John Robert Stillman
July 11, 1946
|Died||April 7, 2009 (aged 62)|
New York City, U.S.
|Other names||Jack Stillman|
|Alma mater||Northwestern University|
|Height||5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)|
John Robert Stillman (July 11, 1946 – April 7, 2009) billed professionally as Jack Wrangler was an American gay and straight pornographic film actor, theatrical producer, and director and writer. Open about his homosexuality and adult film work throughout his career, Wrangler was considered an icon of the gay-liberation movement.
Wrangler's wife for the last 15 years of his life, was U.S. singer Margaret Whiting.
Wrangler was born John Robert Stillman in Beverly Hills, California. His father was Hollywood film and television producer Robert Thurston Stillman, who produced such films as Champion, Second Chorus, and Home of the Brave and produced television series such as Boots and Saddles, Rawhide, and Bonanza. His mother, Ruth Clark Stillman, was a former dancer in Busby Berkeley musicals.
Stillman began his acting career at the age of nine in the television series The Faith of Our Children (1953–1955). The series, which starred Eleanor Powell, was a syndicated religious family show that won five local Emmy Awards.
Despite his good looks and acting skills, Stillman found only limited early work in Los Angeles, California, and New York City on the stage and as a model and dancer. One of his first roles was in Douglas Dean Goodman's play Special Friends, one of the first gay-themed plays by a gay playwright to be performed in San Francisco, California. He played a former prostitute from Arkansas who becomes a bad go-go dancer in California, in a role which required extensive nudity. He finally settled in New York City and found work as a bartender and go-go dancer.
Wrangler was approached to appear in gay pornographic films by Magnum Studios, the pioneering gay adult film studio and magazine publisher, after studio heads saw a poster for Special Friends featuring him semi-nude. His first gay porn film was 1970's Eyes of a Stranger (also known as Eyes of a Gay Stranger; Magnum Studios), one of the first hard-core gay adult films to be released commercially in the United States. Wrangler performed in gay pornographic films for several reasons. First he saw them as culturally subversive and politically liberating:
At the time we were all trying to find out who the hell we were as individuals, what we wanted specifically on our own terms, who we wanted to be, what our potentials were, what our differences were, what made us unique… And I think that's why the XXX-rated films were important, because it was like, Oh, my God, there are other people who like the same things as me, like leather, or being blown on a pool table. [Laughs] It was a start—literally stripping ourselves naked and trying to begin from there.
Second, he "wasn't comfortable in his own skin" and wanted some adventure in his life.
In 1978, Wrangler made the move to heterosexual adult film, making his debut in China Sisters which included his first sexual encounter with a woman on film. China Sisters featured a plot involving two women who seduce a gay man and turn him straight. Wrangler told Terry Gross of NPR that the film crew knew he was gay and cheered him on while he lost his heterosexual virginity. He quickly made a number of well-known and popular straight-adult films, including Jack and Jill, Roommates, and The Devil in Miss Jones 2. He was a favorite of director Chuck Vincent, the critically acclaimed, openly gay director of some of the top straight-adult films of the 1970s and 1980s. Vincent's films subvert straight porn's traditional focus on the female body by focusing on Wrangler's body and fixing the viewer's eye on the male (rather than female) sexual experience.
As Wrangler, he became an icon of the gay-liberation movement. His popularity as a gay-porn star was so great that "Jack Wrangler" was prominently mentioned in playwright Doric Wilson's 1984 play, Forever After.
As Wrangler was achieving fame as one of the first iconic gay-porn stars, his acting career also blossomed. He co-starred alongside playwright and actor Robert Patrick in Patrick's 1979 play T-Shirts at The Glines theater in New York City. In 1985, Wrangler wrote the book for the musical I Love You, Jimmy Valentine – which starred Whiting. In the mid-1980s, he appeared in the play Soul Survivor, a comedy about a gay man whose lover has died of AIDS.
By this time Wrangler's adult-film career was tapering off. He published his autobiography, The Jack Wrangler Story, or What's a Nice Boy Like You Doing?, in 1984. But Whiting demanded that he give up his porn career and live erotic shows. In 1986 at the age of 40, he appeared in his final adult picture, a straight porn film titled Rising Star (Caballero Home Video).
Wrangler turned his attention to Whiting's career and cabaret. He became a board member of the Johnny Mercer Foundation after its founding in 1982, and worked to promote Mercer's music. He wrote and produced a 1985 cabaret show for Whiting which featured Mercer's music, and in 1996 co-wrote and produced Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: The Jazz Concert (inspired by the Mercer music used in the film, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil). A year later, he helped conceive the 1997 Broadway revue Dream, which starred Whiting and contained many Mercer songs. Wrangler conceived the idea of a ballet based on Mercer's 1946 musical St. Louis Woman, which was performed by the Dance Theater of Harlem in 2003. Wrangler was also a promoter of the cabaret singer Carol Woods, writing and producing several shows for her between 1984 and 2001. Wrangler also wrote, directed, or produced a number of other plays, musicals and revues, including The Valentine Touch, The First Lady and Other Stories of Our Times, and Irina Abroad!
Wrangler authored a column on health and fitness, "Wrangler's Weights and Measures", for the short-lived, gay-lifestyle magazine Au Contraire in 1979.
Wrangler was a virgin to heterosexual sex until college. In 1976, Wrangler met singer Margaret Whiting, 22 years his senior, in a nightclub; Wrangler later recalled: "I was with my manager when I looked over at Margaret, who was surrounded by five guys in a booth. There she was with the hair, the furs and the big gestures. I thought, 'Boy, now that's New York! That's glamour!' I had to meet her." Their romance began a few weeks later.
The couple was strongly criticized for the relationship, and Wrangler was accused of "turning straight" and entering the relationship simply for money. However, Wrangler always considered himself homosexual. "I'm not bisexual and I'm not straight", Wrangler later said. "I'm gay, but I could never live a gay lifestyle, because I'm much too competitive. When I was with a guy I would always want to be better than him: what we were accomplishing, what we were wearing—anything. With a woman you compete like crazy, but coming from different points of view, and as far as I'm concerned, that was doable."
Nonetheless, the early years of their relationship were difficult, as Wrangler and Whiting struggled with Wrangler's homosexuality. When Wrangler shouted at her in a restaurant that he was gay, Whiting responded, "only around the edges, dear." Wrangler explained in an interview: "When I got with Margaret, I knew I had to change course. She would have my bags packed and sitting outside the door when I got home at night and things like that. Plus I would go through massive guilt whenever I did go out with a guy and I was with her. So I finally said that's it. I went to her one night and said I'm never going to cheat on you again with anybody. So my sex life became very masturbatory. And I'm good at that-very good at that, in fact." The couple was married from 1994 until his death.
In 1980, Wrangler, his step-grandmother, and his manager were attacked, pistol-whipped, and tied up by six burglars at his step-grandmother's home in Bel Air, California. The robbers made off with more than $250,000 in furs and cash.
In 1998, Wrangler and Whiting filed a $3 million lawsuit against New York City when the 74-year-old Whiting tripped on loose pavement and broke her hip. Their suit claimed $2 million in damages for her injuries and $1 million for loss of conjugal relations.
In 2008, a feature-length documentary film about Wrangler, Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon, premiered at Newfest and received the GayVN Award. It was produced and directed by Jeffrey Schwarz of Automat Pictures, and is distributed by TLA Releasing.
- Eyes of a Stranger (1970)
- Kansas City Trucking Co. (1976)
- A Night At The Adonis (1978)
- Gemini (1979)
- Jack and Jill (1979)
- Hot House (1980)
- Sex Machine (1980)
- Wanted (1980)
- Roommates (1981)
- The Devil in Miss Jones 2 (1982)
- In Love (1983)
- "Porn Icon Jack Wrangler Dead at 62". The Advocate. April 7, 2009. Archived from the original on April 10, 2009. Retrieved April 14, 2009.
- Dennis Hevesi. "Jack Wrangler, Actor in Sex Films and Producer, Dies at 62".
- "Jack Wrangler Dies at 62". The Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. April 9, 2009. Retrieved April 14, 2009.
- "BEEFCAKE IN T-SHIRTS: Jack Wrangler interviewed in 1980 by Don Shewey for the Soho News". Donshewey.com. 1980-04-23. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
- Denver Post: "Actor starred in porn films in 1970s, became gay icon" April 8, 2009
- Jack Wrangler at IMDb
- Simonson, Robert. "Jack Wrangler, Producer, Actor and Spouse of Margaret Whiting, Dies at 62." Playbill. April 9, 2009. Archived April 12, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
- Stark, John. "After Three Marriages, Crooner Margaret Whiting Lands Her Ideal in X-Rated Star Jack Wrangler." Archived 2005-04-14 at the Wayback Machine People. May 4, 1987.
- Cullen, Frank; Hackman, Florence; and McNeilly, Donald. Vaudeville, Old & New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America. New York: Routledge, 2007. ISBN 0-415-93853-8; Bernal, Michael. "Eleanor Powell: Queen of Tap Dancing." Classic Images. March 1999 Archived 2009-04-12 at the Wayback Machine; Starr, Steve. "Eleanor Powell." Windy City Times. October 1, 2003.
- Brother, Job. "The Anatomy of Jack Wrangler." The Advocate. November 5, 2008.
- "Carnage, Sean. "Jack Wrangler: The Interview." Unzipped. November 2008". Archived from the original on 2009-04-12. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
- "John Stillman" (obit), "Northwestern", Fall 2009 (magazine)
- Douglas Dean Goodman Papers. Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies. Special Collections and Rare Books. University of Minnesota Libraries, Minneapolis.
- Erstein, Hap. "Jack Wrangler: A Porn Star is Reborn." Palm Beach Post. March 3, 2005 Archived April 12, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
- Zeffer, Andy. "A 'Dream' Becomes A Reality." South Florida Blade. March 4, 2005. Archived April 12, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
- Burger, John R. One-Handed Histories: The Eroto-Politics of Gay Male Video Pornography. New York: Harrington Park Press, 1995. ISBN 1-56023-852-6
- Wayne, Bruce, ed. Gay AdultVideo Star Directory. Los Angeles: Companion Press, 2000. ISBN 1-889138-22-3
- There is disagreement over his film appearances. One source claims he appeared in more than 85 films. See: Stark, "After Three Marriages, Crooner Margaret Whiting Lands Her Ideal in X-Rated Star Jack Wrangler", People, May 4, 1987. However, more authoritative adult-film sources list only 47 pornographic movies, not including compilations and re-releases. See: Wayne, Gay AdultVideo Star Directory, 2000; "Jack Wrangler – Filmography." Internet Adult Film Database. Accessed April 9, 2009.
- Bozelka, Kevin John. "Porn Studies (Review)." The Velvet Light Trap. Spring 2007.
- Ramone, Mike; Connelly, Tim; Stokes, Peter; and Anderson, Acme. The AVN Guide to the 500 Greatest Adult Films of All Time. Jackson, Tenn.: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2006. ISBN 1-56025-719-9
- Douglas, Jerry. "Joe Gage: Interview With A Legend." Manshots. June 1992; "Kansas City Trucking Co." Chicago Free Press. April 2, 2009 Archived March 19, 2009, at the Wayback Machine; [http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/42/gage.htm Morris, Gary. "Keep on Truckin': An Interview with Joe Gage." Bright Lights Film Journal. November 2003.
- "Remembering Gay Porn Icon Jack Wrangler". National Public Radio. Retrieved 2018-10-24.
- McNeil, Legs; Osborne, Jennifer; and Pavia, Peter. The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry. New York: HarperCollins, 2004. ISBN 0-06-009659-4; Williams, Linda. Porn Studies. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8223-3312-0; Jarvie, Ian Charles. "Thinking About Society: Theory and Practice." Berlin: Springer, 1986. ISBN 90-277-2068-1; Jennings, David. Skinflicks: The Inside Story of the X-Rated Video Industry. Bloomington, Ind.: AuthorHouse, 2000. ISBN 1-58721-184-X
- Wilson, Doric. Forever After: A Vivisection of Gay Male Love, Without Intermission. New York: TnT Classic Books, 1984. ISBN 0-935672-01-X
- The Robert Patrick Papers, *T-Mss 1978-006. Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.; Schwarz, Jeffrey. "Remembering Jack Wrangler." The Advocate. April 7, 2009 Archived April 12, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
- Holden, Stephen. "Melodies, Memories and Whiting At Freddy's." The New York Times. November 22, 1985; Nemy, Enid. "On Stage." The New York Times. February 26, 1988.
- Charles, Eleanor. "Westchester Guide." The New York Times. June 4, 1995.
- Wrangler, Jack and Johnes, Carl. The Jack Wrangler Story, or What's a Nice Boy Like You Doing? New York: St. Martin's Press, 1984. ISBN 0-312-43941-5; Klein, Allen. "Meet Carl Jones-Actor, Agent, Editor, Author." The New York Times. January 13, 1985.
- Wadler, Joyce. "Heartaches, Heartthrobs and a Smattering of Song." The New York Times. January 22, 2002.
- Dunning, Jennifer. "'St. Louis Woman' Struts Back Into Town." The New York Times. July 6, 2003.
- Margaret Whiting's father was a collaborator of Mercer. When Whiting was orphaned at the age of eight, Mercer took her in. Whiting helped co-found the Johnny Mercer Foundation and is its long-time president. See: Furia, Philip. Skylark: The Life and Times of Johnny Mercer. Paperback ed. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2004. ISBN 0-312-33099-5; Whiting, Margaret. It Might As Well Be Spring: A Musical Autobiography. New York: William Morrow & Co., 1987. ISBN 0-688-06406-X; Holden, Stephen. "The Songs Her Father's Lyricist Taught Her." The New York Times. March 30, 1997.
- Wilson, John S. "For Margaret Whiting, A 40-Year Look Back." The New York Times. November 21, 1985.
- Epstein, Benjamin. "New Line of Work for 'Good and Evil'." Los Angeles Times. November 14, 1996; Conway, Ann. "Gala Is Anything but a Drag." Los Angeles Times. November 11, 1999; Klein, Allen. "Reveling in the Voice of Experience." The New York Times. August 29, 1999.
- Holden, Stephen. "The Songs Her Father's Lyricist Taught Her." The New York Times. March 30, 1997; Marks, Peter. "A Parade of Hits 5 Decades Long." The New York Times. April 4, 1997; Dream - Cast, Credits, and Program." Johnny Mercer.com. Archived 2009-10-06 at the Wayback Machine Accessed March 9, 2009.
- Kisselgoff, Anna. "Passion, Wrongs and Reconciliation in a Racetrack Saloon." The New York Times. July 10, 2003.
- Holden, Stephen. " "Carol Woods Joins 2 Styles In Tribute To Sammy Davis." The New York Times. August 17, 1984; Holden, Stephen. "Cabaret: Carol Woods." The New York Times. June 6, 1985; Holden, Stephen. "Cabaret Guide." The New York Times. January 26, 2001.
- Boyd McDonald, Cruising the Movies, South Pasadena, California, Semiotext(e), 2015, ISBN 9781584351719, p. 183.
- Jack Wrangler, ’Icon’ of Gay and Straight Adult Film, Dead at 62, edgemedianetwork.com, 8 April 2009
- "$272,000 in Furs, Cash Taken at Bel-Air Home." Los Angeles Times. November 1, 1980.
- "Margaret Whiting Sues New York For $3 million." CNN.com. October 7, 1998; Zwecker, Bill. "Whiting's Stumble Could Bring A Windfall." Chicago Sun-Times. October 8, 1998; "Ex-Pop Singer Whiting Files Lawsuit." Associated Press. October 7, 1998.
- Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon Facebook Page
- Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon Official Site
- Jack Wrangler at IMDb
- Jack Wrangler at IMDb
- Jack Wrangler at IMDb
- Jack Wrangler at the Internet Adult Film Database
- Jack Wrangler at the Adult Film Database
- Interview with Margaret Whiting and Jack Wrangler Interview as part of the Johnny Mercer Oral History Project. Georgia State University 1995.
- Backstage interview with Rick X in 1989 during his performance in Soul Survivor
- Wrangler in the play T-Shirts (slideshow)