Fifty years ago today, James Allen Rideout, Jr. was born in Waterville, Maine, about 200 miles away from where I currently live. Eighteen years later, he took on the name Kurt Marshall and began making gay pornographic movies. Marshall was in one of the most stunning and lusted after blondes to ever hit gay porn. In his gay porn career, he only made four movies: Sizing Up, The Other Side of Aspen II, Splash Shots, and Night Fall. Although he appeared in only those four films, the gay porn magazine Unzipped named him one of the top 100 gay porn stars of all time in 2006, author Leigh Rutledge listed him as the ninth most influential gay porn star of all time in 2000, and adult film magazine editor John Erich called him one of the “most beautiful” gay adult film stars of the 1980s. To say that Kurt Marshall was influential in gay porn would be an understatement, but he was a shooting star that burned brightly, and his light only shone for a short time.
You might ask why he was so influential to gay porn. In 1984, at the age of 18, he starred in his first film, Matt Sterling’s Sizing Up. His role was that of a star track and field athlete, which echoed his high school sports experiences. He graduated high school after lettering in swimming and track and field. A historian of gay erotic film called Sizing Up a “superior example of [a] gay porn video which make[s] gay men visible in places where they have mostly been invisible…” He made three films the following year, all for Falcon Studios, the highly influential The Other Side of Aspen II, Splash Shots, and Night Flight. The Other Side of Aspen II was Falcon’s first film which was shot entirely on video. Adult Video News (AVN) later rated the film as the ninth most innovative and influential gay porn film of all time in 2005. His second film, Splash Shots, was credited with making sex around the swimming pool a gay porn cliché.
Marshall was an advocate for gay rights, once telling an interviewer for Stallion Magazine in 1986, “I think to be gay is to be blessed. We have so much freedom, so many choices. This isn’t our moment to party or to think we’re going to stay young forever…maybe it’s our time to find someone to be safe with…to be happy with…” He was never sorry for what his porn career or for who he was, and went on to say, “One can only judge something with one’s own eyes – something’s only bad when it has a bad influence on you. If something turns out good, you can’t look back and think that it was wrong…” Like so many gay men of the 1980s, we all probably wish he could have found “someone to be safe with.”
Sadly Marshall succumbed to the problem that many gay porn actors of the past and today face. Marshall was an admitted drug user, mostly cocaine, which is probably why he was reported to be difficult to work with on shoots. He was sometimes called a “diva” but with those looks, I can understand why. As a gay porn actor of the 1980s and before the use of condoms (though most studios today are also forgoing condoms again, a trend that began long before PrEP). Marshall met the fate of most of the “pre-condom classic” porn actors, he tested positive for HIV in 1986. He came out to his family that same year and entered a drug rehabilitation program. He moved to San Diego, California in 1987, but returned to Los Angeles later that same year, and worked in the construction industry. He died on October 10, 1988, at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center. The official cause of death was kidney failure due to substance abuse and AIDS.
I honestly can’t watch a gay porn of the 1970s or 1980s without wondering if those men survived the AIDS epidemic. Most of them did not. Gay porn has once again turned to condomless sex, but many now forgo the classic “money shot” for the far more risky “cream pie” shot. Even with the amount of STD screenings and testing gay porn studios do, the actors are still taking risks, and while PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) is being touted as a prevention option for people who are at high risk of getting HIV, it is still not considered 100 percent. I will not be a hypocrite and say that I don’t enjoy watching condomless sex, but I also understand the risks of not using a condom. Many young people don’t. They did not live through the 1980s and 1990s, when nearly everyone knew someone who had died of AIDS. HIV is still a virus; it is still incurable; and it is still deadly. While people may live longer with advances that come with understanding the virus more effectively, the quality of life on HIV medications is still often difficult. I urge my younger readers especially to please use a condom. If you are going to forgo the condom, I hope that you are in a committed relationship and you have both been tested. I want us all to have long healthy, productive, and happy lives.