Apologies to my myriad fans, friends and followers for my week-long absence. It’s good to be back.
Now, where were we?
Oh yes. This is the climax: the real reason for the whole Traci Lords trouble. If she hadn’t made that one major misstep of choosing the wrong business partners in her carefully navigated porn career, she might still be revered as porn’s all-time greatest diva.
From SKINFLICKS, Chapter 12:
“Daveet, I don’t know about Traci Lords,” said Jerome Tanner. “I think she is very young.”
“Why do you think that?” I was negotiating to sell Jerry my business, and I suspected this was a ploy to beat down my price.
“Ever seen her without make-up, Daveet? She looks about thirteen.”
“Lots of ladies look young.”
Tanner leaned back under the spotlight that gave his small form dramatic presence against the dark wood paneling behind him. “Almost fifteen years I have been in this business. I have seen lots of women’s bodies. I know baby fat when I see it. And those tits. They have grown in the past year. You know why they defy gravity like that? Because gravity has not had long to work on them. I tell you, Daveet, even if Traci Lords was still available (she’d already signed her exclusive), I would not use her ever again.”
Two months later, neither would anyone else. On July 17, 1986, Los Angeles District Attorney Ira Reiner announced that Lords had been under eighteen during her entire two-year hardcore movie career. Adult Film and Video Association attorney John Weston didn’t wait for proof. He called for the immediate removal from circulation of all Lords material. To keep the newly contraband tapes out of the hands of prosecutors, all manufacturers took them back for refunds or exchanges, though some of the movies had been on the rental market for over a year.
The biggest Lords loser I knew was a loops director trying to prove he could handle features. He’d put his life savings into a handsome 35 millimeter production. Lords was in every scene; he lost everything.
I came out unscathed. By the time three of Superior’s titles became illegal, I’d already sold them to Jerome Tanner. All I lost was $1276.50–Honi Webber never made good on her last check after her own company, HBO (Honi’s Big One-stop), and Sy Adler’s VIP (Video International Productions) were raided and forced into bankruptcy.
The anger came next. One producer was supposed to have hired goons to “hang her by the tits.” Traci disappeared into the minors protection programs of the LAPD, leaving the story behind the age disclosure to the conflicting accounts reported in AVN:
“An industry source said the entire situation stemmed from a money dispute between V.I.P., T.L.C., Lords and Stuart Dell, Lords’ reported boyfriend/manager. Lords and Dell were given $25,000, a new Mercedes and $1000 a week salaries, the source said, and were sent to Paris to make a picture. But when Lords and Dell returned, the source said, they had no movie nor any of the $25,000. It was soon after an ensuing dispute that questions about Lords’ age were raised, the source said…
“Other reported causes for the raid centered on Lords’ mother, who some said turned her daughter in after hearing about the Meese Commission’s report earlier in the month.
Other sources said her mother had been handling her affairs and went to the police following a dispute with Lords over money.
(Unlikely: a stupid move for someone pimping a minor in porn.)
“However, a close associate of Lords, who wished to remain anonymous, said her mother, whose name was not available, was not involved in any way. They said Lords had been a runaway from Ohio, and that her parents had been notified of her whereabouts and were on their way to California.”
They wouldn’t have far to drive according to the Los Angeles Times: Lords was a high school student in Redondo Beach when shebegan posing nude in 1984; she moved there with her family from Steubenville, Ohio in 1982.
An unauthorized biography in the form of a comic book from Personality Comics, Inc., of Massapequa, New York, had Traci coming west with her mother who’d just divorced Traci’s alchoholic father. Traci subsequently ran away from her mother’s home in Redondo Beach, California.
All reports concurred that Traci was not Kristie Nussman, born on November 17, 1962, but Nora Kuzma, born May 7, 1968. She allegedly purchased a birth certificate and used it to get the driver’s license and passport that talent agent South showed copies of to the L.A. District Attorney’s office.
(Traci said she chose her stage name because of her childhood crush on Hawaii Five-0 star Jack Lord. [Traci Lord was the name of Katharine Hepburn’s character in the 1940 film The Philadelphia Story.])
Skeptics–South included–didn’t believe Lords was really underaged. They saw the whole affair as a scam to eliminate that glut of existing Lords tapes from competing with her new releases. If that were true, the scheme backfired; Traci, too, got blown out of the business.
Was the whole thing an act of desperation? There were rumors that Traci and her lover/co-producer Stuart Dell had fabricated the story that they’d blown all the production money on cocaine while in Paris and hadn’t shot a movie there. Wanting to break away from Lord’s partners, the couple was hiding the video, hoping to market it themselves. And the partners, smelling a scam, didn’t buy the coke story; they told the couple to turn over the videotapes–or else. According to that scenario, Traci and her mother went public with her age to put the partners under too much scrutiny to carry out their threats. If that scenario were true, the strategy worked.
There was another heavyweight in the ring. The IRS wanted its share of the money Lords had made. Was the age announcement meant to save Traci from being prosecuted as an adult for tax evasion?
Whatever the reasons for it, Traci–or her adult “coaches”–used the scandal skillfully. Porn star/AVN columnist Ron Jeremy wrote, “Isn’t it nice that such a sweet kid can make so many career moves, make so much money, beat her IRS rap, her fake passport felony rap, and at the same time bury an entire industry! Only in Hollywood!”
Next: Lords, Lies and Videotape Part 10: Ho’-ray for Hollywood This will be the conclusion of this sordid story. Then we can get back to more upbeat things like sex on a flying trapeze.