Traci Lords: Underneath It All

Traci Lords: Underneath It All

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by Traci Lords

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"I sat down in the school cafeteria with the day's offering of mystery meat and Jell-O on my lunch tray. I tried to ignore the table of jocks snickering behind me when one of them approached with a nudie magazine in hand. SMACK! ... it landed on my table. On the cover was a young girl in a pleated skirt with her hands over her breasts. I choked on my food. Oh my God,…  See more details below


"I sat down in the school cafeteria with the day's offering of mystery meat and Jell-O on my lunch tray. I tried to ignore the table of jocks snickering behind me when one of them approached with a nudie magazine in hand. SMACK! ... it landed on my table. On the cover was a young girl in a pleated skirt with her hands over her breasts. I choked on my food. Oh my God, it was me!"

How does a teenager go from high school sophomore to the most recognized porn star in the world overnight? And why?Twelve-year-old Nora Kuzma traveled with her mother and three sisters to southern California in search of a stable life. But years of sexual abuse and parental neglect drove her onto the streets of Hollywood and straight to the door of a nude modeling agency.

Struggling to survive, she assumed the name Traci Lords and became a Penthouse centerfold. By age fifteen she was a world-famous porn queen drowning in a sea of sex, drugs, and lies until the FBI raided her home just days after her eighteenth birthday.

Traci Lords: Underneath It All is the powerful, uncensored, and inspirational story of how one young girl made peace with her past and triumphed over impossible odds to become a successful actress, recording artist, and, most improbably of all, a happy and healthy woman.

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Editorial Reviews

USA Today
… Lords' story of personal redemption is so immersed in genuine emotion and beaming with soulful resiliency that the reader will walk away with nothing but respect for her and her remarkable journey. — Amanda Tyler
Publishers Weekly
Mention the author of this notable memoir to a group of men and many will grin; mention her to a group of women and many will look blank. Both responses should change during the media frenzy over this book, because readers of both sexes will learn that the story of Lords, the most notorious graduate of the porn industry, is one deserving of compassion, admiration and attention. Lords is notorious because when she ruled porn, in the mid-1980s, she was under the age of 18. Born Nora Kuzma in 1968 in Ohio, she writes, she was raised in poverty and abused emotionally by an alcoholic father and raped at age 10 by a 16-year-old. By her early teens, Lords was hanging out with the wild crowd at school and was preyed upon by her mother's boyfriend, who arranged for her first modeling sessions, which led to her posing as a Penthouse centerfold at age 15 (she had false ID) and then to her meteoric career in porn, which crashed when the FBI stepped in and turned her into a poster child for sex abuse. Lords's career didn't end in 1986; she's gone on to star and costar in several films and TV shows, including John Waters's Cry Baby and Married with Children, and has enjoyed serious success as a singer. She has an amazing story to tell, and she tells it well here, without a coauthor, in prose that's bumpy at times, smooth at others, but always seemingly honest and courageous. Frank, opinionated, intelligent, drenched in emotion, this is the rare celebrity memoir that doubles as a cautionary tale, and will have readers cheering Lords on as they speed through its gritty, big-souled pages. (July 8) Forecast: Expect high interest in this title. With vigorous promo-including a 7-city tour, Dateline, Larry King, Montel Williams, Extra-and Lords's built-in fan base, sales will be brisk. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Wary, defiant, not a little defensive, and not a little pissed off, Lords recaptures her youthful voice as she excavates all the rocks on her road from underage porn star to singer and actress. She hailed from a low-rent Ohio mill town, product of a drunken father and a feckless mother, soon divorced. Sexually abused by one of her mother�s boyfriends, she fled home at 15. To make money, she agreed to do some nude posing (she was still only 15 when Penthouse featured her as a centerfold), and from there it was an alarmingly simple step to pornographic movies. She captures this dark and rotten world with all its ambiguities—and hers: "[Porn] allowed me to release all the fury I'd felt my entire life. And that's what got me off." But it was hardly a joyous milieu; drugs and booze calmed her, while a series of wretched relationships gave her glancing moments of security. Federal agents finally started giving child pornography the scrutiny it deserved, but the actors, not the producers, bore the public brunt of their investigation. Still a teenager, Lords pulled in the reins and, remarkably, engineered her own reversal of fortune. With a self-control that invites admiration, she got roles in R-rated flicks, worked her way up to John Waters movies, and then a sequence of TV and film roles. As if out of nowhere (it�s not clear where she discovered her musical talent), she charged to the top of the charts as a techno queen, meanwhile grabbing roles in Melrose Place and Roseanne, all the while contending with her past as a porn star. If on occasion Lords sounds a wee superficial ("Howard Fine's annual Christmas party was a must appear, so I searched my closet for a festive frock"), you cansee she knows how to play the Hollywood survival game. Her personal tenacity is something of a miracle, and readers of this honest, engaging memoir will wish the author well.

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.01(d)

Read an Excerpt

Traci Lords: Underneath It All

By Traci Lords

Harper Collins Publishers

Copyright © 2003 Traci Lords All right reserved. ISBN: 0060508205

Chapter One

The Ohio Valley

I grew up in a dirty little steel town called Steubenville, in eastern Ohio. It was one of those places where everyone was old, or just plain seemed like it. Even the kids felt the times, and the times were tough.

The streets were narrow and filled with men in Levi's with metal lunch boxes coming and going to the mills and the coal mines. It seemed like there was a railroad crossing on every other street, where coils of steel were piled up high along the tracks like giant gleaming snakes resting in the sun. It got real hot in the summertime and the dust from the mills wrapped around the people and held them firmly in their places, and the echo of coughing miners was so common you just didn't hear it.

The local bar, Lou Anne's, was always hopping. It wasn't odd to see your neighbor howling at the moon, and every now and then some of the miners would wander down for a cold one and tie their horses to the stop sign. Drinking was a hobby in that little town, and like a lot of small towns, everyone knew everyone else's business. Women had not quite yet been liberated. Husbands ruled the house, women cleaned it, and any strong female opinion was often rewarded with a fat lip. But no one thought much about that.

At seventeenyears old, all my mother, Patricia, ever wanted was to escape. Born in Pennsylvania in the late 1940's, her dad took off to California and left her and her mother alone. They moved around from place to place, and after a while she had a new stepdad and two half brothers and sisters. Never fully welcomed into this second family, she found comfort and a home at her grandmother's house.

My great-grandma Harris was a little redheaded Irish woman who loved sugar-toast and drank tea all day long, no matter how hot it was. She combined a fierce sense of social justice with an almost patrician gentleness that was unusual to find in the government housing project where she lived.

The projects were cockroach-ridden matchbox-shaped dwellings inhabited by desperately poor black families who barely survived on meager monthly public assistance checks. It was a place where hungry children played in the gutters of pot-holed streets while munching on sandwiches of Wonder bread and mayonnaise they dubbed "welfare burgers."

Just a pebble's throw away down the hill was the University of Ohio, where professors drove their shiny new cars to garden fund-raisers on the campus lawn. I remember catching glimpses of white tablecloths blowing in the afternoon breeze while ladies in crisp white dresses sipped drinks from tall glasses. Every once in a while a burst of applause from the appreciative anthill of university people would enter our world. My mouth watered at the scent of cooking barbecue meat, and I longed to race down the hill and devour the mountain of food on the huge banquet tables.

But my mother explained that "people like us" don't mix with "people like those." "People like what?" I demanded, meeting the weary look of my mother, who said it was a matter of "social class." I was five years old and at the time and didn't understand why I wasn't one of the chosen few who could receive hot meals and pretty dresses. I only knew that some people had food and others didn't, and I was on the wrong side of the fence. I'd gather crab apples from my great-granny's yard and hurl them in protest toward the happy people down the hill. Although my targets were never struck, I felt justice had been served.

Great-grandma Harris lived in the first brick building at the beginning of the housing projects. There must have been fifty other little red houses, winding around like a figure eight, each one containing four units. Grandma was known by her neighbors as "the crazy white witch" because she was something of a mind reader who had a reputation for being very accurate. People didn't always like what they were told, but their fear kept grandma safe in a very dodgy neighborhood where racism was a sickening fact of life. Despite it all, my great-grandma was always light, gentle, and seemingly unaffected by her status and the people around her. My mother got a lot of love in that house, and ultimately so did I.

In 1965 the Vietnam War had cast a spell over the people of Steubenville inspiring in them a patriotic fervor. My mother was a beautiful redheaded teenager with piercing green eyes and a peaches-and-cream complexion. Though she was smart and ambitious, she found herself stuck, working in a jewelry store in a town that celebrated everything she loathed. She thought the war was immoral and said so to anyone who would listen.

An independent thinker, she didn't buy the "be a virgin, go to church, follow the establishment" routine that a lot of her friends were falling into. She liked to dance, listened to the Stones and Bob Dylan, and filled her private notebooks with poems. She played the guitar, made out with boys at the drive-in, and went roller-skating on Saturday nights. She lived her life fully, but was always hungry for a bigger bite.

The war weighed heavily on my mother's heart because it touched her like it inevitably touched everyone. She watched as her friends' brothers marched off to a foreign land and cried like everyone else did when they didn't come back. She ached to have a voice, to make a difference, and to be seen and valued. But she was dead broke and depressed at her lack of opportunities, and no matter which way she looked at it, her future appeared grim ...


Excerpted from Traci Lords: Underneath It All by Traci Lords
Copyright © 2003 by Traci Lords
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Meet the Author

Traci Elizabeth Lords has starred in dozens of films and television shows, including Cry-Baby, Stephen King's The Tommyknockers, Melrose Place, and First Wave. Her groundbreaking album 1,000 Fires was a critical and dance club hit. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two cats. This is her first book.

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