By Jake Scott
Various vendors peddling vibrators and lubricants line the hallway of the Vanity Adult Fan Expo as a 35-year-old Ryerson radio and television arts (RTA) student is preparing to interview a porn star.
He has no idea why these colourful dildos are shaped this way, but he’s here handing out business cards while introducing himself to everyone.
The student is awash in naked women twirling sparkling tassels in his face. He is bombarded with images of sex machines and tantric sex. This is the first time he’s ever seen a pornographic image or an adult film.With the help of a media pass, he manages to land a 25-minute on-camera interview with Lisa Ann, a renowned porn actress who has starred in more than 250 adult films. His name is Tommy Lee and he’s here promoting a film that his friend, Nem Stankovic, wants to make about his life – My Friend Tommy. They hope to raise $15,000 through a Kickstarter campaign starting in April. According to Stankovic, the film is already receiving some attention from Hollywood.
This is something Lee says he never expected.
Lee still lives with his parents, has an 11:30 p.m. curfew and has never had a girlfriend. He’s also a virgin. Six months from now, the duo plan to go on a mission across the United States to document Lee as he finds himself, discovers his independence and attempts to lose his virginity.
Lee was born in 1979 in Seoul, South Korea, but his family moved to St. Catharines, Ont. in 1982.
His parents put a lot of pressure on him to succeed and his peers would tease him about his weight.
At one point, he tipped the scales at around 300 lbs.
“In my insecurity, I would eat a lot and didn’t really have a great support system,” Lee says. “My mom would tell me I was overweight and she overdid it… She wasn’t trying to be mean about it, I just took it the wrong way.”
Disgusted with himself, Lee began losing the weight at 20 after he saw a high school graduation photo in which he needed a custom gown to accommodate his wide frame. He dropped down to about 180 lbs. in four years after his mom got him a YMCA gym membership.
“I was determined to lose that weight. That anger of people calling me fat all through elementary school and high school, it just burned up,” Lee says.
Over that four-year span Lee also got a bachelor’s degree in political science at Brock University, the first of his three degrees. He says he wasn’t a nice person when he started at Brock, but met supportive friends who helped turn him around.
Years later his family would move from St. Catharines to Toronto so that Lee’s brother could pursue his career as a dentist. Lee says he hated Toronto because it was foreign to him and he felt the people weren’t as friendly. After working a volunteer job for Rogers TV and as a sales clerk at an Indigo bookstore, he got into Ryerson’s RTA program in 2011. It was here that he met Stankovic, a first-year fellow RTA student whom would later become his best friend.
It’s the first lecture of the year.
Young first-year students are chatting to each other about their summer experiences and university aspirations. In walks Lee, the front of his hair spiked up. “Do you have that teaching assistant (TA)?” one student asks, pointing at Lee. He stands a few rows from the front, turns around and starts introducing himself to absolutely everyone. Inside, he’s a mess. He’s thinking this is a huge mistake, that these 17-year-olds won’t know what to make of him or worse, that they won’t accept him.
All smiles, Lee made his way around the room on that first day, setting a precedent for his next four years at Ryerson. He was so nice to people that it came off as suspicious.
Nobody could be this kind.
He would go out of his way to help people with their assignments, even if they didn’t ask.
“People thought something was wrong with him, they were like ‘does Tommy sacrifice goats on Wednesday? Why is this guy so nice?'” says Stankovic, the documentary’s director and one of its coproducers.
The two met during a break from this lecture. Like many other students, Stankovic initially thought he was a TA, but they eventually bonded over their love of basketball.
“He came up to me and said ‘Hey man, you’re tall. Do you play basketball?’ and when I told him I played division one, it blew him away,” says Stankovic, whom played university basketball in Chicago before coming to Ryerson.
When they started hanging out, Stankovic noticed that Lee had a few quirks. For starters, he had been telling people that he was 27 – for two years in a row.
And when they went to parties, Lee would always have to leave by 11:30 p.m.
The closer they became, the more Stankovic learned about Lee’s situation and eventually his well-intact virginity. This birthed My Friend Tommy, an independent, crowd-funded documentary that aims to change one man’s life.
Stankovic came up with the idea a year-and-a-half ago when he confronted Lee about his real age and his virgin status. He approached Lee with the idea.
“He didn’t believe he was an interesting person,” Stankovic says.
“I told him, ‘You’re so different from the rest of the world that people will be interested in seeing your story and seeing your life change.'”
To say this movie is all about Lee losing his virginity doesn’t do it justice. They could film this entire documentary in Toronto, but the road trip is, according to Stankovic, very necessary.
“Tommy has never really been allowed to go many places so I thought it would be a good idea to take an epic road trip and mix that in with growing his life and giving him freedom,” he says.
Stankovic doesn’t want Lee to run and have sex with the first willing person he meets. It’s all about the little steps. First he has to get a date, which has proven difficult.
Tommy says he’s never been on a date with a girl, unless it was under the pretext of a respectful friendship.
“[I was] overweight, my whole high school years were gone right there and I had problems with my own insecurity… But as the years went by I still couldn’t seal the deal.
When I liked a girl I couldn’t approach [her],” Lee says.
Stankovic wants him to step well beyond his comfort zone and be in situations where he has to make his own decisions.
“Basically I want to give him his adolescence in his thirties,” Stankovic says.
He wants to give Lee something great and show him, and the world, that it’s never too late to change your life.
“When I get back, I’ll be more positive, more confident in myself,” Lee says. “My parents will actually see me as that new person.”