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August 04, 2017

Peril & 'Disgrace': An Adventure With Steve Holmes in Barcelona

This article originally ran in the August 2017 issue of AVN magazine. Click here to see the digital edition. If ever anyone has trotted the globe with more of a carefree air about them than Steve Holmes, that person surely lived in another time, and somewhere unshackled by the confines of societal order. One almost can’t help but hear Bobby McFerrin crooning “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” whenever Steve speaks, his general sentiment perennially parlaying some variation or other on “everything’s groovy, baby.” It’s a necessary disposition for what the 2017 AVN Hall of Fame inductee invited me earlier this year to witness: the production of the jewel in his directorial crown, Kink.com’s Public Disgrace. What Steve does in his PD scenes, as would stand to reason, simply is not legal to shoot in the U.S.: parading naked girls around wide-open areas and subjecting them to any manner of humiliation, sexual or otherwise, all before crowds of bona fide civilians. In Spain, on the other hand, the laws are somewhat more lenient, so that’s where he opts to stage these wild acts of derring-do. When he first casually suggested to me that I come watch him do it, I admittedly laughed it off as a flight of fancy. But when it became clear that he was serious about the proposition … well, how could I say no? And so off to Barcelona I flew to see this singularly outlandish magic unfold right before my eyes. Steve greets me at the airport with a big bear hug and whisks me off to a large black van that I soon learn is one of the two main transport vehicles for the entire production crew. On the way to the flat that doubles as the principal accommodations and operation base for Steve and team, he recounts a bit of the history of Public Disgrace. Originally overseen by Princess Donna, it was mostly shot in its infancy at Kink’s now former home, The Armory in San Francisco. “I talked to [Kink founder] Peter Acworth, and he said, ‘Well, we don’t really shoot it outside, we just pretend,’” Steve imparts. “And I told him, ‘Well, send your crew [to Barcelona] and you can do it for real.’” Steve co-produced the site in those early days, and did convince Donna to shoot some of it in Europe, but once she stopped directing and he assumed sole reign over it, he followed through on his talk with Acworth and moved it there exclusively. At the flat, located in the very center of the city, just a stone’s throw from its own Arc de Triomf, Steve shows me some of the stills he’s sifting through from the previous day’s shoot, with fellow Euro-veterans Max Cortes and Silvia Rubi, as well as greenhorn performer Gabriela Flores. The scene was set in a bar, and Steve points out, “See, I can be more daring than in the U.S., I have big open windows.” Daring as that may be, it’s not nearly as much so as what he shows me next, from immediately after the sex: “She has our cum all over her face and we take her for a walk down the street.” The “she” in question is Flores, and in the pictures she indeed is being led on a leash by Rubi down a narrow side street, completely nude and face spattered with semen, as bystanders rubberneck in puzzled attempts to process what they’re beholding. Ruminating on his overall approach with PD, Steve muses, “So people talk about revolutionizing porn; well, I’m not revolutionizing porn, but I have a very particular niche that nobody else is doing. And sure, someone might say, ‘This is garbage, I can’t jerk off to this,’ but for the people who like it, there is only one place they can find it.” Over coffee the following morning, Steve reveals some of the trouble in which he’s actually found himself shooting PD—in fact, he tells me he and Princess Donna got arrested twice when she still ran the site. “What we’re doing isn’t illegal, but it’s against ‘the rules,’” he explains. “I remember these two young police officers, I think they just got out of police school, came up and said, ‘This is crazy, you can’t be doing this!’ I told them this is not illegal, and they said, ‘There’s no way this can be legal.’ So I said, ‘OK, we’ll see.’ And we go down to the police station and they look up their things and then we were out. “The first time, Donna was so upset,” he continues. “‘Oh my god, I can’t believe we’re in jail in a foreign country!’ I told her, ‘Don’t worry, let’s use this time sitting here to plan out what we’re going to do for the next scene,’ and she said, ‘Are you crazy?!’ But then the second time, she just brushed it off.” As if on cue, a taxi then pulls up to the curb beside us and out steps a petite blonde girl with luggage who joins us at the table. I’m informed this is Scottish porn newbie Amber Deen—who named herself such after her hometown of Aberdeen—and she’ll be filling the role of the Dom for tomorrow’s shoot, the first I’ll be observing during my visit. Steve briefs her on the schedule for the shoot—she’s to be in makeup by 8:30 a.m., and he hopes to head out by 11. “So we’re going to go right into the city center?” she asks him with a hint of disbelief. He nods in the affirmative with a broad smile. Above, Holmes hobnobs with Barcelona's finest. Time to Rumble Morning dawns, and the flat is a hive of activity. Amber is in the makeup chair as scheduled—and applying the makeup is Steve’s wife, Sylvia, who also takes still photos for him and tends to any number of other miscellaneous duties. The day’s sub, Liz Rainbow, has arrived, and amidst the flurry of paperwork signing, pretty girl picture snapping and wardrobe selecting, in strolls Max Cortes, back from the scene three days earlier with the girl who took the walk down the street. He has an undeniable charisma about him; stocky, with a bald head and formidable beard, his eyes twinkle and he beams a wild, almost Joker-like permagrin. Steve introduces him to me as “Max ‘Tomato’ Cortes … we call him ‘Tomato’ because he took a tomato and squeezed it all over a girl.”  Though he mostly works behind the scenes these days, Steve explains that “[Max’s] boss gives him permission to shoot for me, because he likes it and it’s something very special. For what we do, he’s the best.” Interjects Max, “Even if he didn’t give me permission, I would do it.” Before we can actually get rolling, Steve must complete one required staple of all Kink scenes: the pre-interview with Rainbow. Sitting her before the large doorframe opening to the flat’s balcony, he goes over her safeword with her (“uh uh uh”) and gabs about what she might like to have done to her during the scene. “Today I want to use the cane,” he tells her. “Not many girls can handle it, but I know you can. Is there anything you don’t like?” “I like everything,” she exclaims. “Today we’re going to one of the most popular places in the world, Maremagnum,” Steve informs the doe-eyed brunette, who’s been outfitted in a see-through blue dress of sorts with an embroidered image on the left breast of a tri-colored popsicle. “There will be tourists, police … we’ll have fun.” After gathering an array of cuffs, gags, floggers and other pertinent implements, Steve declares, “Let’s get ready to rumble,” and it’s out to the vans and on to Maremagnum—basically a sprawling shopping area at the city harbor whose name translates to “The Big Sea.” Indeed, the place is bustling with people. The first location Steve scouts out to possibly set this initial segment is a drawbridge going over the dock waterway. A couple of police officers are standing patrol as hordes of visitors cross before them on the bridge. Steve approaches them. After conferring with them for several minutes, he beckons everyone to follow him to the other side of the bridge, explaining as we walk that they can’t shoot on it because they need a special permit from the port authority to do so. Instead, he decides to shoot on the stone esplanade running alongside the waterway. Placing a leash on Rainbow and going over exactly what he wants with his cameramen, he prepares everyone for the moment of truth with the final precaution: “You know the drill—avoid children, avoid strollers.” And with that, it’s go time. As the cameras roll, he bounds Rainbow’s wrists with leather cuffs and hands the leash to Amber. Brandishing a bamboo flogger himself, he and Amber flank Rainbow and all three begin strolling casually down the walkway. It doesn’t take long for onlookers to become intensely captivated—especially when Steve halts the procession and places a wide circular gag on Rainbow, and a few moments later makes her get on her hands and knees and crawl several feet. A few guys ride by on bicycles and one of them swings his head around and keeps it there for a dangerously long time. “Let’s see what kind of underwear she’s wearing,” Steve announces and pulls up Rainbow’s dress. A gaggle of girls standing off to the right are scrambling to snap pictures with their phones. “Look, the ladies want to take a picture!” Steve shouts in their general direction. As he’s turning Rainbow’s exposed bottom toward them so they can get a shot, his production manager quietly whispers into the radioed headset several crew members are wearing: “Policia.” Steve continues his carnival barking: “I think all these people came for a tourist attraction, and now they get a very special tourist attraction!” One old man sitting on a bench looks up from the book he’s reading and watches blank-faced as the three parade past him. Nearing the end of the walkway, the cameras cut and Rainbow immediately covers herself up with a black shawl. Between us and the parking garage where the vans await stand the policia Steve’s p.m. spotted. Steve chats with them for a few moments and then we’re on our way. He later explains to me that the police were concerned not with what he was shooting but the fact that the permit he had was only good for the adjacent street and not the sidewalk he’d used. “I knew that, but I shot it anyway because I liked the way it looked,” he chuckles. “So I played stupid.” His p.m. also laughs that the officers who questioned him had been taking pictures of the spectacle with their own cameras moments beforehand. “See, everybody likes it,” Steve marvels. “They want to know what’s going on, ‘Look! Look!’ I never had anyone complain. My only problem is very liberal parents who point it out to their kids—I don’t care if they want to look, but I can’t have them in the shot. “The worst-case scenario is having our footage confiscated,” he adds. “It’s only happened once in nine years.” Top, the pre-scene interview. Below, Amber Deen, Steve Holmes and Liz Rainbow in action.   Ice Cream and Other Stickiness The second location of the day is a wide public square with dining tables set up all around the perimeter. As Steve confers with the crew and the cameras come out, a palpable stir ripples through the lunchtime crowd, all cocking their heads inquisitively toward the loosely gathered team, as though they can sense something unusual is about to unfold. Wasting no time, Steve brings Amber and Rainbow a little ways down an alley leading into the square, where he shackles Rainbow’s hands to the leather bondage belt around her waist, and once again leashes and gags her. Calling action, he leads the two girls out of the alley and along the side of the square, where many of the lunchers are now avidly Zaprudering the goings-on with their phones. Steve spots an ice cream shop facing out toward the square just ahead, and brings the girls over to it. Pointing to the popsicle on Rainbow’s dress, he asks the attendant behind the counter, “Can we please have a red, a yellow and a green, like on her shirt?” Looking Rainbow over, the attendant skeptically asks Steve, “How is she going to eat it?” With a bemused guffaw, Steve responds, “How is she going to eat it? Who says she’s going to eat it?” Shrugging, the ice cream man assembles a red, yellow and green cone like Steve requested and hands it to him. Without missing a beat, Steve flips the cone over and plops it onto the top of Rainbow’s head, then continues walking. Turning the corner of the square, he hikes her dress up once more and makes her walk backwards, the ice cream now beginning to run down her face. On the opposite corner ahead, crew members have pulled both of the vans around. Following a few more steps in that direction, Steve calls, “Cut!” and as though this has suddenly turned into a scene out of a heist movie, everybody hastily piles into the running vans and they peel off like getaway vehicles. Steve delights behind the wheel at what just transpired. “If people watch this scene, they probably won’t believe the ice cream guy wasn’t part of our team,” he gloats. It’s then that he shares maybe the most pertinent point of this entire excursion about how he’s able to get away with all of PD’s mad shenanigans: “The key to success is the attitude,” he professes. “Most people try to be sneaky, use little cameras, but we come with a big crew and booms and we smile and show people it’s OK, what we are doing. We are artists, and this is within the range of our right to freedom of creative expression.” “And also we have permits,” his wife Sylvia cracks. We arrive at what’s slated as the third and final location for the day, a bistro called Chingon that touts a menu of “authentic California cuisine from L.A.” (some of the items on said menu include “Terror Compton” and “Skate Venice” burgers, a “Pink’s Hot Dog” and an “LA Nasty Donut”). After stowing the production equipment in a back room, Steve proclaims, “OK, now we have a lunch break, and then we make some fucky-fucky.” During lunch, as he surveys the restaurant’s confined layout, Steve grows dubious about its conduciveness to the logistics of what lies ahead. He tells his p.m., “It’s super cool, but it’s going to be very difficult to shoot in this space, with the cameras and the people and moving around and everything.” The restaurant’s owner comes over and consults with Steve, informing him there’s another location downtown he can use that’s much bigger. Steve decides to relocate. A number of extras have already come to this location, and now he must send them in taxis to the new one, while his crew reloads all the equipment into the vans. Steve tells me this sort of adaptability to circumstances is part of his game plan for every shoot. “Some directors have a vision of what they want, and if something goes wrong, they cancel the whole thing,” he says. “If I thought like this, I would never be able to shoot an update for Public Disgrace. We always have to be able to improvise.” At the new location, which is in fact decidedly larger, once the lights are in place and the cameras are ready to roll, Steve addresses the dozen or so extras who’ve come to partake in the proceedings (and the free drinks being provided). “Thank you everyone for coming,” he welcomes them. “Now we are here in this bar and you are our public. Even though I’m going to explain what’s going to happen, I want you to react a little surprised, because imagine you’re in a bar or restaurant and all of a sudden a girl is getting fucked in the ass.” This gets a big laugh. “You can interact, act normal,” he continues. “You can touch the model—she’s a true slut and she loves it—but we have some limits. Please, no fluid exchange; you can spit on her tits, but not in her mouth. You can spread her ass, but don’t use the cane, because some people have more experience with BDSM than others. We want to be public, but we want to respect the protection of minors, so some of you will stand in front of the windows. I will make sure our two guys will look to make sure no little children come by and poke their noses in to see something they shouldn’t.” He goes on to specify that while it’s OK to touch the sub (Rainbow), it is forbidden to touch the Dom (Amber) … and absolutely no penetration allowed. With no further ado, the action gets underway. Max Cortes’ time to shine has arrived—he assumes the role of the bartender, gleefully pouring beers as Steve strolls in the front door with Amber and the re-shackled-up Rainbow at his side. “Hola!” he greets Max. “I hope we don’t disturb you, but we have a toy for you here, a little Barcelona toy.” He gestures toward Rainbow and adds, “The problem is we have no money, but she can pay you in a different way if you come around here.” Feigning hesitation, Max comes out from behind the bar, and the entire room suddenly erupts in a chant of “Pay! Pay! Pay! Pay! Pay!” Within seconds his schwantz is out and Rainbow is sucking it. “Is this better, or you like Euros?” Steve quips before pulling his own rod out and joining the debasement. Rainbow moves to eating Amber’s ass for a few moments, until Steve comments, “She really likes eating young girl ass; let’s see if she likes eating old man ass.” Turning around and pulling his pants down, he gets confirmation straightaway that she does. Next he calls for a challenge to see if Rainbow can make Amber cum in two minutes. She goes down on her and tries her best, but fails, thus earning 10 whacks with the cane. “Now you can go around and show everybody your marks,” Steve instructs her. Following that, he lays her across a pair of barstools and he and Max begin to double-team her. They don’t have an abundant amount of room to maneuver, however, and soon Steve bellows for everyone to follow him to the back room, which is much more spacious. The crowd cheers as he leads the way. Once the crew has re-situated all their equipment and shooting resumes, the irreverent hedonism ramps up further still, very nearly turning into a free-for-all. During a cut, Steve announces that time is running short: “We have to finish in 30 minutes, because then they’ll have customers and start to serve different sausages.” They use the time wisely, keeping Rainbow front and center and very busy until both men unload their gooey spunk bombs upon her. Scene’s end thusly marked, the crew jumps into action to pack up and move out. Back at the flat, there’s one more piece of business to attend to: the requisite after-interview with Rainbow. She sits for it completely naked, save for the lavalier mic that gets taped directly to her chest. Thanking her and telling her how much fun she was, Steve puts forth, “It almost became an orgy today. When did you discover that you like to be the center of attention? In the U.S. we call it ‘attention whore.’” “Probably 13,” she tells him. “OK, so a young whore,” he responds. “So Public Disgrace is perfect for you. Was it exciting when the police stopped us?” “It was very exciting,” she enthuses, “because we were doing something we should not do.” “In the bar, I caned you, and that was painful. How painful was it?” “It was painful, but I can take more.” “Liz Rainbow, I hate to see you cover up your body, but let’s put on clothes and go have dinner.” And to dinner we all go. The scene described above is live on PublicDisgrace.com. Check back on AVN.com on Monday for the second part of this Barcelona adventure. Below, Amber Deen and Liz Rainbow perform for the crowd.      

 
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