Rest in Power

Groundbreaking Gay Pornographer Wakefield Poole Dies at 85

Wakefield Poole may not be a household name, but he changed the world of porn forever. 

In 1971, back when porn was something you watched in a movie theater, Poole decided what he was seeing on screen didn’t line up with his own experiences as a gay man in New York City. So he took matters into his own hands, taking a camera to Fire Island Pines and creating a sexy gay fantasia.

The film he created, “Boys In The Sand,” broke into the mainstream. Its fanciful vignettes, which included porn star Casey Donovan rising from the ocean to seduce a boy on the beach and tossing a magic pill into a swimming pool to conjure a man, captured audience attention and made the film a crossover hit. Both gay and straight audiences were lining up to see it, including celebrities like Liza Minnelli, Rudolf Nureyev, and Halston.

“I wanted a film,” Poole said at the time, “that gay people could look at and say, ‘I don’t mind being gay — it’s beautiful to see those people do what they’re doing.’”

“Boys in the Sand” was unabashedly gay, and Poole was unabashedly gay alongside it. His real name was displayed on the marquee, a rare move for the time.

​​“There weren’t a lot of people who were out,” Mr. Poole told South Florida Gay News in 2014. “Just seeing my name above the title on a theater made its impact. Hundreds of people saw ‘Boys in the Sand’ and came out after seeing the film.”

Poole’s career peaked with “Boys in the Sand,” but he lived a full life outside of its fame, including making more films and working as a ballet dancer and as a chef. Poole died on October 27 at the age of 85 in a nursing home in Jacksonville, Florida, his niece Terry Waters told the New York Times. But his legacy endures, particularly through screenings of “Boys in the Sand.”

“When I first came to Fire Island, I felt free for the first time in my life,” Poole said at one such screening in 2010. “I didn’t feel like a minority and I wanted everybody to suddenly feel that. So I said, ‘I can make a movie that no one will be ashamed to watch.’”

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