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.





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.