How did you react when you heard Erik Rhodes had died? I was walking in the street with a friend, we were going to the gym and I got a text message from a photographer friend in London: «Have you heard from Erik Rhodes recently?». I froze instantly. I had indeed had a conversation with Erik (James) on Twitter last week after not having heard from him for a long time of. He seemed to be just out of the hospital for some reason. We were joking online. After that text, I checked immediately his official Twitter account and I read what I had feared. I started weeping like a fool on the street. His death really upsets me.
You wrote on Facebook that you admired him. Why? What kind of man was he? I've always had a lot of affection for him even though we were not close friends. I was even obsessed by the character for a while. I met Erik at the GayVN Awards in Los Angeles in 2006. Back then, my English was awful. He came to me and paid me a compliment about the movie Arabesque [produced by Raging Stallion Studios], I was impressed. Since then, we stayed in touch, without much ambiguity.
We ran into each other during official events, but key ones, in New York or San Francisco. We didn't have much time to chat, but we were talking to each other online, up until the day when we had a scene together. However, this shooting was less important than the conversations we had when we were not shooting during this trip in Prague.
«I was fascinated by his lucidity on himself and the people surrounding him, his sensititvity, his knowledge of music and film, and by what he wrote, by his irony, by his sense of humor.»
He was sweet, quiet, sometimes even shy too. Maybe I was fascinated by his melancholy, without illusions. But I think he was constant, true to himself, and above all honest and real.
Erik Rhodes did not hide his battle against depression but also against his addiction to all kind of drugs. Don't you think he was struggling against a certain hypocrysy of the porn industry on all these issues? Yes, maybe he was the reflect of something others hide, erase or make prettier. This excess of honesty might have caused him some trouble with a lot of fools from the gay community, hidden or not behind their screens. But when you think about it, you don't need to have a career in the porn industry to have addiction problems. I think that the way of revolving around oneself and the eyes of others, in all forms, can cause such a tragedy. To always be in need of thrills, of inachievables goals… He had the Art and Practice to tell fatal and terrible stories in such a candid manner, which I never found provocative. Depression was a fact, he talked about it openly.
People are not naive, but treacherous. I also speak knowingly, having touched one way or another to some mechanisms of this industry. The drug problem is the flagship behind the loss, the number one scourge, I'm not telling you anything new. But again, it's not happening really «in» porn, but «around» porn. I'm not denouncing anyone: most of the big U.S. studios, through what I seen, are very touchy about the conditions of the models on a shoot. I've always known a rather sober Erik Rhodes during our meetings and collaborations.
His tumblr was called «A Romance with misery». It's a terrible name, don't you think? Yes, especially on his love relationships which he told as fatal, febrile, hanging by a thread. Relationships he entered with passion but at the same time by giving himself ultimatums. I followed his first blog for a long time, before tumblr, on which he was already writing on advanced depression. He always had a boyfriend, it seemed vital, and I also found some pain in his explanation of having ruined his life with porn, while continuing a meteoric rise in this activity without ever stopping using. I may have felt that idea sometimes, but just occasionally, never with the same consistency and fatality as he seemed to explain it. I think the problem is not porn, but what you make of it.
The worst is that in this extreme lucidity, one felt that humor was the only lift of his condition, as if the irony was his engine, a sophisticated humor and always fine… but dark.
Is his tragic destiny the behind the scenes of X movies? No, I don't think that at all actually. The X movies were just a stage set I believe, I don't know exactly, perhaps the main problem was the city of New York? The Gay New York, infamous like all gay concentrations in the world, whether in Paris, London or elsewhere, with all the drugs and possible identifications. Our decade is just rotting away faster.
«I think Erik Rhodes was too smart for most of his peers and just locked up in a whirlwind of misunderstanding»