On a Wednesday three months later the phone rang. It was Angel, and I couldn't tell by his voice whether he was excited or pissed off.
"Lenny, have you picked up mail today?" he asked.
"I was about to go do that, while I grabbed some lunch. Why, what's up?"
"The new Adult Video News is out. I want to read something to you.
"'Tiny but mighty Inana Productions of San Diego has turned out another gem in the form of 'Bewitched,' a spooky drama featuring excellent performances, intelligent special effects, and smoking hot sex scenes. Becky Page shimmers as a witch out to rid the world of sexual frustration.' Blah blah, plot encapsulation. Get this: 'Producer Lenny Schneider and director Steve Stillman should be applauded for setting a new high mark in adult film-making. Even the music works in this one. Do not miss Bewitched!' Five stars, Lenny. They gave us five out of five stars. This is fantastic!"
"Holy cow," I said. "No way I can skip out on going to Vegas this year, huh?"
"We're taking the whole crew this year," Angel crowed. "We're making a splash, big time. I can't wait to see the other reviews."
"I'm gonna pick up magazines when I go out today. I can't wait to tell everyone!"
"Is the new Penthouse out yet? I want to see Bekka's photo shoot."
"I'll know in a little while. Her and me will stop at a liquor store and collect porn."
"You do that. Let me know if the new issue is in, so I can buy a half dozen copies."
"Got it. Thanks for the good news, Angel."
"Hey, thank you for the good video. I knew you could pull this off. I'll talk to you later." Angel hung up.
I charged up the stairs and waited at a door with a red light on above it. We were shooting loops, just keeping busy producing jack fodder. Bekka was on a three way that morning, feeling bored and restless at the lack of performance needed. Our next project was still in pre-production, me arranging locations and getting permits from the city of San Diego. This new one was about the shenanigans going on at a night club, and I was still wrestling things out with the club we wanted to use. We'd be putting on a few live shows to get good footage, me raiding San Diego's pool of musical talent and punk rockers for sound and extras. I would be having fun with this one, even if it meant staging punk rock shows at nine in the morning.
The light went off and I went in. Bekka was pulling on panties and a blouse, Small Steve announcing lunch break. I called for attention.
"Hey everyone, I just got important news. AVN published their review of 'Bewitched,' and gave us five out of five stars. We're a hit. I'll have the new AVN downstairs this afternoon so you all can read the review. Thank you all for your hard work!"
I pulled Bekka aside. "Hey hon, we need to go out and buy porn. The reviews should be in in Hustler, Club, Fox, and Gallery, plus your photo shoot in Penthouse. Get dressed and let's run errands and get some lunch, okay?"
"Sure," she said, "let me run upstairs and put on something decent. We really got five stars?"
"That's what Angel said. We need to pick up mail, so we can read it for ourselves. Doing Las Vegas this year is unavoidable. I'm gonna petition Angel and Vinny for a corner booth, if they can get one. We're gonna be a popular destination at the convention. You done shooting for the day?"
"Yeah, all through. Let's hit the liquor store for the magazines, then go to Carl's for lunch."
The June issue of Penthouse was available for sale. We bought a copy and pulled the wrapper off right there at the register, turning to the centerfold. An image of Bekka, lounging on a blue duvet, stared back at us. The cashier looked annoyed.
Bekka held up the centerfold for him to see and said, "What do you think? Came out pretty good, huh?"
The cashier gawked. "Hey, that's you!" he exclaimed.
"In print and in person," Bekka replied.
"Wow.... You're gorgeous...."
"Hey.... Would you sign one of those for me?" He came out from behind the counter and went to the magazine rack, where he plucked up a Penthouse. He brought it back to the register, unwrapped it, and turned to the centerfold. Bekka took the proffered Sharpie and simply wrote, "Love, Becky Page" in a blank area.
"I don't care what my girlfriend thinks, this is going up in my place. Thank you," said the clerk. "So why are you buying all these other magazines? Are you in them too?"
"Well, I have been in Hustler and Gallery in the past," explained Bekka, "but we want to read the movie reviews. A movie I appeared in should be showing up in their review sections. Adult Video News gave me a rave, and I want to see what other people think."
"What's the movie?"
It's called 'Bewitched,' like the TV show. I don't know if your girlfriend likes porn or not, but this one has a real plot. It's a full movie, not just fuck scenes."
"I'll have to pick it up," said the clerk. "I've seen you guys in here before, do you live locally?"
"We do, further up the hill," I said.
"Sure, Tecaté, Johnnie Walker, Marlboros, and Benson & Hedges. Well.... Thanks. I'll be sure to find that movie."
Twenty minutes later we were seated in Carl's Jr. with a stack of porno magazines on the table. Bekka read our AVN review in amazement, and thumbed through the rest out of curiosity.
"They aren't generous with their stars," she said. "In fact, I think we received the only five star review in this issue, and given the number of movies they rate, that's saying something."
"Let's see what the other magazines have to say," I said. We dug into our food and the magazines, reading as we ate.
"Hey, Hustler gave us a 'fully erect' rating," said Bekka.
"Too cool. Gallery gave us four and a half out of five. They didn't like that you were only in two fuck scenes, and one was a girl/girl. Other than your lack of exposure, they liked it."
"Is it wrong of me to want to start a scrapbook?" asked Bekka.
We were leisurely thumbing through Fox and Club, respectively, when there was a shadow over the table. We looked up to see a middle-aged man standing there scowling at us.
"Help you?" I asked.
"Why are looking at that filth in the middle of a restaurant?" he asked.
"Research," Bekka replied.
"What kind of research?"
I said, "A movie we made just came out, and we wanted to check out the reviews. Perfectly natural."
"Well, you've offended my wife, reading those here."
"I congratulate your wife on her good eyesight," said Bekka. "We haven't been looking at the photo spreads, just the movie reviews. Those only have small photos. How could she see them from where she's sitting?"
The man huffed, "She got an eyeful when she got up to get our order. And you say you made a movie that would show up in one of those magazines?"
"Actually, it's shown up in all of them. Here, let me read you the review in Hustler: 'Hot action and a coherent plot make 'Bewitched' a joy to watch. Becky Page (that's me) plays a--- '"
"I don't care about your review," the man huffed. "I want you to stop reading obscene material in a public place."
I said, "According to the United States Supreme Court, it isn't obscene. It didn't make the cut to be considered obscene. The most obscene thing about a copy of Hustler is the cover price. $5.95? That's ridiculous."
"Besides, you can't see from where you're sitting," said Bekka. "You'd have to be right over our shoulders to get an eyeful, like your wife apparently did."
"Do you want one to read while you eat?" I offered.
"I've had enough of this," the man said.
"Funny, so have we. Your lunch is getting cold, go back to your table."
The man stomped off. Bekka and I finished our burgers and zucchini, gathered the magazines, and headed back to Inana to share the good reviews.
I got on the phone with Angel to let him know that the new Penthouse was out, and also to read the magazine reviews to him out loud. He groaned with pleasure.
"Lenny, having you where you are is the best thing to ever happen to Inana. Rick never could have done it. Hell, I never could have done it. You and Steve are going to turn Inana into an industry powerhouse. We're getting respect from all over the industry now.... Not to mention making a lot of other, bigger studios jealous. Shit, we're a small studio from San Diego, we're not supposed to be giving them a run for their money!"
"Think we'll be getting any blowback?" I asked.
"Nothing we can't handle. That's a benefit of our association with the family," Angel replied.
"There's something I'd like to do."
"Throw one hell of a party for everyone involved. A real blowout for the performers, the crew, the editors, everybody. And their friends. We can put it on here at the mansion."
"Consider it done. Get me the phone number for the caterer and DJ you had at your wedding, and I'll put everything together. When do you want to have it?"
"Um.... In about a month?"
"Not a problem. Lenny, you're a genius. You've made me proud."
"No sweat, Angel. And I'll have a draft of the new script in another week."
"Sounds good. Listen, I need to hit a shop for those magazines, so I'm gonna get going. Take care okay? And give Bekka a hug for me."
"Talk to you later, Angel."
I hung up and thought about what the near future would bring. A bigger budget for my next project, certainly. I'd come in under budget for all my films so far, to Angel and Vinny's great joy. This next one, the rock and roll film, would have no effects. I could get bands to play for cheap, they'd be happy with the exposure and a mention in the credit roll. Extras would receive $40 and access to a keg. I still had to hash out how much we'd be paying the club we'd be using; all interior shots would be during the day when they'd be closed anyway. I wasn't worried about any budget conflicts this time around.
I was in such a good mood that around six I did something really dumb: I called my parents.
"Hey Dad, it's Lenny."
"How are you?"
"I'm doing fantastic. The reviews are in for my latest movie, and I'm batting a thousand. AVN gave me five out of five stars for it, and the magazines are giving me glowing responses. I've got a hit on my hands. That, and Bekka's issue of Penthouse is on the racks. They didn't review 'Bewitched' this month, but I'm sure they will next month. Things couldn't be better."
"What is AVN?" asked my father.
"That's Adult Video News, a trade magazine. Getting their blessing is like printing your own money."
"And you're happy with all this."
"You'd better believe it. There's no question now that Inana is playing with the big boys."
"Shall I share your good news with your mother?"
I chuckled. "Sure, why not?"
He held the phone away from his face and I heard him say, "Dear, Lenny's latest movie is a success." There was a muffled response.
He picked the phone back up. "She wants to know if you plan on continuing in your current line of work."
I told him, "I'd be insane to quit now. I've already got a new project underway."
"Are you happy?" he asked.
"Right now I'm overjoyed. I couldn't be doing better."
"Well.... I guess that's all we can ask for. What is the name of your movie again?"
"Well, this most recent one is called 'Bewitched.' I've done others, but this one has the makings of being a real ground-breaker, one that will put Inana over the top."
"Should we get a copy of it?"
I paused. "It depends on if you feel like watching hardcore porn or not. It's a good movie on top of that, but I will leave it up to your discretion."
"Would we be able to rent it at Blockbuster?"
I stifled a laugh. "Absolutely not. They don't have an adult section. You'll need to go someplace that carries adult video. An adult book store is your best bet."
My father cut me off. "Your mother wants to ask you something." He handed off the phone.
My mother said, "Well, congratulations --- I guess --- on your success. What do you get out of it?"
"Besides the satisfaction of a job well done? Looser budgets on future projects, and the respect of the industry. I'm salaried, so I don't know if I'll see any more money out of this. I'll probably get a bonus."
"And you're happy that you've pleased your fellow pornographers?"
"Oh yeah. They've got a twenty-two year old giving them a run for their money. We're a young company, and that throws people. My director is twenty-eight, in fact our whole crew except for our makeup artist is under thirty. We can't lose."
"And how do we explain your success to our friends and family?"
"Any way you want, Mom."
She sighed. "Well, again, congratulations I guess. Did you have any other news?"
"Bekka's issue of Penthouse is on the racks now. She's a Pet of the Month."
"Oh, for pity's sake...."
"Hey, that's a big deal. Inana can now say it has a Penthouse Pet starring in its films."
My mother sighed again. "Lenny, you take pride in terrible things. Do you have anything else to say to me or my father?"
I gave off my own sigh. "No, no more news here."
"I suppose grandchildren are out of the question for now."
"From us? No way. You have two daughters who have provided a good crop of grandchildren so far, why do you want me and Bekka to reproduce?"
"Maybe you'd settle down if you had a child to raise."
"I am settled down. I've got a solid career, so does Bekka. I'm not sure what else you want from me."
"I want you to stop making smut for a living!"
Laughing, I said, "I don't make smut, I produce adult video. And apparently I'm good at it, since I continue to not send Inana into the red on our productions. Dad asked me about 'Bewitched,' and now I'm going to suggest to both of my parents that they watch it. You'll see it's not just sex, it's a full movie. I'm proud to have written it, and I'm proud to have produced it. Okay, so I work in a strange facet of the entertainment industry. But I could be doing a lot worse."
"How?" Mom asked.
I said it to be mean. "I could be working in civil service and living in Linda Vista."
"I've had enough of this. Here's your father."
She handed the phone back to my dad. "Your mother asked, and so will I. Do you have any other news for us?"
"Not a thing, Dad."
"In that case I'll sign off. Do you want us to see your movie?"
"That is entirely your call.... But I'd like you to see what I do with my time. It's something I'm proud of, that I produced."
"All right. I'll try to find it. Good night, Lenny."
" 'Night, Dad." (*click*)
Bekka had been standing in the doorway of my office for most of this conversation. "So how are your folks?" she asked.
"Disgusted, as always. You'd think they'd be a little happy for me."
"You're successful in a competitive business. What else could they ask for?" She came in and sat on my lap. "Well, it's not like I share my success stories with my father. Maybe your folks and my dad could start a support group together."
I giggled. "Yeah, Parents of Smut Peddlers Anonymous. They could branch out off of Al-Anon. Oh, and they're disappointed we're not providing more grandchildren for them."
"Oh hell no. I won't be squeezing out any larvae anytime soon."
"Fine with me. What should we do for dinner?"
"I could go for Italian. Feel like making a run up to LA?"
"Hit the trattoria?"
"Works for me. Let's take the Fury. That always makes the valets happy." She kissed me on the mouth and said, "Let's go."