Michael Musto's Icons: Robin Byrd


“Lie back, get comfortable, snuggle up next to your loved one, and if you don’t have a loved one, you always have me, Robin Byrd.” Those have been the most comforting words a TV viewer could hear ever since the ex–porn actress launched her leased-access cable show way back in 1977. In her crocheted bikini and lip gloss, the relaxed, New York–based Byrd brought out porn stars with large body parts to dance, then try to talk, followed by a group rendition of “Baby, Let Me Bang Your Box.” The result has become so legendary that the old episodes are more repeated than I Love Lucy! Meanwhile, Byrd — a longtime Andy Cohen favorite — carries on as a Fire Island deity and the subject of an upcoming documentary.

Hello, Robin. Why don’t you run new shows? ’Cause you’re just as good as the last thing that you’ve done, and I’ve done it all. And there are no porn stars anymore. There’s no places where they’re performing. People are all the same. They don’t look any different anymore. But my message is still the same. “Lie back, get comfortable…Have safe sex. Use condoms.”

How has porn changed since the advent of the Internet? In the same way video changed the radio star. The Internet is accessible from everywhere and you don’t have to go out and buy it anymore, you just log on. Everybody and their grandma is an amateur now at having porn — and doing porn.

Did you think it was bizarre to become famous for a leased-access show? No. I think I was changing the look of television, and that’s why I became a celebrity. And it was always leased access, which is one step above public access because I had to pay for my time. So I didn’t get bounced off. 

Do you make money from the show? No. I lose money from the show, but I believe in the message. Stay positive, love one another…I believe it’s my mission to remind people. That life is good. But now not too many people have TVs anymore. They watch TV on the Internet.

Did you ever make money from the show? I used to, back in the day, with the phone sex [chat lines, advertised on the show]. That was enough to pay for the show. I had many time slots. The more time I had, the more I bought. It was easy because nobody else was buying the time.

Your show always covered a large array of sexualities. Do you think sexuality is fluid and everybody’s a little bit bisexual? For me, absolutely. I’m bisexual. I always joke that I’m trisexual — I try everything sexual.

Have you had a lot of experiences with women? I have. I enjoy both. Pussy and penis. And then, if it’s on the same package, that’s like, “Bingo!” Remember, I was the first one to bring out chicks with dicks — although that’s not a politically correct thing anymore, as I’ve been told by transgender people. I had chicks with dicks back in 1980. I’ll never forget my first chick with dick — the cameraman didn’t know. He’s watching this beautiful blond with a nice butt, and I go, “OK, now turn around.” She had the biggest wiener around. The cameraman almost fainted. The whole crew! I love that. The shock value of reality is so much greater than the fantasy.

Did you ever think you were a lesbian? No, I like going back and forth when I need to. I think we’re all born bisexual. It’s society that creates the genre. They’re always telling you blue is for boys and pink is for girls. It’s just a color. As a kid, I had guns in holsters and dolls and fire trucks. I was definitely not raised with pink ballerina wallpaper.

Your adoptive parents were very cool. Are you always surrounded by gay guys? Not always, but a lot of times. I prefer it. They’re so pretty. We’ve got a lot in common. Also, I’m not a threat to them and they’re not a threat to me. I think I’m reincarnated. I’m a gay man in a woman’s body. I work wonders with a strap-on. I can channel my wiener any time [laughs].

Why do you love Fire Island so much, aside from all the guys? Because it’s so close to nature. I live on the ocean and I have nothing obstructing my view. I don’t have an 80-floor building in front of my face. There’s no noise. However, I’ve started seeing critters come out of the woodwork. More raccoons and fox and deer than I’ve seen before. There’s more garbage around, and there’s no birth control for the critters, so they’re just multiplying. 

You got press all around the world for that raccoon bite you got. I know. Of all the things that I do, I get so much press about the raccoon! That traumatized me, actually. The one that bit me was sleeping, and I disturbed it. I’ve had four injections already. I had breast cancer six years ago and I can’t use my right arm for injections because they took out my lymph nodes there. But that’s OK because I’m right-handed and nothing destroys my penmanship. I’m finished with cancer. Cancer schmancer. Cancer free!

Congrats. Having your husband Shelly helps with everything, I’m sure. He is the woman I wanted to marry, and I say that because he’s very warm, and even though he’s super macho when he needs to be because he’s from Brooklyn, he’s still very sensitive and I love him. People don’t realize how understanding he is. Anybody that can take my shit deserves to be on a pedestal. He’s my energy. We’re soul mates. I think we’ve lived together before.

You’re one of those people who enjoys being a celebrity, no? I do, only because it spreads love around. I don’t get bombed with paparazzi or anything. I guess if it got out of hand, I might not enjoy it, but I enjoy my celebrityism. At least I’ve done things for it, unlike some celebrities we won’t talk about.

And you speak out on issues. What do you think is the biggest problem in the gay community today? Having unsafe sex and thinking AIDS isn’t going to happen. A misconception of what a silly little pill can do. They all think that they can’t get AIDS. And even though they’re positive, two positives don’t make a very nice cocktail. I remember once, when I did a conference at the LGBT Community Center about barebacking and guys were so defending of it, and I said, “How can you defend barebacking when you’re positive and the other one is positive, and you’re on one cocktail and the other one’s on another cocktail, and you make this mutant germ?” And the doctors agreed. I’m not even a doctor, but it’s just common sense.

What’s your legacy? I was real. Imagine if we had a camera in the back when everyone was getting ready, and we’d documented that? Imagine how popular I’d be now.