One day in 2005 I was visiting Roy Karch at his apartment overlooking the In-n-Out Burger on Sunset Blvd. About a month earlier, we’d met Dennis Hof and Ron Jeremy at that In-n-Out for a late-nite meal (and we all know how that turned out). That place was a low-key porn Mecca. In his apartment, Roy gave me some instant coffee and put on Love’s 1967 album “Forever Changes.” Like a lot of Roy’s albums, it was the original, and had travelled with him across the country, played in several apartments from New York to Los Angeles. In September of 2005, Roy was 59, and I loved him, though he drove me crazy.
The first song on Side One of that album is Bryan MacLean’s “Alone Again Or,” which begins with a very L.A. “Yeah.” Roy had a joint lit at this point and when the lines “You know that I could be in love with almost everyone/I think that people are the greatest fun,” Roy said, “Nobody had this album in New York, but it was better than ’Sergeant Pepper’s.’”
Roy Karch had about a thousand record albums that, when he was forced to leave his apartment in December, 2018, he had to sell. Someone from Amoeba came and gave him 900 dollars. Less than two years later, at 2:23 a.m. on September 24, he died.
My Ouija board only gets James Thurber and Bettie Page, but if it got Roy, I’d say, “Isn’t it like a pornographer to get rubbed out by a bunch of strokes?”
That same month—September of 2005, 15 years ago—Roy was very slowly heading down a trough that would get very deep, from a career in the adult business that had gone non-stop since he arrived in L.A. in 1977 and had enjoyed a peak of maybe 20 straight years. I’d met him two years earlier, at my first AVN show. That was when he told me, despite a strong handshake and a mouth full of teeth that he said cost him $16,000, that the porn industry had seen better days.
“It’s different than it was,” he said.
But on his set for an Adam & Eve movie called “The More the Merrier” that 9th day of September, 2005, I managed to get a picture of Roy standing in a shaft of light at a downtown L.A. warehouse. I showed the picture to him (in between shots of the weaponized Carmen Luvana, the accessible Carmen Hart, and the adorable Sunny Lane, which I include here because it’s a porn site after all) as the joint smoke wafted through the room, as I flipped the album over and we got to “You Set the Scene” (Love was a multiracial band from all over Los Angeles. While both MacLean and the band’s volatile leader, Arthur Lee, had died, Roy and I saw a few shows by the band’s reboot, Love Revisited, featuring original guitarist Johnny Echols, and they are excellent), Roy looked at the picture of himself and said, “Well you gotta use this for my obituary.”
A video by Karch’s former assistant, Michelle, captures Roy’s love of the job and his rapid-fire speaking style. He was off the coke as of the 90s, but I’m convinced it only slowed him down. The video also includes photos from the last century that I’d never seen.
I forget the name of the Adam & Eve movie featured above in which Roy goes from Kodi Milo, to Felix Vicious, to Jade Starr, to Charlotte Stokely, to Kimberly Kane, introducing and delighting them, but I was there that sun-basked day in Encino, and I remember thinking that Roy was in his element when no one was encumbering his joy; things broke down when you asked him a question he didn’t know the answer to and you travelled outside his field of expertise. He didn’t do well with vulnerability or uncertainty, which triggered his anxiety.
I visited Roy on September 23, about 12 hours before he died, and fed him some lemonade with a sponge. His head had shrunk around those expensive teeth so much that occasionally he looked like he was smiling. His caretaker and benefactor (for not only these nearly-two years of rapid decline but also the years before that when Roy was getting less and less ‘Roy’ all the time) was Jeff Mullen, himself an AVN Hall of Fame director under the nom-de-porn Will Ryder, and a character in his own right. I have not always got along with Jeff Mullen, but man, the things he did for his old friend and mentor were as sweet as they were Herculean.
I wrote a proper obituary for Roy—without me in it— over at AVN.com, the adult industry’s recognized, er, organ, but I wanted this sentiment to live somewhere:
You were a pleasure to know, Roy. I’m glad I made it into that small corral of people who could tell you that you were being obnoxious, and who got to see the other side of that—the part where you were just genuinely in love with everyone and wanted to grok their scene—and I’m really sad you’re gone.
The thing I occasionally go out on a limb to try to explain about Porn Valley to people who might be receptive is this: Most porn is ridiculous. I know some people are addicted to it, some people are liberated by it, some people make money from it who wouldn’t anywhere else, and some people recognize it as yet another avenue of making money. I just like the people (mostly), who alit on this business but it’s just one aspect of their fascinating nature. In that way, it’s simple. Porn is simple.
And it makes me think of a simple poem I learned in fourth grade, and I dedicate it to my friend Roy Karch.
“I loved my friend
He went away from me
There’s nothing more to say
The poem ends,
Soft as it began-
I loved my friend.”