Searching for Gene Lamar, the Man Who Ruled Black Gay Porn for Two Decades

And so, years later, I, Brontez Purnell, went in search of the mysterious Gene Lamar, who ruled the Black gay porn world from the ’80s to 2000s and who has seemingly (like so many from that era) disappeared without a trace. Needless to say, there was no readily accessible record of the man as a human being anywhere. As I always do when I’m in trouble, I called my boyfriend for help. He happens to be friends with the archivist at Bijou Films, a major porn production company of the ’80s, where Lamar also worked.

The only known firsthand account of this man’s life came via an interview he gave for a June 1995 issue of the now defunct gay porn magazine Manshots. Through the conversation, I learned that Lamar was born and raised in Los Angeles (the Watts neighborhood, specifically) and was the third oldest of five brothers and sisters. His mother was a vocal coach; he was also a singer. In the conversation, he asserts that he started as a runway and print model when he was 18. At 22, he married a woman, with whom he had one son. Elsewhere, he shared, “I like guys more so than women,” though clarifies he didn’t get into gay life until he was 32.

His initial journey into porn started in 1987, when he got laid off as a long-term employee at Amtrak and ended up taking an airport job. There, his co-worker and roommate linked him to nude modeling. Lamar then met the legendary porn booker William Higgins. At the time, he decided to start doing movies because his then-boyfriend had been cheating on him. Porn became his way of dealing with that and became, he told Manhunt, 90% of his sex life. In those days, Lamar went by the name “Gene LaDont,” but later decided it sounded “too French,” and changed to Gene Lamar, after the famous actor Levar Burton. By 1994, Lamar had done about 58 films. His last known movie was made in 2003. Today, his whereabouts remain unknown.

In many ways we are currently living within an artistic void, a moment when decades of un-digitized art from the middle and end of the last century have been lost to time. I think about how this societal transition affects the legacies of people like Lamar, whose story was once so much about navigating the shame and idolization that comes with doing porn. Now, the world of Twitter porn and the disappearance of VHS renders Lamar’s legacy more invisible. He, like so many of that generation, are increasingly forgotten. But perhaps after so much exposure this is welcome? Who knows…