Bijou Shines Spotlight on Men of the '80s

CHICAGO - Bijou Theater will salute "Men of the '80s" May 12-14 during the historic venue's monthly Spotlight Series. Films starring Rex Chandler, Steve Hammond, Ryan Idol and Jeff Stryker are on the playbill.

With the birth of the home-video market in the 1980s, gay porn marked its own "coming out." Previously "underground," the majority of gay adult stars were not well known, and they and their fans faced hazards in the form of theater raids and obscenity charges if they were discovered in public places. The work was considered "obscene" simply because it existed.

The huge demand for porn created by home video changed all that. No longer were consumers forced to order films from magazines. Instead, they could walk into a local video store to rent or buy gay porn. Promoting home videos meant merchandising the videos and the stars themselves. Posters in video stores, magazine covers and even personal appearances brought gay men out in the public in a way never seen before. In addition, adult stars also found themselves in demand as pitchmen for other adult products.

Chandler, Hammond, Idol and Stryker were the epitome of the '80s "look." Unlike the average-looking, lean, hairy and sometimes scruffy men featured in earlier films, Chandler, Hammond, Idol and Stryker were mainstream-model perfect. They created a mold that made Catalina the top studio: slightly muscular looks, clean-shaven faces and no body hair, tattoos or piercings. It was an image of gay manhood that dominated gay porn through the '90s.

The Spotlight Series begins each night at 8 p.m. with a presentation about the life of the subject model followed by a special screening. Films selected for the "Men of the '80s" series are View to a Thrill (May 12), Backstrokes (May 13) and a Ryan Idol double feature - Personal View and Powertool - on May 14.

Tickets are $20 and provide admission to all three nights.

Bijou has spotlighted a variety of gay adult talent since the Spotlight Series' inception in October 2007. From Al Parker to Zak Spears, the series has profiled the lives and careers of some of gay porn's most notable performers.