Lords, Lies and Videotape Part 8: Partners from Hell

From SKINFLICKS Chapter 12, The Goddess

“Sweetheart…” The purr of Honi Webber filled the phone. “It’s been a long time…”

“Too long,” I said, wondering if whatever she was calling about meant I’d lose money or make some. When she’d convinced me that the Four Star Video check was actually in the mail, I’d wound up stiffed for $4000. But I made a lot more than that when she’d hired Superior to shoot Sizzle With Samantha. Honi was slick; it was wise to regard her proposed deals with wariness–and wise to listen to them.

She wanted to make a product trade: 100 pieces of my new hit Physical II in exchange for 100 of Honi’s new exclusive release Traci Takes Tokyo.

During Honi’s sales hype about this first product of her exclusive distribution deal with Traci’s new production company, I began to feel something was wrong. “It’s got the hottest scene ever shot,” Honi said. “It’s super high tech. The process is still experimental.”

The scene she described had been shot with a snorkel camera, used as early as the mid-’70s to give a penis’s point-ofview of entering an orifice. Now, with lighting by fiber optics, that cyclops eye could peer even further. “You can actually see the come spurting down her throat!” Honi enthused. “It’s erotic as all hell!”

Globs of gloop dripping down membranes didn’t strike me as sexy, but I understood Honi’s perspective. She thought like a pornographer. She’d once concocted a title called Love Under 16″, pitching it to stores as a hot renter–fans would think it portrayed underaged girls. It didn’t. Actually, the title was Love Under 16 Inches, but the “Inches” (“) was so small as to escape notice. Always seeking gimmicks, hustlers like Honi take the bizarre for the erotic.

I pictured Traci, mouth agape, deep throating a cock, a lens, and a light tube, trying not to choke while videographers hovered over her like deranged dentists. “How did Traci take to this scene?” I asked.

“No problem there,” Honi said. “We got Traci under control. We got her locked up for seven years. We own Traci Lords. We are Traci Lords. “We” meant Honi and industry veteran Sy Adler. “We’re teaching Traci things she never dreamed of. We give her two weeks of training for every production. We’re gonna make Marilyn Chambers look like Julie Andrews.” Honi hastened to add, “Of course, we’re not gonna do anything illegal.”

There was no law specifically forbidding the scene in Traci Takes Tokyo of a Japanese woman getting a real octopus tentacle shoved into her vagina. But it didn’t seem what Traci had in mind for her own productions. It became no secret that she was unhappy with her new partners. Many predicted a clash, but none could forsee the result.

One man, however, had his suspicions about Traci.


Next: Lords, Lies and Videotape Part 9: The Split hits the Fan

Lords, Lies and Videotape Part 5: Pot vs Perfection

From SKINFLICKS Chapter 12, The Goddess

Tom Byron pursued Traci’s naked rear over a snake orgy of black power cables. “Traci, for the last time, will you marry me?”

She laughed and rolled her eyes. “Not again…”

Byron’s unabashed pining for his ex-girlfriend was an industry chuckle. But he was also one of her favorites to work with. So I hired him. With my impossible schedule, I couldn’t risk unpredictable cast chemistry.

I was sticking with my original plan to shoot the main footage of two features, even though I now had only one day to shoot in. And Traci absolutely, positively had to leave for San Francisco Airport by 10 PM.

Traci had only the script for Physical II. I hadn’t told her about Dirty Pictures ; I was afraid the total amount of sex indicated on paper would scare her off or have her demanding much more than her$1200 day rate. “I put a lot of energy into a sex scene,” Traci said in her AVN interview. “So I don’t like to do two in a day. I don’t want to be called a dead fuck.”

I wanted Traci to do two elaborate sex scenes. Only Tom Byron knew how the couplings and switchings would be chopped up to look like six full scenes in the two movies, but he wasn’t telling–three of the sexual permutations put him together with Traci.

Pleased that I’d teamed her with her two favorite men–Byron and Marc Wallice (sic)–Traci agreed to the “two” scenes. She also liked working with the second woman, Cara Lott.

I prayed that the video gods would take mercy on my cramped schedule and hold back those dreaded Murphy’s laws. But of course they didn’t.

x x x x x x

Marc Wallice sabotaged his own brain. While Traci posed for boxcover stills (shot first, while make-up is fresh), the vacuous blond actor–kind of a Dan Quayle of porn studs–snuck off to an unused room in the spacious Mill Valley house to smoke pot. By the time we were ready to roll tape, Wallice was in no shape to remember his name, much less his lines.

Sitting in front of a blue backdrop–a “bluescreen” that could be electronically replaced with bodies in action, Lords and Wallice played emcees at an event called The Erotic Olympics. “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,” Wallice began, “and welcome to the second annual…ah…ah…”

I’d wanted to start the sex after lunch. Instead, we stayed mired in dialogue.

“Our next event is…is…”

“’Masturbation,’ Marc.”

And so on.

Juggling the usual barrage of details, I couldn’t give Wallice the attention he needed. Thank God for Traci’s diligence. Though she’d picked up her script from South’s gofer at the airport and read it for the first time on the plane, she knew her lines perfectly. And Wallice’s too.

She coached and coddled him through the dialogue with a patience she didn’t extend to herself. When she finally muffed a line–“’All our finalists will now be competing for.., ’” Traci snatched up her script, glowered at it and slammed it down. “’For the grand prize of fifty thousand dollars.’ See how easy that was?”

She had the ability to snap into character on “Action.” When her bitch-queen role required her to rebuff Wallice’s pass at her, Traci did it so viciously that, after the take, Wallice was still looking confused. She patted his arm. “What a bitch, huh?”

She always strove to be perfect. Told that the next scene involved cunnilingus, she dashed into the bathroom. Ten minutes passed. I glanced at my watch; we were running three hours late. “What’s she doing in there? Fixing the plumbing?”

Byron laughed. “Yeah. Hers. When she comes out, she’ll be
clean enough to eat off of.”

“And I have often done so,” Wallice announced, missing Byron’s sour glance.

Was it my deceiving Traci that displeased the video gods?
Was that why Murphy did his worst?

Wallice couldn’t follow directions for a “sim” (softcore)
cunnilingus shot. Traci tried to help. “You’ve got to hide my
pussy with your head.” She grabbed his hair and pulled his face
into her crotch. “Oww!” Wallice sprang back, grabbing his nose.
Blood seeped between his fingers.

“Shit.” My watch read 6:36.

Then came the problem of Traci’s dress, a red mini covered
with sequins that went everywhere. As director, responsible for
visual details, I assigned myself the task of picking them out of
her pubes, enduring taunts of “Tough job, but somebody’s gotta
do it.” Lying on the bed with her legs spread wide, Traci went
into her press-release bio: She was 22 years old. She was from
Las Vegas. Her stepfather had introduced her to the business.

The spiel seemed rehearsed, but that didn’t strike me as odd.
Everything about this young woman was prepared and polished.
Except for her work schedule.

“This business really burns you out,” Traci said. “You don’t
have any kind of life for yourself. All I’ve been doing is movie
after movie after movie. I find myself going, like, ’Oh God, do I
have to fuck again?’ And I really like sex.” She added that in the
past year she’d caught VD three times.

But then there was the bottom line. “I’ve been clearing over
twenty thousand a month. This year I’ll make over 250 grand!”
Traci wanted to know if I, personally, made that much. I said I
didn’t. She seemed satisfied.

7:18 PM. Less than three hours to shoot all that sex. No
dinner break tonight. Just cold cuts between takes.


Next: Lords, Lies and Videotape Part 6: Buttboys, Sun Damage and Rare Real Love

(I will post no photos of Lords, since she was allegedly a minor when she signed a release–with a fake “real name.”)

Lords, Lies and Videotape Part 2: A Star is Born (on the wrong day)

As promised, Part 2 of….

Chapter 12

1986 – 1990s

Traci started at the top. Her first job: Penthouse centerfold (September, 1984). But, unlike women who use these “high class” spreads to launch legitimate modeling and acting careers, Traci went in another direction. Blame Tom Byron. His meeting with her became a legend.

It happened on the set of Richard Mailer’s, What Gets Me Hot. Traci was “testing” porn work as a “nude extra,” a woman who provides window dressing but doesn’t perform sex.

Mailer hadn’t needed her, but “Traci was so beautiful I just had to have her in the picture.”

Byron first saw her in the kitchen, away from the cameras. “I felt like I’d been hit by a ton of bricks,” he said. “I’ve worked with a lot of beauties, but when I saw Traci…it was like a wet dream come true.”

Mailer came upon the two of them writhing on a butcher block. The veteran pornographer wasted no time; Traci lost her “screen cherry” but gained a boyfriend and a new career–one she plunged into.

As one of the first stars to capitalize on the enormous volume of videos shot in the mid-’80s, Traci Lords worked in 105 movies in less than 20 months. Her presence made hits of Those Young Girls, Battle of the Stars, Sex Fifth Avenue, Aroused, Talk Dirty to Me, Part III, Educating Mandy, Bad Girls III, and my own Physical II.

The Dark Brothers’ punk rock epic New Wave Hookers, with its flash-trash cover photo of Traci, became the number one renting adult video of all time. It stayed in the top ten for 52 weeks–until the scandal hit.

There were good reasons for her popularity: creamy skin, a perfect 36-23-36 figure, large hazel eyes, and waves of hair that were light chestnut or dark blonde, depending on the light or hairdresser’s tint. The nipples on her “balloon breasts”–as Jerry Butler called them in his autobiography Raw Talent–puffed up when she was aroused.

“It’s like her tits have tits,” panted my attorney, who traded $300 in legal fees for copies of my two Lords titles Physical II and Dirty Pictures.

Traci’s trademark feature was The Pout, a full, lower-lipped challenge to all red-blooded American men (and to plastic surgeons whose clients wanted the look, too).

Along with her beauty, Traci brought to the screen a genuine enthusiasm. This child of the Sexual Revolution took pride in her work, free of the martyred shame that haunted so many porn women in the past.

“They represent a new breed of performer in our industry,” said Harry Reems, in an AVN interview, after working with both Traci and her leading rival, Ginger Lynn. “They walk in without all these inhibitions that we all grew up with and to them it’s a celebration of life that sex is supposed to be. I found that when I got into films, most performers wouldn’t even tell their parents what they were doing. Today, the parents are their agents and managers.”

Next: Lords, Lies and Videotape Part 3:

How Three Movies I Made Became Instant Child Pornography

“She’s perfect,” sighed lovestruck stud Tom Byron. “I mean, every girl in this business has some kind of flaw. Like she might be a bitch, or does too much coke, or has a saggy ass-something. But Traci…she doesn’t have a single fault. She’s perfect in every way.”

The above quote, from SKINFLICKS, was uttered when I was casting Physical II, the sequel to our best-seller, Physical.  Byron’s co-star was the woman of his dreams–and the dreams of millions of porn fans.

She was the hottest thing in adult video and she would turn out to be the worst thing that ever happened to the world of porn.

But I didn’t know that when I shot Traci Lords in 1985’s Physical II, Dirty Pictures and The Reincarnation of Don Juan.  If someone had told me that she was under 18 during those productions, I would have retorted, “Can I get some of what you’re smoking?”

For one thing, Christie E. Nussman (Lord’s false “real” name) seemed to be the most mature and competent 22-year-old I’d ever met.  Though she had first read the script on the flight from L.A. to San Francisco, she knew her lines perfectly–and everyone else’s, too.  She was a perfectionist in everything from hygiene to her hyperventilated love screams.  From a director’s standpoint, she was a dream to work with.  The nightmare was still to come.

(Passages from SKINFLICKS are in italics.)

Could a fifteen year old girl rise to the top of the porn world without anyone suspecting her true age? Was she sophisticated enough to bamboozle Penthouse, the U.S. Government, and the entire porn industry? To spend two years dashing from set to set, yet find time to invest her earnings wisely enough to be “set for life?” To beat alleged IRS and forged passport felony violations? And, finally, to parlay the age fiasco into Hollywood success?

During a wardrobe malfunction, I got to hear her spiel.

Then came the problem of Traci’s dress, a red mini covered with sequins that went everywhere. As director, responsible for visual details, I assigned myself the task of picking them out of her pubes, enduring taunts of “Tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it.” Lying on the bed with her legs spread wide, Traci went into her press-release bio: She was 22 years old. She was from Las Vegas. Her stepfather had introduced her to the business.

All lies.  But well-told.

And why would she sabotage her lucrative career by finally telling the truth?  (If indeed it was the truth.)

Next: Shooting Traci Lords (with a camera): Truth vs Fiction in 1986



Trying to Sell Illegal Pornography in Canada, Eh?

With porn video companies during the “Smut Glut” biting the dust like bad guys in a Clint Eastwood movie, I was debating whether to shut down Superior Video.The following screw-up made my decision (but didn’t “make my day.”).

Superior Video’s booth at Consumer Electronics Show

(From SKINFLICKS) I couldn’t believe I’d made such a hideous mistake. A softcore edition of Physical II that I’d sent to Superior’s Canadian licensee for submission to the Ontario Board of Censors came back “Not Approved.” The Board rejected anything risqué‌—‌like a character in Physical II uttering the phrase “choice pieces of meat.” (They even interdicted Andrea Dworkin’s anti-porn books Woman Hating and Pornography: Men Possessing Women). I’d taken great care to make the sex in the Canadian version almost as non-explicit as that found in American movies rated PG.

The Board’s rejection document listed among the objections, “nine minutes of black and white hardcore pornography.” Puzzled, I screened the cassette and saw to my horror that after Physical II ended, a scene from the 1953 stag film Smart Alec appeared, with stripper Candy Barr, then 16 years old, performing graphic fellatio. Worse yet, following that short bit was El Perro Masajista, also known as Mexican Dog. That “classic” starred a manic little pug-nosed mutt whose appendage appeared longer than his flailing legs as he tried to mount bored-looking women.

Instead of dubbing the soft Physical II onto a blank cassette, I’d somehow used a copy of a bunch of vintage “smokers” I’d purchased from an octogenarian collector for my Blue Memories historical porn compilations. A film I wouldn’t have dared put in an American hardcore series had actually crossed the border and appeared before strict Canadian censors. I was lucky I wasn’t in prison. But I wondered if the slip-ups I’d been making meant I was ready for a nuthouse.

I was totally burned-out. Even though I took my Tenormin hypertension medication daily, I was often startled by the sensation that my heart was leaping up into my throat (Alana said that if there was no pain, it was “just stress”). I had constant heartburn.

Lying in the dark, unable to sleep, as usual, I heard Shelly wake up and shift her position. “Dave,” she asked, “how much longer do you want to stay in this business?”

“Oh, maybe another five minutes.”

“You’re finally getting out?”

“I didn’t say that.”

I felt her hand rub my back. “Suppose you took the money you’ve made over the past few years and used it to crank out one movie after another, just to keep Superior going. What if the business never again became profitable? Your money would be gone, and your health might be, too. You could be just like those bitter old pornographers you were telling me about, the ones with the lines of resignation in their faces.”

Since using her nurse’s knowledge of anatomy to make the transition from Berkeley Mental Health to working in ergonomics for a large defense contractor, Shelly had been hoping I’d quit the business. The requirements of her security clearance made her uneasy about being involved with a pornographer, especially one with whom she’d been discussing marriage. “Dave,” she said. “Remember when you told me that a porn business cliché is the guy who keeps saying he’s going to get out but is making too much money to do it?”

I laughed. “Not quite my situation, is it?”

“Exactly. Now’s the time to use your money as you planned: so you can write your book without having to work full-time.”

Next: Does Anybody Want to Buy a Used Porno Company?