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AEE 2019: Bree Mills, Part Two

by Rich Moreland, April 2019

In this second installment on Bree Mills, we will look at her filmmaking philosophy from a business and creative point of view.

Photos are credited to Kevin Sayers. Logo is courtesy of Girlsway.

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Data and Creativity

Like every successful businesswoman, Bree Mills understands how to produce the best content for the dollar. And, like every renowned artist, she knows how to find the right story to keep her fan base coming back for more.

Neither of the above accomplishments works without a collective effort.

“My content is a real mix of data driven decisions and creativity,” the head of production tells me. “I sit on a lot of data and I have a whole team at Gamma that studies what people want.” She refers to the accumulated information as her Petri dish she can “source from.”

“I speak with customers and porn fans, so I use that intelligence to fuel my ideas. But I try not to let the data override the creativity. It ends up being a good balance.”

To what extent does fan response drive future productions?

For an “ongoing series” it has tremendous value, she insists. What’s more, fans can be co-authors of a Gamma Films production.

“Girlsway, one of our big studios, is very involved in member feedback and sourcing ideas for our stories. My finger’s always on the pulse of how our fans are reacting to content.”

Usually she will produce a full season of a series then get feedback to generate the material for the next one. But with the recent development of Adult Time, she’s changing things a bit. Now Bree puts out “pilots of concepts so we can start getting feedback from members right away.”

The result has an “impact on subsequent episodes that we shoot,” she says, “so that we can start building an audience, build engagement, [then] refine our series.”

It’s a partnership of sorts, she indicates, because we are “shaping the content together.”

Outsider

A closer look at her product reveals that Bree considers herself to be “a pop culture vulture.”

“I’ve watched a lot of films, read a lot of books, and watched a lot of television. It’s in my genes.”

She explains that inspiration for a project comes for many sources and likes to quote Pablo Picasso, “Good artists copy and great artists steal.”

“When I come up with a concept, I’ll pull a little thing I saw here, a frame of a film that I remember here . . . to help me craft the piece I’m doing. I allow my respect for pop culture to influence the way that I work,” Bree explains.

Having said that, she qualifies her work in adult. “I’m an outsider. I’m not a pornographer who grew up through this industry. I kind of came in and crashed it in many ways.”

Admitting that people may not understand exactly what she is doing with a film or a series, Bree is undaunted.

“I do it because that’s the pull that I’m receiving creatively or the direction I’m going.” In other words, she follows her instincts.

Lastly, Bree mentions the feedback she gets from women. There is “strength in the female characters in Pure Taboo that is more relatable to a lot of female viewers,” she comments. Consequently, they “find porn very empowering.”

Her films present “something other than just a stereotypical portrayal of a woman as a sex object” that is characteristic of the industry.

But the picture is complicated, Bree infers. With Pure Taboo productions, there are “no winners,” male or female. In fact, “there are a lot of anti-heroes.”

Sex is the Last Thing

Finally, we talk about crossing over from adult to mainstream, or, to put it another way, from Porn Valley to Hollywood.

Bree concedes that there is some crossing over between “mainstream pop culture and adult culture,” but that is more lifestyle oriented. Her dream is to have one of her films cross over.

For the upcoming year, she is developing a “primary project” that can be shopped to film festivals she characterizes as “mainstream outlets.” It will have a hardcore version for her fans.

Her objective is to create “a film with sex in it.” A workable idea, Bree insists, because “half of the films on Netflix these days [have] a good degree of sexuality being depicted.”

Though her intention is to “showcase quality stories, if people are interested in seeing the extended, uncut, uncensored version, they can,” she affirms.

Lastly, the writer/director offers her assessment of what she does as a filmmaker.

“The sex is kind of the last thing I’m thinking about,” she says. “I’m thinking about how to build the tension, build the narrative, how to develop the characters. If I have done my job right, I’ve gotten into the actors’ heads, they will carry out the scene with their own experiences.

“They know how to have sex. If can get them to have sex in their characters, it will be a good scene and secondary to the story. It’s the end result of the story.”

Then she summarizes her goal.

Create a “good enough story that people can watch all the way through, are left thinking about it, and are amazed that we can do a story that is really interesting.”

Bree Mills ends with “I think that is completely possible.”

Gamma Films’ record eighty-four AVN award nominations for 2019 validates her point.

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The “New Girl”

by Rich Moreland, November 2012

Steve’s bringing over the “new girl,” Bill Margold said.

Photographer Bill Knight and I are sitting in Margold’s Hollywood apartment on a slightly cool fall afternoon. I’ve pieced together a bit of an interview on his memories, but it’s all very informal. Bill’s a friend and one the last living porn historians who remembers the days when the business was a small fraternity of actors and actresses.

There is another item on our agenda. We’re awaiting Steve Nelson, editor of Adult Industry News, to head out to dinner.

Meeting an industry model for the first time is a plus, especially if I can get another perspective on the business. So a “new girl” is always welcome, but a quiet objection on my part is due here. The adult film industry refers to its male and female talent as boys and girls, terminology I’ve always considered somewhat demeaning. Porn is a sometimes tough, sleazy, and shady business and it’s not cut out for boys and girls. Though I’m used to the industry language, “girl” is still off-putting. On this afternoon, the person who walks into Bill’s apartment proves to be anyone but.

The “new girl” is a delightful surprise. Her name is Leena Sky, a Floridian who flies out west to shoot (that’s a porn phrase, it has to do with cameras!), and she is every bit a woman. I let her talk career with Bill for a bit before catching an opening to introduce myself. I’d done my homework and know she has a Ph.D., perfect for me to instantly bond with her. We both teach in the college classroom.

And connect we did. Leena spends the next few hours with four middle aged men who are interested in helping her launch the “Porn Valley” version of her career. One more thing, Leena is no kid, she’s in her early thirties and has her head wrapped around the porn business. She knows where she is going, drawing her own roadmap along the way.

After dinner, our group drives over to the pier at Santa Monica for a late night visit with the Pacific, a treat for me because I’ve not been here. The night air is chilly and the ocean placid. Fortunately, Leena gives me the bulk of her time; she is willing to listen to some ideas I have.

Simi Valley and Coffee

The next morning Bill Knight and I set out for Simi Valley just west of the San Fernando Valley, aka “Porn Valley.” We’re to meet Leena at a local coffee shop. She’s due for a shoot that morning and is gracious to give me an hour of her time. When we arrive, she’s easy to spot, leopard tube top and black hot pants, very “pornie” and very cute. I suggest we take our discussion outdoors to the patio where the customers are fewer, a tactic I’ve learned over the years.

Most interviews with porn models are much the same. Tell me a little about yourself; now let’s talk about your favorite shoots and what you like to do on film. Mostly it’s graphic sex and penis size, stuff to get the fan off. I try to approach things a bit differently, particularly if I can concentrate the performer on her past. The question that is usually on everyone’s mind about adult film models is “why would you do this and how did you get your start?”

Here’s Leena’s view, and I will warn you, she is smart, articulate, and knows how to identify opportunity.

“I grew up in Philadelphia,” she begins. “I didn’t really know what I wanted to do except go to college and leave home at eighteen to spread my wings.”

She recounts that she graduated from Clemson University in South Carolina with a major in psychology. “I found psychology to be something I could relate to, having gone through a lot of turmoil in my own life.” A not uncommon response I get from my own students who want to major in psychology, by the way. And, like most psych students, Leena realized a graduate degree was a must.

At this early juncture in her life, Leena was embroiled in significant changes. She went to grad school after an initial education burn out, ended up in Georgia where she worked in social services, doing everything from family counseling to working in abortion clinics. A master’s in counseling came her way, leading her to private practice where she encountered patients with suicidal thoughts and drug addictions.

“I like things that are fast and changing,” Leena tells me, speaking of her counseling years. Though sex addiction and therapeutic techniques involving sex were not topics she studied, she confesses she had nagging thoughts about the sex industry she could not shake. “I always had these fantasies of being in it and I shared these thoughts with my mother,” Leena explains, “she strongly discouraged it and I am happy I did get an education.” But, Leena adds that sex work in front of the camera “was always in the back of my mind.”

Leena got married along the way, had twins, and pursued a doctorate which she completed recently. It was not an easy run and perseverance was the key to her success. “I am really goal-oriented,” she says. But like so many directions we can take in our pursuit of happiness, the expectations exceed reality. “I really hoped that light bulbs would turn to magical things when I got those letters (the Ph.D.),” she sighs. However, fate, with its longings that intuitively shape our decisions, had other thoughts in mind.

Over dinner last evening, Leena and I talked about the idealism we had when we started teaching on the college level. Conversation turned to the students in our respective classrooms who don’t have the responsibility they need to take ownership of their education and how disheartening that can be to a professor. In her case, Leena was burning out, yet she managed to hang on for a while by teaching online.

Then another opportunity poked its sensuous head around the corner and leered its lewd thoughts in Leena’s direction.

“Around this time, she begins, “I had learned about webcamming through an accountant who did my taxes.” Her divorce left a financial hole in her checkbook and the CPA knew she could use extra work. “He planted the seed,” Leena says, but adds she had “no idea” what she was getting into. “I never watched porn. I was sort of in the very vanilla world.”

“Had you ever seen porn before all this came about in your life,” I ask, because her words I’ve heard before from other adult film models.

“You know what my earliest memory is?” Leena says. “It was a Jodie Foster movie I saw way too early on. She was raped on a pinball machine. It was almost like porn to me. I was twelve or thirteen and at a friend’s house. We didn’t have cable, it was on HBO.”

Next, into Leena’s life came a kid’s easiest outlet, print material. “I remember my girlfriends and I would steal nudie magazines, which was really pervy,” Leena explains.

Pervy may be fun, but it does not create porn a model. Leena remained as uninformed as the average girl. “I really didn’t see a lot of porn, so the webcamming thing, I didn’t even know what it was.”

Decision time was on the horizon; the fantasy is morphing into reality. Once the college gig was downsized, Leena stopped hating to go to work. She shifted her teaching to adjunct status and limited her work to online classes. Leena’s happiness level took a quantum leap forward, but bills had to be paid. Stepping up the webcam was the answer, at least in the short run. Yet, Leena knew full well webcam is a tenuous enterprise and wouldn’t last forever.

Opportunity showed up again, this time in embedded in one of her webcam accounts.

“This one guy that kept coming into my (webcam) room and said, ‘What are you doing here? Why don’t you do porn’?” Leena’s response was befuddlement. “Porn? What are you talking about? Me? How would I do that?” she thought.

“I think he had connections from formerly being associated with the business,” she continues. “He was able to take a few pictures. I sent them to Reality Kings (a Miami Beach-based adult online company). I thought it’d be kind of cool if they wanted me. It turns out they got me my first shoot.

So a porn career that was perfect for the MILF and Hot for Teacher genres was birthed. It was a good thing because if it had not, then our paths would never have crossed.

Leena is now part of the adult film universe and is expanding her options every day. Her adventures, by her own admission, have been difficult to negotiate at times, but they have also been a turn on.

By the way, F. Scott Fitzgerald once said that in life there are no second acts. Leena Sky and I have something in common: we’re proving Mr. Fitzgerald wrong.

More on Leena is coming in another post. Perhaps she will discuss orgasms on film, could not resist the pun! Not all of it is positive because as I mentioned above, the porn business has its characters and its vagaries.

Stay tuned as they still say in the media business.

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“We Evolve to Now”

by Rich Moreland, October, 2012

On a recent Los Angeles evening, I sat down with the husband and wife team of Carlos Batts and April Flores. He is a film director; she is his artistic muse and leading lady. A couple of years ago at the Feminist Porn Awards in Toronto, we informally exchanged brief “hellos,” but accomplished little else beyond that. This time around, with the help of Coast Anabelle Hotel staff, we made arrangements to talk. I wanted to delve into their views on making film and the porn community to which they belong. I got something I never anticipated, a profound insight, artistically and intellectually, into the genre we call feminist pornography.

Here are some segments of our discussion.

Making a Statement with Your Body

When we discussed definitions for feminist pornography, April began with her background in film work.

“I did my first scene in October 2005,” she began, emphasizing that an adult career was not her goal. The shoot was an intended “one time thing.” “I wanted to experience it and move on,” she said. Her thoughts reflect those of other performers I have met.

For April, her professional horizon quickly expanded. Stepping into the adult genre opened doors leading to friendships and an enrichment of her art. A “natural progression” began, she said, as one film led to another.

However, like other women who have entered adult film, April had the expected moment of reconsideration.

“By my third or fourth film I had to take a step back and evaluate what I was doing. If I’m going to keep doing this, why am I going to do this? It’s my body and I’m exposing myself on a really intense level.”

April’s hesitancy was not unusual; it was her resolve that shaped her future. She discovered feminist porn and wanted to be a part of it. “If I’m going to do this [appear in adult film],” April decided, “I want to have a message behind it, not just do it for frivolous reasons.”

Searching for meaning in her work, April found that feminist porn offered “real feminine pleasure.” Women create the product, defining a comfort level for her. “My peers and I are enjoying what we do and some of us are running businesses and using this medium as a creative outlet.”

Her selectivity has enriched the genre. Mention the name April Flores around those who are knowledgeable about feminist porn and affirmative nods result. She is an established star.

April and Carlos
Photo by Bill Knight

April sees a mission in her work. The projects she accepts are carefully chosen. “I have turned a lot of work down because I knew it would portray me and fat women and just women as a whole in a bad way,” she declares. For her, feminist porn is film with a woman-friendly attitude.

Incidentally, money is not central to her work. “Adult has never been my primary source of income,” April says. Her approach is a fit with the makers of feminist porn. The “primary motivators” for feminist filmmakers and performers is “expression,” she confirms, “making a statement with your body and your work.”

Feminism is not new to April. “I always considered myself a feminist,” April says, a feeling that is rooted in her childhood. She moved out of her family home at eighteen, becoming instantly independent. April never considered herself to be a “weak woman,” as she puts it, though she didn’t develop her sense of feminist empowerment until she matured into her late twenties and early thirties.

Carlos took his turn at defining feminist porn and credits Annie Sprinkle as his starting point. Adopting a feminist lens in shooting adult film, Carlos discovered April and other feminist performers to be “very strong and powerful” with “their own spirit and energy.” He considers himself lucky.

“I’m fortunate to be around people that have a very strong vision to not only create in that environment but be inspired by it,” Carlos believes. He goes on to affirm that “women artists can be strong spirited, feminist in their own way, and independent with their own voice or vision. Women record their sex and want to perform and fuck from a creative point of view.”

His words bring my thoughts to feminist talent like performer/directors Courtney Trouble and Madison Young.

Carlos identifies April, Jiz Lee, and Dylan Ryan as “a progressive group of performers, a very unique trifecta.” He praises them for caring about the product they make and his ability as a director. They believe in him, Carlos says, “there is no judgment and they are comfortable in their sexuality.”

Carlos credits feminist performers with caring “a little bit more about the outcome and how they are being portrayed which keeps you on your toes.” He’s blunt about mainstream film and television, pointing out that “there is a difference between an actress that cares about her performance and one that just shows up.” The same thing, I might add, can be said for mainstream adult film.

Asked about a timeframe for a movie, Carlos delves further into his filmmaking philosophy. “My own personal process is four to six months,” he answers, “we make one or two movies a year.”

Of course, budget is a consideration. If Adam and Eve or Good Vibrations are in the mix, things are done more quickly. For example, Carlos references one big budget film he made for Adam and Eve. The movie, Voluptuous Biker Babes, was “inspired” by the 1960’s classic sexploitation film, Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill, Kill, and was nominated for an Adult Video News (AVN) award.

Photo Courtesy of Carlos Batts

No matter the financing picture, Carlos emphasizes that to do a film is a “personal process” that entails casting and examining shooting locations, among other things. Because “the sex is a very small percentage of the film,” he moves more slowly in determining “exactly what I want to do.” By comparison, a Porn Valley director once informed me that a two and one-half hour film may only have 20 plus pages of script. The average sex scene can last up to fifteen minutes or more.

Outsider Porn

I want Carlos and April’s take on San Francisco’s Queer Porn Mafia, a self-identified cadre of directors and performers. As a historian, I see the QPM as a film community and an informal support group. Carlos expanded my understanding of the QPM by suggesting that it is part of a movement, as we shall see momentarily.

April notes that they are late comers to the group. The QPM was around before Carlos and she “heard about it and met Courtney [Trouble].”

In 2009-2010, Carlos and April became part of the San Francisco film making scene. Inevitably, they met the QPM. “We became friends with them and started shooting with them,” April says, in an atmosphere that was different for Carlos and her. San Francisco is not Southern California. It’s “a different city,” she explains, “it’s small and the sexual presence is way more huge than it is here [in LA].”

April and Carlos share common perspectives about casting and filming with the QPM that are “very different” from “mainstream porn.” The QPM is a group of artists with “like-minded ideas,” April says, who are frustrated with the mainstream. We’re “outsiders from mainstream porn,” she declares, but we are “sticking together” and, she adds with conviction, “we are going to continue moving forward.”

Carlos points out that the QPM is “a select group to work with” which made developing and sharing an artistic vision “fun.” He pays them the ultimate compliment, “with all due respect to April and Courtney and Jiz, everyone works really hard. I respect them and their work ethic,” he says.

April defines their collective product as “indie porn,” sometimes referring to it as “outsider porn.” In short, feminist porn is apart from traditional adult film and the annual Feminist Porn Awards celebrates this difference.

Vanilla is Becoming Smaller

My final question concerns the overarching term queer as an umbrella identifier of a variety of sexualities. Carlos sees it as “more like an ideology” that revolves around “individual taste.” April describes her queer sexuality as “fluid, not straight or gay or bisexual,” simplifying her description by saying that it’s about “the person rather than their genitals.”

What I hear from Carlos and April is typical of what other adult film feminists associated with San Francisco say. Exactly what it means to be queer is difficult to define and individually based. April repeats the accepted norm. To be queer is a personal statement and “I guess you would have to ask them,” she says.

I mention to Carlos that I tend to categorize things into boxes. He agreed, saying, “When you are a historian and you are looking back, things do fall into compartments.” Taking the historian role a step further, I ask him if feminist porn is a movement, or merely a collection of individual attitudes. His observations summarize what I suspected, but needed to be confirmed.

From Carlos’s perspective, we are living in “an interesting time.” “Fifty percent of the population is like vanilla and the other fifty percent is filled with thirty-one flavors,” he says. “Everyone thinks that everyone is having the sexual desires of their parents.” But this idea is being challenged. Carlos points out that now all manner of sexualities are coming out. In other words, our parent’s sexuality does not have to be ours.

“The outsiders are maybe fifty-one percent, vanilla is becoming smaller.” Marginalized sexualities are recognized, voluptuous women are seen as attractive, he asserts. There is this “whole consciousness of what we want to see and how we want to feel. It’s not like it was fifteen years ago.”

Carlos characterizes this new revelation as “our movement” that’s “been cooking since the Nineties.” Then he adds, it has “spawned a bigger broader generation of understanding whether it is sexuality or color or culture.”

At this moment, he is drawing my research into feminist porn together.

“The biggest secret about the feminist movement,” Carlos proclaims, is its creativity. “It is dominated by the consciousness of freedom and expressing yourself.”

This is the Toronto scene where electric audiences at the Feminist Porn Awards turn the work of these artists into a love fest.

“The movement just happens,” he believes. “We will inspire another set of women to make movies, and people of color will make movies they want to see themselves. I just see the consciousness and being different. More young women will see April and say, ‘hey I want to do that,’ or Courtney or Jiz and say, ‘I look like them, that’s how I want to express myself.’”

“I don’t think anyone is purposely or consciously trying to be different. I think people are just expressing themselves in a very bold way.”

There’s more. Referring to marginalized sexualities, Carlos states, “We are all kind of banning together to make it more comfortable with coming out.” He believes technology is the tool that encourages people to “feel a bit more comfortable in expressing themselves.”

The movement is in the present, continually redefining itself. “We evolve to now,” he says, and hints that the end of this evolution, or revolution depending on point of view, is nowhere in sight.

April authenticates her husband’s analysis. I get “a lot of emails from girls saying I want to do what you’re doing and how do I start this?” She concludes, “So I do think it’s spreading.”

We indeed have evolved to now. And the journey is just beginning.

It’s time for dinner. The waiter offers us a table and our conversation continues, the remainder totally off the record.

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Pleasure is not about being the same as your Lover

A View of Susie Bright’s Erotic Screen Volume I: 1967 – 1989 The Golden Hardcore & Shimmering Dyke-Core.

by Rich Moreland, November 2011

Historians thrive on primary sources, the stuff that comes directly from the persons who lived the events. We reference them, quote them, and analyze them. Lincoln’s short speech at Gettysburg is a primary source as is Billie Holiday’s sultry voice in “Easy Living” and Linda Lovelace’s testimony before the Meese Commission on Pornography. You get the idea.

Approaching its fortieth year of legitimacy, adult film and its players are now a part of America’s cultural history that deserves to be chronicled. In resurrecting her magazine column from its tucked away past, a leading feminist thinker has produced one woman’s interpretation of modern porn’s early years. The result is a new collection of primary source material cataloged under the title Susie Bright’s Erotic Screen Volume I: 1967 – 1989 The Golden Hardcore & Shimmering Dyke-Core.

I read Susie’s book to spot connecting points for my research. I was not disappointed. However, beyond the academic fill-in-the blanks what rivets me to Susie’s writing is attitude. Butt kicking is her specialty. Susie’s knack is “outing” the bigotry of our culture’s sexual history, a past that spills from a prudish society and dampens our desires. We get wet, but it’s a dunking that chills the spirit.

Susie dries us off and tells we can get wet again, this time for pleasure. She tells us there are no “rules” in the sexual, no definitive boundaries to what we do or when and how we do it. Her words put heteronormativity on trial.

“Pleasure is not about being the same as your lover,” Susie insists, “or doing the same thing to them as they do to you.”

These remarks are found in a 1995 piece entitled “The Blatant Lesbian Image.” Though it skirts the original time frame of the book, the essay is a perfect concluding message. Though lesbian as a sexual identifier is dated for some in today’s queer community, it was alive almost twenty years ago in defining a marginalized group. Lesbians, once sexual outliers whose loving and hard fornication had no voice in the girl-on-girl pseudo-sex of Porn Valley, were joining gay males in erasing their erotic invisibility. Gay women had endured reactionary attitudes in an age in which authentic sex troubled a fractured feminist movement. But as sexuality legitimized its fluidity into the new century, the once mired sexual turf became solid ground. In producing its own porn, today’s genderqueer population should appreciate the history lessons Susie brings to the text.

Her message drew my thumbs up. Look at what she says next.

“If what people do in bed together encompasses the true spectrum of humankind, then sex is as much about hugging as it is about drinking piss or being spanked on a Naugahyde couch.”

Love those words, but here’s the zinger.

“Our society’s notions of normality are completely fake and meta-trendy, since they rely on the changing standards of superstition, religion, Christianity, and gender bias to define.”

Amen.

This last portion of the book is its best from my perspective, but that opinion is not intended to discount Susie’s selected essays from her Forum days and her time as On Our Backs’ editor. She covers lots of chronological ground. Her film reviews, for instance, are historically valuable. She points out that some movies were edited to avoid government scrutiny and the originals may tragically be lost.

Personally, I share her admiration for Veronika Rocket’s 1983 Smoker and F.X. Pope’s and Rinse Dreams’ 1981 Nightdreams and recommend them to you. Both are filled with artistry and recall a bit of the industry’s feature film format celebrated in the 1970’s.

Putting the information she gives the reader into a political framework heightens the impact of her words, especially considering they originated in a time when the conservative backlash of the Reagan years swept through the social side of American culture. The government had pornographers on the run, take a look at her comments on BDSM film and the shunning of penetrative sex, and the women’s movement was filled with anti-porn feminists, not a playing field that any sex-positive feminist would consider to be level.

Susie remained undaunted. Her essay on racism in the adult film business, “The Killed Story: Jim Crow and Adult Video,” should be required reading even for those uninterested in the general history of filmed pornography. She explains that her original 1986 opinion piece was tabled by the editorial powers-that-be and she rewrote it for her journal. The winners of her forethought then are her readers today.

Susie exposes 1980’s racial attitudes that feel quaint and farcical in our current age. Introducing the reader to the beginning of black adult film, she focuses on the making of Lialeh (1973) by African-American musician Bernard Purdy, validating its place in film history. A note of interest is in order here. Because the book is Kindlized it is interactive. Instead of the reader having to seek out more information on a person or film, a click to a webpage brings it home. For Lialeh the movie’s opening musical number is instantly available through YouTube, a plus for the under-forty crowd who needs to frame it in the 1970’s.

Susie relates that there were early makers of interracial movies, most notably Drea, a female director, and Greg Dark (the Dark Brothers), both very white. Taken within this context, Purdy’s film was groundbreaking. Susie rightly believes that Lialeh’s “naturalistic black perspective” was unique at the time and she compares it with the Dark Brothers’ “cynicism and mania between black/white relations.” In fact, it’s Dark who claims there are no “sensitive” moments in his films.

Susie suggests that Dark’s movies reflect the new wave phenomenon that marked ‘80’s culture. During his college days in Oakland, California, Dark chummed with blacks on the neighborhood tennis courts, interactions that gave him some legitimacy as a filmmaker of black sexuality. Susie proclaims that in the porn business, “[i]f Greg Dark made his cross-cultural link with black tennis players, he’s one step ahead of most other white production teams who make black tapes.”

The essay further confronts another not so hushed issue of racism at the time. White females claimed they would not film with blacks.

“In porn starlet interviews from the early days of hardcore,” Susie writes, “the fan mags would pose questions like, ’What Won’t You Do on Camera?’ The most common reply from a white ingenue would be, ’I don’t do anal, and I don’t do blacks.’ Instead of greeting that statement with laughter or disbelief, everyone would just say, ’Oh yeah, of course.’”

Susie reminds the reader that “[b]efore the 90s,” not surprisingly, “there was no such thing as ‘multi-culturalism’ in porn.” But history never remains static; time and attitudes are in constant flux. Susie explains. “It’s become clear that inter-racial projects have moved up from underground stigmatized loops that could ‘ruin a girl’s career,’ to a everybody’s-doing-it theme that is destined to become as common as the pro forma lesbian scene.”

Today we have websites like blackonblondes.com that give the viewer lovely Caucasian girls being penetrated every which way by well-endowed men of color and apparently relishing every minute of it.

Popularity bred a new age of tolerance and real sexual fantasies. For those filming on the erotic margins, African-Americans, queers, BDSMers, and others, theirs were released from a closeted lockup in the “secret museum,” if I may reference Fordham scholar Walter Kendrick. Pornography became the big tent it was always intended to be. Susie’s text is a reminder of this journey.

From the feminist perspective, Susie honors Candida Royalle’s FEMME Productions as pioneering “couples” porn, endorsing sex from a female view, and Fatale Video, the earliest coming out of lesbian sexuality. Both studios framed and reinforced the cinematic “gaze” from an alternative female context. Most important, Susie pays tribute to the groundbreaking courage of gay male porn and its influence on the development of lesbian adult film.

I might add that the early efforts of each ultimately created an environment that abets the independent films of San Francisco’s current queer porn community. Moreover, Susie’s militant “dyke-core” attitude insists that not all women prefer a softer, gentler porn universe. Her view supports the artistry of directors like Shine Louise Houston, Courtney Trouble, and Carlos Batts. Queer performers Madison Young, Syd Blakovich, Jiz Lee, Dylan Ryan, April Flores, Billy Castro, and Buck Angel, to name a few, are the soul of this emerging hard edged adult film. They owe their genre’s success to those trailblazers who stood firm against the reactionary tide of the 1980’s.

Susie Bright gives us a valuable look into adult film during one of the most conservative atmospheres in twentieth century America. Her assessment of feminism and marginalized sexuality is why I searched the book’s locations (Kindle has no pagination) for those primary source nuggets that offer insights for my own work. I do have a suggestion. I wish Susie had added a few more updates to connect her history with today’s adult film world. There are some moments when she does, as at the end of her interview with Sharon Mitchell in mentioning the demise of AIM. But I would like to have encountered more. Perhaps in Volume II we’ll see those connections.

There is so much more in Susie’s text that explains how we got from here to there in adult film history. I can only toss a partial list your way in passing: a review of “super directors,” the meaning of lesbian erotica, Susie’s struggles to get out her message during her On Her Back days, a look at Christopher Rage, and a revisited glance at the hilarious Snuff controversy that continues to feed the paranoia of old anti-porn feminists. And one more, read her 1988 column on “What Do Women Want?” It’s delightful.

Susie Bright presents a kaleidoscope of stories and personal views that allow the reader to cherry pick what is of interest. Get a copy of Susie Bright’s Erotic Screen Volume I: 1967 – 1989 The Golden Hardcore & Shimmering Dyke-Core and see what you like.

If I may borrow her reference to the old Hustler peter-meter as a rating gizmo, from my cis-gendered view Susie Bright deserves a full literary joystick. Or to use her words for her devoted feminist readers, “clits up!” You’ll enjoy the ride.

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Susie’s book is available online and is published by Bright Stuff, 9-30-2011. To find copies go to:

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[References to the book used in this review are documented at Kindle locations 169, 742, 839-843, 858-864, 1074,2739, 2749-2752, 2802-2803, 2852-2854,2893-2895]

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