I’ve had a chance few mainstream writers—or everyday people, for that matter—get. To end a book I wrote on Rob Everett, aka Eric Edwards—“matinee idol of X-rated films"—Rob took me to the Adult Video Awards. He was the male Guest of Honor, a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award. On our drive there, Rob, an introspective man, discussed the aggressive and hostile Christian picketers who protested each year. He asked why such people acted so mean-spirited if they wanted to “save” Hell-bent sinners, presumably those like him. I had no answers but did agree that methods used didn’t serve the desired intentions.
Rob was nervous about this evening. Odd that a man who’s had sex in front of a camera for 20-plus years would be nervous over anything. I, on the other hand, felt extremely awkward and jittery about entering his realm. We were both on our guard.
Once inside the hotel lobby, we found ourselves amidst lots of people, all of whom were there to be seen, to meet and greet, and to be interviewed. The first person we ran into was Bill Margold. Bill is the male industry mouthpiece; nothing is sacred to him. Nothing. I’d spoken with him a few times on the phone, read much about him, and read some of what he'd written about the industry, its product, and its people. He was brash, blatant, and often crude in the words he used, and how he used them. Everything he did in his life he did in support of the adult film industry and those who made their living in it. More outspoken and crass than most I'd interviewed for this project, this transferred into my mental picture of him. So it was that I was surprised to find him not repulsive “in the flesh.” He was well-dressed, friendly, well-spoken, and downright nice.
Following Rob around on his coattails, I saw that most of the men were well-dressed. If not in tuxes—as were Rob and Bill Margold—they were in dress pants and a sports jacket.
Next we came upon Jamie Gillis. He was much taller than he seemed on film and didn't seem nearly as dangerous-looking in person—this is worth commentary because Jamie’s intentional image has always been dark and menacing. One of a handful of well-known industry men whom I'd not yet interviewed, I had one scheduled.
Walking into the ballroom, again with me following, Rob addressed a lady in a white pants outfit. Jewelry'd to the hilt, and impeccably coiffed and clothed, the woman was elegant. If you watch TV talk shows, you may have seen Gloria Leonard, who speaks regularly and vocally about the First Amendment and legalities of the phone sex industry.
Gloria put her arms around Rob; they kissed and then I was introduced. She looked at my white pants suit and laughed, as a man in a black tux walked over to us. Smiling, Gloria leaned towards me and said conspiratorially, “We’re the Ladies in White. Who are they?!”
With that, Rob introduced me to Ron Sullivan, known in the industry as Henri Pachard . Ron is an X-rated director, actor, and Master of Ceremonies. Medium height and build, with barely spiked hair and wire-framed glasses, Ron was about Rob’s age, maybe a bit older. Mannerly to a fault, he smiled, shook my hand, and welcomed me to the event.
Eventually, a man named Paul Thomas arrived. Along with Rob, Paul Thomas was a long-standing lead industry box-office actor, and subsequently, producer/director. Paul and I had not met in person, though we had spoken by phone. Rob took me to meet him and immediately, Paul said, “I knew that was you! Soon as I saw you with Rob, I knew it.” He was shy, unlike his onscreen persona--Mr. Sexual Know-It-All. He and Rob exchanged innocuous banter, neither comfortable in this arena. They were there, as they were expected to be, and they did enjoy the plaudits handed over to them . . . but it seemed as if neither had completely learned how to handle it all.
I met an ex-actress, wife of the publisher of an industry magazine. She wore a long, see-through pink gauzy dress, and a pink leotard, tights, and over those, sheer white patterned hose made the outfit girlish, rather than risqué. This woman, who used to be a well-known porn star, was now a mother.
Jamie Gillis returned. The phone conversation we’d already had was in preparation for an in-person interview. He grinned and assured me, with his heavy New York accent, that we’d soon sit down to chat. He was attractive, and his dark, heavily-lashed eyes were pretty. I expected to be frightened just to be in his presence but I was not. Well-known as the industry “Bad Boy,” among bad boys, his onscreen dark demeanor didn’t carry through in person.
Finally, dinner. It was a well-catered affair—delicious, beautifully-presented 4-course meal. After the food was cleared away, I saw a recognized face, and Rob told me the lady was Kay Parker. If Rob—aka Eric Edwards—had been the recognized X-rated matinee idol for the last 20 years, Kay Parker was most definitely the industry's queen.
An announcement was made for all to get settled since the award portion of the evening was about to start. Ron Sullivan went to the podium to introduce the “raconteur” of adult films, the one and only Jim Holliday.
Jim was of medium height, rounded, and sported a pseudo-goatee. He wore white pants, white jacket stretched over a sizeable tummy, white sports shirt, and no tie. Jim was casual and cocky, and he could talk and talk . . . and he did. Before his introduction of Rob as the recipient of the Male Lifetime Achievement Award, Jim recounted every honor Rob had ever received—which were many, along with every notable film he had made for the industry . . . his production count topped 1000.
Finally, Rob was called to the front of the room. His face reddened, and he left the table and made the walk to the podium amidst raucous applause. He began his speech, softly and reverently, with, “I want to thank Linda Lovelace, and all who have made this possible.” The joke here, which everyone in the room understood and enjoyed, came from the fact that Eric Edwards, the actor, was “discovered” by the one-and-only Linda Lovelace . . . who was no longer part of the industry and who had, in fact, distanced herself completely.
Even more laughter. Continued applause. Rob’s eyes widened; he was clearly surprised that his joke had worked so well. He went on to seriously thank others, and explain what the award meant to him. Once his time was done, he rejoined me at the table and smiled as Gloria Leonard took the microphone behind him. It was time to introduce the female recipient of the same award.
This was odd for me. It was weird . . . I felt as if I were at the Academy Awards—maybe in a dream world, but the environment had similarities. The female award winner was none other than Kay Parker. In a modest, floor-length dress, with a shawl, and flowing hair, covering her delicate shoulders, she gracefully wended her way to the microphone. Her aristocratic features split wide in an impish grin and in a classy British accent, she told all to, “Be quiet! This is my moment!” Her words were playful and no one took offense. She was a lady with presence.
Other awards were given, among them to Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione. He wore a suit, was clean cut and neat, yet something about him gave off a negative aura. Unlike others, Bob Guccione seemed what many “outsiders” actually perceive all in the industry to be . . . sleazy.
Once the official presentation was over, Rob, now one of the evening’s official celebrities, did his part with photographers and well-wishers. I excused myself to the ladies room, and it was just like I’d walked backstage at the circus. The most outrageous clothes all evening adorned the young female up-and-coming stars, or star-hopefuls, and it seemed as if they were all in the powder room to primp. There were exposed—literally exposed—chests. Rear “cheeks” peeking out. Uniquely located tattoos.
And the jewelry! Chains on necks, waists, ankles . . . and areas I can’t mention in a PG-rated publication. Leather wrist straps with silver rivets. I took care of my reason for being in the restroom, and quickly made my exit. I felt very out of place and though I was probably wearing more clothes than any other woman in that particular room at that moment, I felt extraordinarily exposed.
Where was Rob?! I scurried to find him. Odd as it might be, he was my sense of normalcy in this environment so foreign to me.
I found him, still among the picture-takers. As I stood to the side, I could see, in another corner of the room, where other photographers drooled over two women in skimpy outfits . . . more of what I’d just seen too up-close-and-personal. At that moment, Gloria Leonard approached, and she and Rob chatted about the “good old days.” Looking at the young ladies, she lamented to me about what little class was left in today’s X-rated industry. Definitely a bit odd in the context of the world outside of that ballroom, yet inside, her presence and her comments made some sense. She looked, and behaved in that atmosphere, like a well-styled woman of means.
After Gloria, Jim Holliday came to speak with us. Jim became involved in adult films not as an actor or in any sort of production; rather, he was, without apology, simply in love with the industry. He told us he has always had a way with facts, an absolute trivia genius as applied to the X-rated world, and he had made himself into the industry’s scorekeeper and fact-checker. Jim Holliday became a self-proclaimed genius to "his people," and his people didn't argue. Jim proved that he was adept at not only X-rated facts, but other film types, general personalities, sports, cars . . . any number of other topics. He, Rob, and I chatted without specific direction until the conversation turned, through Rob, back to the picketers he and I had discussed earlier on our way to the evening’s festivities.
“They weren’t at the gate, like they usually are,” Rob told Jim. “I wanted Linda to see them. I’ve always wanted to know what they were thinking, why they do what they do . . . why they’re so violent about their beliefs.”
“Rob,” Jim interrupted, gently, “Rob, don’t you know?”
”Those people aren’t real dissenters. They are professional picketers, hired to drum up controversy.”
Rob was visibly upset. All the years this had bothered him . . . and none of it was real.
So the evening ended on much the same note of uncertainty upon which it had started. I had met people I’d never have otherwise met. I saw a world definitely alien to me, and without doubt, alien to most of “middle America.” The experience made me realize that no one escapes the spontaneity of emotion. As unreal as much of the world I saw that night was to me, I came away with a sense of appreciation for having been there. Though I may not agree or condone much of the lifestyle, the people I met taught me an important lesson . . . when it comes down to the core, our humanity is all much the same.