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Film: Amateur Hour

When Max Viper hands you his card, he really means business.

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Max Viper -- that's what he insists he be called -- sits in his Long Island City apartment sucking on Marlboro Lights and living out his fantasy of being a gay-porn director. He's already filmed five movies with titles like Cum Rag and Hotel Hell, each starring nine or ten New Yorkers who didn't know each other and volunteered to go at it -- nervously, under bright lights -- for his camera. "It's not normal sex," he says. "It's not Eyes Wide Shut, either. It's for extreme exhibitionists."

Stacks of videocassettes teeter in his kitchen, where he dubs and packs the tapes he sells to stores and over his Website (www.edenpictures.com). It's 6:30 p.m. on a weekday, and he's casting. It's not hard. He uses the Internet. "You have to be careful on AOL," he says. "I can't really chat, because then they'll say I'm soliciting." (He's already been kicked off ten times.) He drops cards in sex clubs that read SO YOU WANNA BE A PORNO STAR? He also tried handing them out at Chelsea nightspots like the Roxy and g, but that didn't work so well. "They laugh and say, 'Oh! That's not for me!' Sometimes they get offended." He did, however, meet his boyfriend by handing him a card.

The phone rings. Max, 32, who looks like an aging frat boy in his forest-green polo shirt, Timberlands, and braided belt, puts the guy on speakerphone. "What are you into?" he asks. The guy's 29 and "into everything," but can't vouch that he's hot. "Hot is a state of mind," he ventures, but Max looks skeptical. "I'm kind of looking for guys who are really hot," he says. The guy is noncommittal. "I would say I wouldn't be able to use you," says Max, hanging up.

Max started his business last October after attending an orgy. His eyes bug at the memory as he takes a lusty draw on his cigarette. "I thought, My God, this action is hot! Someone should film this!" He rents hotel rooms for the shoots and tries to get an all-new cast each time. "So many people call," he says. "We've had lawyers, Columbia students, waiters, actors. Men who are married and have kids. They all want to live out this fantasy." At least one has moved on to the big time: paid porn in California.

Although he tries to cast people beforehand, Max sees most of his wannabe porn stars for the first time on the day of filming. The candidates assemble on a designated street corner for casting before moving on to a nearby hotel. "All these people show up, which is like, whoa," he says. "You have to turn people down. You'll have 60-year-old guys who want to get in on the action. People who don't have an accurate picture of what they look like." The only ones who don't want to go through with it are those who realize to their horror that they know Max from somewhere. (Once, someone he went to school with showed up.) "The minute I turn my back," he sighs, "they bolt."


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