Born in New York City, Jamie Gillis trained as a legitimate actor. In the early 1970s he drifted into performing in pornographic films, and continued to work in that field through the late 1990s. Despite the occasional foray into "legitimate" film, such as a cameo in Nighthawks (1981), Gillis remained identified with the porn industry, and is regarded as one of its most prolific and potent actors. After a stint as one of the "Nasty Bros". in producer Ed Powers' series of amateur "Dirty Debutantes" series, Gillis began branching out to produce homemade porn videos of his own, some of them made in France (where he was able to show off his command of the French language). Never having made a secret of his bisexuality, Gillis made his first all-gay porn film in 1997, a sado-masochistic video in which he did not actually perform sex acts, but rather issued orders to the other members of the cast.