The persona was always unique, but I didn't find him sexy--rather exactly the visual object he mostly saw himself as, and continually sought to create.
This was very worthwhile, though, and he was very much an interesting part of the Andy Warhol Pop period. The snippets of 'Nights in Black Leather' prove that the film work was inferior even for porno of the time. A short such as 'Chute' with Al Parker and the far more gorgeous and naturally sexy Colt model Toby (it would be interesting to know what has happened to this long-ago, never-surpassed porn icon as well; I only know he is apparently still alive, but there must be something, since such illustrious authorities as 'Smutjunkies' have decided that, if they do know anything, it's on the q.t.) was actually a nice, even poetic bit of work, and not sloppily edited like the Warhol things with Holly Woodlawn, Jackie Curtis, etc. Peter De Rome's 'Adam and Yves' was exciting when it arrived in 1974, although De Rome can be a bit corny.
I do agree with the porn spokesmen in the film that the concentration on this persona was very intense and that does make him a real artist, although quite minor. It was interesting that there was a lot of footage of him in informal appearances during the 70's. However, calling him the 'Greta Garbo of porn' is a bit much, as this film alone proves he wants some more visibility. As solipsistic as she became, her knowledge of life and art was considerably wider than his appears to be. Furthermore, his work is of interest, but not that of a cinematic genius, which hers is.
And what is interesting is that, even with this strange persona still intact, he is to me visually by now quite beautiful--there was a cheap look to the self-conscious Peter Berlin of the tight white pants; by now, the mouth has widened and is more relaxed and he is by now at last a truly beautiful man. I paid little attention to him during his heyday, when his face, in particular, looked like that of an inflatable girl dildo.
So that he and others concentrate on his look as well as his imaginative use of various forms to capture it--most fascinating perhaps was his hiring of Tom of Finland to give him even more exaggerated self-images. However, facts such as his long friendship with James, which was very touching and showed his less purely narcissistic side, and his confession that he had fornicated no one in the U.S., were quite rarefied, given his street performance.
There was interesting commentary by Jack Wrangler, who apparently also has rooms made into self-shrines but is much more the part-hetero guy his parents must surely have preferred to his burlesque 'n' porn days (even if his wife is 20 plus years older than he, himself no spring chicken, is.) The problem of this kind of neurosis, even when successful, is that there is a peculiar lack of interest in much of anything else. Anti-war comments are merely childish, but some of the family background was interesting. This kind of 'dream person', though, tells about early childhood, and there is no follow-up about any further relationships with his family, leading one to assume he left them for good, and remains intoxicated with the days when he can still walk the streets and be told he's 'cute.' He is definitely 'cute' now, and could afford to wear a lot of dressy things and be a great stylish older beauty by now, and the looser clothing he is seen in when interviewed in the film shows that his taste is still sharp. Some of us have even found it to be improved. I didn't remember until the very end of the feature that I did see him once around Christopher Street in his 'That Boy' period, which I found interesting but not alluring. He definitely had his audience, though.
Best wishes to Mr. Peter Berlin.
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