Johnny Hazzard has gone legit! At 37, the porn actor from films like When Bears Attack and London Spunked acquits himself very well in Tiger Orange, a dramatic feature about an emotional-baggage-carrying gay man named Todd who comes back to his California town to confront his estranged gay brother, with tumultuous results.
Todd is a lit keg, but one with a burning drive for truth, and he’s performed with seemingly effortless charisma by Hazzard (using his real name, Frankie Valenti). “I’m just so fucking tired of failing at everything, man,” the character says at one point. “L.A. fucking sucks. I’m so over being focused. All I want to do is move to an island alone, raise some chickens, and I don’t know, fuck the sheep!” In another memorable scene, Todd rails at a woman to let her son be himself and play with the girlie doll that he likes, and in another, when he’s discussing a mutual friend with his brother Chet, he blurts, “Gay! Gay! Gay!” And then there’s the scene where Todd tells Chet, “I’m sorry I fucked ‘Pencil Dick’ before you could. Get over it.” I think a lot of us have been there, no?
In any case, Tiger Orange is available on VOD and will come out on DVD on July 7. While awaiting that release, Valenti spoke to me about his accomplishment.
Musto: Hello, Frankie. Congrats on the movie. Was this your first such acting job?
Frankie Valenti: It was my first full feature film. I did a series called The Lair on Here TV. It was a spinoff of Dante’s Cove. I played a mortal, even though I really wanted a vampire role.
Did you have any acting training?
I’ve had no formal training at all. I never sought out to be an actor. This all kind of sprung up, so it was never part of my long term plan.
It’s definitely being folded into the mix, let’s say that.
Do adult stars like yourself think about the future as they realize their shelf life might be limited?
I don’t think a lot of us do. I had a plan, but it fell through. It was to buy real estate. I bought a house in Palm Springs and then when everything went to shit, I didn’t have a Plan B. I never thought, “What if things crash?”
What was your heyday as a porn star?
I think it was around 2005-2008. I was making a lot of money working six-seven days a week, and I was on salary. That’s why I bought that house. Maybe a handful of us at the time had that privilege to be on salary. It was pretty fucking cool.
But that ended?
Yeah, they [Channel 1 Releasing] saw what was going to happen and they weren’t going to make as much money, so one of the things to let go of was their salary players.
With the series, did you think, “Here’s a new window opening for me”?
No, I didn’t. I got sideswept and let it go to the wayside. I wasn’t into the acting at that time. I was more interested in keeping afloat.
Do you have more passion for it now?
I’m a different person. I’m older. I’ve had a bigger taste of it. I’ve had some good press—some great press.
Will this movie open doors?
I hope so.
I like the character because, although he’s a bit reckless, he’s outspoken and detests the closet. Was it fun to play a character who says what he means?
It was fun and it was easy. He’s kind of like myself. I drew on my own experiences. I was amazed from the get go at how many similarities there were. Todd left home really early, like me. Also, my dad died without me telling him I was gay. And I carry my dad’s ashes around in an urn with me when I travel. I’m driving from San Francisco to Provincetown right now and I have it.
Have you told the ashes?
Oh, the ashes and I have had many conversations. [laughs]
A little one-sided, perhaps. Was there any time the character went over the edge and did something you would never do in real life?
Making out with Chet’s boyfriend. That was just shady.
And then trying to justify it. What was the worst thing about being a porn star?
The constant objectification, which I really didn’t even think about until much later. It’s a thing you don’t ever shake off. The way people assume everything is always about sex with me. Sometimes people think I’ll just have sex with anyone because I’m an insatiable sexual being, but I’m not. I’ll meet new people, and it comes from their own insecurity and being nervous. Everything’s a sexual joke and it always comes back to dick—and, “You know guys, you don’t really have to do that!”
When you had sex in movies, did you approach it as acting?
I wouldn’t say “Let’s pretend, it’s acting” so much as, “Let’s just detach from this”. It’s part of what makes people do porn in the first place. Just detach and focus on the task at hand.
What was good about it besides the money?
The traveling. I got to travel all over Europe. I met people from all over the place. So many doors opened up and so many amazing experiences, all because of porn.
Are you totally through with porn?
I am about 97% finished with porn. You just outgrow it, number one. And it’s like any job. Once you get paid less and it becomes unenjoyable, you find something else to do. If it still paid me what it paid before, fuck yeah, I’d do it.
Does anyone still get that old-time kind of salary in porn?
No, it’s never gonna happen again. It’s just so saturated. There are so many people who’ll do so much more for so much less, and they’re everywhere. You used to have to source porn stars, and now everybody will do it—everybody does do it.
Do you have a boyfriend or husband?
I do not.
You don’t like long term relationships?
I haven’t really had enough to know, but I think I’d be good at it.
What are you waiting for?
I spend summers in Provincetown and winters in L.A., and I’m also really happy being by myself and being independent. I’m a tour guide [in P-town]. They do a guided tour. There’s a special area off limits to the public that we’re allowed to go to.
Does anyone on the tour ever scope you out and say, “Hey, aren’t you Johnny Hazzard?”
The majority of my clients are straight. The ones that are gay that recognize me, I can kind of tell when it’s happened, but they’ve been really, really cool. No one makes a big deal. I take some photos, sign autographs, kiss babies, and that’s that.
JUST ANOTHER BEAR WHO SUPPORTS GAYS
Moving on to a mainstream film with a potty mouth: Ted 2 has gay content! [SPOILER ALERT] And not just when Mark Wahlberg finds himself covered in semen samples from black men! There’s an offbeat gay couple at Ted’s wedding, and also a funny scene where Jay Leno is shown to be a sucker for gay sex in bar bathrooms. Furthermore, in arguing to a court of law that he deserves respect, Ted likens his case to “fags” who deserve rights too! When he’s told that’s a bad word, the crass-talking husbear amends that to “homos.” Such a sweet teddy.
JEREMY JORDAN IS A “SMASH” ALL OVER AGAIN
Ultra talented Tony nominee Jeremy Jordan is doing a sequel to his last 54 Below act, and when I caught it at the intimate supper club last week, I thought, “This guy shouldn’t be wasting his time on Broadway! He could be a world famous pop/rock star! If he’d gotten on American Idol or The Voice, he would have creamed the competition!” And then I remembered that I love Broadway. So it’s good that Jeremy is devoted to musical theater, among other venues, and can end up doing it all someday. Meanwhile, he’s great at cabaret.
Jeremy won kudos for Bonnie and Clyde and Newsies before playing the songwriter with the drug debt on TV’s Smash and starring opposite Anna Kendrick in the movie of The Last 5 Years. Rather than perform each of the songs he’s become known for, he put them together into something called “I Don’t Want To Sing This Medley,” even including tunes people want to constantly hear from everyone, like “Memory” from Cats and “Let It Go” from Frozen. It was a wow, even though Jordan capped it off by smilingly muttering, “Never again.” He gave “Under The Sea” from The Little Mermaid its own separate number, but he did it in a slower, R&B-flavored version, pausing for levity when he sang, “Darling, it’s better/down where it’s wetter” and deadpanned, “That’s a dirty assed lyric.” He sang some real beauties that he wrote himself, as well as a gorgeous Sondheim medley, and he alternated that with wacky antics, like asking trivia questions about himself for prizes (One winner got “the wig Jonathan Groff bought me when we sang ‘Let Me Be Your Star’ two years ago”) and answering questions from the audience. One of the queries (which was obviously planted, since it kept recurring) was “What terrifies you?” “A world without pizza,” Jeremy responded at first, but the second time, he more seriously said it was the fear of not being good. He elaborated that he likes to always succeed, and if that doesn’t happen, he shuts down inside and no one can help him. That shed more light on his story about being fired from Finding Neverland last year (he was replaced by Matthew Morrison), though Jeremy said, “I’ve come to peace with that,” especially since it gave him the time to go to L.A. for pilot season and bag a show. Besides, other people had been sacked from that musical—the original score by Michael Korie and Scott Frankel was scuttled ages ago—making Jeremy think, “Wouldn’t it be fun for the castaways—the lost boys—of Neverland to reunite?” He made that happen by singing one of the cut songs, and it was yet another magical moment for this wide ranging act.
By the way, the audience for the baby faced powerhouse predominantly consisted of young women who seemed rather hormonally aroused. I finally got to see how the other half lives and loves.
LEA SALONGA LOVES WORKING WITH GEORGE TAKEI
Another stage star, Tony winner Lea Salonga (Miss Saigon), is heading back to Broadway in Allegiance, a musical about the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII, inspired by George Takei’s life, and costarring Takei.
At a lunch at the Strand Hotel’s Strand Bistro the other day, I asked Salonga if this might be an unconventional theme for a musical. No, she said, especially when you consider that previous hits shows have included such offbeat premises as West Side Story, Cats, and Les Miserables.
Allegiance’s story is bookended by Takei as the older version of the character Sam, who, along with his family, was sent to such a camp in a dark period in American history. (Takei does double duty, also playing the very grounding grandfather.) The younger Sam is played by Glee’s Telly Leung and Salonga is his willful sister, both fighting for rights in their own way and finding themselves at odds in their approach.
Even though Sam isn’t technically based on Takei, is there any gay content in the show? “No,” replied Salonga. “George was in the camp from ages five to eight.” Yeah, but Sam is put in there as a young adult! Shouldn’t he be a big queen? (“Then again, I want everyone to be gay,” I laughingly added. “Even the cats in Cats.”)
Salonga told me she’s spent time with Takei and his husband, Brad Altman, and when she visited their residence, “I had to tweet, ‘OMG. I’m at Sulu’s house!’ ” She said it’s not big and doesn’t look like a place owned by someone who became famous in sci-fi, “but it’s lovely.”
As for Salonga’s life? “I left Les Miz in 2007,” she said. “I did an Asian tour of Cinderella. I’ve been raising a daughter with my husband. Life itself has been busy—it just hasn’t been in New York.” She glanced at the nearby poster for Allegiance in awe. “I like what the title says,” she observed. “It asks, ‘Who do you pledge allegiance to? Yourself? Your family? Your country?” Or, in my case, to another plate of pasta salad.
LISA RINNA’S ONLY LABELS ARE DESIGNER ONES
Three pounds later, at Spin Cycle PR’s Gay Pride kickoff party at the Park, I caught up with Lisa Rinna, the RHOBH star who I last chatted with when she was promoting her Big, Fun, Sexy Sex Book. “So you love the gays, right?” I asked, innocently. “Well,” she replied, “I’ve been told not to label. I used to say ‘the gays’ or ‘my gays,’ but now I say ‘my friends.’ My boss at Bravo, Andy Cohen, didn’t like me using labels. I did it in a very loving way. I love everyone. They’ve been some of the most fun people in my life.” “Well, whatever you want to label me,” I said, “I really enjoyed that book of yours.” “It had really good tips,” said Rinna, “as it were.”