David Forest changed his mind.
When he sold his Forestmen artists management agency to former competitor Fabscout Entertainment in August, Forest said he was retiring after nearly 30 years in adult entertainment. He was getting older, he was tired and he hoped to travel, he said.
He did travel, all the way to a rehab facility. While there, he traveled what he admits was a difficult path to becoming clean and sober. Then, just as the gay porn world was getting over its shock at his sudden departure, he traveled back to an industry he couldn't abandon no matter how disillusioned he had become with its dark side.
"I have a sickness for this business," he told GAYVN.com with a mixture of pride and sheepishness. "I love the stars."
In his heyday, Forest was one of the titans; a kingmaker who helped launch a number of stellar careers. Billy Harrington, Mark Dalton, Tony Capucci, Johnny Castle and Zeb Atlas are some of the stars who owe at least a portion of their success to Forest's efforts. Now sneaking up on 60 (his birthday is Dec. 12), Forest said he's content to leave star-making to someone else and retreat to the business he loves best: arranging personal meetings.
After all, that's what dragged him across the line from mainstream talent manager and concert promoter to gay impresario in the first place.
It's also what led him to serve a stretch "in the big house" and fight at least one court battle of high-drama proportions.
In the summer of 1981, after 14 years spent working with high-profile musicians like Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, KISS, Aerosmith, ZZ Top, Cat Stevens and The Carpenters, the music business shifted and Forest found himself out on his ear.
"It just ended," he said, leaving him with bills to pay and no visible means of support. "The one thing I knew was how to do booking; how to sell. I loved it."
So he found himself gravitating toward another kind of booking.
"I fell into what some people call ‘pandering,'" Forest said of the business that would become infamous as Brad's Buddies. "I spent 15 years booking boys [for sex] illegally."
However, something good came out of the pandering conviction: Forest made contacts with beautiful boys who trusted him. Those contacts gave him entrée to gay XXX studios looking for new talent. He began introducing the boys to the studios, and Forestmen was born.
Forest saw the agency as the XXX incarnation of what he'd done in the mainstream music biz.
"I was a manager, not an agent," he said. "A manager guides and counsels his clients; he doesn't just find them jobs. From day one, I tried to bring mainstream ethics and techniques to the smut biz. I managed my stars the old-fashioned way."
Managing stars "the old-fashioned way" served both Forest and his clients well, he said. He made some record-breaking deals: Billy Harrington got $25,000 to appear in All Worlds Video's Conquered (2001), for example. Forest struck a deal with Falcon under which Tony Capucci agreed to perform six scenes in the course of a year for $3,000 each. Zeb Atlas received $25,000 to perform one hardcore scene and receive oral in another in Best Men - Part 1: The Bachelor Party (Falcon Studios, 2008).
"Twenty-five thousand dollars was the biggest deal Falcon ever paid any star," Forest said.
Although Forest was doing well booking erotic movie talent, he couldn't forgo his first love and most profitable venture: arranging private meetings between stars and well-heeled, if surreptitious, admirers. He established Meet the Stars, sidestepping the details that made him a guest of the state a decade earlier.
That didn't prevent a few legal snarls, however. Three years into Meet the Stars, Forest again was arrested for pandering. A high-profile trial that lasted 12 days resulted in acquittal on four felony counts that could have sent him back to prison for 12 years.
"Whew," he said.
What hasn't killed him has made him stronger - and more determined to resist authority - and now that he's somewhat at loose ends after leaving rehab and selling Forestmen, he's back in the personal meetings game.
"Forest Meetings is the third incarnation of my private connections program," he told GAYVN.com. "I'm no longer representing talent for movies or public appearances, but I do represent some of the same guys at Forest Meetings."
He named Atlas, Capucci, Brent Diggs, Josh Griffin and Adam Killian as a few of the stars with whom he works now. Dalton plans to return to the fold when he's released from a Texas prison early next year.
Over the years Forest has maintained good relationships with a number of wealthy men who, for one reason or another, set their sights on the most delicious, unattainable male companions they can find. The bulk of Forest's distinguished clients are in Southern California, he said, but he also works with men from overseas. Some are married, and others are discreet for other reasons. All pay Forest an annual fee for the privilege of having his undivided matchmaking attention whenever they get the urge.
Forest is quick to specify he makes the introductions and that's all he does. When the men get together, what they do for $500 or more an hour - $2,500 to $3,000 a day if travel is required - is their business.
"I am the most famous and most successful male madam in the world," he said. "Some people have called me ‘the male Heidi Fleiss,' but actually she was ‘the female David Forest.'"
Fleiss was the infamous Hollywood madam whose career ended in flames when she was prosecuted for pandering. Some high-profile Hollywood insiders found their stars momentarily tarnished when the names in her address book became public.
Forest said he hopes never to see that kind of mess again - and if San Francisco's ballot measure that seeks to legalize prostitution passes in November, he may not have to, he noted.
Forest said he thinks the measure will pass, and that makes him very happy.
"Anything that makes it more legal for people to have sex for money is a step in the right direction," he said. "Many folks still feel that my private meetings program is just a fancy way to get around the old pimping and pandering laws. With prostitution about to become less important in San Francisco, folks will begin lessening their concern about the escort-type business also."
Even though he's experienced some setbacks in the recent past, for right now things are looking up, Forest said. He has more clients than ever who want to meet "hot boys," and an increasing number of hot boys are contacting him about meeting his clients.
After three months in rehab, "I'm out; I'm clean and sober," he said. "I love it. I can see clearly now, and I think the future looks grand."
David Forest changed his mind.