I don’t review every episode of Dark Side of the Ring, but the XPW episode was on the radar. It’s got some good things going for it, but one big omission is the absence of Rob Black, the owner and promoter. However, the man himself hasn’t always been shy about appearing on camera, and two places he did appear were in documentaries presented by Louis Theroux. So, today I’m going to look at his appearances there, as well as some brief comments on the other participants in his shows, then tomorrow it’ll be the review of Dark Side.
(Rob Black, back in the day)
Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends (1998)
- Louis meets a mix of people from Vivid Video including publicists, stars and directors, as well as World Modelling Agency owner Jim South and his clientele. This leads him to newcomer JJ (not Jeff Jarrett!), who shoots for a number of the booming companies, including Extreme Associates.
- Extreme Associates is owned by 23-year-old Rob Black, one of the more “provocative” producer/directors in the business. He talks about how EVERY other company is showing off hot girls with big tits in sexy clothing or states of undress, then holds up one of his box covers, which looks like it’s had every picture they had spare thrown at it, including two guys blacked up as blaxploitation pimps in red and yellow zoot suits feeding a blonde in leather some watermelon, and asks which one your eye is drawn to. Obviously the latter, states Black.
- Obvious wrestling link, as Black looks through the back catalogue and talks about Sodomania VII as the favourite thing they’ve produced (“I love that freaking thing!”). Louis wonders if it’s like their Rocky IV; Rob says it’s more like the original Rocky, it’s the best one. Not a Dolph Lundgren fan, I guess.
- An upcoming production for them is called Forced Entry. Louis says it sounds a little bit naughty. Rob laughingly admits it is: “It’s basically about r*pe”. Louis is worried about the legality of that, so Black calls over to the guy in the next desk, “our legal advisor”, and asks for some advice as he leans forward in his chair. Black says that no, nobody is really getting abused, but it’s what people want to see, so he’s giving it to them.
- Louis’ form of documentary at the time was to try and participate in some aspect of the genre he’s investigating, so he’s had the industry-required STI tests and a nude Polaroid picture to show off in his attempt to become Sir Lance A-lot. Black says he’ll hire him if he’s up for it. He thinks it’ll be the thing that makes him and reckons Mike Wallace and Geraldo Rivera would do it! After getting a glimpse of the small Polaroid he yells out “Where’s your p*nis?!”, then offers him $250 to do a movie, but Louis declines awkwardly as it’s probably not what people want to see in the UK from a BBC presenter. Rob keeps the offer open if the BBC gig doesn’t work out (it did) and arranges to meet him the next day at a shoot.
- Next day, at an absolute dump, Louis hooks back up with Rob and his team. A blonde with big boobs is having some pictures taken behind a mesh fence. She’s shooting with Londoner Dick Nasty, who is playing a Buffalo Bill-like character with fake cast on his arm to lure in the captive, shades of The Silence of the Lambs, but looks more like Hannibal Lecter.
- The starlet, now down to just her panties, is being prepared by producer Israel with masking tape around her wrists and ankles. It’s pretty loose, though, so Black directs him to tighten it up. However, if Nasty had sex with her in that condition it would be illegal because it’s bondage. Immobilised, and now with tape over her mouth (precluding a certain act, by the looks of it), Israel lifts her up and takes her to the “fuck altar”. Louis makes his excuses to leave, looking uncomfortable. Rob offers to give him a cameo in the movie as the brother who turns up to rescue her, but it’s not enough, and Louis leaves as Black gives his final instructions before the fucking begins.
Melting THIS down: Black comes off as loud, abrasive and trying to shock, even more so back then, but gives enough away to confirm a lot of it is an act, yet doubtlessly making lots of enemies inside and outside the business.
And then fifteen years later…
(Rob Black, having aged five decades in one and a half)
Twilight of the P*rn Stars (2013)
- The business is in decline due to internet piracy and the peak is long gone. The actors and actresses are far from stars, with people who look like they could’ve just served your coffee in a cafe now dipping their toe into the pool for increasingly less reward and success.
- Louis has heard the business if far less “extreme” now, which leads him to revisiting the aged and sickly-looking Rob Black. Black has lost a fortune and been to prison, but is back in the business. He reflects on having created something nobody had seen before, “crazy shit!”, but now is in the parody and superhero genre, with an Iron Man suit in a box behind him and castings of various people to play characters like Happy Hogan, Madame Masque and Black Widow in his copyright-infringing XXX movies.
- Again, Rob presents himself as a connoisseur, knocking “jerk off stuff” like Rodney’s Birthday Blast, while “Mr. Thorax” rebuts that it’s ALL jerk off stuff. Black continues the 1998 point of view of industry insiders that it’s acceptable to watch adult movies now, but it must be of quality, and shows off the double-disc set of Captain America XXX and Iron Man XXX, which is doing “fucking fabulous”. To show that they’re not all male-centric, we get to see the covers of Superheroine 3D and Supergirl XXX too.
- Louis brings up Black and his wife, Lizzy Borden/Janet Zicari, going to prison and asks what it was like. Black jokes (I hope!) that he was screwed behind bars every day. Getting serious, he admits he took a plea bargain on obscenity charges. He felt confident he could beat the charges, but it wasn’t just him on the hook, it was Lizzy, so he took the plea deal. They both served ten months, two months and a day less than their sentence.
- Black reflects on his aim to be the biggest and baddest provocateur, which he accomplished and it was not worth it. Louis asks if he still wants to be and he claims he is, but Louis questions that by suggesting he’s landed on his feet but has been tamed. Black doesn’t see that, but does admit that some of the obscene things he presented on film are just “silly”. He doesn’t think they ever went too far because it was just an act, presented as the real deal, and part of the underworld they existed in, however he has outgrown it.
- “I used to have steak every day for six years. Now, I decided, y’know, I’m gonna change it up. I don’t miss that era of who I was because it was different sections of my life.”
Melting THAT down: I’ll hold a bit back to reflect on tomorrow in the Dark Side review, but you had an obviously damaged guy, doubtless by prison and possibly by drugs, trying to present himself with the same energy and strength that he had in his youth, but barely holding back the desire to work through his problems and become something different because of his still existing links to an industry that he probably shouldn’t have gotten into. To use his own analogy, he hasn’t got the teeth or the belly for steak any more and should move onto something softer, but he still liked the taste too much.
Back tomorrow with the XPW review, sans Black.