Meet the wise-cracking ambassadors of smut.
Brian Bangs and Spock Buckton (their business names) had been working at Philadelphia’s TLA Video for years—first in the warehouse, where they spent endless hours packing hardcore porno DVDs into shipping boxes, and then in the corporate office, where they were put in charge of the straight-adult division—when they stumbled upon a simple idea that would eventually alter the entire course of their professional lives. Armed with nothing more than a handheld video camera and a good idea, the duo put the first phase of the plan into place at the 2008 annual AVN Awards Show, essentially the porn industry’s equivalent of the Oscars. “Basically,” says Bangs, “what ended up happening was that we said, ‘Hey, we all love film. We’ve all made student films before. We should make a [video] blog, just to talk about the adult industry.”
PopPorn.com was the domain name they settled on, and by the time they returned home from the AVN Awards, Bangs, Buckton and Buckton’s brother, who goes by the business name of “Meatball” and who is also a long-time TLA employee, had filmed literally dozens of slightly odd and offbeat video interviews with some of the industry’s best-known porn stars. Admittedly, it was far from a pioneering business idea. But as anyone who has visited PopPorn’s Video Vault section can tell you, the blog works for one reason and one reason only: the almost indescribably ironic humor of Spock Buckton himself, who somehow manages to turn nearly every interview with a porn actor into a mini-masterpiece of comic timing and absurdist social commentary.
“We never wanted to do a typical interview with [a porn star],” Buckton explains. “We’d rather have it be more conversational—two human beings talking to each other, instead of some greaseball talking to this amazingly beautiful woman.”
And although Bangs is quick to admit that any video blog filled with porn actors is quite likely to earn itself a decent-sized audience, he didn’t realize that at that time no existing media company was looking at the porn industry in a fun and entertaining way. “I mean, it’s adult entertainment!” he insists. “It’s porn. It should be fun and humorous. You don’t have to be a complete dirty pornhound to enjoy it, and you don’t have to be a complete right-wing Christian to be against it. There’s a middle ground that a lot of people fall into.” And that middle ground—not quite hip enough to be categorized as alternative-porn, but way too goofy and satiric to be lumped in with mainstream smut—was exactly the market they managed to capture.
Luckily for Bangs and Buckton, they were hardly the only industry insiders who felt the same way. Zero Tolerance, for instance, is an L.A.-based porn production company whose employees had been following the online growth of PopPorn from the very beginning. And as it happened, Zero Tolerance also had a professional relationship with TLA Video, which is one of the largest distributors of adult films in the entire country. So the Zero Tolerance team kept their attention focused on PopPorn, which had since grown to include all manner of pornographic ridiculousness including rambling reviews of adult films by topless strippers, and even goofball skits that Buckton would act out on camera with whichever adult star happened to be making an appearance in the area.
Eventually, the inevitable happened: Zero Tolerance asked Bangs and Buckton if they would be interested in directing a feature-length film of their very own. Which, of course, they were.
The resulting film was 2009’s The Guide to Making Fuck (NSFW), and although the sex scenes are all phenomenally hot, this may very well be the first porno during which you find yourself actually fast-forwarding past the dirty parts and onto the ridiculous interludes featuring Buckton, who plays a hilariously self-obsessed porn director with a God complex.
The film, which had its world premiere last summer at National Mechanics in Old City, where the PopPorn crew are known to frequently retire after a long day at the nearby TLA offices, soon led to a slew of other offers, all of which have been bankrolled and produced by Zero Tolerance. Just recently, the PopPorn team returned from a long weekend in the San Fernando Valley where they shot scenes for an upcoming porn spoof of the popular MTV reality show, Jersey Shore. Another recent effort was TMSleaze, something of a pseudo-spoof that Bangs and Buckton directed in 2009, to poke fun at the popular TMZ website and TV show, which featured, of all things, an American Idol orgy scene. Just a few weeks back yet another PopPorn title was released, this one a take-down of the seduction guru community. Titled How to Be a Ladies Man , it could quite realistically be the project that lifts Spock Buckton out of porn-world obscurity, and into something resembling celebrity status.
Surprisingly, neither Bangs nor Buckton claim to have any intention of quitting their TLA day jobs anytime soon. That’s regardless of the fact that PopPorn is currently on track to release its ninth blue movie before the end of 2010—which isn’t altogether shabby, especially for a pair of self-described comic book geeks who started out with little more than a blog and a video camera.
“It’s neat to be able to do something that people respect, and that they wish they could do,” says Bangs when asked to explain why he doesn’t desire to take on the full-time title of ‘Porn Director.’ “But the fantasy is always much better than the reality, you know? It’s not like we’re on coke binges! I’m married, for instance, and Spock’s got a girlfriend.”
“And I think both of us are the kind of people where too much of a good thing tends to beat us down a little bit,” adds Buckton. “I really like the idea of getting a few days off from our day job every couple months, and going out to L.A. and shooting a movie for three days. As opposed to the other directors, who may shoot 30 or 40 movies a year.”
Heck, with a lifestyle that disciplined and puritanical, there’s simply no guessing the level of superstardom that may be in the cards for Spock Buckton and Brian Bangs. ■
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