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On the Set With the Porn People

I was about 10 when I saw my first naked woman. Not in the flesh, in a Playboy magazine. My father’s friend Phil Hubbard (who drove an MG convertible while wearing a jaunty plaid cap) allowed me to look at his latest issue — and with my father’s blessings. My mother was quite distressed, but […]

I was about 10 when I saw my first naked woman.

Not in the flesh, in a Playboy magazine. My father’s friend Phil Hubbard (who drove an MG convertible while wearing a jaunty plaid cap) allowed me to look at his latest issue — and with my father’s blessings. My mother was quite distressed, but my Dad and Phil thought it would be kind of amusing and instructional to expose me to Mr. Heffner’s talent pool.

"He’s old enough," the men insisted. I thought it was pretty great. No, I thought it was really great. I considered putting a subscription to Playboy on my Santa’s Wish List but knew that would be pointless, for I knew my mother would "draw a line in the sand" over that request.

I would just have to grow up, so I could buy my own Playboys — and while I was at it, picking up some Gents or maybe a couple of issues of Swank.

Gosh, I had so much to look forward to.

When I finally did get older, I never bought a one. Perhaps it was my Catholic upbringing or more than likely it was my reluctance to place these flesh catalogues on the counter and look the cashier in the eye. What if the cashier were a woman, what would she think?

Currently that reluctance to appear like a depraved individual to a complete stranger has apparently vanished, like an allergy to cat dander that one day just goes away. Which might explain why, last week, I felt completely comfortable on the set of a porn shoot. It goes something like this …

My new neighbor Marco, a soft-spoken Englishman, told me that he was a photographer. I collect photography and was only too eager to show him my prized collection: Doisneaus, Ansel Adamses and Irving Penns. He appreciated them, but not as I would have imagined a fellow photographer would.

Weeks later, he averred that the pictures he took were of an adult nature. Some might call him a pornographer, others, a working member of the Adult Entertainment business. I told him that I worked in television as a writer-producer and that there wasn’t that wide a gulf between our professions.

One evening Marco invited me to a local bar to attend a wake in honor of a friend who was in the "business" and had passed away suddenly. As an Irishman I never pass up a wake, and soon I found myself in a swirl of Porn People — producers, cameramen, actors, actresses and costumers (after all, they have to have something on, to remove) all spoke tenderly about their co-worker.

I was moved by their expressed affection and sorrow over this man’s passing. Then Polaroids were passed around of the honoree — posing with one naked woman after another, he always assumed a bored expression. No matter what the young lady was performing on him, his countenance expressed ennui. Anecdotes were recounted and tears were followed by waves of laughter.

Several wake attendees ended up at my house later that night and, like any group of co-workers, they talked "shop" — only instead of real-estate brokers gabbing of listings and foreclosures, these folks talked about sex. I was just taking all of this in, not unlike that memorable day at Phil Hubbard’s home when I saw my first foldout.

I guess I made a good enough impression among the Porn People, because a few days later I received an invite to the set of a porn shoot.

Marco was working on this event, and informed me that it was going to be a interesting day, involving a guy and a girl and then a girl on a girl on a girl. I guess on a traditional shoot that would be equivalent to a love scene and a car chase.

The location was at a home in the San Fernando Valley (the Valley is to porn what Cambridge, England is to Elizabethan scholars). I walked into a not unfamiliar setting: A home set up for filming with lights, cables, equipment cases, a craft services table with coffee and doughnuts, and people standing around discussing the traffic on the 405. The only difference was that some of the people were nude.

On the deck overlooking a school yard below, I smoked a filtered Camel Wide with one of the performers, who’s nom de porn was Sara Belle. In town for the week, she was excited about her first visit to California. Originally from a tiny town in Iowa, she had transplanted herself to Saratoga, Florida and made the transition from stripping to performing on camera.

Much like the fabled Spice Route of Marco Polo, many porn performers travel from small towns to Florida, and if the stars are correctly aligned, end up playing the bigtime in the Valley.

Sara Belle announced to me, in between French inhales, that she wanted to be the next Jenna Jamison. Mightily focused on her career, I was reminded of similar conversations I’d had with actresses on the set of network sitcoms, but none of them covered the topic of performing anal, which Sara Belle discussed casually, as though we were talking about house-breaking a puppy.

Marco popped his head out the sliding glass door and inquired of Sara, "Darling, which do you prefer, lube or spit?"

"Oh spit, for sure", stated the actress, and she stubbed her smoke into a coffee cup lid and went inside to get to work.

"Break a leg," I said.

Sara Belle seemed puzzled by my remark; I explained that it was what actors said to one another as they were about to perform. Sara Belle thought that was "cool." I was going to tell her that Shirley Temple’s mother used to say — before every take — "Sparkle, Shirley, sparkle," but I wasn’t convinced that she would get the cultural reference.

Later in the day, a porn VIP showed up for a Photo Op … Ron Jeremy. A veteran of hundreds of adult videos, ranked by the industry’s bible, AVN, as No. 1 one on their "100 Top Porn Stars of All Time" list, Ron was "in the house." All were excited to have this legend present, and Ron was equally excited by the array of deli meats set out by the craft services person.

Ron likes to eat, so the producer had taken care to have a large spread for him to graze freely. Sometime later, around the kitchen table, I was involved in a heated discussion with a member of the porn press and Ron over the morality of the U.S. dropping the A-Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. All the while, I could hear explosive sounds emerging from the bedroom where Sara Belle and her partner were lustily "acting."

After lunch the other participants in the "girl on girl on girl" trifecta appeared: Two blonde sprites who were prone to giggle like schoolgirls (and really how long ago were they just that?) — one named Jayme and the other Janie — roommates and effervescent like it was Prom Night. After the introductions and a photo op with Ron and neophyte Sara Belle, the two young ladies raced off to the bathroom to prepare for their session.

I wandered into the other room and called my friend to come and pick me up because, like any other set, including one that is populated by naked women, it gets tedious after five or six hours.

In the final analysis, there was hardly anything titillating about the experience. A porn shoot is a workplace with people going about their business. I’ll admit I did see more vibrators and dildos then I ever did when I worked on "Murphy Brown," but the similarities are there.

And really, we are all in show business; Porn People just "show" a little more, well sometimes a lot more.

As I was saying goodbye to Marco, who was then on his knees adjusting a harness with a violet-colored male organ for Jayme, he looked up at me, Jayme’s derrieres inches away from his face, and said, "I told you I had the best job in the world."

Few would contest that statement. Walking out of the bedroom set, I heard Jayme complaining about the size of her "penis."

Actors … It’s always something.
 

Marc Flanagan is a television writer/producer. A graduate of the Yale School of Drama, Marc has written and produced "The Tracey Ullman Show," "Grace Under Fire," "High Society," "Murphy Brown" and assorted other programs. A few Emmys and a WGA Award came his way. Happy to be seen at TheWrap.