Over the years people have asked a lot of questions about my experience growing up with a family in the porn business and more recently about my memoir in progress Daughter of Pornography. Here are some answers to those questions. I appreciate those who are curious about my life and expressed concern for me.
How old were you when you became aware of what your father did professionally and what was your initial reaction?
I can’t remember not knowing my father was in the porn business so there was never one moment when I was told about his job that elicited a reaction. The only other curiosity or reaction that I can recall was when I was in middle school, a friend and I snooped all over my house to find porn. All we found were a stack of boring Forum magazines and one movie that I don’t even remember attempting to watch. I never sought porn out again may be because I just didn’t think it was a big deal. I wasn’t curious about my father business until later in life. The first time I visited his stores was when I was 25 years old. It’s funny, there’s this misconception from people that don’t know me that growing up in my house there was pole dancing in the living room and porn on all the time. That was definitely not the case.
You mention your mother’s suicide attempt. Was this in reaction to your father’s business and how it impacted her life?
I suspect the stress of facing my father’s legal battles in federal and state court on obscenity charges, the FBI surveillance and being a virtual single parent because my father was so preoccupied with the trials, contributed to her depression and suicide attempt. It’s a painful part of my family history. Despite this most people find it hard to believe that my mother was supportive of my father’s business. She even decorated the bathroom at the strip club, The Golden 33, my father owned during the mid 70s. She was open-minded about porn which I attribute my own acceptance of this industry.
Are your parents still together?
No, my parents divorced in 1986 after 18 years of marriage when I was 16 years old.
How were your family unit/relationships affected (including your grandmothers)?
Yes and no. These events strained some family relationships while others remained intact. My grandmother (my mother’s mother) in particular did not approve of my father’s new career. She clandestinely visited my father’s strip club and went to see Deep Throat. My grandmother made her presence and opinions known in the most outrageous ways and did so out of love and concern. In the book I describe my grandmother’s antics which provides great comic relief. She is one of a kind.
What is a typical day in your father’s business and in what aspects of pornography has your father been involved in?
My father has said there was no such thing as a typical day in the porn industry but routines become established in just like in any other job. Also his job changed over the years as the pornography business adapted to new technologies, like VHS recorders and the Internet. When he owned the strip club he arrived by 4 or 5 pm and closed the club at 2 am. He oversaw money transactions and managed the employees (the strippers). In the theater days my father never threaded a reel of film but managed the day to day operations, like hiring a projectionist and a cashier to sell tickets.
As fewer people wanted to leave their homes to watch porn, the demand for Blockbuster type stores to rent movies increased so the theaters turned into retail businesses. Now more than ever women are customers and today my father estimates sixty percent of his customers are women as opposed to the 1970s when ninety-five percent were men. The four adult boutique-like stores in Florida he owns are designed to appeal to women, appointed with hard wood floors, dressing rooms, carpeting and the best lighting and displays. Women buy everything from toys, lingerie, videos about pole dancing and feeling sexy and men mostly purchase the DVDs which make up only about 18% of sales.
His largest location, the Premier Adult Factory Outlet in Orlando, has several thousand items in stock and about 17,000 DVDs available that offer something for every fetish or preference. My father is surprised at what he can sell and some outlandish things on the market he just won’t carry. His job is more interesting today and better utilizes his business degree and sales skills. He handles all the accounting, places orders, markets the business, maintains the relationship with his product distributors and communicates daily with the store managers. When it comes to retail his philosophy is if someone walks in the store with $20 and they don’t know what they want, he has to have everything. He first learned this lesson while working at a dry goods store at age 13. The owner had everything from women’s dresses, men’s boots, food stuffs, etc and he saw that was a great way to maintain a diverse business.
How would your father have felt if you became a porn star?
He wouldn’t be happy if I was a porn actress. I know it’s a double standard to sell this product but not want your own daughter to perform in the films. He gave no good answer as to why he would not want me to be an actress. I suspect on many levels he’s just a traditional guy. He would but comfortable if I worked on the business side of the porn industry and respects the accomplishments of actresses like Nina Hartley and Jenna Jameson.
How do you feel about the FBI wire tappings, garbage picking, etc.?
It absolutely disgusts me to think our movements were watched so closely by the government. When I ask my dad about this he launches into a whole diatribe, “All they [Republicans] have is air between their ears,” and “They should have been going after real criminals.” I requested and received my father’s FBI files [see The FBI and Me http://porndaughter.com/2010/05/19/the-fbi-and-me/] through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). I read through the files and it was so evident the whole investigation was just an incredible waste of tax payer’s money.
How did your parents react when you told them about your memoir?
My parents are supportive of this book and have shared details about their lives that you wouldn’t want your child to know about. I am grateful about how open they have been about their past. My father was surprised I thought his career was interesting enough to write about and also says, “Take this as far as it will go. You have nothing to lose.” My mother just loves the whole idea about me writing a book about our family. She is always asking me questions about the writing and publishing process. The most important thing for her is this book is finally giving her a voice about what happened during the Deep Throat days. Everyone wants to tell their story.
What is your goal in writing the memoir?
As good friend said to me once, my urgency to write this book was because the greatest burden is an untold story. This characterized it perfectly for me. I thought my family’s story was fascinating and I just felt compelled to tell it. When I started this project five years ago, I just wanted to learn more about my father’s involvement with the Deep Throat trials since I believed we were a part of a unique pop culture moment in history. I also morbidly realized that while my parents are in good health I should capture the details of this history now. I knew once they were gone much of the story would be gone too, so started my research and recorded conversations. I also started writing a narrative that I brought to my writing teacher, Rick Walter, to read. When he suggested this could be a book I was surprised and loved the idea of taking on the challenge.
Over the years the focus of this project has changed to be more about my life discovering more about a family in the porn business which is a surprising turn since I’m very shy. I never thought my own life was that interesting. But ultimately I want to write a great book, in the most compelling way possible that does justice to rich characters in my family.