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The Sociopathic Villian

 By Ashley West

 I track down the elusive director of the cult classic erotic film, The Erotic Adventures of a Male Chauvinist Pig...


Springtime in rural Pennsylvania, and by 10.00am I already feel I'm in a foreign country from my native New York: Long gone are the frozen commuters and jaded skyscrapers left behind in Gotham, now replaced with Amish carriages and quaint dwellings surrounded by white picket fences.

 Driving up to a wooden house situated at the intersection of suburbia and bucolia, I’m struck by the incongruity of the setting. Here nestling on the edge of a park known as Peace Valley lives the subject of my meeting – the mysterious and elusive R. C. Hörsch, photographer, forger of banknotes and Picasso etchings, artist, cmposer, writer, drug smuggler, political activist, porn performer, air show pilot, army deserter, fugitive, sociopath and ex-convict.

 He’s also the director of one of the more mysterious holy grails of the early East Coast adult film industry, the teasingly titled “Erotic Memoirs of a Male Chauvinist Pig.”

My knowledge of Hörsch was restricted to a few facts gleaned from his website, an intimidating affair that strongly advised caution to the curious cyber-surfer due to “very, very disturbing images” and material not suited to "immature, sophomoric minds."

Slightly daunted, I’d called R.C. a week before to set up our meeting and was relieved that he appeared very interested in talking about his first stab at adult filmmaking 35 years ago. Asking him about what he remembered of it, he described it to me with the gusto of an old-time carny gleefully unveiling his latest freak: “It had a touch of pedophilia with a girl in a Catholic school uniform (Helen Madigan in what was probably her first role) who may or may not have been underage at the time that the film was made, and a plot containing bondage, rape, urination, blood, as well as all sorts of hardcore sex”.

R.C. paused, before concluding with a happy sigh: “You know – it was a sweet comedy”.

Approaching his house I see that his front door is ajar, so I knock, push it open and walk into the lounge. A DVD playing on a computer reveals the piercing screams of a woman being forcefully sodomized. I look around; the surprisingly spacious house smells strongly of cats and pot and is furnished comfortably though sparsely. A slender, naked Barbie doll, complete with nipples and vagina, sits on a shelf and stares at me enticingly. I am greeted warmly by Ray's wife, Amy (the former porn performer Samantha Sweet) who has her arm around the waist of an attractive blonde woman (one of their two live-in girl friends) who works as a stripper and attends a local college. 

I’m suddenly aware that R.C. himself has materialized silently in the center of the room. Dressed all in black, he has long wild black hair and a dark eye patch and conveys the character of a satanic pirate.

His one eye spears me with inquisitive suspicion.

“I’m here to talk about “The Erotic Memoirs of a Male Chauvinist Pig,” I mumble helpfully.

Whilst Hörsch’s appearance and online persona may convey gleeful menace and sexual danger, in person he is cultured, engaging, generous, and soft-spoken. I soon convince myself that the strain of jaded and misogynistic cynicism that underpins his pronouncements are probably designed to provoke and shock rather than coming from any profound personal conviction.

He sits in an old armchair stroking a large cat and looking like a hirsute, low-rent Ernst Blofeld and tells how he got his start in the film industry in the mid-sixties. He began working for a Philadelphia film studio, Louis Kellman Productions, before moving to Newsreel Labs, a film laboratory that would handle daily footage for the late evening news. The news cameramen would bring their black and white 16mm film to the lab, have it developed, and then rush it back to the station for the eleven o'clock news airing.

Eager to learn about the filmmaking craft, he trained as an animation cameraman before getting his first break in 1969 in New York with the Children’s Television Workshop and Sesame Street. He remembers it as being a breeding ground for all kinds of film talent – “basically any fledgling filmmaker who had an idea could come to them and they’d give you a few bucks to go out and make it. For a time, just about everybody in the film business got their start there”.

Another way of learning about filmmaking was on adult film sets which were becoming more common in New York. A friend of R.C. was a soundman moonlighting on a porn set and suggested he seek work there. The male talent that day was Herb Striker, aka Harry Reems. When a 35mm camera jammed and Reems’ cum shot was lost, the director panicked. Always looking to take advantage of an inviting opening, Ray volunteered a money shot of his own – and received a skeptical reaction from the crew that bordered on the derisive. Undeterred he quickly stripped naked and held a towel in front of himself asking the director to count backwards from ten to one. Upon reaching one, Ray dropped the towel and it hung on his erection. Impressed, the director shot the insert using his new found talent. True story? How should I know – let’s just print the legend, deal with the mental image, and move on.

Galvanized by this success, R.C. soon found other adult film work as an actor. Though living in Philadelphia, he and his girlfriend would head to New York on weekends where they would perform in 8mm loops and live sex shows in clubs on 42nd Street. Never one to stay still for long, Ray soon decided he wanted to make his own film and so wrote the script for “The Erotic Memoirs of a Male Chauvinist Pig” in late 1971. As he remembers “I wanted to write a satirical, fatalistic, dark comedy more than a dirty movie. The main character was floundering between his fourth and fifth marriages. He compared marriage to smoking: --something he didn't enjoy but couldn't give up.”

Borrowing $5,000 from his aunt', R.C. enlisted the support of a friend, ex-diaper salesman and Channel 10 news cameraman, John Butterworth, Together they agreed to share all production duties. Why involve anyone else who would only expect to be paid? Much of the money was spent on film stock and shooting was mostly done at night in locations chosen based on having free access such as the bar of local mobster, Sam “The Barber” LaRosa who R.C. had met through his accountant --or at the house of a local district attorney whose wife R.C. was shacked up with.

Shooting the film in Philadelphia meant augmenting his local acting contacts by importing the emerging new breed of hardcore performers from New York. Either way, R.C. ensured that he hired the actors as cheaply as possible paying them a day rate and, if pressed, return bus fare from New York. Now-legendary stars Darby Lloyd Raines, Tina Russell, and a pre-“Devil and Miss Jones” Georgina Spelvin all grace the film with their youthful presence. Speaking of youthful, Helen Madigan, who everyone claimed had just turned eighteen days before, also makes her first adult film appearance.

The lead role was taken by the pseudonymously named ‘Paul Taylor’ – a theater actor at the local Pocket Playhouse in Philly; Taylor’s wife (who’d just given birth) was also dragged into the production and appears in the film as a surly hospital receptionist. To avoid another paycheck, Ray’s sister makes a brief appearance as a randy nurse, and both Ray and John turn up in typecast cameos – R.C. as a lecherous doctor and John in dual roles as a drunken barfly and later as a perverted adult theater patron. Ray’s screen time is further increased by a number of cum shots he contributed because he couldn't afford to wait for the leading man to get it up.

The freezing twelve day shoot started on Monday 14th February 1972 and was completed on Friday 25th February 1972. Ever the provocateur, Ray ensures that this reactionary film is remarkable for the taboos it tackles. Golden shower? Check. (Relax Charles Keating, beer was used as the urine proxy). Blood? Check. Rape? Double Check. Underage sex? What do you think? If you needed socially redeeming features, you should’ve been down the block watching Ryan O’Neil playing in “Love Story”.

Ever sly, the film opens with a reference to the fictional production company, ‘Cinema Monteuse’ (‘lying cinema’) – Ray’s sarcastic broadside against the then fashionable Cinema Verite’ movement.

With shooting complete but short of funds for any type of post-production, Ray and John approached legendary NY smut distributor Sam Lake and agreed to an outright sale for $50,000 that was signed on April 13th, 1973. Ever the canny dealmaker, Sam Lake then flipped it to Bobby Sumner’s Mature Pictures for $75,000 later that month.

After prolonged squabbles between the two about the screen credits, Ray and John eventually shared the director credit with Ray taking the title of Producer and John taking the credit for the photography – with most of the remaining credits using made up names to convey the impression of a full crew. Ray’s father, former World War Two glider pilot Ray Hoersch Sr,, justifiably feared the besmirching of the family’s good name, and asked him to change Ray’s screen credit. Ray just never got round to it but laterchanged the spelling of his name from Hoersch to the original German.

Ray even composed music for the film, though vocal tracts were performed by Michael Tschudin who went on to perform with several major label artists including David Bowie, Tim Curry, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy and Jimmy Buffett. Now retired from touring, he is currently Director of Music Ministries at First Lutheran Church in West Palm Beach. The legendary Joe Renzetti did the musical arrangements but refused to be credited.

The film eventually opened in New York at the World Theater on 23rd August 1973, but fittingly had a black tie premiere in downtown Philadelphia at the 1812 Theater on Chestnut Street – now a CVS pharmacy. It was attended by Ray’s friends from the District Attorney’s office and a number of city notables all eager to see the results of the local production. However, the mayor, Frank Rizzo, wisely chose to send a proxy.

In its first week of distribution, it made #38 of Billboard’s Top 40 grossing films. That it didn’t enjoy a longer and wider release run was probably due to the outre’ scenes in the film that parodied and mocked the films presumed audience. Tthis was, after all, in the wake of the “Deep Throat” furor and America was still fascinated with how far a girl had to go to untangle her tingle.

Ray remembers being unhappy with the release prints used; “The original was 16mm shot with a camera I borrowed from nearby NFL Films.. Sam Lake made a blow-up for 35mm release prints. The first scene was meant to be very dark and low key. When they did the transfer, they mistakenly pumped light through it to make it ‘normal’. The blow-up was done on the cheap, and spoiled the dark effect I was hoping for.”

Screw Magazine's Al Goldstein reviewed the film for Penthouse and declared himself impressed. Goldstein however found the sex in the film to be 'disgusting’ --a badge of pride for Ray to this day.

I had enjoyed spending time with Ray and his happy harem.  As I drove away that day, I looked at the Quaker State’s Rasputin in my rear view mirror. After a life lived on the edge, there he stood alive and well, seemingly contentedly living a quiet life - the sexual wanderlust dimmed and the desire to challenge authority sated.

If the 1970s were the hangover after the sexual revolution, Ray had continued the party longer than most and now was just happy to take things easy and tell the tale, I figured.

I figured very, very wrong --but that's another story!.

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