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Rex Chandler
Rex Chandler

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January 1999 Email this to a friend
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Straight, But Not Narrow
Ed Karvoski, Jr., talks with Rex Chandler, the star of Making Porn
By Ed Karvoski, Jr.

When it was announced that retired porn star Rex Chandler was going to take over the starring role in the play Making Porn, theatergoers buzzed with a litany of questions. And the answers are:

Yes, he is as handsome in person as he is in the videos.

Yes, he does appear in the play totally nude (all 6 feet 4 inches of him).

And, yes, he does show promise as an actor.

"Before the reviews came out," says Chandler, "my director, Ronnie Larson, said to me, 'Look, honey, the critics are going to be ripping you apart, so get ready for it.' But the worst review I've gotten so far said, 'Rex Chandler is an extremely dominant and physically engaging presence on -stage, though often looking like an over-earnest college thespian.' And Ronnie said, 'Honey, if that's the worst review you get, you're doing great!'"

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Honey, this former porn star is doing great, indeed! An enviable accomplishment for any actor, his stage performance captured the attention of a prominent Hollywood talent agent. Recalls Chandler: "After the show, the agent said, 'I came here for one reason: to see if you can act.' I was signed with the agency the next day!"

Straight from gay porn

A box-office hit in Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, San Diego, Palm Springs, and Sacra mento, Making Porn welcomed Chandler to the cast for runs in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and ultimately its off-Broadway premiere at the Actors' Playhouse in New York.

It seems like he was born to portray the play's lead role, Jack, a straight man who becomes a gay porn star. "There are a lot of similarities between me and the character," acknowledges Chandler, who is self-defined as straight.

"Appreciation is appreciation," states Chandler, originally from Michigan. "I remember when I was in high school, on spring break in Florida, and guys would look at me a certain way, trying to come on to me; I always took that as a compliment. I've always found that men are quicker than women to give attention and show an appreciation of what it takes to train your body and work hard to stay in shape." Chandler, almost 30, says he's been working out intensely for nearly 15 years and has never touched a steroid.

There are also differences between Chandler and his on-stage character. "Unlike Jack, I wasn't married at the time I got into porn films," he points out. Chandler eventually did get married, but the couple is getting divorced. "I treated my wife like shit," he confesses.

Another difference: Jack comes to hate the adult entertainment industry and is sorry he got involved; Chandler has no regrets. "I'm not sorry for what I did," he says, referring to his X-rated career.

In a business where new faces (and bodies) continually come and go, Rex Chandler is still an eminent name. While the majority of his porn work was done in 1989, his View to a Thrill is still touted as the highest selling gay adult video.

In conjunction with the 1993 Gay Erotic Video Awards, he was invited to place his hand and footprints in front of the Tomkat Theater in Hollywood (along with Ryan Idol, Jeff Stryker, Tom Katt, and Richard Locke). The following year, he was in attendance at the awards ceremonies-- in his words-- "being a no one." An accomplished photographer, Chandler was hired to photograph that year's honorees. "I didn't have to be in the limelight to be there," he says. "A lot of people thought it was amazing; something they thought Ryan Idol or Jeff Stryker would never do. But I don't think I'm better than anybody else. I'm different, but everybody is different in their own way."

Chandler came out of retirement last year just long enough to shoot a solo JO video, which won an Adult Video News Award.

Friends and lovers

How does a straight man get aroused to have sex with another man? It's the question most frequently posed to Chandler. "A lot of people don't understand that adult film isn't so much about attraction and arousal," he clarifies. "It's about getting a hard-on on cue."

In recent years, Chandler has been studying more conventional acting (with several teachers, including actress Sally Kirkland). But even in his porn days, he'd been utilizing a common acting technique known as "sense recall." "It's like a playback method," he explains. "I would concentrate on something that really turned me on-- something I'd either seen, touched, smelled, tasted, whatever gave me that charge. That's how I got hard."

Was the sex with men ever enjoyable? Ever a turn-on? With a heavy sigh, he says, "This is a question that I'm damned if I do, damned if I don't answer." Finally, he continues, "Sexually, no. But I've made some good friendships!"

How do his straight male friends react when they find out he performed in all-male videos? "Generally, their reaction is: if anybody could do it and still maintain his masculinity, it's me," he says. "I think a true friend will always react in a positive way to almost anything you do, as long as you're not hurting somebody else."

Chandler never pursued straight porn because "they don't make any money and there's a lot of diseases spread in the straight biz," he says.

"If I was gay, I would be the first one to stand up and say, 'Here I am, that's me.' I'd have no qualms about it at all," he declares.

"There are guys in the adult entertainment industry who put up this front of a straight image because they think it will make them more valuable," he notes. "It's bullshit and it's sad and it's a rip -off. It's lying to the people who are buying the videos. Doing that phony image thing is truly sad."

It may also be a passing trend, according to Chandler. "I think a lot of people are getting sick and fed up with the straight tops; they're tired of the guys who aren't versatile; they're tired of the icicle icons."

Kiss today good-bye...

Following his stint in Making Porn, Chandler-- who appears in Gregg Araki's The Doom Generation and Dirk Shafer's Man of the Year -- hopes to land work in feature films.

His all-American good looks equal any actor from daytime soaps or prime-time dramas. But, says the ex-porn star, "Television is out for me right now. Let's face it, Proctor & Gamble is not going to put me on TV. They're not ready for that."

Citing a double standard, Chandler continues, "Usually, no one can remember the name of Miss America, but you know who Vanessa Williams is. Why? Because she got on the pages of Penthouse. That's what catapulted her. That's acceptable to the guy who's sitting there, watching TV, sucking on a beer. He likes that. But to see somebody like me-- somebody who did what I did-- threatens their masculinity. I'm a threat to the guy out there in Middle America."

Would he accept a gay role in a mainstream film or TV show? "I would accept any role that was interesting," says Chandler. "I imagine the next thing my agent will want me to do will be something extremely straight or mainstream. But don't get me wrong, if Harvey Fierstein calls me up and says, 'I want you to play this. Will you do it?'-- I'm there!"

How about if the script calls for a kiss with a man? "I would have to say there's a 99% chance I would say no, I wouldn't do it," says Chandler, who set the same boundaries while performing in porn videos.

"I'm a real weirdo about kissing," he acknowledges. "I mean, I don't kiss my girlfriend that much. I've always considered kissing something that you had to do in order to get laid. I've had those rare moments when you're close with someone and you're having those beautiful moments; but for the most part, I just don't enjoy kissing-- not with a man or a woman."

With a laugh, he says, "I can watch guys blowing each other and it doesn't phase me, but I have a hard time watching men kiss. I know that's weird, but I have to turn my head." For the record, he adds, "But there's still that 1% chance...!"

When Rex Chandler becomes a famous actor in mainstream films and maybe even TV, will >he turn his back on the gay community? "How could I possibly do that?!" he responds. "It'd be suicide! After all, who supports the entertainment industry? Who makes up a big part of the indus try? No, I absolutely won't turn my back."

Making the transition to the mainstream entertainment industry, he intends to keep the name Rex Chandler-- a name that will always have strong ties to at least a portion of the gay community.

"I don't care what people say about me," proclaims Chandler. "I don't care if they think I'm gay, or this or that. All I'm concerned about is that the last thing they say is, 'But he's a good actor.'" **

Editor's Note: from The Guide, July 1996

Author Profile:  Ed Karvoski, Jr.
Ed Karvoski Jr. is the author of All-Male: Quirky Quotes, Intimate Interviews, and Tantalizing Trivia from the Most Desired Men on Earth (Kensington Books)
Email: edkarvoskijr@prodigy.net
Website: www.edkarvoskijr.com

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