Frankie Valenti (aka Johnny Hazzard) Sheds His Adult Film Past
Photo: Lila Javan
Acting in the new film Tiger Orange is not something former porn star Frankie Valenti (more commonly known as Johnny Hazzard on the small screen) had any intention of doing. But when he received a call from producers to portray one-half of two estranged gay brothers, Valenti reconsidered. “I wasn’t surprised they called me,” he says. “I was surprised that they were serious.”
The role the producers were calling about turned out to be a part that had a lot of parallels with his life. Like his on-screen character, Todd, the actor’s father died before he could verbally come out to him, and he was estranged from his brother growing up — a black sheep in his own family. Valenti felt like he didn't need to prepare for anything, he had already lived it.
Now that the film has premiered at OutFest on July 18, Valenti finds he is thrust into this transition when porn stars attempt to break into mainstream acting. (François Sagat is one prime example, appearing in films such as, Saw VI and L.A. Zombie.) However, Valenti rejects the idea that he is trying to do anything. “I’m going to see how this project is perceived and what the response is, and then I’ll figure it out from there,” he says.
He does recognize the fact that many will take interest in the film purely to scrutinize Valenti’s debut as a leading man. (While this is his first film, the actor appeared in 21 episodes of the Here TV series, The Lair.) “I feel like it’s the whole Britney Spears thing, like people show up to see this huge train wreck,” he admits. Yet, he stands by his work and thinks fans will do the same — just as long as they don’t stand too close.
“[Fans] kind of have this lack of physical boundary,” Valenti says when the conversation turns to interactions with aficionados of his porn career. “If they’re talking to me they feel the need to put their hand on my waist or rub my shoulder. You don’t do that if you just met someone — there’s that boundary that is completely obscured.”
But to many, Hazzard — at least his porn persona — isn’t a stranger. He’s someone they share an intimate connection with. Valenti, on the other hand, is someone his fans know very little about. “Deep down I’m shy, I’m sensitive, and I have a low self-esteem sometimes,” he says — a far cry from the rough and tumble guy his studio, Rascal Video, has perfected onscreen.
While Valenti may not be concerned about what people think of him in the film, there's a sense he’s concerned about extending his shelf life beyond his porn past. “Panic” is the first word he uses to describe the feeling he had when he realized his time was up as an adult entertainer. Lucky for him, Valenti was given the tools and support to get through what he describes as the “inevitable change.”
“I’m open to anything,” Valenti responds to the idea of becoming a full-time actor. Whether it’s more film roles, serving as a muse Boy George’s B-Rude clothing line, or leading dune tours in Provincetown, Valenti knows there’s life beyond Hazzard.
It may just be a matter of who calls him next.