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Porn Machete Murder 

Mopes and mayhem in the Valley

Thursday, Feb 24 2011
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Porn actor Stephen Clancy Hill had reason to be tense as he sat inside a Van Nuys production house late on the evening of June 1. He was about to lose his crash pad.

Hill had lived at the porn studio for nearly a year in exchange for performing menial tasks and, occasionally, landing fleeting parts in the "fem-dom" movies it produces. But the owner thought Hill exhibited strange behavior. He wanted the bit-part actor to move out.

Late that evening, Hill found himself alone inside a 900-square-foot room with studio manager Christopher Rachal, whose tasks now included getting the 34-year-old actor to leave. Hill sat on a couch, repeatedly and obsessively watching a battle scene from director Ridley Scott's violent swords-and-religion epic Kingdom of Heaven. He pestered Rachal to join him in watching the DVD.

click to flip through (8) ILLUSTRATION BY MATT MAHURIN
  • Illustration by Matt Mahurin
 

Rachal didn't want to be sociable. "I was trying to get him out," he recalls.

Finally, Rachal relented and crossed to the couch. As he neared, Hill "reached behind his back and came up with a machete," Rachal says. The weapon, a studio prop used in the course of making the company's faux "castration" videos, was a simple aluminum sword manufactured with a dulled blade.

But Hill had somehow managed to sharpen it to a vicious and keen edge. The first blow, a lumberjack's roundhouse, ripped a deep gash into Rachal's left shoulder, which nearly took off his arm. To defend against what would surely be a follow-up strike, Rachal grabbed another studio prop — a hospital bed — and created a barrier between himself and his attacker.

The makeshift berm did little to slow Hill, who began climbing over the bed, amped on adrenaline and anger. "He had a look in his eye like he wanted to kill," Rachal recalls.

A second swing arced in, and Rachal grabbed the blade with his bare right hand, watching in horror as "it was nearly cut in half. I could see tendons."

Hearing the commotion, three other men rushed in. Hill was "standing on a piece of furniture, saying, 'I'm going to kill you all,' " recalls Yuri Drell, a neighbor from a nearby business.

Seeing the bloody sword and Rachal lying seriously injured on the floor, the men tried to calm Hill down. It seemed to be working, until Hill noticed they all had cell phones in hand and were calling 911.

He went wild.

The porn industry is many things. Subtle is not one of them. So when Porn Inc. went searching for a job title for people like Stephen Hill, the choice was "mope." It's based on the off-camera life of these fringe actors, hangers-on who mope around the studios hoping for a bit role, which if they're lucky might bring them $50 plus food — and the chance to have sex with a real, live woman.

The mope — as a person and as a job — came to rootless, shambling life in 1995, when the porn industry, seeking The Next Big Thing, latched on to the idea of the "extreme." An enterprising, Svengali-like British expatriate, John Bowen, who went by the name John T. Bone, hit upon the idea of an "extreme mega-gangbang" involving his Trilby, Grace Kwek, a tiny Singaporean with the adopted stage name Annabel Chong.

Shot as The World's Biggest Gang Bang, the concept was bare-bones: Chong would engage in various sex acts with up to 300 men as a camera recorded the action. Of course, finding that many men already in the porn business and willing to work in such a situation could have been potentially difficult, and prohibitively expensive. So the call went out through various sex weeklies and adult magazines for men who thought they had the right stuff for such an endeavor.

In the end, about 70 made it to the shoot and helped Chong perform 251 sex acts (there was an on-set running tally). The movie, which had all the sex appeal of a National Geographic film of frogs spawning in a mud puddle, nevertheless captured the imagination of the porn-buying public and became one of the biggest-selling tapes of its era.

The porn industry took notice, and it wasn't long before numerous copycat productions were being cranked out, each seemingly claiming a bogus world record for either number of participants or sex acts completed. The mope had gained a foothold as a new kind of employee — one who inhabits the dark benthic zone at the bottom of the bottom, a movie-extra subspecies often tinged with maladjustment.

The average rate for a mope is $50 a movie, $75 if the porno gods are feeling benevolent. So financially, mopehood is a losing proposition in an industry where just getting the HIV testing required to work costs $135.

"They're worthless, D-list load-droppers," says Jim Lane, also known as Jim Powers, the director of such fare as Young and Anal 39, Ganged and Banged and White Trash Whore 40.

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