Jack Wrangler, ’Icon’ of Gay and Straight Adult Film, Dead at 62

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday April 8, 2009

Jack Wrangler, a performer in musical theater as well as in gay--and straight--pornography who has been described as an "icon," has died at the age of 62.

An article at Examiner.com on April 7 offered an extensive run-down of Wrangler's life and work, mentioning that the actor, who retired from making porn films after his 1994 marriage to a woman, died following a lengthy lung-related illness.

Wrangler described himself as being gay, and famously claimed that his first act of sexual congress with a woman was work-related, taking place on the set of a porn film. Even so, he was, by all accounts, happily married to Margaret Whiting.

About his relationships with women, the Examiner article quoted Wrangler as saying, "I never hid behind saying I was 'bisexual,' I always knew I was more attracted to men.

"But I think there's something to a gay man who has great sex with women-I think a lot more guys do that than talk about it, and it's not necessarily bisexual."

The article also quoted his comments to Gay Wired magazine, in which Wranger said, "When I met Margaret, no one was more surprised than me when I fell in love with her. We knew right away.

"We became friends, and when we first started going together... I mean, I was out. I'm not straight, I'm not bisexual-I'm gay.

Wrangler addressed his choices as a gay man married to a woman, saying, "When I got with Margaret, I knew I had to change course. She would have my bags packed and sitting outside the door when I got home at night and things like that. Plus I would go through massive guilt whenever I did go out with a guy and I was with her.

"So I finally said that's it. I went to her one night and said I'm never going to cheat on you again with anybody. So my sex life became very masturbatory. And I'm good at that-very good at that, in fact."

The article quoted Wranger's comments to the Windy City Times: said the actor, who made 85 porn films, "I just couldn't live the gay lifestyle; it's too hard to live."

The actor explained what he meant by that, saying, "I'm very competitive, and with two guys having the same kind of thoughts, it'll always be too hard for me.

"With a woman, there are different kinds of challenges because they come from a different place. Your interactions are always going to be surprising and different, whereas with a guy it's one-on-one."

Not that Wrangler went out of his way to argue the point of his being gay; though many people took him for bisexual, Wrangler was content to let them think as they wished.

The article quoted him on the subject, with Wrangler saying, "It gets controversial with people always trying to label you, trying to understand you.

"I just let people think of me however they wanted, and I didn't usually argue. People could fantasize about me however they wanted, that was just fine with me."

The TLA Releasing documentary about the star, titled "Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon," won the Best Alternative Title at the GAYVN Awards, the article said.

The documentary also won praise from other quarters, with a comment posted at the Internet Movie Database reading, "This detailed, crystal-clear documentary takes you through Jack's mind and life with copious footage of him, his work, his times, and a great many people who were around him.

"As a co-worker of Jack's and a participant in this movie, I assure you that director Schwarz has caught Jack's quiet, charming, and above all strong essence perfectly.

"This is the Jack I know."

Playwright and performer Robert Patrick, author of the play "T-Shirts," which starred both Patrick and Wrangler, was quoted in the article.

Patrick made reference to Wrangler's Hollywood roots; his father worked in television, and his mother had danced in Busby Berkely movies.

Noted Patrick, "Jack, a Hollywood child (Marilyn Monroe baby-sat him), was getting nowhere much as an actor when a porn movie was offered him.

"He consulted with his father, a producer of 'Bonanza,' who told him 'just be the best.'"

Patrick continued, "Jack took his screen-name from his jeans and became the first identifiable personality on the tiny, blurry screens of gay porn.

"At a time when most 'adult' actors wore socks and even masks, he created a persona modeled on the Marlboro man--butch. beautiful, and unashamed.

"And imitated!" added Patrick. "The gay 'clone' look (plaid shirt, jeans) was inspired by Jack's signature outfit."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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