The Quick and Dirty Guide to Gonzo
by P. Weasels
What is Gonzo?
Gonzo is a form of adult filmmaking named after the style of journalism pioneered by Hunter S. Thompson, who defined it as "total commitment, total concentration, and a mad sort of panache"; the word itself is said to be South Boston Irish slang for the last man standing after a drinking contest. The purest definition of gonzo is filmmaking in which the camerawork is a representation of the cameraman's senses, and in which the camera is an acknowledged participant in the scene; the person behind the camera does not necessarily have to participate in the sex, but often does
Where did Gonzo come from?
John Stagliano, AKA Buttman, is generally credited with the invention of gonzo porn, but it is more fair to say that he was the Henry Ford of gonzo -- he created a character and made the genre his own; his Buttman movies number more than seventy, and he has been the inspiration for countless imitators. Another important and often-copied gonzo artist is Adam Glasser, AKA Seymore Butts, who worked with Stagliano in the early '90s and then forged his own identity by creating another character who had an obsession with anal sex. Glasser has shot more than a hundred Seymore Butts movies, and his girlfriend and protégé also became a power in the gonzo world with her Shane's World mini-empire.
In 1994, the AVN Awards created a category for Best Gonzo Video, and in 1995 for Best Gonzo series. Significantly, in 1993, the awards began to feature a category for Male and Female Performers of the Year, which reflected the trend toward all-out sex performance instead of the acting required for the features that had dominated the industry in the seventies and eighties.
What's hot in Gonzo now?
John Stagliano's company, Evil Angel, is the dominant force in gonzo today; the company has functioned as an umbrella for a number of different award-winning directors. Jules Jordan, John Leslie, and Joey Silvera have all won multiple awards, and Evil Angel directors have won nine of the twelve AVN gonzo awards since 2001. Jules Jordan alone has won twelve awards in various categories, and Evil Angel has carted home a staggering 127 since 1991.
Up and coming stars in the gonzo genre include Digital Playground's Robby D., who has helmed the Jack's Playground and Jack's Teen America series, both high-end glossy outings that feature new and popular girls in an unscripted, fluid format that offers a glimpse of the stars in a relaxed, off-hours setting. Studios like Anabolic, Diabolic, and Red Light District have produced dozens of lines of video featuring fresh new stars in gonzo scenes that showcase different tastes in body types like busty, all-natural, big-ass, or long-legs, and practices like cum-swallowing, handjobs, oral and anal sex, or internal cumshots.
The definition of gonzo is coming to connote more extreme action than the strict "camera as observer" interpretation. Titles labeled gonzo still depend on a sense that the camera is there, but the camera has become less important as a factor that affects the action. The bare-bones nature of gonzo has meant that companies or individuals with little in the way of resources or backing can produce films with little investment; for this reason, new players in the gonzo world are always on the horizon. Stars and directors can compile resumes with little trouble, and so the field of aspiring stars provides a sort of farm league for major studios to cherrypick from, signing performers to contracts and creating a stable system not unlike the Hollywood powerhouses of the forties and fifties.
The Women of Gonzo
For all the directing innovations and stylistic forward leaps the business has seen, porn is still about the girls. Since Linda Lovelace became the first real nationwide porn star, celebrity has been a possibility for any woman who comes into the industry, but in the nineties a new kind of stardom hit the scene. Today gonzo can be a springboard for actresses who want to go on to act in feature films -- Belladonna's early appearances in multiple volumes of Dirty Debutantes and Up and Cummers as well as plenty of Anabolic productions established her as a star to be watched, and Jenna Jameson's first sex scene was with gonzo woodsman Randy West.
However, gonzo isn't always a road to fame in features -- for many
women, gonzo is enough. Seymore Butts' girlfriend and onscreen partner
Shane carved out her own
niche first onscreen and then as a director with her Shane's World
series and its many spin offs. It's increasingly common for women who
have made a mark as dynamic performers to make the leap to helming gonzo
films and their own lines. Jewel
De Nyle, Aurora Snow
and Ashley Blue, each boasting
an AVN Performer of the Year Award, have gone on to direct and star
in successful gonzo lines, and Tianna,
Tiffany Mynx and Charlene
Aspen, among others, have all starred in the title role of the Buttwoman
franchise. Today the field of performers is crowded, with new starlets
cropping up by the hundreds every year. Many appear a few times and
then drop out, but many benefit from the industry's contract mania and
hunger for new talent, and girls like Keri
Sable, Missy Monroe, Katsumi,
Taylor Rain, Cytherea
and Ariana Jollee achieve
a success that might have been impossible before gonzo.
Gonzo Starter Set
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