'Men of Israel': The new box-office stud? [Updated]
I doubt that Michael Lucas is in line to get a cabinet position in the Israeli government, but the New York-based entrepreneur is doing everything he can to -- as he puts it -- "promote Israeli culture and tourism." It's how he's doing it that is unusual. See, Lucas is a former porn actor who now runs Lucas Entertainment, a top gay porn production company, whose new film, "Men of Israel," available now in video stores, is being billed as a landmark production, being the first gay porn film to feature an all-Israeli cast.
FOR THE RECORD:
This post, which was published in print on July 27, describes Michael Lucas of New York-based Lucas Entertainment as a former porn actor whose company produces gay porn. A spokesman for Lucas says he still has an active career as a performer in the adult industry.
But according to this report from Tablet magazine, which offers smart, iconoclastic coverage of Jewish arts, politics and culture, the real breakthrough for the film is that it's the first gay porn movie to feature an all-Jewish cast. (Obviously a fine distinction, but a distinction nonetheless.)
As Tablet's Wayne Hoffman points out, until now most Jewish porn stars have used deracinated porn monikers -- the legendary Harry Reems ("Deep Throat"), for example, was born Herbert Streicher. And the world-famous Ron Jeremy was once known as little Ronnie Hyatt.
In gay porn, Hoffman writes: "Openly Jewish men have been virtually absent or invisible. In fact, the only one in recent memory is, well, Michael Lucas. That's not to say that there haven't been Jewish guys in gay films. Just two years ago, for instance, Dror Barak made it big as a hirsute hunk making movies for Raging Stallion Studios, but Barak -- who worked for the Israeli consulate in New York until news of his other career broke -- performed under the name Roman Ragazzi."
In "Men of Israel," all the guys are openly Israeli and Jewish, with even plausibly Israeli names: Matan Shalev, Avi Dar and Naor Tal. I'm no expert on pornography, having seen more documentaries about porn than actual porn films in the past 20 years. But whenever Jews are more open about their Jewish identity -- as the Adam Sandler, Judd Apatow and Sarah Silverman generation of comedians has been in recent years -- it sounds like a healthy development, as it would be for any minority culture.
Hoffman sounds as if he's still on the fence. He's hopeful that the success of "Men of Israel" could become a "signifier" for a certain type of sexual prowess or desirability, saying: "Will Italian guys start wearing mezuzas and telling people they're Jewish -- and will that make them seem more virile, better endowed, hotter? I'll believe it when I see it." He concludes that he'll be convinced that Jewish studs have finally arrived when he sees a new magazine called Jewish Inches or "a blond, blue-eyed Midwestern performer who adopts a name like Lance Bornstein or Rod Horowitz."