Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story Exposes The Gay Porn King

Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story Exposes The Gay Porn King

For nearly 30 years, Chuck Holmes’ Falcon Studios was the world’s largest producer of gay pornography, altering the way a generation of gay men saw themselves and their sexuality.

“Porn is an important part of the gay community,” says director Mike Stabile, whose documentary film Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story will screen at San Francisco’s Frameline Film Festival on June 21, and at L.A.’s Outfest Film Festival on July 13.

“When I was growing up, porn crystallized who I was, and my identity,” he says. “I wanted to tell the story of how the gay community has changed — from outsiders to the halls of power.”

The film turns a unique lens on gay history as it tells a tragic hero story. Holmes was something of a gay Gatsby — the self-made man who grew to be admired for his great influence and fortune, yet was privately shunned for the source of that fortune.

When the Indiana farm boy arrived in San Francisco in 1971, mainstream culture viewed gay life as lonely, sick, and criminal. (Today it’s amusingly quaint to hear clips from newscasts of the time refer to porn as “dirty movies,” “smut” and “obscenity.”)

But reflecting Holmes’ vision, the early Falcon films featured handsome, athletic, masculine young men, who evolved from the lean, mustachioed clone look of the 1970s to the smooth, preppy, boy-next-door look of the 1980s. Where did gay men of the time discover their personal style? In a large part, from Falcon films.

With today’s ubiquity of porn on every laptop, tablet and smart phone, it’s also surprising to see how dangerous it was to make porn in the early days. “They were targeted by the FBI, by police, and by vice squads,” says Stabile. “It shocked me to see how long people went to prison. Porn director Matt Sterling served three years in the state penitentiary.”

The film includes interviews with former porn stars such as Jim Bentley, Tom Chase and Jeff Stryker. But the most insightful comments about Holmes the man come from his long-term partner Steven Scarborough, with whom he had a complicated relationship.

The film’s great irony is that despite the heights to which Holmes achieved political, social and philanthropic power — hobnobbing with the Clintons, David Geffen, Calvin Klein, and Mikhail Gorbachev — he was still held at arm’s length. His generous campaign contributions were often returned, and his most notable friends declined to participate in the film.

A conversation with Stabile and some of the film’s participants who knew and worked with Holmes will follow the June 21 screening.

For more information, including more upcoming screenings of Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story, go to the film’s website.

 

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