Adult Video News reported that a newcomer named Leena was so ecstatic about her heart-throb Peter North coming on her face that she left it on to show her boyfriend.
The boyfriend’s reaction was not reported, but he must have been more tolerant of his lady-love’s new career than the men described below. These worthies are examples of that pornmaker’s headache called “boyfriendinitis.”
I’d hired stunning, voluptuous Robin Cannes for Dirty Pictures, only to have her husband decide at the last moment that he didn’t want his wife in pornos. (I replaced her with equally voluptuous Amy Rogers, whose boyfriend, porn actor Kevin James, was glad to see her getting work.)
At one of Joe Elliot’s casting sessions, I hired a stunning new woman with the porn name of Connie Lindstrom. She was every man’s fantasy of a flaxen-haired Swedish goddess. Then, before the shoot, her fiance gave her genital herpes. Unlike most porn stars, Connie was ethical enough to refuse to pass it along to screen partners. She limited herself to fellatio–frustrating the studs who wanted a go at her cunny.
Samantha Strong claimed she got into porn to spite her boyfriend; then she left the business to please her new one, a wealthy Israeli. He reportedly walked into South’s office with $250,000 in cash, wanting to buy up all her movies and take them off the market–he was told the task was impossible. Then Strong decided her new love had a drug problem, dropped him, and returned to porn.
Adult Video News quoted giddily sardonic Nikki Wilde’s assessment of her marriage: “I hate him! We’re still married…I hope he dies soon. You hear this, (name withheld)? I’m gonna get you, ’cause I’m a Scorpio and you fucked me over.”
AVN reported a divorce proceedings stemming from a “background” actress telling her spouse she was going to a church festival, when actually she was heading for the set of Oriental Treatment II.
One of my favorite screen ladies, whom I won’t name in the interest of preserving her domestic tranquility, married a wealthy man who demanded she leave the business–which she did. Yet, she snuck off to perform in one of Superior’s features. Maybe she was bored.
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-term, Juliet Anderson said, “When you drive a bus ten hours a day, you don’t want to spend your vacation on a Greyhound.”
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.”
OK, so a private-life lover can sour a porn career. What about when both partners work in porn? Good? Bad? Disastrous? All of the above?
Next: Screwings: On-screen and Off. When Porn Careers Clash
For Superior Video’s second big-budget epic, I did what any right-thinking pornographer would do: recycle past porn. But that opened up a good news-bad news conundrum.
The good news: After 3 years of porno-making I had a lovely library of licentiousness.
The bad news: I had to make the old footage fit into a story that disguised the fact that it had been used before. So I came up with…(drum roll)…The Erotic Olympics!
I wanted that as a title, but Superior’s co-distributor, Select-A-Tape, was itching to use Physical.
So Physical it was.
Plot: A married couple puts an add in a skin magazine seeking entries from amateurs for their contest, The Erotic Olympics. They offer a grand prize of $50,000. The couple plans to use the contest entries in a new porno without actually awarding the prize.
The magazine publisher (Juliet Anderson) figures out their scam and demands that they come through with the actual prize money. They don’t have the cash, so they enter the contest themselves, determined to win.
(Note: Graphic descriptions of sex acts are reserved for the pages of SKINFLICKS.)
I made my porn debut in Physical–pants on, no sex. But I did take my shirt off. (After seeing my image on video, I immediately signed up at Fitness USA.)
Maybe it was the humongous list of stars (mostly gleaned from past porns) or the hot cover photo (in flyer above), that made Physical one of the best-selling X-rated tapes of 1982.
Superior’s general manager Joe Farmer and I had fun with the script. He had one of the contestant entries coming from his home town in Massachusetts. I had the scamming couple (Herschel Savage and Linda Shaw) hailing from “beautiful El Culito, California.”
To Anglo ears, that sounded like a plausible place. But Hispanic viewers would get a chuckle: “El Culito” means “The Little Asshole.”
The 1981 production of All the King’s Ladies, “the first big-budget erotic extravaganza shot entirely on videotape,” was both maddening and marvelous.
First, the screw-ups:
I made a package deal to use impresario Perry Mann’s lavish Marin County estate as a location and himself as an actor. At least the property part worked out–the location was gorgeous.
Mann, co-producer of that voyeur’s delight, the annual Exotic-Erotic Ball, couldn’t get erect, even with the exotic-erotic Mai Lin.
And his allegedly coke-addled memory retained dialogue like a sieve holds rain. Porn star Juliet Anderson, making her debut as a director, had to feed him his lines.
Juliet: Your soft, downy pussy gives me spasms of ecstasy.
Mann: Your soft, downy pussy…what?
Juliet: Your soft, downy pussy…
Mann: Your soft, downy pussy…
Juliet: …gives me spasms of ecstasy.
Mann: ..gives me…ecstasy.
Juliet: OK. that’s good enough, Perry.
Our snide little snot of an engineer was one of the few local technicians familiar with the new Ikkis (Ikegami HL-79 cameras). To him, working on a porno was like slumming.
He neglected to clean the Sony BVU 110 VCRs, causing a head clog that wiped out the first twenty minutes recorded on one of the decks. A bad audio line rendered all the tapes from the other VCR soundless.
As the second day went into overtime, the little engineer left to catch a flight to an out of town shoot. He assured me the gear was working fine; we should have no trouble. Right after he left, one of the Ikkis (Ikegami HL-79 cameras) went out of phase.
So, what went right?
The really important thing: Sex!
(Note: Scenes described below are more intimately detailed in SKINFLICKS.)
First, I had packed the cast with female stars: Sharon Mitchell, Holly McCall, Mai Lin, and the winner of a Farrah Fawcett-Majors look-alike contest, Rhonda Jo Petty. These ladies took pride in their craft.
At director Juliet Anderson’s behest, Serena had come out of retirement for the movie. She had quit porn after a scene that almost killed her. A callous director had immersed the masochistic star in a brutal gang-bang that flooded her with enough germs to rival an ER in Afghanistan. Serena was hospitalized with septic shock.
I, too, used her in an S and M scene (what, me exploitive?). Crude cowboy Michael Morrison whipped her like a mule. (I cut out most of the skit to avoid going to jail.)
The big lesson I learned was that video was tailor-made for porn. In spite of the equipment hassles, we shot ten sex scenes in two days.
“I used to struggle to complete three sex scenes a day,” I told Joe Farmer. “And those were little more than loops, nothing like the feature story we just shot.”
Joe smiled. “Television production techniques will revolutionize the shooting of sex. Remember, you heard it here first.”
Everything was different from shooting “film style,” which I’d done on earlier video productions.
The director would sit at a console, watching monitors, and give instructions to the cameramen through a microphone feeding the headsets they wore: “Camera One, you’re ’hot,’ hold on her face. Camera Two, get a medium penetration shot–tell him to move his knee to his right. OK…get ready Camera Two…you’re hot. Camera One, pull back for a long shot…”
Switching between cameras, a director could “edit” the scene as it was taking place–live–capturing the spontaneity, saving hours of expensive post-production time.
Without the constant interruptions to change film magazines and batteries and to wait for the camera operator to line up each shot, performers could build momentum–and stay hard.
There was no need for a “fluffer,” an off-camera lady whose job was to suck the men up for each shot.
The final orgy scene, which would have suffered an epidemic of penis limpus if shot in film, went as slick as a pornographer’s wet dream.
Jon Martin, Michael Morrisson, Mike Horner, Don Fernando, newcomer Paul West and Ed Lincoln–son of veteran porn director, the late Fred Lincoln–all spouted spectacularly.
The sizzle reached its climax–so to speak–in a rooftop scene with Sharon Mitchell and Mike Horner.
Miss Sharon Mitchell–as porn’s grande dame 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).
With leftover videotape, we interviewed the porn Hall-of-Famer:
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.”
Despite “creative editing” to cover up All the King’s Ladies‘ technical difficulties, Adam Film World’s 1987 X-Rated Movie Handbook listed the feature among “The 500 Best Adult Movies of All Time.”
“I sure hope we can maintain the level of quality we established in All the King’s Ladies,” I said to Joe.
“If things go right,” he replied. “All the King’s Ladies should be the worst movie Superior Video ever makes.”
Next post: ShootingPHYSICAL: Letting It All Hang Out in a Best-Seller
After the hassles of near-electrocution, a videographer going on strike, a storm ruining audio, and a bunch of swinger-party studs who couldn’t get it up, something had to go right.
First, the house was perfect. It was custom-made for orgies. Its owner was my new business partnerJoe Loveland (nom de porn), a pleasant little satyr with goatee and gleaming eyes, who looked younger than 53. Joe was a professional musician, a sex hobbyist, and a secret investor in porn film.
Used for films (such as the acclaimed Sex World ), Rajneesh weekends, S and M “workshops” and swingers’ parties, it was on a hillside too steep for voyeurs who weren’t rock climbers. Visitors entered on the upper level and found a casual Northern California ambience of hardwood floors, a wood stove, hanging plants, and semi-antique furniture. Those admitted downstairs saw a different setting.
Stockinged feet (no shoes allowed) sank deep into a tan carpet that covered two inches of foam rubber. An alcove off the living room was an elevated stage, covered with the same rug-and-rubber cushioning. Heavy beams held spotlights with brackets for colored gels. Studding the beams were hooks and pullies for supporting chains, straps and other “restraints.”
Beneath a mirrored ceiling, an enormous playground of a bed filled most of an airy bedroom that opened to a hot tub with a raisable hammock slung over it. Fat, colorful pillows lay everywhere. Closets held “toys,” lotions, and more towels than the Oakland Raiders’ locker room.
The second good thing was Juliet Anderson. Her professionalism set the tone for the shoot. She was one of porn’s three classy older women (along with Kay Parker and Georgina Spelvin).
After seven years of teaching English in Finland, Juliet became a porn star as Swedish Erotica’s “Aunt Peg” character. With short, swept-back blonde hair, patrician features, and a figure kept trim through compulsive exercise, Juliet was every young male’s fantasy of erotic instructress.
On Joe’s elevated stage that Sunday, she demonstrated her “famous Aunt Peg blow job.” “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.
With a burnoose hiding his face (“a very carefully anonymous Arab,” wrote an Adam Film World reviewer), Joe also did well with “slave girl” Kay Buckley, a bold-featured masochist with an “A” carved over her solar plexus.
A star of S and M master Jay Magus de Tauroc’s rope bondage demonstrations, Kay performed a belly dance with clamps pulling her nipples, sending Juliet into squeals of squeamishness. Juliet had a phobia about even the thought of breasts treated roughly.
The Perfect Gift, Bound, Lights! Camera! Orgy! and Teenage Playmates were my first videos (1979).
On the second series of videos, I was determined to overcome the technical foul-ups.
Next post: ShootingPeach Fuzz, Chained and The Awakening of Emily: Beyond the Boundaries
Every movie you make teaches you something new. The shooting of ThePerfect Gift–only my second video production–presented enough lessons to make me feel like a kindergartener taking Quantum Physics 101.
Lesson #1:Hire only professionals. (Text from SKINFLICKSis in italics.)
(My business partner)Joe had written his swinger friends into the shoot…these sex party stalwarts became camera-conscious and couldn’t stay erect. Fortunately, the reliable Don Fernando stunt-cocked enough penetration close-ups to add hardcore to all the “sim” (simulated) action.
Joe’s excuse for his buddies was that they thought they’d be working with the dreamy-eyed star Dorothy LeMay, who’d cancelled due to vaginal injuries inflicted during a stage-show at the Mitchell Brothers’ O’Farrell Theater by Annette Haven’s over-zealous dildo work. Instead, the men were stuck with lanky, horse-faced Liza, another of the Bay Area’s Jill-of-all-sex-trades call-girls.
Lesson #2: For Every piece of Equipment have a Twin.
Shotgun microphones quit because of trampled cables. Our rich-boy videographer, Denny, hadn’t brought any backups….Torrential rains drummed the roof and windows, making audio–now recorded on weak in-camera microphones–unusable.
Lesson #3. Pay Cash, not Promises.
Then Denny went on strike. He’d made a deal for six percent of gross profits instead of cash. Now he concluded that the miserable shoot would never make a profit and he wanted cash instead. I was mad enough to punch him out, but I didn’t know how to work his gear. We agreed to pay him cash.
Lesson #4: Realize that there are Worse Things than a F&*%ed-up Production.
On Sunday morning, something put the shoot into perspective. In the continuing downpour, the 220-volt line clamped into the main power box on the side of Joe’s house fell off. The set went dark.
Standing in the water rushing down the steep hillside, I said a prayer.
Despite gloves and boots, the rain could create an unbroken surface of water from the box to my feet. A 220-volt zap meant instant death. I let the spring clamp snap onto the electrode and pulled my hand away just as a fat blue spark erupted. It felt wonderful to be alive. I wedged a bucket over the box to protect it.
Lesson #5: Choose Porno Business Partners whose only Interest is Making Money.
Before I left for L.A., Joe made a comment that led to our three-year business partnership. I’d complained about the hassles of shooting porn, and Joe said, “I think you’re very fortunate. For fifty years I’ve wanted to make pictures about sex.”
He had script ideas, a great location, and knew northern California models. He wasn’t rich but had a few thousand to invest. I had movie-making skills and access to distribution. We discussed collaboration.
There was one caveat: Joe said, “If I can’t get laid out of the deal, then this venture isn’t worthwhile for me.”
Getting laid turned out to be the least of his problems.
Joe was finding that being a first-time porn director was like laying bricks during an earthquake; you put one up and two fall off.
And it’s even worse when you’re also trying to be an actor and have to get it up.
Next: Shooting The Perfect Gift, Part 2: Are things finally Going Right? The House Built for Orgies. Juliet Anderson’s famous BJ. The Branded Slave Girl who freaks out Juliet. And how to put your putz in porn but not your punum.
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.
This is a blog category for stars I have photographed and/or directed, and also porn directors I have worked for. For each of these people, I will describe my experiences with them in the 70s and 80s, followed by an update.
Usually, you don’t put a fresh, new woman in a starring role. If the newcomer freezes up, thousands of dollars in production costs could be lost. Most porn actors—both male and female—start out in support roles, sometimes as “nude extras” who perform no actual sex.
But Juliet Anderson, the (late) sex superstar making her producer/director debut in 1984, felt that Nina Hartley was someone special. At the time, we didn’t know just how special.
I was working as Juliet’s director of photography, fulfilling my part of a trade: In 1982, Juliet had directed my Superior Video, Inc., feature, Physical. In return, I was to do camerawork for her in the future. It wasn’t until two years later that Juliet secured the financing for Educating Nina.
That title was ironic: Nina Hartley turned out to be the educator—the best educator ever to emerge from the sex film industry. Like Annette Haven, the porn Hall-of-Famer whose career started in the early 70s, Nina used porn acting as a platform to express her views on sex and society. Nina felt that American sexuality was sick, burdened with guilt, shame and persecution. She wanted to change that; a Herculean task. Like Haven, she decried the mating of sex with violence. In our culture, the term “sex and violence” sounds almost like one word: sexandviolence. Nina said, “I’d rather have my child watch someone making love, even if it’s a little mechanical, than watching a woman getting decapitated or mutilated.”
Nina had the credentials to teach; she was a registered nurse. She proudly declared that she had both a husband and a wife. (Nina’s husband, Dave, was a great on-set crew member.) She became the porn industry’s best spokesperson, appearing on talk shows and other forums, maintaining her dignity and humor while confronting the most virulent of anti-porn agitators.
Working on movies in which Nina Hartley appeared—including my own feature video E.X.–I found her to be one of the most upbeat and cheerful performers I’d ever seen, bantering easily with cast and crew. She once arrived for her scene in a problem-plagued Anthony Spinelli production, and Spinelli’s wife, Roz, exclaimed—as if Nina were a good-luck charm, “Ah! Here she is! The most wonderful woman on this whole shoot has arrived!”
“I’m not the most wonderful woman here,” Nina replied. “You are. But I’ll take second.”
Nina called herself “a sex industry worker. I’m a feminist. I enjoy my work and I don’t feel exploited. A person who works in a bank and hates it is being exploited. My job isn’t for everybody. I’m a bisexual exhibitionist making a good living.”
Over the years (decades!), Nina Hartley has appeared in hundreds of movies, both porn and non-porn. She has produced her own sex education shows. Her world-wide fan following has only increased as she has grown older.
A year ago, Nina Hartley underwent surgery to remove a seven pound fibroid tumor (non-cancerous) from her uterus. I’m not surprised that she has recovered completely. Nina has always been known to take care of her health. What does surprise me is a plea from “Lesley,” on GiveForward.com, for Nina’s fans to contribute funds to help cover the costs of her recovery. I’m glad that Nina’s fans came through. She deserves only the best. I know she didn’t get into porn with the idea of getting rich, and I hope she is financially comfortable.
The porn industry may not be financially comfortable, especially if the new Los Angeles ordinance requiring porn performers to wear condoms is copied in other parts of the country to which porn production might flee. Nina Hartley has raised her voice against the new law. It has long been a truism in the porn industry that safe sex doesn’t sell. Fans want to live their fantasies vicariously; they don’t want to be reminded of sexually transmitted diseases. It will be interesting to see what will happen next in the world of porn production.