Fire and Rain: A Tribute to John Bruno

By A.J. Llewellyn

Just yesterday morning, they let me know you were gone… I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend, but I always thought that I’d see you again. – from Fire and Rain, music and lyrics, James Taylor

When I first started writing gay erotic romance fiction six years ago, I didn’t tell many people. It was a new medium for me and I wanted to see how it went. I had coffee one day with my friend John Bruno, who had been struggling to find work as an artist. I’ve never met a kinder, more talented man. I couldn’t understand why he couldn’t get a break. He told me he was getting work here and there…and suddenly mentioned a movie he’d directed. When I probed he wouldn’t say what kind of movie at first. He finally said he was directing gay porn.

I was delighted. I told him I was writing gay erotic romances and we had a good laugh that we were such shy puveyors of porn. John Bruno (his porn name, not his real name), became one of my biggest supporters and introduced me to Adam Killian before Adam became the multimedia superstar he is now. Adam and I did a shoot for three of my favorite bookcovers and John showed an intense interest in my work.

We’d talk shop and he told me hilarious stories of life on the set. Then one day he casually suggested we should work together. We had big ideas. Actually, the ideas were his. He had this vision of porn webisodes based on a book he thought I should write. John was brilliant that way. He was cutting edge.

Today, he is gone. Way too soon.

His life cut short by his own hand.

Yesterday, I learned he took his own life on Monday evening and I am in grief. I am in torment, but I have had to accept that he had tried before with pills. This time he made sure there would be no rescues. It wasn’t a cry for help.

He was, as a mutual friend said to me last night, done.

John had a gun nobody knew about and left his family house in Michigan where he’d been visiting his parents. His father followed his footsteps in the snow and found his body. He’d shot himself and I cannot imagine his father’s pain and grief.

Everyone I’ve spoken to has beautiful memories about this man and feels a deep, deep sadness at his passing.

John Bruno died because his dreams not only didn’t come true, they were trampled once too often.

He couldn’t get work in porn, in spite of his obvious talent  because the hot new thing is porn stars doing their own directing.

He couldn’t get work in mainstream media, in spite of his prolific background in it, not to mention his awards, because executives would find out he’d directed gay porn.

It happened more than once. He wouldn’t get the job.

Because he’d directed porn.

So what?

We discussed this devastating issue the last time he tried to kill himself. He was matter of fact about it. He was sad, but trying so hard to be positive. He quit the porn industry two years ago after a near-fatal overdose when he couldn’t handle losing work, losing his home and…his crushing, severe depression.

He moved home to be with his family for a while and worked as a waiter. He had hilarious stories and suggested a book.

He was as usual, wonderfully funny, sweet, but sad at the same time. He wanted to work. He took up photography again and would send me photos. He had bright ideas and suggested Moby’s Dick for a new book. Based on his idea, D.J. Manly and I wrote it and the book came out at Silver Publishing last year. I loved his cover for it and wished I could have paid him a lot more for it than I did but he was excited. He had other ideas, too.

I wondered, if it was this hard for a director of porn to get work, what must it be like for performers? Gay, or straight, it’s difficult. Last night I heard on the radio a story about a beloved female teacher who lost her job because one of her students found a very old snippet from a movie she did ten years ago.

What hypocrisy!

What pisses me off is that the same executives who wouldn’t hire John were probably watching his movies. At Falcon Studios and his own private label, Massive Studios, he discovered and honed many talented performers.

Adam Killian was one of them.

He was John’s videographer and it was John who encouraged Adam’s first foray into porn – his scene-stealing sex scene with Zeb Atlas in The Best Man. John nurtured Adam’s porn career the way he did other performers like Samuel Colt, Tristan Jaxx. I could go on.

John suggested to me a series of books, the first of which became Laid. He did the cover. I wrote the story. Our plan was to shoot it as webisodes. Falcon deemed the sex scenes too expensive too shoot so John set his sights on the second book, Bad Cops and this time he controlled the sex scenes and I wrote them from the actual shoot.

He did the webisodes with frankly mixed results. I still laugh over Rob Romoni’s scene where he and another guy watch each other jack off. Even to a novice like me it was obvious the two men were filmed at different times – thanks to a broken camera.

But we had dreams. Big ones.

We ended up doing more in the Laid series but only Bad Cops made it into webisodes before Falcon crushed his last hope and treated him shamefully by diminishing the work they gave him. It was out with the old. In with the new. His planned projects were handed over to a gay porn performer who was also directing.

John wasn’t a performer. He was an artist.

As such, he encourged his friend Erik Rhodes to direct and they worked on a couple of movies together. I know he was devastated by Erik’s suicide. I know he felt that same hoplessness, that John too, fumbled in the dark.

John Bruno loved people. He came across tough but was a big marshmallow. He was the kindest, most giving man. He got up time and again and kept trying. He gave his friends help and hope. He loved cats. He loved life. He just kept getting beaten up by it.

Last night, I looked at his model mayhem page where he is listed as a photographer under his real name. His work is there and he last checked in just a few days ago. John had begun a new life in Atlanta and was actively pursuing his photography. He was a brilliant photographer but when I looked at the comments on his page, they were all requests for help.

For his opinion.

Nobody offered him work.

It is perhaps fitting and of course ironic that in his last days on earth people saw him as a master craftsman. Which he was. Perhaps they didn’t know the panic and pain of not being able to get work. Of being overlooked. Brushed aside.

I listen with a broken heart to that other master craftsman, James Taylor and can’t help thinking of his line from Fire and Rain:

Well, there’s hours of time on the telephone line to talk about things to come.

Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground.

John was a sweet dream to all who knew him. And our beautiful, wonderful, high flying machine is finally in pieces.

On the ground.

Good-bye my friend. I hope you are in a better place. I hope you have no more pain.

I hope choirs of angels, other artists and writers want to listen to your words. I hope they appreciate with wonder your great art.

And I hope above all, more than anything, that you can once again fly.

Aloha oe,



18 Responses to “Fire and Rain: A Tribute to John Bruno”

  1. That was a wonderful tribute. I wasn’t all that familiar with his work, but I had read in a few places he’d been working on erotic films with storylines and I had no idea about the connection to you. It’s nice that you wrote this. When people do a search for him months or years from now, it’s going to be there.

  2. Thank you Ryan and thank you so much for suggesting I write the blog. It has helped me a lot on what has been a very dark day. xxx

  3. I’m crying… I wish I had something more to say other I am here if you need me and He will be Missed so much by so many…


  4. I kind of feel a bit intrusive commenting, but that was a really beautiful tribute. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    I hate how people look down their nose at anyone who does sex-related work, I hope what you’ve written makes someone think twice before doing that again.

  5. Thank you, Raz. I’ve learned that the man who turned John down for work last week now ‘feels bad about it.’ Pfft…he should have given the man a chance and given him the job. Thanks for your comment!

  6. Speechless AJ. John was an amazing artist as you said. He was always under estimated and overlooked. Which always pissed me off. He was the kindest soul ever and that is why people always took advantage of him. Your tribute to John was spot on! Unfortunately such deserving words come at a time we never wished to see. I will always love John and miss him dearly. He discovered me as he had several others, but he was also a personal friend. He helped me through a time I never thought I could make it through.

    John, thank you for all you have done. You truly touched my life and I will continue to touch others as you have done mine in your namesake.

    May we meet again one day.

  7. Thank you Tom. What a beautiful thing you said. I really hope we meet him again one day too and that he will be smiling huge.

  8. I had the pleasure to edit a few of his movies over the years and thought he was one of the most talented directors around. I could see that he put his heart into all of them. It is a constant struggle with me and many others to know if there is life after porn when the day comes that we want to move on. I am saddened by our loss of John.

  9. Wow… this is really so sad. I can’t say that I knew John very well at all but I can say that he is the first director who ever shot me for gay porn (for Massive Studios) and he was so patient and kind to me when I was a complete nervous wreck.

  10. sad the world of porn never ends well for anybody in it .Its part of the business between the low selfesteem drugs booze and the fact that the so called actors are just a piece of meat .Porn is just that porn and you will never be excepter by main stream life .Sad but true .The only people that make it are the ones puting out the films and are laughing all the way to the bank on the backs of there producers.

  11. AJ, you have me in tears. Such a heart-rending story of a man broken by others. Suicide is such a painful thing, there’s always that feeling that somewhow things could have been and should have been better.

    You’re right, the attitude to porn is hypocritical and harmful. Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to find a sexually satisfying relationship. Are they to be denied receiving happiness from watching or reading about it? As long as those who do it are not exploited in the process, what if the harm?

    My sympathy goes to you at this time, I’m sure he treasured your friendship and support. If nothing else, this tribute will hopefully make a difference.


  12. I will miss John Bruno like you wouldn’t believe. I have never known a man with such a gentle persona who deserved so much in life.

    He is forever one of my favorite directors of all time in gay adult entertainment. He made Superstars- period.

    THANK YOU John for your friendship and guidance.



  13. John LOVED you. That’s why we put you on the cover of Bad Cops. You rock! The book is being re-released soon. Details to come.

  14. I don’t know what to say, I’ve been thinking about John non-stop since I found out yesterday and I can’t wrap my head around the fact that he is gone. I have a million wonderful memories of John, from the awkward first time we met, almost 8 years ago, on set to the long talks on the couch or driving around calling me Steve/Jake/Steve/Jake…then finally following Ryan’s lead and just combining them, makes me smile. He had the most gentle soul of anyone and would do anything in his power to make you feel welcome. I will miss his silly laugh and crazy driving skills. His talent as an artist was overlooked by so many and is a loss to the world, I have a few of his pieces and they are brilliant. John, where ever you are I miss you, you were an inspiration to me and will forever hold a very special place in my heart. I hope you are taking some amazing pictures my friend.
    My love always,

  15. Darn you Jake, you’ve made me cry all over again. What beautiful words. Thank you. I feel the same way. I am still torn up. I was looking at some of his old emails last night with images of his art attached. He had such a taste for simple beauty. An ocean wave, a flower, a leaf. And yes, he was a lunatic driver! LOL. Thank you for your comment. I wish he had called me. I know those of us who love him all feel the same way. I wish he’d reached out but I have to accept and that is my struggle, that he didn’t. He just left.

  16. Thank you so much – this is touching and it’s so good to read a loving account of John’s life and work – and also to read the comments from others who have worked with him.
    Conner Habib

  17. […] his creative partner on the 2009 web series Bad Cops, penned an in-depth memorial to his friend on his blog: When I first started writing gay erotic romance fiction six years ago, I didn’t tell many […]

  18. […] A.J. Llewellyn, his creative partner on the 2009 web series Bad Cops, penned an in-depth memorial to his friend on his blog: […]

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