The Accidental Voyeur: Sex, Lies and VHS Tape

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A friend of mine, a mainstream film director in Los Angeles, told me she never understood the appeal of porn stars. “They all seem to have a dark karma going,” she said, “all trying to work out things that never work out.” But that, I told her, was exactly what fascinates and intrigues me.

Theirs is, succinctly put, literally the most naked kind of sexual exhibitionism, really attempts at self-confidence born of great emotional insecurities, often stemming from personal dysfunctions. I could riff torrential reams of text on that thought alone but, basically, I believe that our empathy with this is the real reason behind why we profess to love the girls we love. I also think that the latent lust we hold in our hearts for people we’ve never met in person (and seen only as images), purely on the basis of their sexual attributes, is a perfectly fine and normal thing.

This view was shared by another friend (also a mainstream director) who told me he had finally tracked down his all-time favorite porn star, Annette Haven. Now, that name was a blast from the past. Those of us in a certain age group, myself included, remember Annette after she’d made her adult film debut at age 19 in the film Lady Freaks, back in 1973, and she finally left the industry after some 170 films made mostly during what they now call “the golden age of porn.” My friend had tracked her down after I’d told him that, last I’d heard, Annette was Annette Robinson, running an antique shop in San Francisco after marrying and settling down in nearby Mill Valley. “I’d love to buy an antique from her store and watch her fingers wrap it up,” my friend had confessed, back in 2006.

Through his own industry connections, he managed to find her and they become email pals. She was still running the antique shop, she told him, and “is still married and at peace.” She does some traveling when she can and particularly loves Japan, he also informed me. I like to think Annette finally found herself at peace because she’d used porn to sow her own wild oats, since in her heyday she had willingly admitted that she’d been raised in a very conservative Mormon family and that she had entered porn in order to prove that “sex is not sinful.”

Well, as we all know, sinful pleasures equate to guilty pleasures for most people, thanks to social propriety. Another friend of mine, also living San Francisco, told me that his favorite girl from the days of yore happened to be Kitty Yung. “I actually have this one film of hers on a VHS tape, which I’ve had forever,” he confided in me. When I asked what his wife thought of that, he said, “Oh, she doesn’t know about it. It’s stashed away in one of my golf bags, with my golf clubs. She never goes near my golf stuff.” I found that so funny, that he had to hide her away like a dirty secret from his own wife. Perhaps it intensified the excitement for him, and I thought of that after I heard that Kitty Yung had sadly passed away in 2004. I myself have never kept that kind of thing a secret from anyone, though I disclose my preferences only to those who can handle what most civilians might call “too much information.”

Case in point: I never had to track down my favorite porn star because it was arranged for me, and it was a memorable rendezvous. After some complicated scheduling, aided by two directors I knew who had shot her in their movies, I finally met Silvia Saint (photo above) in October 1999, after she’d flown in from her native Czech Republic for some shoots in Los Angeles. On the appointed evening, I came to pick her up from her hotel but she wasn’t there. I waited a whole two hours before giving up, and she called me later to apologize. Neither of us had cellphones then (we had to leave voicemail on answering machines, if you remember those!) and she told me she was on a set and it had run overtime, finishing up at 2 a.m.; she didn’t have my phone number on her since she hadn’t expected to be there that long.

And it was a solo shoot too, she added — which meant that while I was waiting in vain at her hotel, she was spending the entire time masturbating. Now, how could I not forgive her after hearing that? (Really, why should she bother to call me while she was hard at work, diddling her own clitoris with a camera hovering between her legs?) We rescheduled the interview, and I drove her to Yamashiro up in the Hollywood hills and we talked over a bottle of wine. I had brought with me several of her magazine layouts, most of which displayed her in fully spread-wide genitalia regalia. I took her down memory lane, and she had amazingly good recall of each of those shoots. “You’ve masturbated to my pictures? Ooh, I like that!” she giggled. “It means that I did my job well.” The interview, which included that bit of repartee, ran as the cover story in Penthouse Variations, May 2000, and Silvia called me that month to tell me she had seen it on the newsstand and bought a copy for herself — the first time a porn star had ever told me that. I was so surprised but very touched, and she thus endeared herself to me forever.

As my friend Lily Burana reminded me, back when she was the editor of the short-lived cyberporn magazine Future Sex, porn has to “make people really want to masturbate, because that’s where the rubber meets the road in this industry and we can’t ever forget that.” I’d often tell the porn stars I liked, point-blank, how they’d served to inspire my self-pleasure, just to observe their reaction. The result? Not a single girl had ever not taken that as a compliment, and several thanked me for having the honesty to actually tell them so. (“Hey, I’d be a really lousy porn star if I can’t get people to do that!” Briana Banks said to me.) I later shared this with an industry publicist, who expressed horror: “You actually tell them you masturbate watching them? Yikes, I could never do that! I’d be so embarrassed!”

But why? Porn is surely the only profession where a girl will accept it as high praise when told she’s sexually objectified in that very manner. If she’s not at all embarrassed, why should you be? As Jessica Drake once declared to me: “I am a sex worker. I got into this business to do that, so people could see me have sex on camera. For the attention — I want it. Everybody look at me. Me, me, me! And I like the fact that I inspire people. I realize that I provide a fantasy and I’m fine with that. I want to be everybody’s fantasy.” Call that Jessica’s dark karma, but I love her perspective. People who fear being sexually appreciated, in my opinion, harbor an irrational anxiety and risk losing something so innately, wonderfully human in all of us. Porn reminds you to stay close to your inner slut and I’m proud to say I’m still in touch, often in that most intimate of ways, with mine.

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Drew McKenzie was previously the "Cinema Blue" columnist for Penthouse Variations and also wrote for AVN Online, Fox (from Montcalm Publishing, New York) and Guld Rapport (from Stockholm, Sweden). He is also the author of seven books -- three on porn stars, all done under his real name.