V Exclusive! Porn Star Mr. Marcus Answers Critics Over Syphilis Fallout

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By: / September 1, 2012

The The Daily Beast headline screamed like it was straight from the front page of some seedy 80’s tabloid: “Mr. Marcus on Why He Kept Quiet About Syphilis That Sparked Porn-Industry Scare…” The details were even more jolting. One of the biggest (no pun intended) male adult film stars of all time altered his test results, igniting a STD scare that would shut down production in California’s San Fernando Valley. The incident resulted in more than 300 performers getting tested for the disease.

“I tried to cover it up…because I said it was like the scarlet letter,” an emotional Mr. Marcus explained in an August 22 interview with adult entertainment news site XBIZ. “It’s the word. Syphilis, whoa. Mr. Marcus, syphilis? Mr. Marcus, the one I worked with? The one that everybody works with? The one that’s been in this industry forever? I have to live with this, no one else does. I’m sorry. I’m very sorry. I did not think that this would come out like this. I’m sorry. All I can do is try to make some good happen. That’s it.”

Of course, as detailed in VIBE’s The Dark Side: An Oral History Of Black Porn, the adult film industry is at a crossroads in terms of ensuring safety for its actors. In January, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation led a monumental win against the porn biz after a city ordinance was passed requiring adult film actors to wear condoms while performing in the capital of the x-rated movie world—Los Angeles. But the Mr. Marcus story has shined a light on deeper concerns. Despite a 10-day shut down by porn film studios that’s scheduled to be lifted the first week of September, it’s shockingly business as usual.

“People are still shooting movies,” former star and porn director Diana DeVoe told VIBE. “And you can print that. This is a loose association of rebels. They can’t always afford to take two weeks off of work. Anytime you show up to work, just like a policeman or a fireman, you are saying an x amount of money is worth my health and safety.”

DeVoe, who believes that her longtime peer Mr. Marcus will most likely be blacklisted from the porn business, also points out that the simmering racism that has become par-for-the-course in the XXX-rated film world has been turned up to 11 following the syphilis scare. “If you go on Twitter, that’s already begun,” DeVoe said of the unfortunate blowback. “You see certain women saying, ‘That’s why I don’t do interracial.’ And other women are saying, ‘I don’t think I’m going to do interracial anymore.’”

But what about the man at the center of it all? VIBE spoke to Mr. Marcus who set the record straight on what really happened, why he feels like he’s been misinterpreted in recent interviews and his future in porn. This is Mr. Marcus…in his own words.


I have to start by saying that I wish I had handled all of this differently. It would have been as simple as saying, “Hey, I caught syphilis and people that I have worked with need to go get checked.” It wasn’t me catching a disease that pissed everybody off. It was the fact that I tried to hide it. I was really trying to handle it privately, but in hindsight it was something I should have addressed. The truth is when it comes to the health situation in our working environment people know what they are being exposed to. Porn actors know what we are doing. We are not kids. But we don’t always know what’s going on.

When everybody found out I had syphilis it was a lot more complicated than just saying you got a disease. What I was trying to explain in the interviews that I have done is this could happen to anybody. And that point never really came across. What I got from the people that know me is that I was considered a trustworthy person; somebody that was well respected in the business. As far as they were concerned I had violated that trust. Once I admitted I doctored my test it became open season. You get treated and people still want to assume that you are spreading something that you are not; that you already went to a doctor for. They don’t see it that way. Anything I say now people will give me shit for saying it. But they also know that this has happened before.

I personally haven’t seen anyone use the race card yet. I haven’t heard, “Oh, he’s black…that’s what black people do.” I think people who are fans of interracial porn or who are fans of black performers that are worried about whether or not this is going to affect how black people will be [viewed in the porn business by their white peers] are missing the point. This is not a black thing or white thing…anybody can go through this. Obviously, I’m going through all this for a reason. And it’s gotten everybody’s attention for a reason. I’ve received supportive text messages and emails from some of my peers and I appreciate that. I needed to know that I wasn’t just being singled out. But I feel like I still have a story to tell.

I can only think that I’m either supposed to move on from porn or I’m supposed to elevate the environment that porn is created in. One thing I want to do on my website is talk about STD awareness and what to look for. We are going to get very graphic…I’m talking about showing photos because a picture can speak 1000 words. I want to address everything on my website because I’ve never released an official statement on all this. I’ve tried to explain myself, but that kind of gets ripped apart. So I figure that if I just write about my experiences people will have a better understanding of why I did what I did. When you go through some shit like this you should come out a better person. That’s my personal goal now. But how do you do that in this environment? I don’t want my last 18 years to be erased. I’m fighting hard against that.

— As told to Keith Murphy