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The highs and lows of working as a famous gay porn star

From men, money and fame, to battling a drug addiction and going off sex for good, Jonathan Agassi talks about his life in the porn industry

In the documentary JONATHAN AGASSI SAVED MY LIFE, director Tomer Heymann follows the Israeli gay porn star Jonathan Agassi from his first audition to the end of his on-camera career, which was prematurely brought to a halt by a serious drug addiction. The film looks at the perks of being a porn and live sex show performer (travel, money, hot guys), Agassi’s heartbreaking relationship with his mother and how the sex industry can take its toll on your emotions. Below, we interviewed Agassi about what he learnt from working in the gay porn business for seven long years and over 67 porn films. 

I started porn in 2008. Before that I worked as a make-up artist and hair stylist, but I was looking for something else to do. Porn always really excited me but not only in the sexual way, I guess you could say I was an exhibitionist. There are of course lots of ways to be famous, but I was a 23-year-old guy, I looked really good, all my partners always said I already knew the job, so everything was adding up. I started browsing porn sites and sending emails out to all the mainstream companies and then I got a break. That’s how it started. 

The first film I did was called Men of Israel, by the American producer Michael Lucas. He’s the one I worked for across my whole career. He wanted to make a film about Israeli guys, and I was living near Tel Aviv at the time, in Holon. I got an audition, first through Skype. I had to show what I could do. So I took a 25cm dildo and started showing off with it for the camera. That got me a second audition, which was filmed. The company that I was working for, they had a series of films with guys that come for the first time to shoot porn. They have a small interview first – they ask the guy, “why do you want to do porn?” or “what’s going on in your life?’’ – and then boom, you have sex. 

It came very naturally to me, although I took an injection to make sure I could stay hard (that was the first industry secret I learned). I guess they liked me, because I got the job. I think they were looking for, first of all, a big dick, and then qualities in sex, what you can do; you need to be able to give deep throat, you need to love cum, and you need to be very open sexually. It’s one of only a few things that they demand of you as a porn actor, always. It’s like, you won’t take a regular actor if he doesn’t know how to act.

The audition tape was released like a preview to Men of Israel. The film itself was shot in Jerusalem. Everybody in the film was pretty new to porn so shooting in public places was quite stressful, you have to find a quiet spot and if someone comes by, that’s the end of you. It was a very thrilling, everybody was a bit nervous, especially when we went to shoot at the Dead Sea. I remember when we all took a production bus to the locations it was like we were going sight-seeing, not to shoot porn. It was funny. 

After it ended, I felt like a superstar. I signed an exclusive contract with the production company. I used to shoot maybe three films a month. We were shooting everywhere; Italy, Germany, Spain. But in winter time we did it less, so then my income was based more on escorting and live sex shows. One time, I was invited to Thailand just for two nights to come and jerk off on stage. It pays really well and it’s really fun and you get to be in the best hotels and meet new porn actors from all over the world. Live shows were actually one of the most fun parts of my career, I loved them.

Working in porn I made a lot of money, but that’s not to say it wasn’t hard work. You travel a lot and you’re on the set for hours. You give to the whole production about ten hours in a day, sometimes 14. If you have great chemistry with your partner, sometimes you’re done in five. There are times when I managed to film three scenes in a day, or we’d finish pretty fast because everything was great so then we said, “you know what? let’s make another scene, a fetish scene”. When there is no chemistry the scene will take hours and then you don’t even say goodbye, you’re just like, “let me go to sleep!”

That said, I think the biggest surprise for me working porn was just how nice everyone was. The treatment that you get is awesome. You get a makeup artist, you get a hair stylist, great food, flights. You get treated like a supermodel. When I used to watch porn when I was 18 or 19, I used to think that the behind the scenes was the thing I wanted to see more than the porn because I loved to see all of the boys fooling around in the pool and everything. I thought maybe it was directed, but then when I started doing porn, I realised that it really is like that. In my experience, the producers were also really sensitive to how you wanted to do it. I was always versatile, there are many actors that are only a top or a bottom. Normally, they always ask you, “what’s your preference?” And if you do bareback – which I only did once at the end of my career, when I was pretty much a junkie and doing it in my personal life anyway – they made sure they checked everyone with blood tests, and whoever is positive is going with positives, whoever is negative is going with negatives. Today luckily we have PrEP, but back then they made sure you got attached to a partner who is of the same status.

“At some point, later in my career, the sex became very mechanical. Having sex so much of the time was exhausting, it can really ruin your soul” – Jonathan Agassi

I enjoyed the sex for most of my career. I got to fulfill myself, because sexually I used to be very, very open-minded. In the beginning it was always great, I was always very motivated and excited to try everything. I always offered to give more of myself. But that’s always what it’s like when you start a new job that you love. Then, of course, after three or four years it just becomes like any job. You wake up in the morning and you say, “Oh I need to clean my ass again, I need to inject again, I need to take viagra again”. At some point, later, the sex became very mechanical. Having sex so much of the time was exhausting, it can really ruin your soul. And outside of work, you’re always supposed to fill some role because “you are a porn star, so fuck me like a porn star” and sometimes you don’t want to fuck like a porn star. I’m still not recovered from that. In the past three years I can count on one hand the times I’ve had sex and I don’t have any dating apps.

Maybe I just had too much of everything. I had a lot of freedom, I had a lot of money, I moved to Berlin, which is a very sexual city, especially for porn stars and for gays. In the beginning, I never took drugs, and then I started at weekends and it got more and more. GHB and crystal meth. It became daily, 24/7, for five years.

My plan was to do porn until 35, and then I always said I would open up a production company. That was my dream. But I stopped porn at 30, five years before my plan. It wasn’t something that I wanted to do, to quit, but I got so addicted to the drugs that I lost my figure, my face was very skinny, and I did irrational things, I became very tattooed and got big piercings everywhere. The company that I worked for didn’t want me anymore. After that I continued to do the sex shows and escorting but it was not the same anymore... something had changed. I was an addict. 

At my lowest, I used to eat once a week, and sleep once a week – not even for a night but for whatever the Xanax gave me: three, maybe four hours. My record was 11 days that I didn’t sleep and didn’t eat and did nothing, just fucking, fucking, fucking, doing drugs and taking clients, taking the money and doing drugs. It went on like that until I got to a breaking point. The director making the documentary about me was with me and I was collapsing and he said, “Jonathan, I’m sending you back to Israel now”. I went home, and that was the best choice that I’ve ever made. I stopped working in porn and sex work right then. 

“Today, my life is very different. I work in a 24/7 mini market” – Jonathan Agassi

I haven’t done porn or escorting or taken drugs for five years. Today, my life is very different. I work in a 24/7 mini market. At the beginning, I always got recognised, because I work in a very central and very gay area in Tel Aviv. It was very difficult but many people that know me in Israel also know the story, that I got into drugs, that I had a rough journey. But when they saw me in the kiosk they would say, in a very disrespectful way, “What! Jonathan Agassi! What are you doing here?” It was difficult to handle the judgemental people, but I started to reply in a very smiley way: “Yeah, this is what I’m doing now, come visit me! How many times do you get to see the one that you used to jerk off to in a kiosk?”

To be honest, I’m in a great place now in my life, I’m working in a place that I really love and I have this documentary. Of course, when we started shooting the film, I wanted it to be a happy movie about an Israeli gay guy who was rejected in high school and became one of the biggest porn stars in the world. I’d be travelling. Making lots of money. Everybody jerking off for me. Then, life came along and everything started to fall down, everything started to break. I didn’t want the film to be false, a film that shows everything as great and when, actually, it wasn’t great, it was a nightmare. 

The title is very ironic, very cynical: “Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life”. The name came from an interview that I gave about ten years ago when I first changed my name. I said: “This image, this Jonathan Agassi guy, he saved my life because otherwise I would be so boring and I would still make little small money, never travel the world and have barely any friends.” I guess in some ways he did save my life, but in lots of other ways, he didn’t. 

JONATHAN AGASSI SAVED MY LIFE is available on DVD and On Demand from November 18