Meet the well-known serious actor, Mr Ben Dover

benfilth

BBC4′s Rich Man, Poor Man has consisted of a slightly odd pair of documentaries, a sort of cousin to Secret Millionaire, about materially successful men getting to a point in their life where they are pondering what they’ve achieved and what they were going to do with the rest of their lives. The first subject was self-made publishing tycoon Sir John Madejski, who made his money with Auto Trader. I must confess to not knowing very much about Madejski, but then I’ve never been to Reading. Madejski, in a rather touching show of local patriotism, has put an enormous amount of money into regenerating Reading; but, as is the way with these things, this means that almost everything in Reading, from the football stadium down, is named after Madejski. One immediately thought of the way Castlereagh Council keeps naming its public buildings after Peter Robinson.

Nonetheless. I didn’t feel the programme really worked in terms of giving an insight into Madejski. The guy seems to have an interesting family history, which wasn’t given much play, and how he’d made his money was likewise skated over. And while Madejski is evidently quite a prickly character, the voiceover was so sarcastic one actually started to feel a bit sorry for the Tory tycoon. Generally, the feeling was of a lost opportunity.

But it was the second documentary in the series that appealed to this blog’s unfailing instinct for the lowest common denominator, as we spent an hour in the affable company of Lindsay Honey. Probably the name Lindsay Honey doesn’t mean much to you, but if I mention gonzo porn auteur Ben Dover, you’ll likely nod in recognition. The two are in fact one and the same. (I know Lindsay Honey sounds like a porn name, but it’s actually his real name.) So we meet Lindsay at the difficult age of 52, having spent the majority of his life in the adult industry, and reaching something of a crossroads.

The starting point is that porn isn’t what Lindsay wanted to do in the first place. He’d started out as a musician, had some ephemeral success with that, then drifted into porn as he found himself between careers. He would have preferred straight acting, but found he had a knack for porn, then made a success of it. And now, he’s got plenty of money, a lovely big house, flash cars and shelves full of porn industry awards. He’s respected – nay, lionised – by his peers. But he’s not content with that. For one thing, his success means he has far too much time on his hands. For another, he’s approaching that age where he physically won’t be able to do what he’s made his living at all these years. He could, he supposes, sit around the house drinking beer and annoying the hell out of his wife and kid. (And there was a missed opportunity there in that Linzi Drew didn’t appear. She always gave good interviews, and her telling her other half to catch himself on would have added something.) Or, he could try something else. And this is where his ambition to prove himself as a straight actor comes in.

The journey was a lot of fun, although the (again) sarcastic narration in the Nick Broomfield style was a bit of a distraction. Old Lindsay is an engaging character and an accomplished raconteur, he doesn’t take himself at all seriously – which is sort of a prerequisite for the Broomfield style to work well – and you were involved enough to be interested in his journey. In fact, there was a surprising amount of pathos there, as a morose Lindsay contemplated the state of modern porn and said he wished it was still illegal. He doesn’t seriously mean that – after all, he did time under the Obscene Publications Act – but I got where he was coming from. In the old days of illegality, there was only a smallish amount of product coming from a handful of swashbuckling producers. Today, not only is the romanticism gone, but there is this enormous glut of porn, mostly of terrible quality, and particularly in Lindsay’s gonzo niche, where any bozo with a camcorder can make a movie, and the temptation is strong to use more extreme imagery to cover up for a lack of quality.

So it would be fair to say that Lindsay has mixed feelings about his business, and that’s what informs him as he tries to decouple Lindsay Honey from Ben Dover and try his hand at legitimate acting. Thus we got the best bits of the film, in Lindsay’s interactions with his acting coach. The thing is that Lindsay obviously has some natural acting ability – he’s created and spent twenty years playing a popular character, the mullet-haired, anally fixated cheeky chappie Ben Dover. But, while he’s made a living exposing himself physically in a way most actors couldn’t do, he’s never exposed himself emotionally, and you can see the stress he goes through trying to go through an acting lesson without resorting to the cheeky wink to camera. Quickly he discovers that trying to master the process of acting is actually bloody hard work.

And so, this raises the question of whether he’s willing to stick with his new project, or just lapse back into his comfort zone of presenting porn awards and lending presence to the Ben Dover stall at Erotica. Another obstacle is trying to convince anyone in legitimate acting that he’s worth bothering with – despite there being a shortage of male actors of his age, most agents aren’t interested when they hear of his porn background. He eventually does get two wonderfully condescending female agents to give him a chance, and their comments are revealing. They don’t care about his background, but they are quick to pick up on how nervous he is and on his lack of training. Despite noting his natural charisma, it’s the nerviness that worries them, and convinces them that he would have trouble getting past an audition.

So that’s the set-up, and it’s this tension that keeps us with our protagonist to the end, cheering him when he shows application and cursing him when he’s just being lazy. Towards the end, Lindsay is virtually in tears when the great Ken Russell remarks that he has some potential; but then the next day, it’s back to the comfort zone. An entertaining ride, then, and now I wish I’d seen the Ben Dover one-man show at Edinburgh.

On related notes, there’s a consideration of the economics of porn at AVPS, and some thoughts on sex-positive feminism at Unknown Conscience.

12 Comments

  1. Mark P said,

    September 10, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    Aah, “sex positive feminism”. Perhaps it would be more accurate and honest to say “sex industry positive feminism”.

  2. neprimerimye said,

    September 10, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    In bourgeois society sex is always a commodity. It’s a very sad world.

  3. splinteredsunrise said,

    September 10, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to get round commodification without changing the whole structure of society. It’s like asking how you can enjoy music under capitalism without surrendering to commodification. Even if you’re willing to spend the rest of your life listening to Rock In Opposition, you still can’t do it.

  4. skidmarx said,

    September 11, 2009 at 10:43 am

    Any comment on the BBC obsession with Great Tits?
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/05/29/bbc_related_link/

  5. splinteredsunrise said,

    September 11, 2009 at 11:46 am

    I thought for a second you were referring to News 24, where some grizzled old hacks have been complaining about the Beeb going for bust in its presenter line-ups.

  6. harpymarx said,

    September 11, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    Mark P: “sex industry positive feminism”.

    Er, no, that’s not what ‘sex positive feminism’ is about. I am not a big fan of the phrase but essentially it is about having an open and honest discussion about sex and it does challenge the orthodoxy of radical feminism. ‘Sex positive feminism’ is about rejecting the constraints placed on a woman’s sexuality, and how patriarchal capitalism commodfies sex and creates so many contradictions. For example if a woman is into BDSM, does that mean she is oppressing herself, capitulating to patriarchal ideals, and that she is unable to ‘freely choose’ under patriarchal capitalism? Sex is riddled with contradictions, including lack of analysis over the role of fantasy, and understanding it in a literal way. The problem with many debates in the feminist movement is that it gets to a stage where it is all about ‘good/acceptable/vanilla sex’ to ‘bad/trangressive sex’

  7. harpymarx said,

    September 11, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    Btw: Actually, thinking about it it probably is a better term, ‘sex positive feminism’ as previously the debate was polarised between anti/pro censorship of porn as one of the major debates in the mid 80s onwards was around porn (during that era I described myself as an anti-censorship socialist feminist and still do). I agree with Tami re the ‘conservative language and attitudes’ of rad feminism certainly and that ‘hangover’ is still here (porn/sex work) which needs to be overcome because it is moralistic lecturing women in this puritanical manner, it becomes personalised and smacks of the ‘gut reaction’ politics.

    • WorldbyStorm said,

      September 12, 2009 at 3:24 pm

      Re the working through the role of fantasy etc, very much agree.

  8. Mark P said,

    September 11, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    Harpymarx:

    The term “sex positive feminism” necessarily implies that other feminists are either anti-sex or at best ambivalent about it. That is, it’s a term chosen to rig a debate. That debate, in my limited experience, seems to revolve chiefly around the sex industry rather than around sex. As you are well aware, most feminists who, for instance do not favour the legalisation of pimping or who regard the porn industry as a sewer of misogyny are not anti-sex or even ambivalent about sex. They are hostile to the sex-industry.

    You are correct of course that discussions about “BDSM” can also get mixed up in the same debate, although I have to admit that the only people I find more tiresome than people who insist on going on and on about how people smacking each other on the arse in bed are sick and wrong are people who insist on going on and on about how “transgressive” or empowering or political it is. Even this debate tends to revolve in large part around “BDSM” porn however, and once again it is possible and even reasonable to not have any particular interest in what consenting adults get up to in bed while finding the prevalence of sadistic imagery in porn both extremely distasteful and one more reflection/encouragement of misogyny.

    • WorldbyStorm said,

      September 12, 2009 at 3:23 pm

      I agree that that’s problematic but in terms of porn overall BDSM or indeed the frankly much more pernicious ‘rough’ porn is (one hopes) a minority interest. To my mind a more fruitful discussion might be how to engage with that and with the attitudes it engenders. I’d think splintered’s got it right, the debate has moved on. When you can see literally anything on youtube like sites then there has to be a reconsideration of the issue. I’m not certain it is possible (or indeed even a good thing) to assume that a) porn is merely another extension of capitalism (it is but that’s not all it is) or b) that it can be done away with… I’m not suggesting that’s what you’re saying, but… Ben Dover seems to me to be a lot less awful on some levels than some of the stuff out there, even if he’s no shining example of empowerment of women or men.

  9. splinteredsunrise said,

    September 11, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    It’s a hangover from the 1980s and the times when feminist debate revolved around the censorship issue, defining yourself either for or against the Dworkin-MacKinnon position. I think, and this is where the Ben Dover prog had some relevance, the culture has changed so much that a lot of that debate’s really moot. Twenty years ago you have Clare Short and Dawn Primarolo kicking up about Page 3; today you have bloody Babestation on the telly all night, and feminist discourse seems not to have noticed.

  10. Rabelais said,

    September 12, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    Actually, Ben has done a bit of serious acting in Pawel Pawlikowski’s Last Resort, released in 2000. The film is about a young Russian woman and her son who travels to England to meet up with her fiancé. He stands her up and they end up as asylum seekers. Ben has a small part (ohh err!) as… would you believe … the producer of a porn internet site.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 89 other followers

%d bloggers like this: