Lords, Lies and Videotape Part 4: A Tight Situation

On the Larry King Show, Traci Lords claimed she had only been in about 20 adult movies and that the rest of the titles she was in were re-edits of footage from those twenty pictures.

Twenty?  Maybe in one month, as the following section from SKINFLICKS indicates.

From Chapter 12, The Goddess:

“You’ve never seen anyone like her, Dave,” drawled porn’s super-agent Jim South. “She’ll know all her lines and everyone else’s too. She’ll hit her marks perfectly every time.” The lanky Kentuckian leaned back in his swivel chair, momentarily ignoring the flashing phone lines in front of him. As usual, South’s cramped suite of offices above Van Nuys Boulevard was a madhouse of harried producers, naked starlets and eager studs, all vying with the phone lines for his attention. South was in his element. “And when you’re done with the dialogue, she’ll fuck like a mink in heat.”

South went back to his phones and Rick Savage took over. “When she comes, you better have extra sound blankets,” he said into my face. (I was scrunched on a couch between Rick and the bare bottom of a lady who was seeking work despite her stretch marks.) “She’s such a screamer they’ll hear her six blocks away.”

“Sometimes it’s so intense she starts crying,” added Tony Martino, another of the studs South kept on hand in case a “field unit” malfunctioned.

In South’s kitchen, the only spot available for my casting session, Tom Byron tugged on his penis to lengthen it before I took a Polaroid of his skinny body. “If she’s still horny after a scene is finished,” he said, “she might grab a crew guy, slam him on his back and start in on him.”

“Shit!” South exclaimed. “I fucked up! I forgot I already had Traci booked on the 28th.”

I’d planned on starring Traci in two movies, shooting her footage on March 28th and 29th (1985). “How about April?” I asked. “Can I get two days in there?”

South shook his head. “She’s booked solid. And May is closing fast too.”

“May’s too late anyway. I need at least one of these titles in time for C.E.S.”

“Dave, can you shoot everything you need on the 29th alone?”

“Well, maybe if it’s a long marathon day…”

“Wait a minute,” interjected a producer I called Ferrari Mike (his prized 308GTB was always parked near World Modeling’s front door where nobody could miss it). “I got Traci on the 30th and I’m shooting down here.”

“Shit, that’s right.” South ran his long fingers through his slicked-back hair. “Dave, could you possibly move your shoot to L.A.?”

“No way!”

With pornographers shooting in Los Angeles again to save lodging and travel expenses, the LAPD was cracking down. I did all my shooting up north, where I felt safe.

While we puzzled over the schedule, Traci herself called from Hawaii, where she was taking a needed vacation. She always wanted to meet in advance those she’d be working for. But, by the time she returned to L.A., I’d be back home in Marin County. South handed me the phone; this was our meeting. I had to persuade her to fly 400 miles to have sex for a director she never heard of.

“Hi,” I began. “How’s your vacation?”

“Wonderful! All I’ve been doing is lying in the sun, and when I get back I’m gonna be so nice and tan and rested. I’m gonna look great! All my fans are gonna be so pleased…”

As Traci went on, I had the weird feeling that this star who was in such demand was actually trying to sell me on hiring her. She wasn’t. It was just her way of coming off as eager to please.

I wondered how eager she’d be when she saw the schedule we concocted. It was–as Tony Martino observed–“tighter than a gnat’s asshole.” After working a full day on March 28th, Traci would fly up to San Francisco, work a full day on my set on the 29th, then fly back down to L.A. to work a third straight full day for Ferrari Mike on the 30th. A “full day” in the sex film business was 12 hours; most days ran longer.

“It’s a good thing Traci likes to screw,” said South.

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Next: Lords, Lies and Videotape Part 5: Pot vs Perfection

Lords, Lies and Videotape Part 3: G-Spot Sensation

Part 3

From SKINFLICKS:

Chapter 12

The Goddess

Curiosity about this sensational new star brought me to the Mitchell Brothers’ O’Farrell Theater early in 1985 to see their film The Grafenberg Spot. What I saw convinced me that my career in erotic movies wouldn’t be complete without shooting a Traci Lords picture.

A porno theater is the last place you’d expect to see male bonding. The men sit as far away from each other as possible, ashamed of their masturbatory intentions. They don’t dare draw attention to themselves with vocalizations–only a few heavy breaths now and then. But, for one brief moment, Traci Lords created a bond among these lonely men.

The scene was on a cabin cruiser that rocked to a three-some of Traci, Rick Savage and Harry Reems. The first ripple of response from the audience came with the sheer delight Traci took in slapping Rick’s erection around between her breasts.

Then, while Reems and Savage performed double vaginal penetration, something that was as much a Traci trademark as The Pout rang through the theater: the hyperventilating Traci Lords Love Call.

This seesaw of whistling inhalations and exhalations was best–if unflatteringly– described by my audio engineer. “It’s the sound of a Missouri mule on fast forward,” he said. As proof, he slowed the tape. Everyone in the mix studio burst into laughter. The alternating squeals and brays could have come out of the stables of a Sam Peckinpah western.

To the theater audience it was a Mozart concerto. I had just seen the movie Amadeus and had the weird notion that–like Mozart’s rival Salieri–I was listening to “the Lord’s music.”

Traci claimed her on-screen orgasms were real. In AVN, she said, “If the guys have to go through the job of getting a hard-on, I feel that in a sense the girl should get a hard-on too…I try to have a come-shot just like the guy.”

Porn queens’ claims of real screen orgasms are mostly hype, but Traci’s climax in The Grafenberg Spot made a believer out of me.

My seat was moving. I thought it was an earthquake. Then I realized that the fault-line ran from the knee to the crotch of the guy behind me. He wasn’t the only one masturbating. Though they tried to be quiet, the men were given away by the ancient seats, sqawking like censorious old prudes.

When the scene ended, the audience lapsed into a silence deeper than usual. Then someone breathed, “Wow!” Followed by “Yeah!” “Woooh!” Someone called out, “Encore!” And the men actually laughed.

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Next: Lords, Lies and Videotape Part 4: A Tight Situation

 

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.