Industry News

Mark Kernes Writes on John Leslie

Adult Legend John Leslie Remembered
An industry giant, all are saddened by his passing.

by Mark Kernes
MILL VALLEY, Calif.—John Leslie, the multi-award-winning actor and director, passed away on Sunday of an apparent heart attack at his home in Marin County. He was 65 years of age.

Leslie began his film career in the mid-1970s, and had his first major role in the Mitchell Brothers’ production Autobiography of a Flea (1976), where he shared acting duties with legendary stars such as Annette Haven, Jean Jennings, John Holmes and Paul Thomas.

Leslie continued hardcore acting until the late ’80s, though he essayed a few hardcore scenes after that—notably one with the star of his film, Naomi… There’s Only One, in 2006—and had several non-sex roles after that. By 1988, however, he had turned his attention to directing—one of the first performers to do so—creating 27 movies for VCA Pictures and later nearly 100 for his own production company, John Leslie Productions, all of which were distributed by Evil Angel Productions.

Over his career, Leslie received 10 acting and directing awards from AVN, and several others from the X-Rated Critics Organization (XRCO), the Adult Film Association of America (AFAA) and the California Adult Film Association (CAFA), and was inducted into the AVN and XRCO Halls of Fame, as well as the Legends of Erotica.

When not engaged in adult movie production, Leslie was a prolific painter and photographer, and an accomplished blues musician, having played the blues harmonica and been a vocalist for the band The Brooklyn Blues Busters. He was also well-known in adult circles as a gourmet chef.

“John was one of the very, very, very few who I looked up to as having something to teach me,” said another actor-turned-director Paul Thomas, who first worked with Leslie in 1977’s Baby Face. “He was the best pornographer, best erotic filmmaker—the early stuff he did, the early gonzo he did at Evil Angel and the films he did for VCA, were just the best ever. And as an actor, I think he was the best we had, adding an intelligence and a darkness to his work—he was just an artist in many ways, from his painting to his cooking to his filmmaking.”

However, when it was suggested that Leslie was a “nice guy,” Thomas bristled.

“He was far too deep and far too complicated to be a ‘nice guy’,” Thomas retorted. “He might well have been a nice guy, but that’s selling him short. He could be anything but nice. He could be devious, he could be mean—he did what he had to do to get what he wanted. But he was much more than a nice guy. He was a fantastic artist.”

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