Washington State's new head coach Mike Leach is well known for his unconventional approach on the football field. But what's less well known is the way that delightful disdain for the status quo seems to extend off the field as well, where Leach has partnered with the publisher of a series of Houston-area strip-club guides to put on a college all-star game.
Casino Del Sol All-Star Game Mike Leach (far left) and John Gray (far right) on the sidelines during last year's game.
Leach is accurately described as "one of the most innovative offensive minds in the game of football," while Gray is listed as having served as a marketer for both the Dallas Blackhawks hockey team, the Dallas Mavericks of the NBA, and is said to have been "involved in bringing the Mississippi Gamblers USBL team to Biloxi, Mississippi."
Yet nowhere does it mention where Gray is currently employed.
As the publisher of titles like Adult Quest, Wildscene, and Risque Business, Gray presides over a regional strip-club-guide empire. His magazines are a quirky mix of raunchy editorials from local lawyers and porn stars, and glossy ads for Houston-area cabarets.
In the December 2011 edition of Adult Quest, running alongside the "Sexscopes", reviews of the latest DVD porn releases, and a legal advice column written by "Jeffrey L. Greco of Greco & Associates," is the Publisher's Pen, a front-of-the-book note written by Gray. Consistent with the issue's holiday theme, Gray's December note takes the form of a revised version of "The Night Before Christmas."
"Twas the month of Christmas when all through our land, not a Christian was praying nor taking a stand."
At the end of Gray's note is a photo of a naked man wearing a small Santa doll for a skirt (NSFW), with his flaccid penis protruding from a hole where St. Nick's nose normally would be. "Rub Santa's nose for good luck" reads the sign in the picture.
According to Heath Stillwell, site designer for Adult Quest, Gray is also the man behind a once-annual gathering of porn stars. From 2007-2009, Gray hosted three editions of Lone Star Pornutopia in Houston. All that remains of the bacchanal are a bare-bones site and a Facebook page. But those artifacts, along with its on-the-nose name, offer a clue as to what Pornutopia was all about.
Pornutopia Facebook page Gray (far right) and friends at Pornutopia's pajama party.
Stillwell says it was a huge industry party, with big names like Ron Jeremy and Ginger Lynn in attendance. He says Jeremy has been a "close personal friend of (Gray's) for years and years." Pornutopia's Facebook page also has 32 pictures under "Invited Stars," calls itself the "party of the year," and lists a local ESPN affiliate as a sponsor.
Gray is not without his legal troubles too. In 2010, Austin photographer Leann Collins sued him in federal court, alleging he'd stolen $240,000-worth of copyrighted photos that he'd used without permission in his magazines. When Collins sent an e-mail to an address listed in one of Gray's publications, she got a concise response (subject line: "fuck you") from a Gray employee who identified herself as Ginger Johnson, who then provided a nearly unreadable explanation (all sic) of the relevant public domain law:
"bitch your pics are public domain," wrote Johnson. "if ya don't wnt them usd don't put them on web ya dumb btch don't threatn me agin don't call I talked to mags they don't give a shit thers nothing ya can do so fck off."
Collins says the suit is ongoing. Gray, meanwhile, did not return multiple calls for comment.
While it's unclear when Leach and Gray first met, they've known each for at least two years. On December 3, 2009, Gray and a number of Leach's friends, including his personal attorney, surprised him with gifts in the Texas Tech locker room a few weeks after the coach had broken the record for most wins in school history.
"We wanted to thank coach for all the wins," Gray told a reporter with the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, shortly after presenting Leach with a Rolex and a 30-inch stainless steel sword, a nod to the coach's obsession with pirates. "Hopefully he stays at Texas Tech."
Gray, of course, would not get his wish. A week after receiving his sword, Leach was suspended by Texas Tech for what the school said was the mistreatment of an injured player. That suspension marked the beginning of a years-long, still-unresolved lawsuit between Leach, his former employer, and ESPN, the world's biggest sports broadcaster. It's also what allowed Pac 12-basement dweller Washington State to hire a coach once seen as a shoo-in to lead a major national program. (Washington State's athletic department also did not return multiple calls for comment.)