(This is a reprinted article from the vast Porn Valley Observed archives.)
Whenever I see Paul Thomas, who went from a Broadway career in generation-defining musicals like “Hair” to a 4-decade (and counting) gig in front of and behind the camera in porn, I ask him about the middle period: his role as Peter in the 1973 Norman Jewison movie “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
Several years ago, when Thomas was shooting “Debbie Does Dallas Again” for Vivid and participating in a Showtime/World of Wonder Making Of special, he told me about how the “Superstar” cast had spent its downtime in Israel’s Negev Desert.
“Yvonne Elliman (Mary Magdalene) had just seen ‘Deep Throat’ but wanted to know what one was like,” he said. “So we went off to the desert and she practiced her deep throating techniques on some of the, er, saints.”
This remains one of my favorite quotes. Thomas (who was credited as Phillip Toubus in the movie) and I had another conversation in Las Vegas in which he elaborated on that time in his life and its relationship to the next chapter.
“It was fabulous,” he said. “Incredible fun. I was a star. You’re often not aware at the time about how cool something is. But I was. “Hair” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” were the apex of my culture. I was in this world. I was very aware that I was way ahead of my curve. (He pauses for five seconds) Then I got into porno and jumped to the back of the class.”
Since parting ways with Vivid in 2009, Thomas has directed fewer movies, but outings like 2010′s “Pervert” are more up his alley.
“I never liked ‘Happy People Having Happy Sex,’” he told me. “I was a swinger in the 1970s and I would go to these clubs stag. People would know who I was, whether through porno or whatever, and men would come up to me with their girlfriends and say, ‘Can you fuck my wife?’
“I would say, ‘Would you like to watch? It’s gonna be completely OK?’ and he’d say, ‘Oh, it’s wonderful! We love you!’ And I’d say No.
“It would be the times when the husband was hiding in the closet, [chastising] himself, and the wife would berate him because I had a bigger dick than him, and then go home and beat him later…Then I was interested. I like the darker side. It’s not a Wicked movie.”
[The sound quality of the entire interview was poor, but here is a smidgen]Get the Flash Player to see this player.
I asked Thomas what had changed between the 70s and now, if that was a question he could answer. Was there a throughline to people attracted to the adult industry?
“It’s not universal,” he said, but added: “They’re good looking, sexually liberal and curious, politically unconscious, in some sort of denial about their life…what is universal, I guess, is conflict.”
In “Jesus Christ Superstar,” Thomas’s character denies Jesus Christ three times on Good Friday. Then, in a fantasy sequence written for the movie (and Academy Award consideration, as “Superstar” was adapted from a musical), Thomas sings “Could We Start Again, Please?” with Elliman and Ted Neeley’s Jesus.
“Not in this century,” he said.
- Buy “Pervert” here