Apr 29, 2009 | By: Ken Furtado
In March 2009, Dean Phoenix was honored for his 13 years of work in the adult industry by induction into the GayVN Hall of Fame. Director Mike Donner discovered Phoenix in 1996 while Dean was working as a bartender. Dean is still a bartender, but little else about his life has remained the same. Donner gave him a business card, and if you've ever seen Dean Phoenix in person, it's easy to see why. He radiates charisma and sexual magnetism, qualities you cannot fully appreciate by seeing him on film or in photos.
Dean says, "I thought it was funny, but he was serious. A year went by before I decided to take him up on it."
When Dean finally retrieved Donner's business card and made the call, he got cast in an episode of First Time Tryers, and became an overnight sensation. And his star still shines brightly.
Before porn, Dean wanted to join the Navy — understandable for a guy living in San Diego and familiar with Dirk Yates — but his vision disqualified him.
Over the course of his porn career, Dean has chosen to be a free agent rather than an exclusive model for any single studio. His personal favorite role, for which he won a GayVN Best Actor award, was in Buckshot's Buckleroos, a production that was co-directed by Jerry Douglas and John Rutherford. He liked the role because, "My dad loves country music, so I kind of felt like I had that cowboy in me."
Cowboy is a far cry from what I think was his finest onscreen role, as the smarmy servant in director Thor Stephans' The Servant — a performance I rate as one of the two finest gayporn film performances of all time (the other being Fred Halsted's turn in Joe Gage's El Paso Wrecking Corp.).
Regarding The Servant, Dean remembers that "Thor introduced himself to me at a Bad Boys Pool Party and said, 'I have a perfect part for you.' He flew me to Savannah. It was a great movie and it had a lot to do with getting me ready to work with Jerry Douglas."
Dean still works as a bartender, while attending school to earn his CACD (Certified Alcohol and Other Drugs of Addiction Counselor) credentials. He will graduate in October 2009, then take the certification exam. Meanwhile, he works as a drug and alcohol addiction counselor while attending school. The irony is not lost on him: "It's funny that I'm a counselor and case manager and I pour drinks at night."
While Dean moves on with his life, he still stops for an occasional porn film. He says, "I'm not looking for work but if I'm offered something interesting …." He just completed a daddy-boy scene with Cayden Banks for an upcoming Chris Steele film, for Jet Set.
School, his counseling job, and his two bartending gigs keep him busy. Right now, he says there's "too much on my plate" for serious dating, but if you look like Kyle King and offer him chocolates, there's hope.
A recovering substance abuser himself, Dean wants to "get the word out to new porn generations," whom he sees, and thinks, there's nothing they're doing that he hasn't done, too. He alluded to that in his GayVN acceptance speech, which was a model of appreciation, promise and humility. Dean has been sober for 16 months now, and it often surprises him that "I can be a bartender and not drink. I've steered some guys away from drugs — that's my path. I don’t preach, I'm just there."
In the bars where he works, customers can look up at a widescreen plasma TV and see him in action as Dean Phoenix, which he thinks is "kind of cool. But mostly now I'm just Curtis."