Carter Stevens, one of the adult film industry’s true originals, passed away this week.
He started to make his first feature film before the landmark success of Deep Throat, and he was still in the sex business thirty years later.
For a time it seemed like he was everywhere. In the 1970s and 1980s, he directed a series of increasingly popular and ambitious films that included Lickity-Split, Teenage Twins, Rollerbabies and Honeymoon Haven. He was just as prolific as an actor too, and was a regular, uncredited crew member for many mainstream and adult film productions.
He made loops, directed a series of films for the Avon Theater chain, and fought battles with drugs and charges of obscenity and of hiring an underage actress, before re-emerging in the 1990s with a successful fetish newspaper and publishing business.
When I was a teenager, and into old blues and folk records, I read about the life of John Lomax.
Lomax was a pioneering musicologist and folklorist who did much for the preservation of American music in the first half of the twentieth century. Back in the 1930s, he became concerned that much of the blues and folk music that he loved was in danger of being lost – and along with it the stories of the people who created it. This was because the people who had made much of the music hadn’t made a lot of money and over time they had simply disappeared. So in 1933, Lomax got a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies, and acquired a state-of-the-art, 315 pound phonograph disk recorder which he installed in the trunk of his Ford sedan. Then he set out on the first recording expedition – traveling around the country and meeting many long forgotten musicians and singers. His mission was simple: he would set up his recording equipment and then get out of the way, just preserving whatever he got. These recordings became priceless as they enabled the world to hear directly from the artists themselves.
Twenty years or so ago, I was talking about John Lomax with the adult film director Carter Stevens. I’d found a website that he’d set up, and it listed his phone number – so I gave it a call, and shortly afterwards Carter and I were having a wide-ranging conversation about films, music, politics, and New York in the 1970s. Carter made a comment that he wished someone would do what John Lomax had done – but with the pioneers of the adult film business. In other words, travel around and capture the stories about birth of the X-rated film world directly out of the mouths of those who’d been involved.
I liked the idea, and we made a date to do a field recording of our own. The following week, I went to Carter’s house in the Pocono’s and set up some cheap recording equipment, sat back and let Carter talk.
Now it’s fair to say that I was no John Lomax. After recording three hours of memories, Carter’s roommate walked through the room, tripped over the cable, disconnected everything, and we lost the whole recording. Thanks to Carter’s kindness, we decided to repeat the whole conversation over the phone a few days later so I set up a phone recorder.
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