Brian-Mark likes octopus, baked chicken, and macaroni and cheese. Given the choice of going to a gay bar or attending the opera, he'll take Aida over Abba. His favorite color is purple, and he's crazy about ornithology. His taste in reading runs toward novelists from the 20s and 30s--Fitzgerald, Somerset Maugham, Edna Ferber. More than anything, though, he loves fucking on film, barebacking on film, jacking off on film, sucking cock on film. "What won't I do? In front of the camera, probably nothing. I feel safest there."
Brian-Mark ("I have a last name, but I don't use it in pornography") has been in the adult-film business for six years, with some 30 films to his credit. All of them--with titles including Pigs at the Troff, Pig Sty Brown, What Pigs Do Best, and Leather Buddies--feature something kinky: boot worship, water sports, scat. Dick Wadd, a producer and director of gay fetish films, has called Brian-Mark the "biggest pig in the business," about which Brian-Mark says, "That's quite an honor, you know. People ask, 'Are you a top or a bottom?' I say, 'I'm a pig.'"
At 46, he might seem old for an industry that thrives on twinks and surfer boys. But "older men are now a hot item," he says. "I came around at the right time." The secret to his success, he says, is that "my look is mean. Guys love that arrogant, threatening male stuff from me." In addition to his film work, he strips on a regular basis at several local gay bars and runs his own Web site, www.brianmark.com, where access to the hard-core photos he posts of himself is free. Surprisingly, given his exhibitionist tendencies, there's no 24-hour live Webcam. "I would love to do that," he says. "I should. If I did live camera I'd make big money."
On a chilly Saturday afternoon in the back room of Cell Block, a leather bar on Halsted, Brian-Mark and his friend Ron, a photographer who doesn't want his last name used, are prepping for a photo shoot. The pictures will be posted on Brian-Mark's site. They might also wind up in one of the fetish magazines Ron contributes to: Foreskin Quarterly, Bear, or Power Play. Ron is the one who suggested Brian-Mark go into porn in the first place. "It didn't take much convincing," he says as he sets up lights.
Brian-Mark quickly shucks his clothes, leaving on a black leather cap and his trademark black leather boots. "I always have on boots when I'm having sex," he says. "I think it's hot." He jumps down from the box where he has been sitting and dabs at his left nipple with a Kleenex. "I wish it would stop bleeding," he says, irritably. "It's oozing a lot." A doctor in Joliet who "specializes in a lot of things like this" has injected KY Jelly into his chest to puff it up for the photo shoot. The effect "probably only lasts a day," Brian-Mark explains. "It gets absorbed into your body pretty quickly, or you sweat it out. All the boys in LA are doing this."
Ron asks if he's ready, and Brian-Mark climbs onto a pedestal covered in carpet, ready to be moved into the first pose.
"You want me to hide my dick first?" Brian-Mark asks.
"Yes. Let's have that cocky attitude."
"That's what they like--cocky and mean," says Brian-Mark. He glowers at the camera as Ron begins to click away.
"Put both your hands on your ass," he directs. "But my dick's not hard," Brian-Mark protests. Ron instructs him to correct the situation, and Brian-Mark obliges. "I can get hard like that," he says, snapping his fingers. "I'm known for that in the business. It's a joke, 'Oh, the wind changed direction--Brian-Mark's dick's hard.'"
"Yes, but it goes down every time I take the camera away," says the photographer.
"People think he's like that 100 percent of the time," Ron says later. "When they see the videos and the magazines people think he's really mean, really satanic. They think he's gotta be a baby killer because of the way he looks. They really buy into it. It's so funny because it's so far from the truth."
"Could you hand me one of those Cottonelles?" Brian-Mark asks. He dabs at his rear end. "This is a trick of the trade. I always have these butt wipes--you don't want to leave a little track now. Everyone in the business knows that." He bends over, exposing his rear end to the camera. "This is pretty arrogant--you're getting an armpit, a tit, and my hole."
"Brian was a curious little boy," says Brian-Mark's mother, Lou Ellen Wilcox. "He was an active child. He loved animals of any kind--frogs particularly."
Brian-Mark is the fifth of six boys; his parents met while his father was stationed in South Carolina during World War II. They met at a dance; Chester, who hailed from Iowa, was 31, and Lou Ellen was 17 and flirtatious. At one point he said to her, "If you marry me, we're going back to Iowa," and that's what they did, settling on a 160-acre farm outside of Holstein, population 1,000, which Brian-Mark describes as "north of nowhere."
Life on the farm followed the typical routine of chores at sunup and sundown, says Brian-Mark. "My friends who know me well cannot imagine that I used to clean shit out of hog houses and hunt for eggs in the henhouse." He was dramatic and emotional, which, "in Iowa, didn't fit in very well." He remembers crying hysterically when his 4-H hogs were sold. When he was around seven or eight, a neighbor took Brian and his brothers to the town swimming pool. In the locker room, he saw "the Croxel brothers--and they were big, beefy football boys--in the shower, and I thought they were the most beautiful things I'd ever seen. I just thought they were pretty, like looking at a lovely piece of artwork. I didn't know what that meant."
He was drawn to theater and speech and band, and for a while he played the clarinet. His voice teacher loved his singing and put him in swing choir. "We sang 'Rainy Days and Mondays'--this'll ruin my porn career. I loved the Carpenters." He was popular and clever, and he dated often but not seriously--all of which kept him from being bullied. "I didn't go through puberty until 16. I still had baby teeth. I grew overnight, like the corn did."
When Brian-Mark was 16, Chester died of cancer. By then the farm had been sold, the family had moved into town, and Lou Ellen was studying to become a psychiatric nurse. Brian-Mark's senior year in high school was filled with turmoil. "A guidance counselor said I wasn't smart enough to go to college and wanted me to go to a farming community college." Instead he moved to Fremont, Nebraska. "I auditioned and got a voice scholarship at Midland College. I was going to be an art singer."
There he met Andre, "this big fat black drag queen. I'd done a little petting with girls, but with boys, no. I was so asexual. Andre talked about cocksucking one night when we were at Sambo's pancake house, and I couldn't breathe." He was stunned to find that the theater department was chock-full of gay men. He waited until he was a sophomore to have sex. But "once it started, I had it a lot. I guess I was tired of being a goody-goody." By his senior year he had come out to his friends.
He graduated from Midland in 1978 with a double degree in theater and secondary education and taught high school for a year and a half in Buffalo Center, Iowa. But he found the atmosphere stifling and moved to Omaha "to be a big ol' homosexual in the big city. I thought Omaha was big stuff then." Almost immediately he met his first real boyfriend, Gordon. By this time he'd come out to his mother, who recalls that visit with her son. "We were driving and he said, 'Mom, I'm different,' and I said, 'Of course you are, you're not like everybody else,' and he said, 'I'm gay,' and I said, 'I understand.' We came back to where we were staying and he slept on the couch, and the next morning I got up and looked at him. He looked the same, he was breathing the same, he didn't look any different. That was my acceptance at that moment."
Gordon and Brian-Mark moved in together in 1980. During this time Brian-Mark was finding work onstage and off on the dinner-theater circuit, in shows like The Odd Couple, South Pacific, and Fiddler on the Roof. After performances he'd go out to gay bars, and he started meeting people who were into the leather scene. "I was deathly afraid of them. I thought they were just a little too extreme....I was afraid to admit that I could be kinky," he says. Theater jobs weren't steady, so he got a job teaching English at Cathedral High School in Omaha. Meanwhile, his relationship with Gordon was waning. "I just had a lot of wild thoughts. I started fucking everybody, and he did too, and I couldn't get enough. I was masturbating all the time." In 1983, after a weekend visiting an old college friend in Chicago, "I came back in the middle of the school year and announced that I was moving. Gordon and I had a very ugly breakup."
In Chicago he stayed with the college friend for a few weeks, then rented "a shithole on Surf" where he was robbed twice in a year. He worked a series of menial jobs but also started to get non-Equity parts. Within a few years he had worked his way up to the local Equity dinner theaters. "I did The Music Man at Drury Lane with Gary Sandy, and I was FDR in Annie at Drury Lane South. I was really too young, but I always got character parts like that." A long stint with Forbidden Broadway followed. He worked as a waiter at Spiaggia during the day, and he had "little affairs" here and there.
As success came in his career, Brian-Mark began to explore his kinky side. A bartender at the Eagle, one of the bars he frequented, told him he needed some leather chaps. "He said, 'I can get you a pair of used chaps,' which is what I wanted. I think hand-me-down leather is kinda sexy."
A few nights later he returned to the Eagle with his friend Jerry. The bartender brought out the chaps, and in front of everyone in the bar, Brian-Mark dropped his pants and put them on. "Jerry said, 'Oh my God, Brian-Mark, you can wear leather.' I had a shirt on, but then I came home and I took off everything and put the chaps and a pair of boots on. You look in the mirror and this whole persona, this whole change happens. I immediately had to beat off in front of the mirror."
Sometime around 1987, Ron, who had been working as a product photographer, started doing pornographic photo shoots, concentrating on the leather scene. He'd done figure work in college and received compliments for it, so "I tried it like I did any professional work," he says. In 1991 he got his first magazine cover, for Drummer. In 1993 a friend of Ron's from Male Hide mentioned that Brian-Mark would be a good subject and agreed to set up a session between the two. "I thought he was going to be really difficult," Ron recalls. "He had all these restrictions and would only agree to a half-hour session. I thought, 'This is going to be a nightmare.'"
"I thought it would be this kind of lecherous old man who just wanted to get his rocks off taking pictures," Brian-Mark remembers. He'd been investigating the leather world pretty heavily, trying out a lot of different things, and the bartender who sold him the chaps had urged him to do the session. It took place at the Eagle, and the two hit it off immediately. "I was thrilled," Brian-Mark says. "It was really erotic. I remember going to work that night at Spiaggia and smiling and thinking, 'I've had my picture taken naked.'" Ron recalls that he kept saying, "Don't you need to go?" and Brian-Mark said, "No, no, I can stay."
When Ron showed him the proofs, he told his subject, "If you ever want to do any more, let me know," and Brian-Mark responded eagerly. "Ron and I became inseparable friends. What I liked about him is that we could talk about anything. We would discuss things so openly." Soon they were traveling together to leather fairs around the country. At one of them, Brian-Mark turned to his friend and announced that he wanted to have his penis pierced.
"I like to go for the gold," he says. "I don't mess around."
One of the most eagerly anticipated adjuncts of the International Mr. Leather contest, held in Chicago each Memorial Day weekend, is the leather market. Usually housed in a large convention hall or hotel ballroom, the market is filled with sex-toy vendors, reps from gay video and photo producers, and purveyors of all forms of leather accoutrements, including piercing artists. "Gauntlet had the best professional piercers," says Brian-Mark. "I don't think they exist anymore. I actually met the man who did Madonna's nose, and I wanted the best. I talked to this guy for a long time, and I said, 'This is the guy that's going to pierce my dick.'"
He got a Prince Albert--a piercing that goes through the urethra--and his first piece of jewelry was about the size of a small earring. A quick healer, Brian-Mark kept going back for larger and larger hardware. He ended up with a piece of metal through his penis "almost like a doorknob. It was huge, huge, with a ball weight on it. I would take it out at parties and drop it on the table and it would make this huge noise and everybody would laugh. It was so big that my penis wouldn't get completely hard anymore; it would point down because of the weight. But I loved it."
Nevertheless, he was forced to remove it a few years ago. "Get ready to grimace," he says. "Ron was with me when it happened. My dick's piss hole started to split because of the weight while I was urinating at the Cell Block. I said calmly to Ron, 'Look,' and we watched it start to split. Butterflying is what they call it. So I took it out and I went to my doctor, who knows I do all these things." The doctor told Brian-Mark that he could have the slit sewn up and recommended a plastic surgeon, but he decided to leave it alone. "All that skin is still there. If you ever want to see it, I'll be glad to show you. It's just my dick. I show people often. It's educational."
As Brian-Mark plunged deeper into his fetish career, his appearance began to reflect the changes. He shaved his head, worked out--and started covering himself with tattoos, the first a pentagram right above his penis. "It symbolizes the male power of the dick." Next he added an enormously endowed Satan on both his arms. He flexes his biceps and asks, "Isn't the work beautiful? I always thought Satan was sexy. The church wants sex to be a bad thing, which is the biggest joke in the world."
Dennis Halbritter, who lives in Los Angeles, has done most of Brian-Mark's tattoos. "We have a beautiful relationship," says Brian-Mark. Each arm took about 5 hours, each leg about 15. Up his thighs shoot flames through inverted crucifixes. "I've only had one person have trouble with it. I said to him, 'Look at it this way, if you're fucking me you can see Jesus, 'cause then they're correct.' That's my point--it's all in how you look at things."
He also has the words "sex pig" scarred onto his back. "I had a man cut that into my skin. This was more of me releasing and trying things in a healthy way. Deciding to get all the tattoos has sort of been like marking myself, identifying who I am to the world. That's also what I like about all the pornography choices. I'm not an 18-year-old boy who's been told he's pretty and he didn't go to college and he thinks this is the only thing he has. This is me coming out of a big shell."
For the last eight years, Brian-Mark has worked as a fund-raiser for an AIDS charity. Though he says they know he's a stripper and are aware of his Web site, he prefers not to identify the group, not wishing to deal with the moral backlash he's sure would ensue. "No one's ever said, 'You have to choose between the two,' but I'm sure there are some people that have felt that. Why can't I do this? I'm just helping people live a better life in both worlds." He doesn't feel any sort of conflict between the scatological stuff he does on camera and raising money to support services for AIDS patients. "One would think I should, but actually it's a balance. I once had my sexual tarot cards read. She said, 'You are a person of extremes.' How true, and you know what? I like that world."
Back at the beginning of the 90s, Brian-Mark found himself, like many gay men, scared to death. "I needed to face it. I thought volunteering would be a great way to do it." He signed up at the AIDS ward of Illinois Masonic, thinking he'd last a month. Five years later he was still there, twice a week, training new volunteers. "All of those people were dying these horrible deaths. It made me crazy. But all of them had a message to me, which was 'Live while you can.' They didn't say be careful this and be careful that. They knew I would make my own choices."
He actually traces the moment he found the courage to plunge into the world of fetish to an exchange with Russell Leander, then the AIDS ward's volunteer coordinator. "Russ asked me that first day, 'Why do you want to do this?' and I said without thinking, 'Because I'm not afraid. If it means dying, does it matter?' I really look at life that way--I'd rather have the experiences. I look at life as quality versus quantity. So I live to be 100 years old and haven't done anything except been scared of everything--have I lived? I like making big, bold choices."
Brian-Mark made his first video, NYPD (New York Piss Daze), in 1997. Ron, who'd been hired to do the still photography, suggested Brian-Mark for the film. The work consisted of "four of us urinating on each other, a lot of fucking and cocksucking," says Brian-Mark. "That's what's so hot about it--to do it so openly and freely. You're not going to get one of those gay-for-pay guys in vanilla pornography doing a piss video. Any kind of kink smells, butt eating, armpits--it's all masculine and erotic and you can't fake it."
"He has a huge, irrepressible personality that translates as a major film presence," says Dick Wadd, who directed NYPD and many subsequent Brian-Mark videos. "He has a very broad sexual repertoire and considers nothing taboo. Our natural proclivities are very similar." During their last collaboration, Aggressive Bottoms From Hell, Wadd recalls that each time he thought up something nasty, Brian-Mark would do it without hesitation. "I was just editing a scene from the video where one of the guys shot a huge load onto the floor at a well-traveled bar. I said, 'Brian-Mark, lick it up.' He jumped down onto the floor, lapped up the come, smiled, and stuck out the blackest tongue I have ever seen."
"Let's see," says Brian-Mark, ticking off a list of things he's done on film. "Water sports, boot worship, leather scenes, bondage, scat--big-time, lots of brown. I really love the smell and taste of a man's butt, because it's very animal. It's like feeding from somebody. You really are taking them in."
He pauses for a moment. "Here's the problem with fetishes: if you say you're into piss or scat, they think you want everybody's piss or everybody's shit, and most of the time it's a very special thing. It's a head space that I have to go to, and it's very intimate."
Fetish videos require strict discipline and are often choreographed beforehand. Drugs, rampant on "vanilla video" sets, according to Brian-Mark, are nonexistent on raunch sets. "You need a clear head to do this. You have to be able to trust your fellow performers and work in a safe environment."
Brian-Mark's usually happy-go-lucky demeanor disappears when the subject of barebacking--anal sex without a condom--comes up. It's something he's done in numerous films ("I love when somebody says, 'I'm going to fuck you without a rubber'"). "This is such a hot topic in gay pornography, and there's so much hypocrisy involved....I do not think pornography is here to teach us. I'm sick that it has to make a stand. It's just entertainment, and if two people want to fuck without rubbers, so be it." As for his own health risks, he says, "Yes, I am sort of what you would call a daredevil, but I'm doing it of my own choice. If I was a straight porn star, the question wouldn't even come up."
The decor in Brian-Mark's Boys Town living room is eclectic: there's a plush red velvet Edwardian couch and chair, a cushioned church pew, a bookcase crammed with scripts, an antique mirror hanging on one of the dark green walls. Framed theater and movie posters are everywhere. There are also lots of photos, many featuring Brian-Mark in various states of undress. On one wall, portraits of his mother and grandmother frame a large calendar showing a beefy naked man straddling a black leather weight bench.
In his bedroom the artwork includes pencil drawings of a man fucking a goat, a man blowing himself while others watch, a man giving head to a bull. "I have a huge fetish for animals. I've never done an animal film, but aren't they illegal? I find Dobermans and Rottweilers sexy. Horses are sexy. I played around with a dog once. I was attempting to blow this guy, and this dog kept licking my butt, and I was pushing it away, but the guy grabbed my hand and I figured out what he'd taught the dog to do. It made me crazy. I've got my mouth on this guy's dick and this dog's licking my butt. Pretty hot."
Brian-Mark allows few people into his apartment. "This is my home. I don't entertain a lot. I don't bring people back here. When you're in the public a lot you need a space that is yours. This is where I entertain me."
Brian-Mark's mother, who remarried in 1978, now lives in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and works as a psychiatric assistant on the mental health ward in a hospital. Mother and son talk on the phone several times a week, and when she comes to visit Brian-Mark, she stays in his apartment. "He has all kinds of pictures up, but I don't notice them. That's his life."
She was shocked when she saw the tattoos for the first time. "I couldn't believe that anybody would go through that much pain, but that's him. He said, 'I want to be me. I don't want to be the good little boy that everyone expects me to be,' and I can relate to that because I'm a Baptist preacher's daughter and I was expected to be a sweet, darling little girl, but now I am also able to be assertive and express myself. I can be a little bit of a devil!"
She had a feeling her son was involved in pornography even before he told her, and says his brothers know about the stripping but not the movies. "I've had people at work ask me, 'Do you go and see him strip?' and I say, "I put diapers on that boy. I don't need to see him now.'"
They often vacation together, and she has met Ron's mother on several occasions. "I generally do a family barbecue, and we gave her a little party one year," says Ron. One year Brian-Mark and Ron took their mothers on a trip to New York. They took in a couple of Broadway shows, then visited a gay strip bar. "What a hoot!" says Lou Ellen. "I laughed so hard and enjoyed myself. One man sat on my lap and said seriously, 'I wish you were my mother.' A big black man came over and picked me up and put me over his head."
One afternoon while walking around Manhattan, they passed an adult bookstore with a magazine cover featuring Brian-Mark in the window. "He was like, 'Oh look, mom, here I am,'" recalls Ron, and took Lou Ellen into the store for a closer look. "Some man is standing next to them and says, 'Is this really your mother?' and he's like, 'Yeah, of course.' She goes, 'Oh, I saw him when he was little, it's not any different now.'" Ron and his mother opted to wait outside. "That was a little bit too much information for her," he says.
Nevertheless, the quartet are planning their next vacation together, to Prague. "Mother and I are going on to Germany and Paris," Brian-Mark says. "I've got her a room in the gay Marais district in Paris, which is like Boys Town here."
Six years is a long career in the porn business, and Brian-Mark is getting a bit antsy. "It's still fun to do, and it still turns me on, but I'm a restless person. There are a million other things to try in life. I've stepped back a bit this past year, just to gain some perspective and see what I want to do next." He's also cut back on the stripping: "It's pretty exhausting." He has begun helping Ron with casting and special events for his newly formed company, Oink! Video. "He's going to be the public face for the company," Ron says. "And he'll be the den mother, making sure that the models are taken care of."
Fetish porn will most likely continue to be a factor in his life, says Brian-Mark, "in some way, shape, or form, yeah. It's really all show business, and I know some people in opera or highbrow theater would have a fit. But you know, entertainment is entertainment. If I did step away from doing the movies, I'd still be in the performing arts somehow, I hope. Listen, I knew what I was getting into. I chose it and I don't want to regret it. I inspire people to be brave and audacious. We want to think that the porn world is selfish and narcissistic and yeah, it can be, but I think some people just have a healing quality no matter what they do."
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Jim Newberry.