I’m an author, a contributor to The Daily Beast and a marketing professional in the Washington, DC area. I love college football and on Saturdays you’ll find me watching ESPN College GameDay and cheering on my alma mater the Florida State University Seminoles. I am finishing my memoir, The Pornographer’s Daughter, about my family’s experience when my father, Anthony Battista, was prosecuted by the federal government on obscenity charges for distributing the movie Deep Throat in the 1970s.
For the 40th anniversary of Deep Throat article I wrote for The Daily Beast I was lucky enough to secure a spot in the crazy-busy schedule of one of the leading ladies in the adult industry, Joanna Angel, 2011 AVN award winner and mogul of her own production company and website www.BurningAngel.com. As a young business person (and college grad, I might add) Joanna’s take on the adult industry and her success weaves a common thread found in the lives of many entrepreneurial women – work ten times as hard, be innovative, secure a great team, and stay true to your brand. Read on for highlights of my interview with Joanna as we talk politics, the woman’s place in business, and the future of pornography.
Kristin Battista-Frazee (KBF): Do you think there are any parallels between the way Deep Throat launched porn and the way Burning Angel changed the industry?
Joanna Angel (JA): I do know that Deep Throat did gain this level of legitimacy where everybody knows about it, and everybody saw it, and it stopped being looked at as just porn. When I started Burning Angel, I definitely wanted to cross over and be sort of a piece of pop culture and be a place where people were comfortable and it celebrated sexuality. I wanted to take something that was supposed to be secretive and bad and dirty, and turn it into something cool, as something that people could talk about and relate to one another and not just be this dirty kind of disgusting thing.
KBF: She [Linda Lovelace] gained a lot of fame and tried to capitalize on that as much as she could when she needed money, but then the other aspect is that she was taken advantage of. What good things about Linda Lovelace, do you see in yourself? Specifically building a career, making something special and doing something different
JA: This is tough world for women who want to be in charge of anything. You have to work ten times as hard to get half as far as everybody else, no matter what you’re doing. If you wanna be a CEO on Wall Street or you wanna be a doctor, you kind of have to be the best doctor and the best CEO because everyone’s waiting for you to fuck up, you know? And being a woman is hard. Women are more emotional than men. Women do go through a lot of things that men don’t go through and it does make it hard to be a woman in a position for power, and part of what our weaknesses are is what gives us strength, the fact that we are more emotional than men and the fact that we do have a lot of feminine qualities. It’s what hurts us and it’s what makes us amazing at the same time. We’re able to be intuitive and, and I think we’re able to work with people on a different level than men can because we just have this level of sensitivity that men don’t necessarily have. The fact that we’re a little more vulnerable is what makes us weak and what makes us strong. I’m not Sarah Palin’s biggest fan or anything but the second Sarah Palin stepped in… if everything she said was said by a man then she wouldn’t have been nearly as scrutinized. She would have just been another stupid politician, you know?
JA: Rick Santorum and George Bush have said stuff that is a million times worse than what she said and they don’t get scrutinized as much. Everyone was waiting for her to do something stupid because she was a woman and she wasn’t ugly.
KBF: This notion of feminist porn, which is talked about a lot in conjunction with Burning Angel and the launch of your company, I’m curious about your perspective of how Deep Throat and early porn may have influenced women’s rights or the basis for creating this feminist porn?
JA: I don’t know if you’d call those movies feminist or not, but I think just having porn be so out there and so mainstream for everybody to look at and everybody to watch and to make their own judgments on, I think that is more of what opened up the door to women having an opinion. And maybe just women watching the movie, because those movies were marketed for everyone to watch. They weren’t just marketed in adult video stores or in a small section of a store for a few horny men to watch. They were marketed for everybody over the age of 18 to watch, just having porn be so mainstream at such a controversial time. I don’t even think that before those movies women even thought about having an opinion about porn. I think it opened up the dialogue. For women to watch it and to be like, “Do I like this? Do I not like this? Is it for me? Is this not for me?” “Is this making me horny or is this degrading?” “What is this doing?” Having something just be so out there where everybody had to have an opinion on it is what opened up the door to all women. There are women who call themselves feminist or not feminist. I think you kind of had to have an opinion on it, so just the fact that the movies were so mainstream is what gave women a voice.
KBF: Are people really surprised you have a college degree and work in porn?
JA: People in porn aren’t that surprised. It’s more people out of porn and it’s sometimes weird. I do all these interviews and I do all this press for people and… “Wow, that’s crazy, you have a college degree, that must be rare in porn.” And, I’m like, “I don’t know, I own a company. How many people do you know that own successful companies but didn’t finish college?” I sometimes feel bad because I do a lot of press and I feel like I get all this credit for being a girl in porn with a degree like it’s this super-rare thing and it’s not so rare, particularly if you want to pick out every single person who owns one of the porn companies, most of them are gonna have college degrees. Or, if they don’t, they just are very, very good at business. To run a business it takes skill no matter what you’re selling. It takes patience, and it takes a lot of things that you do learn in college, or you have to be one of those super-geniuses that’s able to learn things on your own.
KBF: I saw your blog, and I actually wrote an article for The Daily Beast in response to what Rick Santorum said about banning pornography. You know, for me, it kinda came out of the blue, and yet it didn’t.
JA: It’s so ridiculous and it’s so stupid. I feel like around election time everybody will just come out and say something really radical, either to the left or to the right just to get a bunch of votes right away because they know anybody who agrees with that is gonna vote for them. Especially in these tough times, the state of the economy has never affected me as much as it does now. When you run a business and you’re selling a product and your livelihood and other people’s livelihood who work under me depends on whether people have extra money in their pocket to pay for the type of entertainment that I produce. It’s kind of like… can we just have an election right now that focuses on money and the economy? Which is ultimately I really think what everybody in America cares about. Can we just not have an election that’s all about abortion and whether gay people should get married? Who gives shit whether gay people get married or not? It’s not gonna affect the amount of jobs in America, you know? Just stop it! Can we just stop talking about these religious issues that should have nothing to do with the election and let’s actually figure out what president can help the country.
KBF: You’re called a pioneer of alternative porn. Do you still feel like this transformative figure in the industry?
JA: In the beginning it was more like this huge deal, “Oh, what is she doing, it’s different, it’s this, it’s that,” and now things have kind of settled down and it’s just like, “That’s Joanna Angel and she does her thing.” I’m focused on growing my company. I don’t know what I’ve done for the industry as a whole. I meet girls with tattoos have told me, “Oh, it’s all because of you that I’m able to… ” or “I didn’t think I could get into porn because I had too many tattoos,” or this or that, and “I didn’t think I looked like a porn star and because of you I’m able to work and I’m able to do this.” I didn’t spawn the creation of a hundred companies like me for girls to go, so I don’t know how much of a change it’s able to make. But the fact that my company has won awards, the same awards that big porn companies, your typical mainstream stuff… the fact that we’re always considered among them, the fact that CNBC lists the top ten porn stars and my name is included. The fact that Burning Angel and my name has been able to be considered as one of the top is a really big thing because ten, fifteen years ago there was nobody who did anything like us, or even anything a little bit different, it’s considered amongst the top of the game.
KBF: Where do you think the porn industry will be in 40 years?
KBF: I’m saying 40 because this is the 40th anniversary of Deep Throat and you look at everything that’s happened, and you just wonder what will happen in the next 40.
JA: Yeah, I know. I have no idea. I don’t know! Porn has gone in a whole bunch of weird circles. It’s gonna depend on what kind for technology comes out. I hope it’s in a good place. [laughing].
It was more than 15 years ago but I still remember feeling the heat of the asphalt under my sandals as I walked across the parking lot to my father’s Florida porn shop, The Premier. I had heard about this place my entire life, yet I had never visited until that day. I was a 25-year-old social worker living in New York City. My life was far from anything associated with the porn industry, but I was eager to get a glimpse of this side of my father’s life.
He had never planned on being a pornographer, but while working as a stockbroker in Philadelphia in the 1970s, he distributed Deep Throat and invested in adult businesses. In 1974, he was indicted by the federal government on obscenity charges for distributing Deep Throat. His career as a stockbroker abruptly ended and his full-time job as a pornographer began. As a child, I remember my father’s federal prosecution in the case and the tumultuous transition to his new career. There were long absences while he stood trial in Memphis, Tenn., alongside porn star Harry Reems and producers and distributors of the film in 1976, and then again in 1978. I saw him on TV when neighborhood residents picketed his Philadelphia strip club, The Golden 33. Deep Throat affected my life in a direct and personal way, but it’s worth remembering how the film changed our culture and the lives of women, 40 years after its premiere in New York’s Times Square.
Rick Santorum’s crusade to save America from the pandemic of pornography may seem like an out-of-the-blue call to action against smut—the kind of campaign rhetoric that supplies comedians and late-night talk-show hosts with good material—but for the last 40 years my family has lived this culture war. In the 1970s my father was prosecuted by the federal government for distributing Deep Throat, and today owns adult erotic retail stores. Read my full article.
My nine year old daughter asked me, “Do boys like that?” pointing to a picture in a magazine she was reading while waiting to get her hair cut. I glanced down and it was a photo of a young girl in a short skirt being ogled at by a guy. I immediately thought the picture was borderline too sexy and felt guilty for not being more careful about what she was reading.
I said, “You shouldn’t try to look or act like this to get attention.” I further explained my expectations about how girls should dress and what the appropriate age was to date. Watching her think about what I said, I hoped it would become a part of her conscience. She has a crush on a boy her age who lives on our street, so naturally she is figuring out what boys like. I see my daughter and this boy whispering and laughing together when all the children in our neighborhood are out playing. The mutual infatuation they share is sweet and pure and the boy’s parents and I muse about the prospects of a future budding romance. My husband hears about this crush and dreads my daughter’s dating future. It’s cruel revenge for a father to have daughters.
I’m encouraged that she got my message that day because she has many of my sensibilities. She’s cautious, observant, and not a thrill seeker. Given her personality and my husband’s and my involved parenting styles, I hope the values will protect her from the negative influences that lead some kids to experiment with drugs or premature sex, and that she’ll have good judgment about resisting peer pressure.
But I also won’t assume just because I see much of my personality in my daughter that she will think or act in the same way that I would. We are different people. She’s very outgoing and I’m not. She’ll smile at anyone and says “the best way get someone to smile is to smile first.” She also has a flare for the dramatic, which is a part of her temperament I really don’t understand. I’m puzzled as to her reactions when I tell her no. She sometimes will scream, “You’re ruining my life!” (yes, she’s only nine) And with that I leave the room and shake my head. I’m just not like that.
She’ll also have many outside influences that will play a role in shaping her ideas. We hear all the time how girls are growing up too fast and how pop culture is the culprit in shaping unhealthy attitudes about sex and relationships in young people. It’s undeniable that porn has indirectly (or directly) influenced our culture making it customary to see provocative imagery everywhere. I sometimes think about how my dad had a hand in making these types of sexy images more readily acceptable given his pioneering work in the porn industry. And yes, this makes parenting more challenging, but with all these challenges there are opportunities. After all, would my daughter have asked the question about boys if the picture wasn’t there?
My parents may have not had to worry about what I watched on TV or read when I was younger but I don’t think this made it easier to raise me. I didn’t have talks with my parents about sex or relationships even though my dad was in the porn industry. There was an unspoken expectation about behaviors but I didn’t have influences like Katy Perry, Rihanna or Ke$ha to inspire as many questions about sexuality.
So while many believe the existence of pornography is to blame for the problems of today’s youth, I don’t feel contempt or outrage for the way our culture has been influenced by porn. I feel grateful that today we talk more openly with our children about sensitive issues and that we are forced to be more vigilant and discuss what was once taboo topics.
Ultimately I don’t believe the images or advice dished out in fashion magazines or anywhere else will ultimately dictate my daughter’s ideas and perceptions. I will be the one to do that. That’s my job as a parent. My involvement in my daughter’s life will be more effective than censorship. I’ll never stop being involved in shaping her thoughts about boys, sex, dating or anything else.
As funny as it was that pornographic movies were discovered at Bin Laden’s compound, it should be no big surprise— a lot of people watch porn. I wondered if Bin Laden had watched the type of porn that explored the taboo of having sex with women that wear burqas (I discovered this at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo) or maybe he secretly had a thing for “decadent” Western women. We may never know for sure.
What’s more interesting to me about Bin Laden and his fellow terrorists stashing porn is that porn is a powerful symbol of American civil liberties. Al Qaeda consistently denounced and sought to destroy western culture, and Bin Laden blasted how Americans “plastered our naked daughters across billboards”. His words were insincere and he was like so many others who watch porn and try to hide it. As my dad says, “people don’t practice what they preach.” In the end Bin Laden couldn’t elude America’s cultural impact or our devotion to seek justice.
But beyond being curious about Bin Laden’s porn preferences or hypocritical proclamations against western culture, I couldn’t help but draw the conclusion that porn exists in this country, as such a thriving part of the economy no less, because we have access to unique liberties. Dare I say porn is a consequence of our American way of life? I think it is and how we choose to regulate its access in the future could impact the freedoms we enjoy. Let’s not end up like China, blocking Internet access to porn along with news and information considered to promulgate ideas of freedom. I’m glad we can continue this conversation and debate about porn in a free and open society.
I know my life is too busy when I just realized today is Father’s Day. There was no card in the mail for my dad, so feeling very guilty, I sat down and wrote this blog. As you may know, I’m writing my book, The Pornographer’s Daughter, in large part because of my dad’s incredible story about distributing Deep Throat in the 1970s. But apart from his 35 year career in the porn industry, he’s just my dad. I learned a lot from him about persistence (he fought his case to the Supreme Court) and about social justice (which prompted me to earn a Masters degree in Social Work). And a million other little things that positively shape my political views, work ethic and parenting philosophies. So for this, I thank him today.
I also wanted to give you a glimpse of the eccentricities and qualities about him, besides his job, which make him so unique to me. Like how he thinks going to the grocery store is an exciting outing and that he has a strange concern about whether or not I have enough plastic containers for leftovers. He makes great pancakes and gravy and meatballs. Every election he drives people to the polls to vote who can’t get there themselves. Of course he only gives rides to Democrats since he says he wouldn’t want the Republicans to have any advantage. He lives in Florida so every vote counts. On Election Day in 2008, he volunteered for the Obama campaign office in Philadelphia. Like so many others, when the results came in declaring Obama would be the next president, he gleefully took to the streets like a teenager to celebrate.
My dad has to wear shirts with a front pocket so he can carry a pen. I have no idea what he might desperately need to write down, but any shirt given as a gift without a pocket is promptly returned. He hates the bright sunlight, but as previously mentioned, strangely he lives in Florida. He loves big cities, Broadway plays, and he thinks becoming a grandfather is his greatest achievement. He loves his Gracie girl! He is generous to a fault sometimes, and takes great joy in gathering his friends and family together by planning a huge reunion party in South Philly every year. My dad is a hard worker, yells at the TV when he is watching political shows and reads stacks of newspapers every day. I’m so proud to call him my dad. Happy Father’s Day!
My father once said, “It’s a witch hunt and I’m one of the few people who knows what those unscrupulous, publicity seeking authorities are doing to free speech in this country.” This was a quote of his from an article that appeared in The Inquirer Magazine in 1977 and he was referring to his indictment on obscenity charges for distributing Deep Throat. His words are just as relevant today.
Recent letters urging Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute pornography distributors have made me wonder if it’s possible to prosecute today’s porn industry with the same fervor it was subject to in the ‘70s. The latest letter was signed by 43 Senators on April 4th and seems to echo a letter sent by Reps. J. Randy Forbes (R-Virginia) and Mike McIntyre (D-North Carolina) back in February. This all comes shortly after the John Stagliano indictment and his acquittal in July 2010, which was the first serious legal action against porn in over 25 years.
Although these proceedings got me speculating about the possibility of another witch hunt going after porn, I concluded it’s unlikely we’ll see another obscenity case like Deep Throat again and here’s why. History seems to be a good predictor of the future and in the last 35 years no one has successfully prosecuted obscenity to thwart the spread of pornography. Not one single win. In these types of cases the argument to protect free speech has been effective and endured because of an underlying fear that banning porn could lead us down the wrong path of limiting our liberties. I also think those who vigorously stood up against pornography unknowingly created a tipping point that made porn culturally acceptable and consequently turned it into a multi-billion dollar industry. Raising such a fuss obviously inspired everyone’s ogling curiosity.
Also, anti-porn advocates typically use incoherent arguments to state their case against pornography. They rely on unfounded claims and scare tactics to make people believe pornography inspires horrible crimes, and this obvious deceit undermines any credibility for their cause. If research were available to prove porn harms people, like the kind that proves smoking causes cancer, then this debate would be very different.
Lastly, the Obama Administration has more important problems to deal with than America’s libido. Terrorism, the war in Afghanistan, revolutions in the Middle East, and let’s not forget the myriad of domestic problems: reducing the deficit, homelessness, lack of healthcare, hunger, taking care of the mental health needs of our veterans returning home from war. These pressing issues crowd the top of most voters’ agendas. The insidious danger of porn isn’t even on the list.
But the recent letters from legislators do highlight a problem that’s worth talking about — pornography addiction. There is a body of research that supports that a person can become addicted to pornography just like food, gambling, drugs, alcohol, shopping, etc. The April 4th letter notes pornography addiction will be listed in the next version of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and in my opinion it rightfully belongs in this bible of mental health disorders.
Pornography addiction can be a serious problem. But I would emphasize here the word “addiction,” not “pornography” and suggest that this is truly a mental health issue and not a case of a specific type of media egging on aberrant behavior in normal adults. To scapegoat porn will not solve the problem of addiction (which some even see as a physiological problem). What troubles me most is the fact that legislators who sign letters calling for legal action against porn could instead use their influence to provide adequate funding for addiction treatment and research. But the real services needed are consistently underfunded, and the chosen path is grandstanding to the conservative reaches of politics on this polarizing and “sexy” social topic. It’s a sad commentary about how Washington works.
I’ll always wonder why porn is still cast as such an evil in society and why we keep having these same conversations over and over again. The “witch hunt” against pornography, I suspect, will forever remain a threat.
Black fishnet stockings. Check.
Knee high boots. Check.
Cute dress. Check.
I just couldn’t bring myself to look boring at the AVN Awards Show, the Oscars for the porn industry. When my husband saw my outfit he asked, “Where’d you get those fishnets? I knew it was uncharacteristic of how I dress and I responded coyly, “I don’t remember. I’ve just had them a while.” His boyish smile acknowledged he approved of the look.
To me the stockings were like going to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show and dressing up like one of the characters. I didn’t really look outlandish, so it was only my small, fun way to participate in this event. At the show I knew the fishnet stockings would pale in comparison to the outrageous silliness, raunchy sex talk and drunk and stupid fans I would see. In the end I decided that the cast of the Jersey Shore has the lock on being drunk and stupid, and while the award show delivered on some of my expectations, many contradictions emerged that I didn’t expect.
#1 – The Porn Stars Looked Like They Were at the Oscars
We arrived early to watch the red carpet. It was hard to get a good view as I was jostled between lines of guys shouting the names of their favorite actress to cajole them over to snap a picture or get an autograph. I got the strangest “get out of my way” glances. When I finally did get a good look, I saw porn actresses tastefully dressed and surprisingly polished. Kayden Kross, Riley Steele and Alexis Texas were a few that stood out. And while some played up the slut factor, others would have fit in at the Oscars. Click here to take a look. Needless to say the women at the awards show were much better looking than at the expo. If you’re the best in the biz you’re not working the exhibit hall to cater to porn enthused fans.
#2- The Adult Industry Is Not a Fan of Infidelity
The icy reception AshleyMadison.com, a dating service for married people, received while presenting a sponsored award sent a message— the porn industry is NOT a fan of this website’s infidelity mission. Founded in 2001, AshleyMadison.com provides members an anonymous venue to find a dating partner outside of their marriage. Although AVN founder Paul Fishbein enthusiastically welcomed AshleyMadison.com as a first-time corporate sponsor of the AVN Awards this year, Noel Biderman, AshleyMadison.com’s founder, faced an audience on the edge of booing him. I loved watching Biderman squirm. It’s clear why he is known as the most hated man in America. What’s puzzling is why the industry he’s trying to be a part of seems to hate him just like the rest of the country.
There is a perception that pornography promotes extramarital affairs. I believe the opposite: It’s an industry that gears its products to improve the sex lives of couples – established couples. AshleyMadison.com is counter to this position and the almost hostile reaction by this crowd made sense to me. It’s a sad commentary on our world that Ashley Madison.com just signed up their eight-millionth member. Isn’t it just easier to get a divorce or not marry at all?
Also, did you miss their tagline “Life’s Short. Have an Affair.” in a commercial during the Super Bowl? You and everyone else. Fox rejected their ad, which featured adult star Savanah Samson.
#3- Porn Stars Take the AVN Awards They Receive as a Great Honor.
You would think that the AVN Awards is just a big joke, like how the MTV Awards used to make fun of other award shows. But for these adult stars, being nominated and winning awards for something like “best oral sex scene” is a huge honor. The actors like Tori Black and Tom Byron gushed with emotion as they nabbed their awards and thanked their agents, fans and families for supporting them in achieving their great accomplishment. It was shockingly heartfelt and it certainly impressed on me that no matter what you do, you should do it to the best of your ability and be proud.
#4- The Fight for First Amendment Rights is Still a Big Deal.
Even though the cases against Larry Flynt and Deep Throat were prosecuted more than 35 years ago, people don’t realize legal action is still being taken against the porn industry. A moment that I didn’t expect to hit home for me was when John Stagliano, “the Buttman” and founder of Evil Angel Productions, was given the Rueben Sturman Award in recognition of his July 2010 acquittal in a District of Columbia obscenity case.
I couldn’t help but think of my father since he was prosecuted under the same Miller vs. California law that Stagliano was. Miller vs. California, passed in 1973 by the Supreme Court, grants local communities the right to determine what’s obscene, but nowadays the Internet has blurred the concept of community. This law is still on the books and pulled out on occasion to prosecute the porn industry. At the award show the audience was quiet and riveted as Stagliano spoke earnestly about the importance of being able to express ones sexual creativity under our first amendment rights. He graciously thanked his lawyers and wife and said no one should be ashamed to work in the adult industry. The audience gave a standing ovation and heartily cheered Stagliano’s remarks.
The AVN Awards renewed my belief in the old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover.” This industry is proving to have many different dimensions – just like how people are so surprised that my father is in the porn industry because I don’t fit a particular stereotype of how a person associated with this industry should look or act. Also, I found some true humanity at this event—a collection of people who care deeply about their work. It’s exciting to think what I might learn next about the porn industry. I’ll expect the unexpected for sure.
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.