Hall of Fame Interview: Ray Dragon

When porn veteran Ray Dragon got the call that he was being considered for induction into the GAYVN Hall of Fame at this year's awards ceremony, he didn't believe it was real. "I thought they were playing a joke on me," he recalls with a laugh. But a couple of months later, he was standing onstage at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, receiving his trophy from director Gino Colbert. "It's nice when they come back and say thanks. It's an honor." It was also the culmination of many years of hard work.

Dragon's porn career began in 1990 with what he refers to as "two visits to California" when the former gymnast and dancer from Detroit shot some pictures and filmed a couple of solo scenes for famed photographer Jim French and his COLT Studio. "It turned into a hell of a lot more than I ever imagined," Dragon says of the response to his initial exposure. "It very quickly took on its own persona — the Ray Dragon persona." When asked to define that persona, Dragon describes a man who exudes natural masculinity, wears no makeup, and is "just very real.

"The pictures touched a nerve," he says. "I was surprised, but it's always good to know that someone is getting off to your pictures and movies. That is a huge compliment."

But Dragon didn't linger in the industry. While shooting porn he also studied industrial and computer design and soon branched out into the fashion industry. "Making clothes is actually all about engineering," Dragon says. His pioneering work with stretch fabrics evolved into a successful line of menswear that spawned stores in New York, Los Angeles, on Fire Island, and in Paris. "I was gay and sold to gay customers," Dragon says. "I was out and gay when it wasn't fashionable. This was the early '90s. I mean, Calvin Klein got married!"

After 12 years as a designer, Dragon read an article in The New York Times about the profitability of the porn industry which eventually prompted his return to it. "I was tired of fashion," he says, "and I read about how pornographers were making so much money and how the industry was becoming so niche-oriented, so I decided to make a niche for myself — a niche for mature men." In 2001, Dragon returned to the business with Titan Media's Gorge in a scene with Jon Galt. He says that the film was "a bit of pressure," partly due to the fact that he had never actually had sex on-screen before. "I had been good at playing with myself," Dragon says with a laugh, "but this was different. It was so much more work! But I got through it." He went back to COLT for Reload with director John Rutherford and filmed 110? in Tucson, Deep Water Beach Patrol 1, and LifeGuard! with director Joe Gage and Woodsmen for Titan.

He also launched his own production company, Dragon Media, and website around this time. This turned into another source of income, as Dragon filmed and edited original material for subscribers. "You have to employ a wider array of products to keep people interested," he says, which is why members of RayDragon.com get iPod downloads, a series of webcam shows, streaming video, model galleries, and plenty of sexy images of Dragon himself. He also designs and programs the sites StudList.net and BuddyBooth.tv and has started hiring himself out as a cameraman, shooting for Lucas Entertainment and other top companies. "I really like doing camera work," he says. "It's easy. I just do as I'm told, hold the camera still, and that's it. And it's also interesting to work with other directors and observe their styles."

The New York–based star says the thing he enjoys most about directing is the challenge of it. "There is always something going wrong," he says, "something happening — a model is canceling, a location is falling through. Getting all the elements to come together is really hard."

But Dragon continues to do it, for his websites and for others. He recently signed an exclusive distribution agreement with Dark Alley Media, which will sell the entire Dragon Media catalog. The two companies co-released Jonny's Place, starring Jonny Mack and Arpad Miklos, in February. Dragon also hopes to do more movies as a model and hints at some new business plans that will be announced later this year. But for now he fondly recalls this year's GAYVNs: "Kathy Griffin was amazing. I enjoyed it all. I got through my speech and even remembered to thank everyone I wanted to." Of his long career in the public eye Dragon says, "I've touched a lot of souls."

Celebs expected to appear include Jake Deckard, who will perform his famous striptease; Bill and Andy from BigMuscleBear.com and BigMuscle.com, who will serve as celebrity judges; Tober Brandt, who will be a celebrity judge and "Tactile Inspector"; Tom Orr, the lyricist of Dirty Little Show Tunes, who will emcee; Richie Chameroy, Mr. Bootblack, who will serve as Tally Master; and Dick Daniel, Mr. Lone Star, who will serve as venue host.