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Despite his good looks and acting skills, Stillman found only limited early work in Los Angeles, California, and New York City on the stage and as a model and dancer. One of his first roles was in Douglas Dean Goodman's play Special Friends, one of the first gay-themed plays by a gay playwright to be performed in San Francisco, California. He played a former prostitute from Arkansas who becomes a bad go-go dancer in California, in a role which required extensive nudity. He finally settled in New York City and found work as a bartender and go-go dancer.
In 1970, he made his first appearance in a male strip show, using the name "Jack Wrangler." (The pseudonymous last name was taken from the label on his Wrangler-brand work shirt.)
Wrangler was approached to appear in gay pornographic films by Magnum Studios, the pioneering gay adult film studio and magazine publisher, after studio heads saw a poster for Special Friends featuring him semi-nude. His first gay porn film was 1970's Eyes of a Stranger (also known as Eyes of a Gay Stranger; Magnum Studios), one of the first hard-core gay adult films to be released commercially in the United States. Wrangler performed in gay pornographic films for several reasons. First he saw them as culturally subversive and politically liberating:
"At the time we were all trying to find out who the hell we were as individuals, what we wanted specifically on our own terms, who we wanted to be, what our potentials were, what our differences were, what made us unique… And I think that's why the XXX-rated films were important, because it was like, Oh, my God, there are other people who like the same things as me, like leather, or being blown on a pool table. [Laughs] It was a start—literally stripping ourselves naked and trying to begin from there."
Second, he "wasn't comfortable in his own skin" and wanted some adventure in his life.
During his adult-film career, Wrangler appeared in 47 films. Among his more notable gay films were Kansas City Trucking Co., Hot House, Sex Machine, and A Night at the Adonis.
In 1978, Wrangler made the move to heterosexual-adult film, making his debut in China Sisters which included his first sexual encounter with a woman on film. He quickly made a number of well-known and popular straight-adult films, including Jack and Jill, Roommates, and The Devil in Miss Jones 2. He was a favorite of director Chuck Vincent, the critically acclaimed, openly gay director of some of the top straight-adult films of the 1970s and 1980s. Vincent's films subvert straight porn's traditional focus on the female body by focusing on Wrangler's body and fixing the viewer's eye on the male (rather than female) sexual experience.
As Wrangler, he became an icon of the gay-liberation movement. His popularity as a gay-porn star was so great that "Jack Wrangler" was prominently mentioned in playwright Doric Wilson's 1984 play, Forever After.
Page updated: 2016-10-10 19:07:43
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