(A version of this article also appears on Gamelink’s Naked Truth)
Back in 1995, in a movie called “Sandy Insatiable,” Rocco Siffredi felt a deep connection with French actress Sidonie L’Amour and, acting on it, fucked her ass while holding her head in a toilet. This week the 50-year-old Siffredi, who first performed for Marc Dorcel in 1987’s “Attention Fillettes” (Hello Little Girls), announced his retirement from performing.
Years later that toilet scene became a shorthand for Siffredi. He said that people made their decisions about him in particular and porn in general because of that scene. “‘You’re the bad guy,'” Siffredi says to Bobbi Starr in his 2010 movie “Rocco Ravishes L.A.” [see review]: “(Whatever brought us to that toilet) was between me and her.”
And when Starr begs Rocco to do the same to her, he obliges. Starr was exhilarated. I asked if Siffredi whispered endearments to her while he was doing it.
“He said it would take a tank to destroy me,” she said, flattered.
Several years ago my friends were going through their first rounds of divorces. One of them (I’ll call him Chris because that’s his name) told me that he passed the time by watching “Rocco’s Animal Trainer 10” (starring the dirty Belladonna but the even-dirtier Kelly Stafford) so that he wouldn’t hate women.
I wasn’t familiar with Siffredi or any porn, really, at the time, but the cover looked pretty lurid and unromantic. I asked him what he meant.
“Because Rocco loves and respects dirty girls,” Chris said.
(I had a series of conversations about this back in 2001-2, I remember, and out of them I coined the now-archaic term masturpause: the shame of not rewinding a porn videocassette before one lets one’s friend borrow it, at which point he/she knows exactly what moment sealed the deal for one.)
That quote is always in my mind when I watch Siffredi work. Much like his friend Steve Holmes, Siffredi is grateful, even worshipful, of the women he proceeds to do filthy things to. Things that Nice Girls don’t do. And yet the connection is unmistakeable. Manuel Ferrara also makes this connection, though he is prettier and less hardcore than Rocco. Rocco looks like he wants to put women’s heads in the toilet if they’re groovy that way.
In a charming farewell letter to performing (this is Siffredi’s second retirement; the first was in 2004), Siffredi says that a recent reality show in which he participated made him miss his wife, the former performer Rosa Caracciolo.
“I had two months to think only about my future and simply out of this experience I could see my priority has changed<” Siffredi writes. “Since before, me being an actor was … first priority on my life. Today I can see, my wife … is the top priority. And that is why I made this decision. She deserves to have what she wanted from day one, to be with only me without sharing with other girls.”
Siffredi goes on to thank all the performers, directors, and producers he has worked with in the past three decades. “The Italian Stallion” also gives special recognition to friend and mentor John Stagliano “for teaching me all what I know.”
When I started paying attention to porn I found a 2000 movie called “Rocco Invades Poland.” Siffredi and friends tomcat around Warsaw in a fashion that suggests one or two waves of feminism never happened. There’s catcalling in the street and women feeling complimented by it. It was a different time.
Siffredi meets a woman named Agnes and they fall in love. It was the first porn movie I saw in which I understood that a big part of chemistry is respect, confidence, and intention. Yes, looks count, but respect doesn’t always mean buying flowers. Sometimes it involves a toilet.
It would be naive not to at least acknowledge there may be other factors at work in Siffredi’s decision. He, Ferrara, James Deen, and Lexington Steele are in an exclusive club of male performers who can sell movies on their names alone. But it’s getting harder to do. As the elder statesman of the group (Siffredi was almost an actual statesman when he was a write-in candidate for Italy’s Prime Minister a few years ago), Siffredi might also be worrying that a quinquagenarian fucking 19-year-olds on film might be a niche he doesn’t want to be known for. There might be a health issue or a health scare. It’s porn, after all, and people leave (and come back) for all sorts of reasons.
But even if Siffredi has announced and rescinded his retirement once before, it is a measure of his celebrity and stature that he announces his performing retirement at all. With this business being one in which the majority of performers make less in their last years of work than they do in their first, very few actually announce their retirement — they just leave because the industry has retired them.
Siffredi leaves a legacy of nearly 2,000 movies shot on three continents. His scenes are uniformly strong and show personality, humor, abandon, respect, and thoughtfulness. (They are also instructive and good icebreakers for the right type of person. More than once I have gotten laid simply for saying that I like what Rocco does.) There will never be another Rocco.
Previously on Porn Valley Observed: Rocco and Celeste — porn star birthdays; Rocco Siffredi will squeeze your breasts painfully if you don’t wear a hat