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Solo performance artist Bobby Gordon and his dad, former porn star Howie Gordon, on stage.

(photo by Photo Courtesy Denis Lincoln)

18TH STREET ARTS CENTER — The way Bobby Gordon always saw it, his dad was just like all the other dads, ordering the children to clean their rooms, cheering at little league games and filling the home with toys found at garage sales.

But to the kids in the neighborhood, the classmates at school and the fellow players on the baseball team, Howie Gordon wasn’t just Bobby’s father, he was Richard Pacheco, the former award-winning pornographic actor and one-time Playgirl Magazine “Man of the Year.”

And they never let the younger Gordon forget it.

“To me, it seemed incredibly normal,” the Santa Monica resident said of his father’s career. “To the rest of the world, it seemed incredibly strange and that (for myself) was hard to reconcile.

“I never really knew how to deal as a kid.”

Just how Gordon handled growing up in the “shadow of his dad’s erection,” getting prank calls in middle school and being told by society that porn is taboo, will be the topic of a one-man show at Highways Performance Space at the 18th Street Arts Center on April 8 and 9.

Titled, “Debbie Does My Dad,” the show will take the audience through vignettes of Gordon’s life, including the relationship with his parents, his discovery and interest in sex and the ultimate realization of the kind of man he wants to be.

“The purpose of this show is that it’s about redefining manhood where sexuality and sensitivity are not mutually exclusive,” Gordon said.

Howie Gordon was married, living in Berkeley and working in construction when he was offered his first pornographic role in the 1978 film, “The Candy Stripers.”

The aspiring actor’s foray into pornography was in part from living out a fantasy of meeting an x-rated woman and having sex in an elevator, a dream that came following a childhood that Gordon said was spent as an overweight and repressed “Quasimodo,” later blossoming into “Robert Redford” during the sexual revolution.

“Women who were saying no were saying yes,” the elder Gordon said. “I had a lot to make up for.”

After filming more than 100 sex scenes and winning numerous awards, Gordon retired from the industry as a precaution shortly after cases of AIDS were reported in the United States in the 1980s. He became an AIDS information officer and started a second career as a writer. Along with his wife, Ashley, a marriage and family therapist, the couple remained in Berkeley where they raised three children, the youngest of whom is Bobby.

When it came to talking about sex and his career, Gordon was open with his children and gradually disclosed information. He recalls the time when both his daughters, then ages 12 and 10, found out about his films.

The younger daughter asked if her father’s “grown-up movies” involved sex, which Gordon confirmed.

“She started jumping up and down saying ‘Daddy makes sex movies,’” thinking she had discovered uranium,” Gordon said.

Combing her sister’s hair was the eldest daughter, who in a moment of sibling rivalry, curtly replied, “so what.”

It was the kind of attitude that the children had over the years as overly excited classmates would pepper them with questions about their father’s experiences in pornography.

“To me it was normal and to the other (kids) it wasn’t normal and that got old,” Bobby Gordon, who was born after his father retired, said.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that Gordon took a step back and decided to look at his family through a new set of lenses, asking for the first time why his father acted in porn.

The result was a show that debuted at the Drama for Life Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa last fall and a follow-up with the father and son at the Center for Sex and Culture in San Francisco in November. The performance at Highways will be a never-before-seen retooled version of the show.

“(Bobby) is working out some critical issues of his own growth and sexuality which have helped him transition from boy to man,” Howie Gordon said about the show. “It’s great to see him playing things out and coming to peace with things that have caused him consternation in his youth.”

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