Ryan A. White, Alex Clausen
The AIDS crisis devastated a generation and, despite advances in treatment and prevention, is still an ongoing pandemic. When the virus first began rapidly spreading through gay men’s communities, the lack of clear or comprehensive information about the virus spread a second pandemic of fear and isolation. Gay men were experiencing a horrific paradox—an aching for intimacy juxtaposed with the fear of another’s touch. Enter Jack Fritcher and Mark Hemry, an entrepreneurial couple who made it their mission and their business to create safe sex pornography for gay men.
Jack and Mark’s meeting at Harvey Milk’s birthday party in 1979 is like a gay fairytale. When AIDS swept through their community in 1980’s San Francisco, Jack and Mark moved to Sonoma County and turned their ranch into the legendary Palm Drive Video, a safe sex porn studio that created sexual possibilities and education to generations of gay men. Casting non-professional models and actors with many sexual desires and body types, Palm Drive created pornography that embraced the creativity of gay kink, where power and domination were explored alongside tenderness and intimacy. Most importantly, Jack and Mark’s work offered gay men education, representation, and fantasy during a time when the state and society completely failed queer communities. Palm Drive Video was more than a porn studio; it was a public health service and a cultural champion for queer kink, invested not just in filling holes, but also filling an emotional and sexual void in their community.
Content advisory: Sexually explicit content.