All Drag/Porn Queen Chi Chi LaRue Ever Wanted Was to Be Popular
She got it in spades—and she's not about to let it go over a 2020 sexual assault allegation.
Happy October, Caftan readers! It’s the witchy month! Growing up near Salem, MA, I loved all things witchy and vampire-y and occult as a kid—I kid you not, I would scan the TV listings for showings of the (mediocre) 1936 movie Dracula’s Daughter with Gloria Holden because I became obsessed once I saw this image in one of the books about old Hollywood my mother would buy me….
I mean, how fierce is that, right? It’s like Horst and Adrian go to Transylvania together.
These days, not so black-arts obsessed anymore, I’m more into a general autumnal vibe, the crisp bite in the air and the NYC cultural season swinging into full force and the chance to LAYER again after months of sleeveless Ts and shorts. I’m also looking forward to a few mid-October days in BERLIN, where I have not been in almost a decade. Most of my life is spent in front of my laptop on my bed, so any chance to get the f out of Dodge and “change the channel” for a few days, as it were, I jump at.
A few months ago, the Caftan interview I did with Tom Chase did so well, with views still exceeding any other Caftan I’ve done so far, that I realized that there was apparently an enormous interest in hearing from gay men who’ve worked in porn. And that makes sense. As I’ve said before, I love porn and I think, beyond its, uh, functional use, it exists in a kind of fascinating endless conversation with gay real life, both shaping and mirroring back to us our ever-evolving values, tastes and desires. It’s also fascinatingly vulnerable to technology—just look at how classic, expensive studio porn, in the past decade, has not been exactly obliterated but certainly made to share space and revenue with self-produced porn teased on Twitter and then sold on OnlyFans, and even how more traditional porn sites have adopted a kind of reality-show, DIY aesthetic (like those “ candid interviews” before the scene, lol) that’s very different from the scripted, scenario-driven porn of yore.
All of this relates to the interview you’re about to read—with 38-year gay porn veteran Larry Paciotti, better known as porn icon Chi Chi LaRue…
Since I first heard of her back in the 90s or perhaps the early 00s, Chi Chi’s always been interesting to me because I can’t think of another porn director or producer who wrapped their long and successful career around a drag persona (more thoughts on this in the interview).
Chi Chi very generously shared about three hours with me on the phone on September 29 from Minneapolis, which she’s called home the past eight years. I won’t give you much more set-up than that except to say that I really go into these interviews in a spirit of curiosity and non-judgment and ZERO desire to pull a “Gotcha!” on anyone who’s generous enough to agree to do an interview. It’s very rare, such as when Jearld Moldenhauer upheld man-boy (or at least man-teenage) love, that I push back strongly in judgment or disagreement.
As for Chi Chi, she was accused in 2020 by Papi Suave, a porn actor she was close with…
…of sexual assault. In her telling, this has set back her career somewhat. I wasn’t there when it happened and don’t intend to pass judgment on it. I also don’t consider these Caftan interviews aggressively reported pieces where I need to reach out left and right to corroborate people’s stories or see if they check out. It’s one person’s telling, and you can take it with a grain of salt if you see fit. Papi Suave’s version of what happened is represented in this interview. But I was more interested, frankly, in the whole sweep of Chi Chi’s career and where that incident fit into it from her (or, if we are talking about Larry, his) point of view.
So that’s that! Curl up for a deep dive into Chi Chi’s world. As ever, you all have my gratitude. If you’re a paying subscriber, thank you yet again—you make it possible for me to devote the many hours I do to this project amid my other gigs—and if you’ve enjoyed Caftan up to this point, please consider once more switching to the $5/month version and getting rid of that paywall once and for all! I am very excited about Caftans I have in the works for the coming months. Until then—enjoy the witchy month!
Tim: Hi, Chi Chi! I am so excited to talk to you about so many things. But first, describe your day to me so far—or a typical day. Where are you right now?
Chi Chi LaRue: I'm in downtown Minneapolis in my apartment, where I've been for eight years since I came back for rehab to Minnesota, where I grew up, after living in L.A. for 36 years. I've had many relapses since then, but currently I'm almost eight months sober again so I am hoping and praying to my Higher Power that I remain sober.
Tim: Well, it's one day at a time, as they say, right?
CCL: Yeah, I hate that saying. There's a lot in AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] that I don't subscribe to. I have to admit I don't really like AA. But if I have to go to a meeting, I will. I have many sober friends and a big sober support unit.
Tim: Okay, what is your apartment like?
CCL: It's in an old appliance factory they turned into lofts which are very cool with super-high ceilings I don't think I could reach even with a ladder.
The area is called North Loop—kind of industrial, very young and hip, lots of great restaurants. I live above a lobster restaurant. Exposed pipes and concrete floors and pillars. Actually, I'm moving soon very soon into a house I'll be renting about eight minutes away from here.
Tim: So you grew up in Minnesota—in Hibbing. What has it been like being back after so long?
CCL: I love it here. It's very different from L.A., very grounded and friendly and not so hung up on things that I was once hung up on like labels and driving a BMW and being very in-the-know and cool. I mean, I still feel that way a little. I still like nice things but I'm not obsessed with carrying a Chanel purse. I bought one once for $3,000 and thought it was fabulous until I realized I didn't want to wear it anywhere because I was afraid it would get ruined. Then I brought it to a DJ gig in L.A. and Willam from RuPaul's Drag Race said to me, "That's a nice knockoff." That was it for me—I sold it on eBay, but only got $2,000 for it.
Tim: So the lesson is just to buy a good knockoff instead?
CCL: Absolutely. And now I love buying clothes at Target and Macy's. I'm 63 but I still wanna wear funky clothes.
Tim: Can I ask, just to be clear, do you identify as a cisgender gay man who does drag or as trans or nonbinary or—
CCL: As a gay man with a drag persona. I'm a 63-year-old man who really doesn't understand all that pronoun he, she, they, them, nonbinary etc. I think it's great if someone [identifies that way] but people shouldn't be chastised if they don't understand it right away. If someone is transitioning from a man to a woman, I call them "she." Some want to be identified as "they" or "them." I was hosting a drag show in Canada recently and there were some performers who identified as nonbinary and [I got in trouble for saying] "Let's welcome our next girl to the stage..." That's how I've introduced drag queens the last 40 years of my life. Going into the dressing room and saying, "Hi, girls!" or "Hi, bitches!" Now they get mad.
Tim: Right. So when do you usually get up in the morning?
CCL: Anywhere between five and eight a.m., depending on when my cat, Goblin, feels like he needs me to get up. He sits on my chest and I scratch his head and then I'll get up and feed him his wet food and then I have my Starbucks with my Keurig pods and then I watch some CNN, which I have to learn to stop.
CCL: Because it's very depressing. Sometimes I just don't want to hear about Trump anymore. I want him to evaporate and become one with the soil, fertilize the plants.
Tim: And what's a typical day like for you?
CCL: I'll go to Starbucks and talk on FaceTime to my best friend [the Sister of Perpetual Indulgence] Sister Roma, who lives in San Francisco and is the art director at [the porn site] NakedSword.
She's the most photographed nun in the world—a real pillar of the community who's always there to raise money for any good cause. We've been friends for probably 30 years. Then after I'll probably go to Starbucks and grocery shopping. Then I may go to lunch with my friend Tom, who's an ex-porn star. I convinced him to move to Minneapolis. He's a chef now and an amazing man who, like with many people, I got into the porn biz years ago and we've been friends ever since. I may also go to my friend Kathy's house—she has a pool but it's a little cold for that today.
Tim: And what do your evenings look like?
CCL: I go home and watch my shows, Chicago Fire and SVU. I have a huge crush on Chris Meloni. I was watching Big Brother but now that's over. Then—this is gonna sound old, but I'm in bed at 9pm unless I'm DJ'ing. Then I'm out working til two or three. But I still wake up at six.
Tim: How do you function the next day?
CCL: [whispers coyly] Starbucks. And I take a nap.
Tim: So, to be clear, you are still directing porn, right? You emailed me a few pics from a shoot last week!
CCL: Yes, I am—not as much as I was because there was an incident which I don't really like talking about, but I will. A performer, Papi Suave, accused me of inappropriate behavior and it wasn't true. I guess these days you have to believe the victim. And the company I had a regular directing gig with, Noir Male, let me go because of it.
Tim: Yes, I am familiar with this incident and I watched you on a podcast talking about it from your side of the story.
CCL: Papi and I were at a hotel after a gig. He said that I picked him up and threw him on the bed and shoved my hand down his pants and said that if he let me have him, I'd make him a star. [Chi Chi's version is that she grew professionally and personally close to Papi, had feelings for him, got drunk and tried to kiss him in his hotel room, but did not persist when he rebuffed her.]
Tim: Well, I wasn't there, so I’m not passing judgment. But did the whole incident change you or did you learn anything from it?
CCL: I learned that I can't be as open and friendly as I've been the past 38 years. I'm like the porn den mother, always hugging and encouraging. The Falcon shoot I just directed, Tales from the Locker Room 3, I was watching everything, making sure everything was going correctly and that everyone was taken care of, cast and crew, and that nobody was doing anything they didn't want to do. I've been doing this for 38 years and never had anyone say that I made them do what they didn't want to do, like Oh, did I tell you that you're gonna bottom today? You have to be straightforward and tell people exactly what they're gonna do. I find it reprehensible that some of these directors [don't do that or try to trick performers into doing things].
So I can't be myself anymore and I have to be super careful. I consider a lot of these guys [in the industry] my friends and family.