In 1982 I got my first film job

In 1982 I got my first film job when I was hired by Phil Prince to edit 16mm bondage and discipline films he directed for Avon Productions. Avon became my film school, so to speak, as I’d been kicked out of college and hadn’t a clue how to get work in the “biz.” The Avon organization, such as it was, ran a handful of porn theaters in the Times Square area that featured $1.98 S&M psychodramas that they made themselves. If you actually enjoyed the sex depicted in these movies something was definitely wrong with you. Rape, fisting, brutish manhandling were the standard, mixed with a bit of piss and other sadomasochistic niceties. But the productions did have their wholesome side, as storylines often involved family members fucking and sucking one another. The features were low budget affairs with budgets in the neighborhood of $15,000, shot over long weekends with titles like: Oriental Techniques in Pain and Pleasure, Dr. Bizarro, Pain Mania. One of the more unusual aspects of the movies was that the casts were a mix of mainstream porn actors (e.g. Ron Jeremy, Annie Sprinkle) with skuzzy riff-raff found who knows where. You could say Avon films oozed sleaze much the same way motivational speaker Tony Robbins oozes phony charm. In recent years the Avon films have even gained a bit of a cult following due to their extreme, foul nature.

Annie Sprinkle is left speechless.
Is this the face of a pornographer?

When I met Phil he was about thirty, on the chunky side, with a mop of reddish brown hair and a wispy mustache. He dressed frumpy - usually sweatshirts and jeans. Sometimes he could be wired. I assumed he was popping uppers. I liked Phil, thought he had a fair amount of charm, charisma, whatever. Although later I learned more about his sordid past - like the fact he used to fuck his wife on stage five times a day and bragged, “We were the highest-paid team in New York.” And when this same wife was knifed to death in a robbery, Phil was a prime suspect as far as the police were concerned. But who am I to judge?

Phil’s office was on the second floor of the New Bryant Theater on 42nd Street between Broadway and 6th Avenue. The Bryant’s facade was covered in cut-out photos of nude women in enticing poses - crude stars covering their more private parts. In fluorescent colors words like SEXSATIONAL and SEXPLICIT caught the eye. On the marquee along with a movie title was the phrase OUR FAMOUS LIVE SEX ACTS ON STAGE. A recorded pitchman's message blared out from a crackly loudspeaker, "Come on in and see the latest in hot triple X action and stay for the live sex show. Our love teams go on at one, three, five, seven and eleven..."

Phil shared his cramped office with bookkeeper/live sex show booker Stella, an ex-stripper gone to seed, and his all around assistant Melissa (aka Honey Bee) who was also script girl and set designer on the flicks. The man in charge was affectionately referred to as Murray the Jew (well, maybe not so affectionately.) He’d sometimes be there just lurking in the background. Silent - looking like an undertaker. Never said more than three words to me. It was a bit unnerving. 

Stella
Melissa AKA Honey Bee
Phil Prince

Contrary to what you might think, I was set up in a proper editing room inside the historic Film Center Building at 630 9th Avenue. However, there was one unusual thing about this Art Deco showplace (which happens to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places). More times than not when I’d visit the restroom there’d be a guy in one of the stalls beating his meat - loudly. You could hear him moaning dementedly, talking to himself in Spanish. And you could actually hear slapping – like that sound effect they add in teen comedies which doesn’t actually exist in real life. At least not whenever I pull my pud. 

I could see through the crack in the stall door that the lonely jerk-off artist wore a poncho like Eastwood’s in those spaghetti westerns. I asked around and found out he worked down the hall as a negative matcher’s assistant and supposedly had been tortured in a prison in some South American country. So I felt like I should cut him some slack. But every time I had to take a leak I dreaded going to the can. One day I got so fed up I threw a gob of wet paper towels over the stall door and skedaddled. Sure enough, next day he was back in there spanking his hog. 

On Fridays I’d head over to the New Bryant to get paid my $300 salary in cash skimmed from the day’s box office receipts. If Phil wasn’t in, then I knew I could expect a hassle from Stella. She’d invariably try to brush me off, claiming she didn’t have the money on hand. It was one of those power play things. One time I got pissed and called her a fat bitch. Bad move on my part. Stella was a pretty hefty woman, and she came at me with claws extended looking to scratch my eyes out. I had to beat a hasty retreat. Afterwards Phil had to play the diplomat to smooth things out.

Occasionally I’d kill time waiting for Phil by checking out the live sex show downstairs. The Bryant was a cavernous auditorium made back when The Deuce was known for its movie palaces. So the 16mm films they showed on the smallish screen were dwarfed by the space. It was always abnormally dark and cold, no doubt to save on light bulbs and utility bills.  Four times a day the movie would shut off in the middle and the live sex show would commence - usually featuring a Puerto Rican boyfriend/girlfriend “love team”. The action would invariably start with the guy getting fellated - that is, blown – and then the couple would bed down to do the fucky-fucky for bug-eyed patrons. The sex shows were a big draw for Avon and why they could charge a premium admission. This was before the AIDS epidemic motivated the city to put the kibosh on the sex industry in Times Square. Phil himself started out in the business doing live shows with his first wife who wound up murdered, with the police eyeing Phil as a prime suspect. 

Like many of the great directors

Like many of the great directors, Phil used a number of the same actors in his productions. My favorite being George Payne. George was a high-energy kind of guy (maybe it was the drugs?) who played the resident psycho in Phil’s movies. I don’t know if it was Method acting or what, but George was pretty convincing as a deranged rapist with a chip on his shoulder and a cock he couldn’t keep in his pants. But when you met him, George was actually a sweet guy who had a hint of the lost puppy dog about him. Porn just happened to be his life’s work and he really cared about his performances – obsessed over them is more like it. He’d do gay as well as straight stuff. Fuck anything with a hole (including a donut) and be able to keep it up, which in those pre-Viagra days was a very valuable talent.

The Many Faces of George Payne
The Many Faces of George Payne
The Many Faces of George Payne
The Many Faces of George Payne
The Many Faces of George Payne
Early George Payne shot for a Pepsi campaign (courtesy Ashley Spicer/The Rialto Report)

George stopped by the cutting room a few times. He liked to sit in front of the Steenbeck editing machine and study his performance, a true perfectionist. I remember one time when he was visiting I told him I had a problem with the film I’d just finished editing, The Story of Prunella. The cut was only 50 minutes and needed to be closer to 70. The storyline was about a trio of escaped convicts who invade a bachelorette party and, of course, abuse and rape the girls before engaging in an impromptu orgy. In other words, a Disney picture without Mickey. 

I proposed to George that the movie could be lengthened by 10 minutes if Phil shot a scene in a jail cell with George mistreating and screwing one of those life-size inflatable love dolls. George’s eyes lit up and he told me a story about the very first thing he’d done on film – a loop where he fucked a love doll. This was kismet! Only he was wearing a sailor suit in the loop. 

Unfortunately when I broached Phil with my brilliant idea he said forget about it, Murray would never pay for reshoots. But Phil was worried. He couldn’t tell Murray the movie was only 50 minutes long. So I came up with another brilliant idea. George and Cheri Champagne were both in Prunella and an earlier Avon production titled Tales of the Bizarre. So I’d use outtakes from a scene between them in Tales and insert it as a flashback in Prunella. The scene in question had Cheri playing a bored and horny unattached female who hires a call-boy played by George. He shows up, dominates Cheri, and makes her bark like a dog before he fucks her in the ass. This was mild abuse by Avon standards and at the end of the scene they almost seemed like a happy couple. In Prunella Cheri appeared as George’s girlfriend who helps him hijack a getaway car. So it made sense that she’d ended up as his gun moll. When I added the Tales flashback into Prunella it brought the movie up to 60 minutes. Then I cut a five minute slo-mo montage of dribbling dicks after they’d spewed their loads (also from outtakes). And voilà! The film was up to 65 minutes. Phil thought I was a genius. And I was beginning to think at the rate I was coming up with brilliant ideas I’d have the cure for cancer within a month. 

Prince star and porn veteran Dave Ruby’s resume

But it backfired down the road. A year later when Murray was making video masters of all the Avon productions I got a phone call from him. He was apoplectic. He couldn’t put out double feature video cassettes with two different movies that had the same scene in each. I couldn’t believe Murray was actually speaking to me! He sounded like a whiner. “I’m gonna have customers coming back saying they were ripped off if they see the same scene twice!”

I didn’t give a fuck about his problem, but I pretended to commiserate. 

Speaking of Cheri “She’ll Pop Your Cork” Champagne, I met her once. Phil sent his talent scouts over to see me in the editing room. These two characters looked like they came straight from Central Casting - a big, bearded biker dude, wearing a sleeveless t-shirt showing off his tatts. His cohort had the vibe of a junior league Mafioso with pock-marked face, shag haircut, wearing a très chic leisure suit (remember, this was 1983.) They were accompanied by Ms. Champagne, who was all dolled up for some reason. The biker pointed to Cheri and asked me if I recognized her. I played dumb, shook my head. The biker boasted, “She’s the girl who got fist-fucked by two guys at the same time in Rebecca!” Cheri smiled coyly, obviously enjoying the attention. I smiled back and all I could think to say was, “Nice work.”

The boys had brought some 16mm footage I was supposed to edit into three loops for them. I loaded the film on the Steenbeck, and there was Cheri on screen enticing a traveling salesman into her modest abode. And then… a flickering blur. 

“Your machine’s fucked up,” biker dude said to me. 

I had to break the bad news to the boys. It wasn’t the Steenbeck. The camera they shot with most likely had a malfunctioning pin in its gate, hence the flickering blur.

“What’s that mean?!”
“It means your film’s worthless.” 

The boys vowed to break the cameraman’s legs. I was glad to be working in post production. 

One of the learning-challenged biker chicks tries to remember her lines in Tales of the Bizarre.

The last time I saw George I literally bumped into him at the packed world premiere for Kneel Before Me at the Avon 7, which was the Avon chain’s showcase 200 seat theater on 7th Avenue by 48 Street. It was their classiest, and had better be with a seven dollar admission price - very steep for the time. George came through the swinging doors dressed in shiny patent leather shorts, bare-chested with those criss-crossed Roman Centurion type suspenders. Maybe it wasn’t Grauman’s Chinese, but I thought the premiere was impressive for the porn underbelly. In Kneel, George played the Marquis De Sade and Annie Sprinkle his faithful wife. It was nearly showtime and George was psyching himself up for the live show. There was a six-foot X cross on stage equipped with handcuffs instead of shackles. I told him to break a leg and took my seat in the audience. Annie did a tame S&M tease routine with George her sexual captive. I slipped out once the cock sucking began. Even though I’d seen George’s hard-on countless times in the editing room, it felt awkward being confronted with it in person.

Ron Jeremy readying his wonderful self to shoot a load in Kneel Before Me.
George Payne in one of his most demanding roles as the Marquis De Sade gets his comeuppance from Annie Sprinkle and Niko in Kneel Before Me.
Niko contemplates the mysteries of the universe in Kneel Before Me. Well, maybe contemplating is the wrong word.

I never met Ron Jeremy

I never met Ron Jeremy but I instinctively disliked him the moment I saw him on film. Nowadays he comes off as the kindly grandfather of porn. But I think of him as a total creep. His huge hovering hard-on reminds of the goose-like necks on the alien spaceships in the 1953 movie The War of the Worlds. Those spaceships shooting out their sputtering laser blasts haunted me as a kid, as does Jeremy’s appendage to this day. A producer of big budget porn told me Jeremy came in for an audition and touted the fact that he could suck his own dick. I think that’s an appropriate epitaph for Jeremy: “I could suck my own dick and I did.” 

Probably due to my antipathy towards Jeremy I decided to have a little fun when editing The Story of Prunella. In the film’s climax, Jeremy’s fiancée and the other sluts are being ravaged by the rapist convicts at the bachelorette party while Jeremy and his cop partner are racing to the rescue. You could cut the tension with a knife – more or less. So I added fart sound effects. This way every time Jeremy glanced over at his partner with anguish written on his face it appeared he was reacting to his sidekick’s excessive flatulence. Just a way for me to have fun mocking Jeremy’s acting chops. Funny, I thought. In fact, I couldn’t stop laughing as I played the scene back and forth on the Steenbeck. 

After Murray and Phil screened the finished movie at the lab I got a phone call. Phil said Murray was ranting and raving about the farting in the car. 

I played dumb: “Farts? Are you sure it isn’t just the tires screeching?”

“No! Jeremy’s partner is farting at him!” 

I continued to play dumb, saying it must be a mistake made at the audio mix. Phil gave up, let me off the hook, somehow placated Murray. And the farts stayed in. Not that Murray was gonna put up the bread for a remix anyway.

Since Phil never came to the recording studio to oversee the mixes it allowed me carte blanche with sound effects and music choices. I loved throwing in animal effects. Like in Kneel I added a lot of weird animal sounds in the background of the Marquis’ torture chamber. It just seemed to fit the mood. Since nobody ever expressed concern about copyright infringement I could hijack music, like the theme from Halloween or The Exorcist, and being a bit of a punk rocker, tracks from Public Image Limited. 

I wrote the narration and doubled as the announcer on the trailers for Avon productions. One of my finest lines: “If this movie doesn’t make you hard, you’re not breathing!” I even dubbed the voice of an actor for an entire scene. The guy was a newcomer and only said about three lines in a 15 minute scene. It just played dead. One constant in an Avon movie was that the guy having sex – or more accurately, the guy doing the raping – had to keep up a continual flow of abusive patter. You know, whispered sweet nothings like: “Shut up, slut! Suck it! Harder! Take it! Spread those cheeks! Swallow that cum! Don’t look at me!”

Since nobody was going to pay for a recording booth – and I would’ve been too self-conscious to record the lines I’d written in front of anyone else anyway - I came into the editing room on Thanksgiving when it would be quiet. That’s dedication. I recorded the most rude and crude dialog I could think of to fill up the scene. “I’m gonna break a bottle in your ass and make you eat your bloody shit.” Things like that. Phil loved it. He even offered me a bonus - a blow-job from Joey Karson, the lead of Angel in Distress. I demurred.

Most of the women in the Avon productions were what you might charitably call mentally challenged. Back then we called them retarded. Kind of like those really stupid Miss America contestants in blooper videos on YouTube – except more retarded. Although Annie Sprinkle was no dummy. She appeared in Oriental Techniques of Pain and Pleasure as a hapless kidnap victim who is forced to insert a massive dildo the width of a fireplug and length of a horse’s cock up her brother’s butthole. Thankfully plenty of Crisco was on hand which Annie tenderly licked off her brother’s balls while weeping with regret. It was a tour de force performance.

Spike gets all the pain he can handle from Mistress Candice in Oriental Techniques of Pain and Pleasure.
Phil Prince as a bumbling prison guard informs the warden that the convicts have escaped - The Story of Prunella.
Lovable Stella Stevens introduces Sharon Mitchell to the other kids at the school for delinquents in The Taming of Rebecca.
Stock player David Christopher with two unknowns in featurette Daughters of Discipline.

Personally, I appreciated the exploitation element and violence in the films – not the sex. I even wrote a script for Phil titled Jack Rod Private Dick. It was to star George Payne. Phil was ecstatic about the script, talking about renting a helicopter and landing it on Staten Island in the opening scene. It was going to be his opus. Shame it never happened. 

It was getting tougher to make a buck

It was getting tougher to make a buck in the New York City porn business, so Avon quit making their own product. That meant the gig ended for me. But I quickly got a job cutting a bigger budget sex film for a veteran porn cameraman turned director. The worst part of the gig was that he was usually around in the cramped editing room and liked to go on about his sexcapades with the wifie. It didn’t help that’d I’d met the crooked-toothed Olive Oyl look alike he was married to. The mental image in my head made holding down lunch difficult. (I hope he doesn’t read this.) 

The editing room was in located on the floor of an office building rented out by big time adult film company, Leisure Time Entertainment. There was a nice lady next door who oversaw the Doc Johnson showroom – dildos and plastic vaginas hanging from the wall. It was like I was trapped in some sort of commercialized Sodom and Gomorrah Hell. Worse, the director felt I wasn’t properly attentive to the incredibly authentic sex he had captured on screen. He thought he was some kind of auteur making erotic art and he wanted me to share his vision. This was a new experience for me and I didn’t enjoy it. After I finished that lovely cinematic wet dream, I was unemployed again. And since the only thing on my resumé was smut, in other words, no resumé, it wasn’t going to be easy to find work.

And then I got a call from Phil. I was glad to hear he had another film coming up. I wasn’t so glad to hear it was going to be gay porn. Johnny Boy Blue, that was the title. I think the story was supposed to be about the origins of the North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA). This was (is?) a group of pedophiles who insanely went on a PR campaign in the 80s, which quickly led to their evisceration by law enforcement. Supposedly the script was written by Bill Landis, the guy who put out a zine about unsavory entertainment in Times Square called Sleazoid Express. [Editor’s note: Landis did write the script, and the original title was Nambla: The Real Story.]

I knew the cameraman on Johnny and he told me some of the talent used in the film were rough trade types lifted right off 42nd Street minutes before they were thrust in front of the camera. He said Phil was snorting coke piled on his desk like something straight out of Scarface. Once I got the footage from the lab I locked the door of my cutting room and braced myself for what I was about to see. The worst of it involved an asshole specialist named Black Hawk Bill, who I recognized as Annie Sprinkle’s brother in the aforementioned Oriental Techniques of Pain and Pleasure. There was a scene where Black Hawk climbed into an elaborate sex harness and offered up his gaping asshole to the lucky actor playing Johnny. lt was like a black hole from outer space, and if not capable of swallowing a galaxy at least a Volkswagen or two. Johnny proceeded to fist Black Hawk, his arm quickly disappearing up to the elbow. The camera zoomed in to show what may have been a cinematic first: Johnny’s fingertips rippling the skin between Black Hawk’s rib cage from inside his colon. Sweet. Needles to say, I cut the film in record time. I even started bringing a bottle of Dewar’s to work. I, Brian O’Hara, found looking at hardcore gay sex to be… what’s the word? Revolting. 

I’d made a flat rate deal with Phil to edit the picture and then cut the negative. In case you’re interested, the ancient practice of negative matching involves conforming the edited work picture to the camera negative via edge numbers and then hot splices, A & B rolls, black leader, blah blah blah… Who gives a fuck? Since I didn’t really have any experience cutting negative I was dreading the tedious process. Lucky for me, I got the call to the big leagues in the nick of time. NIBO Films had an opening for an editor - 35mm film, no S&M, no gay sex, good looking women. Salvation. So I passed off the negative matching to a friend who evidently didn’t know much more than I did. Because weeks later – while I was cutting NIBO’s playful romp Brooke Does College - I got a call from a distraught Stella. There was an issue with Johnny Boy Blue. When the actors talk, their lips move later - her endearing way of saying the movie was out of sync. I told her to get me a print and I’d take a look. There was a problem. There was only one print and it was screening daily at the newly rebranded Avon 7, now a gay house called the Park Miller. So Stella wondered if I couldn’t mosey on down there and check out what the problem was with the one and only print of a movie whose images I hoped to erase from my brain. I didn’t make the trip.

I wasn’t surprised it wasn’t Phil who called. I’d already heard through the grapevine he’d been terminated by Murray after one of the theaters was raided for running a brothel out of the backroom. And then a few months later I see a story in the NY Post where Phil was arrested for shooting a guy in a botched robbery at an ice cream parlor in downtown Manhattan. An ice cream parlor? An ignominious end for the Prince of 42nd Street.

Documentary: The Prince of Porn

THE PRINCE OF PORN

A short documentary on Phil Prince by Brian O'Hara

MATURE CONTENT WARNING: It is advised that this documentary is not to be watched by anybody under the age of 18. To watch this documentary you will be required to use the password "letmesee". By using this password you are confirming that you are over the age of 18 and wish to view this mature content.

The Unsolved Death of Teresa Prince 

The Unsolved Death of Teresa Prince

“Two women were found stabbed to death last night in a well-kept midtown apartment house near Eight Avenue, according to police,” went the tiny New York Times article on September 25, 1977. 

On of them was Phil Prince’s thirty-year-old first wife Teresa Prince (stage name: Teresita San Juan). Phil told police he came home from work to their apartment at 310 West 47th Street to find his wife and Maria Cortez, a female friend who’d spent the night, both hacked to death. Phil and Teresa had performed together in Times Square live sex shows.

A New York Daily News article quoted an unnamed “friend” of the couple, and they suggested the murders were connected to “rival mob factions seeking control of the lucrative pornographic industry.” A murder weapon wasn’t found, there had been no witnesses and no signs of a struggle.

No one was with charged in the murders, including Phil. According to the unnamed friend quoted in the Daily News the Princes were “very much in love.”

Bonus: Psycho Wimp

PSYCHO WIMP

A Film by Brian O’Hara

In 1980, during my sophomore year at CW Post College in Long Island, NY, I shot Psycho Wimp. After I was expelled from school, post-production was completed elsewhere. Fun fact: the role of “The Roommate” is played by a fellow film student who weighed in at a svelte 700 lbs. Spoiler alert: if you watch to the end of the movie, you will see yours truly in an extended cameo, getting my kneecaps shot off.

MATURE CONTENT WARNING: It is advised that this is not to be watched by anybody under the age of 18.


Thanks to Ashley Spicer / The Rialto Report for some illustrations. www.therialtoreprt.com


Brian O’Hara is an admitted loser who’s worn various hats in film production. His accomplishments include having written screenplays for some shitty low budget movies and some better screenplays which were not (and never will be) made. His claim to fame: mastermind behind Rock N’ Roll Frankenstein. He also made a documentary short about notorious pornographer Phil Prince which features outtakes from Phil’s rather sleazy bondage and discipline films circa 1983. O’Hara now attempts to eke out a living (aka slow death) as a sound editor in LA.