Playboy magazine called Pat Rocco the King of the Nudies but Rocco was much more than an erotic filmmaker. He was an activist, artist, classic Hollywood entertainer and hopeless romantic. In this colorful trip back in time, Rocco reflects on his incredible life as one of Hollywood’s original boundary pushing gay pioneers.
Rocco sold his all nude male films in the backs of local papers before getting his own festival at Los Angeles’ Park Theatre in 1968 – the first of its kind. The festival was an instant hit and Rocco continued to pump out more films as fast as he could, pushing new boundaries with each one. In A Very Special Friend Rocco dared to screen the first kiss between two men ever seen on a big theatre screen. Artistic, erotic, and highly romanticized, his films were controversial not for their explicitness but rather their bold political and artistic expression.
On many occasions Rocco also documented protest rallies and interviewed the activists participating. He campaigned with Harvey Milk and footage shot by Rocco was used in the Oscar-winning documentary, The Times of Harvey Milk. Activism and politics eventually became the center of Rocco’s life. Now at 78 Rocco remains passionate, articulate, and active. He is unquestionably an ideal documentary subject: enthusiastic, charismatic and compelling. He still has the air of a classic Hollywood showman, remains active in civic politics, an outspoken advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, and is recognized officially as an “Outstanding Older American.”
We will take a personal approach to Rocco’s story with actor, writer, filmmaker and TV host Charlie David serving as our interviewer and guide into Rocco’s past. Despite the decades between the two men, there are uncanny similarities in their lives and careers, and it’s a natural fit to have one generation of activist filmmakers pass on his wisdom to the next. Both men will provide voice over, but we will begin Rocco Dared with Charlie David on his way to meet Pat and his partner David at their home in Hawaii.
Rocco’s story is significant today because current battles for marriage equality in the USA and elsewhere have brought LGBT rights back to the daily headlines. Similarly debates over obscenity, public decency and privacy are affecting people almost daily on the Internet and their smart phones. It is important to all audiences, not just the LGBT community, that the lives and contributions of people like Pat Rocco are pulled from the margins and woven into the larger narrative of our collective human rights history.
We will blend the traditional documentary with contemporary cinema verité techniques, and stretch conventional concepts of imagination and authenticity. Rocco Dared ends with a few short re-creations of Rocco’s early days of filmmaking with Charlie David playing a seventies Pat Rocco. In Rocco style we will also see behind the scenes, blending 21st century HD magic realism, with psychedelic 16mm sixties art films, creating a modern, rebel, hipster vibe. David offers an excellent perspective for reflection and analysis, bringing his personal touch to the investigative process, as he eventually transforms into the young Rocco, a true inspiration, then and now.