The Anatomy of
Jack Wrangler

The Anatomy of
            Jack Wrangler

John Stillman got
his start in show business in the mid '50s at age
9 when he starred with America’s tap-dancing
sweetheart, Eleanor Powell, in the religious-themed TV
show Faith of Our Children. Now he’s a
producer and director of Broadway musical reviews and
is married to Margaret Whiting, chart-topping singer of the
1940s and 50s.

But in between
being an emerging religious star and a happy husband,
Stillman was known as Jack Wrangler, the rugged blond stud
who exploded on the gay porn scene in its 1970s golden
era. His charisma, which extended to an acting ability
beyond the sex scenes, and his unique gift to be able
to deliver a money shot on cue made him in demand by the
adult film industry. So much so that when he decided
to make a shocking and unprecedented foray into
heterosexual porn, he continued to prosper until his
retirement in the mid 1980s.

Stillman’s
rich life story is explored in the new documentary
Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon, produced and
directed by Jeffrey Schwarz.

The Advocate:While you’ve never fully escaped the fame you
established as a porn star, with this documentary coming
out you’re back in that spotlight. How is
that for you?
Stillman: I was involved in two very legitimate
projects when this whole thing came up, and I wasn’t
sure it was a good idea. I’m never sure
anything that I do is a very good idea! It just
happened. I think my whole life has been a
“happening.” One of my parents said,
“Just open yourself up to all the wonderful
possibilities,” and I always have. I get in a
lot of trouble, but I have an awful lot of fun.
[Laughs]

When were you first aware of your homosexuality? I was about 12…or 10…or 9 or 8. I
saw a man with his shirt off. My father [TV
producer Robert Stillman] was shooting Bonanza
at the time. I was very attracted to Michael Landon,
of course -- everyone was. I know I got caught by my
father around 10.

Got caught doing what? Masturbating! [Laughs] I had a big
walk-in closet -- a huge walk-in closet, and --

You were literally in the closet? Masturbating? I was literally in the closet. [Laughs]

Jack Wrangler x390 02 (TLA) | Advocate.com   

What was your first sexual experience with a man? Uh, gee… This is a strange story -- a
story I’ve never told. There was a guy named
Toby Stuston -- I can say the name because it appeared in
all the papers eventually. He went to a military
school. Dean Martin’s kids went there, Jerry
Lewis’s kids went there. It was an expensive private
boys school. Toby’s parents had a strange
relationship. They used to bring all these ashtrays on
board their yacht and throw them at each other at
night. He used to take me out on [the yacht] on weekends and
he’d blow me. [Both laugh] And that was my
first experience.

You said his name appeared in papers later. What for? Little Toby Stuston became big Toby Stuston. He
organized, I guess, a male prostitution ring out in
the Valley [Los Angeles's San Fernando Valley] -- and
his chauffeur whacked him. Beat him to death. Real bloody,
real horrible. They found him in the car -- throat cut and
everything. That’s what happened to Toby
Stuston. That’s the first time that name’s
come up in a lot of years.

Your father watched some of your gay films; can you
tell us about the conversation you had with him after that?
He never said a word about it. I found out
later. One thing he did say to me was “I hope
you know what your next chess move is gonna be.” He
hoped that I had a plan in mind. People always thought
I had some big master plan. Things just
happened. 

Your first time having sex with a woman was
captured on film and is a scene in your first straight
porn film, China Sisters. Was the actress who
took your hetero virginity aware that it was your
first time?
It was two women. They were supposed to be
Chinese girls; they actually were blond, charming,
funny girls from Santa Barbara with a whole lotta
“Chinese” makeup on. [The film crew] were all
aware that it was going to be my first time. It was
very awkward, and then with all that “Chinese”
makeup…that “Chinese” got all over
everybody! [Laughs

Having done pornography, do you find that people
are unwilling to let your personal sex life be private?
And does that bother you?
I don’t talk about it. If
anything’s ever written about me, it’s always
“Jack Wrangler, former porn star.” They always
say that, whether I’m doing a ballet or a
Broadway show, and that bothered me for a while, but
not much.

Your romance with Margaret Whiting transcends so
many stereotypes and expectations. Has it informed or
changed your views on sexuality?
I’m not bisexual and I’m not
straight. I’m gay, but I could never live a gay
lifestyle because I’m much too competitive. When I
was with a guy I would always want to be better than
him: what we were accomplishing, what we were
wearing -- anything. With a woman you compete like
crazy, but coming from different points of view, and
as far as I’m concerned, that was doable. I
love competing with Margaret on things, whether we’re
both in a show -- one wants to get better reviews than the
other -- or when I wrote my autobiography, immediately
Margaret had to write hers, and she never had any
intention of writing an autobiography until I wrote
mine! [Laughs] That’s the kind of thing that
I can live with. Also we make each other laugh.

Jack Wrangler x390 03 (TLA) | Advocate.com 

In 1980 you, your step-grandmother, and manager
were assaulted by a gang of six thieves who tied you up
and beat you up --
We were followed home from a restaurant in
Beverly Hills. I thought we were gonna be killed. At
the time Margaret was appearing in Las Vegas. I called
Margaret and said, “I can’t join you in Vegas,
I’ve been in this terrible robbery,” and
she said, “Oh yeah yeah yeah, Jack.” She
thinks I’m fooling around again. And then
Rosemary Clooney brought a newspaper to Margaret
[reporting the incident] and said, “My God! Did you
hear what happened to Jack?” And
Margaret’s felt bad about that ever since.
[Laughs]

Of all your non-porn accomplishments, what are you
most proud of?
The show I’m working on right now.
It’s called Ain’t We Got Fun. We took
three F. Scott Fitzgerald short stories and scored
them with music by Richard Whiting [Margaret’s
father].

Well, that’s all my questions, Jack. We’re done! Hey, we did all right. You know, The
Advocate
is about the only gay tabloid that
existed before I started in the business. I’m
honored to be in it.

The honor is ours. 

Wrangler: Anatomy
of an Icon is available now on DVD from TLA Releasing.

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