One of Hollywood’s original boundary-pushing gay pioneers, filmmaker and activist Pat Rocco opens up to a new generation with one last passionate story — his own.
In the 1970’s Playboy magazine dubbed Pat Rocco the King of the Nudies, but he is much more than an erotic filmmaker. Rocco is an activist, artist, filmmaker, and entertainer. He’s the whole Hollywood package, with one more story to tell: his own.
Rocco arrived in Hollywood with his parents at the age of eleven. By seventeen he knew he was gay, had moved away from home, and was living out of the closet. It was 1951. Having sung in choirs as a youth, he managed to find gigs in radio, nightclubs, theatres, and church basements. With his true talent and undeniable charisma, he made his way to television variety shows, starring alongside legends like comedian Phyllis Diller.
After shooting nude stills for “athletic” publications, Rocco began filming and selling his own erotic, playful and romantic nude male films the same way, and in 1968 he was offered his own festival at Los Angeles’ Park Theatre – the first of its kind. It 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 due to how explicit they were but rather their bold political and artistic expression.
Rocco was an activist on the front lines of the sexual liberation movement, documenting many protests in the sixties and seventies, and campaigning with Harvey Milk. He was the first President of Christopher Street West (producers of LA Pride), and in 1974, the first to organize a Pride festival following the annual sexual liberation march. Love and romance were his political weapons, and just when things on screen began to heat up, Rocco fades to black, and stops making films…
Now 84, Pat Rocco still has the air of a classic Hollywood showman, and remains passionate and active in civic politics. He is officially recognized by the US Government as an “Outstanding Older American.” His film collection is held in the UCLA archives and is waiting to be brought back to life. Dynamic seventies inspired motion graphics will tie together his massive collection of films, newspaper articles, still photographs, and other memorabilia.
His incredible life story will also be told through candid interviews with contemporary filmmaker and actor, Charlie David, one generation of LGBT media activists educating and inspiring the next. ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell, just do it,’ advises Rocco. A mix of heartfelt and hijinks will ensue, in true Pat Rocco style, as Rocco meets his final muse. The interviews will take place in Rocco’s Hawaii home, a shrine to his past that he shares with David Ghee, his partner for over 40 years. Which begs the question, despite marriage equality and mainstream media attention, why do the boundaries that Rocco pushed, like displays of same sex affection, still remain social transgressions today?
It is of great importance that contributions from change-makers like Pat Rocco are woven into the larger narrative of our collective human rights history. Audiences will be amazed and inspired by the things that Rocco dared to do.
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