Exclusive

08.27.12

Mr. Marcus on Why He Kept Quiet About Syphilis That Sparked Porn-Industry Scare

The performer at the center of a syphilis outbreak in the adult-film industry talks exclusively to The Daily Beast about how he contracted the disease, why he kept the news to himself, and whether he has infected anyone else.

Last week Mr. Marcus, one of the top big-name male porn stars, revealed in a voice mail message to blogger Mike South that he was the anonymous performer at the center of a syphilis outbreak that has roiled the adult-film industry. Porn—from Europe to the United States—is in the midst of a voluntary shutdown while hundreds of performers get tested and treated for syphilis.

In the presence of executives for the industry lobby, the Free Speech Coalition, which arranged the proceedings, two adult trade publications, AVN and XBIZ, together interviewed Mr. Marcus. Though Mr. Marcus claimed to have already been treated for syphilis at that point, he admitted to altering the test results performers bring to shoots to show they are clean of certain STDs. The Daily Beast reached Mr. Marcus by phone Saturday night for this exclusive interview, his first outside the porn media, in which he discussed how the outbreak began, how many people he had been with after becoming contagious, and other questions:

Q: If this isn’t too general, can you tell me how this situation started and when things started to go wrong here for you?

A: I started unraveling around mid-June. There was a contract I had with a company for a male enhancement product, and they were going to pay me monthly, but they decided to pull the contract. I was like “Ah!” I was going into July, and then I got this positive on the syphilis test. It was just slam, slam, slam, and then wham. It was like, how do I deal with this? The doctor was like, get a shot; it’s curable; it’s not as bad as it sounds. I went and got the shot, and I was told to wait seven to 10 days before you do anything sexual. I had to cancel work, which just added more pressure and compounded things even further. I am trying to move forward, trying to do business, trying to get things off the ground, but seems like I couldn’t do it. It was just like every time I tried to do something, there was an obstacle. Then this happened. I don’t think my decision making was right around that time, but I was determined to just get back to work, get back to shooting. And that was when everything started to go wrong.

Q: When you were first diagnosed with syphilis, did you have any idea how you got it?

A: No. I mean you start looking at people with suspicion. You look over your partners. It’s a mystery game. It’s really hard especially for me, a performer in the adult industry for 18 years, I mean, you have a lot of partners. Some of these girls, they come and they go. They don’t necessarily stick around. You may work with them once, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to work with them again. At some point, it became pointless. I know we are trying to now to find out who’s who and what’s what. But I can’t go backwards.

Q: So, you didn’t try to contact any of the people who you might have gotten it from or those you might have exposed to syphilis?

A: Nope. I mean there was a girl who I was hanging out with at the time I got diagnosed, and I told her she needed to go get checked. Maybe that distracted me from thinking about my past. I am not a performer who dwells on my scenes. It didn’t dawn on me until all this hell broke loose. [Porn star] Kristina Rose pointed it out. She was like, “Once you found out, if you had just contacted everyone you worked with, you would have been looked at as a good example and probably be commended.” But instead I did the opposite. I made it very personal, and I kept it to myself, because it was syphilis and I didn’t know much about it. I was just embarrassed. That’s why we don’t talk about STDs, because you caught something in an intimate situation. With the mindset I was in, it just compounded the situation.

“I’ve been hearing I should retire, that I should go to hell, and that I should go to jail.”

Q: How did you handle the more common ones like gonorrhea or chlamydia? Have you had other STDs?

A: I am one of the lucky ones. We have a joke among the veteran guys that we build up such an immune system where my body gets so used to chlamydia or gonorrhea that we don’t even notice we got it; [our bodies] just gets rid of it for us. That’s the joke: we don’t catch anything. I can honestly say I haven’t caught anything in a while. Gonorrhea and chlamydia are common with new people coming into the industry, because they haven’t been tested before. So, no. The answer to your question is no.

Q: You have written a book The Porn Star Guide to Great Sex on sex. Was there a point here where you did not follow the advice in your book?

A: When I think about it, I don’t really talk about diseases in my book. It’s a good point. Syphilis is one of those things I should have known about. What I learned is that it’s a strange disease, not easily recognizable, and different doctors have different opinions about it and how to treat it. So, I am not expert. My book is really about the pleasures of sex.

Q: What were the symptoms that sent you to the doctor in the first place?

A: What I noticed is that I was getting a rash, which turned out to be stage two. So, stage one came and went, and I was only recognizing stage two.

Q: So, you didn’t notice anything was wrong until you were already in stage two?

A: Right.

Q: Do you have any idea how many people you had been with while you were contagious?

A: Before I got the shot, I don’t know. I don’t know. I wasn’t working as frequently as some new guy or something. But I had some scenes. I could say a handful a scenes, a handful of girls. I don’t know the number specifically. We are trying to find out. It could be 10 or less.

Q: Then you also did three scenes, according to reports, when your test was still positive where you altered the test. Do you know how many of these people have tested positive for syphilis?

A: No one has come up positive for syphilis. There is no one I’ve been with who had it.

Q: So, as far as you know, even today, you don’t know of a single person you exposed who got the disease?

A: Right.

Q: How hard was it to fake a test?

A: Honestly, it wasn’t that hard at all. I sat in my office. I had a copy of the test. I literally folded it once. It made me pause. And, I decided to make a copy of the test, and that made it look like a regular test. That was stupid. It wasn’t necessary. All I had to do was explain that I had taken the shot and I had been treated. I could have explained it. But I thought it would be a lot harder to explain it. It was very bad judgment.

Q: Could you have done the same thing with your test if you had discovered you were positive for HIV?

A: That’s a very valid point. I think HIV sets off a bigger alarm. There wasn’t a system in place to alert everyone about syphilis but for HIV, yes. HIV would set off all kind of red flags.

Q: But hypothetically, if you had wanted to alter the HIV result on your test, would you have been able to?

A: No. HIV and syphilis are two different types of diseases.

Q: I understand that. But if you wanted to alter the HIV result on your test like you did the syphilis result, would you have been able to do so?

A: I don’t think so.

Q: Has this experience changed your view that the testing system is adequate and that condoms should not become mandatory?

A: It’s a good question. I immediately thought I should be the perfect argument for condoms now. But I do believe in our testing system. I’ve been using it for 18 years; I watched it evolve. It’s not a perfect system, but it is better than trying to rely on condoms. Condoms break; condoms come off; I know they do. I still believe in testing.

Q: Do you think you can go back to performing? What sort of feedback are you getting from your peers in the industry now that your name is out there?

A: I’ve been hearing I should retire, that I should go to hell, and that I should go to jail. I’ve heard I should go get a job at Subway. I’ve heard everything. I’ve heard what a bad person I am. This is not easy to live with and I am hoping eventually everybody that I’ve worked with is found to be fine. I made a mistake. People make mistakes. It is what you do after that which makes a big difference.