NORTH HOLLYWOOD—A significant portion of the adult industry's movers and shakers—actresses/actors, directors, producers—showed up Wednesday night for the premiere of AVN Founder Paul Fishbein's second documentary, X-Rated 2: The Greatest Adult Stars of All Time, a sequel to his previous examination of the best adult films, which covered the greatest adult movies of all time. The event took place at the Laemmle NoHo 9 theaters on Lankershim Avenue, and played to a nearly packed house.
"Obviously, any list of the greatest would certainly be subject to a certain amount of subjectivity and controversy, and people can argue about who was on the list and who wasn't on the list," Fishbein began in introducing the film, "but I'll tell you how we came up with our list: We had a pool of over 200 people who voted, veterans of the adult industry, producers, directors, writers, journalists, young and old. There are people who probably might have made the list but who chose not to participate, and we felt that if they were alive, not having them on camera would hurt the film, so we did not include them. There were also a couple of people who arguably should have been on this list but who were so singularly identified with one major movie that their story was told in our previous film, which was The Greatest Adult Movies of All Time, and we view these two as companion pieces."
With that, the audience was treated to a version of the film that was nine minutes longer than the one that will debut on the Showtime networks this Friday evening, and while in retrospect it seems a shame to cut any of this fast-paced, engaging documentary, there's little doubt that those who tune in will feel well satisfied at its conclusion.
In all, 30 stars are profiled, many of them interviewed exclusively for this production, and each is commented upon by a variety of newer, currently working performers familiar either with the actors themselves or their works—and director Bryn Pryor even managed to snag several mainstream celebrities and directors like Whoopi Goldberg, Adam Rifkin and Steven Soderberg to add their viewpoints to the stars they knew and/or worked with.
The film is narrated and hosted by Jim McBride, better known in some circles as "Mr. Skin," the proprietor of websites that feature nude scenes and stills of mainstream performers.
"Adult film stars are just that: stars," he began. "Most people can name one porn star, and everybody's seen them in action at least once, and more than that if they're being honest. That makes adult film stars celebrities... and tonight, we're going to meet some of the greatest adult film stars of all time."
The film is divided into several segments, each featuring a set of stars that share one characteristic or another: Highest rated; longest lasting; "performers of color"; classic male stars; the industry's greatest actors: crossover stars; and the world's top two most recognizable names in adult, being of course Ron Jeremy and Jenna Jameson.
The first star to be examined is Tori Black, who told viewers, "This industry really gave me a chance to be my deviant self ... I really feel like women's sexuality has been lost in the dark ages, and I feel like it's really starting to evolve. I want to leave behind that empowering feeling for women. I want women to know that it's okay to be sexual. I want women to know that you can be classy and graceful and elegant and smart and sophisticated and a freak; like you don't have to leave that off the list in order to be the other things. If you have all those things and you're a freak, you're unstoppable."
That sex-positivity was shared by several others, including Christy Canyon, who noted, "I just morphed into something else in this business. I mean from making films to dancing to writing my book to radio for ten years; I just showed up, did my job, had great sex and got my $200 and it felt like I owned the world."
"Making films was a lot different then, and it was huge," said classic actress Veronica Hart. "We would have big red-carpet premieres and you would go into a theater, and if it was a good movie, you could run six weeks, two months playing the same movie in the theater. I could act; all my friends from college weren't acting. I could get paid for it, and I could have sex. It's like, 'Yeah!'
"I did 13 movies one year, and they told me I had ruined my career, and what it did was just make me more well-known," she later added. "People have a lot to say about this business, but where else can a female do so many things? I mean, I've done about everything in the business. I was able to act, I was able to direct, I could produce, I've been a stylist, I'm still a production manager. Where else? I know the straight business wouldn't have afforded me that. In a career sense, good actress, sexy gal, somebody that you could jerk off to and not feel bad about it, that made you feel good about being a sexual human being. I really wanted to connect and really wanted to spread love." (That last line drew thunderous applause from the audience.)
"I'd like to think I was political before," reflected Sasha Grey near the film's end, "and that was a large part of my motivation in getting into the industry was to disprove the status quo about women and female sexuality The more I watched porn, the more I realized this was something I could do and maybe I could bring something different to it as well."
A couple of the stars, however, let it be known that they were mainly in it for the sex—and the fame.
"To me, sex was a big drug, if you want to call it that," said Jamie Gillis. "I was really interested in the sex. The idea that people were drinking or taking pills to forget the experience they were having on the set, you know, maybe they felt bad about it or I don't know what they were doing. It didn't make any sense to me. I was really after this ass I was going to fuck... There was one point where in New York, I counted 14 of my films playing in one day."
"I wasn't aware of how popular I was," stated classic actress Annette Haven. "I had never been aware of it. I had never been aware how beautiful I am. I remember being in L.A. in the summer of '77 and Desires Within Young Girls was making more money at the box office than half of Hollywood. I was in slot 14; Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein was in slot 17."
"Both my parents were very religious and I grew up with that upbringing. I transitioned from Jesus to the adult industry by seeking validation," explained Belladonna, who also achieved another sort of fame by being the reference for a Marvel Comics character.
"That's all I wanted. I wanted to be known as the sex symbol you'll always remember, and when I get out of the business, you'll still know the name Jesse Jane," said the actress who recently changed her legal name to her stage name, and who began her "adult" career waitressing at Hooters at age 17.
"Since I was a very young teenager, I had this kind of fire inside," said Rocco Siffredi. "I remember I was 13, jerking off, jerking off, jerking off, and the doctor, I remember, I was pretty young, told me, 'Hey man, stop with the jerk off, otherwise you will never get better.'" But, of course, he did, and in addition to his prolific career in XXX has even starred in two mainstream films by French director Catherine Breillat. "You have to fuck them in the soul, not just the dick. Women, you need to fuck them in the brain if you want to bring something out of them," he later added.
"I think every male performer in some way had Rocco as a role model," commented Mick Blue, the two-time AVN Male Performer of the Year.
Some of the stars revealed that they entered the adult industry in (how shall we say?) interesting ways.
"Very early on, I got into finance, so I became a proverbial Wall Street stockbroker for six years," revealed Lexington Steele. "The broker that trained me brought me to a party which was a 19-on-1 gangbang, so I got kind of used to having sex in front of people at a very early part of my adulthood."
"I guess I was the first woman of color in the business," said classic star Vanessa Del Rio, reputedly the first adult actress to earn $1,000 for one day's work. "They saw that there was a market for it because I became so popular so fast... I did waitressing, I did go-go, I did stripping, I did hooking, I did the whole 42nd Street stroll, which was fun... I blew the cameraman on my first movie... I like the seedy environment and the way the peepshows smelled: Clorox and cum."
"When we started to have sex, it was the kind of thing where I was like totally freaked out and I didn't know if I was going to be able to do this one," Marilyn Chambers described her feelings as Behind The Green Door began shooting. "But there was a moment when it turned from terror to pleasure, and I really believe you can see that."
"I was just walking down the street one day," began Wicked contract star Asa Akira, "and this guy just stopped me on the street and asked me, 'Would you be interested in being in the adult entertainment industry?' And I was like, 'Yes!' and I followed him upstairs to his dungeon. The next day, I started training to be a dominatrix, so I'm really lucky; he could have killed me."
"She went to an anal shoot and ended up doing a gangbang by accident. I guess a happy accident for the director," commented her agent, Mark Spiegler, on Akira's first hardcore role.
Still others gave unique insights into how the adult industry works, in the process revealing their own mindsets about working in porn.
"One of the reasons for my longevity is, I just would not leave," claimed the legendary Nina Hartley. "I got the AVN Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989. It was like, 'Are you trying to tell me something?' ... The first time I saw sex on screen, my inner Cookie Monster just said, 'Me want do that!'
"The energy coming at me, the laws coming at me from both the religious right and the so-called feminist left are exactly the same: Prohibitionary," she added. "One doesn't want me to have an abortion and one does not want me to sell the services of my vulva for money."
"I wanted to start modeling nude, which was a big deal, because at the time, my dad was transitioning from being a missionary to a children's TV show host. It was a big scandal," revealed Skin Diamond, adding later, "I think that being a submissive woman is a very empowering thing to do because you have to be really tough and in the fetish world, it's all about consent. It's not about abuse."
Surprisingly, X-Rated 2 doesn't shy away from some of the criticisms that have been leveled against the adult industry.
"Seeing a new girl coming into the industry and she's very dark-skinned, well then you have another new girl coming into the industry and she's a little bit more lighter skinned. Well, guess what? That lighter-skinned young lady is going to get a lot more work than the darker-skinned young lady, and that's just how it is," noted the light-skinned Misty Stone. "Another example would be, well, we have this young white girl who's going to get $1,500 for this scene, but I think we're going to give this young black lady $800 for the scene, and that's just how it is. Even our own black people do it to us, and that's even sadder, that they downgrade us when they should be uplifting us."
"The drugs, alcohol involved with porn: During that time, there was, and I would partake and it was not a pretty sight," admitted Janine Lindemulder. "You will sink hard and fast if you go down that road... I wouldn't change a thing. At the time, there was a lot of glamour and there was a lot of fun and a lot of camaraderie. That was a good time."
"I'd gone from being Tori Welles to I became a PA [production assistant]," lamented the former Vivid contract performer. "I mean, talk about humiliating! So some of it was good and some of it was bad, you know; some of it was stupid. You know, you don't get into this business if you've completely got your shit together. You just don't. I don’t care what anybody says."
"As far as I know, I am the only person in adult films who did not do any of the degrading acts, the facial ejaculation, because I don't want that represented to the American public as adult sexuality," Annette Haven warned. "We all have to pretend that our mommies didn't have sex. Every last one of our mommies had sex; hopefully they enjoyed it."
And finally, some of the featured performers got to display the pride they felt in their work.
"It's ironic that porn stars were discredited because they were fucking, because you can't fake fucking; you've really got to be there, and that's a tremendous achievement to get yourself real enough to be able to do that," noted Richard Pacheco.
"I feel like people are trying to create more of that 'boy and girl next door' look, but when I first started in 2004, it was all about performance; it had nothing to do with—guys are crotch; we don't care what you look like." said James Deen, adding, "Adult films are not a launching pad to mainstream. They're just not. I think there's this stigma that people in adult films, they do this because they have to or they do this because they have nothing else and they forget that we're performers just like The Rock and Vin Diesel are action performers. Being famous in the adult industry is useless. Being a good performer is what matters."
"I guess I was the first girl to have her own hardcore video porn site," recalled Joanna Angel, founder of BurningAngel Entertainment. "It got a lot of press when we first started. I wasn't expecting to become a figurehead for punk and porn and feminism. I wanted to do everything, so the first scene I ever did, I had anal sex. It was only the third time I ever did it in my whole life."
"At that time, there was no material out there, so they had softcore movies, right?" asked John Leslie rhetorically. "People had softcore movies and they would cut in hardcore footage. They'd cut from this film or this guy pretending to fuck this girl softcore, and they'd cut in me fucking the girl, so you get the in-and-out. I did five one day, inserts and cumshots. Every time you came, they gave you another fucking fifty dollars. I don't know why they paid the fourth and fifth ones, 'cause they were blanks," admitted the man whom pal Joey Silvera dubbed "the Clint Eastwood of porn."
The other stars who appear in X-Rated 2 are Tera Patrick, Seka, Jessica Drake, Kylie Ireland, John C. Holmes, Manuel Ferrara, and Ginger Lynn, while some of the current performers, directors and others supplying commentary on both the stars and the eras in which they performed include Kayden Kross, Kelly Holland, Adella O'Neal, Ana Foxx, Cherie DeVille, Dana DeArmond, Aiden Starr, Casey Calvert, Monique Alexander, Megan Rain, Marley Brinx, Carter Cruise, Karla Kush, Jade Nile, R Bolla, and even mainstreamers Whoopi Goldberg, Adam Rifkin, and Steven Soderberg.
Among those who attended the premiere were Paul Thomas, Herschel Savage, Richard Pacheco, Raven Touchstone, Kay Parker, Jim McBride, Mark Spiegler, Angela White, Abella Danger, Anikka Albrite, Mick Blue, James Deen, Asa Akira, Luna Star, Joanna Angel, Small Hands, Nikki Hearts, Leigh Raven, Emily Morse, Darren Roberts, Brad Armstrong, Christiana Cinn, Tori Black, Lexington Steele, Adella O'Neal, Luc Wylder, Jacky St. James, Chanel Preston, Eddie Powell, Tee Reel, Marci Hirsch, Dan O'Connell, Kira Noir, Bob Chinn, Wesley Emerson, David Bertolino, Ben Hoffman, Christy Canyon, Lucky Smith, Evan Stone, Savana Styles, Angel Cassidy and several others.
"I thought this movie was amazing!" gushed Abella Danger. "I think every single person who was on that list really is an—I mean, gosh, I was just so impressed by every single person who was in it, and everything that wqs said about them. It was really inspiring."
"Actually it was pretty good," added her agent, Mark Spiegler. "It's got some heart to it, not just a documentary."
"I liked it," understated Paul Thomas. "I always think that I don't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member but this is the only club that took me in and I want to be a member of. I was thinking how great porn was, and I was thinking how fucking straight the world is now that I'm out of it; how politically correct and straight and here I am enjoying all these wonderful clippings. They brought back a lot of memories."
Pictured: Adam Rifkin with director Bryn Pryor; Whoopi Goldberg and Annette Haven.