We Did Porn: Memoir and Drawings

Overview


Zak Smith is equally comfortable in the fine art scene, the literary scene — and filming a scene. A porn scene, that is: Smith’s alter ego Zak Sabbath is a renowned alternative porn actor. In this illustrated memoir (graphic in more ways than one), Smith describes his shift from New York's high-end art world to the seedy adult entertainment underbelly of Los Angeles, offering readers an inside understanding of the industry, its players, and its audience. Smith narrates his own foray into pornography and gives ...
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Overview


Zak Smith is equally comfortable in the fine art scene, the literary scene — and filming a scene. A porn scene, that is: Smith’s alter ego Zak Sabbath is a renowned alternative porn actor. In this illustrated memoir (graphic in more ways than one), Smith describes his shift from New York's high-end art world to the seedy adult entertainment underbelly of Los Angeles, offering readers an inside understanding of the industry, its players, and its audience. Smith narrates his own foray into pornography and gives his readers a new understanding of the industry, its players, and its audience. Best known for his series of illustrations entitled Pictures Showing What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon's Novel Gravity's Rainbow, Smith is an artistic and storytelling force that cannot be ignored.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Intelligent, frank and often hilarious meditation on the author's dual career...The pleasure in this book comes not from living through the author's atypical experience, but in being taken deeper into areas of thought commonly perceived as taboo—a wild, entirely worthwhile ride." ."—Kirkus Reviews

"Smith’s take on the industry is vivid and insightful, including observations on people, politics and American culture—the push-and-pull between the Right and those who want the right to screw."—Kirkus Reviews, Nonfiction Supplement

"Will appeal to those who like things a little kinky."—Publishers Weekly

"A fascinating synthesis of words and art..."—LibraryJournal.com

"An intelligent, funny, and self-aware reminder that intelligent, funny, and self-aware people do in fact choose to work in the porn industry...It is all incredibly interesting and entertaining."—Alison Hallett, The Portland Mercury

"The subject matter — combined with his clever imagery — couldn’t help but keep it fascinating... It reminded me of David Foster Wallace’s hilarious, equally dense essay “Big Red Son”...Smith and Wallace have similarly breathless, heady writing styles and We Did Porn could easily serve as a porn insider’s compliment to Wallace’s journalistic-outsider perspective."—Alex Peterson, Willamette Week Online

"Artist Zak Smith injects some life into the moribund genre of the memoir with this thoughtful and hilarious look into the alt-porn industry." —Drew Toal, Time Out New York

"Wildly entertaining." —Fleshbot

"...a page-turner...a genuinely enjoyable read..." —Audacia Ray, author of Naked on the Internet
"Alongside 'fine artist and 'porn star' on Zak Smith's unique resume, you can now add the phrase 'entertaining and resourceful writer'...[We Did Porn] is exhaustive, perceptive, empathic, and very funny."—John Bolster, Penthouse

"...reads not unlike a George Plimpton-style adventure in immersive investigation, as the artist chronicles his adventures in front of the camera as eager rookie Zak Sabbath, with words, pictures, self-awareness, and dark humor." —Shana Nys Dambrot, Flavorpill

"...Smith is an outrageously talented observer, which makes his writing almost as arresting as his images, which are superb. Smith's detailed descriptions of 'life in the zeros' both on and off the set make We did Porn a fascinating x-rates documents of a cynical age." —Jim Ruland, Girls Gone Wild Magazine

"...combines words and images, mixing memoir with gorgeous paintings...Smith's art is exquisite, intensely drawn with splashes of electric colors, sharp lines and energy throbbing in every complex detail...We Did Porn is an excellent book and Zak Smith is an incredibly interesting artist and writer."—Alyssa Bianca-Pavley, Fanzine.com

"The many crosscurrents in Smith's works are fun, but more compelling is the fact that Smith does not seem so much involved in critique as something else from literary post-modernism—he's leapt into his own work as a character...Smith seems headed towards the historiographic, creatively narrating an alternative history, in this case, of a very recent past moment, from what might be perceived as the center of our authentic cultural life." —Joe Fyfe, Artnet.com

"Smith's 'artwork is impeccable. There is tenderness, daring, heat in his pieces. With a Nan Goldin compassion, he captures an intimacy that is often lacking in the movies he and his comrades make.'"—The San Francisco Bay Guardian

"This book is beautiful and complicated and riveting... I think there's no doubt that Zak Smith has genius, or that thing that we think of as genius that is really just the urge to get up every morning and spend long hours struggling with art." —Stephen Elliott, The Rumpus

Publishers Weekly

Visual artist and recent alt-porn star Smith-known in the adult film world as "Zak Sabbath"-takes readers on a frenetic journey from the New York art scene to pornography-saturated Los Angeles. Interspersed with his drawings, which have been displayed at MoMA and the 2004 Whitney Biennial, Smith's memoir is more a series of linked vignettes than a chronological account of his foray into alt-porn. As distinct from mainstream hardcore porn, alt-porn tries to do with sex "the kinds of things ambitious young filmmakers might try to do after graduating from art school." It was Smith's collection of illustrations for Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow that first attracted the attention of "pirate porn" director Osbie Feel. As Smith puts it, "I ended up in porn because one day I sat down and decided to draw one picture for every page of a very thick book no one I knew had read." In addition to attending the Porn Film Festival Berlin and the Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas-and having sex with countless women with names like Tina DiVine and Trixie Kyle in countless warehouse sets-Smith is also a cultural critic, dissecting everything from Valentine's Day to the grammar in antipornography laws. Just as porn, alternative or otherwise, has its fans, Smith's memoir is an acquired taste and will appeal to those who like things a little kinky. (July 1)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Reviews
Intelligent, frank and often hilarious meditation on the author's dual career as an artist and actor in adult videos. The two career tracks are not unrelated for Smith (Pictures Showing What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon's Novel Gravity's Rainbow, 2006, etc.). Known in the art world for his visually complex drawings of strippers and other women in the sex industry, many of which are reproduced here, Smith attracted the attention of makers of a subgenre of adult films known as alt porn. Though Smith refrains from giving a fixed definition, alt porn might be described as the work of would-be auteurs whose films are artistically ambitious and thematically personal, while maintaining the standard sex-to-story ratio that enables them to be distributed as commercially viable pornography. Its filmmakers tend to shun surgically enhanced bodies in favor of other body modifications like dyed hair, piercings and tattoos. While chatting with a director who wanted to use one of his works in a movie, Smith semi-seriously suggested a trade-use of his art for a role in the film. Suddenly he was exchanging the New York art scene for the adult-video playground of Los Angeles, using the name Zak Sabbath. But not all was well in the alt-porn kingdom. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Smith saw that most of the problems with the industry were the result of the hypocrisy and moral confusion of the convention-arbiters themselves. In particular, Smith points a finger at the Republican Party, which he says is confused about porn because the two wings pulling on it-the God wing and the money wing-have entirely different agendas and attitudes about human freedom. But Smith also lambasts porn critics likeTyra Banks, who want to end the discussion of who makes porn and why, in order to keep it-and prostitution-separate from, and beneath, the kind of body selling that fashion models like Banks make their living from. The pleasure in this book comes not from living through the author's atypical experience, but in being taken deeper into areas of thought commonly perceived as taboo-a wild, entirely worthwhile ride.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780980243680
  • Publisher: Tin House Books
  • Publication date: 7/28/2009
  • Pages: 488
  • Product dimensions: 5.56 (w) x 8.04 (h) x 1.13 (d)

Meet the Author


Zak Smith's two previous books are Zak Smith: Pictures Of Girls and Pictures Showing What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon's Novel Gravity's Rainbow (Tin House Books). He is a frequent contributor to several independent comics and zines, including Paping and See How Pretty, See How Smart. His work has appeared in numerous publications worldwide and in many museums, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum. He lives in Los Angeles, where he works as an artist and performs in adult films.
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First Chapter

We Did Porn


By Zak Smith

Tin House Books

Copyright © 2009 Zak Smith
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-9802436-8-0


Chapter One

At first, the only noise is coming from trucks washing over a nearby road, and this sounds like it does at night-like enormous things going on underwater. I feel small. I'm in a car parked on a nowhere corner where no one lives and what light there is, from the gas station, wedges itself in around the air pockets where the tinting hasn't stuck to the windows, making shapes. My knuckles are cold. All of this is normal for people on Valentine's Day. This is years ago-before I had done porn, or ever thought I would. At eight o'clock on every Valentine's Day there are people who wait, and who don't know what's going to happen. In Europe there's a time difference, so it's already happening, whatever it is. In Japan, it's called a "chocolate obligation" and they are now sleeping off, or waking up next to, whatever it's done for them. I hope it does something for them-you hear things can be hard, romantically speaking, for the Japanese. In Brooklyn, people are still waiting in the backseats of cars. Some are tired, scared, or bored. Some think they're going to ruin everything-some are right. Some have flowers or headaches or both, some are going to cry, some are taking pills or rehearsing what they'll say, some have skin problems that have just gotten started, some don't care but are doing it anyway and don't think much about it, some are doing it but don't think it'll work, some will never do it again but don't know that yet, some will go home on a train and swear into the reflection on the other side of the train-car that they will spend every night from now on alone in front of a TV flipping to any show where anyone is talking about anything as long as it isn't them or maybe just watching static. And they'll eat whatever they want from a bowl and drink tea even after it gets cold and not care forever until everyone forgets that they ever lived. Some want to call ahead and ask the Japanese how it'd gone. I'm in the backseat of a car. Punks are not supposed to have to do this kind of thing, and, maybe because I never have before, now that I'm here I feel hyperaware of all the other lone people who must also be waiting in the dark all over the rest of the hemisphere. "I never realized," I say to them in my head, at the beginning of my date. "The conditions here are awful. You all should unionize or something-collectively bargain, like." The hired driver of the hired car had stopped and gotten out without saying why. Is this what happens when you pay people to drive you around? Thinking how things sometimes are over faster if you don't ask questions, I didn't ask questions. For a while, there is just the noise of traffic and dead air from a road I can't see and the usual blinking in the black and in the distance, like we're in the electronics deparment after hours-but at some point something in the car begins breathing. When you're strangely dressed and worrying it feels like anything anything might be a big cold night-snake ready to ambush and fuck you. So what's this breathing? Is it just a sound made by this kind of car? Did he go to get it fixed? Isn't the Rumblers' garage just over ... No, it's breathing. Someone's mouth is valving gas around this car for sure. This isn't a limo, there isn't room for some secret person. Is a person in the trunk? Why did the driver leave me alone on Valentine's Day with a person in the trunk? That isn't normal. Will I have to solve this? Fuck this Day. The driver comes back, opens a bag of chips, gives them to a totally unexpected Puerto Rican boy in the passenger seat in front of me, gets back behind his wheel, and pulls back onto the road. The driver says, "Thank you." I say, "No problem." Then no one says anything. Brooklyn spins around us, windows reflecting intersections and storefronts and forty-year-old abandoned cars. We almost kill someone on a bicycle. My instructions are, basically, to act stupid. My porno date wants to be taken someplace where she might see Puff Daddy. This is our first date, so I have to try to act like someone who someone who would want to go somewhere where she might see Puffy would want to be at that place with-until I figure out how she really is and can act some other way. I'm scared. I'm also happy and lucky. I breathe and hear my own breathing and am glad to hear it still sounds like me Trying not to overprepare, I watch the Brooklyn usual go by to the tune of Godflesh songs I'm playing in my head: an ad for gum; capsized strollers; the grease-smeared hotbox of a shallow- fronted take-out place full of fizzing Chinese; tiny kids in coats alone outside delis; bikes chained with every kind of lock and missing every conceivable combination of parts like a forensic display on methods of bicycle decomposition; the tags of world-famous street-art geniuses and of people who never tagged again; the stoic, eaten globe of a broken subwaystop pole casually decapitated for the thousandth time; JMZ trestles casting piano-key shadows; Fat Albert's Warehouse; whole blocks that haven't heard English in decades; a restaurant that used to be a hat shop; a church that used to be a furniture store; a nothing that used to be a theater; dogs tied to anything vertical; stained busses like rotten fridges shoving themselves up the lane from red light to red light; a pile of televisions and fans half covered in plastic-expecting rain; and pizza places painted the colors-red, yellow, green-of the pizza-version of the Italian flag. These things feel good and familiar. Tonight, nothing else will be both. I'm starting to think the kid in the front seat might somehow work against me on my date, so I'm relieved when we get to the girl's place-on a warehousily empty street-and she says-through the speaker-to let the car go while she finishes getting ready. So none of that mattered. Breathe some more. Move smart in your embarrassing black Valentine's getup. Good-bye, car and kid. You were okay. You got me this far. * * *

The first sign is good-Tina DiVine is more nervous than you'd think a porn girl about to go on a date with some painter would be. The dark dots in her eyes roll all over their twin whites, pushing her nose and mouth around, as if she's just gotten her beautiful face and is trying to discreetly test it out. She is a little person with a vanilla-and-butter complexion. She has a big loft whose nonoffice end has almost nothing in it except a titanic television that turns on with a sound like a sucking rupture in space-time and a chair shaped like a big, sexy shoe. She asks me to sit in the sexy shoe while she goes off to a corner that's leaking pink plastic and accessories into the main room and gets dressed. I try to look casual in the shoe and try to use the remote casually. Shiites won the Iraqi elections; we have a new attorney general; and Arthur Miller is dead. In a window behind the TV, the city now seems frozen and quiet. She comes out in something black that looks like it tried as hard as it could to crawl over her but gave up halfway across her chest, and she says how exciting it is to get to wear it somewhere other than a strip club. It is exciting. There are swollen and then falling and then swelling-again curves and spaces between them that the dress has clearly and promisingly been totally unable to negotiate. I call us a cab. * * *

The place we go, in Manhattan, is-well just know for now none of this is my fault, I mean: the thing had been multiple choice and the options hadn't been ... Okay, more later, anyway-

The place is glowing and foam-colored, with everybody crisply looking- or trying very hard to look -as if they always drank in a piece of cheap rendering software's idea of a room. It is like one of those pitiful goal-less games where you have an account and are represented by a gliding, hard-haired homunculus and click and chat as your hours devour themselves. They click and chat. It's not my fault. We have to spend some time at the bar before we get to eat. One of the bars. The bars have names. One is called "The Amuse Bar." No one there explains it, it's just that way. Tina asks me about wine and I don't know. She says, "A red? Okay, a red," and begins to runway-walk, on stripper heels, away toward the bar. I watch. But then she slows and shrivels and shrinks and swivels and puzzling and trouble creep onto her face. "You saw someone you fucked," I say. She nods as if she's just suddenly realized that she only has one nerve left, and that it's been stretched out like gum or pizza-mozzarella, and that when it snaps she'll just bolt away and leave you looking at a screenful of static. (She looks that way a lot. She doesn't when she smiles, or makes porn, or talks about making porn, but often otherwise she does. Not like she's not all there-just like she's extremely ready to leave.) Then this Someone walks over and so probably things I never see or know anything about start happening on my face, because I know him. * * *

Artists' reputations are based on lines half read in doctors' offices by bored people, written on deadlines by distracted freelancers, and commissioned by editors who don't necessarily care. All artists have detractors-mine like to send letters. A lot of them are older artists who make paintings that are different than mine. One appears to be French, one does a comic book about being sad, one is a very persistent and angry stopmotion animator. There usually doesn't seem to be any point in writing back to them or reading their mail closely, but now that I am here at the Amuse Bar I begin to wish I'd paid more attention. Here's why: The only thing the French or sad-comic-book or other letter writers have in common is that, because they've read, while waiting for their aunt's blood test or bypass, about how I once went to an expensive school, and they are, I guess, themselves too wealthy to have heard that, despite everything, this country still keeps routinely loaning its citizens money for that kind of thing, and because they also know they don't like what I do, they deduce fictional pasts for me. They're usually made of movies where people overdose or episodes of detective shows where it turns out the artist did it and the perp had an upper-middle-class childhood, sunny with suburbs, and bullies, and proms, and white people smiling and waving from parade floats (all of which bears, unsurprisingly, not a lot of resemblance to life growing up next door to a Salvadoran street gang hangout in Langley Park and otherwise in and around Washington DC, the murder capital of the U.S. during the era of Fugazi, "Da Butt," and crack-addict mayor Marion Barry) who encourage and somehow shape him into a casually druggy, bratty, clearly troubled, Amuse- Barfrequenting young painter. This photoshopped picture is exhibit A in the early paragraphs of elaborate letters-often physical letters, written with pens-where they explain to me how I am bad at my job. They are all bitter lunatics, but they seem to have influence here tonight. The night's programmers might have used them as a focus group when putting together their platonic, vector-drawn, restaurant/club/trap. "So what do you think this rival should look like?" "Tall, with black tattoos, and maybe a little linked chain around his neck." And then they put him there, with his walnutlike head and pebbly eyes. Shouldery and guyish like all 3D-rendered men-and with the same tiltless back-and-forth head movements and skintight, crewneck, plain black T-shirt and tastefully tribal ink-he starts smiling and talking. I keep thinking there should be some way to restart the date without him. Or that he should give me an excuse to punch him until he's unconscious. But no, that would look crazy. I had a girlfriend once who kept taking me to a bar on Avenue B that was a kind of filing cabinet or support group for everyone she'd ever slept with. He was one of them, down at the far end, next to the peanut machine. He is the manager here. Maybe also a medical student, he is widely disliked in and out of New York City and he will eventually go to Europe and take up Eastern religion. My date is completely infatuated with him, but no one else knows this now, and she likes to say disgusting, true things about him when he isn't there. He wants to give us shots. I don't want him to, but I don't say that, and we have them. He seems very excited about the shots. Although this is clearly a reason to punch him, and I will know later that the prudent thing to do would have been to hurt him as much as possible very quickly, since he hasn't actually done anything but give us free liquor so far, I'm having a difficult time imagining a situation where I punch him and then still have sex with Tina DiVine. He asks us how we found the place, and although he pretends- with that CG smile that unhinges the bottom of the face-he doesn't care and is just making conversation, he does want to know. The walnut-head is wondering if there is a reason why the girl whose underwear he fed to a dog last week is suddenly here where he works along with someone who looks like he would very much like to punch him until he is unconscious. "My dealer," I say-so there is no reason. There is no reason, barring the demigodlike-computer-programmers-in Valentine's-league-with-heckler-focus-group hypothesis, that this has to be happening. It's coincidence. Anyway, he thinks this about a "dealer" is very funny. "No," (people sometimes make this mistake) "I mean the guy who sells my paintings." This can't ruffle a man with a new favorite thing. "This guy's dealer," he says, pointing me out to anybody, friendlylike, "recommended us." LOL. Talking, electronic beats, and ice. The awful walnut-head keeps saying things about Dwight Eisenhower, and also about how he has a lot of money. It is stupid in here and he is the biggest fuck ever. I repeat something about vodka I read in a book. Everyone agrees. After a lot of despising and pretending, our bed is ready- you eat on beds here, simple, white block beds that make things seem that much more virtual. The waiters start bringing dinner courses, each with wine, and it's hard to say what they are. (Continues...)



Excerpted from We Did Porn by Zak Smith Copyright © 2009 by Zak Smith. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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