The industry obituary is always interesting to me. Going beyond the general interest in what kind of work the person did, the industry obit explores how the person worked, how the work differed from that of colleagues and how those colleagues built or grew from the legacy.
When this kind of obit is done right, the voices are more intriguing as well. The industry reporter is closer to the deceased and the sources. If the reporter is past the usual parachuting and can push beyond the platitudes, the personal becomes real and valuable. Despite formality, two friends are talking about a third friend, essentially. Color arrives.
So, the most engaging obit I’ve read this month comes from porn.
When your first college newspaper editor graduates, goes into adult production and works his way up in the field, your Facebook becomes more surprising. “People You May Know” pictures include people who look like porn stars. Upon clicking through or Google, they are indeed porn stars. Your news feed intersperses stories about 2010 political concerns with 2010 porn concerns. Your former editor gets married, and you can’t help but guess in his wedding photos who’s porn and who’s family. (This is unexpectedly difficult. Compared to regular life, everyone in anyone’s wedding photos looks slightly more like both.)
In my Facebook feed this month came the death of porn actor-turned-director John Leslie. Former NU editor Adam, now working at the same company as Leslie, didn’t post the Associated Press obit (“John Leslie, an award-winning adult film actor and director…”) or the nearby Marin Independent Journal coverage (“John Leslie Nuzzo, an award-winning pornographic film actor and director…”). Instead, Adam posted an obit from Xbiz, an adult industry digital pub. The story runs more than 40 paragraphs and 1,500 words. The link is not safe for work unless you work in a newsroom or university — nothing ridiculously graphic in the page but still. If you work in a newsroom or university, here you go.
I knew nothing of the people mentioned in the piece; and until reading this and other obits, I knew nothing of John Leslie. But a passage near the end struck me as a reminder of the unique charms of industry obits — imperfect as the people who inhabit the field, foreign to all outsiders (all insiders elsewhere), stumbling, but interpersonal in a way general obituaries rarely capture, whether the field is porn, plumbing or news.
Prince Yahshua, the 2010 Urban X Performer of the Year, was distraught Monday when he heard Leslie had passed, saying that Leslie was his idol.
“I just worked for him. He just invited me, right after [the Adult Entertainment Expo], he said ‘I want you to come out to my area in Northern California and spend a week with me at my house, you can get to know my wife.’ Everybody knows John Leslie was like my porn father. To say that I idolized this dude was a [expletive] understatement,” Yahshua said, fighting back tears.
“Oh my God. I don’t think nobody in porn loved this dude the way I did. It’s crazy because when I was 12 years old I went into my mother and father’s home — and that’s when they had the reel-to-reel movies — the first movie I had ever seen in my life was the guy that became my [expletive] mentor, which was [expletive] John Leslie.”
Yahshua continued, “I had the honor of meeting John exactly three years ago [at AEE]. He actually had seen some of my work, and he had the nerve… This man had the nerve to tell me that he was a fan of mine. Wow…
“This man that had me humbled like I was a five-year-old child, for him to say, ‘Hey I’m a fan of yours. I would love to use you in this movie.’ You know how when people say they’re scared to death they almost piss themselves? I almost pissed on myself. I’m actually in front of a living legend…”
Yahshua, who recently came back to performing after suffering a torn urethra in August, said when he shot for Leslie two weeks ago that after the scene that they sat talking on the set for “two to three hours longer catching up.”
“Because he was so happy to work with me again after my accident,” Yahshua remarked.