April 21, 2012

Taste the Sperm of Dracula!

"You have done me a great service....Now I must service you!"
The Marquis De Suede


The “Dracula” myth is perhaps one of the most overworked source materials in the horror genre. The character of Count Dracula along with his many brides, daughters, sons, and lovers has been resurrected countless times on the silver screen, from the silent days of Murnau's direction of Max Schreck's rat-like performance as Dracula, to Dario Argento's current 3-D meditation on the Count. The adult film industry has also made it's contributions to the genre with several soft and hardcore versions of Dracula who along with his disciples seem to take an unholy delight in sucking dry or literally  “doing” anybody with a pulse, as well as, some without one. The very first attempt to do a “gay" take on Dracula came in 1983 with the production of a sex film known as “Gayracula”.

"That's a big stick....I mean, dick"

“Gayracula” is very much in keeping with the tradition of AIP's “Blacula” which came before it, melding contemporary themes like the blaxploitation genre with traditional vampire lore. Both of these films have tacky prologues set in the past then quickly move the narrative into the present. The movie is a pre-condom sex farce with some clever situations, bogged down at times by tedious moments of “business”. The film’s best set piece arrives at the beginning as we see monks carrying a coffin into a crypt. There they open the coffin only to witness the corpse transform into a silly rubber bat, not unlike those found in Hammer films. The main titles are also very much in keeping with that tradition of Hammer titles like “Taste the Blood of Dracula” or “Kiss of the Vampire”.  

From this point on we are presented with what the type of gay sex film which is meant to deliver your standard nude, buff muscle guy, but in this case he is wearing only a traditional black cape while sporting rather butch army boots. This is the way I remember “Gayracula” at a special screening so long ago as being a somewhat clever and campy romp in the casket, but more to the point are the rather odd circumstances in which I saw this movie that contributed to me never forgetting the experience and now I will tell you why.  

Dr. Reed ("I'm not really a doctor")
This is a time capsule of the mid-1980s when most gay sex was safe, men had bad haircuts, and disco was king. I, myself, had been a rather half-hearted member of an organization known as The Count Dracula Society which had been created back in 1962 by a chubby little man with an impossibly high voice named Donald A. Reed. By 1969 he was calling himself "Dr." Donald A. Reed and nobody could really ever figure out why since this man failed his bar exam over and over again during the time I knew him. He was also an absurd ego maniac who singlehandedly ran this organization, pretty much as a despot would run a third world country. His East Los Angles abode that he called home always looked like a really scary episode of “Hoarders”,  a home, by the way, left to him by his grandfather.

During the course of any given month The Count Dracula Society would screen films that dealt with vampires or especially Count Dracula, so because of this and for no other reason, “Gayracula” was a film The Count Dracula Society decided it needed to see. The major concern with screening an explicit sex film at The Count Dracula Society was that its membership was made up of decidedly asexual people, who, for the most part, appeared to be trapped in their own childhood trauma where the only escape was to use horror films as a mantra for dealing with reality. Now, of course, there were many exceptions to this situation as the membership of The Count Dracula Society was also made up (at various times) of industry and professional types like authors Robert Bloch and Ray Bradbury. Lon Chaney Jr. was even a guest speaker in 1967. However, most of the celebrity names would find themselves leaving the group behind when Dr. Reed took to "knighting" its members with a sword.
As luck would have it during the time of that particular screening of “Gayracula”, I was working quite a bit with Forrest J. Ackerman, who usually made a point of attending most of these events held by The Count Dracula Society, being one of their honored charter members. One thing I will say about Forry Ackerman to his everlasting credit, he was never judgmental in matters of sexual preference. He was actually well ahead of his time in all aspects of sexuality. Forry had even written a short story about the future, in which homosexuality was the norm, while being heterosexual was out of fashion. 

Forrest J. Ackerman ("Oooh, pardon my penis")
When Forry heard more details regarding the sexual nature of the film, he had a field day, kidding me about it and making a lot of puns regarding sucking blood, as well as, impaling victims with things other than a stake and we both knew very well what kind of audience The Count Dracula society was composed of and none of them, we were convinced, had ever seen men having sex with men on film. They could handle any sort of on-screen violence but move the action to the bedroom and they were lost at sea, or so we thought. I made a wager with Forry that most of the membership attending this screening would never manage to remain in their seats until the end of the film. 

The screening was set at the ungodly hour of 10:30 a.m. at the Four Star Theater located on the 5100 block of Wilshire boulevard. The theater was a landmark of sorts in Los Angeles and it remained just that for many years until it was finally changed into what is now, the Oasis Theater, which no longer shows vintage films.
Now Dr. Reed went about his business as usual for this particular screening, as he had always done in the past, inviting the director of the film Roger Noel who by then had also wrote and directed several other gay sex films like “Men of the Midway”, some with “Gayracula” star, Tim Kramer. Forry had phoned Dr. Reed earlier that day asking if I could interview both Kramer and Noel for Famous Monsters magazine, just in case he could get away with doing a sidebar on the film for a Dracula tribute issue he was planning, trying to include every title involving the Dracula name.

"I sleep in this cape, y'know!"
The morning of the screening arrived and we all drove down to the Four Star Theater to meet the hunky star and director of “Gayracula” in the flesh. The theater was nearly half full when we got there and in no time at all Dr. Reed made his way up to the front of the screen, ready to introduce the film to nearly 75 fans in attendance. The only concession Dr. Reed made regarding the subject matter was a over 21 policy and that was enforced that day as well. He also warned the audience that if anyone was offended by graphic nudity or acts of homosexually, now was your chance to leave....and nobody did! Dr. Reed always made the worst speeches imaginable at these events, going on for what seemed like hours, reminding anyone still listening (or still awake)what a fan he was and how many times he had seen “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” ad nauseam. It was not uncommon to see members of the audience reading a book or a local newspaper while he whined on about himself and his importance to all things Dracula.

"Wait a minute....this isn't The Whales of August!"
As the house lights finally started to go down, our audience for this screening consisted of about 40% women, ranging in age from 25 to 70 and I noticed that two of the older ladies were in wheelchairs. The men were all around 25 to 50 except for Ackerman of course who even then remained ageless. The film opened in such a traditional way with the hooded monks and such that the audience really went along with it as a bonafide vampire film, so when it changes gears into gay sexploitation they stayed with it, which definitely surprised me. 

"Guess what I'm pointing to now?

By this time I had already seen a number of films with Forry, including the sexually explicit “The Beast”, so I sort of knew how he watched these things. Forry loved movies so much that when he was watching one, he kept a sort of “Man Who Laughs” smile on during the whole process. During this one, he would occasionally look over at me as if to say "see everybody is still seated". “Gayracula” has a sex scene about every ten minutes and even with that the novelty wears off rather quickly once the action moves to the present. The infamous disco party scene with the leather guy shooting silver balls out of his ass was a new low, even for the 80s, yet this audience took it all and more until the final fadeout where boy meets vampire and they love ever after, as Forry would say. When the lights went up, Forry looked over at me and said, "Well, Dave, now we know why vampires need to sleep all day.....They’re worn out from all that night time sex." Priceless.

The house lights went back up now and Dr. Reed returned to the stage to introduce the director Roger Earl who seemed pleased with the way the audience remained for the Q&A, with his leading man Tim Kramer next to him. It has been far too long ago for me to really remember any details of what was said that morning, but what I do recall is one guy stood up and asked if any of the sex we had seen on screen was real. A long pause followed and then Roger said, “Well, do you mean did any of the guys really shoot their loads?” With that the guy sat down looking very confused and then dead silence. Forry gave me one of his big smiles and advised me to "Go on up there and introduce yourself before anybody else shoots their load".  All I could think of to reply was, “Oh Forry, you know I always take aim before I shoot anything". So with that I made my way up to where the film’s director and star stood, as if waiting for that train ride to nowhere.

"David, where are you?"
Tim Kramer in the flesh was blond, square jawed and handsome, and a rather intense looking young guy, plus he was well-endowed (as anyone who watched the film can attest) and he had a great build and he knew it. I think he was relieved when I told him I was the one who wanted to interview him for Forry Ackerman's magazine because at least I was closer to his age, but more to the point, he was told I had been an agent as well. Tim was a bit reluctant to talk at the screening, especially in the presence of Roger Earl, so we decided to meet later on at the French Marketplace in West Hollywood for lunch. He also asked for my phone number in case something should change our plans.  Later that night I received a call from Tim which I will never forget because it wound up breaking whatever ice their would be and ultimately created an unlikely friendship in the process.

Tim wanted to know if I would like to see him later that evening as he had "special rates" for guys like me who were in the business. Of course it hit me all at once that Tim had really gone to that screening mainly to look for "clients", since at that time he made most of his money as an “escort". At this point I will skip the details of the rest of that conversation and the evening that followed except we did have a good laugh when I explained that I really did want to have that lunch and talk about what it was like for him making “Gayracula”. Tim told me that he enjoyed making the film and especially playing a vampire and wearing fangs. He wanted to know if I thought they should do a sequel, which, of course, I told him depended on how well the first one did, money-wise. Most guys who work in porn never really know how much money is made on their films. Tim, whose real name was Doug Cooper, was an exception in this case, as he was very good with money and soon developed his own production company called Pegasus, that, in turn, lead him down the road to owning a health store in Los Angeles and later in San Francisco. Tim was a great guy with a zest for living and loving, but sadly he died far too young at the age of 34 from complications of HIV on April 16, 1992.

“Gayracula” was without a doubt a landmark gay film, as well as, being yet another camp addition to the growing list of gay vampire films, both soft and hardcore. The tradition continued with “Love Bites” made by the self-styled softcore porn actor Kevin Glover who produced Cult People, my very first VHS collection of interviews taken from my “Sinister Image” cable TV show. Kevin wanted to create what he called "a romantic take on boy meets vampire" while, in fact, what he did was make a really dull softcore vampire romp which was quickly forgotten. “Twinklight”, made in 2010, gave us another view of the “Twilight” saga which always seemed to be ripe for parody with Taylor and Robert going off into the moonlight leaving Bella to wonder what she did wrong. “Dracula Sucks” was one of the better titles with my longtime pal Reggie Nalder playing the Van Helsing role under the assumed name of Dertlif Von Berg, as if that amazing face of his could ever be mistaken for any other actor in the first place.
While most of these films never escape their target audience in porn, it is clear that one of the most important developments in the growing popularity of Dracula and his kin in 21st century films is the explicit connections between homosexuality and vampirism.  Beginning with the Anne Rice novels in 1976 with “Interview With A Vampire” which opened the coffin doors for films like “The Lost Boys” or Clive Barker’s “Nightbreed” and television shows like “True Blood”, “Dante's Cove”, and "The Lair". Vampires now seem to love and desire each other in decidedly erotic terms, hungering for a bloodlust while they search through cityscapes of nocturnal cruising, exchanging bodily fluids. which is all that is required to turn one’s victim into a creature like yourself. These films become a parody of the gay "coming out” process, as the wildly sexual vampire Lestat said in the screen version of “Queen of the Dammed”....."Come out come out where ever you are!”

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