Sunday, March 15, 2009


Corey Taylor’s Naked: The Life and Pornography of Michael Lucas is about a gay Russian Jew porn actor and director who has turned himself into New York celebrity.

Covering Michael Lucas’s life from growing up in the Soviet Union to his current near A-list celebrity status, it is an admiring celebration of a classic immigrant-makes-good-in-the-US story.

The story bounces along nicely. Taylor conveys well the claustrophobic oppressiveness of the Soviet Union, the sheer unpleasantness of so much of daily life. One gets a good picture of the pervasive anti-Semitism of an officially atheist state (a case which ironically demonstrates the silliness of Marx’s understanding of Jew-hatred and how to solve it—get rid of religion).

Taylor also conveys the wounding and oppressive nature of fear and ignorance about human sexuality. He sees the Soviet Union as being, in sexual terms, like the US before the Kinsey Report(s), which seems not a bad analogy.

Ironically for a biography of a porn star and director, there are no pictures.
Taylor takes us through Michael Lucas’s childhood, adolescence, education and early working life in the Soviet Union. Michael Lucas then moved to Germany, where he worked as a hustler and dabbled in porn. Clearly, Michael Lucas likes sex but he very much saw hustling as a business (he had previous business experience having run a travel agency in Moscow), and approached it as such.

Lucas then moved to New York and used the money he saved from hustling to start a business directing porn, with himself as the prime asset of Lucas Entertainment. The business opportunity he spotted was quality, New York-based gay porn, as all the major American porn companies were based in California. Which he has been very successful at building. His 10 tips on how to be successful porn star alone are worth reading.

Michael Lucas’s commercial success illustrates Voltaire’s point about commerce reaching across sectarian divisions and diversity encouraging a free society. As the same-sex oriented experience daily, commerce has generally been much friendlier to them than politics – hence, in the US, Fortune 500 companies have recognised same-sex relationships rather more readily than US States. The openness of commerce is a common experience of minorities: as Thomas Sowell has pointed out regarding the origins of the Jim Crow laws, which were imposed by governments since commerce would not waste money racially segregating.

Lucas has also been very successful at building a public profile for himself by the simple expedients of having lots of striking things to say and being available and consistently pleasant to journalists and photographers: to the extent of being profiled in The New Republic, to his public pleasure. Being clearly photogenic doesn’t hurt, of course.

Lucas’s rather conventional private life—even with recognisable pitfalls of gay emotional life—(apart from the having-public-sex-as-part-of-his-job thing) and his devotion to his family (most of whom he arranged to migrate to New York) are also covered.

The book ends with a nice epilogue one pornography, skewering the bad scholarship and abusive reasoning of Andrea Dworkin & Catherine MacKinnon—particularly Dworkin’s misandry-parading-as-feminism where all forms of male sexuality are illegitimate.

Lucas himself clearly inspires strong reactions: gay, expatriate, Jewish, porn-star and entrepreneur, Zionist, avid self-publicist – what is there not to react to? One’s reaction to Naked is likely to coloured by reactions to the package presented as Michael Lucas.

Michael Lucas himself is not so impressed with the book. His complaints about the writing style seem rather precious. Taylor cites and thanks various friends and acquaintances of Michael Lucas for their assistance in his acknowledgments, so they contradict each other about Taylor's sources. Michael Lucas's complaints are also surprising in that Naked is very much an admiring and respectful biography. It leaves you thinking that Michael Lucas is a driven, but also self-possessed and effective, person who is probably (when the mood takes him) lots of fun to be around.

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