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December 18, 2016

Adult Industry Remembers Mark Stone at Memorial Gathering ?

LOS ANGELES—The adult industry remembered Mark Stone Saturday as a larger-than-life personality who loved to entertain whether it was with his electric guitar, his legendary sense of humor or his video camera. In a touching memorial gathering at the Goathouse Loft in North Hollywood that brought out a diverse crowd full of adult entertainment luminaries, the man behind the music commanded the stage one final time. “I think one of the most important things that we want to remember about Mark is that he loved making people laugh and he loved entertaining everybody,” said Gary Miller, the executive producer of the AVN Awards Show who is Mark’s younger brother. Miller opened the program by inviting everyone to join him in taking a shot of whiskey—a tribute to the family’s half-Greek heritage—in memory of the person who passed. He then asked for a moment of silence for Stone, born Mark J. Miller, the 34-year industry veteran who died on December 1 from liver cancer at the age of 61. Born in Fayetteville N.C., and raised in Rochester, N.Y., Stone broke into the adult business as a salesman, co-founded the gonzo studio Moonlight Entertainment in the ’90s, produced and directed more than 100 films and along the way became one of the original creative forces behind the now world famous AVN Awards Show. “He was big and he liked big things and that’s the way he wanted everybody to think of it,” Miller said. Indeed, Stone’s voice was big, his production numbers were big and so were his guitar riffs as the energetic leader of the AVN Orchestra that became a signature part of the AVN Awards Show since its inception 33 years ago, playing the stars on and off the stage with originality and style. No matter what it was, when Stone was in the room, you knew it. “I’ve gotten a lot of gigs in my life and that show was probably the most difficult gig I’ve ever played,” said Jackie Ramos, who met Stone when he worked at Wicked Pictures and later played drums with him in the AVN Orchestra. “You had to memorize 60-some cues when people are walking up [to the stage]. Keep your eye on Mark, keep your eye on the teleprompter, on the monitor. And it was just difficult.” But in a good way. “There’s different ways of counting the songs in. Normally you do it 1, 2, 3, 4. You couldn’t do that at the AVN, you did it with two counts,” Ramos continued. “But Mark taught me this. He said, ‘look, you need to be marking time on your leg with the tempo of the song and when they get up to the podium when they say the last name of the last presenter you are counting us in with the tempo and we start right when the name ends.’ “And it was really tricky to learn this. It was a lot of work but it was really, really fun though because he was hilarious. So he comes in after a couple weeks of rehearsal, comes into my office at Wicked and he says, ‘man, I love playing with you. You’re a great drummer!’ I said thanks man. He said, ‘you know, I thought you were just a regular moron!’  “And that’s Mark’s sense of humor. From there I’d be going over to his house and we’d be sitting in his kitchen singing Beatles songs together and just talking about everything you could imagine. He was the greatest guy, had the biggest heart. And one thing about Mark was he always was about everything being fair—whether it was in work or in life or whatever. And it was just a really telling thing about his personality and who he was. Massively talented. Amazing guitar player. Amazing writer. All of those cues for the AVN show, he wrote all of those. And it went from country & western songs to orchestral pieces to hard rock stuff to everything you can imagine.” Lou Castro, a bass player in the AVN Orchestra, echoed Ramos’ sentiments. “It was an honor to play his music,” Castro told the crowd. “Jackie was right. It was a challenge of a completely different nature. Usually it’s like ‘1, 2, 3, 4’ and with him it was ‘1, 2’ and you’re off! And you had to remember everything. And what was cool is even though he gave us instructions he didn’t overdo it. He allowed us enough rope to hang ourselves. “And he would sit there and laugh while we were doing it.” Castro added, “A big hole has been opened up. And hopefully all of us together can fill it up with love and positivity and let us be the eternal optimists. His music and his memory will always live on. We all know that and if you ever have any doubts go back and look at some of the music he was writing. This guy was a major talent all on his own.”Another friend of Stone’s affectionately known Chunk, a fellow AVN band alumnus and drummer, joked that “Mark made me probably the most watched non-sex guy on adult films for a long time.” “I was probably one of the highest paid guys for at least a year,” Chunk said with tongue in cheek. “... It’s a shock to me what’s happened with Mark. I don’t really don’t know what to say. Love you Mark and every time I play I’ll be thinking of you.” There were plenty of Stone’s fellow band members and collaborators in attendance Saturday, swapping stories with lifelong friends and family. Stone’s childhood buddy McGruder recalled meeting him when he was 16—and in recent years he lived with him at his house in Chatsworth. “I used to roadie for him for his bands. I roadied for every band except for Gangbang because that was later and I was back on the East Coast for a while,” McGruder said. “But all I know is I got a big hole right here that’ll never get filled. He was my best friend for 46 years. If I needed advice or I felt like arguing with somebody he was the one that I would talk to because he was easy to argue with. He always had to win the argument but he was easy to argue with. I didn’t mind that because we always had great times. And I’m going to miss him so much. And I know that all of you that he’s touched in his life feel the same way. He was just a joy to be around. He was so high-energy. We used to call him Mr. Sunshine Out the Arse because he was always the guy that would be smiling and telling everybody ‘how you doing?’ He was a gregarious person.” McGruder continued, “On a different note, with his animals he’d go to the dog park every week with his little dogs that he rescued and all of the dogs would come to him. Everybody’s dogs loved Mark. “He had that effect on people too because everybody loved him because of the way he was. He was funny and smart and talented and he would be the first to tell you that. Because he was just the kind of guy he didn’t hide his light under a bushel he shed it all over everybody.” Ron Murray, who also knew Stone from Rochester, agreed, saying Stone’s ever-present enthusiasm “was just infectious.” “I’ve known the family since I was a teen,” Murray told the gathering. “And Mark, he is exactly the way he showed you. He didn’t have different personas for different people. He was true and he was honest and he was kind. He was a smart guy, too. He was fun to debate with. Whatever side of politics you were on he was in for a go.” Mark’s sister Julie, who flew out from Rochester in August and stayed with him every step of the way as he battled the disease, said her brother always was “the man to speak at all of our family functions.” “We could count on Mark to deliver a speech that would move us to tears and make us laugh hysterically at the same time,” Julie said in what became the day’s most emotional remembrance. “Not many people can do that. He was the music man of the family, the life of the party, serenading us with music all the time.Stone even played with Julie’s rock and blues band when he’d come back to visit. “He had a gift of lifting everyone higher,” Julie continued. “I felt like I was on top of the world playing with Mark for weeks after we played together in Rochester and I’m here to testify brother that my love for you runs deep!" Noting that Mark was "the family dog whisperer," she closed her remarks with a message from Stone’s canine friends, encouraging everyone in the room to help her belt out a huge howl. While he was best known for his musical prowess, Stone also became a versatile videographer and director who called the shots for 100-plus adult films during his 26-year career behind the camera. A go-to guy for Wicked Pictures, Stone directed more than 50 movies for the award-winning studio dating back to 1995. He helmed 12 volumes of Wicked’s Hook-ups series from 2002-06 and six editions of Reform School Girls from 2006-10. His most recent title that came out in April was the all-girl Bad Girls Boot Camp. Steve Orenstein, the owner of Wicked Pictures, said he remembers Stone just about from Day One. “I know Mark and Gary 30 years,” Orenstein said. “We were friends before I ever started Wicked. They owned their movie company and I was working for someone. And then they had their band which was the most important thing to them always. And I used to go to all their rehearsals, go to all their shows. I was carrying their equipment. I was their free roadie!  “Back in those days I knew every word of every song. It was a different time that I know them from. And I remember first year at Wicked we won Best Movie at AVN and I had gone to every band AVN rehearsal with them—in their garage. I’d show up for every rehearsal. I knew how everything was going to go in the show. And I remember winning and everyone knows there’s nothing I would hate more than speaking in public. It’s the worst thing ever.” So Orenstein stepped up to the stage with his entire cast and crew for Haunted Nights in January 1994, admitting that at first he didn’t even want to turn around and face the crowd. “And I know the routine of the band, I know what they’re going to do,” Orenstein continued. “So I finally get my shit together. And there was comfort in them being up there playing. I’d been part of this. I know what this is. And I look over at Mark—with my back to the crowd and I [nod my head], and he goes bonk! “And I turn around and started to give the speech. And it’s probably what made me comfortable up there because it’s Mark and Gary and he’s going to keep playing that until someone’s ready to speak.” As Orenstein surveyed the spacious Goathouse Loft, seeing lots of old-school porn vets catching up with each other, he said he realized “out of everyone that’s here the one who would want to be up there [in front] the most is Mark, talking.” “I’d say he’s always on. Always loud. Always passionate. Always funny,” Orenstein added. “Whatever it was, he was passionate about it—over the top. Whether it’s music. Whether’s it’s business. Whether it’s World War II, because I think he was a Hitler buff, really big. Just always, always passionate.” Wicked Pictures director Brad Armstrong told AVN Stone’s musical achievements are forever a part of AVN Awards lore. “I met Mark way, way back almost at the beginning,” Armstrong said. “A little after Steve, I guess, because I was with Dyanna Lauren back then and she was their female vocalist, so I was at all the fucking rehearsals as well. We were never close but we were always buddy-buddy and probably not until probably 12 or 15 years ago when [behind-the-scenes reels] were a big thing he was our BTS guy. “The thing that always hit me was that loud, gruff, grumbly voice that you always heard while we’d be shooting—and he’s three rooms away. That voice was always his calling card.” Armstrong recalled Stone provided the soundtrack for one his most memorable AVN moments. “It was a couple years ago. I think I had just won [Best Video Feature] for Underworld and I was on stage telling the story about how my mom had just passed away and that she was proud of her little pornographer son and he starts playing me off and I look at him like…don’t you fucking dare!” Armstrong said with a smile. “That was my latest fond memory of Mark, where he just starts playing me off and I’m like, I’m in the middle of something motherfucker, you just shush! It was always the voice, and the guitar.” Armstrong noted that his significant other, Wicked Girl jessica drake, was feature dancing in Dayton, Ohio, Saturday but sent along a special message to share at the gathering. “I’m sorry I can’t be there with everyone today,” drake began. “I met Mark when I was new at Wicked, many years ago. He was loud and he was funny. In fact, we often reminded him when he shot BTS for us what the B meant. It was supposed to be BEHIND the scenes, but we could always hear him. “In the years that passed, every time I was onstage at the AVN Awards—whether I was hosting, presenting or accepting an award, Mark was always behind me with his guitar, playing our entrances, our accolades, and our exits. We could always hear him. “He was woven into the tapestry of our industry, and being honest, today is an example of how we assume people will just always be around. And so we end up shocked and surprised when they leave us too soon, and often sorry we didn’t do more for them. “Mark made an impact on a lot of people in this room over many, many years—as a friend, as an employee, as a guy in a band, as a beloved family member. Look around and let’s try not to take each other for granted. And if we listen, we will always hear him.” Duke Mulholland said he bonded with Stone more than 15 years ago over their love for The Beatles—his favorite band—and their roots in upstate New York. Duke later roadied for the AVN Orchestra, worked as a production manager on dozens of Stone’s movies and even lived at his house for a couple years. “He invented the AVN Awards Show as you know it today,” Duke declared. “Mark invented gonzo film. Mark was probably the greatest director of all time. Mark was probably the greatest guitar player of all time. And he told me to tell you that.” Duke said his “fifteen minutes" came from co-starring in Stone’s infamous “Bareback Mountain” comedy segment that brought the house down at the 2006 AVN Awards Show. Stone wrote, produced and directed scores of comic bits for the show, shooting a who’s who of adult entertainment in various skits. “My greatest AVN moment was co-starring in ‘Bareback Mountain,’” porn super agent Mark Spiegler told AVN. “That was my favorite moment of AVN ever.” Speaking of jokesters, Evan Stone, who played in Mark’s last band, Gangbang, along with Barrett Blade and Dale DaBone, took the microphone and suggested, “I’m sure Mark would want this to be a roast rather than a wake so I want to start by saying something bad about him, but I really can’t find anything to say bad about him.” “The guy was always right,” Stone added half seriously. “You’d figure it out later but the guy was actually right. “Guy was just an amazing musician. We’re about to play the Key Club and we’re all in the back. We’re all fucked up on drugs and alcohol. There’s an insurrection in the band so we gotta go talk in the closet. So we all go in the closet. Dale and Barrett got together and said we’re not going to play The Doors song, no one likes The Doors song. Gotta change the set. … So they get done with both their rants and Mark says, ‘OK, we’re going to play the set just like we practiced and you guys are going to play the songs. … That’s what’s going to happen.’ And Dale and Barrett are like, ‘OK.’ And it was at that point I realized I didn’t run this band. It was all he. “Truly an amazing musician, so gifted. And truly a funny guy. Great sense of humor. And the fairness thing, the guy was totally fair about everything.” Gary Miller thanked Brett Bereny for kindly opening his studio for the memorial and John Terry for “making this happen.” “Today we’re mourning his passing and celebrating his life and I’d like to expound on something Duke said earlier,” Miller said to wrap up the program. “This year there was the passing of a lot of different people. You had John Glenn, the astronaut—one of the true pioneers. You had Arnold Palmer. Everybody knows who Arnold Palmer was or at least you've drank one of his soft drinks. And then there was Mohammed Ali, I think he passed away, too. He always said he was the greatest of all time. “So at this point in time I want to agree with Duke. My brother Mark was the greatest of all time.”

 
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