On the Set: Michael Lucas' <i>La Dolce Vita</i>

Every September all eyes are on New York City for Fashion Week where top designers unveil their latest collections. On a Saturday morning in Chelsea’s Helen Mills Theater, about 200 guests sit expectantly along a runway as dance music pulses and bartenders pour drinks. But they aren’t awaiting a fashion show from Armani or Versace; they are gathered for the filming of the opening sequence of Michael Lucas’ latest epic, La Dolce Vita.

In the audience, Amanda Lepore chats with Village Voice columnist Michael Musto (both are vets of Lucas’ previous big-budget award winner Dangerous Liaisons). Randy Jones of Village People fame sits across from porn stars Pete Ross, Jason Ridge and Spencer Quest. Lucas calls for quiet and addresses the chic crowd. He explains that they are about to see a pseudo fashion show (complete with clothing from such brands as Prada, Miu Miu, and Dolce & Gabbana) of a fictional designer.

Drag star Kevin Aviance does a short performance of his dance hit "Strut," which will be the theme song for the film, then a parade of gorgeous men (some porn stars, some real-life models and one hot local bartender) starts hitting the runway. They are wearing an assortment of hip suits, jeans, blazers, underwear, you name it. Porn star Jack MacCarthy looks dapper in a red velvet suit, and Ben Andrews looks very grown up in a tie. All the models are very serious, displaying much runway attitude, which they rehearsed until late the previous night.

After each model walks three times in three different outfits, they all come back onstage and the "designer" of the collection, Jack Bond (played by newcomer Jack Bond), joins them for a quick bow. The audience applauds wildly on cue. Lucas announces that they will do the whole thing over, just to be sure they have adequate coverage. But first, there’s a brief break.

Backstage, the scene is one of organized confusion. The models mill about in various stages of undress and talk on their cell phones. Racks of clothing are labeled with each model’s name and character name. There are seven hair and makeup people standing by to do retouches as a photographer gathers various groups of models for pictures.

Lunch is served, and then it’s time to do it all again. Everyone takes their places, Aviance sings, the models strut and Bond bows. Lucas thanks the extras again and sends them on their way. But on the set, there is more work to be done. The month long, $350,000 shoot is only in its first days, and the crew gets ready to shoot the setup to a sex scene featuring Jack MacCarthy and Ben Andrews that will be filmed several days later at the Lucas Entertainment offices. Both young models are still in their stylish suits as they rehearse and act out their seduction, but it’s not until the following Friday that they get to consummate it.

Closing time on Friday, and as MacCarthy and Andrews get into makeup, Lucas creative director/ videographer/ La Dolce Vita screenwriter Tony Dimarco sits in front of a monitor with editor Tyler Frank reviewing film from the previous night’s shoot. The footage shows Lucas stumbling out of a sex club and wandering the streets of a predawn Manhattan.

“We are trying to update a classic here,” Dimarco says. “I watched the original La Dolce Vita over and over, but we wanted to add elements of New York City and things that are associated with Michael Lucas to it, like fashion.” Dimarco says that’s how he got the idea for the lavish fashion show opener. “I kept thinking, How can we draw viewers in and put them right into this world? And I thought the show would accomplish that.”

The setting for tonight’s scene is decidedly less glamorous: a bathroom. The lights have been set up and Dimarco — along with Ray Dragon, who will also be shooting — preps his camera. The models are dressed in their clothes from Saturday, and the hair and makeup artists work from photos to get them to look exactly as they did a week before. Lucas gives them a once-over, then calls to his crew for towels, lube, condoms and water — always a sign that “action” is about to be called.

Lucas directs the models to tear at each other’s clothes, but to leave them on. He tells them to act with an air of urgency (in the movie they are about to hit the runway) and then choreographs the basics of the scene. With a still photographer and a soundman hovering just outside the bathroom door, the models start kissing on a ladder. Once dicks are out and hard, Lucas calls out directions: “Play with his foreskin.” “Gag on his cock.” “Faster! Harder!”

After about 30 minutes of oral, the models are heating up in the tight space and ask for a break. Then it’s on to ass-eating and fucking. With MacCarthy bent over the toilet bowl, Andrews begins topping. MacCarthy’s tie dips into the toilet water and Lucas assures him that it’s okay. At one point, Dragon jumps up and races down the hall. Dead battery! In short order, MacCarthy pops while riding Andrews, who then stands and jacks. A quick cleanup follows and the models dress and act as if they are runway ready. Two hours have passed, and another of the 12 sex scenes for Dolce is complete.

Lucas retires to his office, where he works on his blog and looks at footage from a couple of days before that recreates the famous fountain scene from Fellini’s 1960 original starring Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni. Watching himself take a dunk with porn actress Savanna Samson in the fountain at City Hall Park, Lucas comments on his acting. “I think I am better in this than usual,” he says. Then he divulges: “I hired an acting coach. All the top stars have acting coaches. You need someone to run your lines with. Even Meryl Streep has an acting coach!”

The arty images on-screen seem to impress even him. “Nobody has ever done a movie like this,” he says, “straight or gay. It is a first for this business.” When asked what he hopes to accomplish with La Dolce Vita, Lucas says, “I want to go further than Dangerous Liaisons. I want to top that, make something bigger and grander. I hope viewers will be as taken in by the story as by the sex. As a gay man, I like beautiful things. It is very challenging to make beautiful and tasteful porn, not cheesy like most movies. And with the hard work of many people, I think we have done it.”

Savanna Samson, Michael Lucas photo courtesy of LucasEntertainment.com