Johnny Hazzard: From Gay Porn to Sensitive Serious Actor

Johnny Hazzard said goodbye to porn and now is Frankie Valenti, a charismatic actor who starred in "Tiger Orange," an indie about estranged gay brothers. (Wolfe Video photo)

Johnny Hazzard said goodbye to porn and now goes by his real name Frankie Valenti. The charismatic actor recently starred in ‘Tiger Orange,’ an indie about estranged gay brothers. (Wolfe Video photo)

Johnny Hazzard has said goodbye to gay porn and now he goes by his real name, Frankie Valenti. Valenti is a charismatic and endearing actor who starred in the gripping indie drama, “Tiger Orange,” which is about estranged gay brothers who were raised in a small town in California with a homophobic single father.

Valenti plays the wild younger brother Todd who’s into sex and drugs and likes to par-tay. Now he shows up broke and homeless. Older brother Chet is played by Mark Strano, who co-wrote the screenplay with his life partner and the film’s director, Wade Gasque. The award-winner premiered at last year’s Outfest and has garnered nothing but well-deserved praise. Valenti gives a sensitive and convincing performance and, lucky for us, he agreed to an exclusive interview for TheBlot Magazine as the movie’s DVD release looms.

Dorri Olds: Are you like Todd, into drinking and drugs?

Frankie Valenti: No, that’s not me. But my first introduction to the gay community was through gay AA. At 17, it was either go into treatments or go to a juvenile detention center.

What were you in trouble for?

Truancy and possession of paraphernalia. Anyway, so I believe the reason I was using so heavily then, so often, was a symptom of something greater. Once I figured out what that was and I was able to take care of it and, for lack of a better word, fix it, I didn’t have the need to self-destruct any longer.

Valenti in a scene from 'Tiger Orange.' (Wolfe Video photo)

Valenti in a scene from ‘Tiger Orange.’ (Wolfe Video photo)

Is it a myth that the porn community is full of drugs and alcohol abuse?

No, it’s true. But that’s true whenever you’re dealing with an industry that’s shallow and people are being fed false securities.

What do you mean “false securities?”

A lot of us, myself included, aren’t drawn to the adult entertainment industry because we have really good self-esteem. We’re all searching for validation. In porn, you’re given false types of validation. In some ways, it’s what you wanted, but after a while you begin to believe that’s your only worth. It’s very fleeting and shallow. The studios just want you to keep working, making movies and making them money. They’re going to keep building you up on this false praise until you become the age when you’re put out to pasture. Before you know it you’re like, “Wait, how did that happen? I thought I was the shit.”

How old are you now?

I’m 37.

Wow, you look fantastic.

Thanks. Lots of sunscreen. I moved to L.A. because it was easier to do porn, and I bought a house in Palm Springs with the money from porn. My purpose for being in L.A. was much different than everyone else’s — I didn’t want to be an actor. I was already established as a porn actor and had no desire to do anything outside of that. But “Tiger Orange” literally fell out of the sky by way of an e-mail from Mark [Strano] and Wade [Gasque].

Mark Strano, who plays Chet in the film. (Wolfe Video photo)

Mark Strano plays Chet in the film. (Wolfe Video photo)

Now that you’re a serious actor do you feel like porn is behind you?

Yeah. In my head, the porn has been behind me for a long time. In the last couple of years, it is actually finished on paper.

Do you think that’s because as you grew older you developed self-esteem?

I think that’s an accurate statement. The little boy that needed to be validated got what he needed. I filled that void. I didn’t need it anymore and that attention just became a little — I’ll be careful with words here — I don’t want to say it felt bad, I don’t want to say that it felt sinister, and I don’t want to say that it felt predatorial, but you are being objectified. Once your perception has changed and you start seeing the attention for what it really is, it lands on you differently. It doesn’t feel good.

I saw that you have a huge following on social media. Do you enjoy getting to know fans that way?

I enjoy showing people different sides of me, giving a different view of the person they think I am. None of my posts show sexually outward photos. Sometimes my shirt is off, that’s just to keep visibility going. It’s a marketing thing. But I don’t capitalize on what people expect to see on my Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I’m trying to be, well, just real. What you see on those sites is the shit I’m doing every day. I enjoy showing people my family, my mom, brother, my cousins. And it was a blast showing people that I can write when I wrote for The Huffington Post.

I saw on your Facebook that you promote animal rescue! That’s so cool. Last question: Is your family supportive of your choices?

My father never heard from me that I was gay, but I imagined he would be OK with it. My mother had a hard time at first, but she has come around in a big way. My dad had passed before I got into porn. My mom had her concerns in the beginning, which were all completely valid. But after several years of meeting my bosses and staying at their homes and realizing that although this darker side exists, it wasn’t what I was involved in — and I was making really good money and being treated exceptionally well — she was OK with my choices. Even though she was anxious to see the day where I wouldn’t be doing it anymore.

“Tiger Orange” is being released on DVD Tuesday, July 7.

Watch the trailer:

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