.' These days, however, everyone else is really not doing what I consider gonzo. My idea was to do live, spontaneous stuff with real people who were not connected to the porn industry. I wanted to find people on the street and say, 'Hey, buddy, you wanna get laid?' I mean, that doesn't always work, either; people are a little bit mystified by the whole thing. But the upside is that they're not performers with really fake energy which you see so much of in porn today, which I hate. It's that 'ooh-ah, ooh-ah, do-me-baby' thing. Gimme a break. It was boring for the most part - and today it's even worse. And after I did the original On The Prowl, other people caught on and made it more of a set-up situation, more of a commercial product."
Switching it up in the 90's
Jamie's interests took another turn in the 90's when he began making underground films of intense degradation, performing in both submissive and dominant roles. He worked with Bizarre and Redboard, and specialized in hardcore material that featured everything from bondage to S&M, watersports to Coprophilia. Never having made a secret of his bisexuality, Gillis made his first all-gay porn film in 1997, a sado-masochistic video in which he did not actually perform sex acts, but rather issued orders to the other members of the cast.
Gillis is easily one of the most prolific actors in the industry, with nearly 500 films to his credit and countless more private films and loops. And while porn was his main focus and allowed him to fulfill his every fantasy, he also appeared in a few mainstream films as well. He had a cameo in Nighthawks (1981) and appeared in the occasional cheesy B-movie as well. But his true love was in the adult industry and he never strayed far from that world.
After the Porn Party is Over
After retiring from porn and settling into a relationship with Zarela Martinez, a restaurateur in New York City, Gillis did an interview with Susie Bright about what it's like to live a straight/vanilla life after decades of depravation in the porn industry. When asked 'does the sizzle endure,' Gillis replied, "It never ends. I remember - there used to be an old Jewish dominatrix in New York called Belle du Jour. And she was popular. I would go to her place just to hang out sometimes because it was interesting. Guys would come in. This old guy who must have been close to ninety comes in, and he goes in the back with her. And she has these black, thigh-high boots on. And he falls onto the floor, and he's lapping at her boots. And I'm thinking, 'My god. It never ends.' You know, you'd think when you were ninety, you'd have a little dignity. Something would change. But it doesn't! It just goes on."
Sadly, Jamie Gillis passed away in 2010 after a short illness. In an audio interview he gave in the 70's, he stated that he wanted his ashes to be scattered in Times Square, but years later he changed his mind saying that 'clean Times Square would contaminate them.' This comical expression of his deviant proclivities is no surprise coming from a man that was known to try anything. His work in the industry as both a performer and director have garnered him countless awards and nominations, and earned him a place in porn history. A pioneer in many ways, Jamie Gillis' work will continue to inspire and excite fans for years to come.
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