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Life after porn: Simon Rex, the actor reliving his past to redeem it | Culture

Actor Simon Rex, 47, may be the last person in the history of Hollywood who believed he could shoot four porn movies, find fame and live in a world where this past wouldn’t come out.

It started in 1993, when he was 19 years old and cleaning tables. Desperate to stay afloat, he answered an ad in a Los Angeles newspaper seeking models to pose nude. That resulted in four tapes with not exactly cryptic titles (Young, Hard and Alone, for example, or Hot Sessions I, II and III) which, when Rex became a celebrity in the United States, were re-released a few years later and saw the light of day thanks to the internet.

Rex thus became the epitome of the star born at the dawn of a new era, who has a hidden past that catches him by surprise: a new era in which nothing that has ever been recorded, written or said can be forgotten. That Rex is talking again about the subject he avoided for years, as if it were an exorcism, is because he plays a porn actor in Red Rocket, the new film by Sean Baker, who in Tangerine (2015) or The Florida Project (2017) portrayed the dreams and hopes of the lumpen who survive behind the neon lights of Las Vegas or Disneyland. Red Rocket, which opens in Spain in May, has brought Rex – who at the height of his fame was a pretty face, in his decline a joke and during the last few years a pariah – some of the best reviews of the year, the award for best actor at the Independent Spirit Awards and, incidentally, a reconciliation with the murkiest part of his past.

Three coincidences in a row

With the exception of porn, Simon Rex’s biography resembles that of many other photogenic young people in the right place at the right time. Accompanying his childhood sweetheart to a model casting, an agency director noticed him. The [ensuing] dialogue is so commonplace as to be cliché: “Who is he?”. “He’s not a model, he’s just here with me.” The next scene is another cliché: Simon Rex flies to Milan.

In 1995 he posed in campaigns for brands like Tommy Hilfiger and coincided in fashion shows and parties with Mark Ronson, then also a model. That same year, the MTV network asked Markus Schenkenberg, one of the most famous models of the 1990s, to audition as a host, but as he was unable to attend, his agency sent Rex instead.

For two years, Rex became a popular figure who introduced music videos (when they were still being broadcast on TV) and interviewed artists, often [while] shirtless, in order to show off a superior physique obtained a little bit from the gym, a little bit from genes.

Simon Rex poses for the press during the 1996 MTV Movie Awards, when he was one of the network’s stars.
Simon Rex poses for the press during the 1996 MTV Movie Awards, when he was one of the network’s stars. Ron Galella, Ltd. (Ron Galella Collection via Getty)

Rex was used to the eccentric life: born in San Francisco to hippie parents (his mother was an environmental activist; his father a photographer), you would think he was just carried on a gentle breeze of opportunity from the restaurant where he bussed tables to MTV parties. Having demonstrated his brilliance as a host on the music network that defined the aesthetic and youthful feel of the 1990s, acting soon came knocking at his door. As revealed in an interview with New York Magazine, Gus Van Sant was one watcher who fell in love with Rex’s mix of Greek-god body and boyish character and called him for an audition for a supporting role in Good Will Hunting (1997). It was a disaster, but sensing some potential in the boy, Van Sant recommended he go to acting classes before looking any further.

That was the period of time when those early videos came to the light. The production company that owned the original films found a vein in having an unexpected star in its stable and at a time when file sharing, especially pornographic content, after the leak of the Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee sex tape, was on the rise. Individual scenes in which Simon Rex could be seen masturbating while elevator music played in the background became very popular on the internet.

The consequences? It could have been worse. As Rex stated in an interview on Allegedly audio, Disney canceled a project he was working on with the young star. But television gave him the opportunity to play a supporting role in successful series such as Jack & Jill (a spoof of Friends) or Felicity. Although those tapes were aimed at a gay audience, there was no contact between Rex and other men. In the conversation with Allegedly, the actor confesses that, after the tapes came to light, MTV asked him: “Do you have sex with other people in them [the tapes]?” If Rex had been shown having sex with other men, his career probably would have ended there.

Between Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley

The mystique of porn has seduced Hollywood since its beginnings, ever since it was whispered that someone had seen Joan Crawford or Marilyn Monroe in supposedly explicit pirate films (then called stag films) before they became famous. Greta Garbo’s route went in reverse: the last film she appeared in was a gay porn tape called Adam & Yves, from 1974, but she didn’t know it (she was filmed walking down the street in a flashback scene that obviously has nothing pornographic about it). Shortly after that Rocky (1976), the film that made Sylvester Stallone a star, was released, and it sparked interest in a low-budget, pornographic product he had shot six years earlier, Party at Kitty and Stud’s. In 2022, Pam & Tommy, the series distributed internationally by Disney about the TV Star and the rocker’s aforementioned [sex] tape, is triumphing. And when porn has reached Disney, it’s a sign that porn has already permeated everywhere.

Simon Rex in 2007 doing what he did best back then: partying.
Simon Rex in 2007 doing what he did best back then: partying.Donna Ward (FilmMagic)

“This series reflects the massive fascination with thieved images of sexual content generated in privacy, as opposed to the apathy that can be aroused by sexual images created expressly to be consumed,” say Elisa McCausland and Diego Salgado. Both are film critics, she specializing in popular culture, he one of the authors of the treatise Porno: Come and See. “Viewing people famous for a consensual and accepted codification of their image on a public level involved in a situation of strict intimacy immediately links them to ours”.

And what about the enormous success that Simon Rex’s scenes, blurry in quality and monotonous in content, continue to have, when there are millions of better-quality scenes and more explicit stunts? “We attach a greater degree of reality to a poor image compared to the simulacrum we associate with the too-perfect image. When we consume industrially filmed videos, to climax to orgasm what we look for almost desperately are the moments of truth; a shudder, a smile, a tear.”

This is borne out by a key moment from those Rex videos, which Michael Ferguson captures in the book Idol Worship: A Shameless Celebration of Male Beauty in the Movies and is so prophetic that today it seems like part of a script: after Rex finishes one of his scenes, and apparently unaware that the camera is still rolling, he says to someone on the crew, “I hate to do this, but the bills have to be paid; I can shake it off for money. I don’t care. As long as no one touches me, it doesn’t matter. I hope this doesn’t come back to haunt me when I’m famous!”.

“Let’s make a little movie”

Simon Rex’s role in Red Rocket is one of the most unexpected triumphant comebacks in Hollywood in recent years. Nobody remembered him and, if they did, it was not with a good feeling: in the 21st century Rex became a rapper, the star of infamous commercials that he only accepted for money and a tabloid character more famous for hanging out with Paris Hilton than for his movies. He had success with a couple of installments of the Scary Movie saga, but when Part Five was released, he didn’t even appear on the poster. When he went up to collect the award for best actor at the Independent Spirit Awards gala, which honors the best of independent cinema, the first thing he exclaimed was: “What the fuck?” He then dedicated these words to director Sean Baker: “You gave me a chance when I wasn’t even getting called back for insurance commercials.” “My career was in the toilet,” he continued. “I had gone to live in Joshua Tree [a desert area in Southern California] and I thought it was all over until Sean called me and said, ‘You’re not going to make any money on this and neither am I, but let’s make a little movie.”

Mark Wahlberg in 'Boogie Nights.'
Mark Wahlberg in ‘Boogie Nights.’Getty Images

Movies about porn stars have provided an opportunity to actors that the industry had never taken too seriously. Simon Rex’s case is reminiscent of Mark Wahlberg’s in Boogie Nights (1997), with which Paul Thomas Anderson made a name for himself and gave the actor the best reviews of his career. After a series of stumbles and failures, Val Kilmer also got good reviews for giving life to the porn star John Holmes (famous for having a penis so big that it ended up ruining his life) in Wonderland (2003). All of them were complicated roles, sometimes with demands that would cause other actors to recoil (in both Boogie Nights and Red Rocket one sees the member the protagonist in detail, in each case a prosthesis) but which were ideal for someone who, like Rex, Wahlberg or Kilmer, had nothing to lose. The verdict is obvious: a desperate interpretation of a desperate role gives us, as viewers, an immediate sense of truth.

Comparing Red Rocket and Boogie Nights also serves as an index of how porn has invaded every aspect of culture and our intimacy. In one of the best sequences in Boogie Nights, in the first fuck between Mark Wahlberg’s character and the one played by Julianne Moore, there is so much chemistry between them that they forget they are on a set and she effectively invites him to make love to her and forget the hijinks. In Red Rocket the opposite happens: Simon Rex’s character only knows how to fuck like his alter ego would, turning intimacy into a choreographed and dialogued intercourse like on a film set. Alberto Mira, a film scholar and professor at Oxford Brookes University (who included Red Rocket in his list of best films seen in 2021), finds it curious that the film stars precisely an actor who lived and suffered the transformation from old porn to modern porn. “In the film, he is already a relic of the past. Porn stories have become outdated because the dynamics they proposed (the plot, the staging, the typologies) have become outdated. But porn culture in general continues and is everywhere. In an abstract way, everything, especially social networks, works like pornography. So the question we should ask ourselves should be: is porn still porn when it’s already everywhere?”

“There are films about the current paradigm of the porn industry as celebrated as Pleasure (2021), by Swedish director Ninja Thyberg,” that are, as McCausland and Salgado point out, “not exactly romantic in their depiction of the porn environment, especially the actresses. Nor is Red Rocket: the main character’s comments on the industry speak of a world in crisis. If Boogie Nights could afford to be romantic, it is because, like it or not, pornographic cinema was synonymous in the 1970s with emancipation and freedom. Today, the industry can no longer clothe itself in those values.” Red Rocket, in fact, does not speak of values. Its protagonist is as amoral as he is charming, and the viewer feels uncomfortable finding so much brilliance in him. As it happens, during the film, Donald Trump is running for office. Pornography and democracy.

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Assessing Property Size: What Square Footage Can You Get With The Average UK House Price In Your Area?

Assessing Property Size In The UK

In the United Kingdom, there is a prevailing tendency to gauge the size of residences based on the number of bedrooms rather than square footage. In fact, research indicates that three out of five individuals are unaware of the square footage of their property.

However, a comprehensive analysis conducted by Savills reveals significant variations in property sizes throughout the country. For instance, with the average property price standing at £340,837, this amount would typically afford a studio flat spanning 551 square feet in London, according to the prominent estate agency.

Conversely, in the North East region, the same sum would secure a spacious five-bedroom house measuring 1,955 square feet, nearly four times the size of a comparable property in London.

Best value: Heading to the North East of England is where buyers will get the most from their money

In Scotland, the median house price equates to a sizable investment capable of procuring a generous four-bedroom residence spanning 1,743 square feet. Conversely, in Wales, Yorkshire & The Humber, and the North West, this sum affords a slightly smaller four-bedroom dwelling of approximately 1,500 square feet, while in the East and West Midlands, it accommodates a 1,300 square foot home. In stark contrast, within the South West, £340,837 secures a modest 1,000 square foot property, and in the East, an even more confined 928 square feet.

London presents the most challenging market, where this budget offers the least purchasing power. Following closely, the South East allows for 825 square feet of space or a medium-sized two-bedroom dwelling. Lucian Cook, head of residential research at Savills, emphasizes the profound disparity in purchasing potential across Britain, ranging from compact studio flats in London to spacious four or five-bedroom residences in parts of North East England.

While square footage serves as a critical metric, with a significant portion of Britons unfamiliar with their property’s dimensions, the number of bedrooms remains a traditional indicator of size. Personal preferences, such as a preference for larger kitchens, may influence property selection. For those prioritizing ample space, Easington, County Durham, offers a substantial 2,858 square foot, five-bedroom home, while Rhondda, Wales, and Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Scotland, provide 2,625 and 2,551 square feet, respectively. Conversely, in St Albans, Hertfordshire, £340,837 secures a mere 547 square feet, equivalent to a one-bedroom flat.

The disparity continues in central London, where purchasing power diminishes considerably. In Kensington, the budget accommodates a mere 220 square feet, contrasting with the slightly more spacious 236 square feet in Westminster. Conversely, in Dagenham, the same investment translates to 770 square feet. Three properties currently listed on Rightmove exemplify the diversity within this price range across the UK market.

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

2. Lewisham: One-bed house, £345,000

This one-bedroom property in Lewisham, South London, is on the market for £345,000.

The semi-detached house is set over two floors, and has a private patio.

The property is located near to bus links and amenities, as well as Catford train station.

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

3. Edinburgh: Three-bed house, £350,000

This three-bedroom detached house in Edinburgh could be yours for £350,000.

The house, which has a two-car driveway, boasts a large kitchen diner, and is within easy reach of Newcriaghall train station.


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Top 10 Florida Cities Dominate The Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

Top 10 Florida Cities And Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

The Voice Of EU | Florida emerges as a hub for entrepreneurial endeavors, with its vibrant business landscape and conducive environment for startups. Renowned for its low corporate tax rates and a high concentration of investors, the Sunshine State beckons aspiring entrepreneurs seeking fertile grounds to launch and grow their businesses.

In a recent report by WalletHub, Florida cities dominate the list of the top 10 best destinations for business startups, showcasing their resilience and economic vitality amidst challenging times.

From Orlando’s thriving market to Miami’s dynamic ecosystem, each city offers unique advantages and opportunities for entrepreneurial success. Let’s delve into the chronologically listed cities that exemplify Florida’s prominence in the business startup arena.

1. Orlando Leads the Way: Orlando emerges as the most attractive market in the U.S. for business startups, with a remarkable surge in small business establishments. WalletHub’s latest report highlights Orlando’s robust ecosystem, fostering the survival and growth of startups, buoyed by a high concentration of investors per capita.

2. Tampa Takes Second Place: Securing the second spot among large cities for business startups, Tampa boasts a favorable business environment attributed to its low corporate tax rates. The city’s ample investor presence further fortifies startups, providing essential resources for navigating the initial years of business operations.

3. Charlotte’s Diverse Industries: Claiming the third position, Charlotte stands out for its diverse industrial landscape and exceptionally low corporate taxes, enticing companies to reinvest capital. This conducive environment propels entrepreneurial endeavors, contributing to sustained economic growth.

4. Jacksonville’s Rising Profile: Jacksonville emerges as a promising destination for startups, bolstered by its favorable business climate. The city’s strategic positioning fosters entrepreneurial ventures, attracting aspiring business owners seeking growth opportunities.

5. Miami’s Entrepreneurial Hub: Miami solidifies its position as a thriving entrepreneurial hub, attracting businesses with its dynamic ecosystem and strategic location. The city’s vibrant startup culture and supportive infrastructure make it an appealing destination for ventures of all sizes.

6. Atlanta’s Economic Momentum: Atlanta’s ascent in the business startup landscape underscores its economic momentum and favorable business conditions. The city’s strategic advantages and conducive policies provide a fertile ground for entrepreneurial ventures to flourish.

7. Fort Worth’s Business-Friendly Environment: Fort Worth emerges as a prime destination for startups, offering a business-friendly environment characterized by low corporate taxes. The city’s supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives facilitate the growth and success of new ventures.

8. Austin’s Innovation Hub: Austin cements its status as an innovation hub, attracting startups with its vibrant entrepreneurial community and progressive policies. The city’s robust infrastructure and access to capital foster a conducive environment for business growth and innovation.

9. Durham’s Emerging Entrepreneurship Scene: Durham’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene positions it as a promising destination for startups, fueled by its supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives. The city’s collaborative culture and access to resources contribute to the success of new ventures.

10. St. Petersburg’s Thriving Business Community: St. Petersburg rounds off the top 10 with its thriving business community and supportive ecosystem for startups. The city’s strategic advantages and favorable business climate make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Despite unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation, and high inflation, these top Florida cities remain resilient and well-equipped to overcome obstacles, offering promising opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs alike.


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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.


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