Death of Gino Colbert, Top Gay/Bi Porn Director, Revealed

LOS ANGELES—There was no notice in the Los Angeles Times or The New York Times; no posts on major gay porn blogs, and even most of Gino Colbert's friends were surprised to find out that the former director of hardcore gay and bi films had passed away on August 21 of what his friend Bob Schear described as a "massive heart attack." He was 57 years old, and by all accounts, in good health prior to the attack.

The news was all the more surprising because this author had just seen Colbert at the Los Angeles premiere of the Chuck Holmes documentary Seed Money in mid-July. At that time, Colbert, who by then was more often going by his real name, Sam Schad, said that he was working out regularly but that he had had some recent medical problems, but that they had cleared up.

Colbert is credited with directing more than 130 mostly gay and bi titles, with a couple of hetero ones thrown in as well, beginning with several volumes of the series Bi Heat for Zane Entertainment Group, which was then shooting in New York City.

"He was a really nice guy," recalled Zane Entertainment CEO Chuck Zane. "He always did have a pretty good physique on him. I remember that my brother and I really liked him. We gave him a pretty tough task, doing the bi stuff, especially since we had to shoot it in New York because we were still headquartered in Rochester, so we were shooting a lot in New York. Ron Sullivan [aka Henri Pachard] was doing stuff for us, and Sam did the bi."

Zane continued, "I don't even know how we found Sam; maybe through Ron, or maybe [Dick] Benedetti; I don't remember. We gave him this almost impossible task, and it was pretty funny, because to shoot the bi stuff, you have to have people who can get it up for both, and it was pretty freaky. It wasn't easy, but Sam was patient, and the actors and actresses liked him, and that was the important thing, because there were always the physical problems with bi shoots, and it doesn't help if you have a finicky director. So Sam did make a difficult thing much easier, and I remember he did what he had to do, he delivered the product and I really liked him."

Also, according to Zane, Colbert was something of a bon vivant.

"He had, for some reason, some connection at Sylvia's up in Harlem; it was a soul food restaurant," Zane said, referring to the nationally known eatery. "He had the 'in' there, so he brought me, my wife at the time and two of my kids up to 125th Street, and it was the craziest thing. Sam brought us in, and they just treated us like royalty. He knew the owner, and we had a great time. The walls were covered with pictures of movie stars and famous personalities."

But soon after, Colbert was convinced to head for the West Coast to become head of production for Mark Carriere's Stallion Video.

"I'm the one that brought him out here years ago," recalled Ron Jeremy. "I had [Leisure Time Entertainment's] Mark Carriere fly him out. In those days, nobody ever flew a production manager out; they flew out actresses, but he was so good at running shoots as a production manager, Mark took my advice and flew him out. That was way back. Sam tried his hand at doing heterosexual movies, but he wasn't too good at 'getting it up' for a girl; he did better with the gay films, so he worked on Mark's gay line, Stallion. Mark employed Sam; even gave him a company car and also had him help out with the sales department, and give Mark a back massage every other day.

"He was very, very efficient," Jeremy continued. "When I had him on my set, he was always on time; never a problem when he was around. He was the best production manager in the business, as far as I'm concerned."

Colbert began directing features in 1987, but by the end of the 20th century, his output had decreased greatly, though he apparently lensed his final movie in 2011 for the short-lived company Devil's Male. Besides various Carriere entities—Leisure Time, Video Exclusives and Venus 99—Colbert also helmed films for VCA's gay line HIS, CDI Home Video, Bizarre Video, Jet Set Productions and New Age Pictures.

Apparently, Colbert had family still living in his home town of Toledo, Ohio, but attempts by friends to contact them proved to be fruitless.

One of Colbert's closest friends was fellow director Lucas Kazan, who offered the following remembrance to AVN:

"Even if you don't know Gino, chances are you've watched a Gino Colbert movie. In fact, hundreds—credited or uncredited.

"After a successful career in front of the camera, Gino stepped behind it in '89 and quickly became one of the most prolific and iconic directors of the '90s. Across all genres, straight, transsexual, bisexual (particularly with the Switch Hitters series for Metro/Intropics), and above all, gay, which he helped shape into the 21st century.

"Gino groomed me to become his production manager in the early to mid '90s. As such, I was fortunate to take part in blockbusters like Matinee Idol and Stryker's Underground (both for VCA/HIS). But, in my opinion, his legacy lies elsewhere: it isn't with the big movies he helmed (Night Walk, which he co-directed with Michael Ninn, also for VCA/HIS, or the award-winning Three Brothers for New Age Pictures). It's with the 'one-day-wonders' he has produced for a number of studios: well scripted, tightly blocked and beautifully filmed, all in one day (CockEyed Eagle) or two (A Brother's Desire). His legacy is with his attention to multi-racial casting, well before it became ubiquitous, and his focus on 'nasty' sex. 'Keep it filthy, keep it hot,' he used to remind me.

"More than anyone I've known, Gino had a deep appreciation (and knowledge) of porn's rich and diverse history as a film genre ('It was born out of the burlesque, arguably one of the true forms of the American Theatre', he wrote). He was trained by the legendary Joe Sarno and passed down Sarno's blocking style to me and the many directors, videographers, and performers he trained. He knew, befriended and often worked with most of the pioneers, from Tom DeSimone to Alex deRenzi to Pat Rocco.

"Gino's thirst for life manifested itself on so many levels: he loved food, he loved sex, he loved his many friends. Always generous with each and all of us, always original, Gino is the last of a formidable generation of filmmakers. Like many of them, he got lost with the internet revolution. But his legacy is fertile and alive: it's us, the hundreds of performers and technicians he encouraged, coached, hired."

On Colbert's , among the several tributes, director Pat Rocco noted Colbert's part in one of the first GayVN Awards shows.

"He [Colbert] was instrumental in obtaining a 'Lifetime Achievement Award' from the Adult Film Industry as presenter several years ago at the Castro Theater in San Francisco," Rocco wrote. "His friendship will never be forgotten. My heart goes out to family and all others who's life has been touched by him."

UPDATE: AVN has been contacted by Bob Schear, Colbert's close friend for more than 30 years, who sent the following statement:

"I'm still in shock. I live in NYC, but we always saw each other here or in L.A.

"He was not feeling well for a few days, and he hated going to see doctors. He just thought it was something like the flu, and it would go away, with OTC meds. He didn't show up at work one night, and didn't call in sick, and they were concerned, because he was so reliable. The human research office tracked down one of his neighbors, who went to check up on him, to see how he was doing... and he found him in his bed. He just died in his sleep; the autopsy said it was a massive heart attack. It's all so sad. His mother came to LA and took his ashes back home."

Pictured, l-r: Lucas Kazan and Gino Colbert. Photo by Vincent Lambert.