Slick move

Sex god Michael Brandon extends his porn empire

adult

NAUGHTY SANTA | Michael Brandon returns to Dallas for the third time this year to launch his new lube line at Tapelenders.

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Michael Brandon has been a big name in sex for decades. One of gay porn’s iconic stars, his DVDs, website and live performances have kept him in the public eye since the early 1990s — and his legendary prowess (and size) have kept young hearts fluttering for this now-46-year-old performer.

But lately, Brandon jokes, he’s feeling more like a vacuum cleaner salesman than a sex object. That’s because wherever he goes, Brandon always has his sample bag handy. It’s not Willie Loman, but big man’s Willie.

Michael Brandon has gone from porn star to lube seller.

Don’t feel too bad for him. It’s actually a good gig.

The gay-owned company Product 54 produces a wide variety of silicone-based consumer products, from a cuticle treatment to one that helps divers put on and take off their SCUBA suits. The latter is also popular in the fetish community, “helping men and women put on their rubber gear,” Brandon says. “But my expertise is lube.”

Of course it is. And the signature product of the company is its 9×6 Lube — a name that, while it sounds like it might have been named after Brandon specifically, was actually already in place before he became associated with it.

After 9×6 came into being, Brandon was approached about an endorsement deal for the start-up company. He rejected the idea.

“I was with ID Millennium and told them, I’m really not looking for anything new [to endorse]. But someone slipped a bottle in my pocket. I tried it and I liked it. And I loved the stain-free aspect — very few silicone based lubes that offer that.”

That’s when he agreed to help market the lube — mentioning it in his tweets, giving away the product at his shows, etc. But Brandon saw great potential in the product and took a bold move.

“I saw some opportunities there, so I came home from a trip and told the president I wanted to invest and benefit from what I saw as a company about to explode,” he says.

“That means I am both a vested partner and the face of the brand.”

That has its downsides, as he knows from years as a celebrity spokesperson.

“When you become the brand, any and all questions start coming to you — whether it be a shipping problem or uses or whatever,” he says. “Of course, when they have any positive feedback, I receive that, too. Usually you have to say [to fans], ‘I’m just endorsing it — you need to direct your questions to the inner office of the company.’ I can’t do that anymore. I’m the vice president… I have everything to do with the inner office!”

This isn’t the first time Brandon has made a foray into the business world. In addition to running his own career — including the brand that is his reputation and his marketable appeal — Brandon was a partner in the Raging Stallion adult video company, which produced his Monster Bang line of DVDs (named for his sizeable member).

“It’s a very similar situation: Everywhere Michael Brandon goes, so does my product. It’s a win-win,” he says.

Of course, it helps that Brandon makes for a great salesman in the gay market.

“When I walk into a store, there’s a 50-50 chance they’ll recognize me — that’s my foot in the door. Then I tell them, ‘I want to offer them a sample of my 9×6 — that’s my second foot in the door.” He laughs. “Then I come do launch parties in sexy get-ups. In West Hollywood, I dressed down in a construction belt.”

Brandon will host his launch party Saturday at Tapelenders, the first retail outlet in the Dallas market to carry 9×6, with a holiday themed costume: Naughty Santa, a sexified bit of fur and red that Brandon tried out last week at an event and turned out the be a huge hit.

He’s happy to be back in Dallas for the third time since the summer. Before this year, Brandon admits, he had written off Texas as a forum for his talents; he could never get a club to book his live show and thought he had priced himself out of the market. But he’s already thinking of Big D as a second home — he loves visiting.

So what accounts for his sudden popularity here?

“Dallas needs love!” he exclaims.

And love usually comes with a little lube.

Michael Brandon will be signing autographs and running a stocking-stuffer special (buy an 8 oz. bottle, received six 1 oz. bottles as gifts), but a “naughty and nice” gift bag with $75 purchase.   

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Crafty fellow: ‘Top Chef’ co-host hits Dallas

Craft chef and reality star Tom Colicchio makes a rare Dallas visit — and toys with his bear fans

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

‘Top Chef’ judge Tom Colicchio
BEAR BAIT | Just the presence of ‘Top Chef’ judge Tom Colicchio in town sent local reservations at Craft soaring, but he says Dallas’ kitchen is the best at staying true to his vision of simple but exceptional food. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Lots of great chefs get their first culinary experience in inauspicious settings. Stephan Pyles trained at his family’s West Texas truck stop. Rick Bayless learned in an Oklahoma barbecue joint.

For Tom Colicchio, it a snack bar in Elizabeth, N.J.

“My parents belonged to a swim club,” he says from the cushiony bar in the lobby of the W Victory Hotel Downtown. “I got to go to work in shorts, no shoes, no shirt. It was the best job I ever had.” He eventually moved up to Burger King.

And then finally, he became Tom Colicchio. Which makes him possibly America’s most famous chef.

He knows why, of course: Television. Colicchio is the co-host and senior judge on Top Chef, the hit Bravo reality competition series that puts lesser-known cooks through the paces to discover the best young chef in the country. He’s also the creator of Top Chef Masters, which pits Colicchio’s friends and colleagues against each other for charity … and bragging rights.

“I was very hesitant to do TV. I said no three times before I said yes. But I think we are making quality television.”

Still, while TV has brought him (more) fame and (more) money, it’s not something he’d necessarily want on his gravestone.

“I spend maybe 20 days a season working on the show,” he says, slightly flustered. “And I don’t do the Top Chef tours. No one ever prints that.”
But neither can he ignore that the recognition associated with celebrity has brought him sincere if unusual attention. Short, shaved-headed and stockily built, Colicchio has been a sex object to gay men, especially in the bear community, almost since the show first aired. It’s a role the straight chef accepts with humor and grace.

“I was on Andy Cohen’s show on Bravo [Watch What Happens, which films in Los Angeles] and said I was mad at the bear community:  The gay Pride parade was going on, and no one had asked me to be on a float,” he says. The show was soon flooded with calls, including the editor of Bear’s Life magazine. The end result? Colicchio is already booked to ride on a bear float in next year’s L.A. Pride parade.

It was just over seven years ago that Colicchio sold Gramercy Tavern, his acclaimed New York bistro, and started a new concept — Craft, which uses as much local, sustainable and organic small-production food as possible in simple yet flavorful preparations. Its success — there are now eight in the chain — brought him his second wave of fame; TV just added to it.

Colicchio was in Dallas (coincidentally) on the third anniversary of the opening of Craft Dallas inside the W, cooking alongside his on-site exec chef, Jeff Harris. It’s a rare experience for him, but one he relishes.

“All my chefs know that 50 percent of their job is quality control — getting best ingredients,” he says. And the Dallas branch is as good as any in his fleet at staying true to the concept.

“The biggest challenge is getting the chefs to keep it simple — they always want to push it. And I’m always saying, ‘Pull it back! Pull it back!’ Jeff is good at that.”

It’s not always easy keeping things in check. Colicchio is dedicated to sourcing his food from smaller, family-owned farms, though he balks at insisting on the term “local.” “If you’re truly local, you wouldn’t have any lemons or tea,” he says. “How far do you take it?” But it’s his resistance to go for corporate farming is what keeps prices high at his restaurant.

“The food we use is expensive — I’m not charging to rip people off. That’s the real price of food,” he says, when it’s not subsidized.

Organic, farm fresh food is a passion for him. And that’s a long way from flipping burgers poolside.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 9, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens