Britain’s pornographer-in-chief on the toughest thing about his job, changing attitudes to sex and why all politicians are bastards
“M’lud, one of the pornographic tapes in question involved a young lady and a German sausage, a Brat… (leans back) – or was it a Bock…? It was, I believe, a Bockwurst. The lady was in the process, your honour, of committing an unnatural act with a meat appendage.”
Ben Dover, real name Simon (though he tells me it’s Lyndsay) Honey, hits the Soho bar we’re meeting in with his motormouth at full throttle and full volume. Now sitting opposite, he’s telling me about his court appearance for supplying porn to some Belgian bloke (Dover is a bit vague about, you know, details). Behind him, a table of nice-looking people on their lunch hour shift uneasily in their chairs and re-consider their order of designer bangers and mash. He knows they’re there. Unlike the wannabes, Ben’s got the antennae. And the dyed blond budgie mullet and twin-studded ear. Because he’s a flash-dressing arch-pornographer and self-proclaimed lucky bastard.
Lucky? Leatherhead’s only real claim to fame has earned wealth and notoriety beyond the dreams of avarice. (Actually, it’s Dover who says he’s from Leatherhead, but it could be Sittingbourne, neither town is falling over itself to honour him.) Armed only with a handycam, nine full yards of cheeky chappy wit – “I’m a real mouthy git” – and a comedy name from a previous era, Ben has spent the past five years hitting the streets and talking girls into having sex with him. Any old pretext will do – market research, fashion vox-pops for TV etc – just so long as the pretty lady gets off the street and back to a nearby hotel, where he films the whole shebang for posterity.
And with Ben Dover’s Boogie Bandits at number one in the US sales chart and Ben Dover’s Delightful Deviants at pole position on the rental grid when I meet him, Ben is currrently Britain’s most successful porn star, editor and director. “Oh God, at first it was a very steep learning curve. The first couple took me quite a long time to do. I kept getting knocked back. But now I’ve got a routine. It’s helpful that attitudes have changed. Five years ago people used to think, ‘Oh, there’s something funny going on here. I’m off.’ Now they think, ‘Ah, there’s something dodgy going on here. I’ll stick around and find out what.’ ”
How many men wouldn’t give their right arm, certainly their right hand, to be Ben Dover? And right now, Ben is huge. “People nowadays are obsessed with danger, with bungee jumping, they want to be more daring in what they want to do and what they want to be. That’s why the Adult industry has become so incredibly hip. In America it’s become almost mainstream. And over here, look at someone like Gail Porter, she’s extremely popular and she’s had all those pictures in magazines. A few years ago – scandal! Now, nobody cares any more. When I tell girls at the end of one of my films that I’m not really doing a fashion survey and what it’s really for they used to go (sad voice) ‘Oh’, and now they go, ‘O wow’. Porn is the new rock’n’roll.”
Funny that. Porn used to be filth. But then rock’n’roll used to be political and politics used to be about redistributing money. Now, you could easily imagine Courtney Love in a jazz mag, while Tony Blair and and his powerless chums now seem terribly interested in exercising power over our bodies. And porn stars? Have gone all political.
“Tony Blair, he’s a twat of the highest water. I’m sorry, but he is. Moral crusade this, moral crusade that. It’s all bollocks. Who cares? So Michael Portillo comes out and admits he’s had a few gay affairs. Well everyone’s been to a party when they were young and had some bloke suck their knob. Haven’t they? Just me then.
“I can’t understand it, every government, no matter what colour they are, always do completely the opposite of what everyone in the country wants them to do. Without fail. What about fox-hunting, every single person wants it banning except for a few nutters. Hanging? Everyone thinks murderers should be hanged. Street crime? Mugging? Burglary? It’s the big thing that people over the age of 45, 50 are worried about. So what do they do? They put police cars on the road to stop you doing 80 mph. They can’t pay for hospitals and suddenly war breaks out in some country no one’s ever heard of and no one gives a toss about if they’re being blatantly honest and suddenly we find five million a day to go and fight it. It’s all nonsense. You know what I mean, I’m not having it any more.”
Dover calls his views “Radical libertarianism”, or “New Libertarianism”. Spit-flecked? Knee-jerk? Yes, but remember Ross Perot’s fairly reasonable stab at running for US President with little more than a bit of finger-pointing. And Jesse Ventura, the Governor of Minnesota and former WWF wrestling star, got where he is today on a ticket that makes Ben sound like moderation itself. And who can forget Italian MP and former porn star La Cicciolina?
Being in prison gave Ben Dover time to think. Nine months of porridge in 1991 for selling that Belgian bloke videos of people getting their oats. ‘Yeh, the Bockwurst was one of the tapes. But they do have a way of saying things in court which is really funny,’ Dover continues, slipping back into cheeky-chappy to deliver his barrister ‘Brat…, no, Bockwurst’ speech. Then he finales masterfully at top volume – somehow combining the outraged Carry On camp of Kenneth Williams with the gruff how’s-your-father of Sid James. ‘I mean (a quarter turn to check that his audience at table 12 behind us are still earwigging), the girl is wanking herself off with a sausage. (Kerfuffle from table behind.) Round my place we call that quite ordinary behaviour.’
Table 12 don’t know where to look. Some look into their laps, and then hastily up again. But Ben’s unstoppable. ‘Prison was a really uplifting experience though, I recommend it to everybody. I was porn-mag baron. And tobacco baron and phone-card baron. And I knew half the girls in the porn mags. So, I’m holding court with all the warders (Know her? I’ve shagged her – up the arse, then in her mouth. And they’re going, “No! Wow! Really!”) And these were a currency. You’re only allowed about two porn mags a month and I was getting like about 60, some of them signed by the models. And I’d get like Charmaine Sinclair to sign her picture and put on it [to a warder] “Cliff, You were the best. I can’t wait to see you again, you stud.” So I got a nice little job on the hotplate serving the bread.’
And suddenly, things are a bit political again. “I’m a porno ambassador. What I do is actually giving the country a good press. Some of the companies I used to work for, they liked the idea that the girl looked like she was in pain, like she was doing something she was uncomfortable with. But what I do is I’ll have a shot of a girl being fucked up the arse,” – at this point someone on table 12 appears to be choking on something – and I’ll put the camera on her face. And she’s smiling.
“I’m not a comedian or a scriptwriter but sometimes funny things happen. Like I’ll ask a girl a question when she’s got a dick in her mouth [table 12 start calling for their bill] and she can’t answer.”
Hard core? Soft core? He may hate Tony Blair and his fabled Third Way of politics but it sound’s like Ben’s discovered the Third Way of porn. “I’ve managed to stumble on this cheeky innocuous way of telling girls that I’d like to shag them up the arse [table 12 decide to pay at the till] without them thinking of me as the Dirty Mac Brigade. I’ve been called the Benny Hill of sex. The Americans like my stuff too. Because normally they can be a bit intense about sex. And because they’ve got this idea of the Brits as a load of stuck-up toffee-noses and there’s me, a guy in my mid-40s desperately trying to chat up all these girls. There’s something a bit Carry On about it all. And they do like that Carry On style over there because they see us sending ourselves up, really.”
The bar now completely empty, I put a final question to Britain’s ambassador of porn and possible political hopeful Ben Dover. The downside? “What. Getting loads of chicks to bend over in their knickers? Brilliant. But It’s not easy to maintain a massive erection and sexual intensity while you’re trying to focus a camera and make sure the lighting’s good.” Exactly how you’d imagine David Lean describing a bad day on Lawrence Of Arabia. “I have shot scenes which are so horny I’ve just lost the plot completely. But usually I’m a martyr to my art.” I start laughing along as he breaks into a roguish grin. “No, I am.”
© Steve Morrissey 1999