Wakefield Poole, a trailblazer in gay pornographic filmmaking, died on October 27, 2021. Poole was 85. 

Poole is best known for his landmark 1971 film Boys in the Sand, which  was the first gay pornographic film to be reviewed by Variety, the film  industry’s leading trade publication. The film was also the first gay pornographic film to achieve mainstream success. 

Boys in the Sand, which was made for $8000, starred Casey Donovan –  the Marilyn Monroe of gay porn – as he explored the sexually liberated environment of Fire Island.  

Copies of the film were purchased by an array of celebrities such as John Gielgud, Sammy Davis Jr. and Hugh Hefner, who all added the film to their collections. 

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The film helped transform the once sleepy enclave of Fire Island into a  modern-day ‘Gay Mecca,’ attracting hordes of tourists and rebranding it into an internationally recognised gay resort area. 

 Boys In The Sand Brought Gay Porn To The Mainstream 

Casey Donovan in ‘Boys In The Sand’

The sex scenes in Boys In the Sand were considered revolutionary in that they were  presented as “guilt-free.”

Poole ensured his real name appeared above the title in ads for the film as well as on the marquee of the 55th Street  Playhouse in New York City, where the film regularly attracted celebrities to screenings, including Liza Minnelli, Halston and Rudolf  Nureyev. 

Poole told Interview magazine he believed his films should show “real  people doing real things.” 

Former Village Voice writer Michael Musto told The New York Times  “Wakefield was determined to elevate the gay porn genre. This was a  time when you had to leave your home to see pornography. It was a  communal experience by necessity, and you had to be seen in your seat. [Poole] removed the shame of it.” 

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“I wanted a film gay people could look at and say, ‘I don’t mind being  gay – it’s beautiful to see those people doing what they’re doing,’”  Poole said in an interview.

Boys in the Sand Achieved Major Success at Box Office  

A still from the film ‘Boys In The Sand’.

On its first day of release, the film recouped most of its production budget and within a week had grossed around $25,000. The film eventually went on to make over $140,000. 

Boys in the Sand was one of a handful of porn films made in the early 1970s, including The Devil In Miss Jones, and Deep Throat, which  popularised the term “porno chic,” a phrase coined by Ralph  Blumenthal of The New York Times, and referred to the increasing  popularity of pornographic films. 

In its review of Boys in the Sand, Variety said, “There are no more  closets,” while the Advocate took a more playful take, saying,”Everyone will fall in love with this philandering fellator.”  

Taking The Shame Away From Gay Porn  

“Hundreds of people saw Boys in the Sand and came out after seeing  the film. I think that was one of my big contributions to the gay  community, though I’m not recognized for that in gay history. I did have a lot to do with the attitudes of gay people after the film,” Poole told  South Florida Gay News.  

“When I first came to Fire Island, I felt free for the first time in my life. I  didn’t feel like a minority and I wanted everybody to suddenly feel that.  So I said, ‘I can make a movie that no one will be ashamed to watch,’”  Poole told an audience at a 2010 screening of Boys in the Sand

Poole said that the film had achieved exactly what he had wanted it to do – to “not only make controversy, but to overcome controversy.” 

“That’s really the reason I made the movie, to see if we could look at  ourselves doing things that were frowned upon and feel good about them,” Poole told Interview magazine in 2017. 

“I got two people who were attracted to each other and let them go. I  didn’t direct anything. I set up a safe place for them to play, and although I had a general sense of what I wanted to do in mind, orgasms were really not important to me,” Poole said.

“What was important to me was two people relating to one another and  experiencing all the things that go with having sex. That includes the  insecurities. “Oh, my God, am I doing this? Is this what he wants?”—all  the things that go through our heads when we’re having sex with  people for the first time,” Poole told Alexander Chee in Interview

Ballet Dancer To Gay Porn Filmmaker 

Born in 1936 in Salisbury, North Carolina, Wakefield first made a name for himself as a ballet dancer with the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo. He went on to a career as a dancer and choreographer on Broadway. 

Poole, who was very influenced by Andy Warhol’s films, later moved  into the world of pornography saying, “When I saw bad porn, I thought  someone should make a porno with an aesthetic to it – one you should be proud to watch.” 

Poole also directed the software porn film Wakefield Poole’s Bible,  which told the stories of Adam and Eve, David and Bathsheba and  Samson and Delilah. The film starred Georgina Spelvin and was the only straight porn film Poole ever made.

The film, which failed at the box  office, was called by Jeremy Geltzer, in his book Dirty Words and Filthy  Pictures: Film and the First Amendment: “The strangest genre-hybrid of  the porno chic era, if not of all time.” 

Leaving Porn  

Poole went on to direct a handful of other gay porn films, many of  which starred Donovan, including Always Ready, Split Image and Boys in the Sand II. In the mid-80’s, amidst the darkening spectre of the  AIDS crisis, Poole stopped making films.  

“The reason I stopped making films was the AIDS situation. I lost my  fanbase to AIDS. I saw them all die. It’s a miracle I’m not dead. Cocaine  saved my life. I did so much coke, I couldn’t have sex,” Poole told  South Florida Gay News

“I don’t even own a camera now. It’s like when I stopped dancing. I miss the central part of it. I don’t miss filming, I miss the mental process  of it,” said Poole, who published his autobiography Dirty Poole: the Autobiography of a Gay Porn Pioneer, in 2000.

Poole died in a nursing home in Jacksonville, Florida and left no  immediate survivors.

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