Tag Archives: Dan O’Connell

A Dog in this Fight

by Rich Moreland, January 2015

Topless bowling and a scantily clad hula hoop contest welcome invited guests into a large suite on the Hard Rock Hotel’s upper floor. The occasion is Girlfriends Films’ (GFFs) after-the-show party on the Adult Entertainment Expo’s second night. Hanging out with yours truly is my photographer Bill and Morgan, our “lovely young assistant” as they say in show biz.gfs logo

This is Vegas, of course, and the forty or so guests mingle around the lounge, bar, hot tub, and pool table that complement the bowling ally. Top agent Mark Spiegler brought some of his starlets—Reily Reid, Lily LaBeau, and Penny Pax among them—while porn heartthrob James Deen circulates among revelers with his sweetie, Stoya. Jessie Andrews, the star of B Skow’s hit, The Gardener, arrives with the dewy nymph-like elegance that is her trademark while GFFs’ hottie Prinzzess shoots a little pool topless, her trademark tresses accentuating her Hollywood glamour.

The affair is an appreciation for the studio’s 2014 successes. It’s no secret that company President Moose and founder Dan O’Connell have built a highly respected and dynamic organization in a time of recession and content piracy. Results are impressive. Their efforts are moving the GFFs brand to the forefront of adult entertainment. Tonight Moose and Dan extend their gratitude to industry supporters while giving the lovely ladies who are the company’s image some downtime after the crush of media demands and signing for fans.

In a brief address to party goers, Dan praises those girls who make a successful go of it in adult film. They are “strong, resourceful, brave and smart,” he says, emphasizing that recognition and achievement blossoms from hard work and responsibility, characteristics GFFs fosters.

For my little team of media hounds, the gathering has another focus. We chat with Moose to get his reflection on the year. Distribution deals have blossomed that include ArchAngel Productions, James Deen Productions, Skow for Girlfriends Films, Tasha Reign’s Reign Productions, and Bonnie Rotten’s Mental Beauty, he tells us before corralling Deen for a quick introduction. And, GFFs continues to donate to charitable organizations its performers list among their favorites. Incidentally, no one has ever retired or resigned from Girlfriends, a rare claim for any company in any industry.

Dan, the girls, and Moose on the Red Carpet. Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.com

Dan, the talent, and Moose on the Red Carpet.
Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.com

Be it understood that GFFs is one of adult entertainment’s good guys and its charity work is important. But now another community project has raised the company’s passion: child pornography and sex trafficking in the Long Beach/LA area. “Trafficking hurts people,” Moose says, and combating this evil is a commitment GFFs takes seriously.

“Girls are being pimped out starting at age nine,” he explains. Fortunately there are people willing to push back against the perpetrators and the pimps. Rock Against Trafficking is a worldwide organization that, associated with local groups and the music and entertainment industries, has taken the lead in this endeavor with the goal of outreach and rehabilitation. Girlfriends is proud to contribute to this mission.

Stopping trafficking, rooting out its villains, and getting underage victims through the court system is daunting. Moose insists that supporting local services is perhaps the highest priority and he backs up his voice with visits to facilities on the battle lines against a heart-breaking human tragedy.

Sure, a party sponsored by an adult film company has its “entertainment” and munchies with appropriate libations that settle well in the stomach. Eyes feast on barely dressed professional models sparking up conversation around the room. But there is more to Girlfriends Films, it’s a different breed of porn animal. No doubt the company is an industry leader in making money the right way, but it also cares about its employees, its performers, and now, its commitment to helping others.

For Moose, Dan, and the gang, every newly purchased Girlfriends’ DVD and VOD streaming carries a warning shot across the bough of the trafficker who deals in human flesh. Adult film has a dog in this fight and that’s good news for the powerless whose childhoods are endangered by prostitution, abuse, and lost futures.

Best of all, you help every time you pay for your porn . . .

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Just a Dirty Girl

by Rich Moreland, January 2013

thumb_Bad-Les-front

A reluctant burglar, phone sex, a murder and a girl who prefers to knit sounds like a super plot any Hollywood writer would love.

These explosive elements are part of four vignettes Girlfriends Films (GFF) has turned into a steamy little number called “Bad Lesbian” and it’s worth a good look.

Waiting in the Shadows

In the first narrative, Dillion Harper is the thief who’d rather not and Cassandra Nix is her partner who resorts to cheap tricks to keep the lovely bandit’s body close to hers. Pretending she’s been knocked round after getting nabbed purloining, Cassandra convinces her reluctant pal to soothe her wounds.

In short order, she turns the tables on a surprised and sympathetic Dillion.

Cassandra Nix and Dillion Harper Photo courtesy of Girlfriends Films

Cassandra Nix and Dillion Harper
Photo courtesy of Girlfriends Films

 “If you hadn’t left me there, this wouldn’t have happened,” Cassandra says. It seems Dillion ran and now it’s time for another trip, the one over guilt.

To preserve their mutual thieving agreement, Cassandra waxes tender. After the kiss, the sex is underway.

In classic GFF manner, the predator takes over and “runs the fuck,” as the old saying goes. There is a smidgen of revenge in Cassandra’s plan. She grabs Dillion’s hair and grinds her crotch against the weaker girl’s face and playfully slaps the sweet little brunette, a statement of who is in control. The tatted Cassandra Nix is a veteran of Kink.com. It’s all been done to her and now it’s a lesson in rough love for Dillion.

Crime and dominating sex is also the theme of the fourth and final vignette. Natalie Heart is the abused and desperate daughter; Allie Haze, her new found tomboi friend. Allie’s switchblade dispenses with the inappropriately horny dad while the compliant Natalie waits in the shadows.

Natalie Heart and Allie Haze Photo courtesy of Girlfriends Films

Natalie Heart and Allie Haze
Photo courtesy of Girlfriends Films

“There’s no turning back,” the street tough Allie tells Natalie, who hides her timidity behind a smile. A double meaning is in play here because Allie will possess the meek brunette for her own pleasure. Natalie’s choices are non-existent.

After the carcass is hidden away, Allie toys with Natalie’s sultry body. There’s lots of oral and finger banging, characteristic of each episode in the four-part package. Allie’s macho aggressiveness and Natalie’s natural assets add to the real attraction of this vignette: two emotional loners who have stumbled onto each other. When the scene concludes, the viewer is left wanting more.

Changing Plans

If parts one and four have a somber tone, two and three are lighter. When the predator girl is not at first obvious, the viewer needs only to find the boots. The pleasingly tatted Ash Holloway, the phone sex girl, wears them in the second narrative. This vignette is a charmer of opposites. Ash is the sexually charged college dropout and Kiera Winters the nerdy girl who is studying her life away.

Kiera spots Ash taking a call in her family’s backyard and investigates. The punkish looking blonde explains the walls in her house are “paper thin” and she wants to keep her $30-a-call gig from her mother. Kiera is curious and Ash suggests she change her plans, at least for the day.

“You’re about to spend four to six years of your young adult life buried in books,” Ash declares. “Have you ever done anything crazy?” Then she tells Kiera there is more fun to be had than just talking filthy on the phone.

Kiera Winters and Ash Holloway Photo courtesy of Girlfriends Films

Kiera Winters and Ash Holloway
Photo courtesy of Girlfriends Films

Kiera is game and this petite Bobbi Starr look alike sells this narrative. Girl-on-girl sex has a huge male audience and GFF fans will place themselves into the scene and consume the diminutive brunette. She is that sweet.

The episode has terrific girl/girl chemistry. Their mutual oral is superb. During the sex, Ash finger bangs Kiera and reinforces their dalliance with a smutty “Deep down, you’re just a dirty girl.”

Narrative three between adopted daughters is the hottest of the DVD. For sheer sexiness, Bailey Blue and Casey Calvert are hard to beat (though both take their share of blows at Kink.com, pun intended) Bailey is the aggressor (spot the boots) and the very submissive Casey is the girl who knits.

Casey is trying to maintain a self-imposed celibacy but her “sister” persuades the gorgeous brunette to drop the knitting needle and go out on the town. Later when the sex begins Casey’s facial expressions unveil the hesitancy she feels. Using her eyes to frame her emotions, the AVN nominee for starlet of the year (include Dillion Harper in that elite group, by the way) is outstanding in roles in which she plays the reluctant, unsure girl.

Bailey Blue and Casey Calvert Photo courtesy of Girlfriends Films

Bailey Blue and Casey Calvert
Photo courtesy of Girlfriends Films

Bailey portrays the spunky sibling to a tee. Their sex is hot and mutual without an aggressor, produced by two actresses who are building solid careers.

One more observation on Bailey and Casey, their scene has the highest degree of verisimilitude. In other words, two adopted daughters sexually involved with each other are quite believable in today’s world of blended families. As a result, the acting is carefully crafted to authenticate the situation. Bailey is appropriately petulant and Casey’s frail resistance tells the story. Kudos to both performers.

*          *          *          *          *

In the pairings of each story, the performers create natural connections, a linchpin of Girlfriends Films. The power differences of actual lovers won’t work without real sex and reasons for the girls to dive into each other. In each episode, the girls are opposites of some variety, at first communicating their differences before yielding to the mutual chemistry that brings the contradictions together and initiates their erotic play.

The qualities of a Dan O’Connell production elevate porn to art. He uses three crew people and in most scenes, two major camera angles. Bodies are framed equally from there, minimizing the anatomy lesson of gonzo porn. Effective editing mixes shots that are sexual but not always graphic. The result is a sensuality characteristic of mainstream film with high priced talent.

This kind of movie magic doesn’t happen without planning and a carefully managed on set experience. Few studios do that better than GFF.

 

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Changing Hands

by Rich Moreland, January 2014

gfs logo

The adult film business has its own Fortune 500 movers and shakers. Names like Adam and Eve, Hustler, Vivid, Wicked, Evil Angel, and Digital Playground come immediately to mind.

Powered by a self-created niche it has seen widely imitated, another name is seeking a space in that pantheon. Started over eight years ago, Girlfriends Films (GFF) is the leader in girl/girl erotica, an expanding genre in the industry.

Praised for its innovative film work, Girlfriends’ DVD and VOD (Video on Demand) inventory contains over a thousand scenes representing the best of the industry’s female performers.

As for the company’s ethical business practices, listen to Dan O’Connell creator of GFF. “No one has ever quit or retired from Girlfriends Films.” Now Dan extends that reality to himself because things are changing.

Dan O’Connell is passing from owner to adviser and confidant. Effective January 1, Dan sold the company to his long time Vice-President, Moose. But Dan isn’t going anywhere; he retains ownership of Groundwork Visions, the business that produces all of Girlfriends work.

The new arrangement frees Dan O’Connell to do what motivated him from Girlfriends’ inception, shoot film. He has an “exclusive arrangement” to continue with the company and, along with famed hetero filmmaker B. Skow, provide GFF fans with the high quality product expected of this superbly run enterprise.

For Girlfriends‘ loyal customers, nothing has changed. The varied and iconic GFF series will continue and production schedules will not be affected.

The deal is a win-win for everyone, particularly Dan O’Connell, who is at last putting management issues behind him. Opportunities going forward to improve his “movie-making game” are now on the table, he says. The sixty-something will devote his energies what he loves, filming beautiful women having sex.

As the new owner, Moose will continue with all his current duties. Dan reminds everyone that Moose’s talents are well versed in handling a multiplex business. “Running Girlfriends Films is a very complex operation that includes movie production and post-production, sales and marketing, internet sites, [and] our new GFF cable channel,” Dan says, not to ignore overseeing the company’s 37,000 square foot facility in Valencia.

Moose and Dan Photo courtesy of Bill Knight

Moose and Dan
Photo courtesy of Bill Knight

Their relationship over the years has been close as I can attest from a recent visit with some of the GFF gang (see “The Pornographer’s Heart” November 20, 2013). Everyone looks for the company to maintain and enrich its present course.

“I’m very fortunate to have someone of Moose’s caliber to take over the operation,” Dan O’Connell says, but adds his personal full-time efforts are not quite over. Upcoming is the hectic schedule of the Adult Entertainment Expo in Vegas and GFF’s distribution of other brands that demand his keen eye and industry wisdom. As the company likes to say, Girlfriends Films is “simply the most realistic sex in lesbian adult video.” Such a boast requires hard work and attention to customers and fans, something GFF does well.

For anyone interested in the business, visit girlfriendsfilms.com or contact Moose at moose@girlfriendsfilms.com.

 

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A Poorly Written Play

by Rich Moreland, November 2013

Girlfriends Films’ Homecoming is a well-written and superbly acted story that speaks to the heart of an issue that dominates our culture today: the American family and how we perceive it.

*          *          *          *          *

homecoming boxcoverHomecoming tells the story of a dysfunctional household that transitions from the façade of a “perfect family” into an honest coming together of what they really are.

The oldest daughter of Tony (Steven St. Croix) and Cora (Zoe Holloway) is getting married. Gloria (Casey Calvert) brings home her beau (Michael Vegas) for the expected approval of her parents. Trouble is that gazillionaire Bradley is rude, arrogant, and insensitive. To complicate matters, Gloria is unsure of her sexuality though she is quite certain she doesn’t love Bradley. Admitting to her true feelings is the issue because pleasing her parents is Gloria’s mission.

Homecoming functions on different levels. First, there is Tony’s story. He’s nouveau riche with a secret—an illegitimate daughter. His life is further complicated by a wife who has given up on their marriage. Next is Bitty (Jenna J. Ross) the youngest daughter who has no interest in her voyeur husband, nerdy psychologist Ron (Chris Slater). Bitty’s preferences lean toward girls and she reunites with an old high school friend, Norma (Raven Rockette) in a highly charged sexual encounter of the type Girlfriends’ fans have come to expect. Then there is Jim (Ralph Long), the real anchor in the family and symbolic of all their dysfunctions. He’s an adopted son and a cross-dressing military reject who is fairly useless in his father’s eyes. Because he is not of their linage, Jim is a breath of fresh air and the only family member who refuses to deceive himself.

Gloria, Presley, and the brutish Bradley Photo courtesy of Fleshbot

Bradley, Gloria, and Presley
Photo courtesy of Fleshbot

The sex scenes are built around the narrative. Each is a reflection of the players in it and the situations of their lives. The first involves Bradley, Gloria, and her friend (Presley Hart). Bradley is brutish, dragging his fiancée into the bedroom and throwing her between Presley’s legs. Gloria gets a “taste” of same sex love while Bradley satisfies himself, nailing his wife-to-be as if she were a dog. No matter, Gloria is too busy exploring her friend to care. The scene appears forced and awkward to the viewer but it’s designed that way. Gloria is unsure of what she is finding and is hesitant but apparently eager. If the lovers were fluid and content, the rest of the narrative would be unnecessary.

The second scene involves a girl/girl between Bitty and Norma. It’s a throwback to their teen years, they’ve done this before. Bitty tells Norma to sneak over and “throw rocks at my window.” Very high school, but that’s the point. The sex is top notch because the viewer’s fantasy drifts back to teenagers in a clandestine, surreptitious lust-fest. The girls are carnally authentic (Norma reminds Bitty she’s so wild) and, unlike a lot of lesbian oriented film nowadays, there are no sex toys to distract the viewer.

Fantasy Time Warp

Director B. Skow pushes envelopes in this story. He is helped considerably by some quality acting and the effective use of symbols scattered throughout the narrative that reinforce his message.

Cora talks of pushing the kids to win trophies and how they never really enjoyed their accomplishments. Her family must be like a prom queen’s complexion on the night of the big dance, no doubts and no blemishes. B. Skow contemptuously reminds us that this little brood is second place at best. Twice in the film’s opening are second place trophies and medallions spotted by the camera. In a moving emotional performance toward the film’s end, Cora confronts the family’s impending destruction, a fragile union Gloria was obliged to save with her material marriage. “We’re supposed to be the perfect family,” she tells Gloria with total exasperation. Later when truth can no longer be avoided, Cora laments to her husband, “We’re actors in a poorly written play with curtains I’m afraid to close.”

What is the watchword in any twelve step program? Admission is the first move toward recovery.

The family lives in a fantasy time warp, as B. Skow subtly reveals. Pay close attention to the music, it offers guideposts throughout the drama. Are we really, after all, watching a television show?

Twice in the story, the first time in the sensational sex scene between Gloria and her brother, and the second in the final one between mom and dad, there is a muted sentinel with a blank stare: an old TV with rabbit ears. This relic is a reminder of bygone days of “perfect” families whose triumphs were always guaranteed, but covered in a thin veil of cultural fraud. Did not the Cleavers of Mayfield and the Cunninghams of Milwaukee, fictitiously rooted in the 1950s and 1960s, shape our values?

But what did “perfect” mean in a time when those who were different were silent?

Jim and Gloria just getting started. Photo courtesy of Fleshbot

Jim and Gloria acting out her fantasy.
Photo courtesy of Fleshbot

B. Skow nails this point with Jim and Gloria. Casey Calvert and Ralph Long are the heroes of this drama and both turn in credible acting performances. Ralph is endearing while Casey is a diamond in the rough. She may be known for her hard-hitting on-screen sex, but her range of expression carries the story at crucial moments. Their sex is the best of the film, by the way. He’s in a blonde wig so Casey can fantasize and find her way through a morass of sexual confusion. As for the sex itself, Casey is an oral and anal princess, handling the sometimes dicey ATM as a true professional.

Energizing Vanilla

The last sexual encounter brings the film full circle. Tony admits to his affair with a local waitress and Cora forgives. Their passion for each other is how this family began. The viewer can only imagine these two at work on each other years ago creating the microscopic cell that would become Gloria, their hoped for savior.

Tony and Cora remember how the family started. Photo courtesy of Fleshbot

Tony and Cora remember how they started the family.
Photo courtesy of Fleshbot

Now their mature sexuality captures the screen, a sweaty, energizing vanilla that balances the reminder of Biddy and Norma’s illicit teenaged exploration. In between we have the fetish notion of Jim and Gloria while the first scene puts the stupid frat boy stamp on Bradley’s garish pounding of Gloria who is destined for a revelation of her own. Like families, sex comes in all varieties.

Homecoming is not a family gathering, but a family rebirth with a raucous and joyous ending. Real emotions have eluded this band of relatives for years; the sex in the film is forthright and reminds us that a good dose of self-examination is necessary to maintain happiness however we define it. Our sexual kaleidoscope is waiting to be explored and its’ time we closed the curtain on our culture’s poorly written play of sexual limitations and dishonesty. Homecoming’s cast of characters and their director are willing to show us the way.

*          *          *          *          *

From the Performer’s View

Not often do I get a chance to talk about a film with the leading performer in it. However, Casey Calvert was willing to reflect on some of my thoughts about Homecoming. Here’s a bit of our conversation.

I am interested if the sex was scripted.

“The sex scenes weren’t scripted at all,” Casey says. “They were shot in the standard way Girlfriends likes their sex scenes, with just two people going for it.”

Casey Calvert Photo courtesy of Scott Church

Casey Calvert
Photo courtesy of Scott Church

She goes on to talk about B. Skow and how she enjoys working for him because “of the way he shoots sex.” “He likes natural, genuine sex,” Casey says, and “runs three cameras so it’s easy to always be open to one of them.”

I remember Dan O’Connell talking about his philosophy of having only three crew people to minimize disruptions. I ask Casey about interruptions during her scenes. B. Skow “stays quiet” unless a problem arises, she says. There was only one break during her scene with Ralph Long and that was related to the hot lights and his wig!

I’m curious about the first sex scene with Michael Vegas and Presley Hart. Michael as Bradley is a brute who forces his wife-to-be’s mouth into her friend’s crotch. Casey’s role is built on Gloria’s hesitancy about her possible love for girls. She is uncertain, making the sex awkward. Of all the scenes in the film, this one is the most artistically constructed because it is vital to the story.

Casey mentions that Michael did exactly what B. Skow wanted, “just fuck and pop as quickly as possible.” He did his job really well, she says. Casey comments that she doesn’t personally know Presley Hart that well and that contributed positively to the scene. Gloria’s ambiguity about her sexual preferences  was “what I was trying for,” Casey says.

For viewers who only watch a porn movie for the sex, nuances like those in this scene are sadly lost. Casey remembers an online viewer who commented that he didn’t understand why she works with girls when she doesn’t seem to be turned on by them. His remark was disappointing, Casey says. My advice to that viewer is to watch the scene again and perceive it from the perspective of an artistic statement that moves the the film forward.

Finally Casey compliments Ralph Long for doing a spot on job in the film. She adds he was also “a great PA [production assistant].” A man of many talents in a film of talented people, I might add.

I’m not one to give out ratings or stars for movies. But I highly recommend Homecoming. It’s dramatically refreshing because it is not average porn fare.

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A Porn Family

by Rich Moreland, November 2013

This is the second installment on Girlfriends Films.

gfs logoMy students know that I write in the adult film industry and occasionally inquire about the people I meet. On the whole they are non-judgmental, though every now and then moral indignation pops up. A couple of years ago a female student asked me quite pointedly why I wrote about prostitutes. I was taken off-guard, but saw an opportunity in her question.

Hoping to have a conversation that would widen horizons, my attempts to assuage her preconceived notions about pornography were futile. Our encounter was brief and she departed, disappointed that a college professor would stoop so low. Had she been willing to listen, this is what she would have learned about one aspect of the business.

Pornographers run their companies much like corporate America. This includes employee perks not always seen in small businesses. A case in point is Girlfriends Films, one of the more prosperous enterprises in Porn Valley.

“Nobody has ever quit or retired from Girlfriends Films,” owner Dan O’Connell says. The company values its employees, offering health insurance (including dental and vision) as well as life insurance and a 401 (k). But Girlfriends does something else that outshines much of corporate America, it contributes regularly to charities selected by the performers. Beyond a paycheck for a day’s shoot, Dan shows his appreciation for their hard work, creating the best of all benefits: the Girlfriends family.

Part of my Family

Last January at the AEE (Adult Entertainment Expo) I interviewed Dana DeArmond, one of adult film’s classiest and most respected veterans. We were at the Girlfriends’ booth where she was signing for fans. Dana told me she was ill that morning and Moose, the company’s Vice President, visited her hotel room with bottles of water and pepto-bismol.

Dana signing at Grilfriends in Vegas. Photo by Bill Knight

Dana signing at Girlfriends in Vegas.
Photo by Bill Knight

He told her not to worry about signing that day, but Dana would have none of that.

“I am going down there and do press for this company because they take damn good care of me,” Dana said. “I am going to get it together because I love them.”

She then brought up something that really mattered personally to her.

“They let me choose a charity and donated a thousand dollars for me,” Dana commented. Last year it was Doctors without Borders, this year she selected the AIDS/LifeCycle ride from San Francisco to L.A., a distance of 545 miles. The event raises money to provide needed services to people with HIV and AIDS.

“I feel like they are part of my family,” Dana declared, referring to Dan, Moose, and the GFs staff. She happily added that the relationship works both ways, “I am in the Girlfriends’ family,” she said with pride.

Chastity Lynn Photo courtesy of Adult Video News

Chastity Lynn
Photo courtesy of Adult Video News

The monthly donation is an ongoing program. In May of this year, Chastity Lynn selected Farm Sanctuary for her charity and had a $1,000 given in her name. She chose the organization because of her concern with animal welfare.

Rising superstar Tasha Reign persuaded Girlfriends to donate to CancerCare in August. She lost her father to the disease a few years ago and wanted to help others who must deal with the uncertainty of a cancer diagnosis. CancerCare provides counseling, support groups, and co-payment options to families who are in the fight together.

Madison Young Photo courtesy of Kink.com

Madison Young
Photo courtesy of Kink.com

Girlfriends donated $1,000 to Planned Parenthood in the name of one of my favorites in the adult film world, new mother Madison Young. The director and performer recalled that in her twenties, she was without health insurance and very thankful for the services she received from Planned Parenthood.

Madison compliments the Girlfriends charity program, “It empowers performers and directors, offering an opportunity to create some small change in the world.” Everyone can give something back.

When I was at LAX not long ago, I met a fellow traveler who chatted amiably about his impressions of the porn industry. One of the issues that concerned him was the sexual abuse of children and he wanted to know about the industry’s role in producing such despicable fare. Another opportunity availed itself to me.

Adult film producers don’t like child pornography, I explained, and referenced ASACP (Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection). Reaching out to adult sites to help in its mission, ASACP is a non-profit that combats online child porn through a reporting system that turns in suspected sites. ASACP also enables parents to prevent children from viewing inappropriate online materials by offering the website label RTA (restricted to adults). This year Girlfriends donated $5,000 to the organization.

Adult film is a business and in spite of what much of the public believes, family is important to them as it is to everyone else. This included doing for others and caring about children.

If she had been a smidgen more open-minded, who knows what a particular young women would be thinking today.

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The Pornographers’ Heart

by Rich Moreland, November 2013

This is the first of a two-part series on Girlfriends Films one of Porn Valley’s most popular studios.

gfs logoDriving to the Girlfriends Films facility in Valencia is a hike but well worth the effort. Like the company’s industry leading product, the building is bright and pristine with an honesty that is a true reflection of its owner, Dan O’Connell.

The people who work in adult film are generally quite receptive to guests. At the 2013 Adult Entertainment Expo (AEE) in Las Vegas, I met Dan and immediately felt welcomed into the Girlfriends’ world. This unassuming October day proves no different.

Dan gives my photographer Bill and me a quick tour. The upstairs contains his office and those of the editors. White is the predominant color, the feeling is crisp and streamlined. Spotted around the massive hallway are old movie posters, an engaging artistic touch. Dan has an appreciation for film history, particularly the old days of the B-grade exploitation flicks of the 1930s and 40s.

Dan O'Connell Photo Courtesy of Bill Knight

Dan O’Connell
Photo by Bill Knight

“Shooting is the best part of the business,” Dan says. He does less now than ever due to director B. Skow, who has come on board recently.

“He’s doing a boy/girl every month,” Dan says of the company’s newest addition, adding that Girlfriends has a steady monthly output of five girl/girls. At least two of those are now in B. Skow’s territory. I’m guessing that’s the balance needed to please the buying public without over saturating the market.

The editors’ offices are opposite a bank of windows that extends the length of the floor. Editors are sensitive to light, we’re told, controlling it is vital to their work. The main editor, Dave, along with the business’s marketing guru Moose, keeps Dan up and running. We drop in his office.

Before storing content, Dave’s job is to do a write-up on the film and code it for identification within Girlfriends’ “database system,” Dan explains. Dave finishes off the movies with the other editors, putting the film into a DVD format complete with titles, trailers, and the like. The content is then ready for distribution and sales.

Despite this massive warehouse and office complex, the company maintains a storage vault in Hollywood. If an earthquake damaged this facility, Dan could lose everything, similar to the risk a computer user faces if the hard drive crashes and data is not backed up, a sort of technological earthquake.

There is a lot of film. Each four-hour shoot yields forty-five minutes of content using one pair of girls. Add a second twosome and the time needed expands to six hours. All this effort expended for two scenes with the typical DVD containing four intimate episodes, all with the same storyline. And remember, Girlfriends has thousands of shoots.

Though the shooting process is exact, developing new ideas for content is another matter. It “gets more difficult because you’ve expired your fantasies,” Dan says. Despite writer’s block Dan might suffer, Girlfriends’ central theme gives him a starting point for new scripts. It’s about “the girl who is the predator and the girl who is seduced,” he points out.

Is it a formula? Dan doesn’t think so, but concedes it could be viewed that way. He tries to vary the circumstances within the film, but remains resolute on what he wants to portray. Characters must be explored, who they are and how they meet, he explains. Going from there, Dan elaborates, the script accentuates the Girlfriends’ theme, “have they known each other before and how does that predator give that girl the first kiss?”

In other words, it’s about developing a girl’s larger reality beyond just a sex act, asking the question who is she and how does her on-screen presence support the sex she is having? The key is intimacy, a theme that is often lost in pornography. By the way, Dan’s philosophy reflects a feminist approach to adult film and separates Girlfriends from the majority of porn companies.

Magic Potion

Dave talks about the Girlfriends’ philosophy.

“Dan shoots specifically to let the girls go with the flow,” he says. The performers will have real orgasms and that buys customers. It’s Dan’s “magic potion” for success, Dave tells us.

Of course, it also lightens an editor’s task. Dave never has to rework scenes “to contrive the story.” Rather, he wants the viewer to feel like “a fly on the wall” and uses “suspension of disbelief” to describe the experience. “You want the viewer to believe they are in the room,” he explains. This type of editing is not the same as just telling a story. It’s a kind of authentic voyeurism that dissolves the shooter’s presence.

Perception makes it work. “The girls do what they’d do if they were in their own bedroom,” the editor explains. The narrative “comes in the set up and that’s between each scene.” In other words, it’s all about real sex and using it to massage the viewer’s interpretation of what is seen and felt. Think of it as unrestrained spontaneity, a distinguishing characteristic of the Girlfriends product.

Dan affirms that bona fide filmed sex means interruptions on the set are kept to a minimum. This includes stopping the action to shoot stills, a habit of some companies. Also there is no interference from the crew, unlike the gonzo genre in which the cameraman might take part in the filming.

Girlfriends’ pairs models “who want to work together” because that puts real orgasms on the agenda, Dan explains. But pairing is just the beginning. Gaining a rapport with performers is a necessity. For example, Dan likes them to share a bathroom when they are getting dressed so “they have time to meet each other.” Unfortunately, success is not one hundred percent. A girl who is reticent about having sex with the other girl in the scene is probably “one and done,” Dan says, because attitude is the energy of the shoot.

Calm them down

Most pornographers have a commonality. The type of film they produce appeals to their sexual tastes. Eroticism is brain based, of course, and everyone has a fetish of some sort. To watch it come alive can be an exciting experience and storing it on a DVD likewise rewarding, not to mention profitable.

Most filmmakers say they care about their performers, but at times I’ve heard otherwise. Never has an unpleasant word about Dan or his company come my way. He treats everyone with respect, especially new models whose nerves might get the best of them.

 “We have a lot of girls who aren’t that experienced,” Dan says. The atmosphere surrounding the shoot makes a difference. “If I was having sex [on camera],” Dan adds, “I would want people there who were actually working.”

Models can become uncomfortable on a set that buzzes with unnecessary activity and gawkers can be disruptive to a performer. Of course, that doesn’t include every performer, particularly a veteran..

Dan brings up Dana DeArmond. She’s a shooter’s dream girl because her level of experience is rare in the business. “You could put an auditorium full of people in the room and she’d be ok,” Dan says. The tall brunette is not going to get rattled; she’s seen it all and is a true professional.

Dana DeArmond signing for Girlfriends at the AEE Photo Courtesy of Bill Knight

Dana DeArmond signing for Girlfriends at the last year’s AEE.
Photo by Bill Knight

Understand that Dana DeArmond is porn gold. She thinks of herself as a mother figure around younger models, priceless for newbies when negotiating their way through a shoot. Dana on set opens up all performers to become involved in the sex.

To get what he wants and create a homey feel, Dan limits his film crews to three. Among them is the tall, bespectacled, Sabrina. On this day, she’s collecting trash from the offices. Dan introduces us.

Having a female shooter is important because performers’ nerves get tense. Sabrina reinforces what Dan says: she’s there to “calm them down.” Her warm smile does the trick. She laughs about being a jack of all trades for a small company. “I do everything,” Sabrina says, remarking that she’s in the warehouse during the workweek and often on weekends.

In our brief conversation, Sabrina tells us she is from the DC metro area. I’ll add her to the list of Washington transplants I’ve met in the adult film industry. A touch of home is comforting . . .

Diamond Mines

With roominess an understatement, the lower level storage space has a newly minted, clean, efficient feel. Dan points out stacks of boxes that belong to a neighbor in the warehouse complex, a producer of food flavoring. A sweet deal for his fellow entrepreneur because moving around in this downstairs area is more than convenient.

Bsnks of DVDs photo Courtesy of Bill Knight

DVDs ready for distribution.
Photo by Bill Knight

Dan gives us a walk through, pointing out boxes of DVDs and scores of box covers. “We package them as we need them,” he says. Sort of like print-on-demand books, I suggest. Girlfriends’ hires out the cover designs and supplies an independent contractor with photos and script summaries. Incidentally the artist is female, quite natural for the company, I thought.

The demand for the Girlfriends’ product is high. Even their earliest work still sells on VOD (video on demand).

But Dan can’t do it all and fondly remembers the days when VHS was the market. With today’s internet and the variety of entertainment formats that cater to pornography, running a company and producing a viable product “just gets more expensive and more difficult,” Dan comments. But he isn’t alone. He has help from two names in the business that are worth a South African diamond mine: Moose and B. Skow.

“Extremely bright and very loyal” is Dan’s description of Moose, an imposing guy on the underside of forty. He has a no nonsense amiability that commands attention while remaining warmly endearing.

Moose is the best in the business at what he does, Dan explains, emphasizing Moose’s “official job” of marketing and sales. Moose does it all with an efficiency that impresses his boss. “I don’t know how the guy accomplishes everything he does,” Dan says.

Moose and Dan Photo Courtesy of Bill Knight

Moose with his boss.
Photo by Bill Knight

The challenges of physical activity and a sense of competition have shaped Moose, who is a former firefighter and volleyball player. Working under pressure and paying attention to detail are his fortes. The native Californian’s experience in running his own EMT company and working on “Monster Garage” as the safety officer shaped the kind of management skills that profits Dan. Landing at Girlfriends was almost by accident. Meeting Dan at the 2007 AEE led to a job offer and secured Moose’s place among the porn’s recognized executives. Today he is the company’s vice-president.*

B. Skow’s move to Girlfriends from Vivid Entertainment was a noteworthy industry change. Directing for Vivid meant some restraint as to what he could shoot and B. Skow sought a greater level of artistic freedom. “Here we let him do his own thing,” Dan says, “I don’t review his stories, what girls he’s going to use, what he’s going to do,” though Dan does tell his newest director how many movies the company needs each month. Paying B. Skow the richest of compliments, Dan says the director pulls the maximum out of his performers in a shooting day that can be grueling.

What makes B. Skow special is his comfort level in taking on controversial subjects and handling them respectfully. Dan mentions a B. Skow film in which a girl with leg braces is portrayed as sexual and successful in her pursuit of the girl she wants. Porn involving the disabled can be dicey.

The Director Photo courtesy of Bill Knight

The Director
Photo by Bill Knight

“Dan has this freedom that he allows,” B. Skow says, “they trust me and have never pushed me in any way to do this or that.” Studying the Girlfriend’s product was the director’s first move before venturing to make his signature boy/girl films, ground breakers for Dan’s company. A recent success, Southern Hospitality, B. Skow characterizes as a “fun, crazy movie.”

Our time in B. Skow’s office, where we found him working on his computer, is brief. I’ve heard so much about his talents, meeting him was a rewarding finish to our tour.

Heading back to downtown LA, a story Dave told sticks in my mind.

Mentioning what keeps him working at Girlfriends, Dave remembers Dan canceling a meeting for three days when a girl got sick. He needed to be available for her in the hospital. “How many thousands did he lose by doing that?” Dave remarked. “Most people would just say, ‘you’re on your own,’ and just take off.”

Dan is “a friend as much as a director,” Dave says.

That takes heart. It’s the soul of Girlfriends Films.

*          *          *          *          *

* My thanks to Dan Miller of XBiz for permission to use material from his article on Moose, “Executive Seat: Takin’ Care of Business” (January, 2011).

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A Humanized Porn Star

by Rich Moreland, March 2013

If adult film ever decided to make a movie of Mata Hari’s adventures she would be portrayed as an enchantress and wanton woman, exotic and sultry, dark and promiscuous.

The supposed double agent of World War I was an exotic dancer pre-war. When she married, her choice was a captain in the Dutch Army stationed in what is today Indonesia. This femme fatale had a strong military connection, a provocative sense of exhibitionism, and a sharp mind. During the war she mingled with the top brass of Germany, France, and Britain, getting herself into trouble and unfortunately right in front of a firing squad.

If such a porn movie were ever made, Mata Hari would sexually exploit every man she met (and perhaps a woman or two for good measure), leading to some interesting on camera romps. In film image is everything and the usual porn stereotypes would not work for this legendary seducer of men, no cute blonde, sweet girl next door, or dim witted bimbo for this production. Mata Hari must be mysterious, sensuous, and alluring with a powerful manner of persuasion.

My choice for the leading role of this fantasy tale is Dana DeArmond.

An interview with the talented actress highlighted my recent visit to the adult film convention in Las Vegas. After a couple of years of relying on good luck, I finally caught up with her thanks to the fabulous people at GirlFriends Films. Dana and I had briefly met in 2010, but only for a hello. I wanted more on this fascinating woman for my upcoming book on adult film feminism. I was not disappointed.

Dana DeArmond at the GirlsFriends BoothPhoto Courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.com

Dana DeArmond at the GirlFriends Booth
Photo Courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.com

The following is an introduction to this almost decade old veteran of the industry. It’s an excerpt from my  book and comes from our Vegas conversations. In a manner that would have delighted Mata Hari, Dana DeArmond captivated me with her charm.

 *          *          *          *          *

Be Nice to Everyone

“Like other women in pornography, I tend to be third wave, sex-positive, porn-friendly, sex-friendly, and non-man hating,” says Dana DeArmond, a self-proclaimed feminist who is a blend of feminisms. We’re sitting in the Girlfriends Films booth at the 2013 Adult Entertainment Expo in Vegas. The company is feminist in its filming and its attitudes toward performers so talking here seems natural.

Describing herself as an “army brat,” Dana is a product of liberal parents, a bit unusual for the military. “I don’t have the traditional football watching dad and the housewife mom,” she laughs. Her mother entered the service to pay for college. Dana’s father is gay, HIV positive, and noted for his cooking skills. He’s a “pastry chef” who can turn out “crepes and glaze,” Dana says with noticeable affection.

Her parents’ child rearing wisdom is evident in the aphorism they often repeated to her when she was a teenager, “If you act like an adult, we’ll treat you like an adult.” Important advice because unlike most young people, Dana found no purpose in organized education, dropping out of high school before eventually getting her GED. She tried community college to no avail, remarking that “structured education” is not part of her agenda. Dana pursued her own path relying on her determination and a self-education to “think outside the box.” The result is a woman who understands expectations and responsibility, a formula she uses to market her talents in a tough business.

Dana DeArmond thinks of herself as “a humanized porn star.” It’s an entertainment persona that gives her fans free rein “to do what they are interested in sexually,” Dana explains. She sends her message with an acting verve that has carried her career.

Some studios, she mentions Kink.com and Girlfriends, give her particular satisfaction. Shooting for Dan O’Connell’s all-girl company is especially exciting because she can use her intelligence and her “acting chops.” She likes improvising on the set. “It’s a fun exercise and good for your brain,” Dana says. Of course, filming with a female cast is enticing because of her “porn wives,” as she calls them, performers for whom she feels a special affinity.

Though she may lack the credentials of formal learning, Dana DeArmond is capable in ways that strengthen survival, perhaps the most important kind of smartness there is. I suggest she is a skilled businesswoman. Dana smiles and reminds me of the road to success in porn, “Stand out, be unique, market yourself, and be nice to everyone.”

Raised in Orlando, Florida, Dana discovered early on that entertainment was her bag of tricks. She began as a dancer for Universal Studios and worked parades for the Disney resort complex. But it was another kind of dancing that lured her. After turning eighteen, Dana appeared in gentleman’s clubs while keeping her day job at Universal. She relished both gigs and nightly twenty dollar lap dances wedged between minimum wage choreography became her employment reality.

A porn career eventually came calling but not until Dana was into her twenties. In February 2004 she gave adult film a shot in San Francisco. “I didn’t think I was going to be a porn star when I walked into Kink.com,” she says. Now years later, Dana has paid her dues. A well-respected industry personality who shoots in both the L.A. and San Francisco adult markets, Dana describes her career is a “sexual journey” that highlights adult film as an art form. Dana is an artist, she believes, a performance artist who captures the imaginations of her fans.

Not a New girl.

After years in the business, Dana’s radar picks up situations that are not a fit for her. “I am not a new girl,” she says. “I’ve been around the block. I know what I’m doing.” Using gangbangs as an example, she insists that she doesn’t want “a bunch of idiots who don’t know what they’re doing” all over her. “It’s miserable,” she says. Dana buys into what feminist-oriented directors preach: chemistry on the set. Some performers don’t “mesh” either “personality-wise or sex-wise,” Dana explains. But in time a girl will learn and select her scenes judiciously because the pleasure of being on camera is a reward in itself. Making adult film is challenging both mentally and physically and for Dana to appear upset and stressed out in a shoot isn’t her style or how she defines her art. Like Bobbi [Starr], Dylan [Ryan], and the others, she seeks satisfaction in her sexual expression.

thoughtful responsePhoto courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.com

Thoughtful Response
Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.com

Dana stands her ground in the face of criticism. “My parents don’t judge me and I don’t let people make me feel weird,” she says. Icy disapproval is of no consequence to her, a response I’ve heard from other adult performers. Though Dana’s attitude reinforces a tough exterior, her determination to do what she wants under circumstances she selects has honed her longevity. Behind it, however, is an intuitive understanding of the people who perform in adult film and a desire to protect them because working in pornography is a team effort. Dana mentors girls when needed, “take them under my wing” is how she phrases it. Dana believes in fairness regarding others. In her mind, it is part of being a feminist. “I don’t know if there is a word for my kind of feminism,” she adds, it’s all about how “people should treat each other.”

Dana DeArmond may lack the formal education necessary to speak academically of feminism, but she carries the commanding dignity of a feminist. She’s a businesswoman who is in control of her image and her filming experiences. Above all, Dana knows what it means to be there for friends, “to stick up for other girls,” as she puts it. She is well aware of the downside, particularly what it means to enter the business with naïvete and inexperience. She has seen it.

“There are girls who lock themselves in the bathroom crying,” Dana says of breakdowns on the set. “They’re so young and clueless.” Jumping into porn too early can become a nightmare. “You’re eighteen, you’re still a baby,” Dana observes. “Try something, anything other than porn.”

*          *          *           *           *

Dana DeArmond continues to build her career with a seductive flair that lures her fan base. I suspect that Mata Hari in all her feminine wiles would have found adult film had it existed in her time. But could she have equaled the sultry sexiness and the intelligence that is Dana DeArmond? After all, would not  Dana make a good fantasy spy when she comes in from the cold to seduce you?

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South Texas Friendly Lends a Hand

By Rich Moreland, March 2013

Settling in with Daisy Layne is comfortable, like chatting with a neighbor on a summer’s eve. South Texas friendly glows like the red setting sun.

Daisy was raised by an aunt and uncle. “I’m as tomboy as they come,” she says, with “horseback riding and team roping” heading up her Texas values. When not in front of a camera, Daisy’s a self-confessed “jeans and wife beaters” kind of girl, homespun and natural.

Her clothes are a statement of who she is, quite evident the first time we casually met in the hallway of the Hard Rock Hotel during the 2013 Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas.

Daisy when we met in hallwayPhoto courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse

Texas bred at the Hard Rock
Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse

An active upbringing creates an intense person. “I get bored easily, so I generally retain several jobs,” Daisy says of her life today in San Diego. She’s well educated with degrees in the culinary arts, computer science, and an associate’s in veterinary medicine.

Adult film is only one of Daisy’s livelihoods, “I also do animal search and rescue,” she adds, putting an exclamation point on her veterinary experience.

So how does a girl with all these interests end up at a porn convention signing for fans?

Good looks—particularly the sexy sassy type—for starters, coupled with a healthy dose of exhibitionism. Early training in front of a camera is always a perk. Daisy developed a modeling career at the tender age of eight, so photo shoots are in her blood.

But really, that’s fluff. It was a guy.

Dick ChibblesPhoto courtesy Soft Focus Studios

Dick Chibbles
Photo courtesy Soft Focus Studios

Daisy fell in love with porn performer and director Dick Chibbles. At first he was apprehensive about their relationship, asking Daisy if she could deal with his profession. Not a problem, according to Daisy, and a happy marriage eventually followed a “whirlwind romance.” Along the way, Daisy got an unexpected introduction to the whims and unpredictability of the porn business.

Dick and Daisy had been living together for a few months and a small crisis infringed on their bliss. Here it is in her words.

“We needed rent money and he had a shoot and the girl didn’t show the first time. They re-booked the shoot and she showed up drunk and all over the place. They rescheduled it a third time. She showed and looked beaten and ridden hard and put away wet. The shoot was canceled.”

In porn it’s not uncommon for girls to flake and blow off their call times. Coming in drunk or high is irresponsible because a girl cannot rely on her good judgment, putting agents and directors in a difficult position where time and money is wasted.

Daisy continues.

“We need this for our rent money. We can’t let this happen. Can I do it? He [Dick] looked at me and then sat down with me for a good hour and a half talking me out of it because he wanted to make sure.”

Dick was doubtful this was a good idea. Daisy had a lot on the line. True, she’s a modeling veteran and easy on the photographers’ lens, having been mainstreamed with print, catalog, and runway work in Europe’s high fashion world. But this is porn and it’s a different kind of forever.

At that point, another side to Daisy stepped forward. She’s a nudist and a free-spirited girl with a big heart who wanted to help out her boyfriend, keep their romance alive, and be a good soldier.

But Dick remained leery. A young woman in love can make life changing decisions that she may later regret.

Daisy didn’t see a problem. Maybe this porn business is a natural, after all?  How hard can it be? And, it might be fun.

Daisy furthers the tale.

“So he talked to me. He gave me the whole spiel. ‘This will never go away if you start it. There’s always going to be a trace of it somewhere.’ He went through the whole line of all the reasons why I would not do this and at the end I sat there for a little bit and said, ‘I’m ok with it.’

After all, I’m getting paid to have sex with my boyfriend and I’m used to cameras.

He called the director back and the director said, ‘Let’s meet her.’ I walked in and I guess I impressed him with acting as well. There was a huge intro into it [the scene] and he [the director] said,‘ignore me.’ So I ignored him and went through the whole spiel. He was totally happy with it. He said, ‘strip down and turn around in circles. Looks good, seriously, we should have just gone with her.’

My first movie I made the industry rate at the time, $1,200 for the basic stuff, and had sex with my boyfriend.”

There’s a caveat here for anyone who thinks the porn scene is a cakewalk.

Daisy Layne has been around the business since 2005 and she only does boy/girl shoots with her husband. She’s is a rarity and a lesson for any girl who wants the ever elusive fame and glam of adult film. A woman who manages her career with intelligence and takes control over her own image is not the norm. Daisy makes it work, but she’s not traveled the path alone. The wisdom of Nina Hartley and the late Hollie Stevens and a friendship with Bobbi Starr have educated her on what it means to function on solid ground.

Most important, Daisy was well into her twenties when she took the step and thanks to others she learned the business from “the bottom up,” as she puts it.

During our interview, hand is mine!Photo Courtesy of 3hattergrindhous

Our interview before a day of signing
Photo Courtesy of 3hattergrindhous

I Enjoy Women

There’s a little more to Daisy Layne’s porn career. Asked about performing for Dan O’Connell’s Girlfriends Films, Daisy offers a bit of a shocker. “I was a lesbian for five years before I met my husband.”

“I indulge. I enjoy women,” she says, brightening. “So for me, Girlfriends was a big draw.”

If Daisy’s first boy/girl shoot was not unusual enough, her initial girl/girl shoot was with a model well into a pregnancy. Dan’s gig was the girl’s final shoot before the baby’s arrival and the obligatory time off that would keep her away from the camera . . . and out of work.

Daisy, the good soldier, helped out Dick and got their rent paid. Now she rode to the rescue to be there for a mother-to-be. No surprise and no sweat because Daisy has midwifing skills. “I have eight godchildren,” she says with pride, and “I birthed three of them.”

Daisy has a way of putting everyone at ease.

That’s why Dan got in touch with Daisy. The model, who was seven and a half months along, wanted a scene for her website so Girlfriends stepped up. Dan O’Connell, an industry favorite and overall great guy, wanted to know if Daisy was fine with the shoot.

Dan O'Connell, one of the truly best personalities in the adult bizPhoto courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse

Dan O’Connell, one of the top personalities in the adult biz
Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse

No problem, Daisy was willing to do her best. When she met the performer everyone was astonished to learn Daisy is a midwife.

“Yeah,” Daisy said, “if you go into labor I’ve got you.” The girl was excited and ready to go. “She was enthralled with it, we had a blast,” Daisy

remembers and recounts what happened.

“The scene went without a hitch. She [the model] knew exactly what to do to make it feel good and not make me feel uncomfortable. I made it all about the mood. She wanted to accentuate the feminism in it. I made her feel beautiful. It was very easy because she was glowing and I got lucky.”

Perhaps the lucky one was an expectant model who wanted to retain her desire to be desirable. Understandable, because sometimes a pregnant woman can be conflated with a colicky baby, not exactly a sensuous vision.

When a girl’s body is her ticket to the next dollar, pregnancy, despite all its joys, can be a daunting time to get through. . . . unless of course, Daisy Layne is at hand to lend a hand.

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South Texas Friendly

by Rich Moreland, February 2013

The Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas sometimes reminds me of an Alfred Hitchcock film. The hero (or heroine) is inundated with sanity breaking stimuli in a world that is firing at a million miles per hour. The rush and demands coming from all sides like scud missiles can punish anyone’s nerve endings.

Needless to say, with its crowds and hectic scheduling, the annual convention tries the patience of everyone in the business.

I get flustered for another reason. I’m directionally challenged. That’s a polite way of confessing that I get lost with little effort.  When I go on long cycling rides with my buddies, for instance, I remember our routes using landmarks. Everyone else depends on road signs. If someone brings along a map (or a GPS nowadays), that is of no consequence to me. Just tell me to make a right turn at the big oak tree.

Little wonder that when I arrive at the Hard Rock Hotel Complex on this cool and sunny January morning, I need directions. Never mind that I was here last year!

Its media day and my photographer and I are picking up our badges so we can roam the premises, locate booths and kiosks for future reference, and, if we’re lucky, network. He’s new to the biz and the Hard Rock. Bill has a nose for airport navigation, I just follow him. But this is supposed to be my territory and I don’t want to aimlessly wander from one corridor to another trying to figure things out. The posted map at the entrance is meaningless to me, despite the Hard Rock’s good intentions.

So, it’s time to ask for simple directions with hopefully only a turn or two.

I should add that I believe opportunity comes and goes all the time. On this occasion, it shows up in spades.

Going through the first set of double doors that I’m guessing is the right direction, I spot a blonde leaning against the wall across the hallway. She appears to be taking a break from a maddening schedule that is on her mind, but not yet reality. Understand that my radar is set for porn girls. I’ve been around enough that I can spot them easily, not to mention that this is convention central. The thing about this woman is her manner and appearance. For lack of a better description, let me rely on my Hollywood movie preferences.

Like the femme fatale in a film noir of the forties, she walks into the detective’s office and Sam Spade says, “This dame has class. She can melt an ice-cube at forty feet with a wink of her baby blues.”

Daisy Layne Photo courtesy of Rick Garcia

Daisy Layne
Photo courtesy of Rick Garcia

Any graphic cliché is trite because it can’t match the vibes the blonde throws out. But I need something, so here are old standbys: statuesque, imposing, sensuous.

But, the best is approachable—tight jeans, stilettos, blue cowl neck top, and braless, notwithstanding. She’s 5’8” without the heels, is my guess.

In my school days I would never have walked up to such a girl. But I have more moxie now, plus I possess wordsmith power. Flash the badge and hope for an interview. But this moment is sans badge, so I whip out a business card and depend on my feeble persuasion skills.

By the way, there’s a six foot five, two hundred pounder, hanging close by. They’re obviously together, but he’s giving her space. Got to respect him for that, I think I can say ‘hello’ without any hassle.

In the porn world, girls sometimes have intimidating guys around to intervene if necessary and I don’t blame them. Some fans can be fawning, not to mention stalkingly rude. Just because she does porn does not mean she’s everybody’s baby. These girls deserve more credit than that, it’s a business.

I quickly find out her name is Daisy Layne and what I’m about to get with my directions is south Texas friendly.

I meet all kinds of people doing my journalistic thing, but Daisy is not just “all kinds of people.” She’s an exception. In an instance I like her, I really do. We chat as if old friends from way back and arrange for a later interview.

I love opportunity and it is knocking loudly right now. To quote Humphrey Bogart in Casa Blanca as he walks into the fog with Claude Rains, “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

    *          *          *          *          *

Two days later I’m waiting for my 10 a.m. interview with Daisy. We had exchanged emails and arranged to meet at Girlfriends Films. I talked with Dan O’Connell the previous day and feel more than welcome at Girlfriends. Coincidently, Daisy shoots for the company.

Dan and I are chatting a bit while the clock is giving away minutes. It’s after ten and no Daisy. Not at all unexpected, by the way. During this convention week girls don’t get much sleep with late night parties integral to their schedules. She’ll show up.

Dan offers to give Daisy a call and with apologies for her tardiness, she arrives within minutes. I’m relieved and will not forget Dan’s favor. I avoided sending a text and the appearance of being pushy. Thanks, Dan.

Daisy and I find a quiet spot and I pull out the recorder. Dick, that’s Daisy’s husband who is never far away, falls into conversation with Bill and the next hour flies by. Dick Chibbles and Daisy are a team, a rarity in adult film, and support each other.

In fact, the fascinating story of how Daisy ended up in adult film is related to her love for her hubby. It’s coming, no porn pun intended, with my next post.

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With Girlfriends, it’s all Sex-Positive

By Rich Moreland, February 2013

Photo Courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse

Photo Courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse

Not every pornographer shoots sex for sex’s sake. Dan O’Connell, founder and owner of Girlfriends Films, does more than direct a sex scene just because he’s hired a couple of girls and has a camera. “I think the context of sex is important,” he says, explaining there must be a reason for the girls to explore each other in a Girlfriends production.

His formula works. The company is widely known in the industry for creating film narratives with a purpose. Like many studio owners, Dan emphasizes production values that reflect his personal tastes. In this case, he prefers “a dramatic storyline full of tension and anticipation.” Dan O’Connell is much like Evil Angel’s John Stagliano, though their movies differ in style and subject matter. Each man puts his passion on film. He knows what he likes and he has cultivated an audience who enjoys his offerings.

Girlfriends Films advertises its product as lesbian oriented though the company recently hired Vivid veteran Michael Bisco to develop boy/girl shoots.

Photo Courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse

Photo Courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse

Right now, Dan hopes to complete at least one a month. His objective has always been to produce films for women, but he realizes that male viewers can also find space under the Girlfriends’ umbrella.

Seduction is a key word at Girlfriends Films. As mentioned above, Dan O’Connell wants to move past just shooting sex. He amusingly puts it this way, Girlfriends avoids the “’I like you, oh, I like you, too. Let’s go have sex,’” theme.

However, seduction translates into a different approach when it comes to filming. Dan is always on scene, but he minimizes his crew for the sake of the performers he hires. He wants everyone to be at ease, otherwise seduction isn’t going to happen, or if it does, it will lose any claim to authenticity.

“I don’t have any more people in the room than we have cameras,” Dan says. For him, three is the limit. Speaking of the crew, its Dan and two girls who happen to be gay.

Why? It’s a simple consideration when working in an industry that demands a performer’s most intimate moments. “Some of the girls we shoot are relatively inexperienced in the business and we don’t want to make them nervous with a bunch of guys looking around,” Dan explains. When girls get aroused they must keep in mind that the cameras have monitors. Important, Dan insists, because “If you are not looking in the camera monitor, you are not making a good movie.” All very professional, keeping everyone on task and producing content that elevates a business’s reputation.

Legacy and Integrity

When I asked for his mission statement, Dan beams. “To provide orgasms, to make people happy!”

“Our industry is all about providing happiness and contentment and sexual satisfaction,” Dan says, “we are not here to rape and pillage.”

Dan O'ConnellPhoto Courtesy of 3 hattergrindhouse

Dan O’Connell
Photo Courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse

Then he adds something I’ve rarely heard in the industry, a sense of legacy.

“When pornography is finally a legitimate business,” Dan says, “I want people to look back and say GirlFriends Films was one of those companies that was sex-positive.” When I mention that the label sex-positive makes his company feminist oriented, he responds with a smile then puts a slightly different spin on what he means by the term.

Dan urges the adult business to strive for a sex-positive goal because “as an industry we should be respected, not vilified the way we often are.” It’s about integrity, something Girlfriends Films has solidified as part of its brand.

Girlfriends has a “clean reputation,” Dan believes, and in the porn world such an accolade does not come without effort. One might suspect that as owner he collects sexual perks for himself. Not so, Dan does not hang out with the girls who film for him. That’s important, he points out, because “you will gain their respect and they’ll want to work with you” if they are treated like the professionals they are.  And there’s another benefit, the performers who shoot for Dan bring other models to his attention.

“I always am very respectful of the girls,” Dan says and explains that porn performers are top notch in his view. He describes them as “physically strong, mentally strong, very resourceful,” plus they are intelligent and educated. “At least the ones we use,” he notes.

I would agree. The Girlfriends booth at the Hard Rock Hotel is always busy with girls signing and talking with fans. Dan’s popularity among the talent is obvious. Other studios may have two or three performers available at any one time but Girlfriends has twice that number. Also, a company person is always around to schedule interviews for journalists or other interested parties. I secured my interview with Dana DeArmond through a simple hassle free request, something that is not always the case with other studios. In short, it’s about access and Dan knows how to make that work for him.

When I got to know Dan O’Connell better (we talked again the next day) I felt comfortable using Girlfriends as a place for brief timeouts from my hectic floor schedule. Anyone who plans to go to Vegas for the Adult Entertainment Expo should stop by Girlfriends. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed. I can assure any visitor that he or she will always feel invited.

Over the years, the adult business has changed for Dan. He used to be more into shooting a scene than writing one, but no more. “I get more excited writing scripts,” he says. Dan likes developing new ideas and testing out innovative story possibilities. As a writer, I can fully understand his view. Dan prefers storytelling to the task of getting just the right shot on set. Filming is hard work and has its rewards, but it doesn’t compare with inventing content, especially considering that Girlfriends shoots as many as thirty scenes a month. For Dan O’Connell the business is twenty-four seven.

In our conversations Dan reveals a philosophical side. He has definitive views on society’s attitude toward sex and porn. “The sex industry should be enormous,” he says, considering that everyone is concerned about sex in some way. Seems logical to me, sex is about our humanness. However, when it comes to the adult convention—the yearly occasion that sex takes center stage—Dan points out that reality paints a different picture.

Unfortunately, today’s market downturn crams the annual gathering into the confining spaces of the Hard Rock. I suggest that the hotel’s venues get crowded on fan days and Dan nods, mentioning that Girlfriends’ booth is deliberately located in the back of the ballroom where space is more available. In fact, he has added another booth just to make room for the company’s fans. Dan doesn’t want them to get “stacked up” while waiting to meet their favorite stars.

As I hinted above, it was a real help to me as I used the Girlfriends space to meet up with people, so my thanks to Dan.

Dan O’Connell makes a final point as we wrap up our talk. “People look at us (the porn industry) based on what they perceive to be the worse content.” Elaborating further, he believes that the vilest material that “disrespects women and causes pain” is it what the public believes the industry to be. Perception without a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of what it means to be in pornography is a problem the business has never been able to shake. But Dan insists that scenario can be changed.

I could not agree more and Dan O’Connell contributes mightily to that effort. He’s one of the good guys and his company is well respected in the universe of filmed pornography. With Girlfriends, it’s all very professional and sex-positive.

 

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