Bill Wolf






            Elliot Rosenblatt had been a great help in the filming of Rocket To Mars and become a good friend (BELOW, in the Triple-A studios with David).  During that time he had been working as main guy on a couple of straight porno flicks for some LA producers who were coming up to San Francisco to shoot their films in the relative non-enforcement of anti-pornography laws.  He had a big head and was all full of how professional the shoots were.  He had also come to love our work and thought the rocket interior was about the most beautiful set he’d ever seen.




            So he starts talking to me about how they need better sets for these pornos and did I want to help him and do some sets for an upcoming movie he was doing?

            Well, of course, I did!  And I started at once.  And, of course, we needed a big crew to build the sets, and yes, everyone came on board.  After Aimee and now Rocket To Mars, our little band of actors had grown to a big group of actors and artists and helpers and hangers-on.  They all got work.  Elliot was the producer, the big professional Stage A was engaged, furniture was rented, and work began on ...”MARY HARTMAN, MARY HARTMAN.”

            Well, it was a porno spoof of that popular soap then playing on an independent station, and we were hired to create the suburban home, kitchen, back yard and, mainly, the middle-class bedrooms of these ridiculous characters who dropped their pants after three lines of dialogue in any given scene.

            Money was no object, we were told by Elliot, they wanted the best!  So we could rent or buy about anything we needed and generally made some quite authentic and extravagant, semi-expensive looking interiors, incorporating, of course, at least a little of our own “style” of daring colors and lots of art on the walls and funny things to look at.  The producers loved it all (I think they had never even had sets before), and we were an instant hit.


            Thus began a long story of sets for porno movies over the following five years.  We had a great time and made a lot of new friends.  The money was good (to a bunch of broke hippies), and we felt it was a good cause:  FREE SPEECH, expression, gender rights, sexual freedom!  












  We also rented them my old brass bed,

  which got a lot of work-out, the sturdy

  fellow, and the producers always thought

  it was wonderful.


  It would have a long career in the pornos.



The sudden big budgets and the big scenery had come about by an interesting series of events.  A year or so earlier, the fabulously successful “Deep Throat” with Linda Lovelace had hit the theaters.  It was really the first to have a story and a script and characters, and a quite ingenious, in fact, premise (poor Linda has a gynecological problem: her vagina happens to be located in her throat).  And it became the first, big “cross-over” porno, that is it attracted a much bigger audience than the previous, limited, dirty-old-man, traditional clientele, and it made LOTS of money.  Then came out the Mitchell Brothers’ “Behind the Green Door,” another big crossover hit, and suddenly thousands of these smarmy, little LA porno makers (I’m sorry), who had been cranking out beaver flicks for years were suddenly getting lots of backing for new pornos, and for the first time, these guys were having to write screenplays and think of lines, and actors and scenes and SCENERY!  Well, Elliot was great about keeping the producers happy, and they all thought we were geniuses and loved our sets, and we made lots of money and, like the last hippie cowboys that we were, we could say we were working in the pornos!


There would be lots of juicy and almost juicy stories within it, too, and I’ll try to throw them in as I think of them.  (Like when one of my favorites, “Joey,” was horsing around with the star and prematurely ejaculated during a naked, dry-run rehearsal on the set I was finishing up, the rascal!, and the whole crew suddenly realized that this could seriously jeopardize the day’s shooting.  An interruption, or delay for the “come shot,” often called the “money shot” by the producers, could be a disaster!  I was standing over him with a brush touching up the scenery.  He smiled sheepishly and soon convinced the director that everything would be fine and he was really sorry and yes he could go on with the shooting but he had to just masturbate himself a little bit right now but that everything would be fine.  So for the next twenty-eight minutes he did just that, right there in front of me and I tell you, I had to sit down; that kind of story.)


But mostly it was a lot of good, hard work.  “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” was our first.  (It would later be released as “Hard Soap, Hard Soap,” because of conflicts of copy-write, of course; this would prove not uncommon in the porno field.)

Elliot had given us good amounts of advice at the beginning, about keeping our operation looking sharp and attentive, voices down, teamwork, and a can-do attitude.  Never say you can’t do something!  Of course, you can!

            After the initial nervousness of waiting for the first take of the first sex scene, and then standing perfectly silent during what seemed like an awfully long time humping away for the “master shot,” and then “close-up shots” taking an awfully long time again and finally the nerve-wracking, awfully long “come shot” and we finally then went sheepishly about our business, and the utter commonness of the whole thing off-screen among the actors and actresses, well, the next scene, and then the next and the next and they all became pretty casual, believe me, with a few exceptions as I said.


            So “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” led to another porno and to another and to another.  We would do some fifty in all before, exhausted and defeated, we would each in our way, flee like madmen to escape!  (The pornos inspire a drama in me.)


Below:  We were always good at realistic bar scenes.  Note the clever use of movie star photos on the wall (that's James Dean, Sal Mineo, Sylvester Stallone, etc.).




            Soon we did a big budget up-date of the classic Candy stories, “Candy Goes to Hollywood,” filmed in Marin County, in a big mansion Elliot had rented.  (Below: the producers always liked our zebra-striped sheets, you'll note.)




            And Gee, isn't that a Franz Kline painting on the back wall?  Fancy digs.




            Then we came on to do the biggest porno ever!  “Sexworld” made at the big Stage A with lost of money and hype.  Set on a tropical island (the camera never saw an inch of beach or sea or sky, of course), in a fabulously expensive resort where one’s every secret desire is satisfied (!).  Guests to this resort are treated to a multitude of specially built environments:  the French whorehouse, the rusty pirate ship, the sado-masochist dungeon, and others.  We had a ball and made lots of money.

            It was directed by the famous, to us, Sam Weston!  The main cameraman was an old guy named Ted Allen, and he claimed to have worked with Ingred Bergman.  He even had a piece of cloth, I think black velvet, which he said he put behind her for one of his famous stills.  He would occasionally bring it out and use it on the porno girls.  Russell was very impressed and talked to him a lot about his old days in Hollywood.

The producers tended to hire a lot of retired or semi-retired film workers, cameramen and grips, from Hollywood, some really needing the work and some just something to do.  At the other end were the young guys just getting into the movies, and wanting experience.  They’d sit around and listen to the oldsters’ stories of Hollywood and old-time film stars, and it was fun to listen in.

Then, too, the producers always hired a couple extra females, called “fluff girls,” to be occasionally brought in to prep the male star before the big “come shot.”  You see, sometimes the guy, in the utter tedium of filming and saying lines and lots of starting and stopping, couldn’t, well, make it happen exactly on cue, and the female stars would roll their eyes or wander over to the refreshment table.  That’s when the producers would holler for Susie, or somebody, to come in and “fluff” the star.  They’d crawl up onto the set and begin vigorously blowing the poor guy until he could come for the cameras.

The fluff girls were usually quite friendly and sometimes a little snooty, like they got to have all the fun and didn’t have to learn lines or get into all that messy make-up.


            At one point during the filming of Sexworld, the producer said Bill, we need to see the hallway outside this room, you know, that connects with that other room we did.  So I said OK and we put up some flats and a potted plant and painted a silly looking big zig-zag on the wall, like walking down a little hall.  Well, next thing we know they have somebody screwing on the floor of the hall and the cameraman, he likes it, and the actors and actresses like it, I guess, kinda small and confined and easy to work, and the producer he likes it too.  And pretty soon they have somebody else comes along and starts fucking in this little hall and then somebody else comes along and they just kept it up all day and it seemed like half the movie takes place in this hallway, everybody fucking like crazy anytime anybody comes into the hall.  I thought it was pretty stupid at the time but I didn’t really care and the movie made lots of money. 




            Then up into the mountains above Napa for the brave western “Lipps and McCain.”  After a promotional photo was taken with some rented horses, it was early and wisely decided that no actual horses would ever be getting anywhere nears these actors.  I won a national award for Best Sets in a porno film for that one, and Karolyn and I went to the ceremony in Hollywood together, by the way.



            We also did the (sort of) famous Johnny Wadd series with John C. Holmes and directed by Bob Chinn, from, I think, Chinatown, San Francisco.  We were instrumental in helping out the story-lines and the funky atmosphere of the series.  Bob was always fun to work with.  It was a take-off on the Dashiel Hammit/Sam Spade detective stories of the Continental Op, set unrealistically, of course, high in my favorite old Flood Building overlooking Market Street in downtown San Francisco (BELOW).




            And our star was John C. Holmes, of the famous "13 inches."




            Johnny was an interesting guy on the sets, obviously the big star, but not that cozy with the other actors and actresses.  Kind of like a big, insecure kid, around grown-ups.  Well, we always made him feel welcome over in the set crew and often he would come to give us a hand or just hang out with us between takes. Johnny would kid around with Kevin and some of the others and I (quite apart from the delicious fantasies I could cook up at any moment) always liked him and we had a long, easy casual acquaintance together for many years.  I felt very bad about his death some time later in Los Angeles in some kind of cocaine scene, and thought often of the big trusting kid, on the sets with us, and always just in over his head.



            Then Christopher Reeves’ “Superman” came out around that time and the producers decided to do a big “Superwoman” with the big star of the moment, Desiree Cousteau! 




            So Elliot rented Stage A, the big professional sound stage where we always loved to work.  You see, they needed a big area to “fly” the actress playing Superwoman and we constructed the parking lot of a shopping mall in the suburbs, complete with a big, rotating “S” sign overhead.  Artificial turf was brought in, as well as some of the producers’ fancy cars and this poor girl was lowered from the catwalks several times by great effort.  Some shots were finally gotten off and some dialogue, I believe, and the producers wisely decided there would be no more flying in the movie.




            See, Superwoman had arrived on Earth in a rocket ship, and they needed a rocket ship interior.  Gee, where have we seen that scene before?




            The movie starred Desiree Cousteau, a nice lady with whom we had worked on one of the Johnny Wadd movies, “China Cat,” which was Desiree’s first.  We would do lots more with her, including the famous, “Inside Desiree Cousteau,” purporting to be the “true” story of Desiree, filmed in a nice house in Tiburon across the bay.

            There would be some copy-write problems with “Superwoman” (golly), so the movie was renamed “Ms. Magnificent,” and went on to have a little well-deserved notoriety.




            There was one set in China, like opium dens and such, filmed in the back alleys of Oakland (of all!), with lots of paper lanterns and such which we bought in Chinatown and hauled across the bay.


            Then we did one called “The Old Curiosity Shop.”  This had absolutely nothing do to with Dickens nor could anyone explain the connection.  Well, it was supposedly set in a quaint little antique shop in the Sunset district of San Francisco, really digging for untried settings, you see, and there would be so much cute little quaint stuff in this shop that it was decided this movie needed a major prop person.  Russell got the job.

            We had lots of junk, of course, but the movie needed nice junk, so Russell went over to Lafayette to see his mother and said he needed to burrow some nice things for a movie shoot.  Now, Dorothy knew we were doing something with the movies and we didn’t talk about it much except to say they were like, well, B-movies, you know, you’ll never see them, race car stories and such.

            Well, Dorothy got all excited and dug out her old treasures.  Her big collection of antique dolls for example, and precious, breakable knick-knacks.  Russell loaded them up.

            We built a cute little set, it was supposed to be a small shop, with low ceilings and counters and shelves and filled it up with Dorothy’s quaint collection, and clever hidden things like big dildos and fake pussies in amongst the dolls.  Russell, of course, was a wreck the whole time, watching them and imagining them broken.

            The shooting went fine and there were no real incidents to speak of.  I do remember one scene where the girl in the store is on her head (!) literally, with her spread legs in the air and these two guys are standing up fucking her upside-down, one in the pussy and one in the ass.  Well, the cameraman liked it a lot and the producer liked it and they decided they wanted these two guys to pull out simultaneously and come all over this poor upside-down girl.  So the two guys are standing there and they are getting ready for the big come shot and have to stand there real close masturbating themselves and watching each other masturbate and looking into each other’s eyes.

            The camera ready, everybody waiting, the lights all on, I’m watching these two sexy guys going at it and, overhead, I notice the rows of Dorothy’s little, antique Victorian dolls, their innocent, closable eyes looking down on the scene.  I had to sit.

It was released as "Little Shoppe of Temptations."


          Then I remember one, ONLY one, which the producers, perhaps to save money, decided to film in LA.  It was called "Taxi Girls" and one of the scenes took place in a jail cell block (of all!) and we had built all these cells with wooden dowels painted black, and guys in guard uniforms and of course near naked women in all the cells.  Well, it was going fine and they were getting their shots and so our crew decided to go back to our hotel room to smoke a little pot during the takes.  After a while an urgent phone call came to our room, don’t come back to the set, it’s been raided by the cops, more later.  We heard this was very common in LA. And we managed to escape back to San Francisco.


            Around that time, there was a popular movie called “Heaven Can Wait,” with Warren Beatty about this guy who’s an angel or something.  Well, the porno producers are always looking to cash in on whatever is hot, and they come up with a script called “Heaven Can’t Wait” about a guy who is a devil!  Gee.

            And they get Johnny Keyes, the current hot black porno star to play the devil.  We did it over in Oakland.  Elliot had found a big warehouse belonging to two gay girls, Melissa and Susanne, who we would like and get to know real well.  I also liked Johnny Keyes.  He was easy-going and got along well with the crew.  I remember him laying back on the big bed, waiting for one of the actresses to finish her make-up, of course, and naked and joking with the cameramen.  Well, all the time he’s lazily masturbating himself and he recalls a little ditty he used to sing:


                        “I see the Moon,

                        And the Moon sees me.

                        Please, Mr. Moon,

                        Don’t tell on me.”


            It, er, stuck in my mind.  After some little copywrite problem, of course, with the title, the movie was released as “Heavenly Desire,” 1978.




Then there was "Randy," a movie by a film student at the San Francisco Art Institute out by the Bay with some sort of sanction by the school or at least permission to shoot it.  I think he did two versions, a hard and a soft, which I’m sure is what he showed his teachers.  It was filmed at the school and at Fort Mason.



            Years later we were brought on to do the sets for “Candy Stripers,” the big budget hospital flick, that got a lot of attention and made a lot of money for the producers ... and for us!




            No expense was spared as we created a big hospital and all its many areas, operating rooms, waiting rooms, wards, the broad entrance and reception area.  You wonder why the good-looking receptionist is wearing that happy expression on her face?  It seems the young anesthesiologist from upstairs has positioned himself under her desk and is eating her out!  The film was full of lots of hilarious little plot twists like that.  Even the janitors on the wards get into the action; a carefully reconstructed broom closet got a real workout one afternoon.









            But mostly people said, “In which beautiful, big, modern hospital was that filmed?” so realistic were the sets.  And we felt real honored.  Well, then word got around and I was asked to do a big, swanky doctor’s office set for one of the big pharmaceutical companies from down in silicon valley who were making a training film for their salesmen to better sell their product, or some such stupid thing.  NOT a porno!  OK, so we said yes and I did the doctor’s set and they all liked it a lot and soon there was another.  And soon, you guessed it, I was popular for big, elaborate, realistic doctors’ offices, waiting areas, examination rooms, storage rooms, always the doctor’s big dark expensive desk with grand windows overlooking the quaint town square outside until it made me ill.  This was worse than the pornos.  The pornos at least had some reason for being.  These had no content; they were nothing.  They were worse than nothing!

            And my sets were junk.  I remember laying out a bunch of recent photos of the doctors’ offices.  They made me want to puke, they could have been taken in any fancy doctor’s office in the country.  They were nothing!  I fled.


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            But, as I say, that was many years later.  For now we finished up “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” and went on to another and then another.  We had a little money in our pockets and David and I settled into the long process of editing our movie, Rocket to Mars.


*  *  *



            NOTE:  An accompanying detail might be of interest at this point:  on all professional film productions (not only pornos, of course), an important task is filled by the (politically incorrectly called, of course) "continuity girl."  It was her (usually) job to note the look and position of all the props and set pieces between each take, so that the dishes on the table and the hairbrushes on the dressers and the clothes flung over the night table and such, all stayed in their position from shot to shot and don't "pop" from one place to another.  Got it?

            Well, in the old days this meant lots of long lists and even drawings and diagrams of all the sets and props, but we were in the age of the wonderful Polaroid camera (!) and now the continuity girl's job was much easier:  take a "continuity Polaroid" at the beginning and ending of every shot, and check all the details right there.

            This meant LOTS of continuity Polaroids on every shoot and, though most would go into the continuity girl's archives, there were also always lots of extras and throw-always floating around the sets.  We always picked them up.


            Gee, pretty bedroom!



            An exotic ... massage table (?).



            I've seen that bed before!







          Up in the mountains for Lipps and McCain, here I am with the impressive entrance to the "Crawford Ranch."



           I know I've seen that bed!



            I built a very realistic mine shaft, below, which ...



            ... offered an exotic locale, far underground, for lots of things to happen.



            Dale even had one of his many "character" parts on that one.



            Then "Candy-Stripers" and its wide hospital hallways and reception areas.



            Attractive nurses stations.  Attractive nurses!



            Clean, restful private rooms.



            This poor patient is head-to-foot in a cast!  Maybe his visitors can think of something to do for the poor fella.



            With its modern, spacious operating room, ...



          ... Where sometimes the "candy-stripers" would like to have a little party.  I did the decorations.



            They always said our "continuity" was perfect.


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