Shooting DEVIATIONS: Big-budget Rock-and-Roll Epic. Debut of Future Legend Shanna McCullough.

You know how a gambler gets on a roll and then bets his entire winnings on one toss of the dice?

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Cover photo: Adrienne Bellaire and Robyn Everett. Side photos (top to bottom): Connie Lindstrom, Adrienne Bellaire, Shanna McCullough, Robyn Everett

That’s how I felt making Deviations. 

After the success of All the King’s Ladies and Physical, I upped the budget for Superior Video’s rock-n-roll epic.  But I didn’t figure on spending more than the cost of both those two previous pictures combined.

But that’s what I did. Somebody stop me!

And there was another gamble: giving a critical starring role to a brand new lady making her XXX debut.  That goes against all porn wisdom.

New girls might freak out. You want to break them in gradually.

(Passages from SKINFLICKS are in italics.)

Anticipating sex before a camera can be more nerve-wracking than the experience itself. In her first six months, Ginger Lynn would only do nude modeling, turning down one lucrative “commercial”* gig after another. The exquisite brunette, Nina Alexander, was so nervous before her first on-screen sex scene that she threw up.

*(“Commercial”: Industry term for hardcore sex.)

So when agent Joe Elliot introduced me to a lovely chestnut-haired ingenue, I knew that giving her the starring role as the singer in a babe-band-gone-dirty was a big risk.

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Shanna McCullough’s incredible lip-sync performance

But I had a hunch that Shanna McCullough was one special lady.

Was I ever right! Deviations marked the “screen cherry” role of an adult movie legend.

I figured on doing some fancy sync editing to make it seem like Shanna was actually singing. But no trick editing was needed.

A buzz went through the audience. The singer on the stage had stopped singing, but her voice was still pumping through the big speakers.

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Left to right: Connie Lindstrom, Adrienne Bellaire, Shanna McCullough, Robyn Everett. Plot: The Four Foxes seek fame, fortune and rent money by becoming The Deviations and going raunchy.

It was the sixth take (so the two cameras could record all possible angles) of the four-girl rock band’s opening number, “We’re the Deviations.” The “singer,” Shanna McCullough, had been lip-syncing to a recorded professional’s voice so well that, until she stopped mid-song to point out that the audio operator had lined up the wrong take, the audience had thought she really was doing the singing. Realizing that this lady–a porno actress no less–was giving a remarkable performance, they burst into applause.

Superior Video had the distinction of shooting Shanna McCullough’s first-ever screen sex.  Would it be immodest to claim that this was the scene that launched a legend?

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 was no dewy-eyed ingenue.  She was a professional actress, starring every Saturday night in a Berkeley stage production of The Rocky Horror Show.

In her early 20’s, the East Bay sophisticate had a wardrobe of kinky outfits and an eight-foot boa constrictor that would later crawl all over her naked body in Deviations. She had that wholesome enthusiasm of a sex player absolutely free of guilt about her erotic adventures.

Needless to say, the seasoned actress had no problem performing before a nightclub audience whose idea of fun was to get down-and-dirty with the cast.

Next post (within a few days, I promise): Shooting Deviations, Part 2:  A Sexual Circus.





Superior Video Shoots Its Wad: Part 1: NIGHT MOVES

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Peeping Nixon, Willem Lowen, Cindy Carver

The “redeeming social value” in Night Moves was the political statement made by having a peeping-Tom pervert wear a Nixon mask.  But, to my girlfriend, Night Moves had a whole different importance: The SCENE.

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Large Photo: Lilly Marlene and Shanna McCullough. Small Photos: (left to right) Cindy Carver, Robyn Everett, Carrie Bergman, Courtney

It starred the ever-reliable Mike Horner and two hot ladies: that sexual predator Lilly Marlene and the intense Robyn Everett.


 It was a typical night game at Candlestick Park, the stadium from Hell Frozen Over. The infamous icy winds had once blown pitcher Stu Miller off the mound in the midst of his windup. They were now turning hotdog wrappers, napkins, Giants caps and anything else not clutched in numb fingers into crazed satellites, making the rounds of our seating section.

Wrapped in a blanket, Shelly and I sat huddled together, arms around each other. It was so cold that Shelly’s favorite San Francisco Giant, Chili Davis, ignored his standard post-strikeout ritual of breaking his bat over his knee; he ran back to the dugout. The Giants were behind by five runs.

We were more excited from shivering, hugging and rubbing together under the blanket than from the events on the diamond. Shelly said, “I’m getting horny as an old cat. Let’s go home, turn on The Scene and trounce around.”

The Scene, in Night Moves, was Shelly’s favorite video stimulant. It came at 3067 on the digit counter of the Panasonic VCR in the bedroom. We always shuttled the tape back to that point after we were finished.

What really made that section of videotape come alive was the chemistry between Mike, Lilly and Robyn.

When taping the scene, there was no need for the “hurry up and use the erection before it goes away” approach. I let Horner and the two blonde actresses take their time.

There was lots of caressing, kissing, tonguing and fondling, more like real life than structured screen sex. The intensity built to a frenzy, and when Mike pulled out of Robyn–to be taken in Lilly’s waiting hand–he produced such volume that she exclaimed, “So much come!”

He had plenty left. We were disassembling the gear when Mike and Robyn started up again. I grabbed a camera and taped her fast, cowgirl position bouncing and Mike’s second orgasm. Then Mike and Robyn took a shower together–and had sex yet again.

During the long drive from Candlestick Park to San Rafael, the anticipation was an aphrodisiac. Shelly and I were still “trouncing around” long after the tape had ended.

Then we caught the late news: “The Giants’ six-run ninth inning rally was capped by Chili Davis’s three-run homer in a dramatic come-from-behind victory…”

“Oh no!” Shelly exclaimed. “Look what we missed!  It’s all my fault!”

I gave her a kiss. “We didn’t miss a thing.”


During 1983-84, Joe Farmer and I felt that we had the formula for shooting hot sex on videotape all to ourselves. (That would soon change as every sex-shooter and his bastard brother began cranking out crap videos–as described in Chapter 11: The Smut Glut.)

For that brief, glorious period, Superior Video went for the gold.

Next: Superior Video Shoots Its Wad: Part 2: Running Wild. Does Porn Go Better with Pot?




Shooting ALL THE KING’S LADIES Part 4: Screw-ups and Sizzle

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Serena (left), Rhonda Jo Petty (right), Legs in pants: Michael Morrisson

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: me…ecstasy.

Juliet: OK. that’s good enough, Perry.

Next screw-up:

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.

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Serena Blaquelord in ALL THE KING’S LADIES

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: Shooting PHYSICAL: Letting It All Hang Out in a Best-Seller




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.