At twenty-one years of age, I have a career-type job. I'm as surprised as anyone.
I run a porn studio. There's a lot more to it than you'd think.... Or maybe not. I have to manage the finances, handle hiring of performers, control purchasing of supplies, sit down with a lawyer and make sure new performers have valid identification, and keep track of shoots, plus a hundred other details that come up, like making sure the fridge is stocked with soda everyone wants. It's all gotta get done, and it's up to me to make sure it gets done.
The salary is worth it. The pay isn't as good as dealing meth, but the risks are a lot lower, and despite the amount of responsibility it's a lot less stressful than slinging dope. Theoretically the cops could kick in our doors, but they'd have a hard time getting the legalities of raiding a private home for making dirty movies past a judge than they would a search warrant for a speed dealer in El Cajon.
Interviewing prospective performers is a kaleidoscope of odd behavior. Both male and female would-be performers make the assumption that we wish to see them naked. And we do, but not right away. Pull your pants back up, this is the initial interview, we don't even have your full name yet. It's nice that you've been told you have a "really cute pussy," and we'll be sure to fawn and coo over it when we do your basic nude shots. Now is not the time.
Far too many performers, male and female, came into the studio expecting to become the next Seka or Ron Jeremy. Yeah, no. We're a small studio in North County San Diego, not one of the big production companies in LA. If you're serious about making it big in porn, we're just the first rung to climb. If you're lucky and good looking and talented you could end up with your picture on the box art of videos. It took Bekka three or four years of working before she was routinely featured front and center on boxes, and she's gorgeous. Of course I would say that, what with her being my wife....
Everyone wanted to know if I was uncomfortable with the woman I married having sex with other men. Well, since that's what she was doing when we met, it doesn't really bother me. It's called "performance" for a reason. She still performs, I still ogle nude girls and get paid for it. I don't spend time with a camera in my hands any more, but sit in on test shoots to get a good feel for the performer's behavior and attitude. It is possible to get as far as a full test --- like, intercourse --- and end up not being signed on. We pay you for the day, give you the tape, and tell you that no, you wouldn't be a good fit. You have attitude in a bad way, you don't smile, you're stiff (or in the case of males, not stiff enough), you're too clinical.... You can't perform, period. Bekka confessed to being very camera-conscious when she first started out; if it was up to her the first ten tapes she made would disappear off the face of the earth. She got brought on for her body and beauty, not her performance. She dredged up knowledge from her Drama Club days, threw herself into it, and is currently Inana Productions' hottest commodity.
That's another reason I'm not bugged by my wife making porn videos: she's worth too much to the company.
Bekka made me wait three days before saying yes to my marriage proposal. We were already living together and since I'm madly in love with her, marriage made sense to me. She admitted that the wait was on purpose: she wanted to see my reaction to her silence, to make sure I didn't become neurotic or obsessed. "I knew you were going to propose at some point, and if you had pushed the issue I'd have said no," she told me later. "Besides, you did a piss poor job of hiding the ring. If I'm the one doing laundry in this house, your sock drawer is a lousy place to stash stuff."
The reactions to our engagement varied widely. I decided to be fair --- and get it over with --- by telling my parents right off.
They were.... Shocked. Surprised. Amazed. They weren't happy.
"C'mon Mom, I'm only a few years younger than you and Dad were when you two got hitched," I argued.
"Yes, but.... We've never met this girl. Where do you know her from?"
"From work. We've been friends for quite a while now, it's the same woman I'm living with."
My Mom didn't wail, but wanted to. "You're seeing a woman from that job you have? How can this possibly work out between the two of you?"
"It's been working out just great, which is why I'm marrying her. Really Mom, did you think I was sleeping on the couch all this time? Bekka is a wonderful person. And I seem to recall offering to take you and Dad out to dinner with her on a couple occasions, and you were resistant to the idea."
"You know we do not approve of this job you have, and we have a hard time with the idea of meeting anyone connected to it socially."
"Mom, remember I run the place now. It's not a job to me, it's probably going to be a career. And why does meeting adult performers bug you so much?"
"Yes, my career. It's honest work for good pay. And again, why does meeting adult performers bug you so much?"
Mom audibly sucked in air. "First of all, anyone who appears in those videos must have problems with their self-esteem. And if this is the best work they think they can get, well...."
I cleared my throat and replied, "Keep in mind you're speaking of the woman I'm in love with, mother dear. Maybe I should talk to Dad."
"Perhaps you should." She handed off the phone.
"What I got from this end," said Dad, "is that you're marrying the woman you're living with, who also works at the, uh, film studio you do."
"You got it, Pop."
"I suppose your mind is made up about this."
"She's already got my ring on her finger."
"Will we ever get to meet her?"
"As I pointed out to Mom, you've had the opportunity. I'll make another offer if you wish. I promise, Bekka does not bite unless it's asked of her. You will like her, honest."
Dad sighed. "Very well. How about we meet halfway? Say, the Carlos Murphy's at University Town Center? Tomorrow night?"
"Sure. Eight o'clock works for me," I told him.
"Why so late?"
"I'll be conducting interviews of prospective male performers, and they always run late. I can spot the studs from the duds in two minutes, but you still gotta give them all a fair shot. And we're buying dinner, okay?"
Dinner was not the most comfortable meal, thanks to Mom. She was initially cordial enough, but dragged things downhill by almost immediately asking of Bekka, "So how did you come to be an, ah, adult performer?"
Bekka answered simply and directly, "I needed a job with short days that paid well, so I could take care of my dying mother."
"But why pornography?"
"As I said, it pays well, quite well, and you're looking at five hour work days. My mother passed away and I realized there was no reason to stop working in pornography. It's easy fun work which pays for everything I want. Lenny could quit his position and become a house-husband and we'd still be comfortable on what I earn. As it is, I don't see me leaving the industry for a while, and then I'd work behind the cameras."
"You don't find the work humiliating?" my Mom asked.
"It seems to me you're being exploited...."
Bekka laughed and replied, "By who? I'm not doing anything I don't want to, no one is forcing me to perform, and I work with people I trust and like. The whole thing about 'being exploited' is a mystery to me. Ask your son, there's more people out there who want to be in porn than there are places to put them. I feel blessed for having had the moderate success that I have."
My father piped up with, "So how did you two meet?"
Bekka and I looked at each other. I finally replied, "Well, we knew each other for a while, but one morning there was a problem with equipment and her and I ended up hanging around by the pool talking. We became good friends that day, and things just sorta progressed. It was a natural thing, no pressure on either side."
Bekka added, "I was surprised at the age difference between us, but your son is very smart and wise for his age."
"Wait a minute," my Mom said, "How big of a gap is there between you two?"
"Six years," I told her. "Not that big of a deal, really."
Bekka giggled and said, "I don't see myself as some sort of predatory older woman. Don't think I could pull it off, hee hee." I kissed her cheek.
My father, ever the pragmatist, asked, "How many of the details of being married have you worked out so far? Like, will you share a bank account? Are you planning on buying a home? What about kids? There are a lot of things to consider."
I replied, "Ahead of you. We'll share a checking account, buying a condo makes the most sense for us, and no, no kids. We talked it over and children are not in our plans for quite a while."
Bekka said, "There are a lot of things that will come up which we'll deal with as they do. We don't pretend to know everything.... We haven't even set a date for the wedding yet, but we know it will be low-key, no giant gown and bridesmaids in ugly dresses. Lenny will rent a tuxedo, but only so he can pretend to be James Bond for the day."
"I thought you never wanted me to wear a shoulder holster again."
"Only for that day. Not as a matter of course."
Our meals arrived along with another round of drinks. My parents were aghast we were having a second beer with dinner, convinced that two Tecates would land us in jail for DUI. We assured them that on full stomachs we had little risk of getting remotely tipsy. And over dessert, my mother dove back in to insulting Bekka.
"You seem like an intelligent young woman, which makes your choice of jobs even more mystifying to me. Surely you can do something else...."
"And eventually I will," replied Bekka. "Until then I'm happy being a performer, and am happy having Lenny looking out for me in the front office. His job is much more high stress than mine, yet pays less. That's always struck me as unfair. There have been plenty of nights where he's been up to all hours editing scripts at the kitchen table or balancing the cash logs in bed. I'll be right there helping him."
"But it's all so sleazy and tawdry...."
My turn. "Inana Productions is not sleazy. We choose not to be, for our own self-respect. I wouldn't have taken the promotion if I was unhappy with how the place was being run. Remember, this is just one company out of six that my bosses own, so I have to steer that ship on my own most of the time. Running it ragged would be harder than running a respectful business with dignity for all involved."
"Dignity!?" my father hooted.
"Yes, dignity. Everyone involved with Inana is treated fairly and with respect and dignity. Why is this such a surprise to you? It's traits I like to think I learned from you."
Bekka threw in with, "I've been with Inana for nearly seven years now. That says something about how happy I am with how I'm treated. I could have moved to Los Angeles and made more money, but I didn't want to leave our happy little family. We've had much of the same crew for a long time.... Nobody wants to leave, because they're happy. That says something. And things are going great under Lenny's leadership, you should feel proud of your son."
"Yes, our son the pornographer," muttered Mom.
"Your son the principled, ethical pornographer. I get the feeling you two can't grasp the two aren't mutually exclusive," shot back Bekka.
"It's an inherently disgusting business. How do we explain it to our friends, or our family?"
I told Mom, "First off, I don't produce 'disgusting' video. And second, you can give my number to anyone that has questions. I've answered everything once already at some point."
Bekka suggested, "Why not make copies of your interview in AVN? You could just mail them out like a Christmas letter!"
"An excellent idea, babe." For my parents' comprehension I explained, "AVN --- Adult Video News --- came down and interviewed me as part of their 'Up & Coming' issue, even though Inana has been around for nearly nine years. I guess having a 21 year old at the helm of even a small company made it worth their while, although I suspect they got pressure from my bosses to include me. We really played up how lighthearted a place Inana is, and they they've always given good reviews of our features, so it worked out well. I mean, here's this punk rocker running a profitable production company in San Diego, and pulling it off. With that article, they made me employable for the next ten years if Inana goes belly up. And I learn new stuff all the time.
"Even if I decided to leave the adult video industry, my time at Inana will look great on a resumé. The company netted over $300,000 last year, and I'm aiming for $400,000 this coming year. We've decided to put out at least five full features over the next ten months, which will be stressful but I'm proud of the two I released so far. The days of cranking out nothing but loops are over, so far as I'm concerned. I want Inana to be respected in the industry...."
My father asked, "And how do you measure respect in your industry?"
"With a tape measure," Bekka responded. "And cleaning fluid." I stifled a laugh.
Back in the car and headed home, I told Bekka, "I'd like to apologize to you for my mother."
"She could have been worse. Remember, we have to do this routine with my father pretty quick.... Although he'll be happy you're making an honest woman of me."
"You don't suppose he'll.... Nah."
"You think he'll think you're pregnant by me?"
Bekka hooted and slapped the seat. "He'd prefer it! Better you than one of the scores of men I've had sex with on shoots. Besides, we just have to tell him we priced out maternity wedding gowns and decided to get married, then get pregnant. The usual progression."
I told Bekka, "Kids are.... No. Can't do it. I'm still far too selfish of a person to raise kids. My time is devoted to you and work. Raising a kid would draw away too much attention."
Bekka said, "Maybe we should at least decide on a date. I figure setting up a wedding will be like setting up a really complex theme party, so we need time, we can't just do it a month from now...."
"How about in four months?"
"Yeah, that should work."
In retrospect, we should have given ourselves more time.