In the days before you could access an unlimited amount of porn on your personal computer from the privacy of your own home, porn was distributed via mail order catalogs in discreet packaging. Despite the Stonewall riots in 1969, the burgeoning gay rights movement in the 1970s, free love and greater visibility for gays and lesbians in society, many had to still remain closeted. Consequently, as Scissor Sisters front man Jake Shears points out in this film, porn stars were heroes to many because they were gay and out in a time when it wasn’t easy to be either.
Such is the stage set by the cleverly-titled Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story, a 2015 documentary about the rise of the legendary porn company Falcon Studios that also features interviewes with porn legend Jeff Stryker, Falcon director Chi Chi LaRue, Falcon actors Steve Cruz and Tom Chase (both of whom could still get it) and legendary filmmaker John Waters.
Holmes launched Falcon Studios with Jim Hodges and Vaughn Kincey in 1970 out of his home in San Francisco. Up to that time, gay porn was mostly made up of poorly-lit, badly-edited smut films with shaky camera work and awful soundtracks. Holmes and Falcon set out to set a new standard for production values in porn – and did so to great success as it built a reputation for featuring the hottest and beautiful men available.
Interestingly, Seed Money is about more than just Holmes and Falcon. The film intertwines the history of Falcon with the history of gay porn and gay history itself (at least since 1970) as Falcon ably adjusted to the ever-changing times (obscenity restrictions in the 1970s and the outbreak of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s) and ever-evolving tastes (from hairy, mustachioed, flannel-wearing hunks in the 1970s to athletic clean-cut, All-American, blonde-haired and blue-eyed pretty boys in the 1980s) – which were reflected in the films.
Seed Money doesn’t spend as much time telling Holmes’s story itself as much as it does on his impact on gay porn in general and gay culture at that time. But because the film talks about how much Falcon was such a reflection of Holmes and his personal tastes, we find out just as much about who Holmes was through the story of Falcon as we would if the documentary was more about Holmes himself and less about Falcon itself.
Seed Money covers a lot of ground in its 72 minutes – also touching briefly on black men in predominantly white porn and on Holmes’ efforts to ingratiate himself into the upper echelons of society that would accept his money for their charitable causes but wouldn’t accept him into their circles on account of what he did for a living.
Seed Money also paints a similarly dichotomous portrait of a Chuck Holmes who is a smart businessman and extremely generous to those he loves — but also a bit irresponsible with his money at a certain point and a bit of a hot head at other points. Still, as the film heads toward its conclusion, it starts to veer toward deification of Holmes as interview subjects reflect on his life and accomplishments. A few minutes on how Falcon carried on in the wake of Holmes’ death into the present day would have accomplished the same thing with far more subtlety.
For those who came to gay porn at the turn of this century such as I did, Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of gay porn and gay history from the 1970s to that time. And the generous helping of softcore clips is not only an equally fascinating reflection of gay culture in major cities as it relates to sex in the 1970s and 1980s, but also a visual feast of the kind of man candy only those eras could have supplied.