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Wonder Bread & Ecstasy: The Life and Death of Joey Stefano Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Alyson Books; 1st edition (November 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555833837
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555833831
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #302,609 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Video pornography has been a staple of gay male culture for decades, but there is little written about the people who perform or produce this entertainment. Charles Isherwood has written a modern tragedy about the life and death of porn star Joey Stefano. After a rapid climb to the top, Stefano died of an overdose at age 26. Isherwood is a good reporter who holds no illusions about the porn industry. Ecstasy and Wonder Bread is both a hard-hitting exposé of an industry that uses people up and then spits them out and a sympathetic portrait of a young man whose desire for attention and fame was equaled only by his inability to say no.

From Publishers Weekly

Though it was ruled accidental, the drug-related death of 26-year-old gay porn star Joey Stefano?ne Nicholas Iacona?garnered attention from the tabloid press and prompted a television talk-show host to ask whether the sex industry was to blame. Isherwood writes in defense of the industry, and as a partial response to the accusations traces Stefano's life through a stereotypically troubled upbringing in Pennsylvania that culminated in his sporadically successful careers in dancing, prostitution and Los Angeles's pornographic film industry. This last achievement was unheard of at the time, specifically because the young superstar was a "bottom"?defined by the author as "the passive performer in anal sex, the active one in oral"?and it was believed that gay audiences preferred "tops," or more "masculine" performers. Stefano's career peaked when he won the Best Actor AVN, the industry's equivalent to the Oscar, for his performance in More of a Man, but then his popularity faded. Coupled with this was his knowledge that he was HIV positive, and Stefano increasingly numbed himself with a variety of drugs including Ecstasy and Special K (ketamine). In his first book, Isherwood struggles to objectively report these events, providing a brief overview of the inner workings of the gay pornographic film business. This makes up somewhat for the lack of personal information on Stefano that would have enriched this account. Otherwise, much of the story is better suited to a feature-length article.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

This book is extremely well written.
Tom Gilbert
I can't claim to have seen every film he was in, but every film I've seen made me appreciate him more.
Giancarlo Croce
It was a poorly written book that made my head ache while trying to read it for several reasons.
Danyealle

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 27, 1997
Format: Paperback
I haven't yet finished this one (I'm about halfway through), but I'm already haunted. While I don't mind admitting publicly that I'm addicted to porn, I will certainly be looking at the movies differently from now on, especially those starring poor Nick, or Joey as we've come to know him. What has struck me the most about the book is that it strays from the tabloid style that you might expect, considering the subject is a younger gay porn star who died of a drug overdose. The book also tries to avoid placing the blame for Joey's death simply on the industry that made him famous. That would have been the easy way out and perhaps would have sold Joey short. The book does give us a brief glimpse into the way the movies are made (behind the scenes) and the stars themselves, again forcing us to examine our own mindsets when watching our favorite stars frolicking on the screen.
While this is hard terrain to traverse, since we know the inevitable conclusion, it's a fascinating ride. I recommend it to anyone who has popped a quarter into a peep show booth and been mesmerized by Joey Stefano. Maybe, you'll be able to see him and his peers as more than just a set of genitalia (as I am now beginning to do)
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 24, 1998
Format: Paperback
A gut-wretching biography of a beautiful man who could never get a handle on his life. It tells us a good bit about the exploitive gay-porn industry in the unhappily meteoric career of Joey: quick fame, over-exposure, and sinking star. The destructive catastropes of drugs, AIDS, self-destructiveness all come home in the life of one of the hottest bottoms in the porn trade. The final third of the bio moves with an inevitability that is good, but sometimes pretty obviously worked. You won't forget this book.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Giancarlo Croce on June 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
I give this book four stars, not because it's so well written (which it isn't), and not because it's so full of facts that I didn't know (which it isn't), but because it was a book that dealt with a person who trusted all the wrong people, made all the wrong choices, and in spite of it all, created an aura of success and absolute joy for his audiences.
Nick Iacona was probably one of the hardest working people in the industry, or maybe he was just the most over-used. I can't claim to have seen every film he was in, but every film I've seen made me appreciate him more. It seems unlikely that he could have been so productive, if he was as devastated by drugs and emotional problems as this book suggests.
Reading the words of people like Chi Chi "Larry" Larue, who were supposed to have been Nick's friends, made me even more aware of how treacherous business relationships can be. I don't believe much of what I read in general, and this book is full of obvious lies, but I guess that can be expected when the lies are told about someone who is no longer around to defend himself.
As I said, it's a story that needed to be told, but I don't think it will ever be told properly. Buy this book as a momento if you like, and take it's contents with a grain of salt. Nick Iacona is gone forever, and with him went the truth about Joey Stefano.
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33 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 22, 1997
Format: Paperback
Isherwood begins with the famous words of Dr. Samuel Johnson, "All excellence has a right to be recorded", and while this is solid enough justification for the biography, his execution of the task is far from excellent. This is not for lack of trying, it appears that I. has employed all of his talent and training as a journalist to their fullest degree. He has found those who knew Joey when he was still Nick from South Philly and has collected revealing statements about Stefano's own take on his life from rare interviews, usually from studio-backed skin mags and old issues of AVN. He fleshed these out with reminiscences from the auteurs who gave him his start (notably ChiChi LaRue, the corpulent granddiva of gay porn, and bisexual transsexual Karen Dior, who starred with Stefano in his first adult film), the stars whom Stefano worked with, old roommates and friends. These form the heart of I.'s writing, but his account lacks any sort of soul.

If there were a phrase which would best describe I.'s book it would be artificially compassionate. Rather than letting Joey's truly lamentable decline into depression and heavy substance abuse create genuine sympathy with the reader, I. never gets over the journalist's need to offer an interpretation, no matter how superficial or obvious. The title of the book comes from two staples of Stefano's existence, the peanut butter sandwiches made on fluffy white bread he ordered from the gay-owned grocery store near his apartment in W. Hollywood and the popular designer drug he became increasingly dependent upon towards the end of his short life. But instead of making us more sorry for the blue-collar kid who had a rough life, wound up with HIV dying in a vicious industry, it makes Stefano sound like the gay Elvis.
Read more ›
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Brett D. Cullum VINE VOICE on May 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
I loved this book, but I will admit to being a Joey fan. I found the book to be not the best written thing out there, but the story was great and so were the lessons that it taught. I think more than a cautionary tale about porn, it is a warning about not loving yourself enough to do the things that are right for you. Here is a portrait of a man who had great looks, and little else to help him make it through life. But yet there was so much potential there! You wonder what happens to ex-porn stars that don't burn out like Joey did. Where do they go? That would be a great book right there!
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