Catching Up with August Arkham aka Brad Siskin

Got this letter in my inbox this morning. August Arkham aka Brad Siskin is an artist now and did a portrait of yours truly that is, well, interesting.

Here is the letter:

Hey, Tommy. How’s L.A.? As bad as everyone says? I talked with Gene a
couple of months ago, and he told me he was retiring from the biz. I just
got a text from Mike at Porn Pros, with a link to the Arkham stuff on FYI.

The good old days. God, has it been more than 10 years already? That
year with you guys was a blast. I only wish I had been older and wiser
about everything, more focused on learning the craft and making good porn
than simply getting my dick sucked; I would have had a longer run in the
business, more shooting opportunities, and would have made a lot more money
during the video apex. I would have taken better care of myself physically
too: rigorous diet, exercise, and, yes, roids. I didn’t have a big dick,
but could have at least made myself a more attractive performer. Again,
the advantage of hindsight. Could I have made a career of porno? Probably
not. More talented and better suited have failed.

I did end up editing a ton of movies and internet scenes, for Everhard,
Vince, Von Swine, Porn Pros, Pariah Pictures, Redlight, Platinum, and then
some. Hundreds upon hundreds. I had a couple of great years, monetarily,
ca. ’05. Since then, I’ve maintained a freelance business, but the jobs
have gradually slowed. I still work with Erik occasionally.

I left L.A. around ’06 and moved back to my hometown, Savannah. I bought a
house, adopted some pets, lived the quiet life. I wrote a novel and
started painting again. Eventually, I applied to MFA painting programs. I
was a Studio Art major at Dartmouth, and wanted to go back to school and
complete that arc. Having been out in the very real world of porn, having
lived all of that, met all of those strange people, some of whom had since
died or disappeared, I felt like I finally had something to say as a
painter.

UW-Madison gave me an assistantship–a free ride. It’s a good program, so
I moved to Wisconsin. I was open about my porno past when I applied. I
didn’t want it to come back to haunt me in typical fashion. I think that’s
the key to a life after porno: own up to your past, to all the anti-social
things you’ve done; be willing to discuss them; don’t try to hide anything.
When you try to hide your past, it’s an implication of wrongdoing, of
guilt. I don’t feel that I did anything wrong in L.A. Some people, many
people, may not approve of my actions or of porno in general, but so it
goes. To each his own, and you know what they say about opinions.

Since May, I’ve been making a series of porno portraits called *Once Upon a
Time in the West*. I’ve completed nearly 50, of a planned 69. I’ve enjoyed
revisiting the subjects and exploring each of them anew. You’re in there,
along with Jessica Darlin, Veronica Caine, Bisexual Britni, Zupko, Rod
Fontana, Slain Wayne, Scott Snott. There are others from that time too:
Belladonna, Nikita Denise, Gen Padova, Valentino, lots of colorful
characters, alongside legends like Nina Hartley and Sharon Mitchell, and
deceased icons such as Juliet Anderson and Jon Dough. I knew a lot of
these people personally; they were friends and acquaintances. Some were
before my time and influenced me to get in the business. In every case,
I’ve tried to be respectful of the person I’m portraying, while having fun
with the pieces. I want the series to be bright and funny, like the
business itself can be, or at least was. Annie Sprinkle recently visited
my studio. She told me that Juliet Anderson would have liked her portrait.
That made me happy.

Hopefully, I can exhibit the series in L.A. It would be good to expose and
sell the work, of course, but I’d be just as excited to try to reunite some
porno “survivors” for the opening. I hear a lot of people have gone MIA,
since the video collapse. I’d like to see my old friends and acquaintances
again, and maybe meet a few of the legends I never knew, and hopefully
they’d enjoy a hot cup of coffee or a chilled glass of champagne and an
occasion to reminisce. I find myself reminiscing a lot these days, now
that I’m rapidly approaching 40.

I just finished a portrait of Ariana Jollee. I was with MNP back in ’03,
when it was first starting up. Ariana arrived fresh from the east coast to
shoot with Anabolic, and naturally ended up at the MNP house in Woodland
Hills. There was an Anabolic association there: Volt and Khan Tusion,
along with Mike, ran the show, and a lot of the guys hung out there:
Everhard, Chet, Mike John. Ariana was young and strangely eager for a
girl, out to prove that she could keep pace with the hardcore crowd. She
was beautiful too, like a Long Island Helen, like a fevre dream of my
sex-addled, Semitic brain, and she was wild-eyed and strange, and she blew
me a couple of times. What I remember more, though, is driving her to
Barnes and Noble one night, and her browsing HTML books in a teasing
outfit, while all the guys in the store ogled her and were jealous of me, a
slovenly, bearded creep who had no right to accompany such a girl.

I asked Erik what Ariana is up to now, and he said she left the business a
few years ago and disappeared. The disappearances still bother me: not
knowing if a person is successful or struggling, healthy or ill, alive or
dead.

Anyway, glad to see you’re alive, at least. Feel free to post this on FYI,
though I wonder if anyone will care to read the reflections of a one-time
D-lister like me. Also, if you want to see my work, you can see it here:
www.bradsiskin.com. If you have a moment, fill me in on your goings on.

Take it easy,
Brad

Thanks for the letter, Brad. My goings on are trying to somehow keep this site interesting and compelling, but nobody can do what Gene did with it. The man is an amazing journalist. I just wish he would’ve gotten the credit he deserved. Hopefully we can draw him out of retirement to contribute every once in a while.

In fact, if anyone has anything interesting to say about the state of affairs in the biz or anecdotes that might be entertaining, feel free to reach me at tombyron@adultfyi.com

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