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Inside Gary Haney's office, in the basement of a building just off Broadway and 6th Avenue, there's a knee-high stack of hardcore porn videos that don't get much of a workout anymore. The covers are plastered with wide-open mouths, bare breasts and stuffed orifices, and frankly, Haney couldn't care less -- as of two weeks ago, that is.
When the 28-year-old from Amarillo, Texas, began publishing his weekly smut rag Rocky Mountain Go-Go in October, he penned gushing reviews for the porn industry (his main advertisers) and pasted them into his free paper. Haney envisioned himself becoming Denver's Larry Flynt, and the photos he ran with his page-two column promoted his hey-guys-look-at-me libido: There was Gary posing with a fetish girl licking an oversized, swirly colored lollipop; Gary cupping a porn star's massive tits; Gary getting a smooch on his fleshy cheek from a dominatrix. The lifestyle was his, the envy, supposedly, ours.
But the walls of the adult industry closed in on Gary Haney and, after nine years of working inside the biz and just five weeks of posturing as a porn publisher, he realized life in those pictures was just that: life in those pictures. "I had to ask myself," Haney says, his voice a hearty West Texas growl, "in my heart, was I really happy peddlin' smut? And the answer was no."
Now Gary Haney has gone legit.
Haney is pushing his publication -- renamed simply Go-Go -- toward the mainstream by removing the hardcore vibe. Areolas that once appeared in advertisements and pin-up centerfolds are being covered by bikini tops and lingerie. "I still see myself as a champion of pornographers' rights," he says. "But I don't see myself limited to that arena."
But though the question about whether he should change may have arisen in Haney's heart, the answer came from his wallet. A mainstream paper can bring more advertising dollars than a smut rag, especially in a town where one adult publication, The Rocky Mountain Oyster, has cornered the market -- and loyal advertisers -- for more than twenty years.
But Haney's decision was more gradual then epiphany-like, he says, something he's been planning for a long time. Pornographers aren't born, after all -- they're made. Haney was made when his mother, Lesa, was just fourteen years old. He says she got pregnant the first time she had sex and, fearing she couldn't raise Gary by herself, agreed to put him up for adoption. Once she gave birth, though, she broke the agreement and kidnapped her own son by hiding him beneath her gown and fleeing the hospital.
Haney grew up a hell-raiser, and in his preteen years, he was sent to live with his father, whose loose parenting style taught Haney unintentional lessons: "I quickly came to the realization that causing shit is fun, but it isn't so much fun if you don't have someone telling you not to do it. When you come into the house and a guy hands you a beer, it's kinda weird." When he was fourteen, Gary's mother enrolled him in Cal Farley's Boy Ranch in Amarillo. Life at the ranch taught Haney discipline and intellectual curiosity; he thrived in acting and debating and eventually became the class valedictorian. But the school taught him little about women. "We didn't have girls running around. We saw them one Saturday a month. Maybe that's why I was a pornographer for so long."
At nineteen, Haney's distinct voice made him a natural DJ, and he worked the 12-to-5 a.m. shift at a small station making $5 an hour. One night he and a female friend visited a strip club called the Crazy Horse, where the manager chatted with Haney and recognized his voice from the radio. Coincidentally, the manager needed a DJ for both of his clubs. "I said, 'I can make $60 a night plus tips and I get to look at naked women all night?' Well," -- Haney lets out a Texas-sized roar -- "that's a no-brainer." Within a year, Haney was managing the club and opening upscale adult clubs in other cities. He indulged in the lifestyle ("I was doing drugs, doing strippers, that kind of thing") until, after a few roller-coaster years, he wanted out.
Looking for a significant change in his life, at age 22 he moved to New York City with a girlfriend but immediately suffered a three-day case of big-city paranoia. "I just knew if I walked outside and turned the corner, with so many people, I would never see her again." Eventually he left the apartment to find a job but wound up circling the block of his personal history and did what he knew best -- managing a strip club. He landed a posh gig at Stringfellows, making between $800 and $1,500 per night. Once again, Haney moved into new cities along the eastern seaboard to open new clubs. And again he burned out. He returned to Texas and tried working 9 to 5 in customer service for Microsoft, but that didn't last long.
Haney took a job selling ads on a start-up rag called Night Moves. When the editor landed herself in jail for a reason Haney still can't recall, the publication was thrown into his lap. "I didn't know what I was doing, made a lot of mistakes. But I learned a lot." Luckily, the learning curve was on someone else's tab. When Night Moves went belly-up, Haney returned to deejaying in clubs -- and hating it.