5.21.2013

The pornographic canon: "Kansas City Trucking Co." (1976) and "El Paso Wrecking Corp." (1977)



Things have been quiet here at Primal Scenes for the last few weeks, mainly because I’ve been on vacation.  So, as a way of diving back into my survey of “porno chic,” I’d like to return to the question of sexual orientation as it gets represented in hard-core porn, and what function the films’ acknowledgement of or blindness to the existence of multiple sexual orientations might serve.  If The Opening of Misty Beethoven is an ostensibly straight porn film that demonstrates an awareness—however problematically—of the existence of homosexuality, Joe Gage’s Kansas City Trucking Co. and its sequel, El Paso Wrecking Corp., are good examples of gay porn films the appeal of which depends crucially on the presence and the pretense—however unconvincing—of heterosexuality.  While defiantly gay, Gage’s films unapologetically fetishize straight, closeted, and/or butch men (it’s a trope that persists today in the form of online gay porn sites which advertise “straight” models).  If Gage’s main character, the tall, dark, lean, bearded trucker Hank (Richard Locke), is presented as exclusively homosexual (a perfect Kinsey 6, as it were), the supporting players in both films are often presented as sexually frustrated straight guys, unhappily married or saddled with girlfriends who won’t put out, driven into the more receptive arms—and hands and mouths—of other men.


The illusion of heterosexual masculinity: a topless pin-up in the background of the Kansas City garage office.  The actor is Jack Wrangler.

As such, Gage’s films mobilize quite complicated sexual fantasy sequences which depend upon the illusion of straightness in order to intensify homoerotic tension.  The films establish a hyper-masculine world of working-class male laborers, finely detailed right down to the country music on the radio and the Playboy centerfolds tacked up in the garage.  It’s those centerfolds (pictured above), and the girlie mags (pictured, top), to say nothing of the very real women who lurk around the edges of the frame, that function to establish a straight male universe that may then be thrillingly destabilized by gay sex.  Gage’s films are acutely attuned to the power of fantasy and transgression.  Are his men actually having sex with one another, or only dreaming about it?  As Joe (Steve Boyd) and Hank jerk off together in the cab of the truck—without actually touching one another, it should be noted—Hank talks dirty to Joe, but under the auspices of a straight sex fantasy (“just think of that slick hot pussy while you beat your meat”).  We know that Hank desires Joe, and a subsequent dream sequence suggests that Joe harbors similar fantasies: while he hears Hank commanding him to “think of that slick hot pussy,” he’s imagining sex with another man.  Then the fantasy is suddenly interrupted by an image of his wife’s face.  Joe jolts awake.  The country song on the radio: “I just can’t get her out of my mind…” 




 
"I just can't get her out of my mind": Joe's (Steve Boyd) homoerotic idyll interrupted by the thought of his wife's face.

Gage’s films unapologetically (and quite sophisticatedly) insist upon heteronormative society’s taboos against homosexuality in order to make its scenes of gay sex that much more powerful.  Grounded as they are in a version of what we might call “the real world” (as opposed to the out-of-time, out-of-place pornotopia of, say, Boys in the Sand), they use the social constrictions of that world to set off a series of particularly complex, and uniquely rewarding, pleasures.  Recommended. 

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