The Porn Game: Towleroad’s Interview With Bel Ami’s George Duroy
Do you like porn? If you’re a gay man, probably. But while the product is meant to be a mindless escape, its production is a rich and controversial subject, even in a community legendarily open about sexuality.
When the phrase “Bel Ami” is uttered, very few gay men think first of Guy de Maupassant’s second novel. Instead, images of countless “beautiful friends”—pornstars—from Eastern Europe come to mind, young men like Lukas Ridgeston and Johan Paulik, with eye-popping endowments and legit movie-star looks and a performance style worlds away (Bratislava, to be exact) from the moves that characterize American porn films. There’s almost a wholesome quality to Bel Ami’s smut, even if the action is as dirty as the business.
“Gay” porn was never dominated by gay models, and in the case of Bel Ami, not even half of the employees are gay.
Speaking of which, the porn industry has undergone a slew of changes in recent years. Beaten down by easy access to free porn online, crowded out by amateur exhibitionists and in some cases ill-equipped to adapt to the market’s declining interest in DVDs as opposed to downloads, video companies have come and gone and publishers have mostly just gone.
Then there is the hot-button issue of bareback porn, which for many years during the onset of the AIDS crisis was absolutely taboo—Can actors be assured of the status of their co-stars? Does marketing it encourage unsafe sex among viewers? Does anyone care if the money is there?—but which has quickly become a major aspect of the industry in spite of some companies’ seemingly principled refusals to succumb to it.
With the news that the venerable COLT has filed for bankruptcy, I wondered how other companies were faring and wanted to bring up some of the issues that surround the porn industry. What better company to focus on than one of the largest still standing? What follows is my interview with George Duroy, the founder and president of Bel Ami. He, more than anyone, has an interest in figuring out if gay men will automatically think of his product when the phrase “Bel Ami” is uttered in the future.
Towleroad: When did Bel Ami come into existence?
George Duroy: I first used the Bel Ami name in May 1991, but I started the company only in the fall of 1993 after shooting my first film, Tender Strangers.
T: What were the early years like compared to now?
GD: Less hectic, more fun.
T: Do you intentionally cater to an American or any other market?
GD: Fifty percent of our customers are American and another twenty percent use English as their first language. Bel Ami was originally created as an American company and moved to Central Europe only after George W. Bush declared eradicating pornography to be one of his priorities. The whole company is still run according to the American regulations, and all the systems are in English. All the important employees are required to speak English; our COO is Australian and we have five American employees (another thirty are Czech, Slovak or Hungarian). I write most of my notes in English automatically.
T: Bel Ami is famous for its models; how do you find them?
GD: Nowadays, mostly through scouts. We have four full-time scouts working exclusively for us and there are others who work with us on a non-exclusive basis. Of course, some boys contact us directly or through our business partners. Occasionally, I meet somebody socially and he ends up as a model.
T: Are all your models exclusive? What qualities does a model have to have to be considered for Bel Ami?