Colby Keller Is the Marina Abramovic of Gay Porn

First published on VICE.com, July 5, 2014. Read the original here.

Like many gay porn stars, Colby Keller has a knack for versatility—and I’m not talking about how he’s worked as both a pitcher and a catcher. In between working for the top companies in gay porn—including Randy Blue, CockyBoys, and (controversially) Treasure Island Media—Keller has put his anthropology degree to good use, writing about art, barebacking, and capitalism on his blog, Big Shoe Diaries.

For years now, I’ve wondered about what goes on in the dirty mind behind Keller’s goofball grin. When someone told me Keller was giving away all of his possessions—except for a plaque of Lenin—as part of an art project, my curiosity was seriously piqued. With all of his possessions discarded, Keller’s now embarking on “Colby Does America… and Canada Too!”—a lengthy road trip to make art, meet people, and get laid. In each state Keller will film himself fucking a guy in the back of a van in the name of art. Wanting to know more about the Marina Abramovic of gay porn, I caught up with Keller at a Pret A Manger in New York to discuss his art projects, capitalism, and why porn is better than his “horrible, evil job” at Neiman Marcus.

VICE: Why did you decide to create your van project?
Colby Keller: I don’t have a house, I don’t have a home, I don’t have a destination, and I don’t—for at least the immediate time period—want to think of one. The van is a way of thinking about home on the road, and also thinking about our future, because we’re all probably going to have to set out in vans and move around, and there will be a lot of displaced people, and a lot of people will die. I want to embrace this future we’re making for ourselves and that capitalism and this horrible landlord are forcing me into. There’s a porn trope where they’re going to fuck the whole country, so I’m gonna fuck America! America has certainly fucked me, and I’m going to fuck back—but in a nice, positive way.

What made you become a porn star?
I was taking courses at the University of Houston in their studio art program, and I really didn’t like it. So I dropped out of the program and graduated with a degree in anthropology, but there aren’t a lot of lucrative jobs out there in the field, and we were in another recession. I was also curious about porn. My favorite site was Sean Cody, and just on a lark, I was going to send in some nude pictures, totally expecting to be rejected—actually, I kind of wanted to be rejected. I wanted them to tell me I wasn’t worthy! And then they came back and said, “Oh no. We’re actually interested.” I was like, “Oh man. God, they’re into it! Do I have to do this? I guess I have to.”

I eventually got other jobs while I was in Texas. I worked for Neiman Marcus, a horrible, horrible, evil job. They didn’t want to consider me a full-time worker, even though I worked there for two years, 70 hours a week, just cause they didn’t want to give me health insurance and they wanted to pay me $10 less than anyone else on staff.

You often discuss capitalism. Capitalism clearly affects our work lives, but how does it affect our porn consumption and sex lives?
I have some guilt when it comes to that, because porn specifically presents a problem. Does porn inform people’s sexuality, or does porn simply try to access those things in your sexuality to sell itself to you? Obviously, the product always does this thing where you’re never completely fulfilled, so you buy more of it. As a porn performer I feel somewhat responsible for that, because sometimes the images that porn produces aren’t healthy ones. It’s very formulaic: We’re going to give each other mutual blowjobs, maybe the top will eat the bottom’s ass, then there are three fucking positions, then they both come. Who in [his] right mind has sex like that?

You’re a porn performer and also an artist. Do you identify as a performance artist or as a visual artist?
I try to think of it as everything. I don’t want to put a limit in terms of what mediums I can use, but to me the main medium is Colby Keller. Art projects for me need laws—creating a law gives you the power to break the law, which is the best part of having one—but I don’t want rules to limit the kinds of tools I can appropriate as an artist.

With performers like James Deen pursuing porn and other careers, porn has become more mainstream, like it was in the 70s. Why do you think this is happening?
Part of that is about the structural and financial problems that the business itself is encountering, and about social media. The late 80s and early 90s were the golden era of gay porn, and models got paid really well. Companies controlled the images of their models under an exclusive contract. They would do all the work of marketing you and making you a star, kind of like the old Hollywood system. Now there’s much more pressure for the models themselves to do promotional work—to be on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook. In some ways it’s good to have ownership of that image, but also it’s a lot of work you’re not getting paid for.

We didn’t queer the institution of marriage. It straightened us.

First published on The Guardian, June 28, 2014. Read the original here.

Wisconsin. Indiana. Utah. Hardly a week goes by that the courts don’t rule same-sex marriage street legal in another state in America (the last twenty-two consecutive cases have all come down on the side of marriage equality), making what once seemed impossible now seems unstoppable. Wedding white is the new black – and all the gays are wearing it.

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“Where Were You During the Christopher Street Riots?”

First published on The New York Public Library LGBT @ NYPL Blog, June 27, 2014. Read the original here.

The document above was handed out by members of The Mattachine Society, one of the earliest and longest-running homophile organizations in America, in the days following what would eventually become known as the Stonewall Riots.

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How to Date a Gay Novelist Who Is Older Than Your Dad

First published on VICE.com, June 21, 2014. Read the original here.

When I was 25, I moved to Berlin with a beat-up copy of Christopher Isherwood’s The Berlin Stories tucked in my bag. Like many hobosexuals and fagabonds before me, I considered the book a lodestone, a guide to transmuting aimless searching and polymorphous desire into meaningful experiences. So when I heard that Farrar, Straus, and Giroux was releasing The Animals, a collection of the letters of Isherwood and his longtime lover, artist Don Bachardy, I knew I had to read it.

Bachardy met Isherwood when he was 18 and Isherwood was 48 (a year older than Bachardy’s own father). Despite the age difference, the couple spent the next 33 years together. Though love affairs and artistic exploits frequently sent them ricocheting around the world, they maintained a deep and unbreakable connection. They expressed this affection (and frustration) through “the Animals,” personae the two adopted in their letters. Bachardy acted as Kitty and Isherwood called himself Dobbin, Kitty’s faithful horse.

Bachardy, now 80, still lives in the house the couple shared in Santa Monica. Shaking with faggoty fan boy excitement, I called Bachardy to discuss The Animals and what it’s like dating a famous old man who was older than his dad.

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The Fiction Writer Shirley Jackson Stars in Her Own Novel

First published on The Daily Beast, June 18, 2014. Read the original here.

German seems to have a word for every screwed-up specific emotion. If I were to pick one to describe the strangely compelling, deeply unsettling fiction of Shirley Jackson, it would be unheimlich. Freud coined the term to describe the uncomfortable feeling of the familiar suddenly turned foreign. Technically, it means un-home-like, but a better English translation might be uncanny, as in the “uncanny valley,” which refers to the sudden sharp jump in creepiness that occurs when computer animation gets too close to looking human. Jackson, best known today for her short story “The Lottery,” in which a sweet, semi-rural town gathers for a harvest festival / ritual stoning, seems to live in the uncanny valley. All throughout the ’40s, ’50s, and early ’60s, as Americans embraced normal like it was our job, Jackson insisted on showing us the cracks at the margins of our communities, our sanity, and our very reality.

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‘OITNB’ Transgender Star Laverne Cox’s Unbelievable Year

First published on The Daily Beast, June 6, 2014. Read the original here.

It’s been a whirlwind year for Laverne Cox, the unexpected breakout star of the Netflix smash hit Orange Is the New Black. In case you’ve lived under a rock for the last 11 months, the show follows an ensemble of strong female characters living in a fictional prison in Litchfield, Connecticut, and Cox plays Sophia Burset, a transwoman in jail for credit card fraud. In the first season, we watched as Sophia used her people (and hair) skills to find a place for herself among the inmates, while simultaneously trying to save her relationship with her wife and young son on the outside.

With the second season premiering on Netflix Friday, Cox’s career shows no sign of slowing any time soon. In fact, she’s already won too many awards and accolades to list, though when asked to name a favorite, she responds instantly.

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