American Booty: Chris Rockway and the Evolution of Gay Porn
We all know the type: He's the hunk you spot at the gym; hot, masculine, real, with a killer bod and dazzling smile. He's no doubt got a gorgeous girlfriend at home, and he watches a lot of sports and probably works in finance or real estate. Although he's obviously never been with a man, he smiles at you without any pretense, and maybe a twinkle of curiosity. He's the ultimate hetero fantasy, and if you play your cards right, you just might get him.
In the wonderful gay world of Chris Rockway Inc., dreams really do come true. At least until the Happy Ending ends.
To talk to Chris Rockway is to have a conversation with a star as image conscious as Julia Roberts, a thousand times more pop-savvy than Tom Cruise. He's the man's-man who's not afraid to love another man, unlike gay-idol stars like Cody Cummings, whose naked-hunk image is based on narcissism and a dollop of homophobia. But Rockway's also the porn man's Thinker, created not just in the image of a Rodan sculpture, but providing the narrative to his own museum piece.
During our two-hour-plus phone conversation (I had to end the call; now there's a scenario I never imagined), Chris rolled around questions like IED's, not so much out of fear that he'd give an incorrect answer, but rather that he'd give an incomplete answer. Unlike partner in porn crime Reese Rideout, who whips out sentences as quickly as he whips out his dick, Rockway listens, asks again, discusses, narrows down, then double checks to make sure he's not being taken out of context. Should they ever make the porn version of "Yentl," we know who to call.
An "open book" born in Omaha, Nebraska, Rockway's porn beginnings follow the classic storyline of the pretty boy, or girl, whose small-town upbringing collided with the big-time. Five years ago his mother, whom he lived with, got seriously ill and couldn't pay her hospital bills -- Dad left the picture a long time ago. Not only that, Rockway was imprisoned after someone mistook his dog for another dog that had attacked his neighbor. He spent a month in jail, and came out in desperate need of cash. Nude modeling seemed like a smart idea (well, duh), he clicked on an Internet site, and voila, turns out it was a straight porn site called Mighty Men. He did one solo clip for them and two days later was flown to L.A. A Randy Blue headhunter had spotted him in the cyberspace crowd and a star was born for porn.
A star whose image meant everything from the start. "I lied about my age," says Rockway. "I'm thirty now; not twenty-eight. I said I was from St. Louis and not Nebraska." Rockway's porn name was given to him by someone else, and he still doesn't tell people his surname. "I didn't want to bring more attention to myself; I didn't want to bring it home. I just wanted to do my scenes and make my money and be anonymous. I didn't know I'd be here four years later."
And here he is, quite possibly the most recognizable gay porn star in the country, who's shot about 50 clips for RandyBlue.com, while still living in his hometown, near, but not with Mom. "Once I told her I was healthy and happy and making good money she thought it didn't look like such a bad thing," he says of his mother. "I don't care what most people think of me. Friends, family; if you don't accept me then you're not in my life."
That life is shared with his stripper girlfriend, whom he met online, and who also lives in Omaha. Oh yeah, in case you haven't figured it out yet, Chris isn't gay, he just streams like one. "I've always wanted to maintain ambiguity," says Rockway. "I don't like labels." He also doesn't plan to switch designers. "I am straight; I've never wanted to be with a man. On a heterosexual scale I'm a 9.9."
Life and art don't mix well in the imagination of gay men, and common sense, along with erections and cum shots, would tell us anyone who's enjoying another man's body that much has got to be some kind of gay (in an earlier column I wrote, ex-gay-porn star Dean Phoenix said, of Rockway's sexuality, "He's not that good of an actor."). Rockway sums up this conundrum quickly. "When I see good magic, I don't think the trick is real. It just means he's a good magician."
Rockway stopped, then added more. Porn "is not real sex. It's a lot of work. Sexually, I can disconnect myself from what I want from a woman, and I can act those things out with men, be physical. I'm straight but not narrow."
Every singer has a song the fans want to hear, every movie star has a relationship we'd love to know more about, and every porn star has a scene we're dying to get to the bottom of. For Chris Rockway, it's his famous three-way with Reese Rideout and Alex Eden. In the clip, Chris Bottomed for the first time on film, and in real life. To say it looks like he's in a lot of pain is to say Joan Rivers looks like she's had a lot of work.
"I was somewhat of a pussy," says Rockway. "It's not like having a glass dildo up my butt." For preparation, Rockway relied less on art and more on the science of self-medication. "It was morning and I had a Jack and Coke to get ready. Reese is big enough for porn, but Alex has a giant cock." Like many other heterosexual porn stars, straight films were out of the question: "The highest-paid guy I know in straight porn gets a fraction of what I do."
Rockway, like Reese Rideout, says he doesn't demand or ask for particular stars to work with ("It could be Abe Vigoda and I'd do it"). His prep work is more personal. "My hair is salt and pepper, so I dye it. I'm not really ready for that, and I think it's more of a Colt look. I get a pedicure, because I have horrible feet, and you can't have bad feet."
He's not vain, it's just that the clips are about him. "I want people to see me as a physical specimen. If I look like two percent of the population, that's the fantasy. They can't say 'He looks like every guy on campus.' I want to look extraordinary, with this amazing body or amazing dick."
Rockway pays careful attention to the business of porn ("You have to remember that I know everyone by two names," he said when I mentioned the one star whose stage name didn't ring a bell), but he's far more interested in the business of the world. He grew up without religion, and never had any qualms about sex with another man.
That background of acceptance probably explains the lack of condescension in Rockway's clips -- this is a guy who unaffectedly kisses men and sticks his butt out front and camera center; once again, that jock you dream about appearing in every dream position imaginable. "I don't think being gay is bad, or that I'm going to Hell," he says. "Having sex with guys doesn't make you gay, either. I kiss my dog and I'm not into bestiality."
He's also not apologizing for his work. "I actually believe that seeing men together may help young men who struggle with their sexuality; they can see us and feel that what they are feeling is normal and that there are other people out there just like them who are confident with their sexuality." On that scale, Rockway may be the gayest non-gay role model out there. "I've had kids write me from small, religious towns. They tell me it must be okay to be gay if I'm comfortable with my sexuality. I never realized that porn could affect someone's life."
His attitudes on religion have been shaped by his career, and vice versa. "I think people choose to be dumb. It's why they believe in Jesus. Kids only believe in Santa Clause because we let them. Religion teaches us not to evaluate things. There's a bumper sticker that says 'God said it; that settles it.' When you say that enough, it teaches you to take things without evidence, to not think for yourself. That's a bad way to enter the world."
Gay porn, in Rockway's view, is evolving in the same way that gay rights are evolving. "Everything has an evolution; we're not going to wake up and have it be okay," he says. "There's a slow, progressive evolution toward moral acceptance. If you're born a terrorist, that's your world. Most people in America think religion is good, Church is good, porn is bad. America is a cult on a greater scale. They vote for people against their own interests. As long as sex is consensual, if people want to slap each other all day and dress up as bunny rabbits, it's okay."
Rockway likes the "It Gets Better" videos and the Trevor Project, and, not surprisingly, has contemplated the larger issue at play. "The Eighth Grader boy who killed himself, he was out in Eighth Grade! How many kids were out at that age in the Sixties? I think kids were bullied and killed themselves and we never knew why. We have obviously come a long way. That's why some are spreading their hate a little louder now; they have to try and drown out the coming tidal wave of progressive, secular ideas. It's not going to work."
One of those people "spreading their hate," New York Governor Candidate Carl Paladino, doesn't get a lot of respect from the Nebraska native. "I doth think the gentleman protest too much. I give it three weeks before we learn about his gay escort."
Google Chris Rockway and you'll find his own name attached to Rentboy.com. Rockway is unapologetic, but determined to set things straight. "I have used those channels to book personal appearances and even amateur photo shoots for extra income," he says. "But I don't exchange sexual activities for money. I would never participate in anything illegal or that would threaten my health or safety. That is hard for some people to believe."
Rockway, who's never even created a Facebook profile despite several impersonators, claims that escort promoters have used his name to solicit business. "There are reviews of me from people I've never met," he says. "I assume they were posted so people will call and be told something like 'He's not available, but I have someone else I'm sure you will like.'"
Chris Rockway, in case you haven't gathered, is not dumb. He's a paradox in the gay porn world, where words are usually the most painful things we hear and expect from our stars. He also may be the one man for whom the phrase "gay lifestyle" makes sense. He's a brand-name, he's not leaving the industry anytime soon ("I'm happy and would do this as long as it lasts; I think I've got years left"), he's not hustling, and he's not about to circle the drain. He's also going home to a woman at the end of the day.
Turns out, the guy next door is not coming over after all. Is this progress, or has gentrification taken over the last refuge of gay life? Is he for real or real fantasy? I don't know the answers to these questions, but I'm pretty certain Chris Rockway is more than just a trick of his light.
American Booty is my third column in a series of porn stars.