With a narrative that spans more than five years, "Pornstar" offers a funny, tragic, uncompromising, and unparalleled portrait of the men and women of America's porn industry. Sexually explicit text & photos.
- Simon & Schuster
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- 1 ED
- Product dimensions:
- 9.06(w) x 11.38(h) x 0.70(d)
Read an Excerpt
"Hello, this is ------. you might know me as Jamie Summers."
I don't. The extent of my research: the video booths at Show World Center, across the street from the Port Authority Bus Terminal on Eighth Avenue and Forty-second Street in New York; Hustler's Erotic Film Guide; a handful of other magazines that feature stills from porn videos (black bars over insertion points); and the sex loops run on cable TV in between ads for escort services. Research by default. The name "Jamie Summers" sounds familiar, but I don't think I know her face.
Jamie keeps the call brief. She invites me over, this afternoon, to talk more, and possibly to do pictures. That'll depend on how she feels.
I wasn't expecting a call from Jamie Summers, or anyone else. I'd already resigned myself to the fact that my trip to Los Angeles had been a bust, that Jenny Wren, the publicist at Vivid Video who had sounded so encouraging at first, forgot who I was by the next call, and then sounded all encouraging, again, once I'd explained myself all over, had done everything she could, or at least everything she planned on doing for me. Her conclusion, a lesson: These people don't pose for pictures for free.
I've never met a porn star.
The girl who opens the door looks nervous. She's young, "twenty-three," she says. A thick base doesn't conceal a broken-out complexion. Her eyes are set close together. Her clothing doesn't reveal much about her figure. In heels, she's no more than five-foot-five.
Her Hollywood apartment is a classic example of postwar LA architecture: arches, elaborate crenellations, window crowns, a garden enclosed by wrought-iron gates. Inside it's airy and spacious.
Jamie and I sit in her living room and make awkward small talk. She says Jenny Wren -- who did turn her on to what I'm trying to do -- goes out with Steven Hirsch, who owns Vivid. Jamie says that at one time she went out with Steven Hirsch, too. She says Wren is an ex-porn actress.
"She's nice...but a little flaky," Jamie says.
I ask her stupid questions about her career, like, "You've had sex with Peter North?" Jamie looks at me like I'm a little strange and laughs. Obviously I'm more impressed with the whole idea of what she does for a living than she is. Jamie says she just wants to act in "real movies." She's surprised that anyone would give a shit about her present career. But I'm persistent so she humors me. She acts bored, though -- except when she talks about this book.
"I love those pictures you gave Jenny. I want ones like that of me."
Jamie says she's going to take a shower and then I can photograph her. She drops her pants in front of me and lifts her blouse over her head as she walks toward the bathroom. Before disappearing she glances back to make sure I've seen her body.
I follow her and lean in the doorway of the bathroom. She smiles. Somehow her getting naked breaks the tension. Her transformation is palpable: She seems easier, more confident; her body is how she asserts control. It's a relief. I was worried about photographing her, worried she wouldn't look pretty.
I'm not here to document her acne, and Jamie telling me in the first five minutes that she's trying to change careers, get out of the sex business, just kind of gets stored away. Jamie is a movie star -- a dirty one, but still a star -- and her fancy apartment, her BMW; these are things I use to confirm ideas I had coming in to this. Her looking good completes the picture.
Two Jil Sander advertisements Jamie cut out of a magazine are taped to the inside of her closet door. She rummages through dozens of pairs of shoes, all kinds of dresses, bustiers, boas. Stripper things in every color share overflowing shelves with designer stuff from stores on Rodeo Drive. Jamie wets her hair once more then we walk out through her garden and find an alley around the corner of the building.
Jamie's left eye flickers, a nervous tick or something. She jokes about it, then takes a couple of deep breaths. She flares her nostrils for a second, tries to focus, to make it stop, and it makes her look like a bad girl, almost evil. Images of abused pets pop into my head. I prefer the idea of Jamie as the pretty, happy daughter of an LA physician -- "My dad's a great guy," she says -- who just happens to be a porn star. Jamie breathes deeply, relaxes, and we continue. A Mexican couple watch from behind a screen window.
"I think that's my super," Jamie says.
She lights a Marlboro 100.
In her bedroom, Jamie stands in front of a bureau mirror combing her hair. Herb Ritts's Men/Women, in the hard-shell dust jacket, rests on the headboard of her queen-size bed. She walks over to the window, turns, and looks at me from across the room. There's a poster of Marilyn Monroe on the wall behind her, a potted tree in the corner.
"You have a girlfriend," she says.
I ask Jamie if she has a boyfriend.
"Kind of. I mean there's a guy who kind of takes care of me. He's older, not really a boyfriend. There was someone else recently, too, you know, an actual boyfriend, or potential boyfriend. When I told him I'm 'Jamie Summers' it freaked him out, I think. He's only called once since then. I'm not sure what's gonna happen with that. I've been there before, y'know?" She pauses. "I've been hurt, too."
Jamie smiles, then looks at the floor as the smile goes away. She sits on the corner of the bed.
A key turns in the front door.
"That's Steven," Jamie says. "He's like my roommate, I guess."
Steven, a slight, handsome, gay twenty-one-year-old sometime film student, is Jamie's assistant/roadie/sycophant/friend. He lives in a second bedroom, off the kitchen. Jamie supports him. She takes Steven with her on dance tours. He carries her bags, "watches over me." Steven is impressed with my pictures, too, or at least with the magazines that have published them. I think if Jamie had any reservations, her seeing Steven's reaction helps.
"I bet ------ would do photos," she says, excited. "She used to be called Careena Collins. She got out, y'know, of the business, and started law school. You'd really like her, though. She's really cool. She's into bondage and stuff like that.
"And you have to meet Tommy, too" Jamie says. "Y'know, Tom Byron. He lives with Jeanna Fine and her boyfriend, Sikki Nixx. They're all gonna think you're so cool."
Jamie Summers is on my side. That feels cool.
I DISCOVERED SEX IN AN ERA WHEN FUCKING WAS A WAY OF EXPRESSING FREEDOM.
I was a child of that movement, its poster boy. Remember those old pictures of the Stones? I'm not saying Annie Leibovitz fucked her subjects but God her photographs made it look like she had and that was always the myth -- that she was part of it somehow, and that we, as viewers, had access into a world of renegade sexuality through her participation. And of course the music could withstand that subtext; it had inspired it. Mick and Keith once lashed tongues on national television. As a teenager that meant something to me. It still does.
Then there was the tragedy of AIDS. Homophobia and misogyny were acknowledged aspects of white American youth's appropriation of rap and heavy metal. The sexual arena became a different kind of proving ground for young people. Promiscuity was about self-destruction, disaffection, and violence -- not liberation.
A friend suggested I do a book about rock stars. "Since you're a musician, too," she said. But I couldn't get it up for that, couldn't think of an angle that interested me. My rock heroes had already been photographed. And as a fledgling commercial photographer I'd had a taste of what it was like shooting bands for magazines. There was always some publicist pointing at a watch. Serious pictures don't happen that way.
The pre-Nirvana music business had developed as homogenized a corporate identity as fast food. Image control had reemerged as a celebrity status symbol. In a way porn stars were an anachronism. The life I imagined them living was one more related to my sense of what "rock & roll" meant than anything I could see on the pages of Rolling Stone.
Fucking on film was very rock & roll.
I figured once the porn stars met me and saw that I could identify with them -- or with what I thought they stood for -- access wouldn't be a problem. They'd enjoy the attention. They were real movie stars, but ones that Herb Ritts hadn't already photographed. Jack Nicholson's smile through a magnifying glass. Madonna, cross-eyed, wearing Mickey Mouse ears. In two images Herb Ritts summed up America's collective preoccupation with larger-than-life fame and fortune. But the eighties were over. PORNSTAR would be my response, sort of the inverse version of the eighties celebrity coffee-table book. Instead of beloved icons, I would glorify reviled (or at least only secretly admired) ones.
I was addressing letters to porn-star fan clubs before taking the time to think it through. A celebrity coffee-table book about porn stars; that was it, that's what I was doing. I dismissed any suggestion that there might be unhealthy pathologies at work in these people's lives. I didn't want to hear it, didn't want to know. That's not what my book would be about.
It didn't occur to me that in the name of my one-man crusade to vindicate American sexuality (in the shadow of Madonna's one-woman crusade), my desire to glorify the porn stars' lives might really be motivated by a need to in some way validate my own. All I knew was PORNSTAR could be the first cool picture book by an openly straight guy to come along in years.
Fucking was, in my mind, in the summer of 1991, as a guy in his late twenties, still the essence of rock & roll. Sexuality was a stance, an attitude, at the core of how I saw myself, and how I wanted to be experienced by others.
Copyright © 1999 by Ian Gittler
Meet the Author
In addition to writing and taking photographs, Ian Gittler aslo makes music, drawings, and films. He lives where he was born and raised, New York City.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I have always been curious to know what a pornstar's life like away from the camera. I wondered what they thought and felt. How do they relate to the rest of the world, being such graphically public figures in a profession that capitalizes on such a private and intimate act. I do not know whether this book, in its entirety, delivers what I was after: I suffered through a few pages before I got so fed-up with this book that I returned the book to bn.com. (THANK YOU BN!!!) The pictures were somewhat stimulating. However, I was bothered that not every picture had a caption. What really annoyed me was the text. The writing was on a par with an unmotivated junior-high pupil, and had almost as much depth as a script for a 'run-of-the-mill' porn movie.