I usually try to remove my personal thoughts and prejudices from this blog and desire it to be more legal and factual in nature. However, in light of what is happening not only in the United States but also Europe in regards to syphilis I do not believe that I can. Too many of my friends, not just clients, are caught up in what could end up ruining their lives, businesses and careers.
I had a conversation two nights ago with a client and friend that perhaps I was too difficult on since I held a bright-line approach with him as to when he should return to performing as well as producing. It is always much easier to play quarterback from the sidelines then it is from the actual game. And I am not IN this actual game. I do not sacrifice my body on camera nor do I have to worry about my hired talent on set contracting syphilis or any STD for that matter. I am not a producer nor talent.
He was gracious in explaining the everyday situations he finds himself in a much diminished industry trying to do what he feels is the “right thing” while being able to pay his bills. I certainly cannot fault him for such. It is a difficult decision that producers and talent have to make as to when to resume shooting.
It appeared, at least to most, that the most turbulent part of the storm had blown over when the FSC ( http://www.freespeechcoalition.com ) had made the announcement that Manwin and several other producers would provide a prophylactic antibiotic shot to talent for free so they could return to work 10 days after receiving the injection. Hundreds of performers lined up to get the miracle drug called penicillin. Then two days later Rocco Siffredi dropped a bombshell interview on XBiz Magazine, wherein, he claimed that 89-100 performers through-out Europe now have syphilis and the number may be rising. ( http://www.xbiz.com/news/153188 ) He also went on to state that Europe is now under a 60 day moratorium and production has ceased. Cases have been reported in Budapest, Prague and St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg may have had the earliest reported cases starting in as early as May 2012. (Note: This information was provided by Fabian Thylmann of Manwin) His comments left most of the US industry wondering how and why this happened.
It appears for all intents and purposes that the European performers were also receiving antibiotics as well. Therefore, how could 16 cases explode into 100 cases in a short 2-3 weeks. I do not know if anyone has the answer to that particular question nor do we in the US know that there is a confirmed count of 100 cases in Europe. I have no reason to doubt Siffredi, but his comments cannot be viewed in a vacuum. He might be incorrect. However, he seemed to blame performers that also escort as a reason for the increase in cases, at least outside the industry. He also discussed that fact that some talent in Europe also altered their tests to allow them to continue to work as Mr. Marcus did here in Los Angeles. However, he did not seem to have an answer as to how the number of cases had risen in Europe so dramatically in a few short weeks.
In the United States, an accurate count of the number of positive cases remains a mystery. It could be 2, 5 or even as high as 9 as reported by the Los Angeles County Health Department (LA County Health receives all reports of STDs within the county as required by law). Which of those cases are from within the industry and how many are outside of it. The simple answer is that no one knows for certain at this point.
Unfortunately, many performers within the Los Angeles industry continue to work despite the moratorium. I even heard that one male talent has said that the syphilis outbreak has been a “goldmine” for him since he was one of the few male performers still willing to work. I have also heard reports of agents continuing to book talent for scenes and even charging them “kill fees” for refusing to perform. Which obviously means there are at least a handful of companies that are still producing. As my friend and client indicated, people have to eat and pay bills. Many performers and producers do not have a cash reserve that will allow them to survive even a 10 day stoppage no less the 60 days that is now affecting our European counterparts. Further, producers for some large internet websites and tubesites do not have enough content in reserve to allow them to stop producing. Websites must be continually updated for the members so they continue to rebill.
This has left me wondering whether the US, and more specifically the Los Angeles, market is about to experience a dramatic rise in the number of cases or has this outbreak been contained by the prophylactic antibiotic shot provided to some performers for free. Some performers have opted not to take the shot and would rather wait 90 days for three clean syphilis tests to continue working. Either way, we are, without question, in a wait and see period. The latency for a positive finding on a syphilis test can indeed be as long as 90 days though it usually shows up on a test within 20-30 days. I am unaware of any tests that can show whether a performer is positive or negative for syphilis in as little as 10 days. (Note: Fabian Thylmann of Manwin provided that there is no test that can accurately detect syphilis at the 10 day mark however it is his opinion that if treated and caught early a performer should be allowed to return to work.)
So where does that leave the US talent pool as well as the producers ? At this point, in my opinion, lost and confused. I have received numerous calls in regards to when production should resume. No one seems to have a clear answer to this question since the answer would depend on your ability to handle risk. Obviously, the sooner you return to production the higher risk you might have of contracting and spreading syphilis. The longer you wait the more the risk diminishes – or does it ? Perhaps not, if some talent and producers continued to work during the moratorium. What it really comes down to is how many first generation cases did we start with and how many second generation cases were there, as well as how many of those cases were cured with the antibiotic shot. I do not think we will ever know since prior to giving the antibiotic shot, the FSC and APHSS did not specifically test the performer base for syphilis, they merely injected them. However numerous performers did in fact test prior to receiving the injection. Therefore, the industry may never know how exactly far this disease had spread. We, like the Europeans may have had 75+ cases. We may have none now thanks to the shot. We may still have several cases floating around the industry. We do not know. However, we will soon find out though.
The real question is what else can a performer and or producer do in the interim to pay the bills and survive a 10 day or longer shut down of production. That will be discussed in my next installment – Part II.