We got our shots downstairs fairly quickly. One of Stella (Elspeth) and the devil (Bekka) standing at the bar briefly, then the two of them out on the dance floor, grooving. Bekka may have been in costume, but she didn't look too out of place at this club. While no other girl was showing nearly as much flesh, the devil's horns, fishnets, and domme boots just made her look like one of the more theatrical members of the crowd. Stella had a more punk rock look, which set her apart. Doc Martens and bondage collars weren't too common among club kids.
We shifted up to the lounge we'd commandeered, to get the brief dialogue scenes in the can. Inana had done a bit too good of a job in sequestering itself, though. People would step into the lounge, see Terry, Roach, and Bubba sitting there along with the detritus involved in shooting video, and back out again. People were almost certainly puzzled about how and why two outlaw bikers and a skate rat had managed to monopolize an entire lounge, but it probably struck people as a situation that was best left alone. Sue and I managed to load up the lounge by approaching small groups standing around downstairs and offering to buy them drinks, so long as they occupied tables or couches in that particular lounge. We would explain they would be extras, sort of. All they had to do was drink, smoke, talk with each other, and be totally oblivious to the cameras and crew. Once the lounge looked occupied, those scenes went in the can.
The lounge had these deep, low alcoves in the wall, the purpose of which was lost on us, but we had decided they would make the perfect places for some semi-public sex. The alcoves offered some seclusion, but not actual privacy. Anybody walking past could just duck their heads some and see anything going on inside. There were tables and sofas on each side of the alcoves. We wanted these occupied, but for the occupants to completely ignore what was happening next to them, as though it was a common enough occurrence club-goers were used to it. We would be getting close up shots of the sex, as well as somewhat long ones, showing how exposed our couples were. More drinks bought us more people who promised to ignore the cameras, the crew, and the fucking. Fortunately, a hipster nightclub is the perfect place to find self-absorbed little cliques, and they fit the bill.
Ellen showed up about halfway through Bekka's fuck scene. She was in costume, but wasn't happy about it. Downtown San Diego is right on the water, and it gets a bit chilly at night. Ellen and Andy would be having an oral sex scene in one of the disused loading docks behind the club. The setup was Ellen, as the angel, had been locked in the trunk of "Stella's" car by Stella and the devil, who were tired of the angel's protests about going into such a scary place as the nightclub. Stella and the devil go in the club. Ellen, trapped in the trunk, passes the time by singing "99 Bottles of Beer." Andy walks past, hears her, and jimmies the car trunk open to let the angel out. The angel is grateful, and also finds Andy attractive. Cue the sucking, which takes place on and against Bubba's 1969 Chrysler Newport, Andy and the angel taking turns on each other.
Normally Inana people would have just carpooled to a location shoot, but we needed the vehicles, so I told everyone to drive their own cars. We all parked in the loading dock, making it look as though the club-goers parked there. I had driven Stella's car, an old Datsun 510 I'd picked up for $500, then chucked at my mechanic friend Mitch out in Santee with the instructions to get it running passably well. He had also helped rig it so the starter would crank, but the car wouldn't start, necessary for a running gag about the lack of reliability of Stella's car. Mitch put a foot switch down by the driver's left foot. Turn the key normally, the car would start. Press down on the foot switch, the starter would grind impotently. Other great details about Stella's car was the leopard print seat covers, a stereo that was held into the dash with lag bolts, a four inch dildo hanging by a chain from the rear view mirror, and a passenger door handle fashioned from a woman's pump and duct tape.
"Why would anyone do that?" I was asked by a thin, angular girl with vertically-inclined black hair, a patent leather vest, and denims tight enough to be leotards.
"Uh.... What are you talking about?" I asked. We'd finished Bekka's fuck scene, and needed to shift down to the loading dock.
"What was just happening, two people being filmed while having sex. Is it some sort of bragging right, proving to the world that people will fuck you? In insisting your carnal relations are documented, aren't you just showing how insecure you are?"
I cocked an eyebrow. "Well, the people you were just watching didn't really care about what they were doing. They're both professional performers, have engaged in the same activities hundreds and hundreds of times, and had the same objective view of their activities that a mechanic would have changing a spark plug. While a bit of an exhibitionist streak is necessary to do the work, neither of them got any kind of kick out of doing that scene. They are pornographic actors. The physical activities they engage in are rote to them, so they use their performing talents to appear to enjoy themselves."
"Why do people watch pornography at all?" asked the black haired girl.
"Various reasons. Foremost is that sex has been a popular spectator sport for our species since we started walking upright. Lonely men watch porn to inspire masturbatory fantasies. Others, men and women, get a visceral and cathartic thrill from watching it. I've met men who have developed schoolboy crushes on performers, they don't want to have sex with the girl, they really want to be her best friend. There are some who are so socially maladjusted they think the human interactions which happen in porn reflect real life. And I'll bet there are a few out there who just like the music."
"It just seems to me that all porn is crass, it jumps up and down like a spastic mime, seeking your attention. There is no subtlety, nothing is graceful about porn. The sight of people fucking is treated like some novel and expository event, even though every other porn movie shows the same thing. I think people who enjoy porn have the minds of children. They are easily fooled by bombast,and are entertained by seeing the same things over and over."
I smiled patiently. "Tell me, have you ever heard of a movie called 'Bewitched'?"
"Oh, 'Bewitched' isn't porn," said the girl.
"No. None of Becky Page's movies are. They are erotica. They don't wallow in long detailed scenes of sex, the acts shown are graceful and intertwined with intelligent dialogue. Becky Page's movies hold depth that Hollywood should be jealous of. Even her action movies stimulate the intelligence. Becky Page's movies are art."
"Wow. Thanks," I said.
"Excuse me?" said the girl.
"I am the writer and producer of Becky Page's movies. My name is Lenny Schneider. I'm glad to meet someone who appreciates the effort I put into my scripts, along with the acting talent of my performers and the vision of my director. I never intended to make art, I just wanted to make dirty movies that actually worked as entertainment. I'm sorry, but my goals were never as lofty as you think they were."
The girl stared at me in shock. "You are Lenny Schneider?"
"That's what it says on my driver's license. You seem surprised."
She sputtered. "You're not lying to me? You wrote and produced both 'Bewitched' movies? You're the person behind 'Succubus'? No. Lenny Schneider is a visionary, a man who has experienced the depths of life and seen the extremes of the human condition. You're.... just some punk rocker. You're in your twenties, there's no way you have lived enough to collect the experiences and knowledge Lenny Schneider puts into his films. You must be joking."
I pulled out my wallet and handed her my driver's license, so she could see the name. I told her, "We can go down to the street, and I will show you where the camera truck for Inana Productions is parked. Or we can track down my wife, Becky Page, who is almost certainly at the bar, having a cigarette and drinking a bottle of Miller. Didn't you notice that was who was in the sex scene we just shot? You didn't see her?"
"I did as I was instructed, which was to ignore what was going on. It was easy for me, as I felt it was a display of carnal vulgarity, like all public sex. Are you saying what just happened will be part of a Becky Page movie? It can't be, those cameras were running for nearly forty minutes. Becky's movies don't slog through such displays."
"Yeah, the cameras and the performers were going for forty minutes. What we shot will be edited down to about four or five minutes of screen time, everything else will hit the cutting room floor. That's how we get the footage we want. That's how we get all of the, uh, erotic imagery in Becky's movies."
Bekka appeared in the lounge, scanning for me. She walked up and said, "Hey babe, we're ready to start setting up in the loading dock. Why are you hanging around up here?"
"I got sidetracked by a bit of conversation with this young lady. She is a fan of yours and of your movies, but can't believe I'm the guy who does the writing and producing. I even showed her my license, but I don't match her assumptions about what I should be like. On the positive side, she does believe I create art."
The girl was staring wide-eyed at Bekka. She finally said, "Ms. Page, this is an honor. I love your films, they expose the underbelly of the human condition, and have a grace and poetry that is lacking in all other contemporary films."
Bekka blinked at this. She said, "Uh, thank you. I do my best in my performances. The man you want to congratulate is this one here, my husband Lenny. He is the writer and producer of my movies. Didn't he tell you that?"
"He.... really is the Lenny Schneider. My God. I was expecting him to be a world-weary Lothario, somewhere in his fifties. He should look weathered from his life experiences. The man who created some of the most visionary films in recent history is just some punk in his twenties."
"But obviously, he's not just some punk," scowled Bekka. "Neither his age nor his personal style change the power of what he created. Look, sorry he doesn't match up to what you thought he'd be like, but too damn bad. Does finding out who he really is change the content of any of the movies you love? Lenny is my husband. He is one of the sweetest, caring, dynamic, creative, brave, and intelligent men I have ever known, they didn't build many like him. And he singlehandedly began producing the most imaginative and intelligent adult video ever made at the age of twenty-two. Sorry he doesn't match your idealized version of who he should be. Deal with it. You like my movies? Talk to this man, like it or lump it."
The girl gawked at Bekka briefly, then turned towards me. "Uh.... How did you decide to start making the erotic cinema you do?"
I said, "Well, at the age of twenty-one I found myself the COO of Inana Productions. The owners pretty much trained me on the job. My career was a bit unusual, because I'd always hated porn. You had loops, which are just suck and fuck, no plot or dialogue, and you had features. It was features that made me puke. The acting was shit, the scripts were a joke, the stories were lame, they were a waste of time. I never understood why anyone tried making features, because anyone who did was terrible at it. Okay, old school producers would say, 'Oh, you can't find actors who will do hardcore. Budgets are dismal. The industry won't pay for talented script writers. Viewers just want to jack off anyway, so why bust your ass making a feature when no one is going to care?'
"I figured, fuck it. I'm running a damn porn studio, why shouldn't I make some features I would actually want to watch? My first three features were kind of training exercises, I'd never written a screenplay and I'd never produced anything. Those three were okay, they actually got decent reviews and sold well, so my bosses considered features to be worth the time. My fourth feature was 'Bewitched.' You know how that one went. I really did bust my ass for that one, I rewrote the same script seven times. But I finally sat down and watched 'Bewitched,' and I enjoyed it. I'd finally created porn I liked. You didn't have to take your brain out of gear to watch it."
"But your movies aren't porn," said the girl. "They're erotica. Your movies are too deep and stylish to be porn. You manage to have graphic sex scenes that still feel tasteful. Too much feeling and intelligence go into your projects to call them porn. They are erotic cinema."
Bekka burst into laughter at this comment. I smiled and said, "You call it a spade, I call it a shovel. I cut my teeth in the industry making jackoff loops, and I've always wanted the sex in my features to have the same visceral appeal. People get a gut-level rush from watching hardcore sex, and I wanted viewers to have that pleasure. Yeah, our fuck scenes are done extremely well, they're not trashy. You have my director to thank, a man named Steve Stillman. But I want people's dicks to get hard and pussies to get wet when they watch my features, I want to make people horny. Not the loftiest goal, I know, but I figure people deserve to be able to enjoy watching a feature as intelligent entertainment, and still just plain get their jollies."
Bekka said, "I was blessed with enough acting talent to bring my characters to life, and I'm proud of that. But I am not an erotic entertainer, I'm a fucking porn star. If our features were erotica, I'd spend a lot less of my time with a dick in my mouth during production, you know?"
"I'm sorry, and this will probably be a disappointment, but I've never had any lofty artistic vision when I make my movies. All I've ever wanted to do was have fun. Well, shit, to me writing is fun. And I have a lot more fun creating intricate characters and situations and dialogue, instead of coming up with some random lame plot and filling the script pages with text. Then, during pre-production, me and my director work closely with our performers to really flesh out the characters, give them identity and life. Dialogue gets polished so our scenes have verve. We carefully block our action, to both keep a good pace and have the action look natural. Everyone at Inana truly, honestly cares about doing the best job possible. But we only hope to entertain, not make a statement. We may be the most awesome and creative porn studio in the world, but we're still just a damn porn studio."
"You shouldn't disparage yourself like that," said the girl. "The movies your studio makes carry intellectual impact, they involve the viewers on a cerebral level, not just their genitals. You just described to me the work you put into your scripts, then into making the movie. What you create involves the viewers, they're not just mindless spectators. You seem to be very resistant to the idea, but you are going to have to accept the fact that you are an artist. You are too talented, you are too involved, and you care too much to not be.
"Although I will admit I am still thrown by you as a person. How you got your wisdom at your age is beyond me, and to be frank, you look like you should be selling quarter bags of meth in Mission Beach."
"That was my old career, and I never moved anything less than an ounce at once," I replied. "Again, I'm sorry if I'm a disappointment. But I'm suburban white trash who stumbled into a strange job, which allowed me to tap talent and creativity I never even knew were there. I'm glad I found them, now I will have a lucrative career I actually enjoy. Hey, go me. I've never wanted to espouse on the greater truths of life. I'm just glad watching my movies makes people happy, and on a few levels at once. I never wanted to do anything more, but I'm proud I'm able to do it. That's not such a bad ambition."
The girl said, "Well.... Van Gogh spent a lot of time painting pastoral scenes, and he only wanted to give people something pleasant to look at."
I chuckled. "Shit. Van Gogh sold exactly one painting in his life, and he cut his fuckin' ear off to try and impress a hooker. And you wonder why I don't want to think of myself as an artist."
Roach trotted into the lounge and said, "Dude, everybody's waiting. Everything is ready to roll, and Ellen is freezing in her costume. She's threatening to set your car on fire to keep warm."
Bekka and I began to drift for the passage. I said to the girl, "Look, we gotta roll. Skye Tyler is gonna be getting her pussy eaten on the hood of a Chrysler Newport, and they want me there. Sorry my movies aren't the artistic triumphs you thought they were, but you gotta admit, they're still pretty damn fun."
As we went out, the girl called, "Good night, mister artist."