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Traci Lords: Underneath It All

Traci Lords: Underneath It All

4.1 30
by Traci Lords

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The moving, gripping, and tell–all autobiography of Traci Elizabeth Lords, a former child porn queen, electronica maven, and cult movie and TV star.

At 14, Nora Kuzma ran away from home and ended up on the dirty streets of Hollywood. She fell in with a fast crowd, and her dreams of modelling soon landed her a spectacular centrefold in Penthouse Magazine


The moving, gripping, and tell–all autobiography of Traci Elizabeth Lords, a former child porn queen, electronica maven, and cult movie and TV star.

At 14, Nora Kuzma ran away from home and ended up on the dirty streets of Hollywood. She fell in with a fast crowd, and her dreams of modelling soon landed her a spectacular centrefold in Penthouse Magazine, where at 15 she became internationally known as TRACI LORDS. From there she appeared in numerous adult films and magazines, denying her past and battling a deep addiction to cocaine and men. Three years later she got out. This is her memoir–a tale of loss, redemption, and ultimate survival as Traci Elizabeth Lords takes you into her secretive past, faces her demons, and shares her extraordinary journey of personal growth.

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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HarperCollins Publishers
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6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.87(d)

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Traci Lords: Underneath It All

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 seventeen years 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 ...

Traci Lords: Underneath It All. Copyright © by Traci Lords. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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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Traci Lords: Underneath It All 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Shay1-lovesbooks More than 1 year ago
This book is very informational if you like biographies! She is an amazing women that had a rough childhood! She did what she had to do to survive. Many judge her for the life she once lived but I commend her for the choices she made, mainly the choice to leave the business! She is a strong level headed women that made her own way in a world that treats women as objects! If you read this book you will have a new respect for her and all she went through. Shannon gives this book two thumbs up.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Being an abuse victim in my Old Order Amish sect, I realize the pain and fear that accompanies one writing their life story. Especially when the road is all but cheerful. Traci Lords does this in a clear and courageous way. I admire her for stepping up to the plate and writing her book. Unless you are a victim of poverty and sexual abuse, it is hard for you to see a victim's point of view. Lords' strong emotions and courages makes own feel like they are walking in her shoes. Teresa Phillips Author of, 'Leaving Lancaster County.'
Indiapapa More than 1 year ago
This was one of the books I took to Iraq in 2007. It was part of an eclectic collection of light reads that were small, and low weight. I read them and passed them on. For those who might care, there are no nude pictures, and few descriptions of sex acts. Those descriptions are not in great detail. The book was an autobiography that explained the main character's life experiences to date, and, of course, mainly explained her career in the porn industry. It was a somewhat light, entertaining read. If you can describe abusive, self destructive behavior in those terms. I think I left the book in a chapel, about 40 klicks from Baghdad. A lightweight, escapist read, for those who might want to mentally escape for awhile. Buy it used.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Traci Lords tells her heartfelt story of her descent into the porn world and how much she hated it. Lord tells her story in her own words and voice. I have a new found respect for her, for how hard she fought to climb out of the hole of porn, and make her life right. I found this book to be tasteful, especially for todays world, and is a fast paced read that will show how courageous she was, and is. I thank her for writing this book, I see her now in a different light & admire her more for writing this book. I believe this book will help many young girls that might be in this trap, or headed in that direction. I also believe that it will especially help single moms & dads have an insight on how much their children have to come first and how their life choices can impact their children.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I came from an abusive background, not in poverty or raped. But there was constant screaming and verbal abusive, and was isolated, my parents wouldn't let me drive and when I was sick my bf had to take me to the doctor b/c they would't take me. I ended up moving out a year ago with my bf and I'm happier now. I am really happy I got this book on sale it was worth the read. I feel as though the mother should be ashamed for the emotional damage that was done to her daugther b/c of her selifishness, there is no excuse for what happened to her, even though the mother was in desperation situation. You have to be careful of who you date especially when there were children involved. But I also understand that the mother probably didn't realize how sick her 2nd relationship was. I could also relate to the fact that she blamed herself for everything like I used to when I was younger b/c of internalizing everything.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Most people know Traci Lords was a porn star. Not everyone knows her time in porn began at age 15 and ended at age 18. Lords wrote this book to explain how it happened. If you are looking for an insider's story of the porn industry -- a who-did-what, who-said-what expose -- that is not this book. Lords describes her porn career as a descent into Hell, a blur of cocaine, alcohol, and abuse. She careened from one desperate, misguided decision to another, until the FBI's child pornography investigation finally stepped in. Lords wrote this book herself, without out a ghostwriter. Her writing voice is clear and compelling. She reveals her psyche with a disarming candor. My only complaint is the brevity of the final section, which describes Lords successful mainstream career. Incredibly, an entire marriage is omitted (her eight-month marriage to Ryan Riel Grainger). But in part, the brevity displays effective editing: the narrative always moves briskly, and at under 290 pages, is not over-long. En route Lords shares her encounters with John Waters, Johnny Depp, Christina Applegate, Roseanne Barr, and others. This is an enjoyable, well-written book, about a woman who arrived at adulthood about as messed up as you can possibly be, and then struggled long and hard and (ultimately) victoriously to create a good life. The book changed my feelings about Traci Lords from ambivalence to admiration. I highly recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you grew up in the 80's you may have heard of Traci Lords being in the headlines for being in porn at the age of 15. In 'Underneath it All' Miss Lords explains how she got there and soared to new heights in the world of acting and entertainment. You can't help but feel sad and angry at those who played a part in Traci's struggles in her early life to the mid-80's. This is an honest, bare all (pardon the cliche) autobiography that is worthy of your time. I recommned it to all who wondered 'Yeah, what happend to Traci Lords'
Guest More than 1 year ago
For the Jerry McCulley¿s of the world, or any one else who dislikes her, go take a hike! I only say I hope you don¿t have a daughter who get¿s abused, traumatized like Traci Lords. Only then would you walk in her shoes. 'Underneath It All' is filled with emotions, from a teenager¿s eyes of the world which she live. She was a victim of conspicuous, manipulating adults. McCulley states, ¿what's striking is Lords capacity for denial, compartmentalization, and myopia when it serves her ends¿ Where do you get off with this idea? Its really insulting that you and others insist upon placing some blame on her. Were talking here about a 15/16 year old child, trying to survive, understand the adult environment. I bet your one of the vengeful porn fans, harbor hatred for leaving porn and realizing she was an underage teen. You ¿Jerry McCulleys¿ make me sick, you don¿t stand a chance. I don¿t see any denial, you either believe her or you don¿t. Frankly I do and so do many others who consider her, a talented actress, singer, model and have come fans. Face it, Nora Kuzma was an abused teenager growing up in Steubenville, Ohio; only to move to California, near Hollywood to become Traci Lords. Lords was not just an ¿underage skin mag/porn queen¿ she was manipulated, used by adults surrounding her because they thought she was naive. Abused, by her father, mother¿s boyfriends and those very same adults taking money behind her back, (stealing from her) pimping her along the way as adult entertainment. She knew nothing about then Attorney General Ed Meese; other than what we have read from the Federal Govt. She doesn¿t have to give details of the seedy past. Well over 15 years ago and there are legal liabilities which you seem to forget. So back off, hasn¿t this child suffered enough, at the hands of adults, only now she has to be abused by idiots like you? The Autobiography is her first attempt to clear the air of course it¿s not Hemingway or Shakespeare; rather it¿s a sad tale this abused child found herself in, cleaned up her act to become a legitimate actress, singer. Stop the madness. You should be a shamed for criticizing her and not having any sympathy and not giving her once ounce of praise. Read this book with an open mind; give her the benefit of the doubt. I admire her and always have my support, wish her well.
Joyachiever More than 1 year ago
Underneath It All by Traci Lords is an honest and soul baring account on how the author’s childhood shaped her adult years. She charts her early life as a young girl in the Midwest who naturally has dreams of a better life and is greatly influenced to want more as a result of living part of her life near a university in Ohio. There are a wide range of information pieces that she recalls in her memoir (such as how her biological parents met. the heart-wrenching rape incident that she suffered as a child, how she first came into the racier side of modeling, the roles that both her biological mother and stepfather played in her life). She also creatively tied in her career progression with her love life as she recalled the men who had an influence in some of her professional projects. One of my favorite parts of the book was when she recalled her joy at being cast in the Cry-Baby movie and being cast alongside multiple famous celebrities attached to the film. I can easily understand how the traumatic rape experiences she suffered in her early years indirectly contributed towards her world view on how her own sensuality and life operated. Without providing too many book spoilers from Traci Lord’s book, I say this because I myself was traumatized from a rape experience inflicted on me around the age of 5-6 years old orchestrated by my late biological mother for the benefit of who was either one of her lovers and/or clients (I’m not sure because my late adoptive mother (around the time I was 11-13 years old) admitted to me that my late biological mother worked as a prostitute). Anyhow, Lords provides subtle hints on how what happened to her indirectly contributed to the way she felt about the areas of love and sensuality and her brave journey towards seeking therapy. There is so much more in this book written by a woman who poured much of her artistic soul towards telling an honest and unadulterated story.
bleacherbum99 More than 1 year ago
Traci Lords tells us of her porn life, but also her life as a serious actress. It's not a great book, but it is entertaining in certain parts. Overall, it's a plus.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Traci tells the story of her life in and after porn. It's an intriguing and at times familiar story. Unfortunately, due to her age and background, her experiences in the porn industry were not good, but she accepts responsibility for the choices she made. (Includes non-nude photographs)
Guest More than 1 year ago
I went and bought this book after I saw an interview by Oprah of Traci Lords. This book really is a good piece of literature. From a literary piont of view, She tells her story very well. Also, the subject is very intriguing. This book is extremely detailed, it addesses not only the world of pornography but also rape, drugs and her life after porn. She explains how the media tried to only portray her as just a pornstar and how she rose above her past. I loved this book and read it in two days! I think it's a must for any contemporary world issuse class. Everybody, when they can mentally and emotionally grasp the story of course, should read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is hard to believe that at one time the most prosperous country in the world allowed its children to participate in pornography. In 'Underneath it All,' Traci Lords details how as a teenager, she became a victim in the seedy world of pornography. Traci, like most teenagers, and probably many porn stars in the industry today, came from a broken home and was abused by her father, stepfather and mother's boyfriend. She ran away, trusted the wrong people who abused her and unknowingly stumbled into the porn industry. Fueled by drugs and booze from her 'friends,' her life became enveloped by the abusive porn industry. Luckily, Traci was rescued by the FBI who cracked down on child pornography. The FBI made her the poster child in their crackdown, and today, pornstars must be at least 18 years of age. Traci was lucky; however, most former pornstars' lives spriral out of control. It's a shame that this happened to her because she is a decent actress, with a modest acting career. Check out her role in 'Cry Baby' where she plays opposite Johnny Depp. Hopefully, this book will steer some young people away from the porn industy and turn off some others who like watching porn videos, thinking that the performers are enjoying themselves and treated well in an abusive, filthy industry.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was an excellent read...Couldn't put the book down...This book sends a great message to girls who are in similar situations that there is a way out and there is hope....GREAT BOOK
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sure, this is an interesting and entertaining story, but that's all it is; a highly glamorized story set to capture the last bit of fame from her fading star. I'm not bashing her, don't get me wrong, but this book departs so far from the myriad interviews, investigations, and other stories she's told and had told about her over the years, that it's more like I'm reading about someone other than Traci. I couldn't tell where fact ended and fiction began. I was disappointed, being someone who has been both in front of and behind the camera in the adult film world, because it read more like a publisher's 'dream' story crafted to sell books with a Hollywood-style script that was simply attached to Traci's name. Again, I did like the book, but it was a big let down because it read like every other book written by a former porn star. I was surprised by a little-know book titled Cut Throat Business because it depicts the real inner workings of this industry. So if you by Traci's book, I also recommend that you by the other too, you won't be disappointed and you'll get a broader picture of this intriguing industry.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found the book to be an honest and open autobiography. In places the story moved me. In the end it leaves you with some perspective on the world of porn and whether or not it's truly 'victimless.' And ultimately, you have to appreciate Ms. Lords ability to survive and overcome against obstacles that many of us would find unsurmountable.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's amazing what she has gone through!!! She has seen it all and still has a positive outlook on life. Highly recommended and just one warning: You will not be able to put this book down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Just finished reading Traci's book. I am not sure what I was expecting when I picked it up. So much of it just seems so...convenient? For someone who claims to despise the whole porn business, she sure doesn't hold back on filling her book with sexy photos, both past and present. Traci certainly doesn't glorify the porn business but she also doesn't condemn it either. She had the power to write a book based on her experiences and use them as tools or lessons for other young people who may be in her same prediciment. Instead, I came away thinking, 'oh, so she did a few pornos and now she has a sucessful career in legitmate entertainment!' Not enough time is spent expounding on the horrors of the porn world or the effect that it had on her family. I would have loved to find out how her mother and sisters have dealt with this in their lives.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If the question is asked 'is there life after porn? can a person make a professional comeback?' if the person has the courage and determination exhibited by Traci Elizabeth Lords, the answer is an absolute yes! Her autobiography is enormous encouragement to all with hard pasts, that they can not only survive, but triumph. To her, I say thanks, for the sake of those making comebacks and those of us watching them, for her being willing to share her story. It's a powerful story, well told. Her absolute faith in herself and determination to have a sucessful show business career shines through. She shares personal information about herself, such as her fondness for Starbucks, her love of cats, her fear of snakes, etc. There are mentions of God and religious things through the book, but I can't make out whether she really believes in a personal God or is a borderline Agnostic. Despite her being abused my males all through her life, she hasn't become a man-hating misanthrope. After several terminated relationships, she is now happily married to a metalworker named Jeffrey Lee. Low point of the book? Too many beautiful glossy pictures of her, I found them distracting from the text. High point of the book: the final chapter, entitled Beneath It All, which is a ringing affirmation of self-confidence despite all travails she's had. Highly recommended as a heroic story of survival and triumph!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down! Traci writes in a straight-forward, no frills way. She is a gifted writer, but (refreshingly) writes for the average reader, as if she were relaying stories to a girlfriend. She shares humourous as well as heartbreaking memories and changed the way I felt about both her (for the better) and the porn industry (for the worse). A must-read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
For those who pick up this book thinking that she's going to explain how she ended up in porn, put it down. Lords glosses over her year in the X-rated film industry and never really tells the reader why she continued to do what she was doing if she hated it so much. She never tells of the impact her decision had on her mother and sisters, and that would have been the most interesting part to tell. The story falls too neatly into place and half the time she comes off as stupid. How could you not recognize her mother's boyfriend's advances as sexual abuse? Why would you stay with an physically abusive boyfriend? This book is a mindless read and I came away without any insights as to why some women end up in porn. You'll see remaindered copies of this in the bargain bin next summer. Don't even buy it then.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't know what to say about the actual contents of this book, as I have not yet read it. I am sure it will titilate heated punters everywhere as they dream of a lushious Traci Lords - a woman who had the smarts to turn her infamy into an empire.