"I applaud taking on the porn industry and sickos who exploit women at a level pretty much even with human sex trafficking. It's a nice tale of comeuppance. However, it is mostly just a graphic vignette that doesn't represent what our readers are expecting as they read over their lunch or coffee break. We aren't squeamish about profane content, but when the entire scene is essentially X-rated we don't feel that is a fir for our particular publication."
In January, I'll be on "TV Guidance Counselor," a very cool and beloved podcast from the mind of Ken Reid, in which Ken and "his guests explore the tough television watching decisions of our past." You can read more about the podcast here. I'll update on this blog when there's an air date so you can listen to it online.
Today, my contribution to Lost Objects, "Silicone Vagina," is online. It's a poignant tale involving porn, strippers, and the fake genitalia that got away. It's a true story.
"One night, I got invited to a strip club in the Valley. A famous porn star was dancing there that evening. Her name was Nikki Tyler. She was blonde and buxom and bold, and I recall sitting next to the edge of the stage upon which she was writhing, naked and shining, and she looked like something I’d never seen."
Recently, I received a letter from a Jehovah's Witness. From what I could surmise, the sender, a man, thought I authored "Why Women Bully Each Other at Work," which was not written by me but by the lovely and talented Olga Khazan. The letter included an article from the July 22, 1988, issue of Awake!, which is a Jehovah's Witnesses publication. "Even the Bible has not escaped the feminists' wrath," the piece reads at one point. "Millions of true Christian women today are finding the real liberation in filling their role described in the Bible," it concludes. The letter from the man ends: "I thought that you may find it interesting!" I recycled it.
Merriam-Webster does a terrific job of this, sending out a tantalizing stream of tweets that inform, delight, and inspire involvement. Yesterday, they tweeted a link to a post defining the difference between timber and timbre. On Twitter, I suggested they do one on the difference between peek, peak, and pique. (Misuse of these terms drives me nuts.)
This isn't the first time I've gotten a nod from Merriam-Webster. Earlier this year, I was quoted in a Merriam-Webster post about "Words from London," exploring "Words with London Origins." They quoted a Film Threat review I wrote years ago of "What Lies Beneath" in which I used the word "gaslighted."
In any case, if you want to see social done right, look no further than the dictionary.
In a recent Forbes post raving about "SMILF," I referred to its main character, who is from South Boston, is a "southie." Apparently, this was a crime against Boston, and Boston.com called me out for my error. Southie is a place, not a person. I regret the mistake, and I will be more vigilant with how I refer to Southies in the future.
Here's an excerpt from my novel-in-progress: PORNOPOLIS. In this work of speculative fiction, a superbug has caused all vice industries to be constrained to Las Vegas, which has become a kind of industrial sin city and is divided into seven sections, for reasons you can figure. The main character is Suzanne Flesh, a reporter who works for a newspaper run by a military general. She has a drone for a BFF, connections in the subterranean world in which the real horrors dwell under the city, and in this scene visits Pornopolis, the part of the city devoted to manufacturing all things adult, where she meets one Mr. Offal, its dazzling kingpin.
Seen from the sky, the city was laid out in a circle. At the center, the tourist area held a roughly round shape. Fanning out in segments from there were the city’s seven districts, each focusing on a particular specialty--guns and weapons, food and alcohol, beauty and health, prisons and the judicial system, shadow banks and the stock exchange, the government seat, and the sex work and pornography business.
By mid-morning, Suzanne stood at the gates to the fifth section. The sign overhead read: PORNOPOLIS. It had been years since she’d been here. For the most part, the stories that she focused on took place in the metropolitan area downtown. The serial killer hunting prostitutes. The former journalist decapitating editors. The disgraced CFO with a penchant for robbing billionaires and whales.
A series of sound stages were contained in a massive structure with a curved roof, a former airplane hangar functioning as a manufacturing plant. There were no trees. Someone had killed them.
In the waiting room, she tried to focus on the messages from the General pinging her phone, but the framed images on the wall kept drawing her attention, the faces in them rearranging their features and expressions.
“Mr. Offal will see you now.”
From behind his massive desk, Offal smiled, a flash of brilliant white teeth against brown leathery skin.
“You know you’re always welcome on my sets,” Offal purred.
“Looks like business is booming.”
Offal chuckled smugly. “Boo-ming. China. Huge. Huge market. Developing countries. Exploding. Can’t get enough. Tell you a secret. Vatican City. Great customer. Terrific customer. Can’t say what they’re buying. Their appetite for it, I can tell you, is unholy. Africa. Big big market just now opening up. Very very into albinism. Albino girls very big right now. In Somalia. That’s the secret. Everybody has a niche. Every stomach wants a particular kind of meal. I find out their appetites. I supply it. The feeding trough for the masses' basest desires. That’s me. I’m the chef. I stir things up. That’s what I do. Before your time, the Daily called me 'the P. T. Barnum of smut.' Can you believe that. Very proud. Framed that. On the wall behind me. Without the technology, it goes without saying, I’m nothing.”
She’d spent the morning studying Offal’s file. A boy genius, he’d hacked into the World Bank at eleven and been recruited by the shadow banks not long after that. He didn’t have time to play chess. He was too busy playing checkers with hedge fund managers' heads, distracting them while he picked their pockets with spybugs and black drives. He was married to a profoundly surgically enhanced Ukrainian former pageant queen named Aleksandra. Rumor had it, he was one of the richest men in the city. He’d figured out how to turn a profit on chronic masturbators. He was at the gym every morning by five and drove an armored X-Hov to work. According to the dominatrix she had coffee with and whom he visited every Friday afternoon, Offal liked to be spanked as punishment for wetting adult diapers, the privilege for which he paid her $33,000 an hour. Suzanne had complimented the dom on her shoes and rued, briefly, the career path she should have taken.
“Dolores!” A comely blonde in an OFFAL INC T-shirt appeared. “Take Suzanne wherever she wants to go. My world is yours, Suzanne. Consider yourself my esteemed guest. Make sure to stop by the cafeteria. They do an amazing lobster bisque with truffle oil and capers.”
She followed the blonde to the stages.
I wrote a bit of a rave about Showtime's "SMILF." If you haven't seen it, give it a shot.
There's something beautifully raw about "SMILF." You'd think this is some twist on what "Girls" was--a millennial with a mouth, but this one with less friends and a kid from day one. Instead, Bridgette is the anti-Hannah Horvath. She wasn't handed anything, she doesn't fall into holes of self-absorption, she has no time for the endless removing of lint Hannah and her crew were forever finding in their bellybuttons. Instead, Bridgette is busy trying to claw her way into an entertainment industry run even at its lowest level by young men as dumb as they are lecherous, juggling the realities of a son and the curious responsibilities of tutoring the offspring of the lazily wealthy, scrappily pursuing a dream to one day, maybe, play professional basketball. (Yes, a girl.)
I wrote a review of a new HBO documentary called "Meth Storm." Watching this movie is no fun, but that doesn't mean it isn't good. In Arkansas, ice is everywhere.
"Perhaps the wisest and most agonizing choice made by producer/director team Brent and Craig Renaud, Peabody Award-winning brothers whose credits include 'Dope Sick Love' and 'Little Rock Central: 50 Years Later,' was to plop a family down in the middle of this drug-fueled mess. Meet Veronica, a middle-aged mother who's been doing meth for so long she appears to have lost most or all her teeth. Meet Teddy, her son who gets high, goes to prison, gets sober, and, well, you have to watch the movie to find out what happens next. Her other adult children reel in and out of the camera's range and through various impoverished houses in which pets crap on the floor and people cover it up with blankets and clothes. All the offspring are trapped in the tortured struggle of buying into or attempting to escape the ever-whirling vortex that is their mother's seemingly contagious affection for meth in its pure form: ice."
"The grips are made from the American holly tree, and the trigger and front sight are made from 4-billion-year-old meteorite that, according to a statement released by Cabot Guns, symbolizes the 'meteoric focus of the Trump Presidency and commitment to America.'"
Since relocating back to LA, I've had the opportunity to talk to some adult performers, and it seems in the years since I first set foot on a porn set, in 1997, the women have changed.
She's more entrepreneurial
Once upon a time, a performer like Jenna Jameson was the product of a production company. Nowadays, she's, more often than not, her own creation. The women who do the best, from what I surmise, are keen self-branders, shrewd marketers, and understand this is the adult business.
She's more of a hustler
She's on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. She makes her own content, trades clips, and monetizes behind-the-scenes glimpses. Social media connects the performer with the consumer, and she leverages that relationship to boost her bottom line.
She's more empowered
Or at least she has the potential to be. The Free Speech Coalition has recharged itself. There's APAC. Ideally, she's educated about her sexual health. If she doesn't have an agent, she sets her own rates, does her own PR, manages her LLC. Thanks to the internet, her career in XXX is in her hands.
It's been some time since I've lived in Los Angeles, and I'm happy to have moved back last month.
Here are a few ways it's changed.
It's more politically correct
It used to be that California was a bifurcated state. The North was where the hippies lived in politically correctness. The South was where the heathens lived in political incorrectness. Now LA is more politically correct. The recycling. The bag policing. The Priuses. Still, there's a layer of muck below the surface. Thick black tar, underneath it all. It's PC as performance.
It's more crowded
In LA proper, the streets are glutted with traffic. Nobody can agree upon the driving rules. The drivers are more aggressive. It takes forever to get anywhere. After dark, the freeways are red and white glowing streams of people trying to get somewhere, anywhere but where they are.
It's more expensive
In Los Feliz, the one bedroom apartment that I used to rent for $725 a month is now $1,850 a month. $2,000 a month gets you a dump near a busy street and maybe no refrigerator. Hollywood, the Valley, and the areas east are a bit more affordable. This is New York City, without the brownstones.
The food is better
Poke bowls. Handmade mozzarella. Fried Thai ice cream. Pop up restaurants. Food trucks. Fine dining with a side order of attitude. It's all there. And it's fucking delicious. Every bite of it.
There's a lot of art
The sculptures made of dead bodies. Whatever the hipsters are doing these days in Echo Park. Those loaded Broads. It ain't the Met, but I'll take it. Because the palm trees are Rodins, and the faces of the ladies on Rodeo Drive are Cindy Shermans, and the Hollywood sign is a Barbara Kruger.