Boogie Afternoons

Photo by Ted Soqui

About 10 people are sitting on a lawn in the shade of a lone sycamore as the sun burns through a blue Malibu sky. For long moments the silence of the Santa Monica Mountains is broken only by an occasional horse neigh from a distant corral. We could be polite spectators at a golf tournament quietly awaiting a putt, except this is a porn shoot, and the activity at the other end of the grass involves one of those poolside sex scenes that seem to be obligatory when the locale is, as it is here, a sprawling California estate.

“That water looks so good,” someone says. “I’m going in after the pop shot.”

The pool is a long, slender scar dug into the grass; a few feet away Savanna Samson and Nick Manning are going through their acrobatic paces — doggy, mission, anal, oral, topside; on a wooden chaise, on the grass.

“You want the piledriver?” Manning asks.

“Yeah, the piledriver,” agrees director Paul Thomas after a thoughtful pause. Then, with Samson on her back and her legs pointing skyward, Manning dovetails his own legs between hers and begins pounding her from above. The actors’ tanned, trim and shaved bodies seem molded from bronze fiberglass. Those who aren’t directly engaged in the shoot pay only cursory attention to the couple’s gymnastics; some read, others check cell-phone messages; one serious-looking man awaits word to bring the actors Gatorade and more rubbers.

During one coupling Samson and Manning’s legs form a triumphant X, as though saluting their industry’s importance to the Southern California economy. Their film is Vivid Entertainment’s remake of the 1972 hardcore classic The Devil in Miss Jones, and if people need reminding that porn has come of age, they only have to look at the fact that the industry is now remaking its seminal landmarks.

Georgina Spelvin, who appeared in the original film as a lonely virgin who commits suicide and momentarily avoids hell by learning the ways of the flesh, has a cameo in the remake. Earlier, we had spoken inside the big stainless-steel-and-glass house rented for the shoot. The grandmotherly Spelvin, who had grown up in an itinerant Texas family, had been a dancer and stage actress in New York when she got a job as the cook for the first Miss Jones shoot; she landed the title role after the actress who’d been cast chickened out.

Dismissively described by Miss Jones’ producer as a “flat-chested 35-year-old,” Spelvin didn’t think the film would bring her any attention, even though its producers had just gained notoriety with Deep Throat.

“I thought,” she said, “it would play in the kind of theaters the kind of people I knew didn’t go to.”

To be safe, though, she adapted, as a nom de porn, a feminized version of “George Spelvin,” the traditional stage alias used by theater companies in program notes.

 

Miss Jones, however, instantly became as infamous as Deep Throat and helped launch the modern adult entertainment industry. And, a few years later, as Spelvin was preparing to open a summer-stock production of Anything Goes in Brunswick, Maine, two FBI agents appeared in the theater. A federal court in Memphis, Tennessee, had filed interstate smut charges against several people involved in the film, including Spelvin and co-star Harry Reems.

“My producer,” Spelvin remembers, “told them, ‘You can’t have her until after opening night! She’ll turn herself in tomorrow morning.’” Incredibly, the G-men let the show go on, and the next day Spelvin was arraigned in nearby Portland, although she eventually beat the rap.

That seems centuries ago. The first Miss Jones took five days to shoot on half a shoestring, whereas the updated version will require 10 days at a budget of $250,000. Today most porn is recorded on tape, although Vivid is splurging to shoot its remake on 16mm film stock. Spelvin was paid $100 a day for her work, while Jenna Jameson, who appears as the devil in the new Miss Jones, is such a porn phenomenon that her contract with Vivid limits the number of films the company can release of her each year, and a three-story billboard of Jameson, author of Make Love Like a Porn Star, towers above Times Square. Today, a porn actress, Mary Carey, is even running for governor, although Spelvin lamented that Carey was “splitting the vote” with Larry Flynt. Director Thomas, himself a former porn actor, said of Carey, “She may be a brilliant politician, but she’s nothing as an actress. I never heard of her before this.”

As Thomas talked, Samson and Manning were already performing outside on the lawn. We watched them go at it doggy style through a window that perfectly framed the action as though it were on a letterbox TV screen.

Forty-five minutes later Manning — or rather, his penis — is ready for his close-up. After ejaculating into Samson’s face, Manning leads her to the pool, where the actress washes her face to end the scene.

“And I wanted to go in the water!” groans one of the crew as everyone breaks for lunch.