Rocker Girls released to mixed reviews. The consensus seemed to be that the sex was hot, but the music was frightening: I had chosen to go with using live hardcore punk, and not everyone was comfortable with that. Adult Video News gave it four of five stars, a good showing which helped our sales. In their words, "Inana Productions steps out on the edge by combining their usual sultry sex with live music video in this slice-of-life movie about a punk rock nightclub. Tawny Smith stars as the club manager, with Becky Page playing her perpetually-horny barkeeper. Ella Belle actually got a mohawk for her role as one of the club's regulars.... You may grit your teeth through the music, but Rocker Girls is fun, definitely worth the price of admission."
Hustler gave us a Mostly Erect rating, again commenting on the music: "Why didn't we give this one a Fully Erect rating? The music. Personal taste notwithstanding, you'll need nerves of steel to have your volume up high through much of this video." They loved the sex at least. Club gave us five stars, Gallery and Fox weighing in at four. Sales-wise, it didn't seem to matter, the video flew off the shelves, establishing the fact that Inana had finally made it: our name alone was enough to guarantee good sales. Overall, not a bad follow-up to Bewitched. We were dancing with the big boys now.
My capo Angel was pleased with the sales. Not ecstatic, but pleased. We wouldn't break the sales records like we had with Bewitched, but that was no surprise. Having lightning strike twice is a rarity, and we were moving plenty of units. Over lunch at his trattoria, Angel commented, "You got to make the movie you wanted, right?"
I shifted pressure off my left shoulder and said, "Personally, I couldn't be happier with the results. It came out exactly how I wanted it to, even if there was only one girl with a mohawk in the whole thing."
He laughed and said, "Not everyone has your taste in women. I'm glad you never talked Bekka into getting a mohawk."
"No way," I said. "She's far too recognizable with her bangs. No way could we change Bekka's look and get away with it."
"Where is Bekka, anyway? I thought she'd be here today," said Angel, taking another bite of eggplant.
"Her and the other girls went to lunch someplace in La Jolla." I paused over a forkful of tortellini. "She continues to get recognized, you know. We got stopped just last night while we were in Safeway. Another autograph signed."
"She's affecting fashion, too. Angela and I were on Melrose a few days ago and saw two girls with her haircut. Face it Lenny, you're married to a star now."
"It's weird to think about. I wonder if those two girls, y'know, shaved like Bekka does. I never think about porn as having an inspiration on the outside world like it does."
Angel poured more wine. "It does, it does. Especially when the fashion manque in question is in both a hit movie and the pages of Penthouse. Trust me, there's plenty of shaving going on because of Bekka." He shifted gears. "So how goes the new script?"
I smiled and said, "I'm having fun with it. Murder mystery. I'm ripping off Raymond Chandler much of the time. We'll need to budget for stage blood for this one."
"Who do you want starring?"
"I was thinking of Dale. He can act, and has the looks to make a good hero private eye."
"Female lead?" I was asked.
I considered. "Not sure yet. Obviously Bekka needs a marquee position, but I'm not sure where she'll go yet, I need to flesh out the script more. Bekka will make a good femme fatale, though. Oh, another budget item will be blank ammunition. I'm not sure how, but there'll be shooting in this one. God knows Bekka and I have the guns."
"Speaking of which, do you still need to go out on my boat and dump iron? I know you two have collected a bit."
"Yeah, definitely. I'm not happy having all that hot iron in the house.... Although Bekka wants to hold onto that Charter Arms piece she took off that cab driver in Van Nuys. Strange thing to be sentimental about, the first gun that you killed with. She wants it around, though."
Angel leaned on the table and said, "It's a penance for her. She knows it's a bust if she gets caught with it."
"I'd just as soon not have my wife in jail on a stolen weapons charge," I grumbled. "At least she doesn't carry it anymore."
"Yes, she relies on her little Colt now. It served her well when the mansion was invaded. Speaking of which, when is your court appearance?"
"Next week. I'm glad we're between real projects, since I don't know how many days of testimony they need out of me. I can't wait to see how this guy behaves in court. Even the most conservative judge isn't about to put up with a defense based on scripture."
"I can't believe he pleaded not guilty. What is he thinking?" asked Angel.
I grinned across the table. "He's not. I'm sure him and his lawyer go round and round. Religious fanaticism and the court system don't mix well."
"Well, it was nice of the D.A. to put him up on the attempted murder charge. After he's convicted, he won't be going anywhere for quite some time. Given his announced intent, they'll have him in stir with no parole for at least a decade."
We finished our lunches and pushed away our plates. We lit cigarettes and knocked back the rest of the wine. "So, coke? We can use the office here," said Angel.
"Sure, why not," I said. "I always like to snort dessert."
The trial was something of a circus. Between the media presence and the fact that the defendant was a complete wingnut, there was plenty to be entertained by.
Bekka's and my own testimony was straightforward, me giving an accounting of the defendant's (Julian Earl Bradshaw, he just had to have the middle name of Earl, didn't he) assault on Gina, me, and the mansion. The defense lawyer tried, for some reason, to get meaning out of the fact that Bekka had shot at Bradshaw while nude. "Why were you nude, Ms. Schneider?"
"I was in the middle of filming an adult video," was her response. "You know, the whole reason why the defendant showed up."
"Overruled," said the judge. "Please continue."
Bekka didn't hide anything, even admitting to pistol-whipping the guy while she knelt on his neck. "He'd shot my husband, and I was in a rage," she said.
"Doesn't this strike you as being cruel?" asked counsel.
"He'd come into my place of work with an assault rifle. Who says he was entitled to a fair fight?" asked Bekka.
The defense counsel made the stupid mistake of allowing J. E. Bradshaw to speak in his own defense. He explained to the jury that he was doing the Lord's work, and began reading from Revelations. The judge cut him off, and demanded to see both the defendant and his counsel in his chambers. When they returned the defense party returned to their seats at their table. They conferred briefly, and counsel got up and posited that the defendant was insane, despite him being found competent to stand trial. The judge did not look amused.
Despite everything, Bekka and I didn't go to court except for the days when we testified. We had no doubt that Bradshaw was going to prison, and we had things to take care of. Staring at the bastard day in and day out wouldn't accomplish anything. I felt about him the same way I would feel about getting bit by a dog with a head injury: annoyance, but no malice. Unless the district attorney came up with new information --- like accomplices --- we'd be better served by taking care of business, and putting him behind us. We watched local news for any new developments.
One day we didn't want to miss was sentencing. I wanted to plead to the jury to keep him locked up someplace secure for quite a while. After all, who knows what his next target could be. Adult book stores? Strip clubs? Bars? Doctors offices? Methodists? If possible, I wanted to bring in a couple performers, so they could tell of the abject terror they felt in the sound stage while the shots were going off. The jurors may not think highly of me or my company, but they needed to understand that Julian Bradshaw was a dangerous man, period.
The media felt our absence. For their purposes, we were just too damn photogenic. A punk rocker, and his porn star wife. We were good for sound bites, we looked great (especially Bekka, I was there for shock value), and we had the bad habit of strolling through the courthouse like we owned the place.
As you can imagine, everyone in the industry was up in arms over the whole scene. I have a feeling that gun sales among my fellow smut-peddlers shot right up after the incident. Everyone, both performers and crews all over the place, developed a sudden feeling of vulnerability. Security cameras were installed, locks were changed and reinforced, self defense courses were attended. Given the nature of what we all did, I could guarantee all the studios (including ours) had primo camera setups. We had three cameras: one at the front door, one over the garage, and one at the slider leading out to the patio, all hooked up to monitors and a recorder in Small Steve's office. We considered a fourth camera in the hallway on the second floor, but nixed the idea: everyone would feel like we were spying on them when they worked. Even porn stars like their privacy.
One Saturday after I was off a crutch, Bekka and I led an excursion out to Smokey's Guns & Ammo in El Cajon. Those attending with us were Elspeth, Tawny, Jackie, both Steves, Rio, Vince, Chip, Dale, Eddie, and Rita. We car-pooled down. Everyone wanted to see about buying a gun.
Most everyone wanted a small piece like Bekka's Colt, with Eddie, Small Steve, and Elspeth being enamored of my Beretta. Bekka and I led the whole motley assortment of smut-meisters into the store, to the distress of the employees. All the Inana people milled about, looking in display cases, leafing through magazines, pointing at things. Jackie finally broke the ice with the staff by walking up to one and saying, "Hi, I need to buy a gun for self defense."
"Do you," came the reply.
"Yes. A man with a gun came into my place of work about five weeks ago, shot my boss, and was going to shoot everyone else here. I don't like being that vulnerable."
The clerk said, "Wait, was this at the porno studio up in North County?"
"Yeah, that's us," Elspeth said, sidling up to Jackie.
"Are all of you in porn?"
"To one degree or another. Those two guys are part of the crew, the punk rocker there runs the place, and Rita is our fluffer and script girl. We all work for the same company. You probably won't be selling anything to the punk or the woman who's with him, since they already carry guns.
"Ho-lee crap," said the clerk.
Jackie said, "After the shooting, you can imagine how naked we feel. Anyone else makes an attempt on the studio, or at my home, I want to be able to protect myself."
"I already know I'm buying a gun," said Elspeth, "it's just a matter of how big it is."
With dollar signs dancing in his eyes and the word "commission" running through his brain, the clerk had everyone gather around one corner of the display cases. "You're all here for the same reason?" Everyone nodded.
"Then let me show you some models...." He removed four guns from the case and began passing them around, one by one, explaining the advantages of each one. All were about the same size as Bekka's Colt. He also got into a few larger handguns, comparable to my Beretta. A .45 Ruger attracted the eyes of Elspeth, Steve, and Eddie. My own interest was taken up by a Smith & Wesson 6906, a mid-size gun which held twelve 9mm rounds in the belly. I pointed it out to Rio, as a suggestion. She had the clerk pass it back to her.
Rio asked Bekka, "What do you think? Would this fit in a waist holster like yours? I think I'll be more comfortable with something larger than what you carry, but I don't want a cannon like Lenny has."
"Well, it's compact enough to fit in a decent sized purse, and its loaded weight is probably around two pounds. Smith & Wesson are reliable, with the nine millimeter ammo you'll have good stopping power, and it should be simple enough to clean. The worst that can happen is that you hate it and have to sell it to buy a different one. More's the pity they don't have a range at this store, so you could try it out."
Rio passed it around to everyone again, getting their opinion. All the girls were intrigued, as it would fit in a purse, but have the stopping power and muzzle velocity of my Beretta. In fact they all wanted one too. This was a problem, as the store didn't have five in stock. A few people would have to wait, or go elsewhere.
Seeing his commission dripping away, the clerk quickly told everyone that he would have more of the same model in by the time their seven day wait was up, even if he had to get them from other stores. This was agreeable. The girls would be carrying more firepower than the guys, who were getting .380 semi-autos that would fit unnoticed in a pocket. The clerk called a second employee over to help with the purchase and registration paperwork for eleven people all buying guns at once.... And this was hardly our full crop of performers. The rest might want them too.
With paperwork proudly in hand, we headed back to the parking lot. I suggested everyone get some practical experience with handguns, by heading over to the Gun Range and learning the basics of safe operation and shooting. Who knows, we might get lucky and there would be a class starting when we arrived. If not, Bekka and I were confident enough in our knowledge that we could put on an impromptu class of our own.
The range staff was not amused by the arrival of thirteen people at once, ten of whom had never shot a gun in their lives. There were a maximum of three people allowed in a lane area, so Bekka and I decided we would train people two each at a time, renting two lanes. She would use her Colt, I would use my Beretta. We each grabbed two of our fellow pornographers and went in, me passing on word to everyone beforehand to not joke around. This was aimed primarily at Eddie, who reckoned himself quite the cut-up. Him being a wiseass could get us all thrown out.
I drew Rita and Elspeth, Bekka took both Steves. I gave them the basic safe handling lecture, dropped my clip and racked the slide. I showed them how to break the gun open for cleaning. Then I ran out a target, reinserted the clip, and handed the gun to Rita for her first try.
Bringing it up to shoulder level, she said, "This is a serious gun. Better than the shit people carry around in Logan Heights."
I laughed and said, "And next week you'll be carrying serious iron yourself. You'll be way ahead of las homeboys."
"Mi madre will freak if she finds out I bought a gun. I'll break it to my brother, gently, and go from there." She stepped to the line and blazed away at the silhouette, staying in the target area. I congratulated her.
Next clip, over to Elspeth. Our Texas native was more comfortable around guns than the others, so she approached the line with confidence. Like Rita, she stayed in the target area ("I'm out of practice") and was content with her results. Lesson done, I ushered them back out to the front room, where everyone else was browsing supplies. I suggested they all buy cleaning kits, so they could keep their guns clean after working out with them, hint hint. I ushered in Tawny and Vince.
Vince worried me. Nice enough guy, basic common sense, but definitely not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I hoped my words weren't just bouncing off his skull. Nonetheless, he was attentive to what I told them and handled the gun correctly. Tawny was a natural with my Beretta, scoring high on the target. "So long as the one I just bought is as accurate, I'll be happy."
On our way out, the range official asked me why I'd brought such a crowd with me.
"You know that porn studio that was invaded by a wingnut with an AR-15? These are the people he was after. They just went gun shopping today, too."
"So you all work in porn, huh? Far out. It was a scary thing, what happened to you you all. Once you have your guns in possession, keep us in mind for practice. We're more convenient than driving to the desert, and more comfortable, too."
We bid him good day and took off for Dirty Dan's for beers. Even for a Saturday, the strip club was pretty slow at that hour. The dancers were running at about half speed. We commandeered a few tables and sat to watch the show and talk. Elspeth recognized one of the dancers from her days at Pacers and went up to the stage to talk. When she returned, she told me, "I think I have a new performer for you. Her name is Donna, we worked at Pacers together."
"Can she act?" I asked.
"All strip club dancers can act. We usually act like we want to be there."
"What the hell, if she's got a minute or two bring her over. I'll talk to her."
Elspeth retrieved the dancer, and her and I took a table further away from everyone. She gave me a solid handshake and we introduced ourselves.
"So Elspeth told you what she's up to these days?" I asked.
"Yeah, porn. I've thought about it in the past, but didn't feel like moving to LA. You guys are down here?"
"We are. Why would you want to do porn?"
"The money, to be frank. That, and I think I'd work out okay."
"Have you ever done any acting?"
"Well.... I was in the drama club in high school. I'm sorry, that's really the most experience I have."
"It's valid," I told her. "We've got performers who have started out with less experience than that. What I look for in a performer is a spark, something that shows promise. We don't just produce loops, we make full films, and we need raw acting talent to pull them off. You wouldn't just be fucking in front of a camera, to be blunt."
"I can handle that," said Donna. "Ella said it's demanding but satisfying work. Did you guys really pay her $2000 to get a mohawk?"
"Sure did. It rounded out her part. Hell, the movie before that, she could have been wearing a witch's cape."
"What was the last movie?"
"It was called 'Bewitched.' We did okay with it."
"Oh wow! I saw that one! My boyfriend rented it for us to watch. I was impressed, that was really a good movie. I didn't feel like going and making a sandwich during the sex, like usual."
I said, "If you think watching porn sex is boring, you may not like making it. It's a long, drawn-out process. Can you handle that?"
"I used to do data entry. It can't possibly be as dull as that."
"Fair enough. You mentioned a boyfriend. What would he think of this career change?"
She smiled. "We're just dating, nothing tight at all. He would have to accept my decision or get lost. He doesn't ride around on my back."
A shadow crossed our table. I looked up to see a gangly bastard with thick glasses standing there. I gave him a nod.
He grabbed Donna by the shoulder and yelled, "What the hell are you doing out here?"
"This is a friend of a friend," she explained. "We were just talking."
"I don't give a shit," he railed. "Get back stage and be ready for your next turn. Got me, bitch?"
"That's no way to talk to a lady," I said.
"She's not a lady, she's just a dancer."
"No she's not," I replied. "As of now, she's a porno queen. Donna, I've made a decision and I'd be happy to have as a performer. Is that cool?"
"That would be fantastic. When do I start?" she asked.
"Well, we've still gotta screen test you and get you on our blood test roster. Can you come up on Tuesday?"
"Absolutely," she said. She looked up at the gangly dude and said, "Neil, I just got a new job. You want me to work out my shift, or can I just fuck off now?"
He was aghast. "You can't leave!"
"Why the hell not?"
"Dammit, you're one of the few dancers I have with a brain! And you're going off with this punk to make porn?"
"Sure am. I'll be joining my friend Ella and making predictable, solid money. Sure sounds like a good move to me."
"Fine!" the gangly one steamed. "I can replace you in four hours! Get your shit and leave!"
Donna said, "You can replace me in that little time. That's depressing in a lot of ways."
I said, "And she won't be leaving quite yet. I'd like her to meet some of her fellow performers, maybe have a beer or two. That big crowd around those three tables? The ones spending all that money? Those are her new co-workers, and I'd like to introduce her around."
"Don't waste time here," he growled, and stalked off.
Donna said, "Let me go change and I'll be right out. You're seriously giving me a job, just like that? You're not gonna make any, you know, demands of me, are you?"
I held up my left hand, showing my wedding band. "Happily married," I said, "And my wife would kill us both even if I wasn't. Yes, as of a few minutes ago you are an independent contractor with Inana Productions, Inc., of La Costa. You're taking on genuine work, but I think you'll be happy. My wife is a performer and she's been with the studio for over seven years. Anyway, go change, I'll meet you over there."
She disappeared in back and returned several minutes later in street clothes. I introduced her around to everyone, and she was greeted warmly. Elspeth (Ella) squealed and gave her a hug when she got the news. Neil lurked behind one end of the bar, glaring.
Donna asked me, "So, do you do all your hiring like that?"
I told her, "No, you're the first performer I've taken on in over three months. Before that, we were running an ad in the classified section of the Reader."
"It's kind of scary, I've never just taken a job like that before. I don't think I've ever had one offered like that before, actually."
Bekka said, "Don't worry, so long as there's a spark of an actress lurking in there, something to work with, we'll keep you busy."
Jackie said, "If you have any questions about performance, just ask Bekka. She's been here longer than anyone. So far as the job goes, you talk to Lenny. You'll need to meet with the company lawyer before you start."
"What for?" asked Donna.
"Proving you are how old you claim to be. It's a big deal these days."
"Am I right in feeling nervous about this gig?"
I told her, "If you weren't nervous, I'd check for a pulse."