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The Rise and Fall of the Monster 

Gay porn star Michael Brandon goes from meth addict to antidrug poster boy and, tragically, back to meth addict.

Wednesday, Oct 1 2008
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Fellow porn stars loved and feared Monster. Ford remembers a scene in a movie he did with Brandon several years ago in which Ford played a restaurant chef. Apparently the food he served was so delicious that all the male diners — including Brandon — decided to get it on. Ford remembers prominent porn director Chi Chi LaRue telling him she wanted to see Brandon pounding his butt, but he politely declined. "My sphincter is lovely," Ford says. "I wanted to keep it intact."

Many in the industry say the diversification Brandon has achieved makes him comparable to a straight porn star like Jenna Jameson. It also allowed him to do the near impossible and make a living in gay porn. Most stars create names for themselves in porn, then charge exorbitant prices for escort work. Though Brandon did that for a while, everything changed when Monzon came into the picture.

Their meet-cute happened in 2004 at a Los Angeles street fair where Brandon was signing autographs. Monzon's sister, a lesbian who sometimes watched Brandon's movies with her girlfriend, asked her brother to photograph them together. Monzon had never heard of the porn actor, but the two men hit it off and soon became an item. Brandon told an Internet magazine that he gave up escort work for Monzon, and that during the cum shots in his movies, "I picture his big green eyes and I shoot a big load thinking of him."

Brandon was also an active discoverer of new talent, traveling to cities around the country for contests. He also hosted parties and community events, so it's not surprising that when the San Francisco Department of Health's Stonewall Project launched the "Hot Sex Without Crystal? Hell Yes!" program, Brandon was at the top of its spokesman list. "Porn stars hold a much more revered spot in the gay male community than they do in the straight population," Stonewall founder Michael Siever says. "They're looked up to and admired." Brandon, he says, was the kind of guy who would use his influence to help other people.

On his blog, Brandon detailed his own reasons for getting involved in the campaign. On meth, he wrote, he had crossed every "never line" he had drawn for himself. He'd missed work for drugs, failed to pay bills, used a needle, become homeless, gone to jail, sold drugs on corners, spent hours trying to get an erection, gone crazy with paranoia, and even resorted to violence. "I'm walking, living proof that there is life after crystal meth," he wrote. "Folks don't need to lose their mind, end up in jails, hospitals, on the streets, or turned away by family members. ... I've already been there for you."

The porn industry and gay community respected Brandon for his honesty about his past, and anointed him a do-gooder and a hero. When Brandon was asked by an interviewer from what his treasured possession was, the answer was obvious: "My recovery," he said. "Without it, I wouldn't have any of the rest."

Crystal meth was not just a gay man's drug, as some of the anti-meth ad campaigns in San Francisco seem to suggest. But almost everyone agrees that, for gays, meth use became an epidemic approaching the level of AIDS. According to San Francisco therapist Michael Halyard, "What happened to gay men with crystal meth was the perfect storm."

By the late '90s, the Internet had become an easy way for gay men who felt alienated to connect and arrange to have sex on drugs. That's when the phrase PnP, for "Party and Play," came into common usage. More often than not, PnP means use of crystal meth. It was easy to get, inexpensive, and highly addictive. It also had a great appeal for insecure people with body image issues and cravings for intimacy. (In interviews, Brandon has said that he's afflicted by low self-esteem, and that although he works in porn, he prefers cuddling to sex.)

"Many gay men have had lots of rejection in their lives, and when you PnP, you suddenly feel accepted," Halyard says. Studies show that because shame and inhibitions are out the window, meth users are more likely to engage in unsafe sex. The drug also increases energy level and sexual appetite, a big selling point with guys who are depressed or HIV-positive. Though taking meth usually makes it difficult to get an erection, there's always Viagra.

Unsafe sex during PnP sessions is now the number one way HIV and other STDs are transmitted in gay men, Halyard says, and prolonged meth use can also cause permanent personality changes. "For some, their brain doesn't quite work the same ever again," he says. "They can't remember stuff as well or think clearly. Some even become permanently paranoid."

For gay men, treating the drug addiction alone is often not enough. It's actually a PnP addiction, Halyard says, because the crystal is inextricably linked to the sex. The therapist has had many men call for an appointment, then never show. Others come once or twice and then disappear. "PnP is a very tough addiction to beat, so my advice is don't start," he says.

Back in the '90s, that advice wasn't quite so prevalent. Meth was considered thrilling by those on the partying scene; it fueled inane conversations and harrowing adventures across social strata. People inhaled it, snorted it, and, in the worst cases, injected it. Some seemed to become addicted overnight, ultimately losing jobs, families, and anything else they might have cared about.

Others were able to better manage the drug. Sister Roma, an outspoken member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (an ostentatiously queer community outreach group), snorted meth for 15 of the 20 years she worked as a drag queen and in the porn industry as a director for Hot House. Her reasons were simple: "It was fun," she says. It seemed everyone around her was doing it back then, she says.

Sister Roma remembers tweakers showing up at the studio, ready to try their bodies at porn, and believes it was the meth that gave them the courage. It's not that the people in the industry ever encouraged it, she says. Sometimes, they just turned a blind eye.

About The Author

Ashley Harrell


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