Friday, March 28, 1997

Donnie Russo: In His Own Words, Part 1

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #48, March 28, 1997)

On March 9, the Twin Cities leather community turned out in force for the grand opening of The Tank, the Saloon’s new Sunday leatherspace. Tastefully decorated with chain garlands hanging from the rafters, The Tank was quite festive. But it was so crowded that the action had no choice but to spill over into the rest of the Saloon. If you missed it, you missed quite a party. (But that just means you’ll have to check it out for yourself. You could do that by going to one or both of the upcoming fund-raising events being held at The Saloon: this Sunday for Mr. Minnesota Leather ’97 Kevin Cwayna, and next Sunday for Ms. Minnesota Leather ’97 Aalan Cameron).

The climax of the evening’s revelry was when ubiquitous adult-video star Donnie Russo made his appearance on the Saloon’s dance floor. To say the man knows how to work a crowd is an understatement. Starting on the small stage at the front of the bar, he literally dove into the audience and did some energetic power-mingling while having his clothes ripped off by various fortunate fans. He obviously enjoyed every minute of it, and so did the enthusiastic and appreciative crowd. I don’t smoke, but when the performance was done I felt like an after-sex cigarette would have been appropriate.

The previous evening I had the privilege of meeting Russo and doing an interview—in his hotel room. Clad only in yellow gym shorts (him, not me), I found him to be charming, cordial, genuine—and full of surprises. He’s got a fraternal twin (who has darker skin and hair and is straight). And, incredibly, he’s in the funeral business. “It’s basically a family-owned business,” he says. “I live above the funeral home, we all participate in it. I go in every day.” His Brooklyn street-punk roots are evident, but he doesn’t give attitude. Instead, he’s a genuinely nice guy who bares his soul as easily as he bares his body. Speaking in his native-New-York accent (of which only hints can be captured in print), here’s a side of Donnie Russo you don’t see in the movies. Then again, maybe you do.

Childhood: I discovered I liked men when I was six years old. I remember this one kid getting on top of me and tickling me on the playground, and I knew I got a boner then. As far as participating sexually, probably about eight—with the neighborhood kids, you pull yours out, I pull mine out, you play a little bit but you don’t really know what you’re doing. It’s just the experimental stages.

Adolescence: I was 120 lbs., and I was a tough guy. I hung out on street corners, I hung out at the clubs, I hung out at bars. When I was in high school I had “male callers” come to take me out to lunch. Not “male callers” as far as prostitution or anything—I was just into guys, and guys were into me. I had the blue jeans, tank top, a very “Peter of Berlin’”look—very skinny, you know, I just had that “piece of candy” look.

The start of his career: I started in magazines back in the 80’s. Somebody I was dating sent me to a photographer and he did some pictures of me. Next thing I knew, Honcho took them, and from there I did a whole host of magazines. Then my roommate, who’s no longer with us, who was my best friend came home—this must have been in ’91—and told me he was trying out for a porno part, and they asked if he knew of anybody else who would be interested and who looked like a cop. And he told them, “Yeah, I do, I know somebody who would definitely make a good cop.” They set up an interview, and I got the part. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the part that he went out for.

I did my first film, Beat Cop, and my second film probably a year later, which was Find This Man. Then in October, two months after Find This Man, I was working as a bouncer in Boston where I moved to be with my ex-lover. And this guy saw me at the club bouncin’ and he recognized who I was. He said he knew this guy, Bob Jones, who makes films in Washington D.C. He took a couple Polaroids, Bob called me up, I told him I was into boots and jeans, we set up a film date, and it went from there. And here I am.

I’ll have more from Donnie Russo next issue.

Upcoming Leather Events

The Atons present: “With the Fall of Winter comes the Erection of Spring”
Sunday, March 30, 4-9 pm, Gay 90’s Men’s Room Bar (side entrance)
Leather dress code encouraged. Put your Easter basket on display in the wet underwear contest ($50 prize). Temporary tattoos and boot polishing will also be available. $5 at the door includes free keg beer and sodas; for an extra $3 you can partake of the buffet in the Garden Court.

Atons Bar Night at the Chicago Eagle
Saturday, April 12, The Pit (downstairs) at the Eagle, 5015 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL
The Atons do Chicago, selling raffle tickets for prizes including an IML Weekend Package ($125 value) and publicizing their upcoming 25th-anniversary run. If you’d like to join them, call for more information or visit their web site (

Sunday, April 13: Mr. Minnesota Fantasy Contest 1997. The winner of this contest will represent Minnesota in the International Mr. Fantasy 1997 contest. To compete, call Dale Willman (Mr. Minnesota Fantasy 1995).

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