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Special report: Gay-4-Pay in Prague

In the dark corners of Eastern Europe, economic crisis drives straight men into gay porn.

Higgins, an Oklahoma native who went to a Christian school, says he is “very Catholic” about casting men for his films. They can be 18 or 35, as long as they are good. With that said, he rejects about 80 percent of them, typically for “not having the look” — too ugly or misshapen — or, more importantly, not being able to perform under pressure.

The orange bedroom.
(Iva Skoch/GlobalPost)

An ornate 19th-century residential building in Prague's quaint Ujezd neighborhood provides a picturesque setting for Higgins' headquarters. His studio, offices, living quarters and the gay club, Drakes, are all here.

Each wall of the studio is painted a different color, from soft beige to deep blue, allowing each to appear like a new locale on camera. An assortment of cheap furniture and plastic plants is stacked in a corner, ready to be mixed and matched with drapery and sheets of nondescript, abstract patterns that give the space a slightly exotic, if outdated, Eastern European look.

Before each shoot, the cameraman Rado Pauer, takes care of legalities, namely U.S. Code, Title 18, sec. 2257, which mandates record-keeping for those producing sexually explicit media sold in the United States. Martin Justel, like all models, must hold his ID next to his face and is photographed to prove he is 18 or older and that he is who he says he is.

Not that Martin Justel is his real name. It’s a stage name the studio assigned to him to protect his privacy. Names are created randomly. Geoff Cooper, Higgins’ manager, sometimes pulls up an online list of the most popular names in Moldova and combines them either with descriptive Czech adjectives, such as “Chlupaty" (hairy) or “Dlouhy" (long), for last names or uses random, vaguely Czech-sounding names such as Justel.

Today's show is filmed with three digital cameras, two for later editing, and a third for live broadcast on the Higgins website, marketed as “Backstage” footage from the shoot. Regular viewers from all over the world watch the footage live and provide their anonymous, real-time verdicts.

“Tell us about yourself,” says Pauer, in Czech, as he starts filming. “I am from Prague … I work as a waiter … My biggest hobby is my girlfriend,” Justel says. “I am happy … We have been together for three quarters of a year.”

“What about sex?” asks Pauer, getting a close-up of his face.

“Yeah, we have sex twice, sometimes three times a day," Justel says. He pauses and enthusiastically delivers what sounds like a rehearsed line: “Today I am here to do a shoot.”

Justel has swallowed the Viagra, but the pill presents the unfortunate side effect of turning his face and ears red. Viagra tends to increase circulation in the entire body, not just where it counts. As a result, many studios prefer to use prostaglandin shots, such as Caverject, injected directly into the erectile tissues of the penis. That causes immediate effect, without having to worry about the unattractive, Viagra-flushed faces on film.

Beginners, however, are often afraid of the needle. The harsh glare and heat of the bright lights contrasts with the monasterial silence in the studio, interrupted only by the occasional instruction barked by a camera man (“Make it seem like you are enjoying it”) and the sporadic bursts of female moaning coming from the computer Justel is watching.

Even now, as he watches a female porn star on the screen, his eyes blink slowly and his expression is blank.

All eyes in the studio are on him — Cooper manning one camera while taking stills, two cameramen filming from different angles, and a reporter taking notes. Not to mention the mysterious online community watching him live from the U.S., Greece, Australia and other places.

“Good work,” says Pauer after capturing the final shot. “You can wash up now.”

Justel showers, gets dressed and pockets his wage: 3,000 Czech crowns ($168), the going rate for solo work. Duals pay almost twice as much. Will he do it again? “I’ll see. Maybe I’ll find a job and I won’t be back,” he says.

If the shoot, the cash, and the compliments (even if it’s only in online chat rooms for now) are as addictive as other models say, he’ll be back.

The other “Velvet Revolution”

Twenty years ago, the Velvet Revolution, named for its nonviolent protests that helped bring down the communist government, marked the end of totalitarianism in Czechoslovakia. In 1993, the country peacefully split into Czech Republic and Slovakia in the so-called “Velvet Divorce.”

Since then, the Czech Republic has gradually become one of the epicenters of world porn production, again with serenity and without protests, this time with velvet used more often for upholstery than symbolism.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/commerce/100323/gay-porn-prague