Peter De Rome, who died in 2014 just short of his 90th birthday, was a pioneer in the short history of gay porn films. Born in Britain, he emigrated to the US in 1956, where he worked in retail in New York City. He started dabbling in film in the sixties, making underground shorts that he screened privately for friends and trusted others.
His fame spread when his short, Hot Pants, won a first prize in 1971 at the Wet Dream Film Festival in Amsterdam. This in turn led to a suggestion from producer Jack Deveau to select eight of De Rome's shorts to be released commercially as The Erotic Films of Peter de Rome. The compilation had a successful run in the largest cities of the US.
In 1974, still in partnership with Deveau, De Rome travelled to Paris to make his first full-length feature, and best known film, Adam & Yves (which has a cameo by Gretta Garbo!) This was followed in 1976 by The Destroying Angel, an erotic gay horror movie, supposedly based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story. De Rome retired from the business in the ‘80s, in the midst of the AIDS crisis, and moved back to the UK.
In 2014 documentarian Ethan Reid told De Rome’s story in Peter De Rome: Grandfather of Gay Porn, which features interviews with De Rome, Wakefield Poole, Kristen Bjorn, Hand in Hand editor Bob Alvarez, porn star Jake Genesis and others. In it the charming De Rome recounts the ups and downs of his career as he prepares for a retrospective of his work to be screened at the British Film Institute in London.
In a review of the doc, The Guardian said, “Though he denies being an activist, De Rome made his films in New York at a time when homosexuality was illegal. That he managed to show men having sex, and make it domestic, unaggressive, and loving, is progressive even by today's standards. To say it is difficult to imagine this elderly gentleman filming sex with sailors he met on Manhattan streets is not strictly fair. While De Rome is distinguished, very English and well-mannered almost beyond belief, his words are peppered with humour and naughtiness.”
Peter De Rome: Grandfather of Gay Porn, is available to stream at Naked Sword — and Naked Sword has also acquired rights to Adam & Yves and The Destroying Angel. Three more reasons to take out a membership and take in some gay porn history.