To Bel Ami’s Past and Future, Perfect
“Gather around, my children. I’m about to tell you a story, the story of my life”.
Thus is the opening line to Graham Swift’s hauntingly beautiful and heartbreaking novel, Waterland. I’ve decided to take some of the themes from that book (and the film that sprang from it), and try to put those themes within the context of trying to tell, from my own perspective, Bel Ami’s rich and beautiful history (though this may take a while, but consider this as an introduction of sorts). Is there tragedy in this story? Tearfully, yes, and it comes from me missing the extraordinarily beautiful boys from Bel Ami’s past who have helped shape the studio’s being since its birth. However, by coming to terms with that loss, one can better appreciate their beauty into the here and now. I’m not sure I’m really qualified to be Bel Ami’s biographer and I would never try to claim that right, seeing as there are others far more so than I. However, I will let my love for them allow me to do the storytelling.
One of the themes very prevalent within Waterland, is one of love lost and love that has a chance to survive, yet in order to do this, the two people in question must come to terms with the tragic circumstances that help shape who they’ve become as people and also as a couple. Tied into this, is this very clever concept and larger theme (which makes this book and accompanying film so marvelous), that in order to better appreciate and welcome the present and even a look into the future, we must never forget the past. Such is the nature of history: film history, sports history, art history, world history and even our own personal ones. For it is the events around us that will form the subtext of our lives, and that will have a lasting impact on the things we care about.
For me, I came in rather late to Bel Ami’s story. At the time I’ve come into their world, they’ve already seen many changes. The lovelies I’ve found were an important part of Bel Ami’s past and many have at the time I discovered them, have already danced on their stage and had since departed. But these sweeties never leave us without leaving behind a parting gift. I have now most if not all of their images. Memories of their beauty shine as brightly as any star in an evening sky. I can no sooner forget them as I would anyone from my own family. Their images remain a part of my family album dedicated to Bel Ami. And I cherish them as I would any in my family. When I began my blog, my original concept was very much sharing part of this family album with all of you…well, as much of it as I can. I want there to be some things left for others to discover.
Ah, change. Right. We’re back to that again, are we? Very well.
Yes, change. The ebb and flow of time and space, and things within places. Chains of events sometimes force these changes and we can’t prevent them, no matter how hard we try to fight them. Change is inevitable. Even needed if something or someone is to grow. Loss is the hardest of these changes to overcome as I view these films/videos realizing that who I’m seeing I may never get to see again. It’s a heartbreaking thing to come to. Devastating, even. I have no desire to let go but only to remember them and what they’ve left behind..their own contribution to Bel Ami’s story. It’s a very long story and it was one I came to not without a lot of heartbreak along the way. George Duroy, Bel Ami’s founding ‘Papa’ (so lacking for a better term) began Bel Ami along with his long-time partner in crime Marty Stevens, in 1993 and to this day remains one of the largest adult film production companies, as well as best known, in the world. The sheer beauty of their films and their stars have been unparalleled in all the industry. From the very first film to use the Bel Ami name, Tender Strangers, to Bel Ami Online, their films would have a special look and feel unlike anything in the gay porn scene, showing the sweet, gentle innocence of sexual exploration. These films are so enjoyable to watch because of the playfulness of these young stars that one tends to forget it’s a porn film…oh, really? Could have fooled me. I certainly remember the two Bel Ami beauties that first caught my eye and invaded my heart forever: Lukas Ridgeston and Johan Paulik. As my journey through these films continued, so did my heart’s roster of favorite beauties almost too numerous to count or list, lest I leave anyone out (Goddess forbid). I have christened these special sweeties as my treasured, “Old Guard”. Many have appeared in George’s films since his directorial days with Falcon International. One such beauty and one who will have a lasting impact on all of Bel Ami, is the legendary Dano Sulik. Dano has earned yet another personal title: one of my ‘Oral Gods’. Highly sexual and always entertaining to watch, he would be responsible for passing on his sexual lessons to the new budding young stars who would come through Bel Ami’s doors. And two of those early ‘sensualists’ were none other than Sebastian Bonnet and Julian Armanis, who would also go on to train the new stars.
Though many of these beauties have not been with Bel Ami for many moons, they still maintain (as even the newer ones now) a much honored and treasured place in my heart. Most have left and gone on with their lives. Some have chosen to stay and continue to tell Bel Ami’s story. All of them have created a marvelous erotic legacy and one that will be cherished for all time. The feelings of loss that we have over these special guys from Bel Ami’s past are indeed painful and letting go is never easy. Over the course of a year’s time, as I’ve come to know these sweeties, I had to do this act many times as I’ve come to discover new stars, gotten to know them and wept bitter tears when I learn they are no longer with Bel Ami. And yet, that will never make them escape my heart, which has them ensnared for all time. The way these guys can still draw their power to us is that they can still make us love them even when they are no longer with BA. The ones from my Old Guard have been gone for many moons now, yet I still hold them with the highest regard and deepest love. They were my firsts and they will be that to me always. They remain important because they are the ones who’ve helped build BA and they’ve become legends in their own right, as their scenes have become wonderful memories. Strange to say that about porn but it’s very true and it’s a credit to George’s filmmaking genius and vision, and to the magical fraternity he created all those years ago. Those of the New Generation have created a firm foundation of scenes and lovelies that have helped BA grow and develop into now a force to be reckoned with in all of the porn industry. Their legacy remains just as important now as it did then. These lovely demi-gods gave Bel Ami its identity in a very noble sense, and it’s one that is still quite alive and well, even though perhaps the camera eyes and voices of newer artists are leading the charge. This legacy will speak volumes to Bel Ami’s present and well into its future.
Into The Future
So, I don’t think I should weep for Lukas or Johan or Brandon or Josh or Ethan or anyone from BA’s past, for my tears will only show my warmest and deepest love for them always. I can only celebrate what they have given us, what they have contributed to BA’s story so far, and for the ones who have chosen to stay lending their visions to continuing Bel Ami’s story. That was the creative vapor that gave my blog its own birth: my desire to create a monument to them. Letting go, for me, is synonymous with forgetting, and I can never do that. Remembering can be just as painful and to alleviate that pain we may choose to let go. That’s easier said than done, I know. How can one just simply ‘let go’ when these young men have had such a profound impact on us, touched us to our core, became a part of our own beings. As I’ve come to know them, as George would talk/write about them, we’re given to care about them. They become so much more to us then bodies on a screen, but flesh and blood and in so doing they have become our friends. What we are given is a very rare connection, so unlike any place else. Being a member of their website, I can visit with my old friends and stay and flip through the family album as long as I wish. I try to keep this in mind although even I can’t help getting misty eyed watching all these beautiful scenes and boys from BA’s past. But one way to view this all: without them, Bel Ami’s newest stars could not take its illustrious stage. In one very truthful sense, Kevin Warhol, Andre Boleyn, Jack Harrer, Adam Archuleta, and a sweet cadre of others, are Bel Ami’s future and we are very fortunate to be able to watch these sweet boys grow up, right before our eyes and be a lasting part of Bel Ami’s story and family for hopefully many years to come.
The gallery of my locket has been completed and it can be viewed here.