Friday, May 18, 2012
Joey Stefano 1968 - 1994
The other night I was talking with friends about someone I once knew, Joey Stefano. He was a very high profile gay porn star in the 1990's who never expected to be as famous as he was. We were only two years apart in age and we both frequented a lot of the same clubs in the early 1990's in the Philadelphia area. Because I was two years younger, he always seemed protective, which I thought was nice. Joey was from Chester, PA, which is a rough city only about twenty minutes south of Center City Philadelphia. At the time there seemed to be more clubs around, but I could be wrong about that.
I met him at an old gay nightclub in New Jersey called Gatsby's while he was dancing on a Saturday night around 1990. I also met Tony at Gatsby's in 1992, and by 1992 Joey was spending more time in LA than in Philly. He was even in Madonna's book, "Sex." This was around the same time everyone seemed to be flocking to South Beach, FL, with Madonna and Versace. That time always reminded me of a kind of rebirth after the dark days of the 1980's when there seemed to be a funeral for someone who died from AIDS at least once a month.
Though Joey and I never dated, and no one ever knew when he would be around, I grew to like him a lot when I did see him. He was basically a nice guy and a smart guy. But also extremely addicted to drugs and didn't really care. He had a very carefree attitude toward life. I remember one night in Gatsby's when he was doing a strip show. In that club, the dancers only stripped down to their underwear, which was tame even in those days. A loud pushy woman with a group of even more annoying gay men asked him if it was true that he was really studying to be an attorney. He moved close to her, looked her in the eye, hesitated for a moment, and said, "Do you have a life?" in such a deadpan tone my drink went up my nose.
One thing I remember most about him was that he was all man, which at the time to me was an inspiration. I only knew what I'd seen and heard on TV and in the movies, and most of it had to do with effeminate gay men. If you didn't know Joey was gay you never would have thought he was. I think that's why we got along so well. We "got" each other without having to work too hard at it.
I remember hearing about his death on the radio in 1994. I was already together with Tony for two years by then and it had been about three years since I'd last seen Joey anywhere in the Philadelphia area. But the news hit me hard. I'd always hoped he would figure things out. After his death it was disclosed that he was HIV+. I never knew this for fact when I knew him because in those days it wasn't discussed openly. And we were never lovers. But knowing Joey, and knowing there were no serious HIV drug regimens in those days for people with AIDS, I'm sure that contributed to his drug use. I knew a few gay men back then who took on a very carefree attitude because they didn't think there would ever be a way to stop AIDS. And they lived very fast lives. If Joey had lived, he would have been forty-four now.
I like the photo of him above because that's really what he looked like in person. A lot of the photos on the web make him look different than he was.