My Search For Brandon Lee
I'm standing under the low-ceilinged, fluorescent-light glare of the adult video library at Kim's Videos on Bleecker. They have a pretty hefty selection, big enough to merit a separate room. I imagine this to be an awkward experience even for regular patrons, though as a first-timer, I only feel mildly self-conscious being the only porn patron at the moment. I can't seem to get that line from Jon Moritsugu's Terminal U.S.A. out of my head: "I'm the pervert in the back room." I scan the shelves: cops, guns, young guys, African American, Latino, but no cigar. No Asian porn. Finally, I approach the punk rock guy behind the main counter. "Do you have an Asian male porn section?" I ask sweetly. He's only slightly moved and promptly turns to his female co-worker and repeats my question. "Nope," she answers. "We've got lots of Asian women, but not one for men."
The dearth of Asian-boy booty is beginning to unnerve me. I've heard rumors from a "Pink-skin" source (one of those magazines where everyone is naked-pink) about a guy named "Brandon Lee" who was discovered while delivering Chinese food to a porn set. According to the magazine, the directors asked to see his egg roll, and it was so impressive they hired him to be a model immediately. I am determined to find this Brandon Lee.
I do a search for him on the Web. He's a smooth-skinned Asian boy who looks about 13. On another site, there's a picture of Brandon wearing only a demure expression and tighty-whiteys as he suggestively cradles his crotch in one hand. My first call goes out to Catalina Video, an L.A.-based production company which features Brandon Lee on their Web site (www.catalinavideo.com). I leave a message with the receptionist, who can only tell me that Brandon was discovered by one of their directors. Later, Tom Walker, their promotions manager, replies by letter: "Regretfully I cannot help you with your request. Brandon Lee has made approximately four videos for Catalina in 1997 and 1998. As of Spring 1998, he had dropped out of the adult business and we are no longer in contact with him."
Unsatisfied, I make more calls to L.A.-area adult video companies and find Oggi, a garrulous man who directs and produces for Exotic Videos, a gay-Asian-porn production company. He tells me there is no such thing as a "pure" Asian porn star. "The biggest, pure Asian would be me, but I'm not an actor," he says.
Oggi, who tells me his father is a Hong Kong actor with a "household name," graduated from UCLA's film school and considers himself a "pioneer" of the Asian-specialized adult entertainment production company. According to him, Exotic started the Asian gay porno business more than a decade ago when interest in Asian men was marginal at best. "People think we're really skinny, scrawny people so they never feature us in porn or any form of entertainment," he says. "There are people who think Asians only have two inches. I can tell you some (non-Asian) Americans who have only one inch."
Exotic has produced 16 movies, mainly shot in Asia because it's easier to find models there. "They're all Thai. Some are in school, some are performers, dancers," says Oggi, who's in his 40s. "I have testing agents over there; they line up the models together, see them in the nude, have them perform certain tasks, or have two performers perform certain acts so that we know they're not shy." Whereas the pool of models in Thailand is bigger, Oggi says that it's much harder to find domestic actors.
"It would take me forever to find models here; that's one reason why I don't make them in the U.S.," he says. "The ones I interview, sometimes they will chicken out. When it gets right down to production, they get scared. Asians aren't very brave, not like (non-Asian) American people who don't care. What if my friends or parents see it?" Even Oggi himself uses a fake name and hides his profession from his family.
Oggi tells me the only names he can think of are Jordan Young, who's half-Korean, and Brandon. Jordan supposedly lives with a transvestite named Chi Chi and Brandon seems to have disappeared. "I want to work with Brandon, but someone said he moved to Florida," Oggi tells me. "I would imagine some wealthy man hooked up with him and wanted to be his boyfriend and asked him to live with him in Florida."
In a quest to locate Jordan Young, I find Chi Chi LaRue. Chi Chi, as it turns out, is one of the biggest names in Hollywood's gay porn industry. He calls me from San Francisco. He no longer rooms with Jordan, who has closed off all contact and refuses to discuss his involvement with the industry. So I ask Chi Chi if he knows of any Asian male porn stars. "It's a question of what's a star?" says the veteran drag queen/porn director and producer. "In my mind, anyone who fucks or sucks on camera is a star."
"The popularity of Asian men is a given," he continues. "Whenever I use a white lead, they prefer someone that's a little softer, like a cute, nice Asian man. But it's still an untapped market in the adult industry."
In another fortunate twist of events, Chi Chi reveals that it was actually he who discovered Brandon at a Los Angeles bath house a few years ago. "He was just a patron playing around. I was like, ?That Asian man over there is fabulous, gorgeous. He's got a huge dick.' So I brought him to Catalina Video and they signed him to a contract." Brandon was only 18 when he got into the business. He's 20 or 21 now. He also wasn't in school, had a regular job, a steady boyfriend, and according to Chi Chi, was packing a 10-incher. Studies reveal that only one in every 10,000 men wield that much. Although Chi Chi didn't make any films with Brandon at first, he eventually directed him in the 72-minute hump-de-force, Fortune Nookie.
"Brandon Lee was very popular because he was very good looking and a fierce top. He could fuck really good," Chi Chi says.
I call Catalina again so I can watch young Brandon in action, and this time, I get Tom Walker on the phone. I ask him why there aren't more Asian leads. "Maybe because it is so new to them, some of these actors are scared and didn't want to do it again," offers Tom. "(Brandon Lee) was disillusioned and very young. It looks fun, but he decided it wasn't for him. That happens with a lot of the guys. It's really not a wise career choice. There's the reality of growing older and your looks going." Chi Chi agrees: "I always say: Don't quit your job to be a porn star, that money goes quickly."
"Now it's very hard to find Asian models," Chi Chi says. "They're very private. I think maybe they're worried, maybe their culture doesn't condone this kind of thing, maybe Asian guilt, like Catholic guilt. That's why they'll come and do one or two films and they'll disappear."
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED TO BRANDON LEE?
Brandon actually made seven movies for Catalina Videos during his short-lived career, from 1997 to 1998: Asian Persuasion I and II, Harley's Crew, Big Guns II, Fortune Nookie, Throat Spankers, and Dial S for Sex.
In his debut in Asian Persuasion, your typical wham-bam and slam-video, Brandon plays a charming yet philandering real estate agent. Brandon is no bear (big, overweight, hairy man). He reminds me of my first college crush: a Chinese-American pretty boy with a penchant for the Smiths, bleached hair, and as I learned later to my dismay, other boys. In Chi Chi's film, Fortune Nookie, Brandon is manipulated by a shady lawyer into giving sexual services for litigation fees. But Brandon blows the notion of the submissive Asian out of the water. He never takes it in the ass, let alone in his face. He's a top through and through.
So what really happened to the 10-inch egg roll? Drug addiction? Prostitution? Downward spiral? "Brandon's happy," says Chi Chi. "He's in a nice, happy relationship and they live in Miami. It's funny how people think they quit the business because they found a rich sugar daddy, but it's not true."
[See Giant Robot Issue 36, where pornstar Brandon Lee and I finally meet in person.]