An offbeat romance featuring an aspiring young actress hell-bent on a fast track to stardom and a washed up director who sees the beautiful ingénue as his ticket back into the big time. Inspired by a true story.
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Damon Luce, a cult film director, makes his fortune but loses his soul directing porn movies. PC, who Damon discovered and groomed, is reaching the end of her carnal career.
Into their increasingly desperate lives comes a beautiful teenager with a false ID who calls herself Blue and who is on a fast track to mainstream movie stardom.
At first Blue seems to be the answer to everyone’s prayers but she has a game plan of her own.
She didn’t even take a shower, she wanted out of there so badly, instead clearing her head with two hits of coke in her car. She was driving too fast, swerving around slow traffic, running red lights when she realized she was near this seedy bar in Chatsworth where Damon took his medicine. Something twanged inside her, a breaking heart string maybe, and in her mind’s eye she saw him the way she’d first seen him in the supermarket: the aristocratic angle of his chin, debonair, arrogant. Not the puffy eyed, morose wreck he’d become, constantly talking about suicide, shriveled by his success in the pigsty which is what he called the porn business in his darker moments.
PC nearly got herself wiped out by a battered gardener’s truck as she threw the Porsche into a left-hand turn. Her nerves were screaming. She needed a heavy fix of the heady past and she needed it now.
Yes! His car in the lot, a new Jeep, same old plate, 1Lucifer2. He was alone, hunched over the bar, poking at the ice in his drink with a straw. She was transported back to his yacht as it chugged its way home, the naked mast stirring like a finger in the blue lake of the sky. Tears sprang to her eyes. She slipped into the stool next to him.
“Hello Damon,” she said, quite softly. She could tell by his bewildered expression, frightened almost, that he was already quite drunk. “Can I buy you one?”
He raised a hand in the general direction of the gay barman who came over all white teeth and bleached yellow hair. “One vodka tonic for the lady and one more for the road,” he said with a barely audible sigh.
“Now, now,” she said cordially, you’re not getting rid of me that quickly. How have you been?”
He rolled his hands onto their backs as if to show that they held no cards. “I want out… out of everything. Three more shows and I’m history. Unless I bow out tonight.”
“Stop it with that talk! What about the island?” There must have been something about the way she said that, a sarcastic edge, something that had etched its way into the words because that’s how she was these days, she couldn’t control her tongue because her heart pumped vinegar.
There was a glint of irritation in the bleary eyes that at least gave them a spark of life. “That’s a childish dream.”
The way he said that, the sadness, shattered the glass wall of her reserve. She gripped his arm, happy that it still felt strong and firm and protective. Her eyes stung with an upwelling of tears that threatened to spill over her eyeliner. “Damon, take me with you. Please take me with you! I’ll make it work.”
The melancholy melted from his face and hot on its heels came something worse. Pity, that was it, she wasn’t reading him wrong. “I can’t.” His free hand traced her in the air. “Don’t you understand? This, all this is exactly what I’m getting away from.”
She let go of him and a flush came to her cheeks as she saw herself. High heels, short skirt, balloon breasts, sweaty hair, face plastered with make-up. “Damon, I’ve been working! This isn’t me, it’s something … something.” She felt anger take over. “It’s PC Screamer, the monster you created, don’t you remember?”
The barman brought the drinks and a bowl of shelled peanuts. PC took a long, thirsty swallow, watching Damon over the rim of her glass.
He searched for words, when he couldn’t find them he took refuge in his drink, downing half of it in one gulp. “It’s killing me.”
“And leave your laundry behind you? Because that’s what I am, isn’t it?” She threw a handful of peanuts into her mouth, crunched them fiercely. “You used me and then you dropped me. Dirty laundry!”
His eyes seemed to clear for a moment and he gave her just a flash of his wicked grin. “Laundry! A new Porsche, God knows how much in jewelry, carpets, stereo equipment, TVs, holidays in Hawaii, the Bahamas, Europe. You’re a player. You have a life. Am I missing something?”
That’s when she’d lent forward and breathed the peanuts up his nose. “You are mister, you really are! That Porsche is leased and I’m behind in my payments. I have to scrape to pay my rent. The jewelry’s just about all gone, pawned. I haven’t been able to afford a holiday in two years. I’m all played out. I have no life, get it? Unless you call fucking for food a life! I don’t, I call it hell, pure fucking hell.”
He seemed startled by her vehemence. “Well, you know what to do. Quit.”
She was crying now, with anger or sorrow she didn’t know which. “Give it up! Give it up and do what? Go back to bagging groceries? That’s all I know how to do. You fed my youth to porn and now it’s spitting me out because I’m getting older, spitting me out all chewed up with nothing to cover my ass except goddam overdue bills! I have to borrow from my mother and she’s on food stamps!” Mascara polluted tears made sooty tracks down her cheeks. She reached out to him again, her fingertips touching the back of his hand. “Damon, it’s killing me too! Take me with you, please! You’ll never see me like this again. We’ll walk barefoot along the beach picking up shells. I can cook,” she said with a hurried smile, “I’ve been practicing a lot lately because I haven’t been able to afford to go out that much. I could do all the cooking, if that’s what you wanted, rub lotion on your back. I’ll even learn how to climb coconut trees! Give me a chance, help me like I once helped you, because I did help you, you know, if it hadn’t been for me you would have never got out of the rut. Damon!”
The word was more of a scream because he was getting up, taking his wallet out of his pocket, dropping bills on the counter. “I have to go,” he said, head down, not looking at her.
“No you don’t.” She launched herself at him, grabbed his shirt. “You built your career on my back, just like you built your previous life on Mick Jagger’s. Is five minutes more of your time too much to ask?”
“Let go of me,” he said, clamping a hand around her wrist to free himself from her grip. “You’re stoned.”
That’s when she’d clawed his face, feeling her nails rip his skin, feeling good about it. “You fucking bastard!”
He made for the door. She tried to follow him but the barman was in her face, blocking her. “Now ma’am. Let’s all calm down.”
“Get away from me,” she screamed at him, “I’m out here, out of this fucking dump.”
“Then you may want to take your bag with you,” the barman said. He seemed to be faintly amused.
He pointed to her bag on the floor next to her stool. “Your bag.”
“Oh.” Suddenly she was deflated. Tired. “Thank you.” She picked up the bag, hurried for the door, hoping, absurdly, that he would be waiting for her outside, welcoming her with a wry smile, ready to make up. She was just in time to see him get into his Jeep and pull away. Not even a glance in her direction. Nothing.
Brilliant Novel Takes You Inside The X-Rated Business Of The 1980's
Lies, Love & Porn is an entertaining, insightful, and fast-paced novel about the adult entertainment business in the 70s and 80s. It takes as its inspiration, if not as its actual subject, the case of Traci Lords, the top X-rated star of the mid-80s who used phony IDs to get work as a model and porn actress until it was revealed she was underage.
But Lies, Love & Porn is not about Lords, or about any actual people. Rather it re-imagines the situation in fiction to give the reader an inside look at the industry and its participants. This is a well-written, absorbing tale, and no wonder: Humphry Knipe is already an acclaimed author, who previously penned the prize-winning historical novel The Nero Prediction about that most infamous of all Roman emperors. Knipe is also the husband of longtime erotic photographer Suze Randall, and he directed Traci Lords herself in two videos before it was discovered that she was underage--so he personally knows the terrain he explores in his story.
This is not a sex novel but a serious work of fiction. Knipe creates memorable characters out of the porn folk, often-frenzied beings tinged with lost dreams and melancholy hopes. He is almost like a modern day F. Scott Fitzgerald writing about "lust tycoons" instead of lost tycoons. Knipe's skill with character is what makes his book absorbing. Indeed, "action is character" in Lies, Love & Porn, to use the famous phrase from Fitzgerald's own notebooks.
"Blue" is the stage name of an underage girl who fools everybody with her IDs that make it seem as if she's in her twenties. She becomes a hardcore video sensation with her first film, entitled Nymphomania. She's impetuous, beautiful, very uninhibited (though not totally), and yet vulnerable, secretive, and pathologically restless. "Damon Luce" is a witty, dissolute, cynical British expatriate who once made a film with Mick Jagger in the 60s but now works as a porn "shooter," directing quickie smut epics but imbuing them with his artistic taste and ambitions as best he can. He likes to read Greek Stoic philosophers such as Epictetus to get a handle on the chaos of life. He directs Blue in her first film, but starts to get romantic feelings for her and becomes convinced she could be a mainstream film star. "PC Screamer" (real name "Pricilla Crasnick") is a desperate pornstress who was on the top of the hardcore heap in the 70s, but is on her way down by the mid-80s. Blame drugs, fast living, new actresses on the rise, and the inevitable process of aging. Against her better judgment--because she well knows the emotional price the porn business can extract from some people--she becomes Blue's agent. Also, she has a worried inkling that something about Blue is not kosher--maybe, those IDs. "Aaron Fine" is an ominously powerful distributor of porn movies, ready to spend money on a good investment but not a man to cross--and Blue does indeed cross him. "Ron Anderson" is a mainstream Hollywood producer with a taste for smut stars, and he has the smoothest line of baloney this side of Sunset Boulevard. He gets Blue's hopes up about being in "real" movies but his actual agenda is always his personal pleasure. "Chet" is the young guy with whom Blue hitched a ride to California to get into exotic dancing. He becomes dangerously disturbed and unhinged on drugs when Blue dumps him as soon as her career gets going. She basically just used him for a ride, just as she uses all the characters in the book to greater and lesser degrees. Does she do it deliberately and cold-bloodedly, or just because she's immature, hungry for fame, and running from an unhappy home life? Ultimately Blue remains a mystery whose true motivations and feelings remain veiled by her wild behavior and alluring beauty.
The author captures the complexity of the porn business in his tale. I can vouch for its authenticity because I have worked in the business myself since 1974, as a writer, editor, screenwriter, and director of photo shoots, among my, shall we say, various outlets of expression. Indeed, I received a free copy of this novel so that I could review it for an erotic magazine. Although I work on the East Coast and Knipe worked on the West, I've known similar types of people and dealt with them in my career. I edited an adult video review magazine and interviewed many porn stars, so I can say with authority that Knipe well captures the people and politics involved in the process of making X-rated films from box cover to completed video. His novel has the journalistic detail of a documentary.
Knipe conjures up the ambiance of the erotica profession through his use of witty dialogue and description. He describes the expression on the face of a lascivious publisher as a "smutty grin smeared like pink jam on his lips." The price that Damon pays emotionally for his work--this lover of philosophy and classical art and poetry who is now directing skin flicks--is etched as "the slow price that comes with fast money." The drug-addled PC, the one-time porn goddess full of self-doubt, is well-characterized with lines such as "She worried too much about other people, a disadvantage in a business where most people don't worry at all." When Blue first meets PC, headlining in a strip club, the girl says, "I'd give anything to dance like that." And a weary PC ruefully thinks, "I'd given anything NOT to have to dance like that." (Emphasis added.) Knipe brings careless and self-absorbed porn stars and models to life with details such as how Blue "unreeled yards more paper towel than she needed to clean up" a tiny puddle, "a wasteful habit that really annoyed PC." These aren't cardboard characters, but living, breathing people who, despite making thousands working in skin flicks, sometimes don't have enough money to pick up their laundry.
Blue is fascinated by the 1981 movie Body Heat with Kathleen Turner, that tale of a deceptive femme fatale who murderously uses people to achieve her goals. As Lies, Love & Porn progresses, you wonder just how much Blue is like that tricky vixen. We don't find out exactly, though; the author doesn't get inside Blue's head as much as he does inside Damon's or PC's--but I wish he had. The book also ends a little too quickly once it's revealed that Blue is underage and the wheels of justice begin to roll over everyone she dealt with. But overall this book satisfies, and the manner in which Knipe resolves his tale and has Blue get off the legal hook for her deception works beautifully: it has a romanticism that is true to the tormented character of Damon, who sees Blue as a kind of muse or goddess in his classically-inspired way. In a film version of Lies, Love & Porn, Damon would be a wonderful role for versatile British actor Jared Harris, who was superb as the wry and legendary fetish photographer John Willie in the Gretchen Mol film, The Notorious Bettie Page, and can be currently seen in a completely different type of portrayal as a stuffy advertising executive on AMC's Mad Men.
Again, the great strength of this novel is in its depiction of people, and in describing a profession whose usefulness is most often gauged by the skill and regularity with which actresses and models, and the magazines and movies they appear in, "give loners boners" (to use a quip that Damon spouts to PC). Even that description marvelously sums up how the business has changed in twenty-five years. In 1986, porn was not the tabloid spectacle celebrated on cable tv in 2011 and chatted about in mainstream gossip columns about Charlie Sheen and his X-rated consorts. The 80s audience for porn was not seen as average folks in front of computers marveling at amateur sex sites--of course, there was no Internet then. Rather, the 80s audience was indeed viewed primarily as "loners with boners" furtively buying strokebooks or slipping into the porn theaters which still existed back then. It was an era when feminists demonized porn as crimes against women, and when the Meese Report on Pornography, issued under President Reagan, proclaimed the evil and harmfulness of erotica. To be in the adult entertainment industry then, especially on the West Coast where the laws criminalized it as a form of prostitution and pandering, was to be a fringe character, almost an outlaw. Humphry Knipe deftly describes this demimonde and its denizens in Lies, Love & Porn. It may well be the first great novel about the modern porn business.
I simply loved this book. I read all types of books and this is one of my all time favorites. The characters are very well written so you really care about what happens to them. The entire story was captivating which made me never want to put the book down. I strongly recomend this book to anyone even remotely interested in this type of story. Great job Mr. Knipe.
At first I was put off by the book cover, but to my surprise, I really enjoyed this book.
It is a world I did not think I wanted to know about but as soon as I met PC, I was
swept into her story and could not stop reading.
All the characters are fascinating and I cared what happened to them.
Mr. Knipe's sensual descriptions " like rich and reassuring as hot chocolate " makes
the reading richly captivating.
Be surprised by it all...enjoy this very riveting read.
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