Worlds & Time

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Erik Rhodes

Erik Rhodes was a gay porn star.  He was also unhappy, and by unhappy I mean depressed, much in the same way that I'm depressed.

There aren't very many similarities between us after the homosexuality and the depression.  Erik was gorgeous and he was gorgeous through hard work.  He worked out often, although he used steroids to bulk up.  He was, as I already mentioned, a gay porn star and unlike most of the time when people use that phrase he actually fit the "star" part.  He was, in the limited circles of gay porn fandom, really well known and did a lot of work for many years.  He also would go to events and parties that raised his profile beyond just porn.  He did drugs.  He drank.  He was an escort.  He liked music.  He was, apparently, very outgoing and could be funny and nice to almost anyone.  He was, for a porn star, a really excellent actor.

Erik died earlier this week of a heart attack at age 30, presumably of complications resulting from overuse of steroids.  He earned a NYT obituary which can be found here.

His real name was James.  If you don't mind, I'm going to continue calling him Erik, although I'd prefer if you don't forget that James is a real person and I'm sure his loss is devastating to people who actually knew him.  My sympathy goes out to them.

Erik was one of my favorite porn stars.  Not necessary because of his body type.  He was more muscular than I normally like.  I don't remember seeing him for the first time, nor do I remember how many times I saw him before he was recognizable to me.

But eventually he became recognizable and through the magic of the internet and the fact that I recognized him and his porn name, I eventually was linked to his blog where I learned about his exceedingly deep depression.  He put a lot of himself out there on that blog, and by reading there I was able to see some of the disconnect between media stars and their fans.  When you put yourself out there like Erik did, people that you've never met connect to you and they end up with feelings about you.  Good, bad, sexual, they build this one-sided relationship in their heads that makes it basically impossible for the media star to ever connect with.  You care about them, but they can't care about you. That star doesn't know you, and they'll never understand the emotional connection that you, the fan, had with them because they weren't there as it was built.

So, as I understand it, Erik was alone in his head.  Mostly.

I desired him.  He wasn't perfectly my type, but don't get me wrong, I thought he was hot even so.  I intellectually know that probably made actually getting to know him impossible but when I started reading his blog and found out that he was depressed my first instinct was to reach out to him.  To try to let him know that even if he couldn't see it, that there were people that cared about him.  I wanted to try to explain how impressed that I was by the work ethic demonstrated by his body.  How good I thought his life was and that if all he needed was people that cared for him that those people were there.  How I thought he was, in some sense, a role model for the people that couldn't understand that a gay guy might also be a masculine guy.

I remember offering to buy him lunch when I lived in New York City as well.  I left it as a comment on his blog.  I don't know if he ever saw that post or any of the few other comments that I left, but I was just one more creepy overly familiar voice on his website.  I would have ignored me too, probably.

But between reading his blog, living in the same city as he did for a while and seeing flashes of him at various events he switched over from someone that doesn't really exist in my world to someone that could exist in it.  I'll never meet the Pope, but I thought some day I could at least meet Erik.  Maybe give him a hug.

It's weird to think of Erik as dead.  It means that I won't ever get to meet him, that whatever that situation would have led to is impossible.

I assume that this is the way that some people feel when celebrities die.  That they've built this tree of possibility in their heads, and the person dies and the possibilities all die with them.  It leaves a gap.  Something that should be there but isn't anymore.

I don't think that Erik or James ever found happiness or even peace, which is sad but not unexpected.  People's lives don't usually get closure, and when you're 30 and seemingly in great health I don't thing most people try to provide that emotional "we care about you" that you get with a lingering illness.

Erik died last Thursday.  A week ago tomorrow, as I type this.  I don't think, when I first found out, that I could have realized exactly how much his death would affect me.

I was in the middle of typing that previous paragraph when I looked up his obituary to check what day he died.  I've linked it up above where I think it fits.  And then I read it.  Yeah, I already knew his name was James, but I didn't know that he was HIV positive.  I didn't know that he was still an escort.  I didn't remember that he was romantically linked to Mark Jacobs and I didn't know that he knew Jake Shears.  Does it make it better than I knew him so little and that he knew me not at all?

I don't know.

My thoughts go out to his family and especially his brother in what must be a difficult time for them.

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2 Comments:

  • I have to be honest that I'm a bit of a creeper for trying to find support from the internet from people who I do not know at all when I came out (but nowadays I'm starting to doubt whether I'm 100% gay; probably a bit 'romantic' in that category). Even when I tried to find some support from reading your entire blog for example, I still felt alienated and needed to know what the "gay lifestyle" was like in my area and to understand my sexuality, or what it meant in general. I can tell you in short, I don't care for much of it (I'm pretty much a big wuss anyway). "It's for other people", as I like to put it sarcastically.

    I genuinely feel scared of being in a community where you're encouraged to excess in drugs and partying as a means of feeling like people care about you because you feel that the type of lifestyle will get you noticed. At the same time, it's the only community you feel that can accept you, which is why I like being an individualistic person in terms of my sexuality and self overall. It lessens my tendency for being depressed and the feeling that you may be rejected if the community starts to push me because I don't behave this way or act to their rules. I guess the challenge of being sentimental towards people in that type of community is that you appear to sound like delusional perfectionists and people tend to revert to shutting you off.

    I guess the one thing that was the biggest challenge other than the depression was the challenge of finding solace in people who wanted to see the "deeper you", to put it in a cliché rather the person you fantasize having sex and probably move on to you list of other people. You basically don't want to feel like you want to be used, when you want someone to notice your deep feelings or need for a close relationship.

    P.S. But anyway, it's been a while since I read your blog. Always love your writing and have been for a long time. Hope life is doing better for you.

    Best

    By Blogger Toltendo, at 5:05 AM  

  • I have to be honest that I'm a bit of a creeper for trying to find support from the internet from people who I do not know at all when I came out (but nowadays I'm starting to doubt whether I'm 100% gay; probably a bit 'romantic' in that category). Even when I tried to find some support from reading your entire blog for example, I still felt alienated and needed to know what the "gay lifestyle" was like in my area and to understand my sexuality, or what it meant in general. I can tell you in short, I don't care for much of it (I'm pretty much a big wuss anyway). "It's for other people", as I like to put it sarcastically.

    I genuinely feel scared of being in a community where you're encouraged to excess in drugs and partying as a means of feeling like people care about you because you feel that the type of lifestyle will get you noticed. At the same time, it's the only community you feel that can accept you, which is why I like being an individualistic person in terms of my sexuality and self overall. It lessens my tendency for being depressed and the feeling that you may be rejected if the community starts to push me because I don't behave this way or act to their rules. I guess the challenge of being sentimental towards people in that type of community is that you appear to sound like delusional perfectionists and people tend to revert to shutting you off.

    I guess the one thing that was the biggest challenge other than the depression was the challenge of finding solace in people who wanted to see the "deeper you", to put it in a cliché rather the person you fantasize having sex and probably move on to you list of other people. You basically don't want to feel like you want to be used, when you want someone to notice your deep feelings or need for a close relationship.

    P.S. But anyway, it's been a while since I read your blog. Always love your writing and have been for a long time. Hope life is doing better for you.

    Best

    By Blogger Toltendo, at 5:06 AM  

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