LOS ANGELES — XBIZ has received word that producer and director Scott Masters, a hugely influential figure in gay adult for more than four decades, passed late last year. He had been moved to an assisted-living facility in Bloomington, Illinois in the past year and in mid-autumn, a caregiver informed a family friend that Masters had recently died.
Famously recalcitrant, Masters shunned publicity but his influence on gay adult — and gay culture overall — was inarguable. A rare photo, seen above, shows (from L-R) Gino Colbert, Tom DeSimone, John Travis, William Higgins, Masters and Lucas Kazan, at the premiere of All Worlds Video’s “Andel’s Story” in the late ’90s.
Masters guided and shaped the careers of dozens of top stars: Rick Chase, Kevin Cobain, Kevin Dean, Adam Hart, Jimmy Hughes, Ryan Idol, Clay Maverick, Sonny Markham, Mark Montana, Ken Ryker, Joey Stefano, Chris Steele, Jon Vincent, Jeff White and many more.
In the mid-1960s, Masters, a self-taught photographer, relocated to San Francisco from Chicago and began selling male nude photo sets, his own as well as others from such notables as Bruce of L.A. and Athletic Model Guild, and quickly became a prolific publisher. Although laws regarding nude male photography had been relaxed, in 1972 Masters nevertheless drew the wrath of authorities in Texas and pleaded guilty to obscenity charges, for which he received a one-year suspended sentence.
In 1970, using the pseudonym “Robert Stephens,” Masters began producing loops and eventually formed The Stephens Agency, a short-lived distribution company. His first full-length feature was “White Lightning” in 1973 and Nova Studios followed a few years later.
Nova, which was shuttered in the mid-1980s, introduced many notable performers and directors and largely responsible for establishing a highly polished, cinematic style known as the “West Coast look.”
“I can’t think of any gay adult producer more consequential than Scott Masters,” Kazan told XBIZ, “with a career spanning decades four decades and relevant contributions in each decade — as a magazine publisher in the late ’60s; as the man behind Nova Studio in the ’70s; as the producer in charge of Catalina in the late-’80s; and as the co-founder of Studio 2000 in the late ’90s and early 2000s.”
John Travis, Masters’ longtime creative partner and the co-founder of Studio 2000, passed in 2017.
“Scott and I became friends after my directing debut at Men of Odyssey in 1997, with ‘Journey to Italy,'” Kazan recalled. “He was brutally honest with me: ‘Lucas,’ he told me, ‘you didn’t give Men of Odyssey an $80,000 movie. You didn’t deliver a $50,000 movie. Hell, you didn’t deliver a $20,000 movie.’ I loved him all the more for it. Scott taught me a great deal about self-discipline, self-criticism and work ethics. And about the industry I was about to embark on.”
“We would get together for lunch in West Hollywood every now and then,” Kazan said. “I would ask him, starstruck, about Nova, the early loops, the later feature films — ‘Something Wild’ is, to this day, one of my favorite movies of all time. He would hardly discuss any of them, perhaps not realizing, not fully, the richness of his legacy and its impact on the language of gay porn and the forms of gay desire.”
Chi Chi LaRue began his career in adult as an administrative assistant and creative director at Catalina Video in the mid-’80s and infamously clashed with the powerful producer when he first moved into directing. Nevertheless, their collaboration produced a number of notable titles.
“I worked very closely with Scott when I was at Catalina. He wasn’t very fond of me directing but I proved him wrong,” LaRue told XBIZ. “I’m very sad for the loss of another life in our business. May he rest in peace.”
Professor Martin Pozsgai is compiling a monographic study of Nova Studio and shared with XBIZ his thoughts about Masters’ cultural influence.
“Together with Studio 2000, Scott Masters’ ouevre offers the rare opportunity to explore and follow the representations of gay sex and the artistic development of masculinity in visual culture over four decades in the context of social, cultural and political changes almost continuously — from the gay liberation movement to the AIDS crisis and the establishment of equal rights for queer people after the turn of the millennium,” he said.
Last year, Pozsgai penned a remembrance on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the publication of “HIS — Handsome Is,” believed to be “the first picture magazine to contain exclusively homoerotic photographs taken by [Masters],” an artist who “created an extraordinarily rich and imaginative work of gay erotic pornography in the decades that followed.”
“Over the decades, Masters’ business [had] been incredibly productive,” noted Pozsgai. “At the same time, [he] always felt committed to the gay movement, the gay community he wanted to serve.”
XBIZ will expand this story with additional information as warranted.