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On the Set: Not Three’s Company XXX 8/26/08

Porn Valley- Confirming a commonly held suspicion that his company X-Play and Hustler Video weren’t exactly playing paddy cake in these grim and perilous times, Will Ryder is vowing that his company is going to kick Hustler’s ass.

I think Ryder means this as far as a battle of numbers and creative ideas is concerned, not necessarily the fact that he’s going to literally walk into the Hustler lobby in Los Angeles with a loaded handgun and piss up a palm tree.

The way Ryder looks at it, Hustler, in porn’s equivalent of marital infidelity, has been stealing his thunder by bringing in another director – Anton Slayer- and doing with Slayer what Ryder’s essentially been doing all along for Larry Flynt – that is, making highly marketable and very profitable porn parodies.

Slayer has done a couple for Hustler so far- one involving The Munsters and one with Gilligan’s Island. Ryder, who’s become the master of the game at this, is in Van Nuys this week shooting a Three’s Company satire. But this is for his own company.

“The comedy war is on,” declares Ryder in a let the games begin tone of voice. “Bring it on.”

I ask Ryder if what he’s saying now makes Hustler the avowed enemy and that there will be a fierce and bloody battle waged for the minds and hearts of consumers stemming from this.

“No,” states Ryder, flatly. “But give me a fuckin’ break.”

Ryder’s saying this on the heels of Not Bewitched XXX’s announced September release. Ryder declares that Not Bewitched starring Jenna Haze and Teagan Presley, is his and partner Scott David’s supreme effort to date. David also thinks Ryder did a helluva job with the editing.

David? He’s a little sappy at the moment because some Persian broad rounded the corner when he was trying to maneuver his car into a space Monday night and whacked him on the driver’s side. She had neither a valid driver’s license, insurance and David also thinks the car might actually be her temporary residence. And what gets David, is the fact that she’s behaving the whole time like the aggrieved party.

“What’s she mad about?” muses David. “And she’s yelling at the cops when they got there.”

Consequently, David wound up spending the rest of the night at the hospital. By the time he got out, it was 2am. David, whose hair is blacker than Bela Lugosi’s, must be feeling a little greyer around the temples this morning.

David talks about another time on Sunset Blvd. when he got slammed by a driver – in similar fashion – and because of that, couldn’t raise his arms the next day. Which in David’s case can be disastrous, because he styles hair.

Which, I’ve got to think, makes David the Jon Peters of porn because I can’t think of too many other hair stylists that are running porn companies. Whichever. David says he was in and out of a lot of court rooms involving that accident with little to show for it as far as aggravation and resultant monetary compensation.

Ryder takes me on a quick tour of the Van Nuys studio and hands me a script. It’s a lot of script.

“Our motto at X-Play is more dialogue and less sex,” chuckles Ryder, obviously unaware that there is a segment of porn fans out there who jack off to plot lines, glittering dramatic speeches and possible best acting nominations. A lot of parimutuel wagering goes on among these people from what I’m told. But that’s not coming from Ryder.

According to Ryder, what he’s got here is as close as it gets to the real thing as far as matching the actual Three’s Company sets. For this, Ryder gives all the credit to Kenny Martines.

“We couldn’t do this without him,” he says. Based on what Ryder is also saying, Martines gets pretty elaborate with the tasks at hand and makes things like detailed sketches and floor plans.

“So this is not just a living room but the Three’s Company living room,” David hastens to point out. “But we’re not doing mockery movies.”

Someone makes a comment. Maybe it’s David conceding, okay, there might be too much rattan over in one corner.

An obvious props junkie with an eye for detail, David’s talking about how he went on eBay and began buying period items like 8 Track tape recorders. I would have let David borrow mine on the condition he return the thing because I’m still using it. But I didn’t get into that issue with him. David also found an old relic telephone answering machine so he’s pretty stoked about that as well.

It’s also Ryder’s opinion, at least from conversations that steer him in that direction, to conclude that Three’s Company would have been the most obvious of all porn parodies.

“This is the spoof people want to see,” Ryder tells me. I’m thinking, if this is the spoof people want to see, than they no doubt fared better in the Seventies than I did when disco and forced dancing threw a mean curveball at my witty barroom social mechanics.

“I’m excited about doing this,” David adds, noting that Three’s Company was his favorite series as a kid.

“There’s nothing like getting chicks in summery outfits.”

Ryder and David have brought on Penny Flame to play Janet, Brynn Tyler to be Chrissy and Van Damage as Jack. The story’s got something to do with Jack getting fired from his job at the restaurant which leaves the girls short on rent. Knowing the porn formula, this predicament lends to all sorts of rife possibilities.

Flame has had her hair cut to look like Joyce DeWitt’s, whereas Tyler’s quite pretty and factory fresh just the way she is, and much unlike her tanning salon face-hardened TV forebearer. Van Damage is another story. Damage is muscular-bulky, a polar opposite of what the lean, antsy John Ritter was at the time, so you more or less have the effect of Jesse The Body Ventura playing Pat Robertson.

David says Scott Lyons, who’s Mr. Furley, wanted the role so bad that he bought the first season DVD and studied it like there was going to be a final exam on the material.

“He deserves it,” says David. “We never had anybody go to that length.”

James Bartholet, a mainstream Hollywood personality who’s latched on to porn for whatever reasons peculiar to him, seems to wind up in every X-Play venture. Bartholet plays Dr. Morty, and David describes him as an actor who holds the sets together.

Another story on the set is that Tommy Gunn shaved off his goatee to play Larry. Which is a porn first for Gunn, and obvious fodder for a trivia question decades from now. Gunn’s apparently never gone a pop shot without whiskers. And Gunn later talks about how he went to the bank and the teller did a double take at first.

“She said I looked like I was 15.”

Tommy, as all of us, is entitled to his illusions.

Dino Bravo, who’s had his hair streaked silver, plays Mr. Roper. Nina Hartley in a red MuMu and, what I assume is a teased wig, is playing the sexually frustrated Helen Roper. The Roper’s living room, as envisioned by Kenny Martines, is a monument to Mediterranean chintz complete with the plastic flowers and silver lacquered fruit bowls. The only thing missing among the touches is a velvet Elvis.

Dino Bravo’s outfitted from the Frank Sinatra Palm Springs sweater collection. Since Dino is an avowed Rat Packer to begin with, I wouldn’t be surprised if his living room was a tribute to the old Sands Hotel & Casino lobby. I tell Dino he could play a good Frank, and Dino smiles broadly. Realizing I had gone and done it, Dino’s now regaling me with Ocean’s 11 factoids.

“Norman Fell [who played Roper on the TV show] was in Ocean’s 11,” says Dino. “Not a lot of people know that.”

Dino begins rattling off the cast. I told him he forgot one. Dino, puzzled, is silently counting off 11 guys on his fingertips sure that he’s got ‘em all there.

“Akim Tamiroff, you forgot Akim Tamiroff,” I tell him.

This is similar to when you play the Twelve Angry Men game from the movie of the same name, and you’re holding George Voskovec as the trump card. Maybe this is his way of getting back at me, but Dino goes a completely different route.

“There’s this guy,” Dino starts to say. “But I’ll tell you later.”

Bravo does this to me a second and a third time, each time interrupting his story about this guy to tend to whatever. And now it’s getting mildly irritating. But instead of a story, it winds up being a joke about a guy with a tattoo on his dick that leads to another joke that leads to anothe joke.

I thought he was rehearsing for the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon, but Bravo is practicing his Henny Youngman-style niteclub comedy act on me. Dino says he’s been doing stand up long before he got into porn.

“Gene, a guy went to a doctor,” begins Dino from across the studio. And he’d be off telling another joke.

“Gene, a guy went to a psychiatrist…” And there’d be another joke. Dino can be relentless once you flip the switch and get him going on a subject.

By this time even Ryder’s about ready to hit Dino with a pickaxe. Ryder wants to get back on point with a Ropers living room walk-through.

“We’re making comedy gold, here!” Ryder shouts out, making sure the people upstairs in the makeup room are aware of this salient fact and will can the chatter, accordingly.

“I’ll make them quiet,” Dino offers. “I’ll tell them some jokes.”

Dino is very smooth and natural in his part. Hartley, as well, is a dead-on physical match up.

With his headphones on, Ryder swears he’s hearing a cricket and mentions how he had the same problem with said cricket during the Bewitched shoot.

Meanwhile, Van Damage seems to think that Audra Lindley, who played the Helen Roper TV part, had some kind of risqué background. Other than her being married to actor James Whitmore, I can’t think of what that might be. This, of course, will get Dino off on another slurry of nonsense, especially after having just read about Ralph Young of the Sixties music team of Sandler & Young, dying.

Dino also thinks another possible TV series worthy of the porn treatment might be Gomer Pyle.

“Is Frank Sutton alive?” Dino asks me. Sutton played Sgt. Carter.

“How the hell should I know,” I say.

“Well you’re an entertainment reporter,” Dino reasons.

“How about Jean Stapleton?” he then asks. Dino seems to think All in the Family is another porn satire candidate, but that one has already been done by Scotty Fox way back in the stone ages.

“How about Vic Tayback?” Dino next wants to know.

“He’s dead,” I tell him, but Dino finds this particular piece of information hard to process. And he’s thrown for a loop. I tell him, yeah, Tayback is dead. Dino shakes his head in disbelief.

Somehow we get on the subject of the 1956 Cincinnati Redlegs [they were known as the Redlegs then] and who the third baseman was. My first guess was Don Hoak, but Dino says he was with Brooklyn that year. Then I’m guessing it might have been Ray “Jabbo” Jablonski. Turns out to be correct.

Where we really get boggled down with mental miasma is who the first baseman for the 1961 team was. Gordy Coleman – but I couldn’t think of it at the time.

And knowing Dino, this was driving him mad dog crazy.

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