Sex, Drugs & The Monster :: Michael Brandon Documents His Life
In the realm of adult male films, Michael Brandon deserves the moniker of "living legend." What, though, is the cost for such status?
Brandon attempts to answer that (along with other questions) in his upcoming feature film documentary Born This Way: The Journey of Michael Brandon, directed by C.J. Goodman for OPH Films, telling his life's journey over the past 25 years.
The in-progress documentary, featuring a series of interviews and reenactments, tells how Michael Phillips (Brandon's real name) became Michael Brandon and the ups and downs his stardom have taken him. Interviews include not only one-on-one with Brandon, but also with a number of interviews from business associates, friends, ex-partners, and family. These include porn film director Chi Chi LaRue, adult film stars Ricky Sinz and Steven Richards, and his ex-wife.
Porn model and star Drew Cutler portrays the young Michael Brandon in the reconstruction of pivotal moments in Michael’s life. Those reenactments include Brandon’s coming out to his wife, his drug addiction, his court appearances and prison time, and some of the difficulties in his other relationships.
This is the first time that Michael Brandon has the opportunity to tell HIS story, making history in the process. As he puts it, "I am looking you in the eye through the camera’ and telling my story." ’Born This Way’ is the naked truth of Michael Brandon’s world that took from porn star to porn royalty, from celebrity to humanitarian, and from weak to strong. Through the unveiling of the truth, the guilt, the pain, and deceptions we meet the real Michael Brandon.
(Editor’s note: Click here to read a 2008 SF Weekly story by Ashley Harrell about Brandon’s adult male career and issues with drugs.
An honest portrayal
BeBe: It’s is great for me to have this opportunity to speak with you, the legendary gay porn star that you are, about your upcoming documentary of your life called ’Born This Way: The Journey of Michael Brandon.’ Since I have known you for some time, one of the questions that kept popping in my head is ’why a documentary of your life at this moment in time?’
Michael Brandon: I think it’s time. You know, my fan base has wanted me to write a book because Lord knows I have had my ups and downs. I can reach a mass audience with my fan base, but I really never thought it was the right time to write a book because there is still so much happening. And if you write a book, what do you do? You write another one, and then another one, and so on. But in 2011, a production company OPH Films, touched base with me about actually doing some mainstream acting for some B-horror movie type stuff. It came about that Jason (director and producer C.J. Goodman) had aspirations of doing a documentary. So we talked about and decided in 2012 that it was time.
BeBe: How long will filming and production take to make this documentary? I understand that there are a series of interviews that are a part of this documentary, correct?
Michael Brandon: Yes, well we had been working on it for about four months just setting everything up, but now we are in the nitty gritty of it all with the interviews. We got like 12 interviews when I was Augusta, Georgia because I have been with some of those people, my leather family, since 2001. We have all grown together in life. Having my leather family as a part of this documentary just fit.
The documentary is a very honest portrayal of my life. I don’t have anything to do with the interviews. I’m not on set with the interviews. I didn’t want (my friends) to feel like they have to talk a good game because I’m there and they are friends of mine. (The documentary) is about addiction, my drug addiction problem. It’s about my homelessness because of my addiction. Prison. My relationships. It’s a very honest portrayal of my life.
BeBe: I’m sure going through this making of the film process and the telling of your story has been therapeutic for you, as well as serving as an informational piece for your fans.
Michael Brandon: Yes. Yes, it has been overwhelmingly therapeutic. I am very vulnerable right now. I’m very raw. You know, I’ve shut down a lot of things even as growing up as a child. I’m learning a lot through all of this because it is opening me up. Like with my divorce from my wife ..... (a long pause to fight back emotion)..... yes, it’s very therapeutic.
BeBe: I know your fan base has been some what of a catalyst for you to do this film about your life, but beyond giving them this piece, are you hoping to reach others? I mean what you’ve gone through just doesn’t happen to porn stars, it can happen to anybody.
Michael Brandon: Yes, absolutely. We are hoping to enter the film into the film festivals, and stuff like that. One of the first premieres we plan to do is at the Castro Theater. My hope was to have this done for the week before last year’s Folsom Street Fair; but unfortunately, sometimes things don’t work out the way you’d like it to. I’m hoping to reach the masses, more so than my fan base. But of course my fan base is the core.
BeBe: Let’s talk a bit about your fan base, and how large it is. And, how you have still managed to stay relevant and appealing in the porn industry, which, let’s face it, is a lot about youth and appearance. Here you are in a prime period of your life and you are still in great demand for event appearances. Can you explain that? Why have your fans stuck by you so instead of replacing you with someone younger, or prettier?
Michael Brandon: Well, I keep reinventing myself. Yes, I started out in the industry as a porn star, and then I moved behind the camera with Raging Stallion Studios and became a partner in the company. I keep in contact with my fans. We’re loyal to each other. I dropped off the face of the Earth when I relapsed almost 4 years ago, but I can’t even begin to tell you how many emails that were all backed up from saying ’Where are you? We haven’t heard from you in weeks’. I’m usually on it. If I’m not on Facebook in two days people are wondering if everything I okay. My fans fucking rock! I love my fans. And, that’s why I have had the longevity. 25 years in the (porn) industry this year. 25 years. It’s because I’m creating a corporate ladder to success, so to speak. Porn star. Studio owner. 9X6 lube company. And, now the documentary.
BeBe: Well you’ve definitely branded your name. Michael Brandon is a brand. And with that brand comes an expectation, but you’ve delivered.
Michael Brandon: Yeah.....
BeBe: We know of your well publicized drug addiction period, and it leads me to talk about the overwhelming amount of deaths of porn models recently. These people are very young. I have to believe that the use of drugs played some part in why they are no longer with us. How do you think your documentary and the portrayal of your drug addiction in it will help young porn models out there as it pertains to their access to drugs, and their use of them.
Michael Brandon: Well, that is actually one of the reason why I thought it was time for us to tell my story, because it doesn’t have to be that way anymore. All you have to do is go to the internet and type in my name, and you will see some of the trials and tribulations I have gone through. And (the question is), why haven’t I succumbed like the others? I need to tell my story, to show people that it doesn’t have to be like that. It is difficult, yes. My life has pretty much been an open book, especially the drug addiction. It is my goal, and the production company’s goal to... I mean if we can save one life, help one person, even start a dialogue with my story, then it is all worth it.
BeBe: With everyone, as you say, pretty much knowing what has happened to you by the information on the internet, is the documentary then also a message, as well as informational on your life?
Michael Brandon: It’s my story. It’s not the reporter’s story. It’s not the columnist’s story. It’s not your story. Once you and I finish talking you put the words down on paper and then it becomes your story from your perspective. One of things about me doing this movie is you see me talk. You’re looking me in the eye ... (a moment of emotion takes over Michael before he continues)... um, or I’m looking you in the eye through the camera, the people throughout my life, my ex-wife, my ex-lovers, my mom and dad.
Getting to know Michael Phillips
BeBe: That’s interesting because we have spoken before in interviews, and you have specifically told me not to ask you about your family. Now your telling me they are in this documentary...
Michael Brandon: They will be.
BeBe: That’s a big step for you. That is something I would not have expected to here from you about the documentary.
Michael Brandon: (Laughing) Well, there will be some discretion. In every family there is a lot of things going on that don’t necessarily have to be known by the public. I mean, why? But you know we are going this period now with all the bullying and what not, and people see this Michael Brandon character all rough and tough (growls), but there is totally a different side to Michael Brandon.
BeBe: As you were growing up?
Michael Brandon: Even now. I’m evolving. And, Michael Brandon has been a front for all the pain and all the crap that Michael Phillips has gone through. I’m starting to get to know Michael Phillips again.
BeBe: You know there has always been that old adage that where ever you find a porn star, you’ll find a drag queen. And, I think the reason for that is because we do have the commonality, in many cases, of having this persona that we show the public that protects us from the public really knowing what is going on in our personal lives. We put on a face (makeup) to escape ourselves sometimes, and porn stars take off their clothes, so to speak.
Michael Brandon: You know me, I’m obsessive. I work, work, work, and that’s my escape. I don’t do the drugs anymore. I don’t drink the alcohol anymore. So, I don’t have that to escape all this crap.
A dramatic film?
BeBe: As we spoke of a bit earlier the crap is that expectation we’ve come to expect from Michael Brandon. Whether it be that tough side, that sexy side, and even that giving side, whatever it is we have come to expect it from you all the time. That adds pressure. That has to be a lot of pressure for you.
Michael Brandon: You know I haven’t done a (porn) film in 2-3 years. The last film I did was Hot House Entertainment’s ’Bad Ass.’ And, I’m still at the top of my game. Because as you said, it’s not so much about the film work anymore. It’s not about the sex shows I used to put on anymore. I’ve evolved into party promoter and party producer... I’m 47 years old, BeBe. I’m 47.
BeBe: When the documentary finally comes out, I’m sure it will generate a lot of interest. So thinking hypothetically that this will be a successful documentary, has any thought been given about go further to shoot a dramatic, bio-drama, about your life?
Michael Brandon: You know, as with my career, I haven’t really plotted and planned like the next step for Michael Brandon. I’ve just taken the step. The doors have either opened, or they have slammed in my face. Or, I have chosen not to walk through them. Keith Bailey who did a calendar shoot with me is also a host of a sci-fi channel and Reality TV series ’Picture Perfect,’ and he’s throwing scripts at me all of a sudden. Who knew? It’s a reality based show. Six months ago, BeBe, you couldn’t have told me I was going to step into mainstream film work. I guess I’m not that goal oriented to say this is what I want. I guess I’ve been pretty happy with following my own instincts and my heart.
BeBe: Tell me about the title of the documentary, ’Born This Way.’ We all know the title’s association with Lady Gaga, but why does it fit you and the documentary?
Michael Brandon: The reason I chose the title ’Born This Way,’ because I’ve been telling people way before Gaga was even born that I was born this way (the way I am). I fought the feelings for many, many years. I’ve been running from these feelings, the homosexual feelings, the same-sex partner feelings since I was yay tall. I remember first grade just dreading for the bell to ring to go home because I was going to have to run out and be first because I was teased and bullied. I fought it. I mean, I got married. I did what society said we were supposed to do. Grow up, marry a woman, have children, get the white picket fence, the two cars all that stuff. I had all that and I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t fucking happy! If you’re not born this way, then why am I having these feelings? I was molested as a child. Is that why I’m gay? No! I’s not. If anything that would have turned me away from being so. You know what I’m saying... eww, eww.
Fascinated with porn
BeBe: Yeah, because the act of man-on-man sex would be back painful memories, I guess. But, you know rape and molestation has a lot more to do with control than it does with act of sex itself. But, being gay or straight for that matter is about whom you fall in love with. That’s something you can’t control. Because if you could control it, I think the furthest thing from you mind would be to fall in love with someone who reminds you of pain and hurt. So, getting to how what your saying related to the documentary, ’Born This Way’ will cover your struggles with your sexuality, and is it your struggles with sexuality what drove you to do porn?
Michael Brandon: I’ve always had a fascination with porn. And, it just happened. I came out of the closet. I asked my wife for a divorce, and went through some soul searching. What I was doing wasn’t working. I’m not happy. It was fair to my ex-wife. It wasn’t fair to me. We didn’t have any children in our lives to complicate things. So, I had to make a decision of what to do. And after a year or so of that soul searching I decided I couldn’t live that life anymore. And to get that release on that carnal level that I was craving, that gay man and woman craves...
BeBe: Well, as a newly out gay person you crave same-sex intimacy because it is something that you haven’t had all the time while living a rather straight life. Once we are free to express who we really are we tend to earn for that expression a bit (of course I’m smiling right now).
Michael Brandon: Exactly. So I would go to the porn stores and do my thing. I would watch porn and fantasize. I was reading the back of Edge Magazine and read an ad for XXX models wanted. That opened the door. I picked up the phone and walked through the door, and 25 years later here we sit. It’s been an amazing journey.
BeBe: This documentary will be an eye opener for many people. Your fans, those that know you, and those that don’t know you are all going to walk away from this knowing so much about you.
Michael Brandon: The porn industry has such a stigma surrounding it. And not that I’m trying to dispel any of the stigma, or anything like that, because some of it is well deserved. I mean, we’re riddled with drug abuse. But, so are many other industries.
BeBe: But I think also why the porn industry receives so much criticism, especially in the U.S., is because sex is still so taboo here. Because people who act and are in the that entertainment industry have the same problems with drugs. We have the Whitney Houston story. We have the Lindsey Lohan story.
Michael Brandon: They are all running from something.
Finishing the flm
BeBe: What is it going to take to finish this film?
Michael Brandon: We are looking for financing to put this in the can. Indiegogo is a very popular fundraising platform, and what we’ve designed is if you can give $25 we’re giving you something for that donation.
If you go to the Indiegogo ’Born This Way’ page, you will see that every different level of donation will give you certain and different perks. For instance, a $250 donation will allow you to be a Personal Assistant (PA) during the filming of the reenactments of the documentary. That’s another thing, this film is not going to be your sort of ho hum, sort of boring with a bunch of interviews.
We are going to take 3 to 4 pivotal times in my life and hire actors to play me and the others involved to reenact them. Such as, when I went to court after I got picked up the first time during my drug addiction relapse; or coming out to my wife - those life changing points in my life will be reenacted. In order to surpass the usual expectation of typical documentaries we are going to punch it up with visuals by reenactments.
BeBe: That’s something totally different than what people will expect. This will help all that we see and hear in the documentary burn a little deeper in our souls.
Click here to learn more of how to donate to the making of "Born This Way: The Journey of Michael Brandon".
Click here for more information and to follow the film’s progress including information on upcoming fundraisers.
Purchase Michael Brandon’s 2013 Benefit Calendar with photography by Keith Bailey and raise money for the Stop AIDS Worldwide Project at www.9X6lube.com/michaelbrandon
As an actress, BeBe was introduced to film with a lead role in the independent film "Under One Sun" with her character dealing with religious, racial and gender issues. Additionally, she appeared in the campy musical "Devious, Inc" (Australian Film Festival, San Francisco Short Film Fest) also adding additional vocals to the musical soundtrack. Both of these performances led to her selection for a lead role in Aisha Media’s next short film series, "Con-tin.u.um" to be released in 2012.