rame.net  :  book reviews  :   rarely pure
From: Tim Evanson <tevanson@erols.com>
Subject: NEW Scott O'Hara book, "Rarely Pure and Never Simple"
Date: Wed, 17 Feb 99 20:57:57


Haworth Press has posthumously published a collection of essays by porn legend Scott O'Hara. Titled "Rarely Pure and Never Simple," the book contains poetic tidbits and short essays on just about everything. Within this book's 217 pages, you will find essays on: What constitutes beauty, how a REAL top fucks (and it doesn't involve dirty talk, spitting, or humiliation), the eroticism of hospitals, why O'Hara supported NAMBLA, why O'Hara changed his mind and came out against drugs, why he hated gym queens, why he liked water sports, the need for gay men to "learn lust" rather than fumble their way through sex, the coldness of '90s porn, the importance of masturbation, and the unimportance of sex.

Each essay is fairly short, usually two to three pages long. They are written in what I call the "O'Hara voice." Scott O'Hara was an extremely wealthy individual who left home with hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank. He had parents who had raised him in what can only be called an extremely bohemian lifestyle free of homophobia. For most of his life, he was urged to "be himself" and to explore the world. Fear of peer pressure, sucking up to the majority, and "going with the flow" were lessons his parents refused to teach. O'Hara's enormous cock made sex, cruising, love, and friendship easy to come by as well. These advantages insulated O'Hara so that he rarely had to confront the challenges life offers most people.

Indeed, O'Hara readily admits that he lived an insulated, isolated life. Consequently, O'Hara (as he himself admits, again) writes with a certain holier-than-thou attitude and a rather over-confident opinion. Yet, O'Hara was also an intelligent man and a keen observer who refused to hold his tongue in the pursuit of "good relations."

One of my favorite chapters in the book is "Making Porn: The Hangover," in which O'Hara discusses the horrific experience he had starring in Ronnie Larsen and Caryn Horwitz' play, "Making Porn." Reading the gay porn press, one would think that these two are beloved by all and that the play is some sort of modern-day "Our Town." Yet, O'Hara dares to puncture this hot-air balloon: "[In] all my years of fucking for money, I never met a producer or director as slimy and unscrupulous as that pair." Ouch. Did I just hear some bitch get slapped?

Indeed, some of O'Hara's most insightful and scathing writing is reserved for the porn industry he loved. In an essay on the nature of the porn business titled "Slightly More Than Two Cents Worth," O'Hara takes to task those who claim porn takes advantage of innocent, na´ve youth: "Pornstars are getting paid relatively huge sums of money for doing practically nothing; the people who claim that they're being exploited are the same people who think that sex in general is degrading." There is a great deal of truth in what O'Hara says. Yet, at the same time, O'Hara ignores the tales of young men hired to bottom in what they are told will be a gentle anal scene, only to have it turn violent and ugly once filming commences. O'Hara fails to acknowledge that there are gray areas: peer pressure, drug and alcohol use, the casting couch and subtle forms of blackmail ("Oh, is your paycheck late?" and "Gosh, where did you get the idea that this wouldn't be marketed in your home town?"). Such instances are rare, and, yes, such instances usually occur on porn's periphery rather than on the sets of mainstream studios. But how many Brazilian, Czech, and French young men are told that they are being hired to perform in a straight porn video, only to arrive on a set full of men and pressured into having gay sex "just this once, for the money" because the "girl didn't show"? Probably more times than we might want to realize or admit.

Such failures are not common in this collection, however. For the most part, despite the over-generalizations and lack of subtlety, Scott O'Hara is rather skillful at showing the reader how black meets white. With one hand, O'Hara shows us the immovable object; with the other, he shows us the irresistible force. Juxtaposing the two is what makes this book such a delight. The title of this book is taken from a line in Oscar Wilde's play, "The Importance of Being Earnest": Truth is rarely pure and never simple. Scott O'Hara may have found sex too easy to come by (while the rest of us struggle to even catch a man's eye). Yet, O'Hara still knew how important sex was. O'Hara may have taken a "back in my day, sonny, we knew what good sex was and how to make good pornography" attitude, but he still knew crappy porn when he saw it: "What I want to see is a pornflick where all the participants LIKE to suck dick. This doesn't seem like such a difficult task, really, but most current porn seems to be actively avoiding, capitalizing on the supposed gay fascination with the unemotional, unresponsive Butch Male." (John Rutherford, call your office.) Indeed, at times, O'Hara is quite insightful about how the porn world works. Porn's detractors argue that performers are exploited and dehumanized because they have no power in an industry dominated by sexual politics. But O'Hara casts doubt on this claim. "In this business, more often than not, it's the producers who are sincerely trying to help their talent 'get on their feet,' counseling them and cutting them slack and LENDING THEM MONEY, fergodsakes! - and the talent who are trying to rip off the producers for all they're worth." This book does double-duty, not only in analyzing the porn world but in providing an antidote to those starry-eyed individuals who believe porn stars are God's gift to men.

"Rarely Pure and Never Simple" may be high-handed in its opinions and too sure of itself. But it also speaks the ugly truth about some of gay culture's most beloved myths. Cranky, opinionated, and even at times vulgar, this is one of those books that grabs you by the shirt, shakes you up, slaps your face, and makes you smell the coffee. It contains the finest writing O'Hara ever published. The book is $19.95 (foreign price is higher). You may order it by calling 800-429-6784 (outside Canada/US, call 601-771-0012), email an order to getinfo@haworthpressinc.com, or by visiting the Haworth Press Web site at http://www.haworthpressinc.com.

See ya...

Tim #1


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