By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Often, gay male porners are arrested by AIDS, a problem nearly nonexistent in its hetero video counterpart. For a porn actor, it is required that he or she undergoes a PCR/DNA test every month. The director must see test results before any sex scene is shot. Condoms are required on most gay sex sets. Valentino works all-condom. "I insist on condoms or I won't do a scene."
Many gay porn stars use the porn work as a means to beef up a take from turning tricks, whereas a popular female porner can earn a hundred grand or more a few months out of the year simply touring strip bars as a featured dancer.
I go to meet Christian Valentino at The Hideout in central Phoenix. Its roomy, gilded interior teems with sculpted males in matching G-strings hawking table dances to a handful of giggly women and a few churlish gents whose eye contact suggests a sort of challenge to an introduction.
Up on one of the stages, in the hazy, burnt-orange lighting, Valentino's lithe frame maneuvers up and down the 25-foot pole like a seasoned dancer. The movements vary slightly in terms of timing and tempo, part ballet, part slithery sleaze. The leopard G-string drops. Three women at the bow of the stage leer, and adore each move and choice Valentino makes. They eagerly peel one-dollar bills from small rolls in their hands. The money is placed carefully on the lip of the stage.
Valentino's act is more about movement and far less graphic than that at an all-nude female cabaret. It's far more narcissistic. You sense he'd be doing the exact same detailed dance if he were alone in front of a mirror.
The show and song end, and Valentino bows absurdly. He saunters over, his body glistening in sweat. "Shit, that was great," he announces. "You know I do like girls, I do, really. But I looooove men."
Valentino is here working; dancing, gyrating, preening, and it's seemingly in vain. Tonight his cell phone is dead because he couldn't make the payment. The eviction papers he had recently received ensure that he has nowhere to sleep. His rent-boy sob story, though spongy with ample Camille-esque drama, is a subterfuge of real sadness. His bulletproof armor, that arrogance, is circumvented with childlike insecurity. It's a heady medley that breeds desperation and recklessness.
"I have nowhere to go, okay," he sighs. "Everything I own is in boxes. I don't even have anywhere to keep my dog."
One of The Hideout's owners, who requested anonymity, says he feels sorry for Valentino. "He's got an attitude. The kid's got some things going on. He seems out of control."
Because he is broke and homeless, Valentino tells me he has to spend all the next day hustling. He's his own personal escort service. He employs a driver for protection.
"I think anyone who's that active and that young hustling, there's some kind of problems going on," says Jonathan Bond, who was one of Valentino's local drivers. "Once I picked him up at this place called the Chute. He comes out and he's kinda like athletic, affecting this sort of masculine posture. It was some kind of front. He gets in and he starts counting all this money. It was pretty obvious he had hundreds of dollars. He said when he was inside the club he was surrounded by people and he couldn't get this guy off his dick. It just seemed sad. He reminded me instantly of one of those Portland kids hustling in My Own Private Idaho."
"I can make $1,600 in two days," Valentino claims, then adds contritely, "but I'm scared shitless. I love doing porn. I love to have sex. I don't want to have to do this [escorting] for long."
Conversations with Valentino are fraught with contradiction and subtle manipulation, the words of a bright but confused 19-year-old. He is not easily accountable, and can play up the Hairdresser on Fire bit with aplomb. His days are either strung ahead like perils or he's in the role of the victim unaware that his plight is self-inflicted, the end result of a series of personal choices.
Porn, in a way, allows Valentino autonomy from the demands of his desires. Yet the porn biz has taught us that odds are a 19-year-old anal queen does not make for an attractive, out-of-work 30-year-old. He says he likes the money, and it's obvious he adores the attention, but it's a shortsightedness, that glittery definition of self-worth. He's kidding himself about what the Navy did to him, he's kidding himself about the normalcy of his family life, and now he's kidding himself about where it's all going.
From any standpoint, hustling and being sodomized on porn set by a total stranger is a hell of a way to make a living. Valentino's manhood is reduced to, and defined by, its lowest common denominator: penis performance. It says if you can't keep it up, or if you can't take it, you will soon be out of work, and, at that point, perhaps, out of luck.