HOLLYWOOD—Remember Frank Towers? You know: Tall, lean, muscular guy with blond hair; looked like he probably ought to be selling bibles door-to-door rather than acting in fuck films?
"I grew up being open-minded, and I was a punk rocker in the early '80s," Towers told AVN in an exclusive interview. "A lot of people don't know that either. Yeah, me, huh? Mr. Clean-Cut."
That's just one of the odd facts that can be found in Towers' new book, Victim of Pleasure: From Frank Towers to Mark Slade. And of course, anyone who knows Towers' history knows that's not the only thing he's been open-minded about—and it heavily involves Mark Slade.
"I got into the adult movie business at Christmas time of '92," Towers said. "A lot of my stuff was for Gourmet, Rob Spallone's company; he shot a lot of stuff on me in the early years, and then Mitch Spinelli, I met him in '93, and he used me in something called Careless with Jon Dough and Tina Tyler; I was in that one, and Mitch Spinelli kind of launched my career from there. Then I met Teri Diver and she used me in a lot of stuff too, and I talk about a lot of stuff with Teri in the book; how we were good friends."
But although Towers' career was going great guns in the late '90s, he decided nonetheless to expand his horizons, and thus "Mark Slade" was born.
"I was in Las Vegas at the convention in 1998, and this guy ran up to me and gave me his card and he says, 'Frank Towers, we want to use you in a movie; give us a call when you get back to L.A.'," Towers recalled. "He didn't say it was gay or anything; I didn't know. I just stuck the card in my bag, because I was giving out cards and taking cards, so when I got back to L.A., I gave the guy a call, and it was for Studio 2000, and I talked to the owner of Studio 2000 and he wanted me to come in and talk about stuff.
"So I went out to West Hollywood and met with him in his house," Towers continued, "and he said, 'You know, we primarily do gay movies,' and they would like to use me in a j.o. scene solo for a movie called Billy 2000, where I would be on the box cover of a gay movie, and they offered me like $1,200. And I thought, 'My gosh, $1,200—that's almost four scenes for straight.' So I thought, 'I'll try it,' and I did it, and the guy was legitimate. And after that movie came out, they offered me a contract to do five gay movies, to be in each movie, two scenes, and the box cover, and they offered me a small fortune to do it. So I would be getting paid like ten times as much for each scene as I would doing a straight movies. So it was phenomenal, and I had bills to pay, as everybody else does...," he trailed off.
Little did Towers realize—though he knows now that he should have—but once having taken the "gay plunge," leading roles in straight features were a thing of the past, and by 2002, most of his straight work was coming from low-budget companies like Extreme Associates, Filmco Releasing and Totally Tasteless Video.
"See, I was raised Baptist, and one of my cousins is gay and he's a super-nice guy," Towers explained. "And I saw him being rejected by people, and I thought, 'Man, why don't people give him a chance? He's a great guy,' and I thought, you know, 'I don't understand this.' So I think I was more open-minded than the average person in the adult industry, and I thought, okay, sure, there's going to be some mean people, and I know them already, but I didn't know to the extent that some of the people that were hiring me week after week would turn their backs on me and completely ignore me, and that hurt me real bad."
And as far as Towers is concerned, the straight side's fears were completely unfounded.
"A lot of people don't know that everybody I worked with was tested, and it was all done with condoms," Towers noted. "I was a top, and a lot of people don't realize that it was very, very sanitary, it was very safe, a lot safer than even I would imagine. I learned a lot, and I thought, 'I think the gay industry could teach the straight side a lot.' It was very, very unique to be treated like—should I say this?—like Jenna [Jameson] in a way, being a contract player. Let's say this: It was very nice to be treated like one of the major female stars, because you had people that were just treating you so—I mean, you felt, 'Gosh, this is crazy.'"
But as pampered as he was on gay sets, the opposite was true in hetero.
"When I got the backlash, when I would call all these people and they wouldn't return my calls, it did something to me," he said. "And some of them finally did get back, and they said, 'Frank, the girls don't want to work with you; most people don't want to'—They didn't come out and say it directly, 'Hey, we're basically afraid that you've got AIDS.' So I believed everything that everybody was saying about me, and I had kind of low self-esteem anyway, so I became suicidal. But I learned a lot from it. I guess it's now somewhat easier for guys to cross over, but I still think there's still some people that don't really appreciate the situation."
In any case, Towers no longer works much in XXX on either side of the business, having appeared in just four movies over the past two years, two of them produced and directed by himself.
"I recently finished my last movie of my own production with Caroline Pierce," Towers said, referring to Nasty Tales 2, which Towers sells over the internet along with the series' first two volumes. "She's my favorite gal in the industry, so I hired her and we kind of team up in this movie, and it's a good movie with a storyline. It also has a guy named Deviant Cade, a gal named Berlin, and me and Caroline."
"Of course, I would still like to be getting calls for the movies," he added, "but the calls just don't come anymore, and it's sad because I feel like the straight industry could have used me a lot more during those years, but what can you do? I'm still lifting weights and that really helped me through my suicidal phase. It's all in the book, and it's quite a story."
We asked how he came to write it.
"Because I was going to be turning 40, and I was kind of going through a little mid-life crisis as we all do," he replied. "I was wondering what's going on in my life, and I'm not getting work in the industry like I used to. The bad economy doesn't help much, and all the free internet porn that people get, it's like a lot of people aren't paying for the DVDs anymore like they used to. And so, I was thinking, what am I going to be doing with the rest of my life? Because obviously, I crossed over in the late '90s to do gay because it paid so good and I wanted to experience that, and that hurt my straight career."
"But the book covers my whole life: The way I was raised, the drug use I went through and the alcohol abuse and the suicide attempt when I couldn't get straight work," he continued. "A lot of people say they're very touched by it, because it personalized somebody in the porn industry, which is good. I'm glad I wrote the book; it's kind of baring my soul and it was therapy for me to get my first 40 years down on paper. I self-published last January , so it took about a year and a half to get the whole thing done from start to finish."
And the future?
"I just got my AA degree last May, and I'm going on from there to study counseling to help people; suicide prevention and just general counseling. I'm in nursing school now, and I'd like to get my Master's in psychology eventually. Beyond that, I used to be agnostic, and now I believe in God, and he helped me—a lot of prayer helped me kick the alcohol and drug abuse; that's what keeps me going, and I know I've got to get a career here so I can complete the rest of my life."
Those interested in purchasing Victim of Pleasure: From Frank Towers to Mark Slade, can find it here.