The transition from one industry to another can be very challenging. This can easily be said about former news anchor turned adult film superstar Dallas Steele.
Dallas spent nearly 25 years bringing thousands if not millions of people the daily news prior to him bringing people a different kind of joy, both from the comforts of their own homes. His transition from one to the next was not met without its ups and downs that included a very problematic upbringing, major weight problems and the death of his former partner.
In part one of my three part interview with Dallas he discusses his alleged discrimination while being a news anchor, coping with the loss of a significant loved one and his bold take on the adult industry today.
You were in the news business before transitioning into the adult one. Why such a major change?
It’s way more complicated than people would imagine. After 23 years in TV news, I had found what I thought was a great main anchor job at the NBC/ABC combo station in Fort Myers, Florida. My plan was to settle in, work there my final 20 years, then retire and live happily every after. (Aside: People call me the “weatherman” all the time, and while I covered hurricanes, I was a news reporter, not a meteorologist). Turns out, the station was an absolute pressure cooker with management you could never please. I was taking three medications just to get through the day, drinking lots, and sleeping 10-12 hours. About one year into my three-year contract, the boss tells me they’ve been doing “focus group” research and that “people here, just don’t like you.” I believed then and still do, that management was uncomfortable with me as a very “out” gay man. I was crushed and angry. They paid me out the rest of 2011, then I returned to Michigan where my late partner Kelly was creative director for an auto magazine.
I knew at that moment I never wanted to return to traditional TV news, so in the “mitten state,” I went back to doing personal training, something I’ve done part-time for a decade. When my partner’s job was consolidated with another on the West Coast, we decided to move back to Dallas, where we first met. We had been back one week when he landed a high-level creative job with Dallas-based Mary K Cosmetics. We soon bought a new house and moved-in around Christmas.
Kelly had suffered from depression his entire life and was on meds to combat it. The new job brought a new level of stress to his life. But I really had no idea just how much stress. I was doing personal training and now bartending at the Dallas Eagle. On. August 13, 2014, I came home at 3am after my shift and found him lying in a pool of blood and vomit. I frantically tried to breathe life into his stiff, cold body, but it was way too late. Kelly had died from what the medical examiner termed “an accidental overdose” of Ethyl Chloride, better known as “Maximum Impact.” The night he died, I found nine cans around his body, consumed in thirty minutes or less according to the M.E. And yet, his computer was on, the cat food was out, and he had selected his clothes for the next day. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him and the 13 years we had together. I’ll never know if he meant to do it, only that he was hurting, suffering and battling unimaginable demons.
In 2014, you couldn’t be married to a same-sex partner in Texas. Kelly had no will. His family took everything. I had less than $2,500 in the bank and was looking at the real possibility of being homeless. My best friend Adam said, “you’ve always wanted to do porn, why don’t you apply with Colt or Titan?” The idea totally made sense. I applied with Colt and Titan, and each company called me in less than a week.
At age 15, I weighed 240lbs and had a 40-inch waist. I got fat because my Grandma and my Mom loved me through food. They bought me any fast food I wanted, as much as I wanted, trying to make up for my abusive, alcoholic father. He never hit Mom or me, but from the time I got home from school, until the time he passed out at 11pm, he did nothing but tell us both how worthless we were and how he’d be better off without us. My brother, a drug addict at age 16, left home at 17. He and my Dad frequently got into fights ending with one of them hurting the other. My brother got clean ten years later. My Dad, a college professor, was forced into treatment after his fifth DUI, in which he hit and paralyzed a motorcyclist from the neck down. Dad died a sober man in 2015.
As a result of my weight, I got teased severely in high school. In PE, the boys would come up and slap the fat on my legs. The girls would joke I had bigger breasts than they did. And the teachers back then did nothing to stop it, even encouraging it at times. I know what it is to be fat, to be laughed it, and to be made fun of. I tried to kill myself. When I was released from treatment, my advisor suggested I take my GED and go on to college. I did exactly that and finished two years before my class. Once in college, I got motivated- working at the campus radio station and the college newspaper. And I started walking 30 minutes three times per week, then running, then I changed my diet, then I start reading about bodybuilding. I’ve never stopped. In 27 years, I’ve missed a total of 62 days at the gym, including Christmas and weekends. Getting the calls from Titan and Colt, telling me I was good enough, reduced me to tears. Back in high school, I needed someone to tell me I could do I and thank you Mr. Lake for that. “If you don’t like you, don’t worry about it. You can change. I know you can,” he told me.
I never imagined that one moment would lead to everything I’ve experienced and everything I’ve built.
I’ve interviewed several men in the gay porn industry who all have their own unique perspective of their time in it and after it. What has been yours?
It’s like many businesses, without change, progress is impossible. The change I’m trying to affect is the promotion and appreciation of men over 40, 50 and better. As the population of the US gets older, the industry should be embracing men of a “certain age” who take care of themselves and remain viable as stars that people will in fact pay money to watch. I have no delusions about the business. It will always be focused on youth, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a huge market that is way underserved.
What I find sickening is that a couple big name studios and their big-name directors’ control most of the business. They decide who works. They decide what gets promoted. They decide who wins awards. It’s done through spending big advertising dollars, by paying people to say things, by controlling the websites that sell and stream our movies, and by locking men into exclusive contracts for next to nothing. Thankfully, with the advent of “Just for Fans,” and “Only Fans,” porn stars are taking control of the business. We are deciding who we want to be paired with, what we want to do, and how it’s going to look. Add to that, we’re now keeping 75% of the income (forever) instead of supporting studios that pay us once for the movie.
And yes, there is still very much a place for commercially produced content, but as time goes on, the studios are going to have share more with the talent- not just proceeds, but more input into pairings, direction, and creative aspects.
Dallas gives details for people who have an interest in getting into the adult industry in part two of my interview with him. You can follow him on Instagram here.