Nacho Vidal And The Curse Of The Toad’s Venom

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Spain’s biggest porn star faces psychedelic manslaughter charges – but this is just the latest chapter in a lively career.

It’s a hell of a way to end a career – if indeed it is the end – but Nacho Vidal’s arrest in connection with the death of a man in a toad venom shamanistic ritual is just the latest moment in a somewhat colourful career.

Nacho Vidal emerged as a player in the US porn scene in 1998, as adult filmmaking’s second Golden Age began its slow decline into a gonzo and rough sex dominated genre, before online smut drove a final stake into the heart of the industry’s ambition. As a protege of Rocco Siffredi, Vidal – as both performer and director – quickly made a name for himself as a good-looking and sexually vigorous star who shared Rocco’s penchant for humiliation and rough sex – stopping short of the degradation and misogyny of Max Hardcore’s work, but not exactly what you’d call couple’s porn (depending on the couple, of course). And like Rocco, he could also work his magic in more narratively-driven movies, even making mainstream film appearances. Vidal would star in some 1500 movies and may have directed even more, for his own production company and others. But it’s not all been plain sailing and cheerful fucking for the Spanish star. Vidal seems to be one of those performers for whom no level of success is good enough, and he has – allegedly – been involved in other schemes to get rich that sailed rather too close to illegality for comfort.

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Vidal had his first brush with the law in 2012, when he and his sister were arrested as part of a major fraud and corruption crackdown by Spanish police. The money-laundering Chinese crime ring was allegedly involved in extortion and prostitution, and Vidal was accused of helping with the former by issuing false invoices for his film productions. He was bailed to appear on a Spanish reality TV show, and although the media made much of his arrest, the case against him seemed to fizzle out.

In 2005, Vidal announced his retirement – like many a performer, he’d married and decided (or had decided for him) that fucking hot girls for a living was not compatible with his marital vows. But Vidal’s marriage to model Franceska Jaimes might be reasonably said not to have been a successful one – the couple separated after just six weeks. Unsurprisingly, Vidal was back shooting porn in no time.

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In 2019, Vidal was at the centre of a porn industry HIV scare, when he was tested positive. Production was shut down and a lot of people were understandably worried. But it turned out to be a false positive – Vidal was, in fact, suffering from Reiter’s Syndrome, a chronic form of arthritis. This was a relief to the wider porn industry, if not Vidal, who was left unable to work. The syndrome is often caused by other infections, and in Vidal’s case, it was repeated bouts of candidiasis and gonorrhoea, both occupational hazards for porn stars. The pain of the condition made it impossible for the 46-year-old performer to do his thing, and he found himself having to claim disability benefits.

Which, somehow or other, leads us to his latest unfortunate situation. I suppose that ‘psychedelic shaman’ is as good a career as any for retired porn stars, but – as it turns out – a risky one. Vidal has long been an advocate of toad venom – more accurately, the venom of the Colorado River Toad, which secretes a powerful toxin that, when dried and inhaled, contains the compound 5-MeO-DMT, which has been referred to as a ‘God Molecule’, due to its hallucinatory properties that convince users that they have met a higher power. Unfortunately, photographer Jose Luis Abad took a more direct route to meeting God during the ritual, and his death after smoking the venom is why Vidal and others are now facing manslaughter charges.

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The event in question took place last July, and the undisputed facts are these: Abad, Vidal and two others took part in a ritual at Vidal’s house, where toad venom was smoked. It didn’t sit well with Abad, and he died. More disputed elements of the story include whether or not Vidal was acting as a shaman, or if the toad-smoking was carried out in more prosaic fashion; whether or not Abad had used the venom before and knew what he was in for (not death, obviously); and whether or not Vidal was using a combination of new-age gobbledegook and alternative medical claims to – in the words of the police – lure the “easily influenced, vulnerable or who were seeking help for illnesses or addictions using alternative methods”. Indeed, it has been suggested that the venom  may have certain therapeutic properties, such as easing anxiety and depression, though the jury is still very much out on this. What’s more certain is that it causes powerful psychedelic trips, and perhaps these were more interesting to Vidal’s guests/customers.

Vidal’s complicity in the death seems to come down to how willing and informed Abad was when he took the venom. It does seem to be more an unfortunate accident than anything else, but we shall see. Meanwhile, Vidal seems unlikely to be making porn anytime soon, but you can still buy his ‘perfect replica’ penis-shaped candles online.

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