Porn Video History

Working for the Mafia’s Porno Odd Couple

They each wanted the other dead.  But neither would kill the other because that would piss off the powerful capo regime who had forced them into partnership—even if that partnership was driving “the biggest Mafia porno outfit on the west coast (FBI quote)” into bankruptcy.

I got my job at S & L Distributors through a double-cross  that helped another pornographer retrieve a stolen editing machine, and he, in turn, got me hired.  His advice: (Passages from SKINFLICKS are in italics.) “You can’t get in the door without my recommendation,” Robby said. “And whatever you do, don’t ever try to screw these people. Don’t even think about it.”

I thought I had been hired to shoot porn movies and was eager to show my filmmaking skills. But that corrosive partnership got in the way.  One boss, Tony, wanted to sent me out right away to shoot a loop series. (Loops were short films, sold in series’ of six.) But his partner, Marv, wanted to continue simply as a middleman for other producers. 

         “Duke, we gotta get into production.” Tony staged the arguments in the middle of the warehouse, so we all could hear. “Every piece of film we buy for $5 is money we’re wastin’. Say we buy 500 pieces; that’s enough money for us to shoot a series.  Then we print up 3000 of a number. That’s 18,000 pieces, Marv.”
        Tony said we could sell them all.  Phil the bookkeeper told me that volume meant $40,000 net profit.  I could easily shoot two series a month (as Robby had in S & L’s early days).
        It grated on Tony to hear Teddy Gaswirth boast of his “12 new series in the can” and how one of his 27 race horses “paid a $70 exacta last week.”  Teddy drove a new Mercedes annually; Tony’s  battered old 280SL sat dormant in the warehouse.

So why wasn’t I out shooting?  What was Marv’s problem?

I was to learn of  Marv’s secret agenda, entangled with the murky history of the forces behind S & L:  a history of treachery, blood feuds, prison sentences, and murders.  As the partners argued, I didn’t shoot; I sat.  But my time wasn’t wasted.  Tony ordered me to screen “every number in the place,” to educated myself about what was on the porno market. (Details of these films—some highly illegal, such as the infamous Animal Lover—are described in SKINFLICKS.)  I also had plenty of time to take notes–secretly. Very secretly.  If anyone suspected I was keeping a journal of my experiences at S & L, I would have been promptly fired—or worse.

Future entries will describe S & L’s crew of  “Mafia poor relations,” how I saved my bosses from a major bust,  and how the company used piracy and mob muscle to become rich with their VCX adult video line.  I will also recount my scariest moments, when I was falsely accused of ripping off the company and faced death threats.

The War on Porn: The Declaration

Like Moses hoisting the stone tablets that contained the Ten Commandments, Attorney General Ed Meese hefted two thick blue books that were meant to save his people from the evils of pornography.  These volumes, the 1986 Attorney General’s Commission Report on Pornography, contained details of porn that most fans would never encounter: bestiality, child sex, extreme S and M, and such aberrations as asphyxiation, excretions, necrophilia, sweat sniffing, self-castration and toenail clipping collecting.  Did the A.G. want to cleanse the nation of sick stuff and leave good, healthy all-American erotica alone?


The first targets of his newly-appointed Commission were magazines such as Playboy and Penthouse.  The Commission’s infamous “7-Eleven letter”–on Justice Department stationery—scared 17,000 convenience stores into dropping (temporarily) all magazines containing nudity. For the forces behind the Meese Commission anything related to sex was evil.

In the early 1980s, the Religious Right had a hissy fit over porn videos appearing in shopping malls. Having helped Reagan get elected, these crusaders demanded quid pro quo.  To please them, the Meese Commission was formed, and its eleven members made a highly-publicized excursion through the porno underbelly of America.

(Passages from SKINFLICKS are in italics. ) Calling the trek “a surrealist mystery tour of sexual perversity,” Time magazine ran a photo of Chairman Hudson emerging from a dark den of peep-show booths in a Houston porn shop, shoulders slumped, tie askew, lips a thin hard line and his sweaty pate gleaming with reflected neon.  During their visit to three Houston arcades, the Commission’s vice cop tour guide had yanked open the door of one of the booths to expose two startled patrons in the midst of fellatio.  “And here,” droned the guide, “we have two men engaged in the act of oral copulation.” Before leaving, the group bought one magazine: Young Girls in Bondage. “It is as if by finding the single most despicable scene of sexual conduct ever photographed,” said ACLU legislative counsel Barry Lynn, “the commission would be justified in urging the suppression of all sexually oriented material.”

Reagan’s War on Porn erupted just as I was selling the rights to Superior Video’s titles.  I was retiring from porn and beginning to transcribe my notes for SKINFLICKS.  I bought a copy of the Commission’s Report for $35. This encyclopedia of sexual grotesquery became a Government Printing Office best seller, going into a third 1500-copy run. (“4500 of a number,” cracked one porn publisher. “We should all be so lucky.”)

Few took the Report seriously. “Little Official Alarm Over Porno Report” went a headline in Video Extra magazine, which quoted Art Ross, a VSDA director: “It’ll remain a hot topic and a nine-day wonder until something else comes along.”  “Absurd but not threatening” was The Washington Post’s assessment.  The pundits were wrong—extremely wrong!

Meese’s vow that “the cancer of pornography” would be “pursued with a vengeance and prosecuted to the hilt” sounded like some grand mullah’s call for a holy war.

And war it was.

Like a major military campaign this war had many fronts: battles were fought in streets, businesses, churches, courtrooms, convention halls, police stations, prisons and private dwellings.  Spies infiltrated enemy camps and compiled hit lists. Troops with assault rifles smashed into homes.  Fortunes were plundered; children taken from their parents.  Buildings were burned and government forces threw volumes of books into bonfires. Laws were passed against freedoms previously taken for granted.

As the War on Porn raged throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, my attention was split between writing about the porn industry and keeping track of efforts to snuff  it out.  I relied on Adult Video News for the most current updates.  That magazine became the most important source of information for video retailers trying to stay out of jail.  They needed answers to the Big Question: What’s illegal?

At the unveiling of the Commission’s big blue books, that question caused confusion. A journalist asked the Attorney General if the Report would condemn the Spirit of Justice statue behind him as obscene. Meese turned to look at the aluminum female figure with one bared breast.  He stammered that he didn’t know; he hadn’t yet read the report (which had been available to him for over a month).  Somebody put a coat on that lady!

The War on Porn is behind us now.  Could it happen again?  That was a campaign promise of presidential wanna-be Rick Santorum. And the winds of politics blow in many directions.

Periodically, this blog will address aspects of the Porn War, raising that maddening question: WHAT CONSTITUTES OBSCENITY?

Comments are invited.

A Strange Case of Porn Stud Failure

Lots of things can cause that porn set malady, penis limpus: hot lights, cold girls, bad drugs, poor hygiene, off-color secretions. But the oddest culprit I ever saw was a jacket. It belonged to porn’s Burt Reynolds clone, Sasha Gabor.

Amy Rogers, Tom Byron, from Dirty Pictures (no photo of Sasha Gabor)

(Passages from SKINFLICKS are in italics.)  The Norwegian native arrived at the Dirty Pictures location in his black Trans Am with the “BANDIT” license plate, wearing his bright red “Bandit” jacket and a Stetson.  Waiting for his scene with Amy Rogers, he kept telling me he was raring to go.  When she began to undress him, his erection threatened to split his zipper.  Then his jacket sleeve got snagged on a shirt button.  In the time it took to free the garment, his erection disappeared.  The sponges holding back Amy’s period turned him off further.  We had to shoot the scene sim; Sasha’s penis stayed dormant. The only thing “stiff” was his attempt to maintain his Bandit bluster.  I was glad I had those Herschel Savage close-ups.

Seasoned pornographers prepared for stud failures by accumulating an “insert library” of explicit, hardcore, jousting-genital close-ups that could be cut into scenes that had to be shot “sim” (simulated—no genital penetration). To match different colored pubic hair, I had close-ups for blond man/blonde woman, blond man/brunette woman, brunet man/blonde woman, black man/blonde woman, etcetera, etcetera.  John Holmes said he was on a shoot where none of the men could perform. He provided the hardcore close-ups for nine scenes, creating a film with eight men who all appeared to have foot-long erections.

Sasha Gabor must have been able to perform adequately, since he appeared in about 120 pornos between 1984 and 2001. I just happened to get him on a “bad cock day.”  (I was sad to learn that he died of heart disease in 2008.)

Porn studdom can be a precarious profession.  That’s why the “reliables” kept getting hired again and again and again.  Female fans complain about seeing the same guys in picture after picture.  But the male fans—who comprise the bulk of the audience—don’t mind.  They just want to see new women.  To them, the familiar male faces are like old buddies.

My Worst Porn Directing Experience: Barbara Dare

Barbara Dare came running down the sidewalk barefooted, a spike-heeled pump in each hand.  “I wanna ride in the Corvette!”  As she fumbled with the shoes and the door handle, I realized that I’d been about to commit what any red-blooded American auto buff would consider an unnatural act: let one of the most beautiful women who ever bared all before a camera scrunch into a production assistant’s beat-up Falcon, loaded with reflectors and camera gear, instead of inviting her to settle into the black leather of my yellow Stingray.  But after a morning of non-stop friction with Dare on the set of E.X., I would’ve consigned her to ride in a garbage truck—and not in the cab section.  (Passages from SKINFLICKS are in italics.)

The auburn-curled beauty was not yet the sensation she would become in 1986, but already she acted the prima donna. “What girl ever works with three people in one day?” I rattled of a list of those who had, including Traci Lords. In response, Dare blurted, “But Traci likes fucking!” I knew then it would be a tough shoot.

A previous post related Rick Savage thanking Shanna McCullough for making his screen cherry scene so pleasurable that he continued his porn career. On the E.X. shoot, the opposite happened. Dare consented to a three-way with Billy Dee and a man making his porn debut, as long as everything with the new guy was simulated.  I agreed to her terms; new guys usually can’t get it up anyway.  But he surprised us, to Dare’s consternation. When he tried to touch her breasts, she pushed him away…After that debut, the new guy decided he didn’t really want a porn career after all.  His last words before leaving: “She thinks her shit don’t stink.”

New guy, Dare, Billy Dee. From E.X.

Dare’s refusal to follow any directions that weren’t yelled at her was giving me a headache.
Some pornographers like to act tough, to enforce their commands.  That wasn’t my style.  I sat staring into space, trying to make a decision.  I could either spend the rest of the shoot snarling and threatening to manhandle her, or I could cancel the shoot and pay everyone except Dare for a half-day.  She saw that I was at the breaking point.
Like most seasoned bitches, Dare knew when she’d pushed too far. “You don’t seem to like my New Jersey sense of humor,” she laughed.
“If New Jersey humor means making a complete cunt out of yourself, you’re right.”

That exchange marked a turning point: Dare lackadaisically  followed directions, and I decided to settle for her perfunctory performance. The next day’s E.X. finale—without Dare—went beautifully, and I appreciated even more the pleasure of working with those great ladies Lilly Marlene and Nina Hartley.

With her abrasive chutzpah, Barbara Dare attained porn success. She signed an exclusive with Select/Essex, claiming she got $10,000 for each of her movies. She maintained a six-figure annual income over her porn career,  making no more than a dozen movies a year and negotiating top dollar on the dance circuit.  She even managed to do some acting, winning the 1988 AVN Best Actress award.  Talk Radio monologist Eric Bogosian gushed, “Barbara  Dare, in her effusive, bubbling orgasmic womanhood is the purest antidote to pin-headed porn haters, Left and Right.”  Yes, she knew how to fool her fans.

Regardless of the demand for the actress, I told her agent Jim South, “Jim, if I ever shoot Barbara Dare again, it won’t be with a camera.”

My All-time Favorite Stars: Shanna McCullough

A buzz went through the audience.  The singer had stopped singing, but her voice continued.  She called out to someone offstage, “That’s the wrong cut!”
During the previous five takes (needed for changes in camera angles) the “singer” had been lip-syncing so perfectly that the audience had thought she was actually doing the singing.  As they realized that this woman—a porn actress no less—was turning in a great performance, the crowd burst into applause.

Shanna McCullough, “singing” in Deviations

When I cast Shanna McCullough for a lead role in my 1983 extravaganza, Deviations, I was taking a chance.  Women who are new to porn might freeze up or panic when they are called upon to have sex under hot lights, with a crew watching and a director barking orders.  Standard practice had been to break in ingénues as “nude extras,” who shed their clothes in a film but don’t have sex.  But when I met Shanna at agent Joe Elliot’s casting session, I had a hunch that she was one special lady.  I was so right!

This redhead with the creamy, alabaster skin and luminous eyes was much more sexually sophisticated than most porn newcomers. Shanna and her husband (at that time) were swingers. She had a wardrobe of kinky outfits. She was a professional actress, starring every Saturday night in a Berkeley stage production of The Rocky Horror Show.  She also had an eight-foot boa constrictor that crawled all over her nude body in Deviations.

From SKINFLICKS: The Inside Story of the X-Rated Video Industry Her “screen cherry” debut with Mike Horner was so sizzling hot that during a break, I swore I saw steam rising from her bottom.

Shanna McCullough in Night Moves

Of course, I gave her the starring role in my next video, Night Moves.  Shanna McCullough would go on to make over 200 movies in the next seven years, establishing herself as one of porn’s all-time great stars.  She was an inspiration to others: In his speech at the 1991 AVN Awards, Rick Savage said, “I want to thank the first actress I ever had sex with in a video. Because if she hadn’t been so hot and such a fucking inspiration, I may not have ever made another video. So thank you, Shanna McCullough!”  (In contrast, a future post will recount how the bitch-goddess Barbara Dare had the opposite effect on another would-be screen stud.)

As described in SKINFLICKS, Shanna’s performance in a Henri Pachard flick, left one of porn’s prima donna-type actresses puzzled: “So that was Shanna McCullough.  She’s a big star.  But she didn’t act like a star.”  Pachard sighed. “The real ones never do.”

Shanna’s retirement in pursuit of a mainstream career was another class act.  Unlike most adult actresses who skulk away licking their wounds and snarling invective, Shanna wrote a letter to AVN (May ’91 issue), thanking readers for voting her into the magazine’s Hall of Fame. “I had such a good time when I made my first movie, Deviations,” she wrote, “that I wanted to do it again.”  She thanked directors, actors and porn fans, adding, “I got a chance to live out many of my fantasies…I met a lot of great people, made some close friends and got to travel around the world. What more could you ask for in a job?”

Evidently she could ask for more.  Shanna McCullough “unretired” and went on to choose certain, select roles in adult movies throughout the next decade.

Starlets or Harlots? Part 3: Screen Siren Successes

Describing a scene in which Jamie Gillis beat her up, the exotic Eurasian from Illinois, Kristara Barrington, added, “It was great.  I had bruises on my tits.  You can see them in the film.” (Passages from the book SKINFLICKS: The Inside Story of the X-Rated Video Industry are in italics.)  She said that Gillis did things to her that they wouldn’t dare put in a movie.

Kristara named Gillis as her favorite screen stud. As did Mauvaise De Noire. What did they like about Gillis besides his ability to maintain a constant erection?  He knew how to smack them around the way they liked: They were masochists, as was the late Marilyn Chambers.  In the Mitchell Brothers’ Never a Tender Moment, she was hung upside down and assaulted with dildos that would make an elephant cringe.

After my last blog entry about how abrasive the porn industry could be to its starlets, it would be easy to conclude that masochism is a given for porn queen success.  But that wouldn’t be true.  It also helped to be an athlete, a lesbian, an exhibitionist, and/or a “crusader”—my own term for those using porn as a forum to make a sexual/social statement. Another category that may overlap all of the foregoing except “crusader” is “bitch.” Bitches don’t give a damn about anything except their day rates and putting out as little effort as they can get away with.  There are also those rare women who just plain love sex—any way they can get it, on or off the screen. This article will give examples of each of the above.

Many of porn’s best ladies have been jocks:  Porche Lynn—basketball, volleyball, school records in track (without a date for the prom, she went bowling instead)…Nikki Randall—softball, soccor, gymnastics…Blondi—stock car racer and bodybuilder; Brandi Bosworth—bodybuilder(1987 Georgia state champion). Victoria Paris, Vanity and Tiffany Million were pro wrestlers.  Porn, by its very nature of being performance, has more in common with athletics than with lovemaking.  In the competitive world of video sex, pumping iron, nutritional supplements, physical trainers and tanning salons are as much a part of the scene as silk panties and Albolene Cream.

In SKINFLICKS, these ladies describe their sexual accomplishments in the same way a revved-up linebacker would enthuse over a bone-jarring tackle. Danyel (“I’m a sexual beast!”) Cheeks proudly detailed the techniques she learned in order to match Linda Lovelace in deep-throating.  During a vigorous Blacks and Blondes loop that I shot, a sinewy blonde named Deejay used a monstrous dildo you could hit home runs with to demonstrate that “…I can take John Holmes all the way up to the balls in any hole of my body.”  (That description is as graphic as this blog will get.  The nitty-gritty details of sexual feats are reserved for the pages of SKINFLICKS.)  After the late (suicide) Wendy O. Williams demonstrated her ability to shoot ping-pong balls out of her vagina in Candy goes to Hollywood, director Gail Palmer declined her offer to pop bananas out of her butt.

Lesbians have three advantages over hetero women: First, perceiving themselves as outside of conventional society anyway, they are less affected by the stigmas associated with porn acting.  Second, the obligatory girl/girl scenes come naturally to them.  Third, after a day of screen sex, they don’t have to worry about dealing with a male significant other. To these ladies the malady of “boyfriendinitis” is irrelevant.  “I don’t need men…(Barbara) Dare told an interviewer from the lesbian magazine, On Our Backs. “I need women.”  They trade tales among themselves about seducing both the boyfriends of straight ladies and the girlfriends of screen studs.

 For exhibitionists, porn acting and strip dancing are like having fun and getting paid too. Some get a kick out of flashing their stuff even without money involved.  Arriving at a CES (Consumer Electronics) show after Chicago’s capricious winds had blown up her skirt, revealing her bare bottom to a crew of stunned construction workers, Amber Lynn was flushed with excitement as she related the episode.  During the “Desert Storm” military offensive in Iraq, Brandy Alexandre mooned anti-war protesters at the Los Angeles Federal Building. At the ’91 VSDA Show, the “dudes” in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costumes got in trouble for spreading Nina Hartley’s legs while shutters clicked.

 “Crusader” women are rare.  “Most people have either mercenary reasons or sexual reasons for entering the adult film industry,” said Annette Haven in an AVN interview. “There are very few of us who are involved in it for idealistic or sociological reasons.  I think I’m one of the only maniacs like that.”  The motor-mouthed Haven clashed with anti-porn groups, expressing her views that an uptight society needed to loosen up and enjoy erotic freedom.  Porn’s best crusader was—and is–Nina Hartley.  Addressing groups as diverse as the Lifestyles conventions, the National Sex Symposium and Expo, and the National Organization of  Women, the articulate registered nurse became a valuable spokesperson for the adult industry.  Hartley helped found The Pink Ladies Social Club to help troubled adult actresses.  When The Adult Video Association was formed in 1987 to combat the U.S. government’s “War on Porn”, Nina was the only porn actress on the board of directors.  At the AFA’s fundraising events, lucky raffle winners got to strip off her clothes.   Like others with successful long-term careers, Nina chose her roles on her own terms, refusing those involving rape, domination, coercion, or pain as pleasure. A Nina Hartley character, she told the Donahue audience, “wants to be there; she’s in control; she knows what’s going on; and she’s having a good time.”

Opposite the “crusaders” are the “bitches.”  They espouse the philosophy of getting the most money for the least amount of effort.  Some, like Amber Lynn, were in such demand, that they kept getting hired despite their drawbacks.  I saw the Amber Lynn mystique close up on Pachard’s Harlem Candy shoot…Amber revved herself up for the scene, rubbing her clitoris.  On “action,” she vaulted the couch with the ease of an athlete and sashayed with the insolent grace of a jungle cat over to where Savage sat.  She slid in next to him and her toes dug into the rug like outstretched claws. Those few seconds of action bristled with her electric physicality…After her impressive entrance…Amber had nothing to say: she didn’t know her lines.  But she had an excuse: “You shouldn’t give someone a script the day before shooting.” 

       “Honey,” said Pachard. “The script was waiting for you at (her agent) Jim South’s office for a whole week.”

       Amber wrinkled her nose. “I don’t go there any more.”

Amber’s fans admired her brat-goddess persona, as she strutted through the porn world with the philistine insolence of a hardcore, white-trash delinquent.

Barbara Dare

My worst directing experience (subject of a future entry) was with another celebrated bitch, the beautiful lesbian, Barbara Dare.  Her stated goal in porn was to sock away one-hundred thousand dollars and then retire. She succeeded.

Analyzing the very sophisticated version of the Bitch that she played in Basic Instinct, Sharon Stone told San Francisco Examiner writer Ovid Demaris, “I never thought the character (a bisexual author who flashed her bare crotch to a room full of cops) really cared about sex at all. That’s why it was so easy for her to use her sexuality—it had no value.”

 In contrast to Stone’s Basic Instinct character, there are some porn women to whom sex is very valuable indeed.  Foremost among them was Lilly Marlene (subject of a future post), one of my all-time favorites to direct.  For her there was no such thing as too much sex. I have already related in a past post entry my surprise when she started performing fellatio on me under a desk while I was making out her paycheck. Tales of Lilly in heat abounded.  She’d regularly exhaust fifteen men at a time, and then, with hunger glaring in her usually soft eyes, grab any man who was left.

I’ve only directed Sharon Mitchell in one video, but that was enough to witness the genuine sexual intensity she brought to the screen. Miss Sharon Mitchell—as she wants to be called after more than fifteen years as a performer—wouldn’t let a spent Mike Horner leave the rooftop set in All the King’s Ladies, even as the crew was packing the gear after shooting Miss M’s forty-second status orgasmus (sustained female orgasm). She related the story of going into a theater to watch one of her films for the first time and unzipping the pants of an elderly gentleman next to her.  When the startled patron saw that the lady going down on him was the same one as on the screen, he suffered a seizure. As he was being wheeled to the ambulance he croaked, “Thank you, Miss Mitchell.”

I was going to recount in this blog entry my directing experiences with such favorites as Nina Hartley, Lilly Marlene, Shanna McCullough and Samantha Fox.  Also, I was going to describe the misery of trying to work with Barbara Dare, but these will have to wait until next time.



Starlets or Harlots Part 2: The Perils of Porn Stardom

Mauvaise de Noire, Billy Dee and Lisa DeLeeuw

Lisa DeLeeuw described one of her worst experiences.  Working for Svetlana (“Sweatlana”) Marsh, spending 20-hour days shivering in an unheated sound stage, living on “stale donuts, coffee and hot dogs,” the voluptuous redhead came down with a bad cold and conjunctivitis—“pink eye.”  (Passages from SKINFLICKS: The Inside Story of the X-Rated Video Industry are in italics.)
By the fifth day, “I just couldn’t go on like that. All of a sudden, I passed out. For half an hour. When I came to, Svetlana says, ‘You just sit there in the corner…you’re background. Fine.
“Well, I’m doing that and all of a sudden Jamie (Gillis) comes over and decides to pull me into the scene, grabbing my arms and yanking me in.  So I’m playing the scene and Jamie has this stupid cattle whip that he’s holding in the middle so the handle is on one end and the cat-o’-nine-tails on the other. And he’s slinging it like a double pendulum and he catches me—WHACK—right across the bridge of my nose, which he breaks.  I just freaked!  I blew up and grabbed the whip and started yelling, ‘I’m gonna kill you!’ And the cameraman is up above us on a beam, and he goes, ‘Oh, this is great! Keep goin’!’”

When a woman enters porn she faces two kinds of challenges: those on the set and those away from it.  On the set, a porn starlet quickly learns that what the male wants is gospel.  If she interrupts a scene because her leg is cramping, she risks causing a lost erection.  If it can’t be retrieved, the blame is hers. Once the stud has delivered, the director wants to hurry on to the next scene, regardless of how turned on an actress might be.  (Rather than be left high and wet, stars like Annette Haven and Lilly Marlene recruited crew members to help them “finish up.”)  Then there are the directors whose grandiose visions of sizzling sex push women beyond their limits.

“Whatever your natural inclinations are, they play on them,” said an anonymous actress in a 1980 Adam Film World interview.  The graphic details she added are recounted in SKINFLICKS.  Serena’s forced retirement came after a shoot that almost killed her. After a filmed contest to see if she could handle more men than Mai Lin, Serena not only took on more than forty studs but also their microbes. “My doctor said the germs ganged up,” Serena told me. “My belly swelled up like I was pregnant.” Delirious from septic shock, she spent months hospitalized with severe pelvic inflammatory disease…The filmmaker didn’t even send a get-well card.

After enough unpleasant surprises, actresses come to regard all directors as exploiters. Some play the game of balking at every request and negotiating every detail.  And directors come to expect actresses to be lazy whores, out to get maximum dollar for minimal effort…”The nicer you treat the performers,” observed porn historian Holliday, “the more likely they are to shit on you.”

New ladies were afraid to balk at pornographer’s directions for fear of being called “difficult.” Compounding the physical rigors were the non-stop months of serial 14-hour days needed to build a six-figure nest egg.  In Adult Video News, director Bruce Seven complained, “By the time they get to me, a lot of the performers are half-dead from overwork.” He followed that statement with a graphic description of what he meant.

One way for ladies to cope with the demands was through cocaine, which became epidemic in the frenzy of video shoots during the 1980s. Stressed-out actresses often find that on a porn set, things do go better with coke, at first.  It dulls pain, creates euphoria, gives a feeling of boundless energy, and—many ladies claim—makes them horny.  They can work longer hours, earn more money, and chase off all the bad feelings waiting in ambush after the action ends.

The poster girl for cocaine addiction was the late Shauna Grant. Her whispered nickname “Applecoke” was a play on her real surname, Applegate.  Whether her death was a suicide, as porn critics claim, or murder by drug dealers, hers was a worst-case scenario of life away from the porn set, where a whole new world of challenges awaited.

Kristara Barrington said former high school friends in Illinois now called her a slut.  On finding out Ginger Lynn was a porn star, her bank manager stopped treating her as a respected customer and even refused to validate her parking.  Locals pasted sex magazine photos of Shauna Grant on her former high school locker.  Relatives and spouses of porn stars become resigned to receiving anonymous packages with hate messages scrawled on pictures of the star.  I delivered a script to Lilly Marlene and was reviewing its highlights with her when something crashed against the back door.  “It’s those kids again,” she sighed.  They’d bang on the door and leave obscene messages.

If porn haters weren’t bad enough, there were the porn lovers. Lisa DeLeeuw described her first unplanned public encounter with porn fans. “I was in the frozen food section.  I’m trying to decide whether it will be fish sticks tonight or pizza, and suddenly some little Jewish guy comes running up and goes, ‘Oh, I saw you last night on the video.  You were fucking Jamie Gillis!’ And all these little old Jewish ladies—the store is right in the heart of a Jewish neighborhood, Ralph’s Market on Sunset—they all drop their matzo balls and go ‘What?’ And they follow me all around the store and I hear, ‘Oh, I really like you!’ ‘I watch you very week!’” Those were the nice fans.  There was also the kind that the late porn historian Jim Holliday called “the Toad Patrol.”

Porn fame meant gross encounters of the worst kind: Grandpa (Al Lewis) Munster posing for photos at a trade show and–to quote AVN—“goosing the smut starlets.”  An inmate sent Debi Diamond a plastic baggie of semen.  Someone posing as a cop called porn companies, trying to get the address of Kelly O’Dell…these fans stalk starlets from one club date to the next, steal their purses at trade shows, whisper lewd comments as they sign autographs, grab flesh and later brag to their friends that they actually bedded the star they hunger after. Who’s to disprove them?

In the SKINFLICKS account of Juliet Anderson’s premier party for Educating Nina, a drunken neighbor, braying for sex, kept returning after being turned away,.  I finally told him that one of the guests was a former Green Beret interrogator who would subject him to “…involuntary unleashing of bladder and bowel functions.”  That statement made him stay home; he turned out to be innocuous. More diabolical was a rock band whose album Love Letters to Joanna Storm included the romantic .38 Caliber Kiss. The band kept pestering porn people to give them Ms. Storm’s address.

Having ruminated over the nature of porn fans, I came to the following conclusion:  There are contradictions in the American male’s attitude toward the porno queen: his frustrated lust for her versus his impulse to condemn her; his desire to meet her and impress her versus his fear of her scorn for his inadequacies.  He hides his conflicts behind rough, macho swagger.

Porn fans can be avoided (or at least relegated to limited exposure), but there are some people whom porn princesses can’t escape: their significant others.  Porn agent Jim South described a malady he called “boyfriendinitis.” Its sobbing victims would call him to cancel shoots due to black eyes and chipped teeth.  A rock musician, quoted in the Bay Area magazine, Spectator, said, “Strippers and porn stars are a lot like rock n’ roll groupies…They don’t have a lot of self-esteem.  Treat ‘em good and they’ll walk all over you; treat ‘em like shit and they’ll worship the ground you walk on.”  His statement notwithstanding, there’s a simpler reason for “boyfriendinitis” violence.

Kristara Barrington lamented, “When I come home to my boyfriend and we make love, I think of it as work almost.”  Musing over why industry love affairs were so short, Juliet Anderson said, “When you drive a bus ten hours a day, you don’t want to spend your vacation on a Greyhound.”  Picture the poor boyfriend, squirming with desire while waiting for his porn queen girlfriend to return from work. He can’t understand why his exhausted lover won’t give him the attention he thinks he deserves.  Not noted for their compassionate sensitivity, porn stars’ boyfriends often react with fists.

Pursuing porn’s promise of wealth, many actresses would echo Samantha Strong’s declaration upon signing a 15-picture contract with Western Visuals: “I do not have, nor do I want, a personal life right now.” Alice Springs put it simply: “I don’t have a boyfriend, thank God.”

Most ladies find X-rated stardom a lonely road, strewn with broken relationships, leering fans, hostile media, angry relatives, menacing cops, back-stabbing competitors and exploitive agents, managers and producers.  They suffer the smirks, snickers, and sermons of a society quick to condemn, slow to forget. Behind their tough-girl act of demands, tantrums, vendettas and lawsuits, many of these “prima donnas,” barely into adulthood are terrified.

Not surprisingly, many porn actresses decided to give up on a lucrative career. On page 20 of the September ’84 issue of Adult Video News, Desiree Lane was hailed as a new starlet with “the potential to become the new Seka”; on page 22 of the same issue, Ron Jeremy’s column announced her retirement.  Adult Video News sarcastically noted the comings and goings: “Samantha Strong…saw agents and producers, got booked solid, then decided to quit every other month.” “Erica Boyer, from all reports, has met another guy and is out of the biz once again. Gentlemen place your bets.”

Leaving the business behind becomes especially frustrating when women find that a past porn career becomes like a stink that won’t wash off.  After dating Michael (“Batman”) Keaton for two years, Serena Robinson told him of her past porn career as “Rachel Ryan.”  Keaton subsequently dumped her.  There are ongoing debates about whether Megan Leigh and Alex Jordan actually committed suicide. Was Leigh shot to death?  Was Jordan’s hanging an autoerotic experiment gone wrong?   One thing both had in common was that they were soured on porn.  There is no question that superstar Savannah (Shannon Wilsey) killed herself.  The temperamental porn queen (Her infamous shoot-stopping declaration: “I’m on break—NOW!”) known for romps with rock stars, Slash and Axl Rose, was being hounded by the IRS. She had wanted to break into “legit” show business like Traci Lords (who used her “child victim” plea) had done, but feared her porn career prevented that.  On July 11, 1995, her drunken ride in her Corvette ended in a crash. Then, in the garage of the Universal City home she had paid cash for, Savannah put a 9-millimeter slug through her head.

Despite the potholes in porn’s road to riches there are women who prospered in porn, proud of their careers.   Part 3 of Starlets or Harlots? will examine what it takes for success without apologies.  I will discuss my all-time favorites, such as Nina Hartley, Shanna McCullough and Lilly Marlene.  I’ll include my worst directing experience ever, with a woman who became one of the biggest stars of the late 1980s.

Starlets or Harlots? Part 1: How Video created Teenage Tycoons

The cocaine being snorted by the starlets gathered in the restroom at the 1986 Winter CES Show didn’t bother Alana, Superior’s receptionist/Jill-of-all-trades…What offended her was that the ladies were discussing the most efficient way to divide up the spaces in their hotel suites, so they could turn the maximum number of tricks that evening with customers they met during the show.
“Most of the girls here were in on it,” Alana exclaimed when she returned to the Superior Video booth. “I thought they were supposed to be actresses, not tawdry little whores!”

The preceding, from SKINFLICKS, introduces chapters about the new breed of porn queens who seized the opportunity to make big money during porn’s video revolution. Theirs was a hothouse world of fierce competition, of sex coaches and “porno stage mothers”; of compulsive plastic surgery and multiple breast enlargements; a world where 19-year-olds became cottage industry corporations.  Before video, none of this was possible. (Note: passages from SKINFLICKS are in italics.)

In 1981, before the video revolution took off, Veronica Hart, “the Audrey Hepburn of porn,” lamented in a Playboy interview, “I think I’ll have worked a year before any of my movies are out—there’s such a backlog of films that you sometimes have to wait eight months for a theater date.  Then I’ll work another year before anyone really knows me.”
In contrast, videos arrived in stores the same month they were shot, and new women could rocket to stardom in weeks.  Or sooner: CDI’s Traci Lords clone Barbi and Vidway’s Heather Hunter, promoted at trade shows, became mini-celebrities before they appeared in a single feature!
The enormous volume of video productions meant an attractive newcomer could work non-stop for months on end. In 1981, Veronica Hart worked in only eleven features during a nine-month period; a decade later, lovely English blonde Taylor Wane starred in over 80 videos in the same length of time.
A performer’s videos built her a nationwide base of fans who’d pay to see her on the dance circuit. As a featured act, she could make five to ten thousand for a week’s engagement. Established top-draw Amber Lynn could command up to $24,000 for a week of naked prancing.  

Two other factors merged with the fast-track video scene to bring women flocking to agent Jim South’s Van Nuys studio: a Reaganomics-era poverty rate 27 percent higher in 1988 than in 1970 and the so-called “sexual revolution” of the 1970s that freed a generation of girls from the constraints of the past.  A 1988 federal survey concluded that 51.9% of young women aged 15-19 had premarital sex—up from 28.6% in 1970.  In AVN interviews, Ginger Lynn said she had sex “ten times a day” at age 13…a sweet-faced blonde from rural North Carolina told me in South’s offices that she was 13 when her mother recommended anal intercourse as “hillbilly birth control.”
Striving to increase their marketability, women became what director Greg Dark called “plastic surgery junkies.” Nips and tucks and nose jobs were only the beginning. Multiple breast enhancements gave Beverlee Hills (formerly Gina Gianetti) a 60-inch chest and Wendy Whoppers claimed her basketball-sized bumpers measured 81 inches.  Lynn LeMay…grabbed my hands and shoved them into her breasts. “Don’t they feel natural?” she enthused.  She bubbled on about the slits in her armpits where the silicone gels were slipped in being almost invisible. “Not bad for only $5000, huh?” Conducting my own assessment, I agreed that the added material was delectably soft.

Stardom opened the door to other hustles. Like mainstream stars, they hired publicists, went on autograph junkets, booked talk shows, and invented “exposes” for Hard Copy and A Current Affair.  They formed fan clubs, set up 900-numbers and appeared on baseball-type playing cards. Via mail order, they sold autographed photos, tapes, newsletters and the ever-popular “unwashed” panties. (A lady who requested anonymity told me she kept up with the demand for her used undies by recruiting girlfriends to “break in” new pairs.)

Seeing the money their daughters were making, mothers wanted in on the action. Moms played roles in the careers of Jamie Summers, Sabrina Dawn, Tami Lee Curtis, and—tragically—in the death of Megan Leigh, which was either a suicide or a murder, depending upon who you ask.  (Fathers were less enthused with the idea of their daughters being porn stars.  One pissed-off papa with mob ties threatened to have agent Jim South killed, until a porn mogul, with even stronger underworld ties, dissuaded the mad dad.)

Taking advantage of these competitive starlets, pornographers pushed them to their limits—and beyond.  A self-described “total emotional, mental and physical wreck,” Nina Alexander suffered a breakdown. Taylor Wane spent two weeks “in a sick-bed…covered with bruises.” Self-acknowledged “nymphomaniac” Mai Lin, whose porn career lasted from the mid-‘70s to the mid-‘80s, said it took her three years to fully recuperate from a rectal injury.  In a 1989 issue of Erotic Film Guide, veteran pornographer Bill Margold said that under current working conditions “the women will be literally screwed to death. It’s the worst kind of burnout…”

My next entry (Starlets or Harlots? Part 2) will detail the casualties, including suicides, among video-era women. Topics will include drugs, obsessed fans, disease, social ostracism and the phenomenon known to pornographers as “boyfriendinitis.”

Part 3 will deal with those who enjoyed successful porn queen careers, showing what it took to survive the pitfalls.  I will discuss my all-time favorites, such as Nina Hartley, Shanna McCullough and Lilly Marlene.  I’ll also include my worst directing experience ever, with a woman who became one of the biggest stars of the late 1980s.

My Favorite Dead Pornographers

You know you’re getting old when you keep putting the word “late” before the names of people you’ve known.  In the porn world there have been many who died of drugs, AIDS and—as porn’s detractors gleefully point out—suicides.  This isn’t about them. The subject of porn’s casualties will be reserved for a future entry.  This is about people who weren’t casualties, people who prospered through their work in porn, people I’ve enjoyed working with, people who unfortunately checked out before getting the chance to just slowly fade away.  In the order in which I came to know them, they are Jamie Gillis, Juliet Anderson, Anthony Spinelli, Henri Pachard, and Russ Meyer.  I won’t delve into their biographies; there are plenty of those on the Internet.  These are strictly my recollections from interacting with them, highlighted with details from SKINFLICKS: The Inside Story of the X-Rated Video Industry.
Jamie Gillis

You know those ads for erection enhancers—the ones that go “For an erection lasting over four hours seek medical attention.”?  Well, in a scene with Serena in my bondage video, Bound, Jamie stayed “up” for at least that long, with no apparent lasting damage.  In fact, for sustained penile performance, his member was one of the healthiest in history. From SKINFLICKS ”During a busy week of shoots, I asked Gillis if he ever got tired of sex. He thought for a moment, then said, “The way I look at it, sex is like food.  After a heavy meal, you might swear you’ll never eat again, but in a few hours, you’re hungry.”

Jamie Gillis and Mauvaise De Noire

The craggy-visaged actor was known for playing sinister characters, and fans mistakenly thought he was some kind of diabolical entity in real life. (My girlfriend—who didn’t know him—exclaimed, “Jamie Gillis! Terrible man!”) On the set, he was one of the nicest, most agreeable people you’d ever want to meet.  Thoroughly professional. A director’s dream. Of course, when given the green light to do his own thing, he liked to treat women like dogs, cuffing them lightly when they didn’t lick fast enough—as he did with Mauvaise De Noire in my bi-racial video Chocolate Cream.  In SKINFLICKS, Lisa DeLeeuw relates a traumatic incident in which Gillis took his beastmaster persona a bit too far—and broke her nose.  His penchant for offbeat scenarios extended into his real life.  From SKINFLICKS: Examining the rectangular leather-covered frame hanging from the ceiling above  the stage, Jamie Gillis tested its strength to make sure it would support Serena, nude and spread-eagled, with her hands and feet tied to its corners.  On the past Halloween, he’d tied her naked in a bay window of their Polk Street apartment, displayed to the crowds below.  Even revelers as bizarre as San Francisco’s could only stare upward, open-mouthed.
.  Despite his kinks, the real reason he got so many strange roles was because, as a polished Shakespearean actor, he could play them so well. In my videos Chocolate Cream and Running Wild, his portrayal of—respectively–an avaricious dating service proprietor and the head of a clan of orgiastic potheads was infused with subtle humor that went beyond the written dialogue. His sex scenes, limited (mostly) to the usual mundane positions, were performed with his customary expertise.  After a long career as actor, producer and director, Jamie Gillis (James Gurman) died of metastasized melanoma on February 19, 2010 at the age of 66.  

 Juliet Anderson

Juliet Anderson was a perfectionist.  I know that from the bracing experience of being her mansionmate.  When I moved in, she presented me with a detailed 13-page list of household chores (“frequently take hair and fuzz off brush while vacuuming rugs”). Her fastidiousness clashed with my neglectful housekeeping.  From SKINFLICKS:  Once I was about to leave for L.A. on the same day Juliet was scheduled to come home from New York.  I’d spent the morning in a cleaning frenzy and thought the results quite presentable.  I was walking out the door just as she arrived. Juliet took one look at the place and let out a shriek that echoed in my ears as I hurried down the fifty-six steps.
Juliet’s perfectionism showed in her image: patrician features, short, swept-back blonde hair and a figure trimmed through compulsive exercise. Her determination to succeed extended to her sexual skills, such as her “famous Aunt Peg blow job.” From SKINFLICKS: “She doesn’t seduce men,” wrote Gary Giddins in Home Video magazine, “she inhales them.” Juliet’s blur of mouth manipulations and head movements kept Joe, in his porn debut, as hard as men half his age.
Juliet was also one of porn’s all-time great “screamers.”  Her crescendos could bring down chandeliers. From SKINFLICKS: Returning from another business trip to L.A., I found a note from Juliet on the door: “Living room is reserved for a mini-orgy Harvey and I are having tonight. The cats have been fed.”  Great, I thought, another night with Juliet’s shrieks resounding through the house.

Juliet Anderson and Billy Dee in Physical

Juliet’s years as a teacher (Among other things, she’d taught English in Finland.) prepared her for the role that brought her fame: “Aunt Peg” in the Swedish Erotica loop series, where her sexually sophisticated character taught eager young men the arcane secrets of pleasure. Juliet’s lifestyle was a sex workaholic’s frenzy of porn work, stage shows, mail-order items, phone sex recordings and “fantasy sessions” with admiring sugar daddies. From SKINFLICKS: I encountered a fat old man in a bathrobe breaking our “no smoking in the house” rule, puffing a pipe in our living room. Juliet whispered to me that he was a big fan of hers who’d made a fortune in medical devices. One weekend I had to sleep on Joe’s padded floor, consoling myself with my $80 split of the rental of our house to a Rajneesh group.
Like so many of porn’s “lifers,” Juliet knew her future lay behind the camera, not in front of it. She made her directing debut with my Superior Video feature, All the King’s Ladies, where she kept her cool through this staggeringly problem-plagued production.  In my next feature, the hot-selling Physical, she played the lead role of a magazine publisher who uncovers a sex-contest scam. Juliet traded her work in Physical for my future services as videographer in a movie she planned to produce.  Her 1984 video feature, Educating Nina, turned out to have historical significance as the debut of future porn legend Nina Hartley. Unfortunately, Juliet didn’t have the steely, negotiator nerves required for dealing with porn’s inner-circle barracudas. After years of getting screwed in the best way, she got screwed in the worst, lamenting that the process of marketing Educating Nina was “an emotional and financial disaster.” Disillusioned with the world of porn, Juliet turned to less harsh pursuits, managing a bed-and-breakfast and running a massage therapy company.  She finally returned to porn in the mid-‘90s, focusing on videos of older people having sex.  All her life, Juliet had battled Crohn’s disease, keeping it at bay with a healthful lifestyle.  The disease finally won.   It came as a shock to those who knew this vital, energetic woman when she was found lifeless in bed. Juliet Anderson (Judith Carr) died on January 11, 2010. She was 71.

Anthony Spinelli 

From SKINFLICKSHaving survived two heart attacks and lost an enormous volume of weight, Anthony Spinelli appeared to have found the wry peace of a grizzled Buddha.  On a shoot bedeviled by a beeping audio pulse nobody could identify, I turned to him and blurted, “Maybe it’s your pacemaker.”  I immediately wished I could swallow the remark, but the great, bearded bear of a director roared.  Cinderella Distributing’s Jack Stephan said of Spinelli, “I’d love to be a first-time comic with 500 like him in the audience.”
Anthony Spinelli was a unique pornographer; he had no interest in shooting sex.  From SKINFLICKS: After his usual meticulous direction of a long dialogue scene, Spinelli turned Kay Parker, Herschel Savage and Helga Sven over to his cameramen, Joe Farmer and me, and left the set.  We were pleased with the hot sex we shot.  Before spot-checking the video, the tape operator called out, “Sam? (Spinelli’s real first name)…Sam, you wanna see this?…Sam?”  We went looking for the man whose livelihood depended on the kind of action we’d just taped and found him in the green (utility) room, snoring soundly.
Pornographers crave distinction, something that makes them stand out from the rest of the wham-bam crowd.  For Spinelli, it was his ability to wring outstanding thespian performances from “stars” whose idea of “acting” was to vary the pitch of their moans.  Spinelli had the tenacity of a Jewish mother (He referred to himself as “an old Jew.”) in not allowing even the most lackadaisical performers to slough off a single line.  Actors learned that the sooner they followed his directions, the faster things would move. (The oft-repeated Spinelli line: “What’s your motivation?…To get outta here by 9 P.M.”)
Spinelli saw intonations, beats, flickers and emotional textures in a scene that I never could. On his shoots, my co-director Joe Farmer and I saw the importance of a good crew, who were like family to Spinelli. (After he twice suffered on-set heart attacks, Spinelli’s crew took it upon themselves to finish shooting his films.) Their loyalty, competence and dedication put pressure on cast members to do their best, also.
After his movies won acclaim in porn’s “big-budget” Film Age, Spinelli’s Plum Productions prospered in the leaner Age of Video. From SKINFLICKS The Spinelli clan had adapted well to the age of the micro-budget.  Like haiku, the short stories of H.H. (“Saki”) Munro, and Twilight Zone reruns, their spare, interior dramas appealed to the cerebral end of the market.  Plum’s “one-act morality plays”—as AVN’s Joe Daniels called them—gave couples a springboard for more elevated post-coital conversation than “Was it good for you too?”
Anthony Spinelli (Sam Weinstein) died of pneumonia on May 29, 2000, at age 73.  His son Mitch carried on the family tradition of high-quality cinema.

 Henri Pachard

From SKINFLICKS: Henri Pachard pointed to the “D” on his ever-present Detroit Tigers cap. “Know what that stands for?” asked the winner of 1985’s Adult Film Association Best Picture award (for Taboo American Style).
    “Close.” In the resonant tone of an attorney or politician—his aspirations before being expelled from college for gambling, Pachard said, “It stands for ‘directator’: part director, part dictator.  I’m tough: I’m very demanding. I’ll ask a lot out of you, and you’ll have to work hard.”  Then he said the magic words: “But if you follow my directions and do exactly as I say, I promise you I’ll get you out of here on time.” 

In contrast to Spinelli, Henri Pachard was very concerned with the sex. Unlike so many pornographers who claim a lofty “professional distance” from their actresses, Pachard admitted to casting women he’d like to screw, hastening to add, “Not that I’d ever have sex with them, but…if they turn me on, I hope it shows in my direction and the various situations I put them in.”  He was proud of being called, “The King of the Commode,” gaining that title though the engineering of scenes on bathroom fixtures. One of the most athletic skits I ever witnessed—described in SKINFLICKS—was on Pachard’s Harlem Candy shoot.  It involved Angel Kelly, Honey Malone and F.M Bradley, teetering on the rim of a laundry tub, with the tall, black Bradley, his face enshrouded in red panties, tilting his head to fit under the ceiling, while Pachard played the “directator.”  From SKINFLICKS: Like a coach on the sidelines pep-talking his team, Pachard put the trio through twisteroo positions with a running commentary: “Oh yeah!  That’s beautiful!  That’s sensuous!  Sensuous!  (to a cameraman) Get that expression on Angel’s face.  Lookit that!  No, don’t turn your head, Honey. Stay exactly like that.  Oh, that’s beautiful!  What an angle!  What an angle!”
As budgets grew skimpier during the late ‘80s “smut glut” era of cheap videos clogging the market, the resourceful Pachard managed to shoot three features in one day (The trick was to shoot three separate dialogue scenes with the same cast on each setup, to fit three different stories).
One scenario the “directator” couldn’t control was his last one in life.  I don’t know if his fondness for vodka helped precipitate the cancer that killed him. On September 27, 2008, Henri Pachard (Ron Sullivan) passed away.  He was 69.  Some wag on a website posted the remark that the age number was appropriate for a pornographer.

Russ Meyer

When I think of Russ Meyer, I think of food. Good food!  Whenever Superior Video exhibited in trade shows across the America, Russ was there also, selling his RM Productions videotapes.  He made the decision of where to eat dinner after a long day of jawing with retailers easy. The well-travelled gourmand knew the best restaurants in every city of the United States (and in other countries, I presume).  His suggestions always kept Superior Video’s crew looking forward to our evening meals.  Russ was never wrong.
I include Russ here even though he was not a pornographer in the hardcore sense.  His celebrated films were more like Hollywood fare—with extremely buxom women: Extremely, extremely buxom women.  Russ didn’t put sex in his flicks—just plenty of bounce.  He would bristle at any suggestion that he was a pornographer, explaining that he made comedies, not pornos.  He was a true  auteur de cinema.  When I asked him what he would title his autobiography, if and when he wrote one, he puffed out his chest and proclaimed, “Russ Meyer: The Rural Fellini!”
For a non-pornographer, he helped the hardcore Superior Video make a lot of money. At every CES (Consumer Electronics Show) and VSDA (Video Software Dealers of America) extravaganza, we somehow had the great, good fortune of having Russ Meyer’s booth right across from ours.  Russ, truly a rugged individual, came to every trade show alone, his entire exhibit neatly compacted onto one hand dolly. Within minutes, he’d have his booth up and running. And attracting crowds. Russ had the perspicacity to edit a trade show trailer consisting entirely of damsels in distress.  Their screams would fill the auditorium, and people would come running like oglers at an accident. Of course, many of the retailers and distributors in these SRO crowds would turn around and order tapes from Superior.
My only contact with Russ Meyer came through trade shows.  After I left the adult video industry, I never saw him again.  I was saddened to learn that he had died on September 18, 2004, of pneumonia. He was 82. Since he also suffered from Alzheimer’s, Meyer was the only one in this article to come close to “slowly fading away.” 
Russ Meyer, the embodiment of rugged individualism, lived life his way: He got rich by exploiting his fascination with watermelon breasts.

We all want to go out as painlessly as possible.  My aunt, Margaret, a health food advocate who taught me to read at age three, did it right.  She was 89 when she went to bed with a cold and didn’t wake up. We should all be so lucky.