Award winning director Kevin Clarke (now retired from our industry – photo left) shares his candid memories of the life and times he shared with and around the late John Summers. Kevin Clarke started in the Gay Porn Industry in the early nineties, very quickly moving to the forefront of director/producers in this gay porn industry. With Rad Video & Delta, Clarke discovered a new generation of Twink Porn models in the late 90’s, standouts like Christian Owen, Ashton Ryan, Christian Taylor, Joe Landon and Antonio Madiera. Kevin has maintained numerous contacts with many industry personalities through the years following his retirement. Kevin now lives in New York City.
Yesterday news spread about the death of porn legend Vaughn Kinsey. So little was said about him that I was taken back about a man who was such a large figure in the beginnings of porn as we know it that I decided to say a few words myself. It is impossible to say anything about Vaughn without using the word elegant. There were no cotton sheets for this man everything was silk. The stories about Vaughn were stories of a legend; how he spent money, how he lived, and his love for the finer things in life. He was the epitome of the smooth talker, not only could he sell ice cubes in the artic, he could sell the ice cubes and the freezer they came in … even though none of them belonged to him. With Vaughn there was always an angle, usually a sideways one that included bamboozling everyone and everything in sight. Vaughn was not only charming, he owned the word, and would promptly sell it to 5 different people and be gone before anyone figured it out.
To say that Vaughn represented the end of an era is quite not accurate. He was a more of a relic of the industry’s glory days. A brief history would bring you back to San Francisco where Vaughn was for want of a better term a “pimp”. He ran an escort operation in San Francisco and he truly was a major force in the beginnings of gay porn industry. In San Francisco, Vaughn was a mover and a shaker back in the day along with Jim Hodges (aka John Travis) and Richard Morgan (junior Studios). Jim, Richard and Vaughn worked as free agents providing talent for making and selling porn in those early days. The “Kinsey Touch” was un-mistakable: beautiful men in beautiful places, lavish sets, bold lighting all were Kinsey trademarks. My personal favorite was a movie called Two Handfuls. Vaughn produced the film with John Travis directing and starring Brian Maxon. It was Kinsey at his very best!
Early on in those days San Francisco was the hub of gay porn. Chuck Holmes, Toby Ross, J.Brian and countless others worked there and built empires. Vaughn Kinsey was at the center of it all. He died yesterday without a whimper. It was mentioned by some other industry veterans on Twitter that Vaughn had worked with gay porn’s first real star, Jeff Stryker, and while true that is, Vaughn missed playing into the legacy of Stryker who went on to be huge in the industry. But at his start there of course was Vaughn.
You cannot explain Vaughn without discussing the underside of his life. With Vaughn there was always an angle, a con or a scheme that was just around the corner. He was tireless in his pursuit of the finer things in life. His list of well-known clients would make you blush but he never traded that knowledge for money. I spoke last night with a friend of mine that talked with Vaughn last week and he was the same till the end. The scheme was just around the corner. Vaughn was brilliant. No doubt about that. He was truly a founding father of the gay porn industry. The “Black Buddha” as he was known. Vaughn found the best talent, provided the best men, and had a hand in some of the best porn ever made. He also was a scoundrel. Now, I am not speaking badly of the dead, but just to explain the life of this man who loomed so large over this business allow me to share this story.
In 1980 ( I could be wrong about the year) Vaughn and Richard Morgan were partners and were busted on obscenity charges in Florida. As I heard the story it had something to do with an inter-racial scene that was not supposed to be shipped to Florida but was, and they were busted. They went to trial and lost. According to Richard it was Vaughn’s fault they lost the case and Richard got upset because he got stuck paying for not only his but also Vaughn’s legal defense bill. They were then mortal enemies. That happened with Richard Morgan a lot. Richard and Falcon founder Chuck Holmes had similar feelings towards each other. Let me stop rambling and fast forward you to 1995 when I was working for Richard Morgan at Junior Studio and just learning the porn business. Seemed people like Chuck looked at me like I was a pariah because I worked with Richard. It was a few years later I understood why. We were looking for a graphics company to help us with the new fangled thing called online and I got a referral from =Edward James who had been a protégé of Vaughn. Richard made me call him back and get an assurance that he was no longer connected to Vaughn. I called and he swore they were no longer connected; Richard and I went to the Valley the next day.
We were waiting in the lobby when James pulls up and out of the car with him is the Black Buddha himself . Richard is apoplectic, Vaughn comes in the door looks at Richard does a beeline for the inside and hides. As we leave Richard is yelling at me, Vaughn is yelling at James and I am less than happy. Richard tells me that Vaughn is going to get back at me, I tell him he is crazy.(Something I had to do often). I talked to James he give me a song and a dance about he really doesn’t work for Vaughn and it passes. Several months pass and Richard and I are in need of a computer person to put our mailing list on to a computer(the mailing list was the life blood of the business). I find a young blond boy names Shawn Pitts who had done some modeling who comes in and whips our non-computer office into shape. One day I met Edward James for Lunch at the French Market in Weho as he was casting a twink video and we went through his cast book to look at models. As I glance through about 10 pages in I see Shawn Pitts. I said to James “What about this guy?” He says “oh you mean Vaughn’s assistant”. I dropped what I was eating and ran to Richards office behind the Pleasure Chest a few blocks away maybe 4 minutes and I find Shawn Pitts with the computer under his arm making a bee-line for the office door.
I make him hook the computer back up and copy the mailing list, and then I had him do a system restore on the computer wiping everything off it. He agreed, as calling the police was his other option and he left. At that moment I fully realized just what Vaughn Kinsey was, and the lengths he would go to in his professional endeavors. I avoided any dealings with him after that, and was amused at the stories one would hear. I remember being at an AVN convention and a man came up to the booth and said “Has anyone seen John Summers?” Someone in the booth answered “How much did he take you for? It was thousands. Vaughn rarely appeared in public and that was one of the reasons. It always amazed me how he kept going, and how he could charm anyone out of anything. The last time I saw him was at Brian King (Delta Productions) in 2005. It was a rare moment where he and Richard Morgan were in the same place. As far away from each other as they could get but the same place none the less.
Vaughn was a giant in so many ways. He was brilliant, refined, elegant, charming and there will never be another. I say nothing out of disrespect, or rancor. The porn world lost a founding father. He was a block upon which some of the best things we have been built on. It is a shame that his legacy is forgotten, and that much was obscured by his failings. I will say this though, there will never be another Vaughn Kincey. Wherever he is now he is spinning a tale, and working an angle. I did not like him, but I fully recognize the enormous talent, the huge contribution he has made, and how we all owe a tip of the hat to this giant of a man, with a wondrous career, and a legacy that will live on forever.
Rest in Peace Vaughn Kinsey