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TRAVEL
Mansions, Ghosts and Warm Weather




MUSIC
James Durso, a Gay Revolutionary




THEATER
Take me Out: Power Out-Age




ART
Hellenistic and Renaissance periods influenced her, Cadmus was her mentor




ART SHOW
Deliciously Depraved work of the legendary HUN & others




GOLDEN YEARS
ICNY Salutes Founder Empress I José on His 80th Birthday


 
An Interview With "Donnie Russo", One
Of The Most Well Known And Loved
People Of Our Community

NYQnews: You have connections to both the Pines and the Grove. Which did you go to first?

Donnie Russo: My first experience was with the Grove, and that was in the eighties, the latter part of the eighties. The Island in the early part of the eighties, well, I didn't entertain it. I was working in the clubs in New York, which was Crisco Disco, an after hours club. Everybody used to end up leaving Sunday night, actually Monday morning, and going out to the Island. But, I was into my city life, so I never really experienced it until the latter part of the eighties. Then, I became a Pines boy. That's where I am most comfortable at. To me, it's just a representation of who I am as an individual and where I can have a sense of comfortability. I love the Grove, but I'm not a Grove person.

NYQnews: They're two distinctly different communities. What is it about the Pines that you think you like the best?

Donnie Russo: I think it is because of the dominant aspect of the maleness overall. The Grove has always been known for having a larger lesbian population. I don't really know, ..it's just not me.

NYQnews: The Pines is much larger, too.

Donnie Russo: I don't even look at it as the scale of that. I look at the layout; the way the dock is, the way the store is, the way that you have the Boatel, which I call the Penitentiary, my nickname for it is CellBlock 8. Like I said, there is just a feeling of comfortability there for me. Plus, 90% of the people that I know are in the Pines.

NYQnews: And that makes a big difference.

Donnie Russo: In the Grove, I know C.J. and Marco, and two other people. But, if you ask me about the Pines, I know people from house to house. I also think the element of partiers is different. The Grove is more of a sleepy type community, even though it has the Ice Palace, which I'm sure only goes to a high moment and then dies down. In the Pines, you have the Pavilion, which at two in the morning is still rocking, and you have the Island Club, and like I said, it's just the accessibility and the overall nature of the place.

NYQnews: The night life in the two communities is totally different.

Donnie Russo: And it's funny to have that so close, back to back, to have such diversity and a feeling of it.

NYQnews: Which community did you go to first?

Donnie Russo: The Grove. I was with somebody who knew two lesbians who had a place out there, but then I was introduced to the Pines, and I said, "Oh, OK, this is what it's about." I've been going out there for over two decades, so watching what I've watched, and the changes I've seen.

NYQnews: The Grove has really changed in twenty years. How has the Pines changed?



Donnie Russo: I guess getting the Post Office. It's really amazing; I guess the advancement of technology. It's not like the way it was, or the way it was drawn out to be. Whoever knew that you'd be getting mail deliveries? It's not that it's so foreign to get a package or whatever; but to have mail delivery service, to have faxes, and to have all of that in the house. Other than that, I don't think too much has changed in the Pines.

To me, one of my recollections, is that it's the same element that is always going to be, and always going to have that draw. The Chelsea boys. Muscleheads. And, that is basically where I fit right in. That sense of masculinity. And, you know, one body is trying to be better and more beautiful than the other.

The time has come for individuals with children. I've never seen more carriages on a Saturday afternoon on the walkway from the Pantry to the dock. It's amazing that you have to dodge children's carts.

NYQnews: I wouldn't have thought that out there.

Donnie Russo: It's more and more prevalent. It's a major change, and I'm not the only one that's noticed it. Last summer, and as the summers are passing us by, it's getting to be more prevalent where you are seeing children. And it's not just daytrippers coming out; it's people taking homes.

NYQnews: And are these straight people with kids or gay people with kids?

Donnie Russo: Straight people. It's just weird to see that. And the ratio is high. It's not just one carriage, with a kid screaming.

I mean, in one sense it's good, but then in a second sense, it's like an invasion upon us. This is what they did in Chelsea, now all of a sudden they are consuming Chelsea, taking over what we reconstructed and rebuilt. We brought life back into it, and now it's prime property. It's the whole, you know, let them do it and we'll take it over, and the gays will move on to somewhere else, like Hell's Kitchen. We're refurbishing Hell's Kitchen, and then they'll move there.

NYQnews: I think that it shows great acceptance as time goes on.

Donnie Russo: Especially with children. Because of the fact that the tolerance level has to be accepted in the sense that your children are exposed to things we never would have been exposed to. I'm a very nudist individual, and not for the shocking aspect of it, but I'm very comfortable in my skin, out of the clothes as well as in, and I'm on the beach, and there's babies and children, and I'm walking around naked. I'm not doing nothing wrong, but I'm also not going to be like, oh there's a kid, put your shorts on. That's bullshit. They should know what's up before they get out there. And then, they have their babies running around naked anyway.

NYQnews: Do you think that's why the straight people are hanging out around us? The openness?

Donnie Russo: That's a possibility. An expression of something they can't live on a day to day basis like we can. I think it's the freedom.

NYQnews: Do you have a house out there?

Donnie Russo: No. My ex has had a house out there for years, and I go out with him, and my best friend. I'm definitely a Boatel babe. And I'm saying that that lifestyle at the Boatel is such a raw state.

It's pretty basic. A mattress that's as flat as a board, and has probably had more cum on it than I want to think of. A shower, and a bed, that you go home and go see the chiropractor on Monday because you got kinks in your back from laying on it.

Last Labor Day weekend , and I come back from the Grove after being out all day, and started getting chilly, and I said "OK, let me put the heater on, plugged it in, and got in the shower, and it was just getting toasty, and my friend said, "wow, you got a lot of stuff plugged in here." Guess what? I blew out the whole floor. All these queens are coming out, saying "We got no electric! We got no electric! My hair dryer won't work."

Yeah, I blew out the whole floor. Their electrical supply is nuts.

Even there, I think it's changed as far as cruising at night. I noticed there was a security guard there all night last Labor Day.

NYQnews: Making people keep their doors closed?

Donnie Russo: Well, he was more down on the dock, where the taxis arrive. I watched him, and he was definitely an individual who was undercover patrol. I thought that was interesting because that was the first time I've seen that; someone sitting, monitoring and walking up and down.

NYQnews: Do you think he was from the police department?

Donnie Russo: I don't know, but I know this individual had a flashlight and you could tell that he was doing security. I just thought that that was interesting.

NYQnews: In the gay community, you certainly have celebrity status. Can you just go out to the Pines and be a regular guy?



Donnie Russo: No. I mean, people leave me alone, but I also put myself out there. Like I said, I walk around naked.

I'm very comfortable with myself. I've been doing porn for a long, long time and historically, besides the porn, being based in New York and working in the nightclubs in the early eighties, and just being, you know, still around, where you become a figure that people can relate to and identify with. The people that are around and watched me grow older also grew older. So there's that sense of identity and comfortability. So, when I am out there, I think that people know that I'm out there, I think that people know that I'm a regular guy anyhow. I've never held that celebrity status attitude. I am me, and I know who I am, and I'm very strong in the sense of my convictions and who I am. But I don't need to throw it in anybody's face. And when I go naked on the beach, it's because I want to go naked on the beach. I don't need to impress anybody, and everybody's seen my dick anyway. In one way another, over umpteen years plus, they've seen it. That's just my freedom, my comfortability. I like to frolic in the nude.

NYQnews: And people out there pretty much leave you alone?

Donnie Russo: Yeah, they're cool. Plus, I've been going out there for so long everybody knows that's my hangout.

NYQnews: Have you ever done any films out there?



Donnie Russo: No, I've done a lot of photography work out there, but no films.

There's other companies I know that bring out guys and film out there. It's a great location. The houses, it's very California style for the summer, except it's got the New York feeling, and to me, to honestly tell you, when I'm out there, it's my down time. You know, it really and truly comes down to the point that doing photographs and stuff is easy, but I don't want to work there. When I fuck and go out and go to the Meatrack and I play, that's my time. I'm just being a regular guy, you know. And people know who I am. They know, and it's like I'm just there to have fun. I'm just Donnie, man.

NYQnews: I think it would be nice to have one place where you don't work.

Donnie Russo: That's my choosing. What I do is go out there, drop my bags, and basically forget about everything. Even when I stay out there for a week at a time; it's like, I don't want to see the computer. So, OK, we take a few rolls of film at the pool. You know, memorabilia stuff.

NYQnews: You just mentioned the computer. You've got your own website. How long has that been up?

Donnie Russo: It's going to be five years. It's donnierusso.com. I do really well on it. I have a lot of faithful followers, and I also treat it like my baby. I spend a lot of time with it.

NYQnews: Right. You have a diary on there, where you write daily or weekly items.

Donnie Russo: I write newsletters and I have the Blast from the Past, and it's got the store where people can order videos, it has the art section where I do my art, and plus it has movies showing. It has a membership drive to it. But, it's $10.95 a month, and there is so much there for $2.00 a week. You can't get nothing for two bucks a week.

I get a lot of positive feedback to my site because of the upkeep of it, and overall, the attention that is given: there's twenty four hour customer service, it's run and kept up and it's personalized by me. People are paying money, and they should get something for their money.

NYQnews: So, what's a typical day for you like? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

Donnie Russo: A typical day, well, not one day is the same as any other. It's funny, because, I've often said if someone lived just one day of my life they'd see how it really is. It's not all glamorous. I get up, have my coffee, I eat, I go to the gym, I go tanning, then I come home. I work on the website. I have sex, eat, work on the website, have sex, eat, work on the website, and go to bed.

NYQnews: Not a bad life.

Donnie Russo: Sometimes it's demanding, because you're always on stage, and that's one thing, I got to say, thank God, I'm kind of like oblivious to it. My life is on the stage all the time, wherever I'm at. You never know who's watching. It's interesting when people come back to you and say "Oh, I saw you here, and dadada." To me, it's just part of my day. Like that guy down in the Village today saying, "My God, I can't believe you're in a coffee shop." And to me, it's like normal, but because I am who I am, people just don't register that you get up, and you eat, and you drink coffee, you go through the day to day activities and you're a real person.

NYQnews: Right. You do have to do a lot of the things everyone else does?

Donnie Russo: Oh, yeah. Shit, shower, shave. Just like everyone else, you got to pay your taxes, you got this problem, that problem. You're not exempt from them. On top of it, you've got an overload of responsibilities to people. You're an example, and you have to follow suit.

NYQnews: People have certain expectations.

Donnie Russo: Oh, yeah. Definitely.

NYQnews: Is that difficult for you?

Donnie Russo: Some of them are really out of control. They can't decipher between reality and fantasy. Sometimes that gets out of control and overwhelming. But thank God, I have the capability to handle myself as an adult and to be able to handle people. I'm a people person, and even how I am sexually is how I am off the camera is the same. People have to understand that some of that stuff is about filming; it's about illusion, it's fantasy. Some people just can't determine that.

NYQnews: You mean people can't distinguish Donnie Russo the guy from Donnie Russo the actor?

Donnie Russo: Right. I don't just live in jeans and a t-shirt. There are other things I enjoy as well. I have many, many facets. I am a very complex individual to a degree. I'm a very rounded individual. I have a lot of things I do, I'm not just tied down to one thing. Porn is not my whole life. I have other levels which I entertain in my life. And I've been doing them for many, many years. I'm involved in the funeral business, and in real estate.

The funny thing is, my richness is my life. People have such a misconception about that. Especially, I think that with me, they think that my bank accounts are overflowing, but I live the same way, month to month, as everybody else does. You know, my company costs me money to run. It's dealing with distributors, dealing with invoices, payments out, payments due to me, the fights, the whole nine yards. Some days are better than others. Some days you don't sell nothing. People just think that because you became who you became, but I fucking struggle. The funny thing is, I look back over the years, and I'm amazed at the things that have gone on, and where I'm at in life. And to look back, and to think that my name would become world recognizable; that blows my mind. And the second thing that blows my mind, I'd really like to know how much cum has been dropped about me. Gallons wouldn't even begin.

The internet has been an accessory as far as being able to meet individuals from Egypt and parts of the world that I didn't know existed. I get fan mail from everywhere; Moscow, Russia, Brazil, South Africa, Italy, the United Kingdom. I've probably gotten fan mail from every part of the world, and it's just amazing... I'd like to know how much cum has been whacked off while guys look at me.

NYQnews: How many videos have you done?

Donnie Russo: A lot. Hundreds and hundreds. The thing is, I look back, and a couple of people in New York that I was dating at the time, we argue about the fact that they say I always said I would become a porn star. I hate the word porn star now. I think it's just an abused word that should be taken out of the vocabulary. To be called an icon and a legend, that blows my mind. It's so weird to be called a legend. I often wondered what a legend was. It doesn't sink in. And to be called an icon, or magazines that say the legendary Donnie Russo; the gay icon. Wow. I shake my head at that.

NYQnews: Well, I can't think of any contemporaries that you do have because your career has gone on so much longer than anyone elses'.

Donnie Russo: Frank Vickers, he was a porn star. Al Parker, that was a porn star. Those men that died and gave us what we have today, they are the porn stars. Those guys to me are legends. And I've been classified with them, and it kind of blows my mind. Like Jeff Stryker, and I go back with him many years... When Jeff came out in 1984, and I was like 19, and it was a big, ah, everybody says "Oh, my God", and then Al Parker, and all these men and it was like wow.

And then to later on, not knowing that destiny would intervene, that I would be compared to these guys, and put up with them, by influential individuals who are icons themselves in the gay culture as far as writers, historians and so forth. That blows my mind.

Sometimes I shake my head at that, like is this real?

In 1994, I had the largest lesbian following in gay history.

NYQnews: Are you serious?

Donnie Russo: And that blows my mind. I think it's because of the domination aspect and the expressions of being able to have them utilize my movies as a tool. The domination aspect. It's interesting. And straight people that I have following my work as well, that blows my mind. So there's a lot of things in my life where I could have got a big head, been like, "don't touch me", but it's not my character, my personality. I'm probably the easiest, feel-go-lucky guy that they'll ever meet, and people don't realize that. They think I am the biggest, baddest hard ass. And I am! But, you know, I'm a softie. I'm a stay puff marshmellow guy, you tickle me and I laugh. I'm people orientated, and C.J. knows the entourage in my life and the people that gravitate around me. I love horsing around, I love the shock value, and C.J. can tell you about some escapades at his party.

I'm like a kid, I like having fun. I don't look at aging. I thank God I'm around, that's all I care about. There's not so many that are around.

Shit like that, those are the memories. You sit back and ponder those moments, and go "Remember when?" That warm feeling, that sensation, the security that comes from those moments. I have a lot of friends that I can share moments with.

NYQnews: Over the years, you have gone from being an actor to being a producer. What was that transition like?



Donnie Russo: Actually, I was both at the same time. People have a misconception about that. I had only done, you can count them on my hands, I had done five films before I started becoming a producer. I was basically very Joan Crawford in the sense that I saw what it was like, and, I had, I was the one that was doing what I was doing, and doing what I do best, having sex. And, people were paying me as an actor, but the scripts were me. You can never give anybody a script. If anybody is a vivid Russo fan; you look at videos, and that's why I have done so well. It's the realism. There's no way that anybody could ever give me a script and employ that on film they way I did. And I enjoyed, and I have often said, that I allowed people into my world, my world when I exposed myself like that. That was my world, and I was allowing them in. And that's still true to this day. And I look at it, like you know, if I was going to continue, and I knew that I was going to, that I wanted to run my own company and produce my own films. And yet, I still also work independently for many, many companies. And the thing is, I really got to say, is Catalina, Falcon, of all the people that I knew, times were changing, the look, my look was brand new to the porn world, I was very masculine, built. I had something that the porn world didn't really have for many, many years. I have to say, with respect to them all, they gave me encouragement. It wasn't like "Oh, my God, you got to be kidding me, this porn star is going to try to become a producer." You know, Chuck of Falcon, Josh Eliot of Catalina, they called me, they would give me models they couldn't use, they would be like, "Here, call Donnie Russo, he's on the East Coast." Chi Chi LaRue..and still, to this day, I get a very warm, respectful acknowledgement from these people. And, you know, they're cutthroats. Not those individuals, but there's a lot of people in LA, in the porn world, who should not be in the porn world, and they vicariously live through us in their own make believe world of sex. I was really blessed in that aspect.

NYQnews: Just getting started with good people.

Donnie Russo: Yeah, and I also like Steve Johnson of Close Up. I mean, he was the one that made this all possible. Like he said, you gave us so much, this was my thank you back to you to help you start a company.

Years ago, you would film on Super 8, and editing was totally different, you didn't have computers. So everything was totally different. And I would love it when an individual would say, "Oh, it's so easy to make a movie." But, you know, and I, myself, was in that same boat, in which I thought you picked up a camera, filmed, and badabing, badaboom. Well, excuse me, the reality, ..what about the insert, what about the box, what about the cassette, what about the editing, what about the credits. I mean the host of things that go into it, I mean I was mortified, absolutely mortified. And Thank God I had Steve Johnson to say, "Don't worry. You know what, you'll learn. I'll teach you." And he did. I had a knack for the camera, a very good eye, and on top of it, I was in front of the camera, so I knew what I liked and what I saw and what was most comfortable for me. You know what I'm saying? So, I was able to take that, and initiate it into my movies.

NYQnews: You just touched on how your looks have changed over they years.

Donnie Russo:
That's another interesting thing.

NYQnews: In the last couple of years, you've added a lot of tattoos.

Donnie Russo: It's been more than a couple years, I'd say more like the past five years.

First, I had two or three, and then started working on my sleeves.

NYQnews: Do the tattoos for you have emotional or spiritual meaning?

Donnie Russo: I'm very spiritual. Everybody that knows me, everybody in my home life - there's a lot of spirituality involved. I've always been spiritual. Even my sign is spiritual. I'm an Aires. I had long hair in the eighties, and then went with all the haha looks, I had a mullet. And then I went to the spiked look, I had my hair spiked up, and then went to a shaved head look, you know, a crew cut. Actually, I went to a Mohawk. But nobody ever got to see that because Chi Chi Larue made me cut that off. I had the Mohawk, which was not a Mohawk that was high, just a center strip down. My hair was long and Danny Somers and I in June of ninety something, must have been ninety three, for Gay Pride and they were doing ten dollar haircuts, so I persuaded him to get his hair done as a Mohawk and mine, too. Actually, I looked really hot and I redid the Mohawk in ninety eight. But, then she told me I had to shave it off because I was doing a film and I was being a cop. I never really needed to shave it off because my hat never came off. And I was very, very upset. But in light of that, I ended up looking really hot because I shaved my head, so I had a bald head. There's a lot of pictures from that that circulate to this day. And, I have to say, I look good in them.

So, then I did the high and tight, and the military look, and all that, and then everybody else started doing it. It became very clonish. It became like a fad, everywhere you looked everybody had the same haircut. Everybody went and got their hair cut high and tight. And, not to say that I was the designer of that haircut, you know, ninety years before they were doing it in the military. But, the reality was there weren't many people, unless they were in the service, were coming out that had that style of hair. So, then I decided to create a fad myself, so I bleached out my hair, and bleaching was becoming big in ninety three, ninety four, ninety five, something like that. It was hot, I mean I bleached it out. And then, I met my other half, and he had long hair. In ninety five, I started growing out my hair. It seemed easy in the eighties to have long hair because of all the drugs I did. Because I never realized that time had gone, because of the alcohol consumption and the drugs, you know, a day became a week, and a week became a month, and a month became a year before you knew it. I was very active in alcohol and drugs in the eighties. From working in the clubs and stuff, that was the lifestyle. Plus, you know, I was seventeen, eighteen years old.

So, I started grow out my hair back in ninety five, and then I just couldn't deal with it, so I ended up shaving it back off.

So, that's when I met my lover, my partner and he had long hair. I knew the name, but didn't know who he was. Then, when I met him, actually it will be four years Friday that we're together, he had long hair, and that was a big attraction to me. I think he's really cool. There's not many people that I consider cool. Cool to me is Aaron. He has long hair, I would not say down to his ass, but long. And he was tattooed heavily; kind of like what I would become. I had done my one sleeve before I met him, or I was in the progress of doing my one sleeve, actually. My ex and I were breaking up, and I was introduced to Aaron by this porn star who was a friend of his. So, Aaron was a fan of mine, and I was a fan of his work. He's a photographer. Aaron was holding a party, so I went to met him sight unseen.

I remember walking down 8th Avenue, and I said to Michael, my friend who was escorting me to the party, I said to him, "You know what? I found the person I'm supposed to be with in life. Aaron and I will be together."

NYQnews: So, you're a romantic, too.

Donnie Russo: I'm probably like my father, I'm very home, relationship bound. I see that in myself where other people don't. Sex is sex, and love is love, and that was told to me in 1985 on Memorial Day weekend by a boyfriend. We had some conflicts of interest regarding his escapades, and so forth and he said those words to me. After I thought about it, he was right. And, you know, we're gay men. I like cock. I love cock. I love my cock. It's a great combination. And my affections, and my time with Aaron is mine, and those are private moments.

So, Aaron was an enabler for me to grow out my hair, to further enhance myself with my ink, which I wanted to do, and he was positive influence to allow that to happen. My back piece is something that came about in the past year, which is Jesus. I swore I would never get a back piece. I saw what Aaron went through and I thought, "Oh, man, now way." The sleepless nights, the itching. So, lo and behold, I decide to do my back piece.

I had bought a portrait of Jesus, at the turn of the century. And like I said, I'm very spiritual, and it seemed very appropriate for me to do that. So, I did. And, in the past year I finished him. This last Tuesday was his completion.

NYQnews: Have you ever thought of writing an autobiography?

Donnie Russo: Everybody does that, and you know what? Fuck them all. I get sick and tired of everybody saying, "Oh, you should write an autobiography, and then they start writing it, and then they lose interest, and I lose interest, and I just don't have time for it.

I feel like I've done everything. I've been in over 5,000 magazines, and have a credit history of films that will knock your socks off, I've had art paintings, statues, pictures, books, everything imaginable.

I am the last of the breed in the sense that there are too many speechless individuals from the AIDS epidemic of the eighties. I am a child of the night. I hooked on 53rd and 3rd for how many years, I've worked in the nightclubs, I was affiliated with the most notorious individuals, many of them who are no longer here. When I start telling stories about people, places and things, I guess it would captivate the audience.

NYQnews: You could be the voice of a generation.

Donnie Russo: I am the voice of a generation; I'm more than the voice of a generation. I'm the voice of two generations. My life goes back over twenty one years in the gay culture.

I've always been known; my name was always known.

I had that personality, I had that attraction. I was hot. I was a hundred thirty some odd pounds and hanging on Christopher Street. I was that piece of candy; that young stud that was desirable. By the time I was twenty four I was a Daddy. And then it evolved, and now I'm like Granddaddy.

My history with men is that I've had a lot of loves in my life; maybe not a lot, but a few. And I still have them; they're still in my life. Once you enter my world, you never leave.

NYQnews: So, what do you think is next for Donnie Russo?

Donnie Russo: As far as what's next. That's a tough one. I'm always up to something. What it is I'm up to, you never know. Like I never knew with the porn. Never. Things always fell into my lap and they still do. I'm very watched over; very spiritual. I have a lot of protectors. I'm very fortunate to have them and to be able to be where I'm at.

NYQnews: You used to hang out in the Village.



Donnie Russo: I still do. I look at the village, and I have a lot of memories down here.

My fondest memory of the village. I think the turning point of my life was May 2, 1982 when I met Glen Hughes. He was in the Village People; he was a very influential individual in my life. He was the one that helped get me my first job in a gay bar. I happened to meet him one day. I was sitting there, smoking a cigarette. There was this biker dude, and this black guy, about my age. At the time, the piers were up and the Ramrod was across the street. I was looking for a job, and this black kid is telling me, "That guy likes you over there." He was totally my type; a big, black bushy mustache, a big leather guy.

So, I finally went over and talked to him, and said "When are you going to give me a ride on your bike?" So he said, "When would you want to go?" So, I ended up getting on his bike, and we went riding for like maybe four and a half hours. I was a naïve kid, and I was telling him about my life. I told him I was trying to get a job at Uncle Charlies.

So, he finally dropped me off at around 10th Street, and he hands me his card. And it's a picture of the Village People. And I was totally, totally in awe.

His lover at the time worked at Uncle Charlies, and was good friends with the manager. And maybe a week later, I get a call from Everett, the manager there, and he asked me if I was still interested in the position, and I said "Yeah, totally." So, I started working Monday to Friday. And he said, "Oh, by the way, your buddy Glen says good luck with the job." So, Glen had told Everett to hire me.

NYQnews: You've had a lot of people who gave you good encouragement along the way.

Donnie Russo: Well, believed in me. In the beginning, I had a lot of people that had faith in me. I've been very blessed.

Some of the things in life, well, I wonder why, or what if I didn't do this, or, if I wasn't there.

I had a car accident where I had my leg smashed. I was in the hospital for most of a year. It was a big mess.

I had to learn how to rewalk. I look at it as a vanity situation. I also look at it to show that I'm not perfect. I'm not perfect; I'm damaged. I think that's why I became level headed. That imperfection in me is what keeps me grounded.

There's a lot of things you have to learn to accept. Now, with the world the way it is, you just take it day by day. We've seen a lot in the past few months.

Life is so precious. Even before September 11, I looked at life as precious, but now even more so. More and More, I try not to let things bother me.

There's one life to live, and I live it.

NYQnews: You seem to focus very much on the positive aspects of things. You've talked a lot about the good people that you've dealt with and the good things that have happened to you.

Donnie Russo: Yeah. I'm an optimist. I guess I always have been. I try to look at the brighter side. There's an old saying, "That, too, shall pass." And it does. From moment to moment, everything changes. You're going through hell one moment, you're going through laughter the next, tears the next. It's an up and down, but overall, you're dead longer than you're alive, and you might as well enjoy what you have and make the best of it. And you're only young once, that's how I look at it. I don't want to have regrets. I don't want to say I didn't do this, and I didn't do that, because I was so afraid somebody would look at me and say, "Oh!" If you don't like it, you don't have to look.

I enjoy what I do, and that's overall the most important thing. I enjoy what I do.

God works in mysterious ways.

I want to tell this quick story. The story justifies who I am, and to know like what I've done was not done in vain. This one story will captivate and conclude the whole meaning of my life being here. It's about destiny.

This must have been in May of 98 or 99; it was when we had that real hot, hot May. I went to the gym, and I come home, and my ex calls me up. He says "My friends are in from California, and they want to meet you. Meet us down at the South Street Seaport.

I took a cab, because it's like 100 degrees outside. I'm waiting, and I'm waiting. I 'm sitting there, and I take off my shirt. People looking, gawking, the whole nine yards. Fifteen minutes pass, and half an hour has passed. I didn't bring my cell phone, and I had only bills on me, no change. So, now, forty five minutes have passed. I'm fucking dying. I'm so hungry, I worked out, I needed to eat. So, I go to the other side of the Seaport. It's shady over there. I walk back through the Seaport, through the mall area. So, I went to find a phone. I walk into this store, and I said to the lady, "Do you have any change? I need some change." And she said, "No, I can't, unless you make a purchase I can't open the register." So fine, I walk out and this guy comes up to me. He says, "Here's a quarter." He's cleaning. So, I walk over to the phones, put the quarter in, and dial. I looked at the guy at the phone next to me, and said "Hey, how you doing?" He says, "Good." So, I get Tony on the phone, and they're running late, and I tell him I've been waiting, the whole nine yards.

Tony's friends come, and they don't want to eat, they want to sight see. They want to eat later. I said, "Shit, I got to eat." So, this is really pissing me off. So, I go back to Brooklyn.

So, I'm in the cab, and looking back at the Seaport, and I'm thinking to myself, "Why did I need to be there that day? I knew there was a reason."

So, June and July go, and I keep thinking, "Why did I need to be there that day?"

August comes, and I open my email one morning. South Street Seaport in big, bold letters.

"Dear Mr. Russo, you probably won't remember me, and you probably won't have any recollection of me at all. But I want to tell you that you saved my life that day. I was the guy next to you on the telephone. I was going to commit suicide that afternoon. I knew who you were. You saying hello to me, knowing who you were, changed my life."

He went on to say other stuff in his letter, about his life and what he was contemplating. He said, because you know, you being famous and took your time to say hello, he reevaluated the world and it wasn't all bad.

So, all I know is, looking back, I saved one life. That answered the question of why I was at the Seaport that day. Think about it. The guy giving me the quarter. Little angels. I'm a very firm believer in angels.

If I look back at my legacy as an individual, and anybody that says that porn is disgusting, unfulfilling, etc., you know what? I have a story for them, because I know one person that's alive because of porn, and not because of anything else.

photos by CJ Mingolelli
  

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