The Inana studios being attacked by a religious crusader with an AR-15, and me being shot five times yet still bringing him down with Bekka's help only added to our mystique. Bekka's current position as a porn queen --- not every party could claim to have a Penthouse Pet in residence --- gave us a cache I wasn't expecting. At one point Bekka suggested, "Maybe I should take off my clothes so I'll be more recognizable." That wasn't needed, as most of the other guests knew who she was on sight anyway. Bud and Lou, two sex-obsessed guys from South Bay, dropped to their knees and genuflected in front of Bekka as soon as they saw her. I expected nothing less from those two.
The sound of gunfire rumbled up from below. Vinny had built a three lane target range below the house, and in spite of --- or because of --- the vast amounts of drugs and alcohol available, people were firing away at the targets. Bekka and I spent some time down there to be social, both of us working out with our respective pieces: my Beretta 92FS, and Bekka's Colt Defender. We got decent scores, impressing lookers-on, despite the amount of scotch and cocaine we'd both consumed. One guy joked, "Aw, Lenny and Bekka have the edge. They practice on live targets in their house."
"And with a lot more at stake than putting holes in paper," Bekka commented.
As always, my offers of meth were turned down. My Ecstasy was not. I'd brought fifty hits with me, and those were quickly pared down to fifteen. Watching mafia soldiers and the women they were with getting high on MDMA was truly a funny sight, as it eroded away their usual defensiveness. Seeing a man who was rumored to have killed six men leaning on the bar giggling was priceless. Bekka and I had each taken two hits over the course of the evening, but were sticking with the meth, like usual, to counteract the booze. I also had several grams of raw MDMA with me, for those who felt like snorting it, but this was also turned down by just about everyone.
Bekka and I were lounging on one of the sofas, Bekka in my lap, when we had company. A beefy guy who had been introduced to me as Rico took a seat, along with his airhead of a wife, Rachel. They began helping themselves to the cocaine out of the decorative jar on the coffee table.
"You know, you two don't blend in around here. If we hadn't have been introduced, I'd have thought you were crashers," Rico said to me.
"It is what it is," I said lazily. "There's a party going on, so I dressed in party clothes."
"It don't bother you not fitting in?" he asked, shaping lines on the glass.
"Never has at any other point in my life."
"Good thing you're in porn. Your fashion sense would never make it in my line of work," he said, handing the straw to his wife.
"What is your line of work?" I asked.
"I own Carelli Cadillac down in Anaheim. We circulate out a lot of hot steel for sales overseas. We're also one of the top ten dealerships in the state."
"Right on. Me, I'm happy being around naked women for a living."
He bent down and snorted up his line. Wiping his nose, he said, "I've gotta ask you, Bekka, how did you manage to swing getting in the magazines like you did? I always thought Rachel here would look good in Penthouse."
Bekka said, "Rachel, you want to do photo shoots?"
Rachel giggled and said, "Sure. Rico is always saying how much fun I would have doing that."
"It's fun, but it's hard work too. I worked my way up from doing porn loops. I was in the business seven years before I was called up to appear in magazines. Do you want to work in porn?"
Rico answered in her stead. "No way is my wife making porn, not like you do."
Bekka shrugged. "Then I don't know what to tell you. That's how I got to be where I am. A whole lot of fuckin'."
"See, that's what I don't get. How can you two be a couple when one of you is having sex with other dudes all the time?"
My turn to shrug. "Like I explain to everybody, it's what Bekka was doing when we first met, it's what she was doing when we fell in love, it's what she was doing when we got married. It's only performance, it doesn't mean anything."
Bug-eyed, Rico asked, "So do you get to.... You know...."
"Get to what?" I smiled.
"Do you get to fuck those chicks that work for you?"
"No. No, not at all. That's not how we do our hiring."
"Although you did get to fuck Ivanka a few months back, while she was down here visiting," Bekka pointed out.
I laughed. "Yeah, that's right, I did fuck a friend of ours while she was on vacation. That was different."
Bekka said, "And yes, he had my approval. It was a favor for a friend. Say, you two want a line of meth?" She reached in my jacket and pulled out the bag, waving it in the air.
Rico wrinkled his nose. "No way. That stuff makes people go crazy."
"Explains a lot, doesn't it?"
Bekka slid off my lap onto the floor, kneeling in front of the coffee table. From behind her, Rachel asked, "So what does that stuff do?"
"It gives you a serious, long-lasting wire," I said. "It makes cocaine look like decaf coffee by comparison."
"I wanna try it," she said. Hearing this, Bekka scooped out a bit more onto the glass.
"I'll cut you a small one," Bekka said. "If you're not used to it, this stuff will jump on top of you and not let go. It's lab fresh."
Rico began arguing with his wife. "You're crazy. That's the stuff that makes people go nuts."
"But they do it all the time," Rachel pouted, in reference to me and Bekka. "I wanna find out what it's like."
"Fine. But when you're out of your head, don't come crying to me. You're responsible for your actions."
Bekka finished cutting out lines and did one up. "Jesus!" she said, snorting the line back and reaching for her beer. I bent over and did up my own line, leaving the short one on the table for Rachel.
"Here ya go," I said, handing the straw to Rico's wife. "I'll warn you, it burns a little bit going down, so don't be surprised by it. It's clean shit, though, it'll get you up and moving like you won't believe."
Rachel bent past her annoyed-looking husband and snorted up the speed. She sat straight up and said in a perky voice, "Hey sweetie, let's go back downstairs and play with the guns some more!"
Rico gave me a baleful look. "If she goes nuts because of that shit, I'm holding you responsible," he told me.
Rachel stood up and announced, "Ow, ow ow! It's burning my throat! Sweetie, I'm gonna get another drink, do you want one? C'mon, let's go downstairs and shoot the guns some more. Or we can go watch the porno movie they have playing in the other room. What do you want to do, baby? I'll be back in a minute, okay? I need to get a drink." She began skipping towards the bar.
Rico glared at Bekka and me. Bekka said, "If nothing else, she'll be a wildcat in the sack when the two of you get home. Either that, or she'll start cleaning the house and not stop for two days."
"Just great," he sighed. "Just how long is that shit going to work on her?"
I said, "Well, since she has no tolerance for it, probably about thirty-six hours or so. Me and Bekka are addicts, so we'll sleep when we get home unless we do more. It's hard to say how it'll hit her, depends on the individual. Is she used to staying up all night and day on coke?"
"She's done it," Rico said evenly.
"She should be fine, then," said Bekka, sipping her beer. "It may have her up a second night, in which case feeding her some booze and pills to bring her down to a lower orbit is recommended."
"What kind of pills?"
"Valium, if you can get them. If not Valium, then an opiate like Norco or Vicodin should do the trick. A half-dozen pills washed down with five or six drinks should do the job, you'll see. She'll be fine."
Rachel pranced back with two glasses, saying, "Rico sweetie, after we shoot guns let's go for a drive, maybe along the beach, okay? Ooh, I never told you about when I went to the store today, did I? I pulled in the lot and there was this...."
Rico ushered his wife through the house towards the garage and the steps to the firing range. We watched them go.
"She's not gonna shut up for two days," I said.
"If he has any sense, he'll wedge his dick in her mouth for at least part of the time, just for the relative silence," opined Bekka.
"Think we just created a monster?" I asked.
"Nothing that won't wear off. I'd love to see the condition of their house in twenty-four hours. It'll either be spotless or an unholy mess."
"Hopefully she won't be a mess too."
"True dat. No sense in having enemies within the family."
Chrissie scooted up and said, "We're about to have a screening of 'Bewitched' in the media room. Do you guys want to join us?"
"Funny thing, I've seen it before," I said.
"Actually," she smiled, "I was hoping you two would answer questions people have when it's done. Come on, I saved you a couple seats, you can make out through it if you want. But people want to meet the creators. Is that okay?"
"Fine with me," said Bekka. "Just let us grab fresh beers and we'll be right in."
Bekka and I each grabbed a couple beers and made our way into the theater room, and it suddenly occurred to me: I'd never seen the whole thing all at once, start to finished. I'd seen chunks of it ad nauseum, and --- having wrote it --- I knew the story line, but I'd never watched my own movie. Strange.
People were sitting down and the tape was running through the shlaf at the beginning of the cassette as Bekka and I walked in and sat. There was applause as the Inana logo came up on the screen. The movie started with a cold opening, Bekka walking towards the camera along a dim deserted beach. Her voice-over, which actually outlined the plot, started in. When she got in front of the camera she stopped, smiled, raised her magic wand, and shot a red fireball directly into the lens of the camera. The opening credits ran from there, against a red background. There was applause when Bekka's name came up (credited as Ursula the witch) and also for my name, as producer. Small Steve's name came up (Steve Stillman, director) in a smaller font size than mine. If I'd known that I would have corrected it: Steve made too many creative decisions for him to get short shrift on credit for his work.
The rest of the movie I had seen, albeit in small chunks and out of order. A bowl of popcorn came around and Bekka and I each grabbed a handful, then passed it on. It was nice to sit and watch the damn thing without having to think about it. It was a little late to consider making changes. The other people in the "theater" laughed when they should have, gasped when they should have, and presumably gotten horny when they should have. It was a mixed audience, and the fact that no women left in the middle of the film told me I'd managed to film hardcore sex in a classy manner. We weren't turning off half the species.
People applauded again at the end as the lights went up. Chrissie stood up in front of the giant TV and said, "We have a treat. Both the star and producer are here, and they'll answer your questions, if you have any. Lenny, Bekka, you want to come up here?"
Bekka and I got up in front of the crowd, about twenty-five people. Naturally Bud and Lou were there, with Lou raising his hand first.
Lou asked, "Are any of the women in that movie single?"
"Sorry Lou," I said, "everyone is spoken for."
Bud raised his hand and said, "Bekka, will you marry me? I know you're already married to Lenny, but we could pretend we're Mormons." The woman seated behind Bud hit him with his own hat.
"Shut up, Bud," said Bekka. "Is there anyone else?"
A guy in the back asked, "How do you hire actresses?"
I said, "It's a slow process. They've got to pass three different screen tests: a script reading while fully clothed, a photo session while nude, and a full screen test with one of the male performers. The reading is to both check for literacy and make sure there's some spark of acting talent there. A lot of prospective performers get cut here, as they can't act. The nude photo session is to make sure the prospective performer isn't shy with her body, and follows direction well. The full screen test is the cruncher, as that involves intercourse in front of a video camera. It's possible to complete that screen test and still not end up becoming a performer. If you're camera conscious, if your attitude sucks, if you're suddenly shy, if you're a dead fish, then all bets are off. We give you the cassette and wish you luck, paying you for the day in cash.
"After going through all that you still need to get a blood test. All our performers have blood tests weekly, checking for STDs and HIV/AIDS. I think we were one of the first to have a testing regimen the way we do. I wouldn't do business with a studio that didn't test, these days. Anyway, so long as your blood test comes back clean, then we put you on the board, usually doing loops to start. The loops are low pressure and generate cash. They're a good place for a new performer to cut their teeth. And that's how we get our performers."
A woman asked, "How much did 'Bewitched' cost to make?"
"About $280,000. By far the most expensive thing we've ever done. A good chunk of that money went into the special effects."
Some dude in the middle asked, "How old are you two, anyway?"
"I'm twenty-two, Bekka here is twenty-eight. Unless you ask either Hustler or Fox magazines, who both say Bekka is twenty-two and single. Why?"
The dude said, "You just seem young for doing a project like this."
I smiled. "You're not the only person to think that. Adult Video News can't get over my age either. It helps that I had a couple of good teachers, in the form of Angel and Vinny Morelli. I came into this industry barely knowing which end of a camera to look through, and the two of them shaped me into someone who both understood the industry but also understood the basics of video production. I owe a lot to the Morelli cousins."
A different woman queried, "Where do you get your script ideas from?"
"Just about anywhere. The germ of an idea for 'Bewitched' came out of 'Fantasia,' the part where Mickey Mouse has created his army of brooms. I was intrigued by the idea of a witch who loses control of her spells. The story just built from there. The script for 'Rocker Girls' is based entirely on personal experience, just the whole social scene that develops around a nightclub that always has the same people in it. Our current project, 'Private Extremes,' is in pre-production and is the result of my own fandom of Raymond Chandler. It's gonna be a detective story, a murder mystery. Lots of location shots, lots of blank ammo used, lots of pressure on the performers to fulfill their roles. Like any of our projects, there's a lot that can go wrong. Here's to hoping nothing does."
Another woman asked, "Bekka, you've been in porn for a while now. Do you ever worry about burning out or becoming cynical?"
Bekka said, "Not too much. I've adapted to the stress of working, we only have four day work weeks, and my new-found fame hasn't brought up any undue pressure. I had to deal with my first rabid fan a couple weeks back, but he wasn't really a stalker type, just a guy who'd deluded himself about who I am. Lenny and I explained the facts of life to him and he went home. Situations like that could create cynicism, but I'm not going to let a few whack-jobs wreck my life or make me paranoid. I'm happy with where I work, I'm happy with my husband, I can protect myself.... No, I don't worry about burning out."
Yet another woman asked, "Bekka, do you have advice for anyone who wants to do what you do?"
Bekka laughed. "Be prepared to work hard, definitely. Have absolutely no reserves when it comes to showing off your body. Take no shit. Work a lot, for exposure's sake, and aim for good productions. Keep your sense of humor ready at hand, you'll need it. Make sure your boyfriend is very understanding, and be prepared to choose between him and your career. And if your goal is pornographic stardom, remember your fans will send you really icky letters."
I said, "Anybody have anything else to ask, besides Bud and Lou? Anyone besides them? Okay, Bekka and I are gonna go have a smoke."
As we aimed for the front door, Bud and Lou caught up with us. Lou asked in an indignant manner, "Hey, we could have been ready to ask a valid question."
"Were you going to?" asked Bekka.
Bud said, "No. I was going to ask if I could suck on your toes, and if you'd consider that being unfaithful."
I said, "You know, you two are lucky you've been certified harmless by someone I trust. Your lives would become much more difficult without that guarantee."
Bud said, "We can't help ourselves. We're hung up on Becky Page. That's Becky Page, not Mrs. Leonard Schneider. You follow?"
"So what was your stalker up to?" asked Lou.
"He wasn't really a stalker," said Bekka. "The guy just showed up one morning. He'd driven all the way down from Seattle just to see me, and hopefully talk me into going back to Seattle with him. He was a guy who'd started to believe all the fantasies he'd created about me, and it was quite a litany. I talked to him privately for a little while, and he tearfully saw where his error in thinking was. Him and Lenny shook hands, he drove off, and that was that."
Bud asked, "Don't you ever worry about one of these obsessed fans getting, you know, out of line?"
Bekka reached to her waist and pulled out her Colt. "Why the hell do you think I carry this thing?" she asked. "It should dissuade any rabid fan from getting too cheeky, or closer than I want him to be."
"Fair enough," said Bud and Lou in unison, and went back inside. Bekka and I smoked our cigarettes in peace.