The few, the proud

By Julien Nitzberg
Photos by Carlos Nunez, Ward Robinson, Patrick Lee
Video shot and edited by Cody Tesnow
Archival images courtesy Dirk Yates and Rob Navarro

This story first appeared in Issue 2 Click here to purchase

"The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen. Thank God for the United States Marine Corps."
- Eleanor Roosevelt, 1945

Everybody loves the Marines. Everybody. But it seems there is one group of people who love Marines more than you and me. In fact they love them in a deeper and more obsessive way than anyone you know.

Back in the 1990’s one of my friends introduced me to a very obscure genre of gay porn called “Marine fetish porn”. You can be 110% hetero and still you’ll want to watch Marine fetish porn. You really won’t be able to tear your eyes away from the screen. If First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt were alive today, even she would want to watch it. Marine porn is as suspenseful as a Hitchcock movie. My friend Frank Rodriguez was a gay punk pioneer who founded Club Sucker, one of the first and most legendary gay punk clubs in America. In the pre-internet days, he was one of those magical people who could find the obscure weird artist/fanzine/band that no one had heard of. (Twenty years later the stuff he was into would suddenly be heralded in museums.) In the early 1990’s pre-internet days, this obscure stuff was passed from weirdo to weirdo in a haphazard fashion that actually forced people to interact not just sit in front of their computers.

Frank had stumbled onto some underground VHS tapes made by a man named Bobby Garcia. The crude, graphically challenged sticker pasted on the videocassette said “Straight Marines.” A girlfriend and I sat down as he popped a tape in. Within seconds our jaws dropped as we watched our first “Bobby” Marine tape.

Shot on low quality VHS, each segment featured actual Marines from Camp Pendleton near San Diego. These were definitely not actors. Definitely not. The lighting could not have been worse. Also notable to the cineastes watching would be the cameraman’s inability to move his camera during a shot without violently jerking the camera in a way that indicated he’d forgotten that he’d locked his tripod head just seconds before he’d turned the record button on.

Bobby would conduct a short interview with the Marines. The questions didn’t delve into Studs Terkelesque depth. For about fifteen minutes, the Marines tell their life stories and their most intimate fantasies. You, the viewer, at this point might start actually investing in the Marine. Then Bobby suddenly commands them to pull their dicks out and take off their clothes. Marines are used to taking orders so they do as they are told.

The Marines start masturbating. During this, Bobby finds a reason to keep walking in front of the camera. Sometimes it’s to move a light (though it never makes the shot any better looking). Sometimes it’s to hand the men Johnson’s® Baby Oil. Sometimes it’s so he himself can drizzle Johnson’s® Baby Oil on the men’s penises. Judging by the incredible amounts of Johnson’s® Baby Oil Bobby uses in his videos, he seems to either have a sponsorship from the Johnson & Johnson Corporation or have invested heavily in their stocks and is doing his best to advertise their product in his own little way.

Occasionally in the videos there will be some dialogue about how Bobby plans to show this to “porno producers in Hollywood.” The Marines ask many questions about different female porn stars and it becomes apparent that Bobby has promised the men that these are screen tests that could lead to lucrative careers in straight porn or that the women might actually show up at Bobby’s apartment to meet the men. The mention of the Hollywood producers seems to (not to be offensively punning) stiffen the men’s resolve. And then Bobby will move in with more Johnson’s® Baby Oil and suggest that he can show the Marines how “Hollywood producers” would like the men to masturbate. He leaks even more Johnson’s® Baby Oil on them and then slides his hand onto their ambitiously erect All-American manhoods.

In a Hitchcock movie, this would be the part where the bomb is spotted under the table. For the viewer, you start wondering how long till these jockish Marines lose their cool. Some of them do not react favorably to Bobby’s manual assist and swat his hand away. But a whole lot more of the Marines do. And when they do, Bobby then makes his next move. Sometimes it’s just blowing them. Other times he rips off his clothes, which are breakaway apparel (like in a comedy sketch). He gets the men to fuck him while telling them to “fuck my pussy!”

Now, dear reader, you’re probably wondering what does this amazing Bobby look and sound like. Is he some dashing Ricky Martin type that is so pretty even the straightest of straight arrows might quiver and veer queer for a few moments? Well the best way to describe Bobby is this: Imagine if you hired a very homophobic director to create a gay Mexican character in a TV show and then suggested that the actor might add a little Peter Lorre weirdness just, ya know, to up the offensiveness level. Yes, that’s Bobby. He’s not Ricky Martin. The most famous person he bears a resemblance to would be Manuel Noriega (minus the acne scars). Bobby’s not in shape. He couldn’t be less queeny. And no person with more than a 65 IQ would believe that he had any ability or intention to get any male into straight porn.

Watching his movies, you can’t believe he doesn’t get mashed into mush. These were made during the “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell” days. You just stare and scream inside your brain “What the hell is going on? What?!? How the hell did this happen? Are these men really straight? Are all Marines closet cases? What does it tell us about America? Our military? What does it all mean? What does it mean???”

Well before I offer my humble amateur unified field theory on what it means… let me introduce you to Dirk.

Dirk Yates.

Just say his name out loud – Dirk Yates. Say it again – Dirk Yates. Has there ever been a better nom de porn? What Elvis was to rock’n’roll, Dirk Yates was to Marine porn. Dirk Yates is the innovator, the daddy, the genius who invented Marine porn. He was an unlikely genius. In fact, like a lot of great inventors he stumbled into his breakthrough by accident.

As a child, Dirk moved to Los Angeles. In 1974, he bought his first adult movie theater. After that, he opened two dirty bookstores in San Diego. San Diego is the largest military installation in the Western Hemisphere. Hence, his biggest clientele -- Marines.

According to Dirk, the Marines “would come in and say why do you see Ron Jeremy in every video?” They didn’t understand why porno didn’t use fit good-looking guys. Guys like U.S. Marines.

This inspired Dirk. “I thought I could do that. Use good looking guys and bring some girls down from the Valley.” Dirk, though gay, decided to make straight porn. He hired two Marines and porn star Cheri Taylor. He “rented a motel. It had a Jacuzzi.” But when the cameras started rolling, the Marine “couldn’t get it up. The next guy came in and it was a similar situation.” Dirk had wasted his money. He suddenly understood why Ron Jeremy was in every porno movie ever made. Producing erections on cue turned out to be a skill not every American male was innately imbued with. Dirk gave up on straight porn. But he had an idea. When the next Marine came into his bookstore and told Dirk he should make porno with good looking Marines, Dirk asked the man if he wanted to just practice in front of a camera to make sure he wasn’t camera shy.

So Dirk started videotaping Marines masturbating. And everyone got interested. “It was just sort of a hobby and then I started selling these tapes.” He started releasing videos called “Dirk Yates Private Collection.” His first big discovery was a Marine that Dirk renamed Sergeant Swann. The videos started taking off. Dirk started his own company. Some were masturbation tapes. Later ones also had straight Marines Dirk had convinced/dared to have sex with each other.

At one point, Dirk and Bobby Garcia met. Bobby had turned his dumpy apartment into a bunkhouse by filling it with pizza, beer and video games as a way to lure Marines into his orbit. Bobby had somehow swindled a video camera and was doing the same thing as Dirk.

Dirk and Bobby became friends. Always short of cash, Bobby would send Marines to Dirk for a referral fee. Their relationship was fractious. Where Dirk was honest with his Marines, Bobby could be duplicitous, lying to them, getting them drunk before scenes and excitedly sneaking poppers up to their noses for them to inhale on camera.More importantly, Bobby was not a businessman. Dirk loved his Marines but he was also a shrewd businessman. He stayed behind the camera as a director. You could hear him interviewing the Marines but he never joined his stars in front of the camera. He never owned a pair of tear-away pants.

Bobby would’ve been happy to make movies and never sell them. When he was shooting, he often would have sex with five Marines in one day. This was not a money making project for Bobby, it was an act of passion that happened to be recorded on videotape. Years later, he recalled that to this day he can only masturbate to his own movies. While Bobby was busy masturbating and getting fucked, Dirk ended up distributing Bobby’s films and making money. Bobby didn’t notice. He was having sex with five Marines a day!

Then in 1993, everything went wrong. The first Gulf War had just ended. We’d proudly defended our great and beloved ally Kuwait, successfully bringing peace and democracy to the Middle East for centuries to come. Our victorious boys were back in Dirk and Bobby’s arms.

Then disaster struck. According to Dirk, “One Friday, this Marine pulled in Bobby’s alley with his wife and went upstairs to get a blowjob from Bobby. He was gone a little longer than he should have and the Marine’s wife walked upstairs into the living room. In the kitchen was a shoebox with hundreds of Polaroids of Marines Bobby had shot. She looks and sees all these Marines, she sees her husband getting a blowjob, she takes the shoebox to the Police Department.”

The police did nothing. Students interested in American jurisprudence will be excited to learn it’s against the Uniform Code of Military Justice for a soldier to shoot porn – gay or straight – however -- if you’re not a soldier (for arguments sake, say you’re Bobby Garcia) you can videotape and suck off as many Marines as you want. That’s not against the law. There was nothing the police could do but let the Marines know about it.

When it was reported to the Marines, the Marine brass realized that hundreds of their men had shot gay porn. And they did the only sensible thing they could. They swept it under the rug. Way under the rug.
So, the story was dead. Scandal avoided. All was good in America.

But… then… a cop tipped off the local newspapers. Eager for a juicy story on a slow news weekend, they published it and within days it blew up into a national story. Esteemed journalist Tom Brokaw was suddenly talking about a “gay Marine porno ring” to families everywhere during the 7 o’clock dinner hour. (NBC was, of course, a part of General Electric, one of the most important cogs/profiteers off our Military Industrial Complex, but American capitalism will always be glad to stab our fighting forces in the dick if it means more ratings for its channels and hence more profit for the Mother Corporation.)

Freaking out, Bobby disappeared. Dirk panicked. He’d told his landlord that he was shooting wedding videos not Marine porn. He was sure he was going to get arrested. He cleared out all his possessions.

“Fuck me, suck me, but don’t kiss me, I’m straight.”
- Marine slogan

We’ll talk more about Dirk in a second, but let’s discuss briefly what Marines are not expected to do. They’re not supposed to do disgusting things like get Bobby-blowjobs or suck each other’s circumcised or uncircumcised cocks or “ooooh” on camera as they  get rimmed for the first time. No. That is wrong.

They are expected to do one thing well and it’s not gay sex. The most important tasks they have to be good at are—Bayonetting. Slashing. Shooting. Blowing up buildings with living people in it, i.e. Killing.

How do they end up agreeing to be in gay porn?

Marines reside in a very different moral universe than the rest of America. A Marine I interviewed named Chris who did Marine porno explained to me “Marines are young, dumb and we want to do as much crazy shit as we can. We’re adrenaline junkies. I used to race bikes at 170 miles per hour. I knew where the local speed traps were in my town and I’d race my motorcycle by them so I could get in a police chase.”

Chris tested in the 99th percentile when he joined the Marines. He was told that he qualified to work in intelligence. He’d never have to wear a uniform. He could serve his country honorably and would face no risk of death. What did Chris do? He insisted on being sent to the frontlines in the infantry. He’d grown up on Rambo. He admitted to me he didn’t even care what war he was in as long as he could experience “excitement,
chaos and havoc.”

Chris got sent to the Gulf during the Iraq War in 2005. He witnessed men using kids and women as human shields. He got brain damage from an IED explosion. He attempted suicide. And, when he got back to the states, he was diagnosed with PTSD. Naturally, he signed up to do Marine porno. “I get $1000 just to get a blowjob? Who wouldn’t do that? A blowjob’s a blowjob.” He told me, “The military blocks up your emotions, this is a release!”

Even more interestingly, he explained to me that Marine pornographers and Marine recruiters use the same techniques to get their men. Both spend intense amounts of time becoming friends with their recruits. They introduce them to other men who have done the same thing (be it fight or fuck). And eventually the recruits join up and put their bodies on the line or on-line.

In retrospect, Chris analyzed his life this way, “The military, porn, motorcycle clubs -- within each of those there are thousands of spectators that will watch and judge us but will never know us because they have never experienced any of it. Gay porn wasn't good or bad. It was an experience just like everything else in life.”
And to these men it is an experience. Women in our society are allowed to experiment with their sexuality. They can be “bisexual until graduation” and not get judged. But our society has constructed male sexuality to say that every man who gets his dick sucked by another guy is a closet case as opposed to someone looking for challenging new experiences.

There is a reason the most famous fighting force of ancient times was the Spartan Army. The Spartans knew that men who slept together would be more powerfully bound and thus fight harder. Our modern military recreates this experience but leaves out the sex. They have a Band of Brothers instead of a Band of Lovers. One could argue that the bonding process in the military is inherently homoerotic and that energy needs to be expressed. Knowing that, it would make sense that men would want to experiment with “experiences.” And the fact that they get paid gives them an explanation. They can laughingly assure people, “I only did it for the money.”

“The wonderful love of a beautiful maid,
The love of a staunch true man,
The love of a baby, unafraid,
Have existed since time began.

But the greatest of loves,
The quintessence of loves, even greater than that of a mother,
Is the tender, passionate, infinite love,
Of one drunken Marine for another.”

- Toast given at the 203rd Marine Corps Birthday Ball by General Louis H. Wilson, Commandant of the Marine Corps, Camp Lejueune, N.C. 1978

“The Marine Porno Ring” story wasn’t disappearing. Every newspaper had a piece about it. The Marines were sweating over their manly reputation. Dirk had news crews camped outside his office so he was sweating about his future. Bobby, it turned out, was on parole so he was sweating so much it looked like the Johnson’s® Baby Oil he’d licked off of many a Marine’s penis was coming out of his pores.

And then God delivered a reprieve -- Michael Jackson was publicly accused of molesting a dentist’s 13-year-old son. This sucked (no pun intended) all the oxygen out of the Marine porno ring story. When having to pick between bringing down all- American and mostly white Marines or a black (though much less black then he had once been) pop star, the US media did their patriotic duty and piled onto the King of Pop instead of our fighting men.

The news crews left and Dirk finally was able to get into his office. He was sure his directing career was over. His videos had been selling well but e’d never had national distribution. He was ready to hang up his career as a Marine pornographer.

But then the phone started ringing. People from all over the world had seen the news stories. They had never heard of Marine porno but they wanted to see it. They wanted to see it really badly. And after they’d seen one, they wanted to see more. Dirk started needing to shoot six titles a month. Thanks to Tom Brokaw, Dirk became rich.

Homophobia worked to Dirk’s advantage in another way. Most straight porn companies are mafia owned or get muscled in on by the mob early on if they have success. But La Cosa Nostra has never wanted to be associated with gay porno. Unlike Marines, mobsters are happy to kill people but want nothing to do with dick sucking. This allowed Dirk to make way more money than if he’d been successful making straight smut.

Bobby wasn’t so lucky. Because of the heat brought on by the scandal, police realized that Bobby Garcia had violated his parole and evaded a check fraud charge. Bobby was sent to federal jail. As a man who loved heterosexual men willing to commit homosexual acts, Bobby found jail to be the opposite of punishment and described it as one of the most wonderful times of his life.

Upon his release, Bobby moved back to live in Oceanside to be near Camp Pendleton. He shot more videos before discovering that he had burned too many bridges, and according to Dirk “was run out of Oceanside.” Bobby ended up moving to the California high desert town of 29 Palms (near a large Marine base) where he lived in obscurity until longtime Bobby fan John Waters tracked Bobby down to profile him for his book Role Models, in which Waters called Bobby “the Almodovar of anuses, the Bunuel of blowjobs, the Jodorowsky of jerking off.”

After Bobby’s exile to the desert, Dirk occasionally heard from Bobby who had stopped shooting but always wanted to borrow money. The last time Bobby called Dirk he was desperate, telling Dirk, “My dog just died and it’s in the freezer for three weeks and I want to cremate it.” Dirk, always skeptical of a Bobby scam, told him, “Bobby, go to the veterinarian. Have the veterinarian call me and I’ll put it on my credit card.” Much to
Dirk’s surprise, the veterinarian actually called and told Dirk “that the dog had been cut in half because it was too big for Bobby’s freezer.” Dirk hasn’t heard from Bobby since.
No one knows where he is or if he is dead or alive.

In the years after the scandal, Dirk’s career exploded. Today, he estimates that he has made 2277 videos. He expanded his company into shooting scripted porn as well. He produced “How the West Was Hung” the most expensive gay porn movie of all time. He even made some straight porno. And the men in it were able to get it up!

As Dirk got busy producing big budget porn, others, of course, rushed in trying to steal Dirk’s King of Marine Porn crown. All had great porn names - Buzz West, Chazz, Mike Hancock. Like locusts descending on a field, San Diego got crowded with aspiring Marine pornographers trying to cast their movies. Sometimes it started to seem like there might be more Marine pornographers than Marines. Pornographers were poaching each other’s talent. Ugly feuds developed.

Buzz West decided to focus on men of the Air Force instead. Chazz moved to North Carolina to film paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne. There he found himself competing with a local boy who also fancied himself as a future Dirk Yates and was actively seducing the paratroopers. This local boy had what may be the most ridiculous yet genius of the porn pseudonyms-- Dink Flamingo.

At the same time, one last hero aspired to grab Dirk’s King of Marine Porn crown and put it on his own head. He did it by being a smart businessman yet also reaching back to Bobby Garcia’s bag of tricks and being the first pornographer since Bobby to co-star in his own films with the Marines. When he entered the field he re-christened himself as Rob Navarro. His is perhaps the most strange origin story in pornographic history.

Rob Navarro was born in Ecuador. When he was a baby his parents moved to Pasadena, California. They were Roman Catholic but, when he was young, they became fanatical members of the incredibly strict Seventh Day Adventist Church. As a teenager, Rob became active in the Christian music community and ended up joining the Heritage Singers, one of the most famous Gospel groups in America.

Weeks before Rob was to be bound to a lovely young woman in Christian Holy matrimony, a male cousin by marriage (who happened to be a Navy sailor) got Rob drunk and seduced him. Rob started to question his sexuality and talked to his church counselor, hoping the counselor could cure him of his homosexual urges. It turned out his church counselor was also gay but told Rob he should suppress the urges and try and be straight. Strangely that didn’t work. Rob decided to live in the closet so he could keep his Christian music career going.

Rob appeared regularly on the Trinity Broadcast Network. He went solo. He first record was called “Jesus Loves a Loser.” He had three top twenty hits on the Christian music charts. But his sister, who had always been jealous of his success, outed him by going to record stores that carried his CDs and telling the owners that he was gay. Suddenly his music career crashed. Rob had to come out and rethink his whole life.

Rob left the church, switching into acting and voice-over work. With his amazing charisma and good looks, he became successful again. As an actor he was cast on an episode of The Power Rangers and co-starred on a TV show with future Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding, Jr. Even more incredibly, he became the Spanish voice of Ronald McDonald for Latin America.

During this time Rob discovered the work of Dirk Yates and Bobby Garcia. Rob began losing interest in sex with other gay men and began exclusively pursuing straight military men. As our country entered the Second Gulf War, he decided to begin filming his own series starring himself and his military conquests.

In the rising internet age, media savvy Rob Navarro became the most successful of today’s new breed of military fetish pornographers. He was the only one since Bobby Garcia’s retirement to be both a filmmaker and star. Unlike Bobby, he is charming, masculine and very handsome. A straight man could have sex with him and show it to his girlfriend and she wouldn’t freak out. Well, she might freak out a little but she’d have to admit she would have sex with him, also. There is a reason Rob became a top Christian pop star. And it wasn’t just that Christian girls thought he had great stage presence and a good voice.

With his incredible success, he was able to buy a 1.5 million dollar house in the hills of Laguna Beach overlooking the ocean. And being informed of many of our military men’s love for sex with transsexuals, he has begun filming the first pornos in this yet untapped market.

On Rob’s website he boasts, “Through the years I've developed amazing oral skills that countless guys, straight and gay, unequivocally could not deny was the BEST they'd ever experienced bar none.” On the face of it, this seems to be a ridiculous boast. You ask yourself, what could he do that any other man or woman couldn’t? Then you watch Rob’s videos.

When he first starts blowing the Marines, it looks like a standard blowjob that is slow and steady. But then something happens. A switch goes off and it’s like a weird cartoon where a Volkswagen turns into a Maserati. They say that scientists don’t understand how hummingbirds fly. How can their tiny wings flap that fast? It’s the same with Rob. Suddenly his hands and head start moving at a speed you can’t comprehend. He passes the cock back and forth between his hands as if he were a Vegas magician doing some insane sleight of hand. Even his head movements suggest a new step in human evolution where the spine has developed an elasticity that allows it, much like an owl, to twist in ways not seen in other animals.

When I asked a Marine about it, he admitted it was true. It almost ruined his life. He admitted that he’d never found another person who could do what Rob did. The Marine maintained he was 100% heterosexual but, when faced with less than inspiring girlhead, he would have to summon up images of Rob’s incredible technique to shoot his load.

Still the nagging question that this porno brings up is why do gay men love seeing straight men seduced by gay men. Is it a giant, dirty prank on heterosexuality? Is it performance art revenge on the hetero football players by the gay theater students? The great queer theorist Mark Simpson wrote, “I suspect that part of the reason so many homos want to see straight guys having sex with one another – and will pay good money for it – is the paradoxical appeal of seeing innocence ‘corrupted,’ and corruption rendered ‘innocent.”

Rob Navarro explained, “Since I was a kid, I loved war movies and those images in my mind led me to believe that a straight military guy was the epitome of what a macho man was and so I became obsessed.” Both Dirk and Rob insist that they only have sex with straight men. When I asked them if their interest in straight men resulted from the oppressiveness of growing up in a homophobic society, Dirk said that the reason he doesn’t sleep with other gay men was because “I don’t want that commitment. I pick you up, I do the dirty deed and you’re shipped off. I’m only attracted to straight men and that could be because of my insecurities or my lack of confidence with a homosexual partner. I’m not committed. I like to have an emotional distance.”

Yet, despite the fact that most of these sexual encounters are not long lasting because their lovers identify as straight, Dirk and Rob have maintained friendships with stars of their videos. Dirk has men who were in tapes thirty years ago that are now married with children but still call and come to visit him. Likewise, I met Marines who were in Rob’s videos who years later would come to stay at Rob’s house when they needed a California vacation. What seemed, on the surface, like they might be dangerous encounters with straight military men turned out to be oddly warm memories for both parties.

Still, the question that irks is why is this form of pornography so popular beyond its obvious prankish topsy-turvy charm. Sure you want to see it, but for some people it’s the only porno they will watch. Nineteenth Century German psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebbing was the first to document and analyze fetishes in his book Psychopathia Sexualis. One of the most popular fetishes of the time was an apron fetish. Who today ever hears of an apron fetish? Fetishes arise and disappear at different times in different societies. Is it a coincidence that Dirk Yates had his first Marine shoot in 1982 during the Reagan years? Reagan had just proclaimed Morning in America! Military budgets went up. And Marine porn was born.

The truth is our whole country has a military fetish. We keep getting in wars without a strategy in place to actually win any of them. No matter how strapped our country is financially, our defense budgets rise like a hard cock that just had Bobby Garcia spray Johnson’s® Baby Oil all over it.

Could it be that the pornography of war begets war pornography? And if you ask me who loves our military men more -- the military leaders who send our young Marines to Iraq to be blown up or Dirk Yates, Bobby Garcia and Rob Navarro who want those same Marines sent over to their houses just to be blown, I’d vote for the strange trinity of Dirk, Bobby and Rob.