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Wakefield Poole (born 1936) is best known for his classy, visionary hardcore gay erotic films Boys in the Sand (1971) and Bijou (1972), which started the "porno chic" trend a year before Deep Throat was released. Few people know that Poole was a member of the corps de ballet in the waning years of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, and then went on to a successful career as a dancer, choreographer, and director on TV, Broadway, and the West End, working with theater legends Stephen Sondheim, Richard Rodgers, Noel Coward, Jerome Robbins, Ethel Merman, Gwen Verdon, and many more.
In 1971, after seeing a typical example of gay porn, Poole asked himself why someone couldn't make one that wasn't sleazy and depressing. Then he set out to do just that. With a wind-up 16mm camera and the barely known actor Cal Culver (who took the name Casey Donovan), Poole and a small group of friends shot Boys in the Sand over several weekends in the Fire Island Pines, off the coast of Long Island. He released the film as if it were a legitimate mainstream movie, putting his own name above the title, doing press screenings, and advertising in the New York Times. Overnight, Boys in the Sand became an enormous financial success and Poole's theater career abruptly ended.
He followed Boys in the Sand with the ambitious and technically dazzling film Bijou, which was also a hit with audiences and critics. Giddy with success, Poole put all his money into a project that he hoped would be his mainstream calling card, a nudity-filled straight version of Bible stories re-imagined from the woman's point of view. Visually sumptuous and unlike anything else film goers in the early 1970s had ever seen, Wakefield Poole's Bible was a flop—-rejected by both gay and straight audiences.
In 1974, Poole left New York for the burgeoning gay mecca of San Francisco. He co-owned and operated the influential retail store/gallery/hair salon Hot Flash of America, was friends with Harvey Milk, and continued to make unique and successful erotic films, until he began a downward spiral into drug addiction. After a cocaine-fueled attempt at a Broadway comeback, Poole bottomed out, went cold turkey, and cleaned himself up. He eventually graduated from the French Culinary Institute at age 50 and became a successful corporate chef. He retired in 2003 and now lives a quiet life in northern Florida.
He published his autobiography, Dirty Poole, in 2000, and it will be re-issued in a new edition in 2011.
Poole has also appeared in a number of documentaries, including Ballet Russe, When Ocean Meets Sky, and That Man: Peter Berlin.