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The Economics Lesson

"These are people who a few generations ago would have run off to join the circus," noted a participant observing the bare-breasted blonds jiggling down the lanes at Mission Hills Bowl. Their brightly painted nails too long and delicate to fit in the finger holes, they were hurling the balls with both hands. "Today, they run off to enter the porn industry."

An estimated 130 members of the public paid $35 each to attend the adults-only charity tournament the Saturday before last, joining teams captained by two dozen porn stars who donated their time and frontal nudity to the cause of raising money for Protecting Adult Welfare, or PAW. "We have a 24-hour help line that provides mental-health counseling," said PAW’s chairman, a roly-poly man named Phil "Flip" Berman (owner of an adult-novelty company that manufactures such products as "Cocka doodle Douche" and "Jurassic Cocks"). "We offer all talent a group health-insurance plan through Blue Cross. We administer an AIDS-test reminder service that tracks performers and encourages them to be tested every 30 days." PAW has even greater plans for the future, but Berman was out of breath and perspiring heavily, since he was schlepping more than 250 pounds of crated jellybeans that had been donated as door prizes along with XXX laser discs, T-shirts and porn-star trading cards. As celebrities go, the porn stars demonstrated astonishing levels of accessibility to their fans. They bowled with them. They crawled partially naked across their laps. They occasionally invited them to fondle their breasts. And yet the crowd of predominantly blue-collar men, quite a few of whom were in advanced states of inebriation, uniformly obeyed the unspoken rule of don’t-touch-unless-invited. "Most of these guys become incredibly nervous when I come up to them," said Shane, a veteran of hundreds of adult videos who now produces her own successful line. "I’ll grab their hands, and they’ll be soaking with sweat. I’ll put my arms around a guy, and his whole body will be trembling. They pretty much do whatever I tell them to do." "I’m a tool-and-die maker for a manufacturer of stainless-steel toilets used in prisons," answered a 50-ish fan named Chuck when asked about his line of work. Wearing a Western-cut shirt with imitation-pearl buttons and a pro wrist brace on his bowling hand, Chuck philosophized about his teammates between drags on a menthol cigarette. "People in our society look down on these girls, but they’re just doing a job." In the next lane, a semiwasted redhead knelt on the floor in G-string pan ties and regulation shoes and performed cunnilingus on a bowling ball. "I’d be proud to take any one of these ladies home to meet my mother, if I still had a mother," Chuck continued. Asked if he was married, he held up his arm and showed off a crude, unfinished tattoo — a faded blue design of a blank scroll. "That tattoo is what you call a 14-year-old kid’s stupidity," he said. "I was going to write some girl’s name on there, but I never got around to it. No, I’m not married." "We form strange connections with our fans," said a petite, kittenish brunette with the nom de porn Jacklyn Lick. A nonsmoker and non-drinker, Lick escaped the pandemonium on the lanes to knock back a Diet Coke in the bar. She paid for her drink with cash from her Snoopy backpack. "A while ago this fan wrote me a letter," Lick recounted, flashing glimpses of the chrome ball pierced through her tongue. "He said that he liked me because I’m short. And he’s short. He said in his letter that because he’s so short, people try to pick him up. He’s a grown man, and people go around trying to pick him up. I wrote him back and told him I have the same problem, which is true. He flew out to a signing I did at an adult store, and we met. I was an inch taller than he was. I’m 5 feet tall. "A lot of fans are very lonely people." Throughout the night, fans stalked the carnal celebrities with cameras. They employed an astonishing array of technology, from point-and-shoot disposables to shoulder-mounted digital and stereoscopic imaging systems. At every turn the skin stars obliged, flashing their most dazzling (and often crooked-toothed) smiles, pulling down shorts to expose shaved pubic mounds. The crude glamour and the continual popping of strobes gave the event the feel of a Cannes Film Festival opening held at a truck stop. Among the ranks of amateurs was a contingent of professional photographers from the pornographic press. One of them, a freelancer for Adult Video News and Adam Film World who works under the name Dr. X, outlined the economics of the scene. "Half these chicks don’t even know what PAW is. They’re here to get their pictures in the magazines, to get known as porn stars, so they can headline on the dance circuit. That’s where the real money is, not in the videos. Porn stars on the dance circuit start off making $5,000 a week. Someone as big as Jenna Jameson can bring in $15,000 to $20,000 a week." "I have angels on my watch because my mom said I need angels when I go on the road dancing," babbled an over-30 porn newcomer named Cannibal. With peacock-feather earrings tickling her bare shoulders and boobs as massive and buoyant as Macy’s parade balloons, Cannibal posed for the paparazzi and chatted at a dizzying speed. "I danced in Canada for a few years. I started porn a few months ago. Acting in mainstream movies and porn is very similar if there’s a script," she reason ed, "because there’s dialogue in both kinds of movies. My first movie to come out is Deep Throat: The Quest ." Pointing out several lone males — boyfriends, husbands — lurking out of camera range, Dr. X continued his porn economics lesson. "Guys who live off their wives and girlfriends are called suitcase pimps," he stated. "What it boils down to is some guy waking up in the morning and telling his wife to go do an anal scene because he wants a new pair of shoes. ‘And by the way, honey, I love you.’ Some girls wise up, and their husbands end up with a restraining order. What does a girl need with a loser boyfriend in this business? On her own she can make all the money she wants." Nearby, a dancer turned adult performer named Teddi Barrett showed off her 46-FFFs. "I had expandable saline implants put in a few months ago," she bragged, proudly displaying the prodigious results of bionic breast technology. "I have fill valves underneath my arms, with little tubes that run into my implants, so I can make them bigger when I want." Barrett graciously allowed a curious spectator to feel the hard plastic valves beneath her skin. "I could only go bigger if I had ones installed in Europe." "I have only been in about 40 movies so far," said a naturally lovely 19-year-old named Dee who was bowling on a team with her husband, Rob. They handed out business cards with their names, "Dee and Rob," printed on them. They were married a few months ago and entered the world of adult films together. Rob is a light-skinned African-Amer ican with a pencil-thin mustache and a formal manner polished by 13 years in the military; Dee is a coppery, wavy-haired girl of Puerto Rican extraction. She is 16 years younger than Rob. In discussing her life, Dee continually deferred to Rob, repeating, "Rob knows everything." It was an opinion with which Rob concurred. "I’ve been around the world five times, and I know a lot," he stated several times, punctuating his sentences with a flash smile and a chuckle that seemed more civil than humorous. As Rob looked on and nodded encouragement, Dee described a hardscrabble childhood of poverty, frequent moves and being raised by a single mother. "I’ve known Robert since I was 8 years old. Thank God he has been in my life." "I’ve been a friend of the family for a long time," Rob added, choosing not to explain how his friendship with an 8-year-old girl blossomed into romance and a life of pornography. Dee portrayed her entrance into the industry as a career move. "I hope and I pray that if people could put themselves in my shoes, they would understand that this is my dream." "For us it’s freedom," Rob interjected. "We can wake up in the morning and not have a boss on our neck," Dee added. "It’s like a religion," Rob said, leveling a stern gaze at his wife and acolyte. "Without Rob, there is no Dee," she said. She looked sweetly into the eyes of her husband. "We love each other." "We’re in business together," Rob chortled. "Of course, putting our names together makes it easier to sign the checks." At the end of the night, Shane took the trophy for captaining the winning team. It was 3 in the morning, and many had already left the bowling alley. Shane’s energy appeared undiminished. "I’m a porn puppy," she enthused. "I’m always wagging my tail." The remaining males followed after that tail, snapping photos and begging for autographs. Flip Berman estimated the tally for the event at $6,000, along with the approximately 200 pounds of donated jellybeans that had gone uneaten. Not bad for an industry that only makes a few billion dollars a year.