Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon

"Very Good"

Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon Review


A few years back, the documentary Inside Deep Throat took us back to the sexy '70s, a time when a slickly produced porn flick could become a mainstream cultural event attracting serious criticism and suburban audiences. Wrangler: Anatomy of Icon is a sort of gay porn addendum, a fond and good-humored retrospective of the career of the well-endowed Jack Wrangler, who became the first widely known male porn star in the pre-AIDS era of hairy chests, gold chains, and lots of denim.

It's Wrangler himself who guides us through the story of his life, and he's a delightful character. Unlike other gay porn stars, most of whom have ended up burned out, drugged up, or dead, the 60-something Wrangler looks back on the trajectory of his life with complete honesty, without regrets, and with a lot of insight into a world now long gone.

Born into Beverly Hills wealth, young Jack Stillman struggled to earn his father's approval, but his inherent "sissiness" and fondness for theater over sports made it impossible. A child actor of note, he ended up on Broadway by the time he was in college, but eventually returned to LA just in time to dive into the sexual revolution of the '70s. Good-looking, though by his own admission rather short, Wrangler posed for X-rated photo shoots which led to a trip to San Francisco to film short porn loops. It was just a matter of time before he would star in the first of his 85 porn features.

Wrangler and the multitude of gay porn pioneers who also appear in the film accurately point out that back in the day, it was easy to become a porn star because there was so much less porn around. Anyone who was consistent was guaranteed to become famous. As Wrangler's star rose, he appeared in increasingly professionally made films that actually had plots and required his acting talents. His pinnacle, the wonderfully named Kansas City Trucking Company, was reviewed and advertised in The New York Times.

Of course, the arrival of the VCR would kill off the porn theater experience, and Wrangler could see the writing on the wall. He got out while he was still good-looking, astutely realizing that no one wanted to see an old pathetic porn star. Instead, he steered his life back toward the theater, and in a remarkable twist, ended up marrying '40s and '50s singing star Margaret Whiting, a woman 20 years older and quite heterosexual. "But I'm gay," Wrangler protested. "Only around the edges, dear," was her famous reply. The two are in love to this day.

What a character, and what a life. It's great to see how level-headed Wrangler has emerged from his unique experiences. At this point, he's like your favorite old uncle who takes you out to lunch and shares funny stories. It's a pleasure to hear him tell his tale and a kick to see all those old clips that show us what sexy was like before chest waxing was invented.

Just like the jeans.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 85 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 7th June 2008

Distributed by: Automat Pictures

Production compaines: TLA Releasing

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Jeffrey Schwarz

Producer: Jeffrey Schwarz

Starring: Jack Wrangler as Himself, Margaret Whiting as Herself

Contactmusic


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