VAN NUYS, Calif.—In a meeting yesterday at his studio, 18-year adult industry veteran Mr. Marcus sought to put to rest swirling rumors and identified himself as positive with syphilis and admitted to submitting a test he altered that omitted his syphilis status to producers so he could perform in sex scenes, but said he had sought treatment already from a private doctor and had received a penicillin shot to treat the disease, and had waited a recommended period of time before performing again.
The meeting at Mr. Marcus' studio was attended by this reporter, XBIZ Executive Managing Editor Dan Miller, FSC Executive Director Diane Duke, FSC board member and Evil Angel General Manager Christian Mann, and Mr. Marcus himself.
Yesterday afternoon's meeting was the first time Mr. Marcus admitted to being diagnosed as positive for syphilis, performing three times after that diagnosis, and willfully doctoring one test from Talent Testing Service.
Mr. Marcus said that as of yesterday each of the female performers he worked with since testing positive had re-tested negative for syphilis, which Duke confirmed. Duke has been working with Mr. Marcus since the weekend on creating a genealogy of co-stars that he worked with both before and after his positive diagnosis.
With the gossip mill churning heavily in the San Fernando Valley in recent weeks over unsubstantiated news reports of a cluster of syphilis-positive U.S. performers—particularly in light of the outbreak in Budapest, and with two adult industry agents last week claiming the performer admitted to them that he worked while positive with syphilis, and that he doctored his test—something he denies he told them—Mr. Marcus felt that it was important to come forward and be accountable.
According to Mr. Marcus' timeline, he saw his personal physician July 11 after not feeling well. The next day, July 12, the physician told Mr. Marcus that he tested positive for syphilis. On the subsequent day, July 13, he went and got a penicillin shot and was told to abstain from sexual activity for 7-10 days, which he reports he did and even cancelled shoots within that timeframe.
On the eleventh day after he received the dose of penicillin, July 24, he worked, he said, based on his physician telling him after 10 days that he would be able to have sex.
"My personal doctor doesn't know what I do for a living," Mr. Marcus said. "So his thing was just don't have any sex for 7-10 days. Once I did that shot I felt pretty confident. Every doctor I talked to up to that point said 'you get the shot. That's it.' If you had the syphilis in your system a lot longer than that you need three shots. But based on what he determined from my blood and looking at my symptoms, he said the one shot was good enough. So I did the one shot and I didn't have to do anything else."
Mr. Marcus went to TTS on July 21 to test and received his positive syphilis result on July 23. He then said he cancelled the scene he had scheduled that day because he was confused as to why he would test positive after receiving treatment and waiting the required amount of time he was told to wait by a doctor.
All told Mr. Marcus said he took five STI tests—two from his personal doctor and three at TTS—because he was confused as to why the tests kept coming back "reactive" for syphilis after he received treatment. The three TTS tests continued to display fluctuating numbers for Mr. Marcus' RPR level which indicates how strong the infection is within his body.
"I called my doctor up, 'what's going on?'" Mr. Marcus said. "He said, 'It's in your system, it's going to stay in your system, it's going to read in your system because that's how syphilis is.' At that point I felt, ok, I can continue to work because he said it's always going to read that way. And the thing with TTS is that they didn't know prior to me testing that I had taken a [penicillin] shot. They didn't know that. They didn't know I already had it. They just assumed that I needed to go take one after the fact, but I had already done that."
On July 24 Mr. Marcus shot a sex scene and alleges the producer didn't ask for a paper copy of the test, nor did he verify on the computer that Marcus was cleared to work through the TTS database. The producer did ask Marcus to produce visual evidence, however, and Marcus said he was able to position a copy of the test on his cell phone screen so that the syphilis portion of the test did not appear visible. He claims the talent on set that day did not ask to see a copy of his test.
"And this is, I was explaining this, the rapport that I have with producers and directors - they're not so much - I show up on the set most of the times and it's really between me and the performer," Mr. Marcus explained. "The director's not really asking for a test or a copy of it. It's just 'You're here, let's shoot.' And that specific shoot didn't ask for a [copy of the] test. They just wanted to see something visually. So what I had on my cell phone, I showed it. But the way I showed it was, I showed that my HIV was clear, my gonorrhea and chlamydia were fine. You didn't see the syphilis part of the test because of the way I showed it."
According to what he was told by medical professionals, Marcus believed syphilis can only be spread by direct contact through open sores or wounds on the body, which he claims to not have had, and combined with the injection he received and the subsequent waiting period, felt comfortable that he wasn't putting his co-workers at risk for infection. He said he does not believe working on July 24, 11 days after treatment, was a mistake.
"No, I don't feel that it was a mistake," he said. "I was treated. I allowed the medicine to take effect, and I wanted to proceed as normal. I wanted to go back to work as usual, and that's the way I functioned. I shot for this company before and it was the same routine. I just wanted to get back to the routine. And that was it."
After initially testing positive for syphilis at TTS on July 21, Marcus admitted to being dismayed that there was no doctor at TTS to talk to and was upset that he was not offered any aftercare or asked about his recent sexual history in order to properly notify performers until his final visit to the Northridge, Calif. facility.
It was at this point in the conversation that Mr. Marcus made the allegation that he asked a TTS employee to omit the syphilis portion of his test and print out a copy that would reflect that omission so he could present the doctored one to producers. Marcus claims the employee was able to do so and provided him the print out, but he did not present this allegedly TTS-altered test to any producers, he said.
Marcus returned to TTS the first week of August in order to get a new test per the requirement of the producer he was scheduled to shoot for.
When he arrived, Marcus said the clinician at TTS told him "your numbers are still there," meaning Marcus was still testing reactive to syphilis.
"I looked at them with a look of concern, but they said 'Maybe we can omit it from the actual test. When we submit your blood, we can just not have them test for that," Marcus claimed. "And I was like, 'can you do that?' They were like, 'I think so.'
"So they sat down at the computer and started clicking on things. And I didn't see what they were clicking on but I saw that they were clicking on something."
Marcus stated that when he returned to the clinic to pick up his test on the way to the set "they told me the numbers were still there and they gave me the printed copy of my test without the syphilis [at the top where it would say 'reactive.'] It was omitted."
He added, "There's a man and a woman there and the guy was the one that sat down at the computer and was trying to change it for me. To try to make it so that that's not tested for."
The allegation was vehemently denied by TTS president Sixto Pacheco, who told AVN this afternoon that he was asked the same question previously by AVN CEO Theo Sapoutzis. "I told him that was not possible," he said. "Our system does not permit that to be done. The system does not allow for that to happen. There's no way of choosing what tests to put on a report."
TTS began testing for syphilis as part of its basic panel of tests on June 12. Prior to that, it was included on the full panel only.
Duke mentioned that she reached out to TTS on behalf of APHSS "to tell them that if there's more than one [syphilis positive] please give me information so we can start partner notification. I did not get any cooperative response back from them on that, so that was unfortunate."
Things get murkier when Marcus admitted to personally altering a TTS test he presented to Blazing Bucks, a company he worked for Aug. 7. On the TTS test dated July 21, Marcus claims he folded the test in such a way that the syphilis portion was obscured, photocopied it, and presented it to the Blazing Bucks director. On Aug. 15, Blazing Bucks operations manager Mark Blazing realized there was something amiss with the test Mr. Marcus had provided his director.
Mr. Marcus recalls that Mark Blazing called him Aug. 15 to check on the test.
Mr. Marcus said Blazing told him, "'This test doesn't look right. Do you have another version of it?' And I said, "Well, I do.' And he's just like, the way it went down was kinda like, 'Marcus I need another test from you. Can you give me another test? This is not right. I gotta let somebody know that you altered this test. It looks altered. It doesn't look right. I'm gonna get Derek [Hay] on the phone.'"
It was one of Hay's clients that Mr. Marcus worked with on the Blazing Bucks shoot.
"And we were going back and forth," Mr. Marcus continued. "I didn't think that was necessary but he was adamant. So Derek gets on the phone and he's saying 'You're altering tests. I've seen it and you got this fake test.' Shy [Love] was supposedly on the phone but she never said a word if she was. So they said they needed the original copy. So I said, 'OK, I'll email it to you.' When I did that I also scanned in the copy from TTS to show him my test and their test side-by-side and that they had omitted it because I asked them to. But I had omitted it because I was trying to like void that discussion, that inquiry as to why it was reactive. And I thought for the longest time in my heart that I was doing the right thing by omitting it and moving forward and not admitting it. I eventually had to just admit that I changed that test."
When asked to comment for this story, Mark Blazing told AVN that the company would be releasing a statement of its version of events shortly, but would not comment directly on the situation at this time.
During the interview Marcus showed genuine remorse for his actions while acknowledging he made mistakes along the way. He hopes that as a result of this unfortunate situation people learn more about testing and particularly about syphilis, which until this point, was rarely talked about in the adult entertainment community.
"So now we're dealing with [syphilis] in our industry, and I'm the guy," Marcus said. "I didn't want to be the guy, but I'm the guy. Because of who I am the guns are out. But the learning curve from what I found is that a lot of people in this industry didn't know, were totally unaware of how the testing works, how this test reads it.
"I tried to cover it up. I didn't want to have to share that part because it was like the Scarlet Letter," he continued. "Because then it's like Mr. Marcus, syphilis? Mr. Marcus, the one I worked with? Mr. Marcus, the one everyone's worked with? The one that's been in this industry forever? Yeah, you got all that shit man. It ain't just me. There's so much more…I've wanted to just like make sure that the people I worked with got tested. That whatever if people wanted to talk to me directly, which they can, my number ain't changed and I'm not hiding from anyone, I can tell you. And when I finally owned up to the alternate test that's when I said, 'Yeah, I guess I need to do it this way because I know people were disappointed because I am held to a standard and I should set a better example.' I know that now. I didn't think of it, I just thought okay, how do I not have this on my test? No one else is talking about it. Now it's all we're talking about it. The whole city's talking about it."
Mann revealed that that APHSS has begun working behind the scenes to piece together a genealogy of European and American performers who have worked together in recent months prior to the outbreak in Budapest coming to light.
"We've already begun the process of outreach to Budapest to performers who identified as positive for syphilis to get the genealogy of what American performers would have gone there any worked with them, which of those performers in Budapest visited the U.S. and were working here, and submitting the performers names to the medical staff—the American performers who worked with some of these European performers—so they can have an appropriate notification from somebody with a medical background and familiar with our industry protocol so that somebody who might have worked with somebody identified as positive for syphilis can know that look you might come back on the test that's out there now as non-reactive but all the more reason to take the prophylactic treatment because you can have that dormancy on the test result and yet be carrying—not necessarily infectious," Mann said.
"But we're doing the right thing as best we can, which is to let the medical professionals do their part and us as industry professionals to help them understand the scope of it, the fact that it's trans-Atlantic—there's definitely a crisis in Budapest—and to make the number one priority partner notification, and I'll go one step further, partner education, about what's the right thing to do at this moment."