The Deep End

Joey Stefano — The Late, Legendary Adult Film Star Is Making A Comeback

6a00d8341cb36153ef017ee6dcb6e1970d-320wiGay men of a certain age, specifically those who were of sexual maturity in the early 1990s, likely retain fond memories of adult film star Joey Stefano. A veteran of nearly 50 gay porn films, the actor’s popularity was so widespread that even Madonna sought him out to participate in a photo shoot for her racy Sex book. Stefano (born Nicholas Iacona) was even rumored to have been involved in relationships with many entertainment executives, including (then-closeted) David Geffen. Now, nearly two decades after his drug-related death in 1994, Stefano’s short but eventful life and his friendships with porn pals Chi Chi LaRue, Sharon Kane, Mickey Skee and others (dubbed the porn version of the “brat pack”) is the subject of an upcoming film titled, appropriately, X-Rated. Acclaimed filmmaker Chad Darnell, whose comedy Birthday Cake recently nabbed the Jury Prize for Best Film at the Kansas City Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, chats with Queerty about his journey bringing the tale to the screen and why people are still interested in the tragic film star.


What is so intriguing about Joey Stefano’s life that makes him worthy of a feature film?

This is a story about addiction. The film is about the entire “porn brat pack:” Chi Chi LaRue, Sharon Kane, Mickey Skee, Karen Dior and of course, Joey. They were a family. So, while Joey’s story is front and center in the film, as I’ve joked, it’s a little more X-Men and less Wolverine. It’s an ensemble film. Each of these characters battled years of addiction and Joey’s addictions killed him and everyone knew his addiction would kill him.  But I have to call him Nick. Nicholas Iacona was his real name and Joey was just a stage name. I’ve become very protective of him after years of interviews.

Did you base your screenplay on Wonder Bread and Ecstasy, Charles Isherwood’s biography of him?

I honestly had never heard of Joey Stefano before the book literally fell in front of me. I remember buying the book at A Different Light in West Hollywood a week after September 11 in 2001. It literally fell off the shelf and landed at my feet. I read it in one sitting and immediately emailed Larry Paciotti (AKA “Chi Chi LaRue”) and he very bluntly replied, “I have zero interest in ever discussing this with you as a movie.”

Then nine years later, I was sitting at St. Felix (a West Hollywood restaurant located across the street from La Rue’s adult shop), with my friend Adam Cuculich and a few other people, contemplating a movie back to Atlanta. I was tired of writing scripts for producers who couldn’t get them made. And tired of writing for free. I was ready to go back to Atlanta and return to a life of casting and Adam encouraged me to direct my own films. Produce my own work. At the time, that seemed completely impossible and I said the only script that I’ve ever wanted to produce on my own was the Joey Stefano story.

We finished our drinks, rounded the corner and ran smack into Larry. [We] set a meeting for the next day and I convinced Larry to allow me to write the script. I knew it would be impossible to do the story without his involvement.

I never went back to Isherwood’s book, because I wanted to find the story on my own. I didn’t want to be influenced by his research. It had been nearly a decade since I read it. I knew the key plot points and I remember feeling that it was missing something. And it wasn’t due to his research.  It’s simply at the time he interviewed everyone for the book, it was fresh for them. So they protected each other and not all of the truth came out in the book.

What additional research did you do?

I reached out to everyone who knew him or met him. I didn’t care if they only met him at club, I wanted to meet everyone who would meet with me,  because their perception, their stories of him are important to the story. I interviewed Larry, Sharon, Brian Maley in Vegas. Directors like Robert Prion and Jerry Douglas in New York. Anybody who was interested, I wanted to talk to them. I met with close to a hundred people.

And Mickey Skee, the reporter who documented their entire rise to fame, was an invaluable resource and finding him was yet another one of those “spiritual” moments. Turned out, we already knew each other, but I didn’t know about his past and “Skee” is a pen name. He shared videos, tapes, press articles. I’m really proud of the script. Capturing Nick’s voice was paramount. And from everyone who has read it, said I got it.

Has his family been cooperative?

Sadly, no. I’ve reached out to them a number of times but I was told it was “just too painful.” I was also aware that they had attempted to bring legal action against Alyson Books (the publisher of Wonderbread) and a few theatres who attempted plays about Nick. So I also wanted to let them know the movie was happening.  It’s like inviting the neighbors over to a party.  Sure you want them to come and be a part of it, but mainly you’re letting them know that you’re going to be making a lot of noise.

But in the end, I asked every single person I interviewed what Nick told them about his childhood and upbringing. They all had the same story.  And if I could talk to his family, I would tell them again that I’m very protective of him and respectful to their loss. They are not the villains in this movie as have been speculated in the past by bloggers. The villain here is addiction. I would hope that if I die tragically and a screenwriter approached my family, they would talk to him or her in order to share their story. But in the end, I have what I need to satisfy those questions.

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  • Cam

    So a fame whore porn director said he would never help you make a movie and now is helping. Sounds like somebody made a deal so that they would be portrayed in a better light.

  • balehead

    This sounds fascinating! Hopefully it will get made..

  • MudgeBoy

    Sounds like an interesting movie about a character who was loved by all. Can’t wait to watch it.

  • Derek Williams

    In my youth it gave me a massive boost to know that someone as good looking and sexual as Iacona aka Stefano could be gay. His performances were simply jaw dropping.

  • Jackhoffsky

    I just woke up. It’s Saturday morning… and MAN, you just brought back SO many GREAT porn memories. He was something else.

    I don’t know if I could stand to watch another movie about him but who knows.

  • Tackle

    Wonder Bread and Ecstasy was a great book and Charles Isherwood did an amazing job. If anything, a movie should be made from that book. He did not go soft, but exposed everything. Warts and all. Having Chi Chi/Larry on board as a writer, I feel is gonna whitewash things and try to portray everyone in a better light because maybe there is still some guilt from what happend and was put in Wonder Bread, and there is a need to redeem onesself.

  • Jack E. Jett

    I read the biography about him and though he wasn’t my cup of tea, I found his story compelling and look forward to a film about him.

  • Jack E. Jett

    I always worry a bit when a writer uses words like protective and/or respectful and/or composite in writing a story. Perhaps I have watched too many documentaries but I feel if you are going to tell a story you have to show a close up of the warts and not try to rationalize or dance around them.
    Regardless it sounds like a good flick and think Needles is perfect for the role of Karen Dior.

  • Jackhoffsky

    @Jack E. Jett: “protective” means penis. They are going to show penis. “respectful” means they are going to show penis in nice, happy situations! (LOL)

  • MMDD

    @Derek Williams: He was not gay. He was more likely bi. According to Isherwood’s book, he had girlfriends he slept with on occasion, and one of his female lovers appeared on a talk show not long after his death.

  • miagoodguy


  • Cam


    This is why people role their eyes at the phony bisexual posts.

    Gee, lets see, high on drugs he had a threeway with a guy and another female porn star, other than that dated guys, but you will come on and post he wasn’t gay.

    It’s your creepy revisionist history that makes the posts so ridiculous.

  • MMDD

    @Cam: Read the book before you make ignorant posts like this, asshole.

  • Stache1

    @Cam: Yeah, I’ve read the book too and bisexual is not what i would come away with.

  • Stache1

    @Derek Williams: I remember seeing his picture on Frontiers Magazine with him and sailor hat and thinking the same thing. It was like Damn.

  • Cam


    I pointed out quite clearly why your post is an obvious lie. All you can do is name call. If I’m wrong, fine, call it out.

  • MMDD

    @Cam: And I repeat the fact that the book stated that a FEMALE lover of his appeared on a talk show not long after his death. I pointed that out quite clearly to you too. I don’t recall anything about a threeway mentioned in the book, although the likelihood of that was certainly possible.

    I assume you’re one of those biphobic persons who assumes that if a guy dates and sleeps with other men, he simply must be gay.

  • MMDD

    @Stache1: I guess you missed the part about the fact that he slept with women too and that a woman appeared on a talk show as one of his lovers. Chi Chi was on that same talk show, and neither she nor anyone else there questioned the fact that this woman was his lover. Fact is, he liked women too.

    But regardless of anything, his preferred lover was drugs. No man or woman could compete with that.

  • Jackhoffsky

    OMG… if forgot about his long hair days…

  • Cam


    AAAAaannnnnndddd there it is. You come on here and lie, claiming that a guy who in a book about him had multiple male lovers, as well as other biographies from other men showing that all of his major relationships were with men, is in fact not gay.

    Then you name as your source, some nebulous story about some girl, that claimed on some show, that they were in a relationship.

    Sorry, but if your facts can’t support your argument trying to scream and yell that anybody who points that out is bi-phobic is laughable. You are the one that seems to have an unreasonable hatred of anybody being called gay. If there is a bigot in here it would very clearly seem to be the person lying and attacking others who point that out. In other words….you.

    But you know, nice try.

  • Cam


    I almost forgot….you do know that women came forward claiming to have slept with Ricky MArtin, Clay Aiken, Neil Patrick Harris etc…. all were later shown to be phony, but then again, I guess those polygraph machines must be bi-phobic too right?

  • ChadDarnell

    Hey everyone…

    Thanks again to Queerty for helping me get the word out about the film and wanted to address a few things in the comments.

    @Cam – I wouldn’t call Larry a fame whore. I’ve wanted to do this film for nearly 12 years. It’s not a deal about being portrayed in a better light.

    @Tackle – as I said in the interview, the entire truth didn’t come out in WONDERBREAD because it was still fresh for the “pack.” This isn’t the fault of Mr. Isherwood. He wrote what was told to him. I interviewed everyone I could talk to. To me, it makes better sense as a writer to find my own story and talk to the source, than to write a script based on a book that is nearly 20 years old.

    Also @Tackle – Larry is not a writer on this. I am the only writer. I interviewed him. This is a story about addiction and the fact that Larry is close to celebrating two years of sobriety, to me is a win. If the story reaches one person to get help, I’ve done my job.

    @Jack – I’m protective and respectful. Sorry, that’s just the way I am. I was given an incredible opportunity to tell their stories and I’m not going to fuck it up. These people gave me their trust to tell their story and it IS going to be hard for them to watch. It’s not pretty. But no one is painted as a “villain” in this movie. Even at their worst and ugliest, they were misunderstood and hurt and deep into their addiction. And I come from a documentary background, so that’s another reason why I love biopics. I’m hoping to shoot a feature about KENT STATE in 2015.

    And as far as the girlfriend goes… yes, he had a girlfriend. Everyone told me about her. She will appear in the film in a small scene.

    And as far as composite characters go, as a writer, you have to do that if someone does not give you permission/ you didn’t get the full story from that person. (I should say, writers SHOULD do that… I did… because I don’t want to put words into someone’s mouth that isn’t coming from an authentic place and I don’t want to get sued.)

    I want the real life people to support and back the movie, so I want their input and I want them to sign off on it. Otherwise you have a situation (most recently with the ANNA NICOLE movie) where someone like Larry Birkhead denies point by point what didn’t happen. And I realize that writers can fabricate everything (PHIL SPECTOR on HBO, anyone?) And I realize sometimes you have change certain things in order to tell a story that takes place over 5 years in two hours.

    I’ve worked very hard on the script for three years to be as authentic as possible. And the characters and what happened is so big, I didn’t have to make up anything. Trust me, it was a very, very painful and difficult process for everyone to gor through. Like ripping open old wounds and pouring salt. But I believe it was also very cathartic as well.

  • MMDD

    @Cam: LOL! You’re absolutely insane. I’m an out and proud gay man who, unlike you, has no problem acknowledging and accepting bisexuality in some men. Read the book instead of coming on here and acting like an asshole. Just because a guy had “multiple male lovers,” that doesn’t negate his sexual involvement with women, which is referenced in the book.

    Both Ricky Martin and Neil Patrick Harris have gone on record as to the women they have slept with. Heck, Ricky even wrote about them in his book. Oh…I guess you didn’t read that one either, did you? Do you even know how to read in the first place? Probably not. Neil has stated that he dated and had sex with at least 12 to 15 women before coming out as gay, and he even told Oprah with a big grin on his face that he remembers those moments as “good times.” I guess you don’t know how to watch videos either, eh? Anyway, comparing either one of their situations to Joey Stefano shows that you are clearly not playing with a full deck. Neil and Ricky were closeted at the time, but Joey was out and doing porn.

  • Jackhoffsky

    @ChadDarnell: Thank you for that. Now, different than all my silly jokes, I have an actual, legitimate question.

    As you mentioned, Wonderbread was published a long time ago. And while stories are fresh, there tends to be some reservation in telling them, partially for the pain and partially out of an unspoken feeling of respect. In writing my own thing about a fallen friend, I notice that the farther one gets from the time of a person’s death, the more stories seem to be embellished in the minds of the people who were there. The retelling of a story today is VERY different than retelling of a story 20 years ago.

    Did you find that to be an issue when writing this and if so, were you able to compensate for that?

  • MMDD

    @ChadDarnell: “And as far as the girlfriend goes… yes, he had a girlfriend. Everyone told me about her. She will appear in the film in a small scene.”

    Read that, Cam? “Everyone” acknowledged he had a girlfriend. Is that good enough for you?

  • ChadDarnell

    @Jackhoffsky: Great question. Structure-wise, I had a lot of Mickey Skee’s research and my own deep research, so I had to construct the timeline first, then I went back and asked questions. And with each “story,” (like the final birthday party for Chi Chi when Nick came back to LA for the last time), I asked each of them what happened. Mickey, Sharon, Larry, Chris, and Brian were all there. They all described it the same way. So then I had to ask them, “what were they feeling” and “what do you think Larry was feeling” and molded the story between their perception and the perception of the others.

    Old college theatre 101… creating a character, you have to look at yourself as the character, how the other characters see you and how the audience interprets.

    There were some definite challenges with the Karen Dior scenes, as Karen died a few years ago. But it was just finding her voice. And everyone who has attended the staged readings who knew her, say Willam nails it.

    It was really hard to have to tell one person what another person said. Some people had lied to others and had kept those lies buried because of their addiction. So it was bizarre to sit someone down and get their version of the story and then say, “okay… well just so you know… I know you two haven’t spoken in 20 years, but here’s what really happened…” And that opened up a whole new avenue of story.

  • MMDD

    @ChadDarnell: Chad, would you be willing to elaborate any on his girlfriend? Since I suspect a lot of viewers thought of him as being exclusively gay, this will likely be very intriguing to them.

  • ChadDarnell

    @MMDD: As numerous people explained him to me, Nick was “just sexual.” I think that’s the easiest explanation. He definitely wasn’t someone who was into labels. None of the “pack” were. They were all very free with their love with one another and never really defined “girlfriend”/ “boyfriend.” They loved the ones they were with.

  • MMDD

    @ChadDarnell: Yet he had one woman who was specifically known to be his girlfriend?

  • Phillip

    Rember Joey from old days in Tampa at the Carousel bar the guy was not big sexual he liked penis he used to get totally fcked up and would cruise parking lots and anywhere he could score he was a mess back then but what a beautiful man sure miss those days

  • Jackhoffsky

    @ChadDarnell: Last question (I promise). There is a lot of drug use at the time, by everyone. Sometimes it can be detracting to a movie (I think DOORS is a god example), sometimes it can be it’s own character (LESS THAN ZERO, SPUN), sometimes it can provide a stylized interpretation of events that people not on drugs can find relatable (REQUIEM FOR A DREAM).

    In dealing with the subject matter (namely, the gay porn industry), how easy was it to find a suitable line between presenting information as information (on screen) and presenting emotion/feeling via stylized filming techniques?

    (And PLEASE realize that I have not see the movie, I am purely acting under the assumption that in that world, a world I am familiar with, there are some things you can explain through simple dialog and then there are some things you present by evoking an emotion.)

  • ChadDarnell

    @Jackhoffsky: “Drugs” are a major character in the movie. I’m more into exploring what led to their addiction and what kept them IN their addiction than just “showing” it. Easy access to it, for example. And they each had different reasons with different levels of functionality. And stylistically, that will be shot in a way that enhances the storyline and crescendo to the end. But not distracting from the performances. I’m a big fan of keep it simple and keep the camera on the actor. I don’t like seeing an indulgent filmmaker’s process (if that makes sense…)

    As for dealing with the subject matter, I think that when you see how drugs and alcohol were introduced into Nick’s life after being sober upon his arrival into LA, it shows how the scene in the 90s allowed for excess and over indulgence. The Pack were royalty in WeHo during their time. People gave them drugs to be “in” with them. But the “why” is what I want to explore. He was beloved. His death was tragic (as is any death involving addiction).

  • JimboinLA

    One thing which I would love illuminated is what was the mindset that allowed people to participate in bareback porn after 1981/82 when it became very clear that people were dying from a ‘gay disease’. I was 15 in 1981, living just outside of NYC and my father’s business associate died of aids and at 15 I knew gay sex was potentially deadly. I’m 46, HIV negative and never put myself at risk. What caused an entire group of gay men, producers, directors, porn stars, to risk their very lives for the sake of porn. It just doesn’t add up to me. Chi Chi was involved in gay bareback porn when men were dropping like flies. I appreciate his stance against barebacking now, but what the hell was everyone thinking in the late eighties and early nineties. That’s one thing I would love to see addressed in this film/script.

  • ChadDarnell

    @JimboinLA: Then I think you’ll be happy!

  • Tackle

    @ChadDarnell: thanks for your response & clearing some things up. So I see it’s less of an bio but more of a story of addiction. So it’s not really a story about Nick as the Queerty headline has it… And about bisexuality, there is a difference between bisexuality & bisexual behavior. Having sex with or having a so-called girlfriend does not denote being bisexual. Many gays, myself would have no problem getting it up & smashing a [email protected] to smithereens. But my preference would be men. Straight men can go to prison and have gay sex. I think a true bisexual would like man/women 50/50, without really a preference. I think Nick preferred men. A sexual act is just a small part of a larger picture. But it’s which sex one feels more comfortable with,without the sex. It’s emotional, mental, spiritual & deeply psychological
    Our sexually is not based just on a sex act.

  • Cam


    So lets see, you have a nameless woman that went on a talkshow you can’t remember, and now are using one line from an anonymous account on here.

    The sad part is, you are obviously so insecure in your own bisexuality that you have a foaming at the mouth desperate need to scream out every incident and pretend it is a massive declaration of bisexuality.

    Please, by all means, do whatever you have to do to feel good about yourself.

  • Jackhoffsky

    @ChadDarnell: “I don’t like seeing an indulgent filmmaker’s process (if that makes sense…)”

    That totally makes sense. But I know it’s such a weird balance I think best illustrated with the differences between “Boogie Nights” and “Wonderland” where in “Boogie Nights” the drug was a congruent character popping in and out of scenes and in “Wonderland” it was actually a weighty liability for the audience… which is fine as it was a weighty liability in real life… LOL.

    Drugs, presented simply, is something the distant will keep distant and those attracted will keep close – just like with any sub-culture. But the psychology behind the scenarios are actually something everyone can relate to… the desire to be “in”, the need to be accepted, trying to be relaxed when everyone is focused on you, etc. etc.

    There is so much involved in that, and you certainly seem like you are attacking this full force, passionately, and you have put a LOT of thought into this.

    I sincerely thank you for taking time out to answer my question (all of ours). I could talk about the psychology of film all day, so I will stop here, but honestly… thank you sir. Your time is much appreciated.

  • Tackle

    And about the so-called no labels (just sexual) , not really feeling that. To me that’s more like being ashamed and not admitting that you’re gay. The old gay sex, but straight priviledge.And funny how when help or support is needed the first group they run to is gays. Not everyone else. And one thing I liked and fondly remember about Joey/Nick on film. He was always on top even when he was the bottom.

  • billforsyth

    Why all of the arguments over whether he was gay bi or whatever he was a porn star ,a professional paid to have sex and he was also a drug addict,which was possibly the most important factor in his everyday life rather than his sexuality.

  • MMDD

    @Cam: Now I know you’re insane. Insecure about my own bisexuality? That’s really a hoot. I love dick way too much and am far too disinterested in pussy to be bi. Not wasting any more time on your ridiculousness. Learn how to read and open up your mind.

  • MarionPaige

    To Chad Darnell.

    It might be of interest to you to try and get comments from Porn Director William Higgins (now in the Czech Republic) about the time period in which LaRue came into Gay Adult leading up to the time Stefano died. It is my understanding that LaRue actually started out working for William Higgins at Catalina. THE POINT BEING that William Higgins was quoted saying that he sold Catalina and left Gay Adult in America for Europe because … GAY ADULT IN THE LATE 80’s / 90’s in America WAS JUST TOO DEPRESSING.

    Consider William Higgins’ life in the virtually Aids Free Czech Republic versus the carnage taking place in the industry he left behind in America.

    As someone who saw Joey Stefano and a lot of other doomed gay pornstars a lot in person at The Gaiety Theater in New York back in the day, I often wondered how it was possible for someone to be in a business that had these beautiful healthy guys coming in and dropping dead (of Aids or Drugs or suicides) in a year or so.

    A partying drugging Brat Packer during the Aids epidemic?

  • Cam


    Deflected the rest of my comment huh? You still haven’t explained your reasoning, an unknown woman on a show you can’t name, and a nameless post here.

    If you gave a crap you might want to mention the completely out proud bi member of the group…but you can’t even seem to do that. You just saw some little post on here and decided to go crazy.

  • Markusfittt

    I slept with Joey S. He had that “IT” factor so many people
    who in the entertainment industry have. It’s all so sad.

  • Niall

    Never seen any of his movies

  • Stache1

    @Niall: I’m sure glad to know that. Thanks for the info.

  • Dixie Rect

    I saw him strip once, it was all very ‘by the numbers’. Afterwards, he was very chummy in the lounge with several Asian businessmen with a lot of drugs and money. It was depressing.

  • Brian

    Porn is for losers. Stefano made a poor choice in his life. No going back, sadly.

  • Jackhoffsky

    @Tackle: I actually have a fairly interesting and maybe helpful(?) response for you, but it is currently being moderated.

  • litper

    @Cam, no gay man would go as low as having sex with a woman, even on drugs… He was not gay

  • MMDD

    @litper: Come on, now. Having sex with a woman is not “low.” It’s called being in denial, trying to be someone other than who you are, etc.

  • Eric Auerbach

    @Brian: “Porn is for losers.”

    Do you mean making it or watching it? Because unless you’ve never spanked it two footage of naked dudes, you should really consider getting off that high horse of yours.

  • Cam


    Yeeeaaaahhhhh, you may want to talk to the multiple gay men who used to be married because they didn’t want to come out to their families.

    So talk to them, talk to gay college fraternity members who got girlfriends and got drunk to sleep with them so they weren’t outted.

    Talk to about 20% of former Mormon Missionaries etc…

  • Cam

    @Eric Auerbach:

    Porn is one of these weird areas where it’s legal but people can still be fired etc…. for it. It’s odd, you think they would either make it illegal or accepted, but it’s in that weird in between area like Prostitution in Nevada.

  • Niall

    @Stache1: You’re welcome, hope I’ve contributed to your life somewhat.

  • Bob LaBlah

    What a shame there is no mention of “Tony Davis”, the guy Stefano approached at the Gaiety Theatre in NYC who had a lot to do with him getting into porn. I wonder what he is up to nowadays “Tony Davis?” Anyone know?

  • JayHobeSound

    I have seen a few scenes Joey did and he did seem to genuinely enjoy the sex and the performing.

  • vg

    HELLO BoB LaBlah , is there anyway to get intouch with you ( maybe email ) , i have to get a hold of you anyway possible . i have some important info to give you , please let me know how i can reach you in any way , thanks ! vg

  • Chad Darnell

    Thanks, guys!! Still chasing that mm eg and investors but hoping to shoot next year!

  • Kevin J Desmond

    I thought he died something like 15 years ago ?

  • Wonder Fogg

    Holy Shit 20 years ago.

  • Kev Beags

    Good memories

  • Tom Anderson

    ah, but wonderful memories and excitement he brought us via the good ol’ VHS videos in our youthful days!

  • Thomas Villanueva

    Remember dancing next to him at Gay Pride at Penns Landing early 90’s.
    RIP Joey S :-((

  • MarionPaige

    as it happens (in re this topic receiving new posts), I just discovered that there is a new book out about Stefano

  • Tombear

    The first time I me Joey S was in DC. He was doing a gig at the Follies in DC at the time and he was beautiful. I met him several years later in San Diego and he remembered me from DC. He told me he was doing a shoot at the Califf bar there and would I like to watch. I told him no I had plans for the evening. I was a young Naval officer at the time and was paranoid of anybody finding out I was a buttfucker. I gave him my number but he never called. I have always liked Joey and I’m sorry he met such a tragic end.

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