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Scenes From My Life in Porn 

Wednesday, Mar 29 2000
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In 1995 I was hired as entertainment editor of Hustler magazine at Larry Flynt Publications. I was 30, divorced and at the end of a screenwriting career that had been flatlining for several years. Not only had I failed as a writer, but I had functioned only marginally in a variety of menial, no-brainer day jobs. On my first day as an assistant location manager in charge of finding an office building for a commercial shoot, I had become lost. As a telemarketer of computer-printer supplies, the first week my employers put me on straight commission I earned $61. I failed at other jobs simply because I didn‘t get out of bed. Prior to working at LFP, I had found a niche at a Beverly Hills law firm, where I temped in the word-processing department correcting typographical and formatting errors in legal documents. It was a dull job, but its focus on minutiae dovetailed nicely with my habit of smoking several bowls throughout the day in the parking garage. Sitting for hours in a white cubicle hunting through densely written 200-page legal contracts for missing periods and double commas was a pleasant way to ride out a solid buzz. I held that job for nearly three months, a record length of time in my employment history.

I lasted at LFP for more than three years. Destiny may have played a part in this. My first pornographic experience was with a copy of Hustler I discovered in a drainage ditch when I was 11. The magazine, still in its flat brown paper bag but soaked through, had appeared like a gift from the gods of puberty. I painstakingly removed the binding staples and dried out the pages in the garage of a neighbor who was away on vacation. After careful and repeated examination of each page in the privacy of my bedroom, I sold them to my friends at school for their lunch money. Telling this X-rated Horatio Alger story in an interview for a copyediting job at LFP helped get me hired. (Though not as a copyeditor. There were too many typos on my resume.) By the time I left, I had achieved rank on the list of the Top 50 most influential people in the adult industry. Granted, I had written that list myself, and it was published in Hustler, but deception and lies are the essence of pornography. It’s no different from any other branch of the entertainment industry. In porn, for example, we had the same thing that they call “magic” in Hollywood -- except we called it “bullshit.” This is the power to create seductive illusions that move and entertain a mass audience, and perhaps give them that ineffable gift, hope.

But porn is a crude business. Even the fantasies it sells have the feel of cheap disillusionment. What seduced me was the reality.

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Larry Flynt used to defend Hustler by calling the nude photo layouts “art.” I would come to joke that the porn video is indigenous Southern California folk art. The cheesy aesthetic -- shag-carpet backdrops, tanning-salon chic, bad music, worse hairdos -- and the everyman approach to exhibitionism are honest expressions of life in the land of mini-malls, vanity plates and instant stardom.

In 1996, an unknown named Jasmin St. Claire set out to have sex with 300 men in a XXX video titled The World‘s Biggest Gang-Bang II, thereby breaking an alleged record of 251 men set a year earlier by Annabel Chong. By the mid-’90s, gangbang films had become a hot product in the industry. They not only created overnight stars -- worthy of Howard Stern, Jerry Springer -- but added a new dimension to celebrity worship. Where once an autograph served as a hallowed connection with a famous person, now fans, invited to participate in these spectacles, could actually fuck a star.

Late one Sunday morning on the second floor of a decrepit Hollywood sound stage, Jasmin held a press conference prior to the shoot. Reporters and photographers from such esteemed publications as Club, Screw and, of course, Hustler packed the room. Champagne was served. Jasmin, 23, entered in skintight red latex. She moved imperiously, with her head held high and her surgically augmented D-cups thrust forward. Jasmin‘s ethnic origins were a mystery. Her skin was coppery brown, like a glass of tea in sunlight. She told people her dark complexion came from Sicilian blood, and there were rumors that she was the granddaughter of a New York mobster. She denied those, and claimed to have been raised by an international-financier father, to have been educated in Continental boarding schools and to have an undergraduate degree from Columbia. (Years later, Jasmin’s first manager, Charlie Frey, told me he‘d discovered her doing lap dances in an outer-borough New York strip club. “I don’t know about her dad,” Frey said. “Jasmin‘s mom is a dot-head Indian.”) At the press conference, Jasmin responded in French, German and Spanish to questions from European porn-magazine stringers. As cameras flashed and the room filled with the staccato sound of 20 reporters calling her name, the scene took on the air of an old-fashioned Hollywood movie premiere. I asked Jasmin why she was having sex with 300 men, and she answered, “To achieve my dreams.”

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