Tag Archives: Girlfriend Films

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.

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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

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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A Triumph Over an Adolescent Male Mind

by Rich Moreland August 29, 2011

When I discovered there were feminists making adult film I was astounded. Not your mother’s feminism, I assure you. In my limited experience with the women’s movement a feminist was, when it comes to sex, not exactly ready to take on all comers.

My interaction with adult film was equally as limited. My adolescent male mind was focused on the action, not the value of the people who created it, their intelligence, their politics, and their art.

With little prompting, intellectual curiosity got the better of me as it often does. I decided to seriously investigate the adult film business. Rather than living with myths, or what others told me, I wanted to know the people who work in the industry because I suspected they were pretty interesting. This decision was the beginning of the end of my adolescent male mind.

Shortly after beginning my research, I discovered performers who identify as feminists—Nina Hartley, Madison Young, Bobbi Starr, Dylan Ryan, April Flores, Jiz Lee, and Lorilei Lee, to name a few—who are staking out their space in a male-dominated business. And the roll call includes innovative directors like Shine Louise Houston, Courtney Trouble, Tristan Taormino, Nica Noelle, and Carlos Batts, all artists in their own right.

Further investigation revealed I had only scratched the surface because no current feminist in adult film can celebrate her/his craft without paying homage to the past. The pioneers of feminism in adult film, actresses like Annie Sprinkle, Candida Royalle and their sisters from the 1980’s known collectively as Club 90, set the standard for today’s feminism in the industry. They surpassed all expectations of women who made their reputations in adult film. Annie with her performance art, Candida with FEMME productions, Gloria Leonard with her political activism, and the two Veronicas—Vera and Hart—deserve icon status.

So, where did this leave me? I realized how wrong I was in broad brushing feminism. Chalk up a feminist victory over the adolescent male mind.

In truth, I admire the traditional feminist movement for its political and social contributions in changing America’s cultural landscape. Unfortunately, a few decades ago the anti-pornography faction of the broader movement seized the media limelight, preaching an anti-sex, pro-censorship message while decrying the evils of porn. Thus a feminist reputation was created and shaped my reference point on the movement.

I was not alone. My conversations with Candida Royalle revealed that she struggled with reconciling feminism and her on screen career in adult film. She drifted away from the movement when demonizing pornography was feminism’s popular mantra before returning under a pro-sex feminist banner.

As with all movements feminism was not monolithic; factions developed over all sorts of issues. Some feminists disaffected with the movement’s anti-sex direction encouraged a woman’s ownership of her sexuality. They identified as sex-positive feminists and countered the movement’s popular belief that porn promoted harm and degradation toward women. These feminists supported a woman’s right to buy, watch, perform in, and get off on porn if that was her desire. In time, sex-positive feminism gained a foothold in academia and spread to adult film.

Though the earliest of the sex-positive crowd wasn’t real thrilled with Linda Lovelace’s talents in Deep Throat (1972), the film actually celebrates her sexual pleasure. Remember, she is seeking orgasm. But feminists wanted to see the narrative from a woman’s point of view and felt short-changed. Some were not opposed to Lovelace’s performance; they just thought porn/erotica could be made better and more appealing to women.

Beginning in the mid-1980’s that demand became reality and feminism found its place in the pornography industry. Today, the space they own is home to a variety of expressions. To give you an idea, consider the following samples: the erotica of FEMME Productions and Girlfriends Films, the mainstream films of “Porn Valley’s” Tristan Taormino and Belladonna, the edgy genderqueer performances of San Francisco’s Queer Porn Mafia, and the BDSM internet offerings of Kink.com.

Remember, it is all about choice. Everyone’s sexual expression is legitimate and never deserves to be stifled by anyone. So watch an erotic movie if you wish or a hard edge bondage scene if that is your thing. It’s choice and feminist porn celebrates that.

An addendum. Embedded in this venture is a celebration of women’s sexuality that has endorsed each woman’s individual pleasure, regardless of her interest in porn. Businesses like Good Vibrations in San Francisco and Good For Her in Toronto have given women the permission and privacy needed to explore their individual desires. And, no venture into sex-positive feminism is legitimate without mentioning the innovative art space in San Francisco known as Femina Potens.

So, I decided to tell the story of sex-positive feminism in adult film, seeking to discover how modern day feminists in the business got to their present state. In other words, how did veterans like Royalle, Sprinkle—and their close friend, Nina Hartley—spawn the likes of Madison, Bobbi, Jiz, Courtney, and the others listed above? The most effective way to handle that mission was to ask them personally and then tie their stories together with scholarly writings on the subject and the actual history that took place.

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I’m happy to report that my adolescent male mind has morphed into a more mature state and is now feminist oriented, at least the sex-positive kind and its vital connections to adult film. I credit feminist scholar Linda Williams with the academic insight I needed to figure it out. By the way, if you have any inclination to read a brilliant work on the ways to view pornography check out Williams’ books, especially her classic, Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the ‘Frenzy of the Visible.’” (University of California Press: 1999).

In the meantime, I’ll keep plugging away and just maybe get all this finished so the story is recorded for America’s cultural history.

A final and honest word is in order here. For all you out there who excoriate the adult film business, I understand your views. However as you moralize, criticize, and vilify, consider taking a moment or two to actually sit down and talk with people who work in the business. As a group, they are well-educated, articulate, and very middle class. People very much like you and me.

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