Here’s how a person get recruited into the world of gay porn, according to a completely bonkers story about one such recruit—a 26-year-old man from San Antonio named John William Snavely—from the Houston Press:

He was stripping at several gay clubs in his hometown of San Antonio. One night, an older customer sidled up to the stage where the young Sylvester Stallone lookalike was gyrating in a baseball hat, sneakers and underwear. …Soon Snavely found himself talking to the stranger’s associate: a South Florida porn recruiter named Justin Caro, better known as Baileey.

Baileey was himself a former gay-porn star who now excelled at enticing young hunks from across America into similar careers. Listening to his pitch, Snavely was polite but confident, asking questions about how much money he could make in South Florida. “John knew how to sell himself,” Baileey says. “Whether it was stripping or porn, he knew what his best attributes were.”

It would take several months of flying to San Antonio for Baileey to persuade Snavely to appear in gay porn. Despite dancing for men, Snavely insisted he was straight. But Baileey nonetheless saw in him the makings of a star.

“I’ve been in the business for 21 years, so I pretty much know what people are looking for,” he says. “John had a universal look: good-looking, clean-cut, white guy, no tattoos, well-endowed. That’s exactly what the industry wants.”

In the end, the offer was too tempting for ­Snavely — a poor kid from the wrong side of San Antonio — to ignore. He flew to Los Angeles for his first porn shoots. Then he moved to Fort Lauderdale in early 2010, staying in what Baileey called his “model house,” a low-slung three-bedroom home in Searstown.

Snavely’s not the subject of a longform story strictly because the world of gay porn and how a person enters it is so compelling—though it certainly is that—but because the life that he found himself living once he got to South Florida led him to genuinely shocking and horrifying situations—of which, according to police, he was the perpetrator.

The idea that a young man enticed into the world of sex work by the promise of easy money might lead to self-destruction isn’t surprising in itself; it’s basically the plot of Magic Mike, and all of the drugs and emotional damage that you might suspect are a part of Snavely’s story. But what the Press details goes beyond that: author Michael E. Miller describes a scam that Snavely picked up in San Antonio, when he worked as a stripper, where he’d go home with his male clients for a “private dance” for $500. The client, expecting more than a simple dance, would pay—and then the large, well-built Snavely would dance for a few minutes and leave, while the customer was unable to either call the police or physically confront the muscular dancer. 

That took a much darker turn in Miami, when a 60-year-old man named Samuel Del Brocco was found dead after leaving a club at which Snavely had been dancing. Bloody sneaker prints at the scene reportedly matched Snavely’s feet, and his DNA was all over the room. It took three years for the Miami police to identify Snavely as a suspect, but he’s currently in jail awaiting trial.

The whole story is a gruesome look at a subculture that seems particularly unhealthy for someone like Snavely, whose life in San Antonio, where he lived with his brother and his frequently-arrested mom, indicates a person who was probably not going to thrive in an environment where a lack of impulse control carried few consequences:

With their father nowhere in sight and their mom frequently in jail, John and Justin learned to fend for themselves. Police records show Justin paid the family’s bills by selling drugs, at least until his first arrest in 2001. He was sentenced to two years in prison. Without his older brother around, John took up Golden Gloves boxing. The pastime helped protect him in the poor, dusty neighborhoods of San Antonio, and also gave rise to his later reinvention as Champ.

John’s other pastime, however, was petty crime. The offenses ranged from ridiculous to absurd. When Snavely was 17 years old, security guards spotted him and friend Kevin Hullender breaking into a parked car. When the rent-a-cops chased Snavely, he dove into some bushes and took off his pants. Police soon arrested him; retrieved his pants; and discovered a screwdriver, pot and alprazolam in the pockets. Hullender had cocaine and counterfeit cash on him. Snavely was sentenced to two weeks in jail.

Two days before Christmas of 2006, Snavely and two friends spilled out of a Cadillac and onto the streets of downtown San Antonio. Snavely stopped on the side of the street to pee. When a passerby complained, Snavely whipped a collapsible baton out of his back pocket and threatened to beat the man.

 The story details Snavely’s violent, racist confrontations with police in San Antonio, but also offers a glimpse of the man from people who stood by him: 

Greg Hullender, whose two sons were both arrested alongside Snavely, says John simply grew up on the wrong side of what could be a rough city. “Honestly, he’s one of the people I preferred to have my sons hang around with,” Hullender says . “He was very intelligent. He wasn’t one of those kids who talked like he was black or whatever. He was very well-spoken.

“He was very good with his fists, too,” Hullender says. In San Antonio, that came in handy. “He was gentle, but if you did something to hurt him or one of his friends, he would take care of you right quick.”

But the depths that Snavely’s lifestyle in South Florida sank to are shocking even after considering all of that: In addition to the drugs, the porn, and the accusation of murder, the Houston Press details another relationship that Snavely had in his life, this one with a fifteen-year-old beauty queen. According to the Press, Snavely essentially kept her as a prisoner. Miller interviewed a former roommate of Snavely’s, who described seeing Snavely cut off her hair, and burning her face with a hot knife, in fits of jealousy. Her family, according to the story, worried that she’d been kidnapped. 

Still, perhaps the most interesting parts of the story are the questions raised by the stereotypes surrounding Snavely’s lifestyle. It’s easy to see Snavely as inherently untrustworthy, as a drug-using sex worker with a history of problems with the law, but the way that people talk about him is telling

For years, Greg Hullender defended his sons’ best friend against his detractors. But when he and his sons learned about Champ’s gay porn career, their perceptions changed. “Whatever happened to him in Florida must have changed him,” Hullender says.

Consider that: A man who knew him when he would get arrested after starting fights with police by shouting racist epithets at the officers and felt that he was a good person for his sons to have in their lives lost confidence in him after learning that he’d had sex with men. And the teenage girlfriend that the Press describes Snavely as having tortured—who, perhaps surprisingly, visits him in jail regularly—summarizes the extent to which superficial judgments of people like Snavely, and her, rule the day:

“You think about a porn star, a stripper, and you think he’s the bad guy,” she says. “But I do [beauty] pageants. Do you really think that a girl who does pageants would be with someone who is as bad as they say?” 

(image via Flickr)