Monday, October 19, 2015

Stardom (Part 1)

     We were getting rich.  Bewitched, the sex-and-sorcery opus I'd produced, was breaking sales records both in the US and in Europe.  My capo Angel had given me a $10,000 bonus and a raise; I'd split the ten grand with my director Small Steve.  I'd also petitioned for, and received, bonuses for all who had worked on the project, including the performers.  With the way the video was selling, we could afford it.  Retailers couldn't keep it in stock, and our mail order business had shot through the roof.

     Adult Video News had come down to interview Steve and I, me for the second time in two years.  Twenty-two year old punk rockers aren't supposed to be creating blockbuster porn movies, but there I was, knocking them dead.  Hustler and Gallery did their own interviews of Bekka, begging for (and getting) new photo shoots, putting her in the centerfold and on the covers this time around.  In fact, all the female performers ended up getting photo spreads.  We were hot.
     AVN asked me what my secret was.  I told them, "An active imagination and a willingness to listen to my performers as to what would look hot on tape."  How so?  "Look, they're the ones in front of the camera, they're the ones doing the performance.  They've got ideas about what will look good, and a lot of the time they're right.  They know they can make suggestions to Steve and I about what will come off well, and we'll listen.  They have an active role in blocking out our sex scenes, making the hottest scenes we can have."
     You seem to have a stable of performers who can actually act.  How did you do that?  "We cull a lot of would-be performers when we interview.  You have to have a spark, some innate talent, in order to be in front of our cameras.  That, and we do a lot of coaching.  We rehearse our scenes until they're tight, getting people to have a feel for the scene before we ever turn the cameras on.  We want to produce entertaining movies, not just jack fodder.  Heh, we want it to be both."
     You have the reputation of being a shoestring operation.  What do you say to that?  "We started off producing loops for $5,000.  Getting a budget of two hundred grand felt like a luxury, and still does.  If you do it right, you can make that money cover a lot of distance, and we were already used to doing so.  We have too much fun to let a small budget get in the way.  'Bewitched' cost $280,000, including the special effects.  Our next one will cost about the same, and will be just as much fun to make, if not more so.  I wouldn't say we have a formula, but at this point we know what we're doing, and so we know to run with what works."
     At the age of twenty-two you run a successful studio and have produced a hit movie.  How does that happen?  "I won't lie, it took some luck.  I started off as Inana's still photographer when I was twenty.  The guy who was running the place went crazy and lost his job.  For whatever reason, they offered the position to me.  They seem to have assumed I had the brains to pull it off, and with some training I did.  Producing came naturally to me, since I was the one writing the scripts, so I had a vision of what should be showing up on tape.  I wouldn't be where I am without the guidance of Angel Morelli and his cousin Vinny.  They took a punk rock thug and shaped him into a businessman, one who knew the industry.  Ever since I've improvised when I needed to, and learned a lot on my own."
     So what does the future hold for Inana?  "Well, we'll continue to produce loops, just to keep busy and generate positive cash flow.  And so long as we can think up good ideas we'll continue producing features, at least three a year.  Features will take precedent.  Working with video and not film speeds up the process, so I don't see three features a year to be unreasonable.  And we'll keep having fun, that's the main thing.  'Bewitched' was a blast from start to finish, and our new one, which will be a rock & roll film, should be even more fun.  We're going to mix sex and live music.  There will be a lot of challenges, but I think we're up to it."
     Any parting thoughts?  "Yeah.  I just want people to know we love what we do, and hopefully they love what we do too.  Oh, and spend more time slam dancing.  It's good for you."
     They took shots of me at my desk, including a couple with Bekka sitting on me ("Schneider, shown here with wife Becky Page in his lap").  They interviewed Small Steve separately, taking shots of him at his editing machine and running a camera.  Steve and the interviewer talked technical aspects. and also the perfidy of dealing with performers.  Inana's second AVN feature in two years, plus a hit movie....  We were going places.

     Gallery's and Hustler's shoots were two days apart, so Bekka and I took a room at the Chateau Marmont, the hotel where Belushi died, for the duration.  Work for both started early in the morning, so we couldn't party it up, but we still had a good time.  Hanging around in the spa with a head full of Ecstasy and jabbering at anyone who also got in kept us amused.
     Both Hustler and Gallery voided their usual non-compete clauses from their contracts, so eager were they to get Bekka in their pages.  She'd be staring out from the covers of both at about the same time.  What entertained us both was the lies they printed about Bekka.  According to both magazines, she was 22 and single, not 28 and happily married.  We left the creation of quotes up to them, allowing them to portray Bekka as an aggressive sexual dynamo.  Hell, they knew what would sell, and so what if anyone who read AVN could fact-check their statements?  It made for good copy.  Bettie Page was in her thirties when she did her most groundbreaking work, and the magazines listed her as being 24.  It's all about what would sell.
     On both shoots Bekka was allowed to play whatever music she felt like, and she chose Skinny Puppy for both.  This freaked out a lot of people.  We were freaking out a lot of people over those two days.  They weren't used to having punks standing on the sidelines during shoots, or models who had provided their own drugs.  We shared our Ecstasy with those willing to try it, which were fewer people than we expected.  The harsh creepy sounds of Skinny Puppy worked well on Gallery's shoot, which was continuing to run with the spooky theme of our movie.  The cover blurb described Bekka as "Becky Page, Adult Film's Punky Witch!"
     I was standing to one side watching Hustler's (female) photographer put Bekka through her paces, finishing my coffee.  The gaffer was doing the same thing.  He leaned over to me and said, "I tell ya, this job is driving me nuts."
     "How so?" I asked.
     "Day in and day out, seeing all these hot women, and I don't get to touch none of them.  Hell, you probably feel the same way too."
     I said, "Well, that's my wife there that's being photographed right now, so I can offer you empathy, but not sympathy."
     "Are you serious?" the gaffer exclaimed.
     "Oh yeah."
     "Dude, how do you handle it?"
     "Handle what?"
     "Knowing there's dudes all over the world lusting after your wife?"
     I smiled at him.  "She was doing hardcore when we first met.  She was doing hardcore when we fell in love.  She's still doing hardcore.  It's just part of who she is.  Besides, I get to stare at naked women all day at work myself, if I want to.  It's just part of the business."
     "What do you do?"
     "I run Inana Productions, a studio down in San Diego."
     He nodded.  "Yeah, that's right, you released that witch movie."
     "Yeah, that's us."
     The gaffer smiled.  "So, does the punk rock ethos help you two make good porn movies?"
     "I think so.  I think it makes us willing to take more chances, have more risk in what we do.  Like 'Bewitched,' that was a risk.  Who'd mix witchcraft with sex?  But we pulled it off, and we did it under budget, which is another effect of punk rock: we're used to getting things done with no money, so staying in budget is an easy task."
     The photographer called for a break.  Bekka announced the need for a cigarette, so she pulled on a robe offered to her and we stepped outside into the yellow Los Angeles air.
     "The photographer keeps saying scary things to me," she said.
     "What's she saying?" I asked.
     "That I'm gonna be a star."
     "Well, duh.  I could have told you that the first time we met."
     "Bekka, you're gorgeous.  You're also memorable, people don't forget you.  With your print exposure and the success of 'Bewitched,' you're going to get recognized from now on.  If nothing else, that'll help with your career.  Right now my biggest fear is that you'll decide Inana is too small potatoes and you'll insist on working for the big LA studios."
     "No, not gonna happen.  Break up our happy family?  Spend all that time away from my husband?  No way.  Besides, Inana is turning into one of the big boys now.  The new film is gonna be another blowout, you'll see.  I'm happy riding Inana's success."
     "That reminds me, I need to find a way of convincing Tawny that shaving one side of her head is a good idea."
     Bekka looked shocked.  "Why the hell does she need to do that?"
     "I have a particular role in mind for her, and she needs to look a bit hardcore for it.  I think she'll look better with one side shaved than she would with short hair."
     "Well....  She'd been living with Dutch all this time, so the man she cares about impressing will probably go nuts for it.  Give her a choice."
     "Yeah, good idea."
     Bekka smirked up at me.  "So what role do you have in mind for her that requires such alteration?"
     "Punk rock nightclub manager," I said, blowing out smoke.
     "Yeah, I can see that."  We smoked in silence for a while.
     Bekka ran her hands through her hair and said, "I'm glad I carry a gun these days."
     "I know that, but why in particular?"
     "Because...."  She paused.  "Because not all of my new fans just want an autograph, you know?"
     I put my hand on her shoulder.  "That's crossed my mind too.  This may sound overprotective, but I want to be at your side when you go out.  There's  too many creeps out there."
     "You don't need to ride around on my shoulders."
     I ground out my cigarette.  "Just the same...."
     She hugged me and said, "We'll be cautious together, okay?  Now let's go back in, I'm sure they want to do touch-ups to my hair and makeup."

     Later that afternoon we had ensconced ourselves in the spa at the Chateau Marmont after some time at the bar.  I liked this place.  They didn't have Tecaté for Bekka, so the bartender sent his bar back out to a liquor store to get some.  Bekka supped on Budweiser in the meantime, me nursing Johnnie Walkers.
     "It's weird," I said, "I feel strange not having my holster on in public.  I mean, I'm not worried about something happening here, but still...."
     Bekka said, "I hate to admit it, but I feel the same way.  On the subject of guns, what should we do with all that hot iron we have?"
     "Pitch it.  Go out on Angel's boat and dump it overboard."
     "Okay.  I wanna keep the Charter Arms, though.  It holds personal significance to me."
     "I can see that."
     One of the two guys across the spa from us said, "Excuse me, are you two talking about guns?"
     I smiled over at him and said, "Yeah, stolen guns.  We've got quite the collection of them."
     "How did you end up with them?" he asked.
     "They're all pieces that people pointed at us that we took away," said Bekka.
     "Huh.  Actually, I carry a gun."
     "Really.  What kind?" I asked.
     "It's a .25 caliber automatic, fits right in my pocket.  Can't be too careful these days."
     "Who's the maker?"
     "Raven," he said with a smile.
     Bekka and I started laughing.  Bekka said, "All that little thing is gonna do is piss someone off, if it doesn't jam.  You need to go shopping."
     The dude, who looked seriously Industry, was affronted.  "So what do you carry?" he asked.
     I said, "Let's see.  I wear a Beretta 92FS in a shoulder holster.  Bekka here wears a Colt Defender in a waist holster, and carries a tiny Beretta in her purse.  All our iron fires hollow-point nine millimeter.  We've got good stopping power between us."
     The second guy, who was older, said to Bekka, "Hey, I recognize you."
     "Really?" she said demurely.  "Where from?"
     "Are you in Penthouse?"
     Bekka nodded.
     "Far out.  What are you doing here?"
     "I just finished doing some shoots for Hustler and Gallery."
     The first one said, "Hey, do you guys want to do some coke?"
     Bekka and I looked at each other.  Bekka shrugged an approval.  I said, "Sure, why not, let us get dressed first though.  You wanna do ours or yours?"
     He leaned back smiling and said, "We've got some serious rocket fuel.  Try ours."
     "Okay.  What room are you in?"
     "We'll meet you there in fifteen minutes."
     Bekka and I sloshed out of the spa and dried off as best we could, pulling on our t-shirts.  We went up to the room and finished drying off.  I pulled my shoulder holster on, commenting to Bekka, "After we do drugs with these guys, let's go to the trattoria for dinner."
     "You don't feel like inviting them along?" she asked.
     "Shit no.  I had my daily dosage of smarm at the studio.  The people I dealt with live the caricature of LA residents.  You wearing your Colt?"
     "I'll feel naked without it, dammit."
     We went to room 312 and knocked on the door.  The older guy opened up, ushering us in.  They remained in their swim trunks, apparently planning to return to the spa after lining up.
     I said, "By the way, I'm Lenny and this is Becky."  I gave them her stage name for reasons of privacy.
     The younger one said, "I'm Brent and this is Carl.  Here, try a line of this."  He handed me a rolled-up bill and gestured to a bedside table with four lines on it.
     I snorted up, tasting it in the back of my throat.  What he had was fairly weak coke that had also been cut with speed.  No wonder he thought it was rocket fuel.  I handed the straw off to Bekka, saying, "Well, it won't hurt you."
     After the two gents had done up their lines, Brent said, "So you're in Penthouse.  You're a Pet of the Month.  What are your future plans?"
     Bekka queried, "Why do you ask?"
     Brent said, "We both work for Fox Studios.  I'll bet I could get you in without a problem."
     "Why?  I didn't know Fox made porn."
     "You want to make porn?"
     "I already do," Bekka smiled.  "I'm getting a lot of success in a competitive business right now.  Like I said at the spa, I just finished doing shoots for Hustler and Gallery.  On Monday I'll be back at Inana in San Diego making a loop.  In a month we start shooting another feature.  That, and my husband and I are building a house on the beach in Encinitas, and I'd hate the commute.  No, I'll stick with what I'm doing.  I'm a porno queen and proud of it."
     Carl asked, "Been in anything we'd have seen?"
     "Well, we just released one called 'Bewitched'...."
     "I've heard of it," said Brent.  "Haven't seen it yet.  So where's your husband, anyway?"
     "That's me," I said.  "Who did you think she meant?"
     "Wait, you're her husband?"  Brent started laughing.
     "Care to share the comedy?" asked Bekka.
     "I just can't imagine a classy doll like you getting hooked up with this guy."
     "Who says I'm classy?"
     I said, "You know, it's kind of dangerous to insult people like that.  Especially when they have guns."
     Carl scoffed.  "You don't have a gun."
     I pulled out my Beretta and held it, not pointing it at anything in particular.  Bekka had done the same with her Colt.  Brent and Carl both went white.
     Brent began apologizing.  "L-look, we didn't mean anything.  I'm sure you're a cool guy, and you two are solid.  We didn't mean nothing, honest."
     Bekka and I stowed our guns again.  Bekka asked, "So where's this .25 of yours?"
     "It's in my pants."
     "Can I see?"
     Brent picked up his pants from the back of a chair and pulled out a ghetto pistol, handing it over to Bekka.  She popped out the magazine, broke it open, and looked down the barrel.  She shook her head and handed it to me.  I took a peek myself.  It was full of gunk.
     "Your gun is full of pocket lint," Bekka said.  Those Ravens are unreliable enough without being dirty."
     "Like I said before," I stated, "all you're going to do with this is piss someone off.  It's too light a caliber, it's got bad muzzle velocity, it's inaccurate....  You'd be better off using it as a sap."
     "So what do you suggest?" asked Brent.
     Bekka said, "Something like this."  She reached in her purse and pulled out her tiny Beretta, dropping the magazine and racking the slide before handing it over.  "That little Beretta is a nine loaded with hollow-point ammunition.  It carries six in the clip, has the muzzle velocity close to Lenny's 92, aims accurate, and weighs less than a pound unloaded.  The only thing is you've gotta spend some time on a range working with it to take advantage of the accuracy.  It jumps around when fired if you're not used to it.  Tell me, have you ever fired your Raven?"
     "Well....  No."
     "Remove the firing pin and keep it as a paperweight," I said.  "That's what it's good for.  It's too small even for a decent sap."
     Carl asked, "How'd you two get so into guns?"
     Bekka and I looked at each other.  "We're in the mafia," I explained.
     "Oh, bullshit," replied Brent.
     "Believe what you want," said Bekka.  "I've killed two men in my life, and Lenny has crippled one.  It's a dangerous life we lead."
     "I can't believe you two are in the mafia," said Carl.
     "Like she said, believe what you want," I said.  "Just as well if you don't, really.  In fact, we're just kidding, right Becky?"
     Bekka gave a dazzling grin and said, "Absolutely.  We're just run of the mill pornographers with a thing for guns."
     Carl asked softly, "So why the guns?"
     "It's a hobby," I said.
     "Yeah, a hobby," said Bekka.  "Thanks for the line.  We're gonna go get some dinner now.  You gents have a good night."

     We saw them in the restaurant for breakfast in the morning, but they didn't come over or say hi.


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