Friday, December 08, 2006

Post #500, wherein I pay tribute to Richey Edwards and consider whether my idea of love comes from a childhood glimpse of pornography

Richey Edwards, chief lyric writer for Manic Street Preachers, was a genius. I am thinking about him right now for the same reason I do every December. On 21 December 1994, Richey played his last gig with the group, and so ended an era. So we saw the demise of the most important rock band Britain had seen in many years. On the very cusp of world domination. At the top of their craft. Well, where else can you go but down when you're at the top?

I was there that night, at London's Astoria. I recorded the gig for posterity, just as I had several Manics gigs before, on a portable tape recorder. I didn't know this would be Richey's last gig and that within four months he would disappear, never to be seen again.

But as one fire ended, another began. I returned home that night to an answerphone message telling me that my first nephew had been born. And on the subject of babies...

I'm unsure now, but it's likely that the Manic Street Preachers song "Little Baby Nothing", from their debut album Generation Terrorists was what introduced me to the "charms" of Traci Lords. Shortly thereafter I first saw some of her work, but only snippets buried among other scenes on "Best Of" tapes borrowed from my boss at the comic shop where I worked. Of the seemingly thousands of Traci Lords films out there, a great majority are actually compilation videos that contain scenes from her films. To add further confusion, many of these videos are known by more than one name: issue 1 (1990) of the UK Traci fanzine Norma K says, "Talk Dirty to Me 3 has three other titles", and it goes on to list them as Trials of Traci, Sensual Mermaid, and Irresistible Siren.

But let's go way back for a minute and think about my earliest exposure to pornography. I think I was about 12 years old. It's difficult to be sure now that so many years have passed. Some neighbours of my parents came to visit and they had a Betamax tape with them. I didn't know what was on the tape, but I seem to recall that we kids were ushered out of the lounge so it could be viewed. Later I was told it was a horror film, and I had no reason to disbelieve that. At a later date, though, probably during the school holidays, these neighbours' kid found this horror tape; it was labelled "Blood on Satan's Claw". Sounds like a horror movie, and it is a horror movie (known as Satan's Skin in the US). But what was on the tape turned out to be my first exposure to porn.

I don't recall anything about that film now. Through the years that followed, though, I (as many young men do) acquired various porn videos from various sources. A few of them are now long gone, unfortunately. But I can't quite bring myself to trash what I still have on tape, even though they sit in the cellar, virtually unloved, waiting for me to transfer them to disc. The quality is so poor, though, that it seems pointless putting them on to DVD. So titles such as Sex Boat, 19 and Nasty, Mr John Makes Candles at Home look set to lay there until the end of time. Okay, that last title doesn't actually exist; it's what my supplier wrote on the label to hide the fact that it was porn. "Mr John" is of course John Holmes, but I don't remember why the reference to candles. This same chap had about 30 three-hour videos of porn. I mean, he was quite the collector.

I remember one time when he came back from the States, one of his suitcases got lost, and it was the case full of all the porn he'd picked up there. This was back in the days when porn was literally outlawed in the UK -- about 1992. There was no legal hardcore porn back then. All you could get was badly cut versions of hardcore or terrible simulated stuff. He called me up; he was in a terrible state. He'd had to leave his key with airport officials, just in case they needed to do a random routine check of his baggage when it finally arrived. I stayed at his house with him, his dog, cats, and a couple of other pet things that rhyme with cats but I won't write down because Red can't bear even to see the word. We waited until about 11 o'clock, playing video games and watching his pirate copy of the extras from the Alien laser disc. And finally the suitcase arrived, unopened, no questions asked.

A couple of years later, and I was working in London as the manager of a betting shop near the Holloway Road. One morning when I was alone in the shop one of my punters came in. He was probably in his mid-50s but looked a bit older. Typical old-school London bloke. "Oi," he said. "You like blue movies?" Despite trying to be a professional businessman, what could I say? "Yeah, course," that's what. He produced a couple of tapes from his pockets. "You want these for a tenner?" So I bought them blind, little knowing that one of them would contain my first full-length Traci Lords film (although she is only in it for a couple of scenes, I think): Black Throat. It's a film in which Rosco, "a typical white guy", sets off to find Madame Mambo, an expert in fellatio. What follows is "an odyssey of sexual rendezvous". It's a good movie!

Porn flicks these days are not really as good as those old ones, are they? Don't we all feel that way? Indeed, this is part of the tale told in Boogie Nights. Video saved the industry undoubtedly. Made it bigger than ever. But despite the huge budgets bestowed upon porn these days, they still look pretty cheap compared to the movies that were shot on film. And with very few exceptions -- Jenna Jameson, for example -- surely there aren't the same sort of stars out there these days. I guess, though, it's horses for courses, and people will be nostalgic for what they first encountered, much as they do for music and (non-porn) films and actors.

Certainly, it's true to say that I am not extremely well versed in modern "blue movies". Some of what I've seen is pretty good, though, so maybe someone out there reading this can point to to the true classics of 21st-century porn cinema -- the stuff that a whole generation will look back on and say, "Y'know, that's where my idea of love comes from"...

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27 Comments:

Blogger Shep said...

Big Traci fan here...not a Manics fan. At all. But anyone who is should probably actively seek out Kieron Gillen's comic Phonogram - the latest issue, #3 I think, had a big scene involving the Manics and love and stuff like that. I'll try to sort out the scan from the CBR version I've got and mail it to you, it was pretty good.

08 December, 2006 12:06  
Blogger Tanya said...

Congratulations on your 500th post!

That out of the way... I must say that I haven't watched that much porn. But I have seen some old stuff and some new stuff and the old stuff was somewhat better, despite the cheesiness. I guess because in the 70s and 80s they were making porn because, after the sexual revolution, they were being revolutionaries. These days... money seems to be the sole motivation.

08 December, 2006 12:49  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know squat about porn, the industry or love in it. Sorry, I am not much help here. I think silver screen movies is where my idea of love came from. which explains the failure of many of my early relationships.

08 December, 2006 13:03  
Anonymous Pie said...

Happy 500th post!

Bloody Hell, 1994. I was 15, just getting into music, talked to my friends about going to that gig in particular but never did.

Would've been the first live gig I saw too, turns out I didn't visit the Astoria until Ash the following year.

I can't watch video porn any more. My tastes have changed somewhat thanks to t'internet. They've always had a particular 'style' to them, undoubtedly historians will look back on them and remark on how quaint they were in years to come as we do on Victorian images.

08 December, 2006 13:15  
Blogger d34dpuppy said...

happy #500

08 December, 2006 16:41  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is the porn worse, or is your bright eyed, youthful fascination with it just gone? ;)

Steve~

08 December, 2006 18:10  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Traci Lords is really cool. I meant to read her autobiography but haven't yet. I will sometime when I run into it. Saw her on Oprah promoting it though. She is very articulate.

Jenna Jameson is so awesome looking it's hard to believe.

Porn has been around forever, look at those statues of gods and goddesses. In that way, I get porn.

I can take it or leave it.

I feel sad when I think of the sacrifices women have made to make a sexy movie. Drug addiciton prostitution. It's really sad to hear porn stars talk about their careers and write books and we find out how much suffering and sacrifice they made in their art...by chance, by force, by vulnerability.

In many ways, at least the porn industry is a bit more legit and people are somewhat safer. Unfortuantely the new problem for women in porn is the damge from too much fucking and dangerous fucking. Viagra has turned the action in porn into a potential disability yet again for women. They are having sex too rough and too long for many extended hours now that the males can perform indefiniately.

I think and hope porn returns to it's old fashioned roots...in the imagination.

Safe sex, gentile reasonable working hours, clean partners might induce a kind of return to the mystery in old porn films where the money shot wasn't so surgical. More magic and fggy and dreamy.

Taste in sex does seem to change with fashion...so who can imagine the future of porn? One thing is for certain there is a future. We've had porn forever and will likely see it forever.

My idea of love comes from a blend of hot sexiness and caregiving and respect. Maybe once we allow our porn stars to take care of themselves like we would like to be taken care of...then we will see a return to film making.

Great post *, and congratulations of 500 posts, holy cow!!!!

What a mysterious manifestation of "artistic differences" is the Rickey James Edwards story huh?

Do you have any theories?

08 December, 2006 21:36  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations on 500!!!

BTW publishing from a new URL....

09 December, 2006 00:29  
Blogger Camie Vog said...

Happy 500th day!

(oh, I've been meaning to contact you about those Traci vids...this post just reminded me)

09 December, 2006 00:30  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

motorcycle emptiness always brings a tear to my eye!

they are nothing now, and weren't as soon a s richie left.

he was pete docherty. WITH TALENT.

they say there is a fine line between genius and madness.....

oh, and happy 500!

09 December, 2006 10:19  
Blogger martinobhoy said...

500 posts and still producing thought provoking articles.

Well done. Here's to 1,000.

09 December, 2006 15:11  
Blogger wrinkled weasel said...

Well done for your tenacity. (Is that really the right word?)

American porn? All those terrible plastic tits jigging up and down and the fake "oohs" and "aaaaghs"? The bad lighting? The terrifyingly large penises?

It always looks like a game of Twister that just got out of hand a bit.

09 December, 2006 20:54  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well twister can get out of hand from time to time....

had to change the URL one last time, changed it all. Stalker e-mails are freaking me out!!

10 December, 2006 03:17  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well, i don't really have much to say on the subject of porn... but for some reason i feel like it's been AGES, and i just couldn't bear to stop by your site and then leave without saying hello.

and i DID read the whole entry... i just don't really have any relatable comments. but hope you're well, and i'll be back tomorrow!

11 December, 2006 08:42  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Porn is gratutious.

I enjoy some erotic 'hints' rather than all the wham bam etc.

For me, the film 'secretary was HOT!

No nudity in it however!

11 December, 2006 09:42  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Shep: I wouldn't say I'm a big Traci fan, though I think she was a real one-off. I've seen only a couple of her films, though. Despite the problems she caused for the industry, there are some today who would work with her in a heartbeat. So I guess that's testimony to her star power. Thanks for the info on the comic; feel free to email it if you can find it.

Tanya: Thanks for the congrats. I think you're right about revolution vs profit. The old stuff does have a certain charm, but I think the new stuff has something going for it, too, despite the unrealistic bodies that these people have. The old stuff was much more "real people".

Olives: I'm not saying necessarily that my idea of love comes from a childhood glimpse of pornography, but I think people who grew up at the dawn of the video age were probably exposed to moving-image porn earlier than previous generations. Mix that it with Sunday-afternoon romantic Hollywood movies, and I guess people are influenced by both. Or something.

11 December, 2006 10:12  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Pie: Thanks for the congrats. I had no idea you were so young! Wow... Funny how you get an idea of people from what they write, isn't it? It was a great gig. I suppose it's easy to say that with hindsight, but it was. I believe I have read about your preferences before, and I think that stuff is still pretty much not legal in the UK, no? But I'm sure you're right about what future generations will think!

DP: Thanks, bro. Hope you're doing okay.

Steve: No, I think I have a good healthy interest still...

11 December, 2006 10:18  
Blogger Suze said...

I don't have any of the old stuff because I never owned my own. We used to borrow it or find it hidden in my parents house and secretly watch it when they were out.

But there is one thing the old stuff does have over the new, natural breasts. The new stuff is full of enhanced porn stars. :(

11 December, 2006 10:28  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Candy: Thanks for the congrats. I don't know masses about Traci Lords, but her autobiog has vaguely interested me. Certainly she must have more to say than so many other people who release autobiogs these days... You're right, of course, about porn/eroticism being an age-old "industry" -- a celebration of the human form and in less or more gratuitous ways, depending on the artist, I guess.

Your concerns about the artistes is valid. And I've been meaning to watch Inside Deep Throat, about the making of the seminal movie Deep Throat, for some time. Some of the claims made by Linda Lovelace are very interesting. While abuses are no doubt widespread, I do think, though, that to perform in porn is a choice. (Well, certainly mainstream porn. Underground stuff is a different thing altogether: wholly more dangerous for everyone involved. And undoubtedly less choice-informed in some cases.) Girls could go and work on a checkout in a mall if all they want is a paying job. There is definitely -- especially today with Adult Video Awards Shows and stuff -- more glamour associated with the work than probably ever before.

I'd never considered the Viagra situation. Yeah, that can't be good for the "receiver"...

As to Richey James (whose lyric is "my idea of love comes from a childhood glimpse of pornography", by the way): When Red and I met, we spent many hours talking about Richey and his disappearance. I don't know whether he's alive or dead, but I think if he is alive he is definitely still getting tattooed. He had quite a lot of ink done in a short period of time before his disappearance, and once you start getting lots of tatts it's hard to stop. I think this is the way to track him down if he's out there: an APB to tattooists worldwide, informing them what other ink to look out for on clients.

11 December, 2006 10:32  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

LDBug: Thanks, pet.

Camie: Thank you!

Cappy: Aw, you're a sucker for anything about two wheels, are you?! I know what you're saying about the comparison with Doherty. They are/were both self-destructive poets; Cobain, too. And of course it was absolutely the beginning of the end for the Manics. They should have just quit once they ran out of Richey songs. The Everything Must Go album was okay in parts (even some of the non-Richey songs were good), but after that it all went badly wrong...

11 December, 2006 10:40  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Martino: Well thanks for the kind words. Now to get on with that tricky no.501.

WW: The fake breasts are funny, though, aren't they?! Thanks for the words on my tenacity. If you mean I just kept on plugging away regardless, then I guess it's the right word. I'm ahppy with it anyway!

Snowflake: Gotcha! Thanks for the update...

11 December, 2006 10:42  
Blogger Milla said...

Talikng about porn, do you know Tera Patrick? She is the wife of the Biohazard singer. Zorro likes a lot, so in our hosue she's now known as Tetra Pack-trick.

11 December, 2006 10:46  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Martha: Your absence had been noted. Sorry... I hope you didn't feel too forced into commenting on this post! Still, I hope there was something in there of interest for you.

RD: Porn is gratuitous, yes. But isn't that kind of the point?! I was bitterly disappointed by Secretary. I felt it could have gone further (and ideally not had James Spader in it, but that's a whole other thing!).Further not necessarily in nudity or sex, but in dark undertones. I felt that ultimately it copped out on its promise.

Suze: Funny the stuff you can find in your parents' drawers, isn't it? You're dead right about the natural breasts, though: much more fun!

11 December, 2006 10:46  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Milla: I do know Tera Patrick, but only becaue she's married to Evan Seinfeld, who was an actor in the excellent TV show Oz, as well as being in Biohazard. I've never seen any of her films. Plus I'm not sure I want to see Evan fully unclothed: too much information. You know he's in some of her films, yes?

11 December, 2006 10:49  
Blogger Milla said...

I don't like her (she is too 'laminated') so I don't watch her films really, but I am sure Zorro will know. The movies with her I saw (only 2) didn't have her guy.
I am more into Flower Tucci's a-hem "artistic talents". And I like the unforgettable Moana Pozzi: she was a beautiful woman.

11 December, 2006 13:34  
Blogger Tanya said...

Maybe I am just really weird, *, but I quite like the porn with the 'real people' more than the porn with the fake tits and bleached hair.

Is there such a thing as a retro-porn fetish do you think?

11 December, 2006 14:41  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Milla: Maybe I'll try to find a non-Evan film and check her out... I don't know Flower Tucci, but I think I've heard of Moana Pozzi.

T: I agree to a great extent. I'm sure even if there isn't such a thing, you could always coin the phrase!

11 December, 2006 14:57  

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