INTERESTING ARTIST IS EXTREMELY WELL HUNG AND LIVES NEXT DOOR TO BOY GEORGE

Interview by Arnoud Holleman

I love Roger Payne’s hardcore pornographic drawings! Roger is 68 and lives together with Don and Jeff, both in their fifties. Don is from Canada and has a huge collection of original Titanic memorabilia – menu card holders and such. Jeff is American and moved in only two years ago. Roger, Don and Jeff live in a tiny house in Hampstead. The living room is hardly 3 by 6 meters with a low ceiling, so the three men look like three displaced Duane Michaels giants in their cosy Art-Nouveau boudoir. After the interview, Roger, Don, Jeff and I go out for lunch in the local Hampstead gay pub. We have hamburgers and a few beers. When we return to the house, we find the front door open. Somebody has been inside, and a few drawers have been opened and searched through. The only thing missing is Don’s most precious item from his collection, the original Titanic Staff Survivors Medal, worth I don’t know how much. It totally ruins the cheerful atmosphere of the day, but that was all after we talked.

Arnoud: Is it on?
Roger: Yes it’s on.
I don’t know if we should talk art-wise or sex-wise about your work.
Could do both I think.
When I first saw your drawings, I had a hard-on before I knew it. It was in a sexshop in the Warmoesstraat in Amsterdam. I think I even blushed. Most of the time the level of pornographic drawings is so low that you only get a rough schedule of what the sexual fantasy should be about, but on an artistic level there’s no arousal whatsoever. Does it turn you on making them?
No. Obviously, most gays like big cocks and handsome guys, but I don’t sit there getting aroused when I’m doing these drawings.
It looks like you’ve done this all your life.
The erotic stuff I only started about five years ago. I made commercial illustrations all my life, romantic book covers and such. Very little pay. But what really got me started on this was when a British publisher approached me to do a book on gay kamasutra. I enjoyed doing it and it was only then that I thought there would be a market for this.
To me your drawings are an absolute turn on. Really upfront, no difficult artistic layers or lack of talent in between you and the image. Like Tom of Finland.
I know the work of Tom of Finland, of course. He’s been around for so long. I remember him from my youth even. It was so shockingly open when it first came out, but I never thought of doing similar things.
Never ever?
Well, I used to do occasional drawings for myself sometimes, or for friends. And also, over the years I did a lot of historical stuff for an educational magazine for kids called Look And Learn. Odysseus, biblical stories, mythology and so. My publisher used to say, really Roger you always get away with it, because in almost every historical picture would be one or more dishy hairy guys with a very tiny roman skirt on. I’ve always had these fantasies about hairy guys. Hairy legs, hairy chests, hairy butts, hair everywhere. For me, shaving is a total turnoff. When Handjobs magazine started publishing my erotic work, I had masses of mail saying it’s wonderful to see guys that are sexy and hairy.
I thought Handjobs was about age, not about hair.
You’re right, they have this daddy-thing. I knew what they wanted, so I drew what they wanted. Personally I’m not a daddy type at all. I’ve always been focused on guys more or less my own age. In fact, I did get comments from their readers that the older guy in my drawings was too young, but I don’t mind as long as he’s hairy.
How come?
I suppose because it’s masculine, and after all, by and large, women are not hairy, are they?
Well, there’s this other magazine called Hair to Stay. It’s for all people with a lust for hairy women. Straight men, lesbian women, you name it. It’s amazing how much body hair some women have, and even more that there’s a market for it.
There’s a market for everything. What I do like about the age-difference though is the aspect of initiation; youngsters just discovering it. In Handjobs, it’s always an older guy with a younger guy, or even grandpa, daddy and son. In one of the stories grandpa fucks his handsome 18 year-old grandson and daddy finds out and he fucks his son as well.
You don’t write the stories yourself?
Just once, but it’s not included in the book that was published by the magazine. They made up the stories after I sent them my pictures. I was quite shocked to find out when the book arrived that they published drawings with myself in them. I sent them as a joke, but there I am, naked with two handsome lads licking the sperm that comes from my huge cock.
I think that, even without knowing that that was you in those drawings, one gets the feeling that they are made by someone who is, if not a sex addict, at least sexually preoccupied. For me, they triggered the wish to meet you and to find out how they are connected with reality. But you are talking about it as if you’re not part of it.
I don’t know. I guess it’s a mental thing.
So, what is it then about your drawings?
Maybe it’s because they’re realistic.
I wouldn’t call it realistic. Your drawings are bigger than life. If all gays over fifty had a sex life like in your drawings, no one would complain getting old.
Well, you could call it a celebration of phallic masculinity. There’s a gay archetype. I do think there’s this archetypal background to gay sexuality and to all sexuality in general. Tarzan is a good example, he’s the archetypal man, a natural human animal. The phallus as a god. Something that’s worshipped, you know. I do think that there’s that dimension to my drawings as well.
Is there a Tarzan in every homosexual screaming to get out then?
I think all homosexuals are screaming to get a Tarzan. And it’s something that Judeo-Christian society is trying to suppress. Sexuality has always been a bit of an enemy; it’s a rival of God, after all. Do you know Camille Paglia? She makes a lot about the fact that the male genitals are external. That makes his sexuality much more thrusting, outgoing. Part of the visual world. She’s an interesting woman, she’s a lesbian but she loves gay men. She says she wants to be a gay guy in her next incarnation. She did a marvellous programme on TV simply called The penis. She showed all the aspects of the penis throughout art and pornography, as far as they would allow her, and she ended the program by saying ‘come on girls get it up’.
There’s an almost Jehovah’s Witness quality in it as well. It’s so positive and guilt free.
What I try to depict is something behind the sex scene itself, so it is a bit more than life. Not necessarily cock size, it’s more in the realm of fantasy and therefore in the realm of the imaginary.
Somehow I expected to get here and find out who’s who in your drawings. Some of the guys keep coming back in your drawings. I was convinced to meet the hairy dude in person as one of your boyfriends. But Hairy Harrie is not here and neither Jeff nor Don are in your drawings.
No. You can’t have it all, can you? Jeff isn’t hairy, but that’s where life goes sometimes, isn’t it? My first boyfriend was hairy though. When I was at school at sixteen or seventeen I fell in love with him and funnily enough his name was Roger too. I mean, how narcissistic can you get? We had a rather passionate affair for three years. However in the army he met someone else and that put an end to it. He was good looking. And hairy. He died of cancer when he was about twenty-five. His mother gave me that sculpture over there.
No problems about the nature of your friendship?
She was of the generation that if she really knew about it, which I think she did, she wouldn’t have said. She was very fond of me and I was fond of her. Then I met Brian at a party, and when I came out of the RAF we set up home and lived together for more than twenty years. When he died ten years ago, he left me the house, thank god. Otherwise I’d never be able to live in Hampstead. Almost every house has a plaquette remembering a famous person having lived here. Elizabeth Taylor used to live here when she was married to Richard Taylor. Boy George lives around the corner.
(Don comes down the stairs on his way to the kitchen.)
Don: We should put a plaquette on our house, saying ‘Roger Payne lived here. If only the walls could talk…’ Mind you, I overheard everything you talked about so far.
Roger: Great! I met Don when Brian was still around. When Don moved in he had to accommodate himself to Brian and Brian to Don. And now it’s the same thing with Jeff and Don.
Is it difficult?
As far as temperament goes yes, Brian and Don were very unalike. And Jeff and Don are unalike as well. Don’s a Pisces and Jeff’s a Gemini.
And you?
I’m Cancer.
So am I.
I’m born with Scorpio rising.
Me too.
Really? Well there you are. Scorpio is the sex and the phallus and the unspoken and everything. It’s the only animal that can kill himself. You think it fits with you? It does with me.
I dreamt about my shrink last night. I stopped therapy a few years ago, and I dreamt I met her by chance while shopping. We agreed to have a cup of coffee together. When she locked her bike she said, ‘So nice to see you again, Arnoud. Hopefully this time you will finally tell me something about yourself.’
That’s typical Cancer. Everything’s under a hard shell. You can read from the face, but you never tell. I had four years of analysis.
Hardcore Freudian five days a week?
No Jungian, not more than twice a week. It started of with a TV programme about Jung in which his housekeeper appeared. She was talking about the years when she looked after Jung and I wrote to her. She lived in the north of England and invited me over, and we had a very interesting couple of days. She was a marvellous woman, and of course she’d known Jung very intimately. Not sexually but as a companion, and she put me in touch with top analysts. I had a woman for two years and then I moved on to a man. Don and I went to Zürich and we visited Jung’s house and spent two afternoons with his son, and again it was a marvellous experience. We met his grandson too. We even have a letter with Jung’s signature.
So basically you’re sort of stalking a dead man.
Roger: I am. I am.
The only thing I know about Jung is the principle of the unconscious inner conflict taking place as your destiny in the outside world. The paradox of your boyfriend leaving you, because you’re too eager to keep him, because you’re afraid of being deserted.
Have you heard of the principle of synchronicity? That’s quite central to Jungian thought. It’s actually supported now by a lot of advanced physics. It’s about a parallelism of events. Meaningful coincidence if you like. For instance Jeff’s situation is a perfect example. He reached the point in his life where he was lonely and depressed and so on and by so-called coincidence he happens to write to me. And everything changes. Now the inner situation and the outer situation met, by what appeared to be chance, but wasn’t chance. Isn’t it Jeff?
Jeff: ‘Sure.’
(Jeff, who walks in from the kitchen, has until now dealt with the installation of a new fridge.)
What made you decide to get in touch with Roger?
Jeff: It may sound innocent but I sent an e-mail to Handjobs to compliment the company with this artist. They wrote back saying thank you so much for writing bla bla bla and if you like to write the artist here’s his e-mail. Roger answered and we ended up e-mailing twice a day. He and Don invited me over for a holiday and I stayed.
Was it a sexual impulse to write? I mean, did you get a hard on?
Jeff: I didn’t have an erection and I didn’t wanna go wank all over his drawings. I mean, I appreciated it but…
Roger: Did you never wank over my drawings?
Jeff: No.
Roger: Come on, the truth.
Jeff: No.
Roger: I’m disappointed.
Jeff: Alright, I did put a cockstrap on.
Roger: You did? Now we’re talking. He’s just reformed, you see. Jeff was brought up in the Bible Belt.
Jeff: I lived my life condemned to Hell.
And then you saw his drawings.
Jeff: I was in a sexshop and flipped through the magazine and stopped and looked. I’ve never seen anyone come close to Roger’s artwork. Usually it’s very boring what you see.
Roger: The funny thing is, I used to do Subut in the early seventies. It’s like a group meditation. You basically stand in a room, waiting for the divine to take over. Each individual responds in a different way. People start speaking in tongues, start laughing or crying, or show controlled forms of epilepsy. I usually would end up dancing like a dervish, in circles, on and on and on. When I told Jeff about it recently, he had had similar experiences when he was still living in the Bible Belt.
Jeff: We were standing in a circle, I held the hand of my wife, and we were waiting for God to speak. I felt an energy entering my body and started speaking in tongues. I was literally possessed by someone else’s voice. Afterwards people told me they’d never heard such beautiful Hebrew. Of course nobody in the circle knew Hebrew. They were all white rednecks, feeling guilty as hell, afraid of punishments coming from above, and I was one of them. I’m so glad to have left America. I have no ties now, just a couple of credit cards.
Roger: He did it all for love
Jeff: And are you worth it?
Roger: You know that.
Jeff: Roger is 100% guilt free.
Roger: Opposites attract.

End