In January 1986 Los Angeles area preschool teachers, both innocent, were indicted on multiple counts of child sexual abuse – the climax of the most preposterous witch hunt in modern American history.
Six months later on July 9 Edwin Meese, in the Great Hall of the Department of Justice in front of the bare breasted Spirit Of Justice, announced the publication of his chilling 1,960 page “Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography” – payback to the Religious Right who had helped elect Ronald Reagan president.
Nine days later, on July 18, 1986 I was scanning the Metro section of the Los Angeles Times when a photograph of a beautiful young woman grabbed my attention, someone I knew only too well. Next to her picture was the headline: “Sex Films Pulled, Star Allegedly Too Young”. The underage porn star was Traci Lords.
I was a part time writer who had published two books by this time, neither of them bestsellers. I had already started researching a third. Like most writers a second job paid the bills. Mine was editor/business manager for my wife Suze Randall who had worked as a staff photographer for Playboy and Hustler magazines and was by now a very successful freelancer, selling her pictures mainly to Penthouse but also to other men’s magazines worldwide.
Although most of our business was print work, Larry Flynt talked us into shooting porn films (initially for Hustler). This soon became an interesting and profitable sideline. I got to write the stories and direct the dialog (what there was of it). I then supervised the postproduction. Officially this was criminal activity - at the time prosecutors were using the draconian California pimping and pandering statutes to harass porn actors and producers.
What I saw in the Times that July morning frightened me. Traci Lords was our favorite model. Suze had shot more than twenty nude photo layouts of her – thousands of pictures. Traci was also the star of two porn videos that Suze produced and I directed – the most recent, ironically titled Love Bites, only just released. But it wasn’t the potential loss of the film and video, considerable as that was, that was upsetting me. We’d inadvertently broken the 1978 Protection of Children Against Sexual Exploitation Act which was punishable by a $100,000 fine and ten years in federal prison for each offence. By shooting Traci as often as we had, we were facing fines of millions of dollars and more than two hundred years in prison!
Within the hour the calls started coming in from panicked video producers and photographers. Sick to the stomach as I was, I did my best to reassure them that that Traci had been the centerfold in the September 1984 issue of Penthouse (which also featured the notorious layout of Miss America Vanessa Williams that lost her the title). Since then Traci had starred in more than a hundred erotic videos and magazine layouts. She had recently acquired a US passport so she could accompany Suze to England for an introduction to the mainstream fashion agency that represented Suze as a model before she took up photography. How could we reasonably be held criminally liable when even federal passport officials had been fooled by Traci’s false ID?
Easily, I was told by someone who had already called his lawyer. Under federal law it doesn’t matter that you thought your model was over eighteen. No matter what IDs she showed you, you were guilty anyway.
“What are we going to do?” – that often repeated question. We did what we could. We destroyed every photograph and foot of film and videotape we had shot of Traci. Then we sat down with our seven-year-old daughter in the living room. She listened wide-eyed while we told her that there was a problem with one of our models, that perhaps some people would soon be taking mommy and daddy away for a little while. We gave her a list of phone numbers to call if this happened and made her promise to look after her four-year-old brother. Everything would be just fine.
Armed to the teeth with the “no excuse” law, the United States Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles took the case two months later threatening to drag everyone who had shot Traci into federal court. As with the Mc Martin case, this turned out to be political posturing. My daughter never had to call those phone numbers but, looking back on it more than 20 years later, I can’t help wondering how that incident has shaped her life.
Although Traci Lords’s porn career, and mine, inspired Lies, Love & Porn, she’s not Blue, nor is hers the only career I have drawn from. Film director Donald Cammell (creator of the 1970 cult classic Performance starring Mick Jagger and James Fox) was another. Donald was a close friend of mine in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Unlike my protagonist Damon Luce, he never shot porn movies although I did hire him to rewrite one of my scripts. Typical of Donald’s luck, it was never made.
The underage porn star who went on to become a mainstream actress and the cult film director who took his own life are real persons. All the characters and events in this novel are figments of my imagination.