TALKIN' PORN WITH THE KING:
Interviewed by Keith J. Crocker
KC) Can you tell us a bit about your biographical background? Where were you born and raised, and what are some of your earliest memories of film, what type of movies did you watch and did this directly influence your decision to get into film making?
CS) I was born in Newark, NJ and raised in West Orange, NJ. I went to the movies EVERY Saturday afternoon, usually a double feature for 50 cents. Several things stand out in my mind. The whistling theme from the John Wayne airplane movie, title escapes me at the moment.( More than likely Flying Tigers, made in 1942 - KC) and a scene from a Boris Karloff movie (titled something like Island of the Damned) where the guy is buried alive and has the bell attached to tell people he was still alive. Scared the crap out of me as a pre teen. (Though a scene like the one described does not appear in the film, Carter is most likely recalling Isle of the Dead from 1945, KC). And of course it influenced my love of movies but never on a conscious that's what I want to do is make movies kind of way. (sorry if I'm fuzzy on titles but its been 50 + years).
KC) How exactly did you get involved in the Adult Film business? Was it your ambition to make a career out of this, or at the time was it just a tool to help you get into more so called “legit” cinema?
CS) I never planed to be an adult film maker. I was in the technical side of the film business (a degree in Photo science from Rochester Institute of Technology, a stint in the Motion Picture section of Eastman Kodak at Kodak Park in Rochester, and shift supervisor for Movielab, a large independent motion picture lab in NYC) but I wanted to get into the creative end. (you know;"but what I really want to do is direct.") I have a ligit exploitation action mystery script which I was trying to get backing for. I met Terry Levene from Aquarias releasing at a party and we hit it off. He read the script and told me he thought it was OK but that since I had never done anything he wasn't crazy enough to put up the money to finance the picture. (again it was the old "what have you done, nothing, come back when you've done something") BUT he said he would make me an offer. He needed XXX rated material for some theaters he was distributing to and if I made a porn film, and brought it to him (a completed finished film) he would release it no matter how bad it was and, here is the important part, guarantee that we would at least break even. So I went out and saw about a dozen pornos in about 3 days and said to myself hell I can do that and I went out and made what later became THE COLLEGIATES. And that's how I got into the adult field. It started getting me non union production work and I didn't make another porn for about two years. I met a producer in Peter Savage's office at Dino DeLaurentis where I was doing some work and Peter said to him that I had done a porno. He asked if I had a copy he could look at I said yes, and that led to my making LICKITY SPLIT which became a HUGE hit and put Carter Stevens on the porn map.
KC ) Can you tell me a bit more about some of your earliest directorial efforts like More Than He Bargained For, Dutch Delights, Dominant Dutchman (I couldn't find dates on these, and they are often listed pre-first film)? The bulk of your work is very heavy in the area of fetish, usually domination or object obsession. Was this subject of interest to you, or did this type of material just sell very well?
CS) These were not Earliest efforts at all, these were all shot on video projects made well after I stopped making my own 35mm films. They were made for a company called Corporal which published Corporal newspaper which was the number #1 Fetish paper in the country. Originally I was hired by the people at corporal to teach them how to use their video equipment but they decided they would rather pay me to shoot it for them. I took the work mostly because it was a paid trip to Europe (plus a shooting fee).
KC ) One of your most famous films was a movie called Jailbait. It was written by Lou Campa. Lou used to work with an associate of mine by the name of Joe Marzano. Can you tell me a little about Lou Campa, and how you became involved with him?
CS) Since you already have his name Lou Campa is the producer I met in Peter Savage's office and it was he who backed Lickity Split. I made 3 pictures with Lou; Lickity Split, Jailbait and Highway Hookers. He tought me a very important lesson while making Jailbait. We had the chance to make a very beautiful professional film and he kept making suggestions that I thought cheapened the final product. We had an argument over it and he said something to me I've never forgotten. He said “look, you don't think there is anything wrong with what we are doing and neither does anybody working on the film but the guy who pays his 5 bucks and is sitting in the theater wacking off, knows he's going to burn in hell because of it and he want's to be reminded of that fact every once in a while. Keep it sleezy.” It took me a long time to realize he was right. It's like the line in woody Allen's Take The Money And Run where the shrink asks him “do you think sex is dirty? And he answers “it is if it's done right”. Some more about Lou Campa and JAILBAIT. Jailbait was based on a script for a soft core film he had made several years before called THE BABYSITTER.
KC ) Also, you had an important cast of porn stars in that film. What was it like to work with folks such as Wade Nichols, Sharon Mitchell, Herschel Savage, Eric Edwards and Veri Knotty? What is the difference between the porn actors of the 1970's and the porn actors of today?
CS) It was a joy to work with every one of them. And don't forget I discovered Sharon and Veri and gave Wade his first big roles. What was it like to work with these people? We were all family. A small bunch of outlaws working for damn little money having fun and making movies, having sex and getting paid for it. Today it's all about bucks. Actors today are like sausage makers. It's so much for this and so much extra if I have to do that. It's about as sexy as making an automobile. But the money is Fantastic so who am I to say they shouldn't charge per scene and per sex act.
KC ) Did you ever work in the world of Super 8mm film loops? If you did, do you recall any of the titles or subjects you shot, and was it easier working on these rather than full running time 35 mm films? When the industry switched to shooting video, did you feel that as a personal loss or did you just see it as a logical means to an end?
CS) Long before super 8 we did regular 8mm loops. 8mm loops were our bread and butter. We shot them whenever we weren't doing anything else. They were shot on 16mm, MOS (silent). We would shoot about 400 ft of reversal film per loop and cut the original down to 280 ft for a finished loop. Each loop would usually call for two cum shots per loop. One in the middle and one at the end. We would shoot about 6 (six) loops in a day and get $400 per loop. Actors got $50 per loop and there were usually 3 to 4 people in each loop so all told we would make about $100-150 profit per loop. In the early days it was an all cash business and it was more than once I was paid in bags of quarters.
KC ) Another of your classic titles are Teenage Twins and Double Your Pleasure, both of which feature the Young sisters. Were these girls sisters or were they just two chicks who really resembled each other?
CS) The girls were identical twins and there were times you couldn't tell them apart. Eric Edwards got himself into a little bit of trouble when we were making Teenage Twins because he asked one twin out for the evening when he meant to ask the other one.
KC) Since you worked mostly in New York, who else did you know in the industry? You did quite a bit of work for Chelly Wilson and her Greek run Avon theater chain.
CS) I never even knew Chelly owned the Avon I knew she owned a couple of other theaters but not the Avon. I always thought a guy named Murray owned the Avon (although I have since found out he worked for Chelly).
KC) Did you have dealings with Phil Prince and Joe Davian?
CS) I had as little to do with Phil Prince as I could. He was a slug. When I knew him he was a glorified gofer for the woman who ran the day to day operations of the Avon named Stella. He never worked on any of my Avon films although I understand he later claimed he did. Joe Davian I worked for as an actor at least a half a dozen movies. Although I can't for the life of me remember much about him. He was Isralii I think. (Davian was actually an Eastern European who claimed he spent time in a concentration camp during the second world war. He kept dual citizenship in Israel just in case he got in trouble here in the states.- KC)
KC) Did you have any contact with Shaun Costello?
KC) How about guys that dealt mainly in cheap horror flicks like Mike Findlay?
CS) Mike was killed before I ever met his wife Roberta.
KC) Speaking of Mike Findlay, is it true that you shot the infamous gore sequence for the hoax called Snuff? Alan Shackleton was responsible for that, did you have any other dealings with him? I haven’t heard good things about him (Donn Davison told me that Roberta Findlay claimed that Shakleton tossed her down a stairs when she insisted on residuals from Snuff), can you fill me in on what some of these other porn makers were like?
CS) I never had a problem with Alan Shakelton. I got along with him and
always got paid by him. I have nothing but good things to say about him.
We had been working on a “R” rated spoof of the Star Treck
series (sort of like Flesh Gorden) and even had a script and started to
arrange for sets and costumes when Paramount announced the first Star
Treck Movie was going into production and our lawyers killed our project.
As to the end sequence in Snuff I only rented them my studio to shoot
it in I did NOT direct it! A Very good complete interview about it can be
KC) Wicked Schoolgirls and House of Sin are two fantastic efforts from your Avon years. Some of the S&M in House of Sin is very intense, how difficult was it shoot such material? You worked with Long Jean Silver in that masterpiece, how was she to deal with? Also, how about Robert Kerman, he likes to pop up now and again and complain about how porn has ruined his life, what was he like to work with?
CS) It was super easy to shoot the S&M for House of Sin because I hired Mistress Candice and David Christopher who were living together in the BDSM life style at the time. He was really her slave and what they did on film was just what they did anyway. However, that scene gave me a full understanding of what the difference between pain and erotic pain really was. In the scene she led him into a dining room by a chain around his cock and balls, laid him down on the hardwood floor and proceeded to strike him across the nuts so hard every other guy in the room crossed their legs. All during this “abuse” he had a raging hard on. As soon as I yelled cut he started to complain and carry on like a baby about the fact that he had to lay on that wood floor without a pillow for his head. It was then that I realized that what she was doing to his nuts was pleasure but the little bit of pressure on the back of his head was painful.
Working with Jean was a pleasure. She had been living with me for about 9 months when we made that film. By living with me I just mean she had a room at what she used to call Carter's home for wayward girls. She was like a little sister to me. I was actually sleeping with Honey the other girl she had the scene with in HOS. HOS was very special for her since she was always complaining that directors only hired her to stump fuck in their pictures and she hated it. In HOS we never even showed that she had an artificial leg and she was very grateful for the opportunity to be just a beautiful girl in a regular porn film.
Robert was a mixed bag he could be brilliant or he could be a pain in the ass. We got along very well together and in fact produced HONEYMOON HAVEN together. He definitely had mood swings I think he may have had a touch of bi-polar in his makeup.
KC) How did AIDS, Crack, and government crackdowns help destroy porn and the New York porn scene? Can you elaborate about the differences between East Coast and West Coast porn?
CS)I don't think any of those killed the New York Porn scene I think it was video and shot on video crap being turned out by the car load in SO CAL that killed the NY scene. I'm really not the person to ask about the West Coast scene as I only made one Picture (TINSELTOWN) out there and that was in LA and so I don't really know the ins and outs of the San Fransisco scene.
KC) What kind of a personal life can one have while directing porn films? How does it affect having a full time partner (wife or boyfriend) and is it easy trying to raise kids in an atmosphere that is so sexually oriented?
CS) I'm the wrong person to ask about a “normal” personal life while making porn films. In the seventies and eighties I had a large loft and had 4-5 women living with me most of the time. We played musical beds and had a LOT of casual sex. (Remember this was before AIDS in a time when sex was clean and the air was dirty). I was divorced from my first wife before I made my first film and when I did have my kids it was usually only for a weekend until she moved across country and then I never saw them, until they came to live with me when they were teenagers. My oldest son after he hit 18 worked with me sometimes as a PA and went on to edit for me and several other companies under the name Carter Stevens Jr. But he lost interest in the film business and went into electronics. My second wife was a headline stripper and sometime porn star who went under the stage name Baby Doe: http://classicpornstars.com/Baby_Doe/her_page.htm . We were only married for about 3 years but we had a son together who is now in College in Fl and studying Electrical Engineering.
KC ) Sometimes you like to act in Adult films, are you for filling a secret desire to be an actor, or are you just filling an open spot in the story and saving on hiring an actor? How far do you go in your on screen antics?
CS) I acted in many many sex films, but never did sex in my own pictures. In my own pictures I only did small “Hitchcocks”. I loved acting in Porn films and would have loved being an actor if I hadn't been a director. It was heaven for me, a chubby jew boy from New Jersey to not only act in movies but to screw lots of willing ladies and get paid for it to boot. I made over 30 porn films as an actor under many many different names (most of them made up by the producers after we did the film) but mostly under the name Steve Mitchell.
KC ) What was the average budget of one of your 35mm porn films? What was your last feature shot on film? Where did you continue your work once the New York Porn scene fell to the wayside?
CS) My first film (COLLEGIATES) came in for about $17,000 and my last one (WHITE HOT) had a budget of $110,000. Most of them were made for about $35,000-50,000. We would shoot in 35mm, edit in 16mm to save money and cut the final negative in 35mm again. (except for the AVON films which were shot in 16mm)
.KC) I noticed you did a lot of shot on video fetish material throughout the 1990's, can you tell me a bit about that?
CS) In the 90s I moved to the Poconos of PA and I started shooting a lot of video fetish material in Europe for a company that published Corporal newspaper and for Dominant Mistique which was the #2 fetish paper. Then I started my own newspaper THE S&M NEWS and it quickly became the #3 paper in the country and I started making videos for my own company AMSTERDAM FILMS again, many in Europe. I didn't really like shot on video but I loved working in Europe. I also continued to act in many fetish videos for other companies among them I did over 30 videos for Gotham Gold. I worked as a Dom in other peoples videos but most of the videos I produced myself were Female Dominant (a much bigger market) so I couldn't star in my own videos.
KC) What is Carter Steven’s doing today? How do you feel about all your work both past and present? Anything lined up for the future, or is retirement a reality?
CS) Well, In 2001 I had a massive heart meltdown and during bi-pass surgery I died on the table. It took them 7 minutes to get my heart started again and then they had to repair all the damage they did getting it started again. So my 3 hour bi-pass was 10 ½ hours on the table. By the time I had recovered my health the internet had killed the publishing business and my national distributor had gone out of business. The fetish video market was also flooded with material so I just threw in the towel and retired. At the moment I don't have anything lined up but I have written an “R” rated comedy about the porn business which I am shopping around for a backer and if I find one I'll be back in the movie business.
Folks, what's that I hear you scream, "More Carter"!!! Well, Sir Carter has his own webpage called Carters Scrapbook , and you can have more fun than a barrel of monkeys reading all about this grand pop of porn. Carters films have been reissued on DVD as of late so be sure to check the internet and help yourself to some of his titles.