. . . . .ANOTHER EXCLUSIVE FEATURE!
||An Interview with Latino Fan Club founder/director
In the heart of New York City’s Spanish Harlem is an old renovated school building which houses the single most prolific X-rated video production company featuring the hottest young Latino youths ever seen. The company is aptly called The Latino Fan Club, and at the helm is founder/producer Brian Brennan. Others have made valiant attempts at imitating Brian’s bold and original style, but no one can match his ability to use video tape to let the rest of us take a peek at the lusty world of Latino "Banjee Boys" in their natural habitat, doing what comes naturally. Brian’s skills in taking a naughty, young, virile, heavy hung, uncut, mocha-skinned stud into the studio and making him a star so adoring fans can file him under? GOOD JACK-OFF MATERIAL? in their dreams is well-recognized. Who can resist that swagger, the braggadocio, the devilish grin, the macho posturing, and the hypermasculinity oozing from every pore of these larger than life males?
I had the opportunity to talk at great length with the man who is to LFC what Berry Gordy was to Motown back in the 60s: the energetic soul who takes raw talent from the hood and creates stars. On December 15th, 2000, Mr. Brian Brennan sat for the following interview.
Ross: To start things off, I wondered if youd tell me a little bit about your background. Where are you from? Are you a New Yorker? A city boy? A country boy?
Brennan: Well, I was born in a small city called Lockport, New York, which is northeast of Buffalo, New York. We lived in the city until I was about four, then my mother and father bought a farm, a twenty-five acre farm, out in the country. We were city people. We werent really farmers, but we had gardens, stuff like that. My father was a very creative guy. He could landscape and he was always building things; making the place look really nice. He could create things out of almost nothing, and I think thats a talent that I inherited from him. Yankee ingenuity. It shows sometimes in my videos, I think especially in the sci-fi videos. We wanted to create huge sets, and actually a lot of it was miniature. You can take one thing, paint it over and make it something else.
Ross: So, you got your creative side from your father.
Brennan: Yeah. He did oil paintings as a hobby he had artistic talents.
Ross: So what do you remember about your childhood in the 1950s?
Brennan: Well, I realize Ive always known that I was gay. I can remember at the age of three being curious about grown-ups. Wondering about what grown-up men looked like with their clothes off and I remember not being curious about women. Of course, I didnt know what sex was, but I did know that I was more interested in men than women.
Ross: Even at three years old?
Brennan: I know I was three because we moved to the farm when I was four, and I remember toddling around the house in the city and I remember what the house looked like. So, the reason I bring up the gay thing is because all through my childhood, I knew that, especially by the time I reached high school that I knew I couldn’t express my feelings, my desires. It was always something that I kept hidden. So, I wanted to get away from the community, to get away from the family because it took so much energy to keep this secret, and New York City just seemed so exciting. It was like Emerald City, a place where you could be yourself, even though I didn’t know exactly that I was gay.
Ross: I guess New York was more accepting. You could be anonymous here to a certain extent.
Brennan: Yeah. Of course, times have changed a lot Gay people are a lot more open about themselves now.
Ross: Now, when you came into adulthood, did you work primarily in the arts?
Brennan: Well, the first step, so I wouldnt live my entire life in a small town, was to go away to college. We didnt have the money, but I was able to get a National Defense Student Loan which liberated me from my home, and I could move to Buffalo and I lived in a dormitory, and of course my world changed completely. When I went to college, thats when I started to meet other gay people. I was educated in art education and I was going to teach. After I graduated from college, I did teach for one year. By the time I graduated, I had met my first lover, and we both moved to New York together. So, I taught for a year. That was enough. That was more than enough. Thank you very much!
Ross: Was it high school or elementary school?
|Brennan: It was a junior high school which is the hardest to teach because its all about discipline. You dont get much of a chance to teach. The art class is always the goof-off class. Its not a serious class, so the kids are about thirteen or fourteen years old, and theyre just crazy with pent-up energy. At the end of that first year, they had a summer program which was all voluntary. So, I volunteered for that. And that was fun because I taught film-making to young kids and we made our own super 8 mm movies. That was fun because the kids wanted to be there. They wanted to learn. That was in Jamaica, New York.
Ross: So, you have a background in film making, as well?
Brennan: No. My film-making is self-taught. My education is in Fine Arts and art education.
Ross: I thought that at one time you worked for a magazine, but I dont remember which one it was. Numbers or . . .
Ross: How long were you there?
Brennan: I worked at Blueboy Magazine for about three years.
Ross: Was that a good experience?
Brennan: It was great a lot of fun. I had not really learned the craft of the mechanics of layout and preparing a magazine, and I learned on the job. I worked with an art director. The senior art director would guide me on how he wanted the layouts to look. So, I learned all the technical stuff which is now completely changed. Its all computerized. And actually easier. Yeah, it was a great experience. Then, after three years, the publisher decided to just freelance all the magazines. To cut down on overhead, they came to me and made a deal and said that the budget was such and such, and if I could put the magazine together at home for half the budget, it would be all mine. So, I did it, and I did all the mechanicals and photography and everything in my apartment. Since then, we do the magazines right here (Machismo & Latino Fan Club - The Magazine) at the studio.
Ross: Then, you came to this place and began developing LFC?
Brennan: Well, working at Blueboy was my opportunity to start taking photos of these young guys, which I always wanted to do, and I was teaching myself photography. Actually, I photographed the boy that made deliveries for us at the office from the coffee shop every morning. And, when I took it on my own, I started to do all the layouts.
Ross: Exactly when did you start LFC?
Brennan: In May of 1985.
Ross: Now, what was it that actually inspired you to do this? I mean, LFC is a huge undertaking.
Brennan: Well, at the time, I would occasionally rent some gay porn, and I was just discovering how beautiful Latino guys were. I was very attracted to Puerto Rican guys. And, there just werent any videos out there featuring these men. You know, 90% of all the gay videos are from California. Boy next door types. Blond, blue-eyed surfer types. At the same time, I had an opportunity to get free ad space in Blueboy. So, I thought I could make one video and offer it through the mail. So I put a small ad in Blueboy Magazine, and I called it a fan club for guys who liked Latin guys. And I was starting to visit this bar called Phoenix which was on 8th Ave. and 13th street. It was a hustler bar with Latino boys. Sometimes their girlfriends would hang out there with them, and I met a lot of my first models at this bar. So the first video I put together was a solo jerk-off tape called San Juan Six Pack. So, I started getting orders forthe first video. And, I thought, Oh, this is great. You just go to your mail-box and people are sending you money! What a great way to make a living!! Then, I figured as long as I make my money back, Ill just keep making more videos. So, I just kept making videos.
Ross: During this period, you were still with Blueboy?
Brennan: Yeah, I was still working at Blueboy. Well, Ive always taken small steps. I never gambled big, like quit one thing, borrow money, and start something else. Im not that type.
Ross: The reason that Ive gotten involved in this business is because of you. But, what directors inspired you. Were there certain people whose work you looked at and thought Wow! Thats where I want to go. Thats what I want to do ?
Brennan: My favorite porn director is the French director.
Ross: Jean-Daniel Cadinot?
Brennan: Yes. All the worlds gay porn was coming from LA. It seemed that LA was concentrating on how slick and polished and perfectly lit . . .
Brennan: Over-produced, over-groomed, over-everything. That seemed to be the mind-set. To me, porn should be about how men such a turn on. What makes men sexy? Thats what I wanted to do. And I could see that in Cadinots movies. They werent polished. They were shot in 16 mm and a lot of it was like cinema verite, very documentary style. To me, that was a turn-on because it seemed more like real life. I wasnt watching a big Hollywood musical production. So, Cadinot has always been my favorite director because its all about sex. Its always about whats erotic.
Ross: Do you have a business partner or is this a sole proprietorship?
Brennan: Sole proprietorship. Well its a corporation now. It became a corporation in either 89 or 90, but I own all the stock (laughs).
Ross: The reason I asked is because when I first started getting your videos, for some reason I thought you and M. Vic Mann were partners in the business.
Ross: How did you come to work so closely with him?
Brennan: Theres always been some confusion. From time-to-time, Ill hear through the grapevine, Oh, you know that big man in the LFC videos, that M. Vic Mann is really Brian Brennan or Thats the owner of Latino Fan Club. No, Brian Brennan and M. Vic Mann are not the same person! I have appeared in a couple of character roles in my videos. I was a security guard once.
Ross: You were a lawyer in one.
Brennan: Yeah. I was a jailhouse lawyer.
Ross: Ive seen M. Vic Mann from a distance, and theres no way that I would mistake him for you.
Brennan: Actually, M. Vic Mann, for the past three years, has been my Manhattan video distributor. He supplies all the Manhattan stores with our products and we do a once a week delivery. Hes getting very lovely commissions. (laughs) Hes been to Rome twice this past year and hes been to Santo Domingo a few times!
Ross: I did hear that he was doing a lot of traveling.
Ross: But, how did you meet him? How did you link up with him in the business?
Brennan: Actually, most of my new friends of the past 20 years have been friends of customers and fans of mine, or theyre men who are dating some of my models (laughs). So, Ive met the models sugar daddies. So, I think I met M. Vic Mann through one of my models.
Ross: In your opinion, and maybe based upon some of the feedback youve gotten from your fans, what exactly is the ingredient that makes your work different from everything else out there? Theres really a lot out there in terms of videos and youve got to go an extra step to get people to notice what you produce as opposed to what a competitor produces.
Brennan: Well, as art students in college, we were taught that the creative process is basically an intuitive one, that if you felt the need to create as an artistic person, you should just follow your own instincts about things. You become inspired by something and you just go out there and create. When I went to art school, the basic philosophy was that there are no real rules. That was the time of abstract expressionism. It was basically anything goes. And, in the art world, whoever could come up with something brand new seemed to be in the spotlight. Along with my interest in painting and art, Ive always been interested in film making. When I was young, the trouble was that I was interested in too many different things unable to settle on one area of interest. As a kid, I was crazy about the movies. I never thought about expressing a great message, through my films. I was interested in so many aspects of film making, and making porn was a way that you made your money back. Ive always been interested in sex and in these good looking young guys, so it all came together. It was sort of a low budget way to explore my interest in film making. Ive always been aware of my limitations. After making my first 2 or 3 videos, I would feel embarrassed to watch them because I would see all the flaws. Id see how the camera goes out of focus or camera would jump. Or the editing or titles is lacking.
Ross: So, youre a perfectionist?
Brennan: Well, Im just aware of the inadequacies. And I think, basically, I felt that what would keep my interest would be the next film where I could explore a new genre, a new idea, a new story line, or something that wasnt a repeat of the last one, and also its a new opportunity to improve what was messed up in the last one. For example, this time hold the camera steady or this time use more lighting, or whatever needed tinkering with. I think that along the way, as I got used to film making, whatever makes my style my own style just emerged. The more you work, what makes you who you are, your personality, or style somehow begins to come through. Actually, Ive been surprised over the years at how much mail Ive gotten where people actually say Gee, your videos are so much different from what Ive seen before. I always thought there was an amateur quality . . .
Ross: You thought of your own work as amateurish?
Brennan: Yeah. And still gay critics from LA, even in the good reviews, mention the amateurish charm that Latino Fan Club productions have, or theyll say that even though the production values are limited, theres something charming about the videos. Theyll say something nice, but theres always this element where theyre saying We know this guy is not spending a lot of money. (laughs) But, I think thats a quality that Ive always been proud of. Roger Corman, the Hollywood producer/director, who made these wonderful quick drive-in type movies of the 60s and could make a film really fun and exciting without having to spend a lot of money. I always thought that was great that he knew how to do that. MGM or Paramount would be shooting something and have all these expensive sets and he would find out when they wrapped on a picture and rent the sets for another 2 days cheaply. Hes just smart. In film making, you can take a hundred props and in from scene-to-scene you just rearrange them, mixing things up. Its a fun thing to see how you can take these flats, re-paint them and move them around, and youve got a new set. Or, you film things in such a way that actors are doing a scene in one part of the locker room and they walk into another room, and its actually all the same locker room , but theyre re-arranged. Its the same exact corner of the studio, but in the editing, it looks like theyre working out in a huge gym.
Ross: Thats magic.
Brennan: Thats the magic of movies.
Ross: You mentioned that your first video was San Juan Six Pack. What was the first experience of making a video like for you? Was it exciting? Was it intimidating? Were you thinking What am I doing this for?
Brennan: It was very exciting. I was very nervous. I was a little apologetic because I assumed that the young man I was going to video-tape expected some kind of a big crew, big production, a lot of cameras. In 1985, I kind of cheated because everyone who wanted to be in the industry or make gay porn would rent a 3/4 video camera and decks. They were quite large and cost about $150.00 an hour. So, you had to have everything pre-planned so you could get all your shooting done really quick. And for editing, you had to rent a facility by the hour. Of course, now everything is digital and very small and technically way better than 3/4.
Ross: Today, you can doing everything in-house. You dont need to go to an lab.
Brennan: Oh, yeah. We do everything here at the studio, now. But in 1985, I was shooting in VHS which was a home video format, instead of using 3/4 tape, and renting all the equipment. I was taking a chance because maybe the quality wouldnt be high enough and I might get a lot of returned videos; but, what compensated was the fact that I was giving the fans who were waiting to see Latino guys in porn what they really wanted. They were probably willing to overlook a grainy picture or a video that wasnt technically as good as the California stuff. Ive never had any returns for quality reasons. No complaints because of comparisons with the LA stuff.
Ross: Several things attracted me to the LFC videos, but what I like most is the fact that the videos are not so slick, so over-produced, but also because of the models. Looking at some of the California stuff, if youve seen one, youve seen them all. Your models appear as individuals, as opposed to products off an assembly line, all buffed and in make-up. Thats a real turn-off for me. I think Im seeing what your fans are seeing.
Brennan: Exactly. When I moved to New York one hot summer and walked around the streets, I remember especially in the Garment District there would be a lot of Latin and Black guys pushing these carts with racks of clothing and fabric. In the hot weather, they would be either bare-chested or in tank-tops. Man, that was so exciting.
Ross: You could do all your casting out there.
Brennan: Oh, yeah. Then I thought about how I wanted to put that realness on video. I think that following my own instincts paid off because obviously the people that are in California and competing against each other to be slicker than the next just dont realize that what theyre doing may be valid, but I think they have gotten away from the main idea of what sex is all about. I think they are all following formulas now. There are all kinds of other people who want and appreciate other things. Im creating for those people.
Ross: Youre filling a need.
Ross: Exactly how many videos have you produced since 1985? Do you have any idea?
Brennan: Well, the year 2000 [was] our 15 year anniversary, and [that] year we did more than we did in the past. I have to count exactly how many weve done all together. We did about 10 videos in 2000.
Ross: I was amazed that every time I went into a store, the rack was filled with LFC products. I thought WOW! Whats going on up there at the studio? Just an explosion of creativity at LFC.
Brennan: I think its about 100 videos that weve done. I should really sit down and count because if its only 99, we should make a big deal for the 100th (hearty laugh).
Ross: Yeah! Thats a great excuse for a celebration!
Brennan: We may be over that. It may be 102 or something.
Ross: I wouldnt be surprised. This next question might be a tough one for you. Which video is your all-time favorite, in making it or the finished product or whatever?
Brennan: Other than a favorite video, I have a lot of favorite scenes. There isnt any one title that I thought was just great in every aspect. There are always flaws in everything. I think the one that I hold dearest is Spanish Harlem Knights.
Ross: The entire series?
Brennan: No. The first one. When I was ready to do Spanish Harlem Knights, I thought that there was a point in my editing where I wanted to get more of the story onto video, but in a more leisurely, real-life way. So I thought that if I did a double cassette and did 4-hours instead of compressing everything onto 2-hours of tape, that would do it. And that would be a novelty. That would be an epic. I think that loosened me up psychologically. That video has a more easy going flow to it. But, of course, I havent seen it in years, so I dont know what Id think of it now.
Ross: It was well received, wasnt it?
Brennan: Oh, yeah! I had a couple of fans who also wrote for magazines at the time. A critic whose since passed away wrote a terrific, lengthy rave review of it; it sounded like a college thesis!
Ross: Jacknives was probably my favorite out of all the videos youve ever done. I really go for a good story. It was interesting that all of the sex scenes had a story line which linked everything together. How did you link up with the writer, Julian Anthony Guerra? I was impressed with what the two of you did together.
Brennan: Well, Ive been pretty lucky. I put my videos out there and I often hear from people like them. They contact me. And Julians really a brilliant person. Actually, hes working for a big Hollywood studio, now.
Ross: Wow! From porn to [Hollywood]. Im impressed.
Brennan: Well, he did Jacknives under a pen name. Hes done other professional work. Hes really a smart guy, very creative. At the time he wanted to do Jacknives, I was interested in just being the camera-man for a change and letting someone else direct. I wanted to work with him because I knew how interesting and creative he was, and I jumped at the opportunity. At the same time, Ive always been somewhat of a loner and never really worked in big group situations. I thought this might be a good time to start to work with other people. I remember the one concern I had was that Jacknives didnt seem commercial enough. I mean, if theres too much story, too many scenes that didnt have sex, it would be a problem.
Ross: You thought Jacknives didnt have enough sex?
Brennan: At the time. We did two versions, one with sex, and one with no sex which probably sold only two copies of the R-rated version (laughs).
Ross: I never saw the one without sex. I never saw it, but I was surprised to learn that you even released it.
Brennan: Actually, it seems to work better. Its easier to edit when theres no sex.
Ross: The X-rated version had a nice balance between sex scenes and the scenes without sex which promoted the story line. It held my interest from start to end. This was the video that made me want to work in this industry.
Brennan: I think we did that one back in 91 or 92. A lot of that was shot where I was living in Astoria. The restaurant scene was shot in an actual restaurant right around the corner. Now, when I look back at it, where Julians head was at is where Im at now. By the time we were editing the video, I was thinking Well, this was nice to do, but I have to get back on track meaning I need to just make more videos with wall-to-wall sex, very little dialog. And now I feel (this next year) I really want to get away from what Ive always seen as formula and do more story, more real video. You see, Im not strong on story-telling and I think it shows in my productions. Thats why I want to work with you, but what we want and what happens doesnt always turn out (a reference to our long standing desire to collaborate).
Ross: But, theres nothing wrong with the way youve been producing your videos.
Brennan: Well, that’s probably true, since the productions are so popular and it has worked so well all this time. But just wait until I start to do what I’ve always really wanted to do! They can only get better. Technically, everything can improve. The sharpness of the image, better lighting. All of that will only help the product. But, now I’m ready to get into real stories. And, that’s where you come in.
Ross: I dont think that theres anything about having more stories in your videos that means the emphasis on sex must somehow lessen. You can have both. You can even have more sex as a result of the story. Did you see Queer As Folk?
Ross: In that ground breaking production, you have some sex, but lots of story.
Brennan: Some of my friends here have just devoured it. Theyve watched every episode. They love it. I watched the first hour and thought that anybody who is anti-gay will have those feelings reinforced by Queer As Folk. It shows all the young club kids, all the clichés, from the horny one, to the smart one, to the average looking one. Everyone is a cliché. Theyre all shallow people, and all theyve got on their minds is sex. But, in a way, thats true of same gays, too. But perhaps the characters develop personalities beyond the stereotypes.
Ross: Some of the characters remind me of the types who used to hang out at Uncle Charlies in Greenwich Village. I just hope people realize that Queer As Folk is not THE story of gay people, that there are several other stories out there, and maybe you and LFC could someday tell those other stories. What is your competition like? Do you hear from guys who are doing similar kinds of work? Is there a camaraderie? Is it adversarial?
Brennan: It started out okay, but Ive been kind of lucky because I began a niche with Latino models and I had no competition back in the 80s. No one else was doing this. A couple years after I got started LFC, The Latin Connection got started, but there was no real competition because fans always perceived a big, big difference between LFC and TLC. So, we didnt bother worrying about competition. I mean, there was some weird stuff that went on , but I dont want to get into it . . . (hearty laugh)
Ross: Come on! The readers want dirt, the top soil.
The Interview continued in part 2: