The blocking for Temporary Pleasures ran smoothly. Since we had a lot of bodies to direct, we took our time: after all, this was supposed to be a busy office. We also took our time because we wanted to get everything perfect. The feeling was we could be making something every bit as ground-breaking as Bewitched was. We would be making the world's first truly funny porn. We had the script, and it was good. We had the locations, we had the talent, we wanted to pull this off right in the worst way. Scenes were polished in rehearsal until they were razor sharp. Having people laugh and get aroused at the same time had been attempted before, but fell flat. We wanted to make it work.
Bekka's first post on the BBS garnered nearly three hundred replies. People swooned, "Oh my god, is it really her?" A few cynics claimed that there was no way it was Becky, this was a prank pulled by the same bastard who was pretending to be her husband. The cynics were upbraided for, well, being cynical, and told to show up at Syko's party. We'd see who had the last laugh. Bekka responded once, simply saying, "It really is me. Sorry I can't provide a DNA sample over a phone line."
Gayla had her video interview, and was stellar. She showed an aggressive quality I never would have guessed at. She continued to follow directions well, kept her eyes of the camera, and gave the impression of a woman being in supreme physical pleasure. Small Steve and I talked it over while she was in the shower and agreed she would be an asset. A little late to squeeze her in on Temporary Pleasures, but we'd be back to shooting loops in three weeks or so, and she could join us then. She hugged me and actually imparted a few tears when I gave her the news after she came downstairs. She was happy there was a bit of time between her acceptance and actually starting work, as she'd been at Cantina Acapulco for a few years, and didn't want to leave them hanging when she left. She wanted to give notice. With a crafty smile, she said, "Can I use your phone? I'd like to call my husband."
"Sure, use the one in my office," I said. "Mind if I listen in on your end?"
"Be my guest," said Gayla. "I can't wait to hear his reaction. He'll be at work, so he can't freak out."
"Where does he work?" I asked.
"Foodmaker corporate, Jack In The Box's umbrella company."
"Tell him his food is running a close second behind Snickers bars when it comes to keeping tweakers from starving to death. The 24-hour drive-thru is a blessing to all speedfreaks."
I seated Gayla in my big chair behind my desk, then slouched down on the sofa, lighting a cigarette. Gayla lit one too, and dialed a number. After a few beats she said, "Mr. Goodman, please. This is his wife." Several more beats passed, then she said, "Hey dear, it's me. Guess who's going to be a porn star?"
Gayla held the phone away from her ear as loud squawking came from the earpiece. When the squawking ended, she said, "No, in about three weeks. They're in the middle of making a movie right now, and it's too late for me to be cast.... No, loops, like everybody else does at first. That's how I can prove my worth.... Honey, I don't know. Let me ask. Lenny, what project are you doing after you finish your current movie?"
I said, "The sequel to 'Bewitched.' Why?"
"My husband wants to know when I'm going to be 'cast in something real,' to use his phrase."
"A few things to tell your husband. First, I haven't written the damn thing yet, so I can't say how big of a role you'd have. You'd play a coven witch and have a solid fuck scene, if nothing else. Next, you're brand new here, so to be frank the odds of you getting a leading role right away are pretty slim. Obviously Bekka has the lead in this sequel. After that, I have to think up another movie. But you'll have to pay your dues, know what I mean? And lastly, remind your husband that doing loops is what pays the bills through the year, for everyone. There's no shame in them, and they're easy money-makers. If you appear in three loops per week, at $750 per loop, that's $2250 per week before taxes. That's, what, nine grand a month? There's no great thespian thrill in making loops, but you'll cry all the way to the bank."
Gayla nodded and faithfully related this information to her husband. "Think of it, honey, we'd be able to pay off the condo years ahead of time.... No, he recommends hiring a tax service. He says there's a couple that people here use, and they're sharks.... What risk?... Of course not.... Oh, hold the hell on."
Looking exasperated, Gayla asked, "So is Inana going to go belly up in a year?"
"Not if I can help it," I said. "I'd have to really fuck things up for that to happen. We're in the process of establishing ourselves as the most entertaining, most talented adult video studio in the world. People will always expect a lot from us, but we intend to deliver. Why?"
"He's afraid the bottom will fall out and I'll have quit my job for nothing."
I cackled. I said, "Hey, you're forgetting, you're an Inana girl now. If you left here for whatever reason you could go to Vivid or Leisure Time or even Hustler and get a gig on that strength alone. No, you're secure here, and you'd have career security if you left."
She said into the phone, "Lenny says to not worry, they're not going anywhere. Also, having worked for Inana pretty much guarantees that I'm employable anywhere in the industry. Being an Inana girl is a real achievement.... Shit, I don't know. She works here, I'm sure I'll see her.... Look, why don't I just have you talk to him yourself? Hold on...." Gayla passed the handset to me, saying, "My husband wishes to speak with you."
"Hello," I said.
There was a brief pause, then, "This is Mark Goodson, Gayla's husband."
"So I gathered."
Goodson said, "So you are actually gonna give my wife a job in porn? No joke?"
"Absolutely no joke," I replied. "I sat in on her video interview today, and she's got a lot of innate talent. She really burned up the cameras. I'd hate to lose her to another company, I'm hoping the three week delay before she starts working doesn't put her off too much."
"Will she be working with Becky Page?"
"Certainly. Becky is high in demand, so she often shoots five loops a week between features. Why do you ask?"
Goodson sighed, "It's just.... Becky seems to really have it together, you know? I was hoping she could sorta take my wife under her wing a little. I don't know nothing about this business, and I don't know nothing about your company. I never expected Gayla to get this gig."
I chuckled. "A bit of mentoring, eh? No, from what I saw of Gayla she'll do fine. She'll cut her teeth doing loops, like everyone else, then have roles in features. Really, you should have more faith in your wife."
"That's another thing," said Goodson. "Right now I'm talking to a guy who watched my wife have sex with another guy today. Doesn't that strike you as weird?"
"Mr. Goodson, I work in the adult film industry. You wouldn't believe how commonplace it is. Remember, sometimes I watch my own wife have sex with other dudes. We're a bit of a unique situation, since that's what she's been doing for as long as I've known her. But it's called performance for a reason. My wife may have intercourse with other men --- and women --- but when she wants to make love, she comes to me. See what I'm saying?"
Another pause from Goodson's end. Then he said, "I'd like to have dinner with you and your wife tonight. Would that work for you? I know Gayla has the night off."
I shrugged. "We had no plans.... Although there would be three of us. Bekka and I have a teenage ward we take care of, a girl named Jane. She's a sixteen year old throwaway from Florida, and she lives with us. Is that a problem?"
"No, no problem. How about at Love's Barbecue down in Mission Valley at 7:30? Does that work?"
"That's fine, see you there. Here, let me give you back to your wife." I handed the phone back over to Gayla.
She said, "Yes dear?... Oh, are we? This isn't just a plot to meet my soon-to-be coworker?... Hey, they're your videos.... Okay, but no asking her for an autograph, you'll only embarrass yourself. Me too, I'm going to be working alongside her."
"Possibly on top of her," I suggested. Gayla laughed at this concept.
Bekka, Jane and I rode our Sportsters into Mission Valley and onto Camino Del Rio South, into the lot of Love's. The three of us took up two parking spaces. Doffing my helmet, I scanned the front of the restaurant and spotted Gayla standing there with a somewhat hefty guy in a Member's Only jacket. Gayla saw me and waved, I waved back. The three of us walked forward, removing gloves, unzipping and unbelting our leathers. I'd keep mine on, due to the shoulder holster.
Gayla stepped forward and hugged me and Bekka, then introduced herself to Jane. Mark smiled widely as Gayla introduced Mark to Bekka --- you could tell he wanted to fanboy out on her, but was restraining himself --- and had a look of bare shock as he took me in. He poked a hand in my direction and we shook. "You're, uh, not what I was expecting," he said.
"Yeah, I get that a lot," I replied. "I confuse a lot of people."
"Um, how old are you?" Mark asked.
"I'm twenty-three. I know, I'm young for what I've done so far, and for where I am. I'm lucky, I had good training in the industry, at the hands of my boss, Angel Morelli. He gave me a good grasp of how the business works and sort of turned me loose."
Mark said, "I thought Inana Productions was your company."
"Well, it's mine to run," I said. "I'm the COO, so I make day to day decisions, plus a lot of creative choices. No, Angel Morelli owns Inana. He gives me huge amounts of freedom, but he would still have final say if there was any conflict."
"You've made Angel a rich man," said Bekka. "And he's made us rich."
Mark guffawed and said, "Jesus, Angel Morelli? Sounds like a mobster!"
I smiled and shrugged. "Yeah, well...."
Mark's smile faded halfway and he stared at me some more. Gayla said, "Why don't we go in and get a table now."
As we stood waiting to be seated, Mark turned to Jane and said in a patronizing voice, "And who are you, young lady?"
"I'm Jane," she replied. "How y'all doing?"
"And how do you know Becky and Lenny here?"
Jane grinned her Moray eel grin and said, "I'm originally from Gainesville, Florida. My parents threw me out over the summer when they caught me fucking a guy in my room. I'd met Bekka and Lenny a couple years earlier, so when I got kicked out I jumped on Greyhound and headed out here. I was just hoping they'd put me up for a couple days while I figured out what to do, but they invited me to live with them, so long as I went to school and helped around the house. They helped get me legally emancipated from my parents and enrolled in high school. Now I live in a room over the beach, I've got a hot rod to drive and a Harley to ride, they love me and take care of me, they've been all kinds of wonderful to me. In a way, getting caught fucking that idiot --- actually I was suckin' his dick at that exact moment --- was the best thing to ever happen to me. And I'm going to UC Berkeley when I graduate high school."
Mark took all this in, looking slightly shell-shocked. "Uh, what grade are you in now?" he asked.
"I'm a junior," answered Jane. "I'm sixteen."
Trying to regain his control, Mark said in his condescending tone, "Wow, Berkeley, that's a hard school to get into. Do you think you can do it?"
"Don't patronize the girl," Gayla muttered at Mark.
Through gritted teeth, Jane replied, "Quite confident. I always make the honor roll, so I've got the grades, and my Uncle Vito promised me he'd pay my way through college. I have no fucking worries when it comes to getting into UCB. I'll make it."
"Who's Uncle Vito?"
"Vito Ventimiglia," I responded. "He's, um, a family friend, a successful businessman up in LA. I met him through my boss and we hit it off."
We were seated and ordered drinks. Mark got Budweiser, Gayla asked for a Tom Collins. Bekka and I got double Johnnie Walkers. I contacted Jane's leg with my boot as she started to order her drink, causing her to say, "I'll have a double Wild Turrrumm, I'll have a Coke."
"So Mark," I said, "I get the impression you have questions for me."
He said, "I do. Like, what are you going to be having my wife doing?"
Gayla elbowed him. "Oh, come on...."
Bekka asked, "Did you want a full list of the acts?"
I told Mark, "Nothing Gayla is uncomfortable with. She's already established that she doesn't do anal, and that's fine, neither does Bekka. The best answer I can give you is rather nebulous, which is that Gayla will be acting out sexual fantasies in front of video cameras. You've seen our features, you've seen what Bekka does, you get the idea from there. I can assure you your wife will be treated with respect."
Gayla told her husband, "See? You worry about nothing. And remember, I'll be part of an elite."
Mark said, "That's another thing. Now she's 'elite'? What's all that about?"
Bekka smiled and held her hands apart in an expansive gesture. She said, "What that means is that your wife has done something that ninety percent of the girls working in porn right now probably never could, which is get through all three of our interviews. Obviously, your wife is sexy, and has the self-confidence to know that, otherwise she'd have never considered adult video as an option. But to work with Inana you also have to be able to act, and to perform well."
I said, "I want everyone at Inana to take pride in what they do. I want them to hold their heads high and say, 'yeah, I make porn. I make the best damn porn available.' And that's because we do, we've got the reviews and the sales to show it. You know in the eight months 'Bewitched' has been out, it has outsold 'Deep Throat'? And 'Dangerous Desires' will probably take the number two position away? That comes of having the best women possible in front of our cameras."
"To work for Inana is to say you've got skills that most women can only dream of," said Bekka. "To truly seduce through the lens of a camera isn't just a learned skill, it takes some genuine fire. Taking passion, distilling it, then sending it into a camera lens is an ability few have. Your wife is one. Be proud of her, and don't hold her back."
"They talk like this," Jane giggled, "and then wonder why I can't wait to turn eighteen so I can do my interviews. I know I could kick ass at porn, I know it."
"See dear?" said Gayla. "You now have definitive proof you're married to one of the best women in the world. Stop worrying now."
"Becky ---" started Mark.
"Please call me Bekka. That's my real name. Bekka Schneider. I differentiate between people depending on what name they call me."
"Okay, um, Bekka. How long have you worked for Inana?"
Bekka replied, "Over eight years now, or a couple lifetimes in this industry."
"Have you ever worried about Inana, y'know, as a business?" asked Mark.
"No. No one has ever had a paycheck bounce on them, the lights have always stayed on, and if Inana is on unsure financial footing, my husband has hidden the stress well from his wife. If anything, we've become more stable with Lenny at the helm. He keeps producing these damn best-selling features, which he brings in on budget. When Inana was just producing loops it was an okay company producing acceptable dividends for the owner. When we decided to produce features is when things got big. It's been very lucrative for us personally, too. It seems like every time the sales figures come in Lenny gets another big bonus and another pay raise. Angel wants to keep Lenny happy, so Lenny won't take a job at Hustler or Vivid."
Mark said, "Beck-- Bekka, would you do me the favor of keeping an eye on Gayla for me when she starts working? You know, give her some guidance?"
Bekka blinked and said, "Sure, no problem. Loops are for learning the ropes anyway. But she got through the interviews, she'll do just fine."
Our food arrived, huge platters of beef ribs with baked beans, salad, and hot rolls. I said, "So do you have any other concerns before we dig in?"
"Yeah," said Mark, staring at his plate. "I'm not sure I'm comfortable with my wife having sex with other men."
Bekka and I looked at each other, smiled, and chorused, "It's not sex, it's performance!"
I pulled out my Beretta and laid it on the table. Mark's eyes bulged as he alternated between staring at it and me. I said, "That right there is the FS series of the Beretta 92 semiautomatic pistol, a powerful nine millimeter handgun. That is sex. You can get a Co2 pellet gun that looks just like it. The pellet gun is performance. They may look the same, but one is strong and one is weak. Performance is weak, it means nothing. You don't have to worry about getting hurt by performance. Just like being shot with that pellet gun, performance may sting a little at first, but won't wound you and you learn to brush it off, because you know it can do you no harm. Just because two things look the same doesn't mean they are the same." I tucked my pistol back in my jacket. "Are you digging my analogy?"
Mark said, "I think so. You're saying.... What Gayla does for Inana shouldn't bother me, because it's not real sex? It only looks like it?"
"Exactly," said Bekka. "Sex is in the heart. Rubbing wee-wees with somebody doesn't make it sex, at least not on this side of your teenage years. What Gayla will do with the rent-a-cocks we hire will never compare to what you two do together. It's sort of like the difference between fucking and making love. If you don't know there is a difference, you shouldn't be trying to do either."
"They put it very succinctly," said Gayla. "We'll talk it over a little more at home, okay?"
"Do you always carry a gun with you?" Mark asked.
"Always," I said. "It goes on as soon as I'm out of the shower in the morning, and comes off right before I go to bed. And it's on my bedside table while I sleep. You'd hate living like me."
"Remember dear, Lenny was shot at his studio last year," said Gayla. "I don't blame him for wanting to have protection with him. Everyone at the studio knows he has it, he doesn't keep his jacket on all the time."
"Ta-da, shoulder holster," I said, opening the left side of my jacket. "Bekka carries a Colt Defender in a waist holster. It's also a nine, but it's only an eight shot. I carry fifteen in the belly. And yes, we have concealed carry permits. We're not crazy."
"Will I need to carry a gun?" asked Gayla.
"See how fame treats you," suggested Bekka. "Wait until after you start getting recognized on the street, but before you pick up your first stalker."
Joshing, Mark said, "So you carry a gun, you work in porn, and you hang around with rich Italian guys. You sure you're not in the mafia?"
Three sets of eyes locked on Mark. I paused and calmly said, "I cannot be a member of the mafia, I'm not Italian or Sicilian. The most I will ever be is an associate. Still, one can progress far as an associate, just ask Meyer Lansky."
Mark gave a nervous smile and asked, "So are you involved with the mafia?"
I gave a toothy grin and answered, "Do I look like I'm in the mafia?"
"You look like some punker dude."
"Well, you've found an answer you're happy with," I said, continuing the grin. "You don't need to worry about me at all. I'm just a smut-peddling thug from San Diego. Right, girls?"
"Of course, dear," said Bekka.
"Absolutely," said Jane.
We finished our meals and sat considering dessert. Four small sundaes all around. Mark asked, "So how famous is Gayla gonna become?"
"Your guess is as good as mine," I said.
Jane commented, "What happened with Bekka is a fluke. I mean, has any porn star ever affected mainstream culture as much as her? Sure, everybody knew who Linda Lovelace was, but you didn't have women copying her hair and style of dress. She was never held up as a post-feminist icon. Shit, the feminists probably hated her, for playing up to male fantasies. It's been weird, seeing all these girls at my school imitate her clothing and haircut. To me she's just Bekka, you know?"
As if on cue some forty-ish dude rolled up to the table, being tugged at by his wife, who looked as though she wanted to be anywhere else right then. With breath redolent of whiskey the man asked, "Excuse me miss, are you Becky Page?"
"That's me," Bekka said coquettishly.
"Tole you it was her!" the man yapped at his wife. At Bekka, he said, "I'm a big fan. Big fan. Got all yer stuff on tape. Could I get your autograph?"
Bekka held up what remained of her sundae. "So long as you don't mind waiting while I finish my ice cream."
The man stood there, agog, and watched Bekka eat. His wife continued to tug at him, growling, "Let's just go."
Then the man lost it. Watching Bekka suck hot fudge off her spoon, he suddenly declared, "I sure am jealous of your spoon right now," and launched himself mouth-first onto Bekka's neck. She growled and shoved at him. He was not a large man. I grabbed him by the throat and pulled, tucking him under my arm and carrying him to the front door, trailed closely by his wife. He kept hollering for the big bastard to put him down, so I dumped him on the walkway outside. He rolled onto his hands and knees and stayed like that, fixated by the concrete.
"Thank you," said his wife. "Now maybe I kin get the dumb bastard home. He been sittin' at the bar, starin' at that woman and sucking down whiskey fer forty minutes. Who is she, anyways?"
"A porn star named Becky Page. She's my wife," I answered.
The woman rared back and drove a shoe into the man's ribs. "Dammit Earl, you been goin' to them dirty movies again, haven't you?" She continued kicking him. I took my leave and went back inside to finish my own sundae.
Returning to the table I saw we had been joined by our waiter, a busboy, and a manager. The manager saw me and said, "Sir, is there some trouble?"
"Nope, not at all," I replied. "Everything's all taken care of."
"Just me being assaulted by one of my fellow diners," said Bekka. "My husband solved the problem."
The manager hissed, "In the future, let a member of staff know if you have trouble with another patron."
"Oh, no problem. I'll just sit here being groped by some creep I've never seen before while my husband flags down a waiter. That works."
The manager considered the five of us, all sober, all giving him sour looks. He turned on his heel and walked towards the back, trailing the busboy. Our waiter placed the check in front of me and muttered, "Sorry about that. A month or so ago a bunch of drunk Marines got in a fight with a bunch of drunk off-duty cops in the bar. It was a mess. Now he's paranoid about any confrontation."
"Oh, there was no confrontation," I explained. "I ejected a drunken little prick who started to attack my wife. It was very one-sided."
Gayla asked, "So do you always have trouble with drunks in restaurants, or just when I'm around? By the way, I told my manager that drunk assholes shouldn't be given preference over fairly sober people who are waiting on their table. He told me to mind my business, and I reminded him that I was. I'm the bartender, so it's my rules. I was gonna cut those two jerks off, only they shut up and behaved after you got thrown out."
"They didn't stay behaved," said Jane. "The really obnoxious one came up to us as we were leaving. This time he decided he wanted me. He offered me a hundred bucks to suck his dick, started talking about how all punk girls are sluts and I needed my heroin money. Bekka swung on him with her butterfly knife and I clawed up his face. He ran out, so we chased him up the street for a block until we found Lenny. He'll have a hard time explaining the gouges I put in him, it's obvious a girl did it with her fingernails."
I added, "And from there, we went for ice cream and our waitress fan-crushed all over Bekka. Saying if it weren't for her, she'd never have found the strength to admit to her own bisexuality and interest in polyamory. We learned what a hit Becky Page is on the Women's Studies circuit these days."
Mark reached over to grab the check. I slapped my hand down on it. "No way," I said. "Let the guy who makes his living making dirty video pay. Tell you what, we'll go out again after Gayla gets her first check, you two can pick up the bill then."
Bekka turned to Gayla. "If you don't mind me asking, what sort of money are you seeing out of your bartending gig per week?"
Gayla considered. "Um, about $450 including tips. Yeah, even after taxes our income is going to skyrocket. What, $750 per loop, and three loops per week? We'll be quite comfortable on $2250 per week. I still haven't decided how to phrase it when I explain to my bosses I'm leaving, though. Should I just plain tell them I'm going into porn?"
"The phrases 'adult entertainment' and 'adult video' will soften the blow," I said. "And make it clear that you're being brought on for your acting and performing talent, not just your willingness to get naked."
"But the willingness to get naked still rates high when it comes to reasons to go into porn," said Bekka. "And the ability to stare at other peoples' private parts without being embarrassed or giggling also helps."
"Is this often a problem?" asked Gayla.
"Oh girl, it may happen in two weeks, it may happen in six months. But you'll be getting ready to shoot, the guy you're with that day is prepped, you're going to look down at his dick, and it will strike you that a hard-on is the silliest, most ludicrous thing to ever come out of nature. And you will give into the urge to point and laugh, you won't be able to control yourself. People will be angry with you for delaying the shoot while your giggle fit eventually fades. And when you think you're done, you'll take a look at your re-prepped co-star and start all over again. Trust me, it will happen, as surely as the tides."
"What if this happens at home?"
Bekka said, "For business reasons, this is ideal. However, you need to communicate to your husband that you're not laughing at his hard-on, but hard-ons in general. His was just the most convenient. At least at home there's not a whole roomful of people rolling their eyes while you giggle like a sixth grade girl."
"Man, are you getting this?" I asked Mark. "They don't get that to guys, a hard-on is a mighty cudgel, tempered steel of war, a tamer of unruly wives. Shit, duct-tape a steak knife to it and we'd go on a killing spree. Okay, so nobody writes good poetry about them, except maybe Anne Sexton. But our hard-on is our powerful lance, which can only be defeated by doing too much cocaine over the course of an evening."
Mark was too busy being embarrassed by this turn in the conversation to answer me. Jane was laughing. She said, "Now I'm gonna start laughing the next time Lance gets naked for me. Great."
"Before you see him again, distract yourself with video dicks," I suggested. "Watch 'Rocker Girls' again, I know you love that one. Better yet, watch either of Eddie The Jew's fuck scenes in 'Dangerous Desires.' That thing is always ludicrous looking."
Jane said, "Eddie? Oh hell no, seeing that thing coming at me would knock the giggles out of me right away. I don't know how he walks with that thing."
"Who's this Eddie guy?" asked Gayla. "Have you mentioned him before?"
I said, "Eddie, a.k.a. Edward Steinberg, a.k.a. Eddie The Big-Dicked Jew, is Inana's resident magician and comedic genius. He wrote the script for the project we're currently working on. He's also packing nine inches, and is not narrow. If you had been spending a lot of time bragging to me about your skills and prowess, I'd have matched you up with Eddie for your video interview. I've done it in the past, to girls who wouldn't shut up about their anaconda-like ability to swallow solid objects. Really, any girl who refuses to cork up about how much they love big dicks, how they want 'em huge, gets partnered with Eddie. Now, Eddie is no bruiser, he'll respect the limits girls give him. But in the middle of your video interview is the wrong time to be setting those limits. Too late then, you'd better buck up and take what you said you wanted."
Gayla looked nervous. "Will I ever be working with Eddie?"
"Oh, undoubtedly. But you'll do what the other girls do, which is take a few minutes before the shoot so you can show him your limits. He'll respect your limits. And he claims to be none too happy about having a huge dick himself. Ask him how he ended up with such a massive crank, and he'll claim to have angered a vengeful god."
"Would you please stop talking about penises!" came a voice from behind me. I turned to find myself looking at an average suburban patron, with his wife and teenage children. They'd been seated and we hadn't noticed. The son was about fourteen, the daughter seventeen.
"Sorry mate, didn't know you were there," I said. "No offense meant. We were just talking shop."
"Oh really," the patron said sarcastically. "And just where do you work?"
"Three of the five of us are in porn," filled in Bekka. "Gayla and myself are performers, and Lenny here is a producer."
"Oh my god," said the teenage girl. She got up from the table, on missile-lock with Bekka. She reached our table and said, "Oh wow, are you really Becky Page?"
"That would be me," Bekka smiled.
"Could I get your autograph?" the girl trembled.
Bekka had already started reaching for her Sharpie. "No problem, sugar, I'll use one of these place mats. What's your name?"
"It's Janiss, with two S's."
Dad pulled at Janiss' sleeve and said, "Wait, who is this woman and why do you want her autograph?"
The girl said, "This is Becky Page. She's, like, the most incredibly awesome porn star to ever happen. Karen was talking about her, they watch her movies in her Women's Studies class. She's supposed to be, like, a post-feminist icon of female sexual power. She was in People last month, and she's in this month's Cosmopolitan. Ronny's dad has her posters up in his workshop. She's totally cool."
"A porn star?" squawked dad. "I'll have to have a talk with your sister about that Women's Studies class she's taking, and what she should and shouldn't discuss with her younger siblings."
"Wait a minute, hold it, back up," I said. "What's this about Becky being in Cosmo?"
Janiss said, "Yeah, there's a whole story and fashion spread, with lots of how-to tips, especially for the makeup. Didn't you know about it? How could they do that?"
"Certainly news to me," said Bekka. "They never said a word. And they can do it quite easily. People got three pages out of me without speaking to me. Now I'm dying of curiosity as to where Cosmo got their pictures from. I can't think of many pictures I've had taken where I'm wearing clothes."
"I guess you were someplace called Eroticon? Is that right? That's where a bunch of the pictures were taken. You're in three different outfits."
The light slowly dawned on the both of us. "Oh yeah. Remember, I spilled that orange juice down myself and had to go change? And I thought those guys were fans, taking all those photos. Hey, they were paparazzi! Do I really have to worry about those scumbags now?"
Becky handed the now-complete place mat to the girl. It read, "Janiss, thanks for being a fan! XXX Kisses, Becky Page" The girl admired it, then said to her father, "Dad, can I have the keys to the car for a minute? I want to put this in so it doesn't get dirty."
A simple enough request, which was granted. Janiss skipped out with her autograph. Her dad caught Bekka's eye and said, "So you're a porn star."
"I prefer the term 'adult performer,' thank you," said Bekka.
"But my daughter isn't an adult. She's still nearly a year away from being able to buy such materials, and even then I will discourage her, because I think eighteen is still too damn young. Yet she knows who you are. How do you explain that?"
"I don't. Nothing I make is marketed to, or sold to, minors. However, plenty of parents buy my videos, and leave them around where their teenage daughters can find them and watch them. That's my hypothesis. I have an incredible ensemble of high school and college age young women who are huge fans of Becky Page. Okay, maybe your daughter's right, and I really am a post-feminist icon. Maybe I do represent feminine sexual strength. I never planned either one, they were forced on me. Really, it's a matter of good scripts and decent acting being mistaken for conscious social statement. Maybe all these young girls, deep down, see me as a symbol of feminine sexual liberation. If so, I'd better hop to and get with it, because the last time I checked I was just some bitch who made dirty videos. I'd hate to disappoint my audience, I always hate to do that."
"And that's your position, is it?" said Dad.
"Well, that's my cheap philosophizing for the night," answered Bekka. "If Becky Page is a fraud, she never intended to be."
"Do you always refer to yourself in the third person?"
"Who, me? I'm not Becky Page. My name is Bekka Schneider. Becky Page is the name I've assigned to all the two dimensional images of me floating around. It's the name the media uses for a persona that they pretty much created themselves, starting with Hustler magazine. Hustler said that Becky was twenty-two and single, and that stuck. Me, I'm twenty-eight and married. CBS made me out to be an inadvertent champion of post-feminist virtue and a leader of young women. Sorry, I'm not good enough of a public speaker for either role, so let's hope Becky is. Becky and I share a face and a body, and it's Becky who always gets recognized, never Bekka, the nice girl from Encinitas. Sometimes I think that I don't like Becky very much."
"You feel pulled apart," said the father.
Bekka rubbed her nose. "More like a symptom of celebrity. What the world insists I look like and how I act is someone I don't recognize. They insist their images and persona of me are the accurate ones, and I wonder if they're right. You start to feel very insane, being unsure who the real you is. The only thing you can do is let the world think what it wants, and go about your life."
Janiss returned from the car and handed the keys back to her dad. He asked, "So what are you going to do with that, anyway?"
"Put it up in my room, show it off," came the answer.
"And it doesn't bother you that this woman makes pornography for a living. You know what pornography is, right?"
"Yes dad, I know what porn is," said Janiss, rolling her eyes and turning pink.
"And what she does doesn't bother you?" asked Dad.
"Dad, most pornography is based on a male perspective of male fantasies. Becky Page's films hold the fantasy from a gender-neutral perspective, and provide plenty of power for the female participant. While there is still male bias, this is present chiefly for economic reasons, as men are by far the more avid consumers of adult video among the two genders. Quite simply, there has to be some male bias for the videos to make any money and thus stay viable as a creative form."
"Have you been reading your sister's study notes from her Women's Studies class?" I asked.
"Yeah. Karen would freak out if she knew I was talking to Becky Page right now."
Bekka said, "Give me her number. I'll call her tomorrow night. Will she be home?"
Janiss said, "I guess so. She's at the library studying with a friend tonight. She broke up with her boyfriend when he started getting too possessive and objectifying her. She says she needs a period of self-evaluation before she's ready to try any other form of romantic attachment. That's what she says anyway. I think they broke up because he was a jerk to her, and now she's gun-shy about dating another guy."
"I like your answer better," Bekka said.
I suggested we'd sat at an empty table for long enough, and it was probably time to head home. We headed down to the parking lot, Gayla and Mark trailing us to admire the motorcycles. Mark stared at Bekka's custom purple Sportster and said, "For someone who's shy about being a celebrity, you sure do live flashy."
Bekka replied, "My personal flashiness has always been there. Now, everybody wants to be Becky Page's best friend, or get her in bed, or otherwise have a piece of her. That's what I could live without."
We fired up and rode off into the night. I'd again kept Bekka from being attacked, but I knew I couldn't be by her side every moment of the day. I didn't want to leave her safety to chance. I had to think of a solution.