Mark Grooms: A Racing Urban Legend

The following story is VERY NSFW due to sexual content and should not be read by anyone under 18.

American stock car auto racing has a very proud and detailed history. Most of its hardcore fans have a near encyclopedic knowledge of their favorite drivers, and can retell race histories seemingly off handed. Due to this proud history, it’s truly notable when a story comes along that is difficult to prove. Could we, as those same proud American sports historians have possibly forgotten about some of the most interesting characters?

Could a story of unapologetic sexuality, of sex toy corporations, of rent boy magnates, and of a champion race car driver/gay porn star have simply slipped through the cracks of our collective memory? As you’d expect, a potential lead of this magnitude has deeply interested the TehBen writers room, and it’s become our mission to learn the truth. Let’s take this story from the top, and allow Gay Sex Correspondent Jenn Coulter to bring us up to speed:

Editor’s Note: As a race fan reading what’s below, you might think this article isn’t for you. But think about the bigger picture. By reading it, you’re becoming part of history, and the journey to truth might fall within reach. We’re talking racing pioneers, about smiling proudly in the face of adversity…and perhaps the Dale Coyne of rent boy sex toy prostitute magnates. Take a deep breath and join us on an adventure, this is going to be good…

Jenn: You may be wondering how the heck I even stumbled upon something like “70’s race car driver who did gay porn” kinda thing. Well, I won’t lie to you – it’s because I occasionally watch vintage gay art porn films. There’re a lot of strange, interesting relics in some of these olde releases and they were often overtly political or had some sort of psychological theme that tied into contemporary anxieties. One such film is Michael Zen’s Falconhead – a bizarre, erotic examination of narcissism explored via supernatural dream fuck scenes.

I recently discovered a queer history podcast called Ask Any Buddy that dives into the history of gay adult films. It’s hosted by Tyler Thomas and Evan Purchell, with Purchell having made a documentary on the subject bearing the same name. It’s an incredibly in-depth and illuminating podcast that explores these films and their creators in detail. Having seen Falconhead before, I decided to check out that episode out first.

The episode recounts the plot of the film and runs through the various cast and crew. At around the 28 minute mark, they begin to discuss the life of one of the studs featured, an actor billed as “Mark David.” They read an excerpt from an interview with him where he discusses his day job as a race car driver. This is where my interest really got piqued. The excerpt reads as follows:

“Mark [Grooms] is one of five top ranked NASCAR stock car racers in the state, but he also represents another, far more important aspect in sports – he’s very openly and very honestly gay. … Currently driving under the Jac-Masters colors, Mark refused the offers of larger companies so he could pursue something in which he believes. Thus, driving for a gay sponsor has meant giving up many of the conveniences that others could offer. The winnings are good, but not supportive.

However, the chance to race for a gay organization means more to him than just money. ‘I never tried to hide anything,’ he says. ‘And that includes what I am, who I am, or what I do. Around the track, my lover and I will put our arms around each other’s shoulders. But nobody else does that there. And you know, no one has said a word to me about it – at least not to my face. What they want to think, or what they say otherwise, let them. It just isn’t important to me.’”

Wait a second. You’re telling me that there was a guy who drove in NASCAR sponsored races bearing the logo of a gay sex toy company? On top of that, that sponsorship came from Johnny Johnson, who was, according to the podcast, “the biggest male madam in Los Angeles”? I need to know more. So began the quest to find out more about the Jac-Masters sponsored racer, Mark Grooms.

For deeper context, Jac-Masters was a gay owned sex toy company. They sold products like Jac-Aroma (which were a line of poppers), Robo-Jac, and the Acu-Jac. Believe it or not, Prince mentions the Acu-Jac in his song “Sexuality.” Below is an ad for their poppers found in an early issue of Drummer magazine and an order form for their products.

The folks at Ask Any Buddy let me know that the interview came from NewsWest, a gay newspaper that ran out of Southern California for a brief amount of time in the 70’s. The TehBen gang and I have been frantically trying to get our hands on a copy of this particular issue of the paper. I’ve reached out to a few LGBTQ archives in my area, but tragically, I’m having a difficult time finding anyone who holds the full run of the paper. So, if any of you TehBen readers just so happen to have some archival gay periodicals sitting in your closet…hit us up. (Okay, that’s a long shot, but it’s worth a try!)

So far, it’s been difficult to gather up any further info on this fellow past that interview. It appears he raced under the name Mark Grooms, which is presumably his real name. However, Racing Reference does not have anyone listed under that name. I was, however, able to find out more info about his porn career. In addition to Falconhead, he is listed as appearing in gay porn auteur Tom DeSimone’s Anything Goes (which features a few Jac-Masters masturbation sleeves and pumps) and the 1978 film Rough Cut.

The film Falconhead was produced by Bijou Video, and thankfully they still exist today. Their website lists our elusive race car driver Mark in their list of models. Here, I learned that he performed under various other pseudonyms. It appears he was listed in the extended Falconhead credits under Danny Lyon, and also worked under the names “Marc Taylor,” “Mike Daniels,” and simply “Marc.” For the curious, here’s a link to that model page – but, as you might expect, the page is extremely NSFW. For anyone who, uh, doesn’t want to click on the porn link, here is a tastefully cropped photo from the page:

When I found this, I thought – “awesome, more leads!” Except that, well, Danny Lyon also happens to be the name of the famous photographer known for photographing the Civil Rights Movement. No relation there, naturally, and it makes searching for any further info incredibly difficult. There are a LOT more hits for photographer Danny than there are hits for porn Danny. Similarly, the other stage names are generic enough that it’s difficult to dig much up under those. No dice searching Danny Lyon, Mike Daniels, or Marc Taylor in racing databases, either. Another dead end.

It makes sense that it would naturally be difficult to find more info on him. Sure, he was evidently openly gay and not ashamed of his sexual exploits, but porn actors still aren’t exactly known to go by their actual birth name. Hell, as far as I know, he may have been racing under a stage name as well.

Where does that leave us in our investigation? Well, we do have confirmation that there was definitely someone racing under a Jac-Masters sponsorship. We don’t have the proper copyright clearance to post the picture, but there is a photo of Mark/Marc with Jac-Masters founder Johnny Johnson on an unknown track. The folks at Ask Any Buddy told me that they have looked for more information about Mark themselves, but were unable to find more about his racing career. However, they were able to confirm that he appears to have passed away in 2018.

The next step is for us to somehow track down this specific newspaper article and see if it references any specific race car track. Matt, who knows far more about racing than I do, has looked at the information available and might be able to point us in the right direction.

Matt: Okay, so let’s look at all the available data and see if we can zero in on some specifics of Groom’s racing career. To Jenn’s point, we might not even have the right name, but for the moment let’s hope Mark Grooms is the actual race driver’s moniker. The most obvious clue is the use of the acronym “NASCAR,” but that might be nothing more than a trap. People unfamiliar with racing are very likely to see any sort of Motorsport taking place and automatically call it NASCAR, especially in the time period that this article was written. No disrespect to anyone who wrote for NewsWest, but the journalism team there probably wasn’t concerned with getting sanctioning bodies correct, given the more important themes of the article. Yeah, it would have been nice if Chris Economaki were chasing this lead back then, but that’s just not the case. That being said, we can trust that he was racing in California, and was a highly ranked driver there. Unfortunately for us, racing in California was much like the Wild West, with numerous semi-sanctioned racing affiliations to consider. Hell, Grooms could have been a Figure 8 racer for all we know, and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least. More likely however, we need to consider the sponsor.

While Jac-Masters could easily blend in sounding like a shock absorber company, there was a lot of potential money behind this venture, and many legal improprieties potentially taking place. To that point, I think of CanAm style sports car racing (or some such associated sub series). West coast road course racing was a haven for money laundering and creative accounting, with seemingly every team involved in something shady. With cars funded by drug lords and murders and fuck-all knows what else, I could see a company with a penis pump sponsor slipping through the cracks…while also being inclusive enough to not freak out at the concept of a gay competitor. These arguments are all (of course) pulled out of my ass, as to date I’ve been unable to track down so much as a photograph of a racing shot or a Jac-Masters branded vehicle. Shit, I saw a pic of Grooms on a motorcycle with his sponsor boss so we might not even be barking up the right tree here…but just like Jenn, I’m fucking starving for the truth!

For now, we just don’t have quite enough info. But by golly, we are trying. This is a deeply interesting piece of racing history that may have been completely overlooked. It would be delightful to figure out more about this unabashedly gay driver, who flaunted his sexuality during an era where sodomy laws technically ruled same-sex intercourse illegal. Even in the relatively progressive state of California, these laws were active until 1976. To race under gay sponsorships proudly, and shun other potential sponsors in the process, is a genuinely bold move.

You can look forward to an update to this story once we’re able to do more digging. Predictably, the pandemic has made it a little difficult to search through physical archives or library periodical sections. WE WILL NOT REST UNTIL WE FIND A PICTURE OF A STOCK CAR WITH A GAY SEX TOY COMPANY PLASTERED ACROSS IT! But for now, the idea of Mark Grooms, and what he might have been can live on in the spirit of our favorite race fans, join us?

Rough concept of a potential 70s Jac-Masters car

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