Monday, March 14, 2016

Celebrity (Part 1)

     Channel Eight News was coming to visit.  Our local CBS affiliate, they were coming to interview Bekka for national.  CBS national news was going to run a puff piece on Becky-mania.  Not since Linda Lovelace had the name of a porn star been a household word.  Channel Eight would set up their cameras and lights in our living room, lob a series of softball questions at Bekka, then edit what came out down to the juiciest bits.  CBS would fill in their own material, like how Becky (and her character Ursula) was influencing popular fashion, not to mention the Farrah Fawcett-style posters of Becky that every single heterosexual male seemed to be hanging up in their garage, workshop, or office.  Becky Page had hit big.
     It took us a little while to catch up.  The posters, which we'd sold a crapdillion of, had originally started as a run of 5,000.  They got distributed to adult book stores, head shops, and boutiques for the terminally hip.  They were gone in a few days.  Enterprising swap meet entrepreneurs had begun printing their own Becky Page and Bewitched t-shirts.  Technically, they weren't bootlegs, because you can't bootleg an item that doesn't exist.  We knocked out some graphics and began selling "official" Becky Page gear, differentiating ours from the swap meet shirts by placing the Inana logo, nice and small, in the lower left corner of the graphic.  The swap meet hustlers, having the morals of alley cats, couldn't figure out why I was so upset they had put my wife's face and body on a t-shirt.  Hell, they shared their marketing dreams.  One guy wanted to market dark grey lipstick in the same shade Jeanette had made the lips of the witches in Bewitched.  Another guy wanted to go all out and and have a line of Becky Page massage oils and sex lubes.
     Being in the business of producing adult video, Inana Productions steered clear of all the product placement.  We did the t-shirts, we did the posters, that was it.  I regularly got calls from marketing geniuses wanting to partner with us to sell whatever bizarre crap they'd come up with that had the name Becky Page on it.   I would refer them to Angel, who would tell them to fuck off.  Genuine Becky Page gear was a thin catalog: t-shirts (four Becky designs, two Bewitched designs), a series of posters, and an R-rated coffee table book entitled "Bad Becky", which was the result of three days still camera work and Bekka trying on every piece of lingerie she owned.  The end result was a rather tony collection of softcore pin-ups, with quotes from Becky on various subjects, like food and parties and cars.
     And holy Christ, did the videos keep moving.  Bewitched continued to move thousands of units per week, putting even more distance between it and Deep Throat.  Our earlier releases went through second, third, and fourth duplications, so hungry were many for any content with Becky Page in it.  Rocker Girls and Dangerous Desires sold like crazy.  If he wasn't already, Angel was now a millionaire.  Some of that trickled down to me and Small Steve.  For a tiny studio in San Diego, we were kicking ass, with sales ratings that studios like Vivid, Leisure Time, and Hustler could only dream about.
     Channel Eight showed up right on time, one o'clock on Monday.  The talking head who was doing the interviewing introduced himself as Nat Wilder.  He was surprised that I didn't know who he was.  I explained that I purposely avoided watching the local news, out of the fear that I would turn up in it again.  The camera crew set up a few lights, all aimed at the love seat, where Bekka would be sitting.  Bekka came down, looking slinky and goth-y.  She was barefoot.  I asked her about that.  She replied, "I'm in my own damn house, what do I need shoes for?"
     The talking head shook hands with Bekka and explained that the amount of interview outweighed what would actually show up in the broadcast.  If there weren't any questions, they could get started.
     Wilder: "How long have you been involved with making pornographic movies?"
     Bekka:  "I've been making adult video for eight years now.  When I first started at twenty I thought it was a way to make extra money.  It turned into a career.  When I'm no longer in front of the camera, I'm sure I'll find another role, like producer."
     Wilder:  "Do you consider yourself to be in a safe line of work?"
     Bekka:  "I used to.  Then my husband was shot up by a religious zealot inside our studio.  Believe me, it's external forces that make the adult film industry dangerous.  Some of our fans are obsessed."
     Wilder:  "You have reached a level of fame unheard of for any performer in the, uh, adult film industry.  Do you have plans to try something new?"
     Bekka:  "Nope.  At heart I'm a porno queen (laughter).  I have no musical aspirations, I'm afraid I'd find the pace of making a regular movie to be glacial.  I'm too short to be a model.  No, I'm quite happy where I am, working for a studio that my husband Lenny runs, having fun and making good money.  I'm sure some career doctor type could set me up in a whole new life, but I'm happy where I am."
     Wilder:  "How has your fame affected you personally?"
     Bekka:   "Well, I've learned to write the words 'Becky Page' incredibly fast.  I'm lucky, my private life has stayed private.  Really, other than being recognized on the street and asked for autographs, not much has changed for me.  I haven't picked up any stalkers, I didn't pick up new pressures at work, and my husband and I are as close as we've always been.  I don't mind the autograph hounds, that only happens a half dozen times a week.  Every now and then one of them will get creepy or pushy, but Lenny dispatches them damn quick."
     Wilder:  "Some say that you engage in obscenity to make a living.  How do you respond to that?"
     Bekka:  "I would point out, not according to the Supreme Court.  Look, we make feature-length videos specifically for adults.  I like to think we know what adults want to see, and judging by our sales, we're right.  The sex in our movies flows naturally through the story, it isn't tacked on for the sake of itself.  So far as anyone calling me personally obscene, I can only laugh and shake my head.  I am a performer, no less, no more.  Anyone offended by what I do probably still doesn't know where babies come from, since that's what I perform.  I consider myself to be a highly moral person, and I work for morally rigid people.  The worst you could say about us is that we offend the sensibilities of certain people."
     Wilder:  "How do you feel about being an influence on fashion?"
     Bekka:  "I wasn't aware that I was one."
     Wilder:  "The slinky black clothes, the severe makeup, your unique hair style...."
     Bekka:  "Okay.  Wow.  The clothes and makeup are a combination of my own gothic fashion sense and me playing to crowds who were big fans of  'Bewitched.'  So far as my hair goes, all I did was grow Bettie Page bangs and chop off the back.  Not too original on my part."
     Wilder:  "Doesn't it bother you that high school girls are taking their fashion tips from you?"
     Bekka:  "I'm surprised but flattered.  In a way, it makes sense.  Instead of aping the fashion sense of some rock or pop star that their parents hate, they found a different source of friction, a porno queen named Becky Page.  That should scare their parents.  I am a bit curious as to where these girls get their media from.  But as far as being bothered, no.  I'm just being used as a tool of rebellion.  Five years ago the same kids would have gotten mohawks."
     Wilder:  "You are hardly the model for female porn stars.  How do you explain your popularity?"
     Bekka:  "A mathematically perfect set of tits (laughter).  Seriously, I believe it's a combination of two things.  First of all, since I didn't look like a porn star, I was easy to spot.  That got me a following much quicker than most girls.  And second, I've always had strong roles.  I've never played an airhead.  For God's sake, I played an insane witch in 'Bewitched.'  In all my features, I play a force to be reckoned with.  Guess what, guys don't like weak women.  Male viewers strongly identified with my characters, much more than if I was some blonde bimbo that needs a man around to help her operate a parking meter.  When looking for a mate, men want partners, not dependents.  My desirability isn't just physical, men like me because I have strength."
     Wilder:  "'Bewitched' is the movie that put you on the map.  Can you explain its popularity?"
     Bekka:  "That's easy.  We made an adult feature that could be enjoyed as a movie all the way through.  We made a genuinely entertaining porno flick where the sex and the dialogue complemented each other.  It's amazing, fans of the movie study the minutiae to figure out how to wrap up various loose ends, things that were purposely left unclear.  Lenny, my husband, wrote it, and when he did he wanted it to be a movie that people would be forced to think about.  He pulled it off well.  'Bewitched' broke a decades-long streak of adult features that were nothing more than masturbation tools, no entertainment value.  'Bewitched' proves that you can be aroused and entertained at the same time."
     Wilder:  "What does the future hold for Becky Page?"
     Bekka:  "Well, since I have the afternoon off, I thought Lenny and I could ride our motorcycles up Mount Palomar."
     Wilder:  "How about long term?"
     Bekka:  "Continue having fun making features with Inana Productions.  Continuing to ignore the political games that can run around in this industry.  Making love with my husband.  And starting a well-armed militia made up entirely of libertines."
     And with that the interview concluded.  The bright lights went off, the camera was detached from its tripod.  Bekka stood and headed into the kitchen, hooking a beer and pointing upstairs to change into something more appropriate for riding a motorcycle.  The Channel Eight people were gone as if they'd never been there.  CBS's piece on the phenomenon that was Becky Page would air Thursday on the six o'clock news.  I was dying of curiosity.
    Bekka came back downstairs wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and engineer boots.  "So how do you think me making national news will affect our lives?" she asked.
     "Well, we'll be able to hear Angel getting a hard-on when the segment airs on Thursday.  Video sales will skyrocket again.  And I'll be leaving the top half of my jacket unbuttoned, so I can get at my Beretta that much quicker.  This could bring the wingnuts out of the woodwork.  I just hope we've kept our private life private enough that we can't be found at home.  If the studio has even one obsessed fan show up, I'm telling Angel to hire a security service.  We protected the studio from an intruder once, but we were lucky.  Having an armed professional looking out at the studio would be a good thing."
     Bekka said, "Hopefully all this will mean is that I spend a couple weeks being bugged for autographs a lot more often.  Jesus Christ, Lenny, how did this shit happen to me?"
     "You're in the entertainment industry and you're good at what you do.  I didn't do you any favors by writing and having you star in 'Bewitched.'  I wrote and produced the first porn flick that actually worked as entertainment, and you starred in it, in a very striking role.  The public latched on to both.  Somebody noticed what a unique porno queen you are, and your star began to rise.  Just be glad everybody wants Becky Page, not Bekka Schneider."
     "They're one and the same.  Okay, Becky is hornier than me, but still...."
     I said, "Becky and Bekka are very different.  Remember, Becky is twenty-two, unmarried, and a sexual dynamo.  Bekka is twenty-eight, married, and while a sex goddess in her own right, couldn't keep up with Becky and wouldn't want to.  The only thing Becky and Bekka have in common is a haircut."
     Bekka said, "Don't you find it strange that we're talking about my stage name as though it's a separate person?  Dammit, we are one and the same."
     "No you're not, and I just told you the major reasons why.  On top of those, don't discount the collective hallucination about who Becky Page is.  Becky, as described in Gallery and Hustler, is the ideal mate for countless men in the world.  Becky personifies female strength.  Bekka has it too, god knows, but isn't as public with it.  To be frank, if you were Becky, I probably would have divorced you three months in, if we'd gotten together to begin with."
     Bekka sighed and said, "Just great.  Compared to my own alter ego, I'm dull."
     I responded with a sigh of my own.  "No, you're sane.  Becky would be great to take drugs with, have sex with, hang out in Mission Beach with.  But she's an unstable element, and that's a turnoff for me.  Becky is irresponsible.  All those dudes who want to marry Becky think their life will be a nonstop party with her around, and it would be.  But you can't party all the time.  I know, I tried it when I was eighteen, and it didn't work.  What these guys don't realize is that having Becky around would slowly destroy everything they'd built.  She wouldn't do it on purpose, she wouldn't be aware.  But no human can match Becky's energy.  One of her prospective husbands would run himself ragged trying to keep up with her.  The worst part is that you no longer have control over Becky.  She's in the hands of the media now, and fed by Mr. Rumor and Miss Innuendo.  We can try to influence her as much as possible, but unless we kill her, her tall tales and mystique will continue to grow.  We can't kill her, either.  She's too good of a foil, you'd have to take her place if she went away."
     "Okay, now you're scaring me.  I don't want to be under the thumb of that bitch."
     "No worries," I said.  "You and Becky share a body, and you're in control there.  Your public persona that we call Becky is not in charge.  You are.  You ultimately make decisions about Becky's life."
     Bekka said, "So what you're saying is, is that celebrity takes on a life of its own, and you need to accept it as a separate entity from your own life?"
     "I can deal with that.  I'll let people drool and slaver over Becky Page, and I'll continue on with my own relatively peaceful life.  Now come on, let's go ride the motorcycles."
     As the bikes warmed up, Bekka said to me, "They say if you build a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to your door.  The world is now at our door.  What did we build?"
     "We built a better porn star," I said.  "Between your unique look, your empowered attitude, and your acting skills, you stand alone as an adult performer.  We have to wait and see what the world wants of us, though.  That's up in the air."

     Jane was home when we got back from our ride.  Lance was absent, he'd gone off to the dentist with his mom.  Bekka came right to the point: had Becky Page influenced fashion at her school?
     "Oh, definitely," said Jane.  "Even the cheerleader types are using much darker makeup, and more of it.  All the punk and hipster chicks have taken to wearing slinky see-through blouses.  And I've seen a half dozen girls with variants of your haircut.  They were headbanger chicks, too, they chopped off all their hair to look more like you, I guess to impress their boyfriends.  Yeah, the Becky Page look is definitely in vogue.  I've kept who I live with a secret for the most part, though.  How did the interview thing go?"
     "Smooth," said Bekka.  "I sat on the love seat and answered questions to the best of my ability.  It would seem I really am a phenomenon, and we've just never picked up on it.  My popularity is much larger than I ever would have guessed.  Logically, I know how I got to be where I am, but emotionally I still see myself as just another porn slut, and can't grasp why everybody loves me all of a sudden.  Would I be recognized if I showed up at your school?"
     "Without a doubt," laughed Jane.  "You know the guys all have one of your posters up in their rooms, even if they've never seen one of your videos.  And the girls would all recognize you from that article in People magazine a month or so ago."
     "Wait, what article in People?" I asked.  "I know nothing about this."
     Bekka said, "I hate People magazine, so I'd never have seen it.  Not like they interviewed me, either."
     "Oh wow," said Jane.  "It wasn't a big article, just two or three pages.  It was all about how all porn was now gonna be different because of you.  I know Lance's mom subscribes to People, maybe she still has that issue sitting around.  Want me to call over there and see?"
     "Do it," I said.
     Jane dialed Lance's house and got his mom.  "Hi Vicky, this is Jane.  Hey, do you remember seeing an article in People about Bekka a month or so ago?  You do?  Would you still have that issue sitting around?  Cool....  No, they never saw it.  They didn't even know it existed.  Can we come look at it?  Okay, see you in a few."
     Jane hung up  the phone and said, "Let's head over to Lance's house.  She'll find the article."
     We piled in the Plymouth and scooted over to Lance's house.  Vicky answered the door with a magazine in her hand.  "Didn't they ever talk to you when they did the article?" she asked.
     "Never heard a thing about it.  Jane just told us about it today," Bekka said.
     Vicky handed over the magazine.  The headline read, "Millennium Sex Bomb: How Becky Page Has Changed Porn Forever."  This was accompanied with a three year old promo shot of Bekka topless and facing away from the camera, looking over her shoulder.  The text read as so:
     "The world is learning about Becky Page.  The twenty-eight year old California native has starred in the best-selling adult movie ever, surpassing 'Deep Throat.'  That movie, 'Bewitched,' catapulted Page onto the covers of Hustler, Gallery, and Penthouse.  Her striking appearance and personal style has had a grassroots effect on fashion, with young women adopting her short hair and dark clothing.  With two more bestselling movies, 'Rocker Girls' and 'Dangerous Desires' under her belt since 'Bewitched,' the popularity of Becky Page cannot be ignored.
     "Her movie roles have had a major impact on the adult film industry, too.  'Adult video can no longer be just about the sex,' said Vivienne Gadsden of Adult Video News, an adult video trade magazine.  'Bewitched proved that people want erotica that entertains.  Inana Productions (Page's studio) keeps releasing full features that both excite and entertain, and they do it well.  Becky and Inana have set a high mark for the industry that the big studios now have to live up to.  If they don't, and Inana keeps releasing good features starring Becky, they will slowly sink.'
     "The strength of Page's roles will also have an impact.  She does not play weak characters.  We viewed five of her features: 'Bad Babysitter,' 'Wedding Party,' 'Bewitched,' 'Rocker Girls,' and 'Dangerous Desires.'  Her genuine acting talent is striking.  And her characters were strong, assured women, not play toys or pushovers.  We were unable to interview Page for this article, but industry insiders assure us that Page is a secure and confident young woman who plays the game well, doing her own thinking."
     We turned the page.  The photos were screen captures from Bewitched and Dangerous Desires.  The article continued on about how Becky Page was having an influence on fashion and style for young women, many of whom had never actually seen any of her videos.  They took their cues from the posters their boyfriends had tacked up.  The article closed up with:
     "Never before has an adult film actress had such an influence on both the industry and the world at large.  Angel Morelli, owner of Inana Productions, simply said, 'Becky is the most powerful young woman I have ever met.'  The world is now taking a lot of its cues from an adult video performer named Becky Page."
     Bekka handed me the magazine and said, "My god.  My god.  It just hit me what I need to live up to.  Now I know why I've had women asking for my autograph recently, and not for their boyfriends or husbands.  Apparently I'm some sort of post-feminist sex bomb.  This is scary."
     Vicky said, "Are you going to continue, you know, doing what you have been?  You could go into real movies, or TV, or...."
     Bekka smiled gently.  "Vicky, I am a porno queen.  That's who I am.  I enjoy the fast pace of production that we have, my husband keeps writing scripts that are fun to perform, and I don't want to work in LA.  I know you don't like what I've chosen as a career, but it's work I'm comfortable with, and happy with.  It's just a very strange facet in the jewel that is the entertainment industry."
     "I just worry about Jane's exposure to that lifestyle," said Vicky.
     Bekka said, "I keep my work life and my personal life separate.  Yes, we will sometimes socialize with other people from the studio.  Our director, Steve Stillman, had dinner with us last week.  The work topic of discussion was all about choosing new video cameras, going through sales brochures while we waited for our meals to arrive.  We keep Jane away from the racier aspects of our jobs."
     "I've met the other girls that Bekka works with," said Jane.  "All of them have been really nice.  They didn't talk about anything weird around me."
     I threw in, "When Jane visits the studio, she hangs around in the office with me.  The most exciting thing she's seen me do is send faxes to my lawyer.  She's not allowed on the sound stages."
     "It's funny," said Vicky.  "I read that article, and I did start noticing how Bekka has affected change in style in young women.  I saw four young ladies with that unique haircut in the next week, and noticed there is a lot more use of tight black clothing around these days.  It's just amazing to think that someone I know has that sort of influence.  I still don't approve of how you got the influence, but....  Bekka, are you sure you wouldn't want to give Hollywood a try?  You apparently are a talented actress, they'd welcome you with open arms."
     Frowning, Bekka said, "If I was approached with a project, and it didn't interfere with my duties at Inana, and wouldn't keep me away from home too long, I'd consider it.  But I'm not about to start my career over.  It's a competitive business I'm in, and I'm proud of the success I've had.  Maybe when I retire from making video in another ten or fifteen years I'll make myself available.  But I'm making too much dependable money and having too much fun where I am right now."
     Just then Lance made an appearance.  His cheek on one side was puffed out, packed with wadding.  Him and Jane hugged, but when she went to give him a kiss he backed off.  "I'm really sore," he slurred.  They extracted two of my wisdom teeth.  What's up?"
     "We needed to see a copy of People your mom has," said Jane.  "The one with the article on Bekka.  Her and Lenny didn't know about it."
     "Can I keep this?" I asked Vicky, holding up the magazine.  "I need to copy it and send it to some people."
     "Be my guest," Vicky replied.  "Do you, uh, keep a scrapbook?"
     "Well, sort of.  I cut out positive reviews of my movies and save them, and we have copies of all the magazines that Bekka has been in."
     Just then Lance's sister came through the door, home for the day from UCSD.  She saw Bekka and said, "Oh my god, you're just the person I wanted to talk to.  Where do you get your hair done?  I want to get mine cut like yours."
     Bekka laughed at this revelation, and said, "You know where Lou's Records in on the main drag?  A couple blocks up from the old A&W?  There's a salon two doors down.  My stylist is Winnie, she's a peach.  She's been cutting my hair since I was in high school.  So what prompted you to get your hair cut like mine?"
     Haley said, "My boyfriend has a poster of you up in his room, he's ape about you.  I swear he licks that poster when nobody's looking.  We both think I could pull off that look.  He freaked out when I told him that I know you.  He, uh, likes your movies."
     I said, "You getting a haircut just like Bekka's?  Your stepfather will go through the roof.  You may have noticed that we're not his favorite people."
     "It will probably be the most fashion-forward thing I've ever done.  There's other girls who've gotten that cut around campus, but they were already really hip and stylish."
     "You have a curling iron?" asked Bekka.  "The bangs don't look right unless you curl them in and spray them in place."
     And who should walk in the door but Detective Ross.  He saw Jane, Bekka , and I and frowned.  "What are you doing here?" he asked.
     "Your wife had a magazine with an article about me in it," said Bekka.  "We don't read People, so we never knew the article existed.  They never interviewed me, so this came as a surprise."
     "And what do they have to say about you, Bekka?" asked the detective.
     "Apparently I'm making changes to both the adult entertainment industry and women's fashion.  This comes as news to me too."
     I handed the magazine to Ross.  "Here.  It's a People magazine article, it only takes a couple minutes to read.  They mention the studio a couple times."
     Ross quickly read through the article in silence.  He handed the magazine back and said, "Well Bekka, you seem to be having quite the impact on the world.  How much of this was by design, and how much is pure dumb luck?"
     "Oh, it's all dumb luck," Bekka answered.  "Nobody anticipated that 'Bewitched' would become the megahit that it is, and that I'd become a star.  I'm as shocked as you."
     "So the guardian of my stepson's girlfriend is in People magazine.  And she got there by being a porno star.  Some days I don't know what to think of the world."
     "You could be happy for her," said Lance.
     Bekka said, "Except I'm not sure if I'm happy about it myself.  Things like this article happen, or the interview I did with CBS this afternoon, and I see my private life being eroded away.  I'm perfectly happy walking down the street and being unrecognized."  She sighed.  "Too late to go back now, though.  Whatever will happen, will happen.  We'll cope.  Tell me detective, does the Encinitas PD have any measures in effect for celebrities dealing with overzealous fans?"
     Ross sneered and said, "Yeah, trespassing laws.  We don't offer preferential treatment to people just because they're famous."
     I said, "Hey honey, I'm not worried about anybody showing up at the house.  They'll turn up at the studio like they have in the past.  Since the mansion is on county property, who we need to speak to is our old friend Donner.  I'm sure he'll help us out, right?"
     Bekka gave me a sarcastic grin.  "Of course, Donner.  He's been so helpful in the past.  Like when I was nearly murdered and he refused to investigate, because he'd decided you'd done it.  Or when he confiscated my revolver and never returned it.  Yes, we should speak to that charming man."
     Ross bristled.  "Detective Donner and I are personal friends.  I won't have him criticized in my house."
     Vicky intervened, saying, "Lenny, Bekka, it was nice to see you.  Please keep the magazine.  Bekka, I'm not sure if congratulations are in order or not."
     "I'm not sure either," said Bekka.

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