Logline: One of Hollywood’s original boundary pushing gay pioneers, erotic filmmaker and activist Pat Rocco opens up to a new generation with one last passionate story, his own.
Why this team? Why this project?
Activist. Filmmaker. Pioneer. Playboy magazine called Pat Rocco the King of the Nudies, but this man was much more than an erotic filmmaker. He paved the way for generations of LGBT activists and artists - including myself and the directors of the film, Bob Christie and Morris Chapdelaine. In our research it became hauntingly apparent how the life of Pat Rocco and my own are in a tango across the decades - performers who came out of the closet early in our careers, television hosts, travel aficionados, human rights activists and envelope pushers when it comes to reflecting the lives of LGBTQ people on film.
My previous documentary films examine sex, sexuality, gender, and activism through a queer lens. With titles like PolyLove, Sex Club 101, Drag Heals, Into and Serviced I don't shy away from exploring LGBTQ people's lives - in and out of the bedroom.
Pat Rocco arguably paved the way for writers and documentarians like me. He was filming the speeches and demonstrations of people like Harvey Milk and Reverend Troy Perry (who organized the world's first pride parade in Los Angeles - and thankfully someone I interviewed for this film, now in his 80s.) while also creating a new style of romanticism in film just as the Hays Code (which applied rigid moral scrutiny to films, banning everything from interracial dating to "lustful kissing.") was being phased out of Hollywood (1969) but prior to hardcore pornography becoming ubiquitous (mid-1970s).
This is the era we are examining, 1969 when it was still a psychological disorder to be gay, the year of Stonewall and the first Pride March in the USA. 1971 marking 'We Demand' in Canada - a march on Ottawa by gay men who had been routinely blackmailed and arrested during McCarthyism to demand 10 points of equality. Unfortunately, it would take decades and decades for those demands of equality to be won.
I'm often gobsmacked when watching a Pat Rocco film or interview from this period of 1969-1975 because the people and topics he is exploring feel like they could be from an interview I just did in the Village in Toronto or Vancouver or Montreal this year. Gender confirmation, polyamory, monogamy, racial inequity, barriers to employment opportunity, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, police brutality... It's haunting. Here we are over fifty years later and we're talking about all the same things. So much has changed for the better and we still have so far to go.
We took a small film crew to meet Pat Rocco at his home in Hawaii in 2017 and we spent a few days together watching his films and swapping stories. I'm 42 years old and Pat was in his early 80s. Between us is the generation that suffered so many deaths to AIDS and consequently a major void in story sharing, learning, and legacy in the queer community.
Pat assigned his life rights and body of film work to us to make this documentary. Most of the films are 16mm or 35mm and stored at the UCLA archives. We've slowly paid for them to be digitized and preserved both for the archives there as well as to donate to the ArQuives - Canada's LGBTQ archive in Toronto.
Pat Rocco passed away at the age of 84 in 2018. Over this past year during the pandemic, our small team made it a priority to interview his surviving contemporaries who are also in their 80s including his partner for over 40 years David Ghee, Reverend Troy Perry and film historian Whitney Strub.
Pat Rocco was a filmmaker, activist, provocateur, documentarian and friend. He started a LGBTQ homeless shelter, a back-to-work program for queer people who had difficulty finding employment and perhaps most importantly - was brave enough to go out with his camera and capture the events of the era - from police raids of gay clubs, to the first pride parades, to hunger strikes, to Harvey Milk's famous speech in 1978.
The mainstream media was not covering LGBTQ issues and so without Pat Rocco, we would have very little by way of moving images to understand the beginnings of this human rights movement and the rights and freedoms we enjoy today.
It's important for me both personally and for the LGBTQ community to preserve the legacy of early leaders like Pat Rocco. I invite you to watch Pat Rocco Dared, our tribute to one of our courageous elders.