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Read About the Company That Christian Mann Bankrupted: “Catalina: The Vintage Years”

from – It’s always fun looking through old magazines from the 50s, 60s and 70s to see how drastically different hairstyles, clothes and even the models themselves were compared to their modern counterparts.

The same is certainly true of the wonderful world of porn, as chronicled in a new book about Catalina studio’s colorful history.

The book, “Catalina: The Vintage Years” , is a pictorial history of the first 15 years of the legendary gay porn studio, and traces its founding by 34-year-old Texas virgin William Higgins in 1978 through 1992, when he sold the company.

Using a combination of essays by Dr. Kevin Clarke and publicity stills from movies including “Pacific Coast Highway,” “Big Guns,” and the subtly monickered “Powertool,” the book offers behind-the-scenes stories about the studio’s earliest days, successes and misadventures. He includes short bios on about two dozen of the actors, many of whom later faced AIDS, addiction problems or even jail terms — or else vanished into post-porn obscurity.

While it would have been fascinating if Clarke had tracked down more former stars to talk about their adventures in the skin trade, he seems content celebrating the men and filmmakers at their big-haired 80s best.

While the actors were certainly handsome according to the standards of the day, today many of them look like Scott Baio, Rob Lowe and stunt doubles for the “Saved by the Bell” cast.

“Catalina: The Vintage Years” is really like looking through a full-color college yearbook from 20 or 30 years ago-except of course that everyone is standing around naked and holding their junk in their hands.

Many of the actors even chose stage names similar to the beefcake actors of the day. There’s Lex Baldwin, Tim Lowe, and Brian Estevez, not to be confused with Alec, Rob or Emilio. These porn knock-offs had handsome faces and poufy hair, and body and facial hair were waxed or shaved away in their entirety.

The book would have been benefited from more text, with longer profiles and more in-depth interviews with the filmmakers, actors and others who played a part in the studio. While the book mentions that founder William Higgins moved to Europe in the early ’90s, it doesn’t offer any explanation as to why. It was also disappointing to find a few typos in the text of the book.

In one of the book’s more interesting discussions, Clarke reveals that the first Catalina men in the late 70s were usually thin, long-haired and almost waiflike, but a few years later, as the AIDS plague began decimating gay communities, the look changed to that of significantly more muscular, and healthier looking performers.

Clarke also talks about how Catalina and other porn producers continued to produce unsafe sex films through the late 80s, even though condoms were known to help prevent the disease. While many of these movies started or ended with a “Please use condoms” PSA, the filmmakers themselves disregarded that advice in their films.

The directors like to say that these films helped slow the AIDS epidemic because they gave millions of fans a safe-sex option sex which helped prevent them from getting ill themselves – but at what cost to the performers? The tremendous toll the industry took on these young men is heart breaking.

“Catalina: The Vintage Years” is really like looking through a full-color college yearbook from 20 or 30 years ago-except of course that everyone is standing around naked and holding their junk in their hands. While there’s plenty of nudity and stills from these classics films of yore, those looking for more explicit material might be disappointed. However, for those who found the days of Jeff Stryker, Leo Ford, Ryan Idol and Joey Stefano to be a porn renaissance, this book will likely be a must-read.

“Catalina: The Vintage Years”
Text by Dr. Kevin Clarke
Bruno Gmuender Verlag GmbH


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