Friday was a day of telephonic exhaustion. Gina and I fielded calls from plenty of yahoos wanting to be the sound man for a porn studio; I regretted putting the name of the studio in the ad. Many were turned off when Gina and I explained that this was work, dull work, and their interaction with the female performers would be verbal only. For performance, we rarely promoted from within. Three of them seemed to get it, so I invited all three up on Tuesday to watch a shoot, talk with Small Steve and Mickey, and then be interviewed one at a time by me. I would go with whoever seemed most dependable and would stick around for a while.
I spent plenty of time gabbing with people in the employ of the government of Imperial County. Those I talked to seemed rather enthusiastic. They did have a Film & Entertainment department, but was so little used people from other departments just circulated through, sitting by a phone that never rang. The man I talked to was normally in Parks & Recreation. I lucked out. I explained who Inana Productions was and named some of our features, and he perked right up. "Oh, those are Becky Page movies, right?" I assured him they were, and Becky would be starring in this one. He suggested more roads we could shoot our driving and chase scenes on, county roads, where we wouldn't have to deal with the CHP to shoot. We'd plot out our driving, and there would be sheriff's deputies at each end holding traffic. He would help smooth things with the local BLM office for when we were shooting on their land. Imperial is a poor county, and was happy to be getting the negligible permit fees, not to mention that we'd be putting a bit of money into the local economy. Nobody seemed to mind that they were abetting a porn company, so long as we were spending cash in the area. I gave him our time frame, and we agreed to firm up shooting dates in about a week. He promised to smooth the way for us as much as possible. I decided the man deserved a signed Becky Page poster.
Both Dutch and Mitch were psyched over what I was asking of them. They saw the wisdom of not using cheap bombs from the '70s as vehicles. Dutch said, "I can make a 1984 Honda Prelude look like the meanest fuckin' vehicle on the road." Both promised vehicles that would run well along with looking good. They would scour the want ads for suitable cars, Mitch volunteering his land as a place to store them and get them readied for the movies. His shop was on about six acres, so the vehicles could go there. Both Mitch and Dutch were in a position to buy vehicles one or two at a time, so long as I paid them back fairly quickly. For the same of the DMV, I took them both on as contractors, so they could purchase the vehicles under the name of Inana Productions. Mitch filled me in on a detail I didn't know: technically, vehicles do not need turn signals or brake lights to be street legal. Drivers would be required to use hand signals. This added more flexibility into the body modifications we would do.... Although driving our cars on the street would be a bad idea overall, they'd all be cop-magnets. I told them to leave the lights on for the most part.
To chew over how things would go, Bekka and I took Dutch, Mitch, and their ladies out to dinner on Saturday night. We met up at a Mexican place in Old Town. I introduced Dutch the punk rocker to Mitch the redneck, two guys whose hands would always look dirty, no matter how much Goop hand cleaner or Boraxo they used. We were seated and ordered a round of beers.
I said, "You're both familiar with the aesthetics of the vehicles that I want. Unlike in 'Road Warrior,' though, I don't want full-size hot rods for the most part. There will be a couple exceptions to this, one of which I drove tonight." (I'd borrowed Jolene's Nova for the night.) "In a fuel-starved dystopia, people would be driving light and efficient vehicles, Hondas and Toyotas. They need to look like they've been through hell, and have been pieced together and modified in any way possible to keep them running. The pirate vehicles have to look fast and tough, zippy war wagons. The victim vehicles just have to look like they run, somehow. Like I said, I'd prefer vehicles to be street legal. That'll save us transportation headaches during production, if I can just get people to drive the damn things out to where we need them."
"Pieced-together but quick, huh?" said Mitch. "Okay, the pirate vehicles get oil coolers mounted on them. And exhaust coming straight out of the front fenders."
Dutch said, "I'm guessing these pirates aren't picky about whether they're on pavement or not. Yeah, these raid vehicles get lifted and have tires with aggressive tread on them. Dick Cepek makes an off-road tire as small as twelve inches, we should be able to scare used off-road tires up down in Chula Vista. Oh, big burly push-bar bumpers up front, too."
"One thing to put on the victim vehicles would be armor plating over the wheels. Safe to assume these people know about pirates, and would want to give themselves a better running chance by reducing the odds of having a tire shot out. These people are scavengers, huh? To them, a minivan would be a prized possession. We'll have to get a hold of a couple."
"How much per vehicle can we spend?" asked Dutch.
"Up in the air," I replied. "Try to strike a balance. Half the balance is to be cheap, odds are these vehicles are being junked when we finish with them. At the same time, I don't want you guys having to put a lot of effort into the mechanics of them. Don't buy anything that needs much work. Yeah, we'll be running the damn things in the desert, and pushing them, for a couple weeks straight. But I'd prefer they run reliably all that time, their hoods are only up for three minutes in the morning to check fluids. So definitely bargain-hunt, but don't buy stuff that you'll need to put effort into making it run right."
Our orders were taken, and we got another round of beer. Squeezing lime into his Corona, Dutch asked, "So are we gonna provide support for these vehicles? How many will there be?"
I answered, "Yeah, I was hoping you guys would work with us out there. You'll both know the vehicles intimately. And we're looking at sixteen to twenty vehicles, not all of which need heavy modification. Okay, the pirate band has eight vehicles. Six are raid vehicles. These are the ones which will need the heaviest modification, they need to truly look threatening. They also have an old moving van they keep their plunder in, and it also serves as the lair for the pirate queen...."
"I'm the only pirate who gets a private bedroom," said Bekka.
"There will also be a stake bed truck which functions as a rolling shop for the pirate band. You guys may actually want to set that one up as a rolling shop, with welding tanks, a compressor, jacks, tools, etc. All but one of the other vehicles will be scavenger vehicles. They don't need to be modified, really, the people driving them are just happy they run.... Although I like your idea of wheel armor. There are two scenes showing the pirates attacking scavengers, and there are two scavenger vehicles each for those scenes. The rest are not going to actually be driven, they'll just be sitting in the background during a marketplace scene. Just getting them dirty as hell, removing the headlights, and maybe knocking out some glass will suffice for those.
"The last vehicle is the one for the solo scavenger, our male lead's car. Something that looks fast, and has always looked fast. I'm picking up a '72 Chevy Nova, a white trash street rod, to be modified as the pirate queen's car. The solo scavenger needs something that looks like it could match it. Maybe another, similar hot rod, or I was thinking maybe a Honda CRX that has been modified. What the Nova needs is a supercharger sticking out of the hood, the windshield removed, a pop-off steering wheel, and to never be washed again. I'm open to ideas so far as the solo scavenger's ride goes.
"One other thing. All these people are basically living in their vehicles, and have been for a long time. The interiors need to reflect that. Odd bits of decoration will help a lot, give a personal feel to the cars. And if their interiors are clean when you get 'em, make them dirty. These people have no clue what a Shop-Vac is. I may have my pirate girls help with this, they can add their own bits of eccentricity. Try to complete the raid vehicles first, so I can assign cars to the pirates and they can personalize them."
Bekka said, "Oh! You know how low riders have that balled fringe in their windows? I want a string of Barbie Doll heads hanging at the top of my windshield. Mine will be the only vehicle with a working stereo, and I have three tapes: 'Left Overture' by Kansas, some Frank Sinatra, and Yma Sumac. All the pirates can lip-sync along with the entirety of all three, but never get tired of hearing them."
Tawny, an Inana girl and Dutch's girlfriend, asked, "Do the pirates sleep in their cars?"
"No," I replied. "They will put their feet on the dashboard and doze at the wheel, but life is one long camp-out for them. They throw down tarps or rugs and sleep on the desert floor. The three male concubines sleep with whichever pirates want them on any given night, or on the bed of the service truck if they're not be utilized."
Mitch's girlfriend Dusty said, "All the vehicles need some sort of reading material in them, beat-up old books and magazines. Reading would be the only form of entertainment left."
"Good point," said Bekka. "And the pirates need to have some hardcore porn, all ragged from use. The scavenger victims have women with them, and would have long traded off such material anyway."
"How are you fueling all these cars?" asked Mitch.
"Depends on where we're shooting," I said. "The mileage we're putting under these vehicles is actually pretty low. They'll only need gas every three or four days. I figured at the end of a day's shoot, our drivers just caravan to wherever the nearest pumps are and fill up. We won't be shooting any earlier than nine in the morning, or later than four. The pirate support truck will obviously have gas cans on board, may as well keep them full for real, just in case. Our drivers will be at their motel by six on those days."
"And who will the drivers be?"
I chuckled at this. "Well, Bekka here is insisting on doing her own driving at the wheel of the Nova. I know her, and know her skills, and am okay with that. We're going to need real stunt drivers for some shots, that's unavoidable. For basic driving scenes, I want the pirates at the wheels of their own cars. We'll be handling a lot more driving in-house than Hollywood ever would, but we're also not doing many complex stunts with the vehicles, either, mostly just bumper-thumping and fender-tapping. We'll let the pros handle those shots. Also Bekka's stunt double scenes."
"Stunt double?" asked Tawny.
Bekka grinned. "Yeah. See, the pirate queen likes to get out of moving vehicles. She always has someone literally riding shotgun with her, okay? While they're moving, she'll pop off her steering wheel, hand it to the pirate next to her, and climb out onto the hood. The other pirate slides over and pops the steering wheel back on to continue driving. The pirate queen hood-surfs at whatever speed they're moving at. She will also jump onto other vehicles, in an attempt to get a better view of things, closer to the action. Since there is no combination of drugs, booze, and high pay that would convince me to do this shit, I need a stunt double, and it has to be a woman. My costume is too skimpy to just have a man in a wig do the job."
I said to Mitch and Dutch, "Oh, that reminds me. The speedometers have to work accurately in all the vehicles. If they're broken, wonky, or out of calibration, get them fixed. Stunt drivers do too much of their planning around having accurate speeds."
Dusty asked, "Are you really gonna junk all those cars when you're done with them? That would kinda suck."
"I don't know what else to do with them. Inana Productions doesn't need twenty ugly-as-sin cars. Given the sort of atrocities we'll have rendered on them, we won't just be able to sell them off again. Maybe if this movie hits huge, fans would buy the damn things, but I don't know if I'd want to gamble the expense of storing them for so many months to find out. Okay, the two hot rods I could probably unload. Also the stake bed, since it wouldn't really be seeing any modifications done to it, nothing that couldn't be painted over. Even the moving van would just need paint. But the raider vehicles and the scavenger vehicles won't be worth anything, except to a mega-fan of the movie, and I don't feel like taking that gamble."
"I will," said Mitch. "All your movies do fantastic, and have serious hardcore fans. I'll bet this one shoots the moon too. We'll get 'em back to my yard, I sit on 'em for six months, then run ads in Auto Trader and Hemmings, announcing that the stunt vehicles in that one Inana movie are available for sale. I'll do a silent auction by mail. I'll split the proceeds with Inana. Shit, you've told me yourself you've had fan mail asking about that black Plymouth of yours that you used in 'Dangerous Desires.' Some fans want more than just an autograph. Having a movie souvenir you can drive? There's plenty of people who would spend big bucks for that."
Laughing, Bekka said, "I'll sweeten the deal. Whoever picks up the pirate queen's Nova also gets my costume, unwashed. And we'll put the windshield back in."
I queried Mitch, "Hey, does a vehicle need a windshield to be street legal?"
"I actually think it does," he answered. "I dunno, maybe if you wore goggles or something? You'll have to check."
(I checked, and the state does require a windshield on anything with four or more tires. They prevent objects from striking the driver, incapacitating them. I guess they figure motorcyclists are already so vulnerable there's no point.)
After dinner, we went out to the parking lot so Mitch and Dutch could see the Nova. They were both amused, especially Mitch. He said, "Well, looks like somebody wanted an SS Cobra, but couldn't afford one, so they played make-believe with this one. Pop the hood?"
I opened up the car while Mitch went to his own El Camino to grab a flashlight. He came back and he and Dutch began poking around, making comments. It was nice that someone had installed wire-braid fuel lines, high end plug wires, and a chrome spin-off air filter on top of the four-barrel carb, but ultimately it was like putting lipstick on a dog: you can say it's your girlfriend, but nobody takes you seriously. With the workhorse 350 small-block at its heart, the mods done so far were just so much lipstick.
I asked about a supercharger. Dutch and Mitch agreed it would make a difference, but every leadfoot within twenty miles would see that blower sticking out of the hood and take it as a challenge. Whether the Nova was up to the challenge depended on what the other driver brought. But even with a supercharger, Mitch was willing to bet Jane's '71 Cutlass 442 would easily take it. Even turkeys in souped-up 280Zs would give it a run for its money.
"To me, the important thing is that it looks fast, and a blower will do the trick," I said. And just cut a ragged hole in the hood to let it stick out, don't worry about a scoop. We'll give the impression the blower was added after the apocalypse."
Dutch asked, "Speaking of which, what caused the apocalypse?"
"It's never specifically stated," I said. "What is alluded to is a slow but unstoppable breakdown of all aspects of society that took several years to happen. Everything didn't end all at once, like from a nuclear holocaust, but something happened. This was about twenty years earlier, when all our principals were fairly young children. I don't know why there are no old people around. But living on the edge, having to claw for food and water, is all the pirates have ever known. They live better than most. Because they are able to come up with resources, they are able to barter for luxury items. The pirate queen has cigarettes, and even booze."
Bekka said, "It's pretty funny. The pirate queen has several bottles of Popov vodka, cheap crap, but worth a fortune. When she's trying to get the lone scavenger to relax, she gives him a cigarette, which he understands. But he's never tasted alcohol before, and especially not rot-gut like Popov. She gives him a drink, which he chokes on. He asks her why, if she wants to kill him, why not just shoot him instead of using poison? He's even more horrified when she swigs from the bottle, taking a few good swallows, because he can think of no reason why anyone would want to consume that horrible stuff."
"So where do they get fuel from?" asked Mitch.
"They steal it, or barter for it. The pirates aren't the only well-armed people around. To be in possession of a gas station is to be a shah. As shown in both pillaging scenes, the pirates have fifty-five gallon drums they store gas in, like four of them in the stake-bed. They use a hand pump to drain the tanks of their victims, leaving them enough to drive away to a settlement. The pirates aren't sadists. When they capture men for sex, they hold onto them for a few days, until everyone's had a few turns, then will drive them to within walking distance of a settlement, hand them a bottle of water, and tell them to get moving. They tell the women to not worry, their men will not come to harm, and to just camp out until they show up again. It's basically a role reversal, where the men are being exploited sexually in order to survive."
Dusty said, "So basically, all the men in this movie are being raped."
I sighed. "That did strike me.... But it's more of aggressive seduction. And let's face it, men are dogs. We react differently to sexual pressure than women do, we don't have an issue with it if a gun isn't being pointed at our head. Right now, if you started sucking my dick, then said, 'Fuck me, please?' I'd probably have my pants off before you. In the movie, the men are threatened by the circumstance, but are never assaulted, or threatened with weapons, or otherwise terrorized. It's more like they're told, 'We're all alone, we know what men like, and we like it too. And admittedly, your options are limited. Service us, and we'll treat you wonderfully. Refuse us, and we'll just put you to work digging us a new latrine trench.' So it's not rape exactly, more like a hostage choosing what kind of labor to perform."
"Wow.... I don't think I've ever heard of anybody putting this much thought into a porno movie before. But I guess you do. I've like the other movies you made. Porn used to just bug me, I thought it was gross, and I thought the women were being abused, just treated like dirt. Your stuff is totally different. It's weird, all the same, y'know, activities happen in your movies as any other porno film, but they never seem to be in bad taste, they actually make sense, you know? How do you do that?"
Grinning, I answered, "I think about what I'm writing, I integrate the sex with the plot, and I have a genius of a director who can make the most rote suck and fuck scene look classy. His trick? He keeps the cameras far back enough that you're still watching two people having sex, not getting an anatomy lesson. He gets close, but not really close."
Mitch ran his hand along the fender of the Nova. He said, "God damn. 350 motor, bench seats, automatic transmission.... This thing was first bought by some girl in a secretarial pool, you know? This was basic transportation for someone when it first sold."
Bekka said, "Yeah, and now it's going to star in a movie. It's the same age as the dude who'll be driving it, both this car and our male lead are nineteen."
"Damn, dude!" said Dutch. "You got some kid starring in a porno?"
"He's perfect for the role. He's got a mohawk, he's in top shape, he's hung, he can act, and he's shaping up to be the best male performer we have. And us girls love working with him, despite his appearance, he's the most polite, mannerly bastard you'll ever come across. He's got brains and a sense of humor, and his humor extends into what he's doing for a living. He isn't a narcissist like the other studs. I've worked with him, and it's nice to deal with someone who asks, 'So how are you?' and expects an honest answer. This kid really, genuinely likes women, and that is refreshing. He could go far in this industry."
"What's his stage name?" asked Dusty. "We'll watch for him."
I said, "His real name is Sonny Willis, but he goes by the nickname of Roach. Long story. And when we asked him how he wanted to be credited in videos, he told us to just put 'Roach,' no last name. He's only done loops so far, this one will be his first active role. He has a part as an extra, sort of, in 'Bewitched II.' There's a really wild scene where there are like fifteen couples all having sex on a suburban block. He was part of one of the couples, him and our fluffer and script girl. They both could stand the extra money, so I threw them on. Neither has a line, just random pants and moans."
"I always wondered. How much of that stuff is ad-libbed? Are all the 'Oh gods' and 'Yeah baby' and 'Fuck mes' scripted out?"
"Just speaking for Inana, we follow the muse," said Bekka. "We are hired because we can convincingly portray sexual ecstasy. And we do it convincingly. I learned real quick to not oversell it. You can convey a lot just with a look in your eyes, body motions, facial expressions. I am expected to rely on what talents I have as an actress."
Smirking, I threw in, "In video from other studios, you've got these girls who are yelling, 'Oh! Oh! Oh! Fuck me, fuck me! Yeah! Oh! Oh!' Jesus Christ. If I ran into that in real life, I'd do one of two things. I'd either stop what I was doing and say, 'You have GOT to be kidding me,' or I'd chloroform the silly broad. You make noise like that with me, all you're doing is telling me, 'I learned about sex from porn.' And that's the worst place to learn about it from."
"With me, the thing is, I hardly make any noise at all in real life. Maybe I moan a little bit when I come."
I stared at Bekka. "You're kidding, right? You squeak, you gasp, you gurgle, you growl, you purr, and your favorite word is 'Ooh....' And you cuss me blue right before you come. I can tell when you're on the edge because you start saying things like 'Fuck me, you stupid motherfucking asshole.' You know, real terms of endearment. A lesser man would be frightened."
Bekka stuck her tongue out and said, "A lesser man wouldn't be making me come to begin with. You should meed more of my ex-boyfriends. And am I really that noisy?"
"My god, I never noticed. I thought I was just lying there smilin' up at you."
I laughed. "No, you're definitely involved with the proceedings. And since your noises and movements are totally different from the ones you make on camera, I never doubted your sincerity."
Dutch said, "Tawny makes a whinnying sound. I call her my little sex pony." Tawny punched Dutch in the arm.
Mitch started, "Dusty will---" and was immediately cut off by Dusty, who clamped her hand over his mouth.
She said, "We'll leave this sort of talk up to the professionals, all right? It's time we headed towards home anyway." Her and Mitch walked to their car.
"We should take off too," said Bekka. "We promised Jane we'd take her to a midnight movie. They're showing 'Repo Man' at Sports Arena Six, director's cut. We can relax before we head out. Hey, you two wanna come along? We can take Ecstasy and make fun of the stoner kids waiting to get into 'The Song Remains The Same.'"
That sounded great to them. They followed us up home, and we dosed, sat around and talked, and admired Jane's latest modification to her hair. She had dyed clumps on each side of her forehead bright red, used gel to form them into spikes, and slicked the rest of her hair down flat. She now had devil horns.
I pointed out, "You realize, all the headbanger boys are going to be all over you, just so they can introduce you to their parents."
"I don't even want to think what Lance's mom will say," said Bekka.
This amused Jane. "I'll only be confirming what she has suspected, that her son is dating a Satanic imp. And lord knows Ross assumes I'm an instrument of evil."
"Do you ever see the former detective?" I asked.
"No. He's never around. He got a job as a patrolman in Escondido and works a noon to eight shift, and I never see him around on whenever his days off are. Probably just as well. Lance says he seems totally defeated by life these days, but at the same time is friendlier. He used to never smile at Lance. Ross would ask him about school or track or whatever, and Lance said it was like being given the third degree. Now Ross seems genuinely interested, is more friendly. They don't know what to think. And Lance still doesn't know why Ross got fired."
"And he never will," I said.
"Amen to that," added Bekka.
"Who is Ross?" asked Tawny and Dutch as one voice.
"Well, lemme tell ya...." I started.
The three of us told the full story to them. They were enthralled.