A remarkable and lurid tale of prosthetics, photographic special effects, daredevil publishing and political scandal.
“When I was doing this, I used to say to myself that after my death, if I’m ever known for a single thing, it’ll be Long Dong Silver. That might still be true.”
Sex Freaks – or, as the video sleeve has it, Sex Freaks Special – is a pioneering British sex film, made in or around 1980 – one of the first produced for the newly developing home video market when there was something of a gold rush for adult movies of varying explicitness that could bypass the restrictions of the BBFC. It’s a film that brought one of the legends of porn to the screen for the first time and was widely advertised in the adult press – from Paul Raymond‘s publications to David Sullivan’s magazines like Whitehouse and Playbirds, where photos of the ‘unusual’ stars became a major selling point. At one point, it seemed to be a film that everyone knew about. But now, it is so obscure that you can barely find any record of its existence – IMDb doesn’t list it and there are no reviews that I can find. If it wasn’t for the fact that a few poor quality versions still exist on both free and paid adult video sites, there might be no record whatsoever of its existence.
Yet Sex Freaks was a pioneering production, mixing prosthetics and special effects make-up in a half-hour pseudo-documentary that allegedly followed photographer Jay Myrdal as he shot assorted human oddities in erotic poses. The film predated the 1990s American porn films – mostly made by Paul Norman – that used prosthetic enhancement; movies like Edward Penishands, Cyrano and conjoined twins drama Joined. The film might be seen as an early example of body positivity (if you overlook the fact that it is all fake) – we are presented with hairy women, hermaphrodites and the like as sexually alluring figures, which might be exploitation, but is arguably a step up from showing such people as repulsive and pitiful. I won’t pretend that Sex Freaks is a progressive study in tolerance – it is, after all, literally a freak show – but it presents its fictional characters without judgement and with more sympathy than you might expect.
The Sex Freaks film was the end result of a creative experiment between the photographer Myrdal and Roger Cook – then the editor of Club International but previously a pop star, editor of Monster Mag and writer of Doctor Who comic strips amongst other adventures in a remarkable career. Myrdal was an ex-pat American who had been living in London since 1965, working as a photographer in the advertising industry before, as he told me, “I discovered naked ladies, so I started working for Men Only and Club International with a friend of mine under the pseudonym of J.P. Smut – and I also shot under my own name at times as well. I was interested in doing more things than just the girls, and all my shoots had a tendency to have a little bit of a quirk to them one way or another.”
Myrdal was fascinated by the idea of creating an alternative reality in his work. “I was an adventurer really – I really wanted to shoot things that didn’t exist, that was what I used to say to myself all the time. It was extremely hard work and it usually didn’t work, but I persevered.” This began as unusual set designs and manipulated imagery through photographic masks, but soon evolved into something much more outrageous as Roger Cook set out to make Club International stand out from the glut of top-shelf magazines that were being published in the 1970s. Censorship limits were being challenged all around in the late 1970s – Sullivan’s magazines were edging as close to hardcore as they could go without quite going all the way, and other magazines were experimenting with shoots that pushed the envelope in creative and adventurous ways.
As Myrdal explains: “Tony Power, who was editing Men Only at the time, was a really interesting, groovy guy and he wanted all the basic stuff that we did with the girls with their legs spread open, but he also liked the comic relief of some of the stuff that my friend Pete and I were doing. But Roger Cook in Club International was even more avant-garde.”
Club International had already experimented with arty erotica via Hipgnosis, and Cook wanted to ensure that his magazine had a reputation for outrageousness and originality.
Jay Myrdal: “Roger came up with this idea to do a page on ‘sex freaks’ in Club International around 1978. We did a spread – it was just a joke really – where I got a friend of mine’s mother to go topless and then I used masks to double expose her tits so that she had an extra tit in the middle, and then I did the same with myself, shooting a man who had three legs and two cocks. It was all really a joke but it went down really well. Roger sold a lot of magazines and started giving me interesting, challenging things to photograph. Once the Sex Freaks started going, he could see the potential of it. He would create the names – ‘we’ll do Moby Dick’, he would say and then I’d have to go out and research it. I’d have to find someone with a good cock in the first place in order to have room to use it. We did some awful ones as well – the Bionic Bush was awful, I hated that one. We had twins joined together – I don’t think they were even identical twins so they didn’t look all that much alike, but we joined them at the hip with a prosthetic. There was Fiona Flaps, which was a woman with an enormous labia, almost like my two hands cupped – that was done with prosthetics. One of the earliest ones was Long Dong Silver.”
The story of Long Dong Silver – one of porn’s most enduring legends – began as a single photoshoot and another experiment in special effects photography.
“As you can imagine, that was a very, very complicated shoot. We did a rubber dildo for the long shots but the close-up picture was actual photographs that had the centre of his cock double-exposed in sections – we shot a picture of the middle, then another picture of the middle, then another and put the knob on the end. We spent all day doing it on a Hasselblad, ending up with thirty-six exposures – thirty-four of which were rubbish and one or two of which worked. That was the proof of the pudding because it was close-up detail.”
Realising that the technique worked but would need more physicality to be fully convincing, Myrdal called on an unexpected collaborator – Christopher Tucker, the special make-up effects artist who would shortly become famous as the creator of The Elephant Man in David Lynch‘s film. Myrdal had already worked with him on an earlier Sex Freaks shoot: “We got him to make us a cast of his stomach skin, then cut a little hole in it and did a picture of a guy with his cock coming out of his belly.”
For Long Dong Silver, Tucker would be in charge of creating the penis. It’s an unusual job for a man who was already working on major movies and would go on to films like Monty Python’s Meaning of Life (creating the Mr Creosote character) and The Company of Wolves – but British film technicians have generally been a lot more open-minded about the work they do than you might expect – a job is a job, after all. “He was rather amused at the idea of having to make a willy for the shoot,” says Myrdal. “He did a very good job of it, came into the studio and made it all up… and charged us money because he was good at charging money. I very much liked him, he was a very interesting man, and he was obviously proud of it. He kept his process secret for many, many years.”
The performer who fulfilled the role of Long Dong Silver was – according to some sources, but not confirmed by Myrdal, who remembers him as ‘Eddie’ – a car worker called Daniel Arthur Mead. As Myrdal remembers, “The great thing about him was that he was very believable. He was a great character. He was a simple enough guy – not dumb, he was smart enough – but he took on the persona. He managed to look embarrassed in the right kind of way and was just so believable. Almost to the extent that he believed he was that character.”
The original Long Dong Silver shoot caused quite a stir, even by the outrageous standards of the Sex Freaks series – as with the equally prosthetically enhanced Tina Small and other unfeasibly large breasted models a few years later, the ludicrousness of the character was outweighed by a curious, almost desperate desire for it to be real – the suspension of disbelief was widespread among people who saw the photos, and Myrdal made an effort to at least maintain the sense that these people might actually exist. This was matched by the sheer amount of work – much of it trial and error experimentation – that went into these shoots.
“In the first shoot, we had him undressing and he had a garter around his leg, holding the thing in. And we managed to tie an overhand knot in his willy. Did you see one where Long Dong had these snap-together cock rings? It was one of the last ones we did before we could finally get Roger to pay enough money to Christopher Tucker to make another prosthetic – they’re only designed to be used once, so by the time we got to the third or fourth shoot it was absolute rubbish. Thank God I used a lot of soft focus filters.
“Christopher got bored – once he’d done it once, he didn’t want to do it again; or else he wanted to charge an enormous amount. But he said if I made the moulds, he would do the trickery with his special foam to make the prosthetics for us. So I set off doing it – this was probably for the Texas Long Horn – and you had to have a two-piece mould; you’d have the outside and then a thing going on the inside as well to create a sheath with a hole in the middle. I spent a lot of time on it and gave it to him, and he said ‘that’s no good, it doesn’t lock together properly’ – well, he hadn’t told me this. But he told me a bit more about what I had to do – he was feeding this information to me, he was being a bit cheeky really – but I stuck to it and did it again, and this time it worked. So we did a few of these things – we did a hermaphrodite, again done with multi-exposures but I also had a stick-on willy. A girlfriend of mine and a bloke did a three-legged couple – the bloke had three legs and two cocks and the girl had three legs and two pussies. And I had to do all this with masks – two people, several different shoots – but for what it was worth, it was great fun and actually worked really well.”
The popularity – and the cost – of the Sex Freaks shoots made a move to the fairly new world of home video inevitable.
“The first shoot for Club International was not filmed – that was the close-up of the cock with his legs apart, and we had a model posing with him. It was all jokey stuff really. It was a four or five page article, and that stimulated a lot of interest, so we did some more shoots with Long Dong and we created some other creatures like The Texas Long Horn and Moby Dick.
“The films came out of a way of trying to make extra money. Roger wanted a film. He was paying me very well considering it was tit ‘n’ bum, but he wasn’t paying me anything like what it should really have been worth, so I had to layer these things up in order to make enough money to make it worthwhile. It was a way of doing the video and stills shoot at the same time. I had an interest in a film company at the time called Mobius Films and we made little documentaries and so forth, so I knew a lot of people in the film business and utilised those contacts.
“Roger wanted it for Electric Blue. That’s what it was done for. Adam Cole (Electric Blue co-founder) was a photographer as well for Men Only. These were the early days of video. My partner Keith, who I was making films for, got onto the idea too and we made a couple of porn movies at the time, but something happened along the way and they never quite got finished. I did a few silly softcore videos for Russell Gay as well – he was Knave magazine, but he didn’t pay very much and they weren’t very good. I seem to remember one had a girl breaking down somewhere and someone came along to rescue her – you saw a bunch of tits, basically, and that was about it.
We might’ve done two or three sessions that ended up as videos, including the Boston Bat Wanger – that was what she was called. That was the hermaphrodite. I didn’t really have anything to do with it once I’d turned it over.”
As much as the other characters seen in Sex Freaks were extraordinary creations, the film’s claim to enduring notoriety – the one scene that would appear again and again – is the inclusion of an encounter between Long Dong Silver and ‘Marlene Monroe’ – in real life, glamour model Vicky Scott who would go on to some passing fame in the late Seventies and early Eighties as a supporting player in softcore movies and Marilyn Monroe lookalike.
Sex Freaks has no credits and so for many, its origins remained shrouded in mystery. The thirty-minute tape was released on the Electric Blue label in 1982 and this has led some to mistakenly credit it to Adam Cole; he is certainly named as the director of Beauty and the Beast, which is an expanded version of the film for the US market that adds some of the other shoots – including Long Dong Silver’s encounter with porn legend Seka – that didn’t make the original cut, alongside new scenes starring transgender performer Sulka to push it up to an hour running time.
By the time the tape was released, the Sex Freaks gimmick was essentially over. Long Dong himself had become a little dazzled by fame. As Myrdal explains, “When we did the Seka thing, someone told him ‘you’re not being paid enough for this’ and he said ‘I’m not doing this unless you pay me more’. Whatever it was, they paid it – and I’m sure they made money on it – but they never booked him again. It was a bit sad really because he kept ringing me up saying ‘any work?’ and I would always have to say no.”
For Myrdal too, the novelty of the work was starting to wear thin.
“This was about the time I got bored with tit ‘n’ bum. I struggled for a while. I did a bit of rock ‘n’ roll photography – I shot a cover for Kate Bush (The Kick Inside), and I shot one for Toyah (Anthem) and a few other bands – not many, I shot a lot more publicity pictures, as I was working a lot for EMI at the time. I did computer magazine covers as well, which was a low point, I must say, but I was really short of money at the time. I eventually got into advertising, and because of my experience doing special effects, that eventually became my speciality.”
Myrdal would eventually move onto the more respectable world of advertising, where his innovative approach and skill at creating the impossible physically in a pre-Photoshop world ensured that he would be much in demand. His advertising portfolio is extraordinary – check it out on his website. Sex Freaks must’ve seemed a long-lost memory until circumstances that no one could’ve predicted brought Long Dong Silver crashing into the mainstream public consciousness.
In 1991, law professor Anita Hill accused Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, and the whole thing played out across the living rooms of America – and the world – in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that saw Hill giving testimony that Thomas “spoke about acts that he had seen in pornographic films involving such matters as women having sex with animals and films showing group sex or rape scenes… On several occasions, Thomas told me graphically of his own sexual prowess… and made embarrassing references to a porn star by the name of Long Dong Silver”.
Thomas would eventually be confirmed to the Supreme Court, but the hearings and the evocative, almost too-perfect a porn star name ‘Long Dong Silver’ sent journalists in search of this mysterious character, some to see if the dates added up – Thomas’ supporters latched on to the fact that Beauty and the Beast did not come out until 1985, sometime after the harassment was said to have taken place, as evidence that Hill was lying – but of course, Sex Freaks and the photoshoots had been around for a good three to six years earlier, with the images widely reprinted around the world, and so it was entirely possible that he would’ve seen the photos at least. The scandal saw Mydal breaking his silence on the TV series Baadasss TV with Ice T (the show was very much a blaxploitation version of Eurotrash from the same production team) and literally blowing the dust off what was left of the prosthetic penis.
The new notoriety didn’t bring new life to the film, however. The 1982 VHS copies had become somewhat scarce and copies that emerged were rarely in good condition; the film itself had been shot on the video equipment of the late 1970s and so probably looked rather fuzzy even before being worn out on domestic VHS tapes and copied down several generations. The film now sits in a curious netherworld – too explicit to sell as softcore, too tame for the hardcore market. There’s probably a cult audience waiting for this, but as with many other British sex videos of the era, finding the master tapes and clearing the rights might be impossible. The original film is available on Hot Movies, though the legality of this version – retitled Long Dong Silver and Other Sex Freaks, and the only release from Sex Freaks Pictures complete with an “Images on box cover do not appear in this movie” warning – is open to question. There’s also a German-dubbed version on X-Hamster. Both seem to have been lifted from VHS copies.
We contacted Roger Cook to ask about his involvement in this, and he responded:
“To save you listening to about half an hour of me telling you what a fucking genius I am, what I will say is: think of me as the Phineas T. Barnum of the glossy top shelf.”
Attempts to contact Christopher Tucker and Long Dong Silver proved unsuccessful.
Now happily retired, Jay Myrdal is sanguine about his most infamous creation. “When I was doing this, I used to say to myself that after my death, if I’m ever known for a single thing, it’ll be Long Dong Silver. That might still be true. I don’t mind – it’s good to be known for something. I was very proud of it – I was proud of being able to do something that actually worked as a hoax. My tongue was fully jammed in my cheek at the time and I didn’t spill the beans for quite a long time.”
Help support The Reprobate: