GIRL TALK: A Not-Too-Porny Interview with Porn King Michael Lucas

The renowned provocateur comes to Philly this week to introduce one of his first films that doesn't get an XXX rating.

When most people hear the name Michael Lucas, the inevitable images that come to mind are, well, too XXX-rated to mention here. The adult-film king has fathered tons of what are arguably the world’s best-made gay porns. The works are praised for being high-quality productions that have legit story lines, or, as he put it in my interview with him this week, “like Hollywood movies meet hardcore gay sex.” 

We were chatting because he’s coming to Philadelphia on Sunday to introduce his latest documentary at QFest, a work that strays from the porn set to shine a light on a particularly gay oasis in the Middle East. In Undressing Israel: Gay Men in the Promised Land, Lucas turns his camera on Tel Aviv’s plentiful gay nightlife scene, visits the homes of thriving homo parents and talks to openly gay servicemen who, as he explains, have been “serving in the military since 1991, or earlier.” The result is a surprising revelation that this country, which we usually see as a place marred by constant strife, is actually more progressive on the gay front than most places in the United States, especially our very own Pennsylvania. [Blush.]

Here I chat with him about what led him to make the film, get some insider tips for travelers interested in planning a trip to the Holy Land and ask him if this new venture in documentary filmmaking means we’ll be seeing fewer of those Hollywood-worthy porn flicks.

What gave you the idea to do this documentary?
I’ve been going to Israel a lot since 2004. … I decided to do this movie because people don’t have information about Israel. The only thing they see is the conflict between Israelis and their Arabic neighbors. … Unfortunately there’s absolutely no information about [gay] day to day life in Israel. … I decided to show the world that it’s an amazing vacation spot and that it’s gay heaven.

What makes it gay heaven?
Israeli gay people have more rights than even the United States. You don’t even have to look for a gay bar, because [they are everywhere.] There are so many gay people — in Tel Aviv, particularly — that you see gay men and gay women walking hand in hand everywhere. And society is very open to it. … There are eight gay prides in different cities of Israel. The biggest one is in Tel Aviv, which drew 100,000 people this year. And in Isreal, there are, per capita, more gay couples using surrogate mothers to have children than anywhere else in the world.

Lucas (middle) sits with two of the Israeli gay fathers he interviews in the film.

And then there’s Jersualem …
Of course you can’t say the same thing for Jerusalem, but who cares? Jerusalem is a very religious city; every religious lunatic lives there — Christians, Islamic, Jewish.

How did Israel become so accepting of gay people when it’s surrounded by so many anti-gay countries?
Because it’s a Western country. This is not a Muslim country and that is the reason why. [The people who live there] are European Jews and some from the Middle East; they have nothing to do with Islam. The reason surrounding countries are persecuting gays, whether it’s by capital punishment — hanging, stoning or throwing people off buildings — or jail time, is because those people live by the Quran. Israel is a country largely [inhabited by] secular people who celebrate Jewish traditions and they rule by a constitution.

Also, Jews took a lesson from the Holocaust, because Jews and gays were both persecuted, so Jews know firsthand what that means. Jews usually get their rights through the courts — the same as gay people. And public opinion has changed. For example, there is no gay show that doesn’t have gay characters. And those gay characters are not clowns, but actual people.

You seem to know a lot about Tel Aviv, but is there anything you learned during the making of this film?
Because I’ve been going there for such a long time, I didn’t learn anything new — I just confirmed what I already knew. Maybe one aspect is that the rights gay people have there were not given to them by the government, but just like in every other country it was a result of their fight. Gay activists and gay people were fighting for their rights just like in every other country of the world — usually using courts and the judiciary system of Israel.

Can you play travel guide for a second and recommend some Israel must-dos for anyone interested in going there?
The reason I like to go there so much is because it’s such a pleasant country to be in. You go and you have amazing restaurants from all over the world, beaches everywhere, everyone speaks English perfectly, people are very friendly — they love foreigners. There’s a lot to experience. From Tel Aviv, it’s 40 minutes to Jerusalem, then one hour to the Dead Sea, which is an incredible experience. Then you have everything from Roman ruins and the Sea of Galilee to Golan Heights. And of course you can go to Eilat. I’ve gone to Pride in Eliat … it’s on the Red Sea Resort. There are lots of seas — Dead Sea, Red Sea, Sea of Galilee and Mediterannean Sea, of course.

I’ve seen Tel Aviv on a lot of best-of-gay-travel lists. Do you think your documentary helped spur that trend?
I think a lot of things helped it. My adult film that I filmed there, Men of Israel, helped a lot. I got so many responses from people saying [they went because of the movie and loved it]. I’ve never met one person who’s been to Israel who didn’t say they wanted to go back.

In other interviews you’ve described Men of Israel as your most important film. Why?
First of all, it is the biggest commercial success of my adult film company, Lucas Entertainment. Second, it was something I pioneered, because Israel does not have an adult industry. And so I was the first one who filmed [there] and it was a great success.

You were born and raised in Russia, which is nowhere close to Tel Aviv on the gay-friendliness scale. Would you ever want to do a film exposing the bigotry there?
I just filmed a documentary there and it’s now in the editing process. It’s going to be about Russia in light of the anti-gay laws that were just introduced. I interviewed many gay people, activists and journalists, and even politicians who introduced the law, which is called “Against Propaganda of Homosexuality and Pedophilia” and confuses people [by suggesting that] homosexuality and pedophilia is one thing.

Fantastic. When will that come out?
I think sometime in Winter

Does this new venture in filmmaking mean we’ll see fewer Michael Lucas porns and more serious documentaries?
No, my porn company is the most important business. Actually, both of my documentaries were sponsored with money from Lucas Entertainment. Lucas Entertainment is probably one of the biggest adult-film companies in the world right now.

Michael Lucas’s Undressing Israel: Gay Men in the Promised Land screens during QFest, on Sun., July 14 at 2:15 p.m, with the Israeli short film A Matter of Sex. Lucas will introduce the film and stick around to host a Q&A afterward. For tickets and more info on other QFest screenings, visit qfest.com.

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