Sunday, February 26, 2017

Senior (Part 9)

     Seven days before Jane's graduation, Bekka and I went up to check progress on Angel's big, huge, major, massive project underway in Oceanside.
     It was a dilly.  In late fall and winter, Angel had sat down with me, Small Steve, Vinny, Bekka, Calm Steve, and Jeanette to discuss Inana expanding.  We felt like we were outgrowing the mansion, even if I wasn't bringing on new performers.  Inana had invented "smart porn," and the world was beating a path to our doorstep.  The major adult studios were (finally) contributing to the genre, but Inana was still number one.  I could have put two hours of scene blocking on a tape and it would have sold.  To the viewing public, Inana was a Mercedes E-Class.  The other studios were Buicks.  Sure, the Buick is comfortable enough, and it does the job, nothing to complain about really, but....  The Mercedes is something else.

     The upshot of our talks was a collective opinion Inana needed to expand, literally.  We had two production crews, so when we were producing a feature, the other crew would still crank out loops.  It took a lot of kicking around, but our expansion would be somewhat incremental.  First, a third production crew would be assembled.  We'd bring on three more studs and six more girls.  A second full-time makeup artist would be hired (Inana girl Pill did makeup part-time, so Jeanette wouldn't be working six day weeks).
     And the cruncher: we would be creating a second studio.  The mansion would still be in use, but we wanted --- hell, we needed --- more sound stages and larger ones, too.  We also wanted editing suites in the area, so there would stop being a delay of one day between an edit job and a review.  There should be storage, we had five huge self-storage units, and what was where never seemed to be indexed quite as well as it should.  Lots of off-street parking.  Shower rooms, of course.  A lounge.  And the sound stages would be modern and complete.
     One night after one of these powwows, Angel was staying in the penthouse.  He couldn't sleep.  So, he got dressed again and went for a drive, just aimlessly cruising.  His wanderings took him into Oceanside. and its industrial district.  He was in a mood for more pleasant scenery, so he was about to leave the area when he realized he was driving past one hell of a big warehouse, the signage on it indicating it was Levitz Furniture's distribution center.  And on both the building and a large wooden sign in the fenced lot were notices from Coldwell Bank, announcing the property was available.
     Angel drove around the property, and found the gate standing wide open, so he drove in and did a circuit around the warehouse.  A Levitz Furniture showroom is a damn big place.  This warehouse had, until recently, been keeping all the Southern California showrooms in stock.  It was one big-ass place.  Access from I-5 was simple.  It was maybe twelve minutes from the mansion.  Obviously, there would be no issues with electric or water.  The entire property was behind a ten-foot fence with razor ribbon at the top.  The gate had a guard shack.  Angel was marveling at the possibilities.
    He was just slowly driving around to the front again when he saw a sign of life.  Some guy in a security guard uniform was gimping out of a pedestrian door of the warehouse towards the guard shack....  And had now angled towards Angel, waving his arms.  Angel pulled up to him and rolled the window down.  "Good evening," he said.
     "What are you doing in here?" asked the guard, a stringy-looking white guy around sixty.
     "I was driving around, and I noticed the realty signs on this place.  I'm looking for a space about this big, I think.  Is it still available?"
     "You're damn right.  Hard to find a business that needs this sort of space.  Levitz relocated down in Otay Mesa, right off the freeway."  The guard looked suspicious.  "You're out hunting real estate at this hour?"
     "No, sir," replied Angel.  "I'm in the area for a business meeting.  I couldn't sleep, so I decided to take a drive.  Total chance I ended up here.  What sort of condition is the structure in, overall?"
     "Pretty damn good," the guard replied.  "Doesn't leak when it rains, doesn't rattle when it blows, no cracks in the cement....  It's perfectly serviceable."
     "Got 220 volt power coming in?"
     "Guess so,  So what you want a place this big for?"
     "I'm going to turn it into a movie studio," Angel replied.  "It'll be a major build-out.  There will be a lot of activity here.  How's traffic in the area?"
    Laughing, the guard said, "Sorta busy at eight, sorta busy at five, dead as a turd the rest of the time.  All the blue collar Joes got the same hours around here."
     "What about crime?"
     The guard gave a smaller chuckle. "Well....  To have crime, you gotta have people.  I'll sit in my shack and not see a goddamn thing move for a long, long time every night.  Then a semi will roll past, and that's the most exciting thing to happen.  This area is too goddamn isolated for thieves or looters to bother with."  The guard stroked his chin.  "You from Hollywood?"
     Angel grinned and said, "No, I'm not.  You ever hear of a studio called Inana Productions?  Or an actress named Becky Page?"
     "Well, hell yes.  You know Becky Page?"
     "My name is Angel Morelli, I'm the majority owner of Inana Productions.  Yeah, I've known Becky for about a decade now, when she first started in the industry. Right now, our studio is a mansion in La Costa we gutted and restructured so we'd have sound stages and offices.  We can't grow the business without more space.  Wherever we expand to, we're gonna be doing some major additions and alterations.  Building sound stages, offices, dressing rooms, makeup studios, showers, a lounge, editing suites. all that happy horseshit.  With what we'd be doing, I'd rather own the damn building than lease, you know?  Any idea what they're asking for the property?"
    "Dunno," the guard said.  Then in a lower voice he said, "Low-ball the shit out of 'em.  I know the bank that holds the title thinks this place is an albatross.  Who the hell is looking for this sort of space, that wouldn't have the money to do their own custom build-out?  The bank has gotta keep the property maintained, keep the power and water on, pay property taxes, pay flat-foots like me to make sure no one decides to trash anything.... This pile is costing them money every month, and they can't see that ending anytime soon.  Find out what they're asking, and cut a third off.  I know the bank holds the title clear, if they took five books of Green Stamps for it, they'd still be ahead."
     In the morning, Angel called the Coldwell Banker rep listed and told him what property he was interested in.  The rep reportedly had to stifle laughter before responding to Angel.  When he asked Angel what his plans for the warehouse and grounds were, Angel told him, "I'm gonna use the place to make dirty movies."
     "Is that so, sir."
     "Yeah.  I'm already in a place in La Costa, but we're outgrowing it.  I'll guess you know who Becky Page is."
     "Yes, I do, sir," the rep replied, condescension starting to creep into his voice.
     "I own Inana Productions, Becky's studio.  My name is Angel Morelli.  We want to grow, and we need space.  A warehouse that size will give us plenty of space.  We'll do the alterations and improvements to start working and have three sound stages in operation.  As Inana grows, we can build more sound stages.  Yeah, I want a whole lot of goddamn room to work with.  So, I want a close look at the place, this afternoon.  What time shall I be there?"
     "How about two?" the rep said patiently.  "So, will Becky Page be with you?"
     "Yeah, probably.  She's definitely part of the decision-making process around Inana at this point.  She's been with us since we were knocking out five thousand tapes a week, and thought we'd hit the jackpot."
     Bekka and I met Angel and Small Steve at the warehouse a few minutes before two.  We were all drop-jawed at the size of the place, Angel explaining we would have room to grow over the years, not to mention having everything we needed for production centralized.
     The Coldwell Banker rep showed up fifteen minutes late.  He pulled his Oldsmobile through the gate, and stopped.  I could sense he was staring at us in confusion.  Finally, he rolled up and got out.  Angel stepped up to hid door to introduce himself.
     The rep had an amazed frown on his face,  He said, "Hi, I'm David Burger.  So....  You want to look around the place.  You said you're going to convert into.... a movie studio.  And you think you'll need this much space."
     Angel gave him a patient glare and said, "Ever seen the lots at Columbia,or Paramount, or Universal?  Those big-ass hangar-like buildings?  Quality production can take up a lot of room.  A lot of the space is probably going to sit unused for a while.  The idea is we have room to build new sound stages as we grow.  I'm not going to spend the money to build fourteen stages in this place all at once, that would be a waste.  But I want the room to grow."
    Angel and David walked over to me, Steve and Bekka, to make introductions.  When he reached Bekka, he did the usual routine, wanting to fanboy out but trying to stay professional.   Then he unlocked the pedestrian door and went in.  A few moments later the large roll-up door went into motion, an electric motor cranking it up.  He stepped back out and said we'd be better served just driving our cars inside, there was quite a bit of space to cover.
     We drove in and stopped at where the warehouse offices were.  We all got out and stared around, making random comments and suggestions about what should go where, running water and electricity to where we'd need it (remember, multiple shower rooms), square footage for sound stages, and the other fun stuff.
     I noticed David Burger was observing us with an expression of disbelief.  Okay.  I walked over and asked about adding a second story to part of the building, for office space and other "human" uses.  He said it should be simple enough, the pillars currently in place would take the load just fine.  He gave me another disbelieving look and said quietly, "So, are you people really serious?"
     "Uh, I think we'd be able to find better things to do than hang around an empty warehouse if we weren't," I answered.  "Why?"
     David Burger shook his head.  "Well.... With the scope of what your Mr. Morelli is talking about doing, I just wouldn't want to see you people run out of money, and have everything fall apart.  The bank doesn't want the property back, we want it sold, and to stay sold."
     I considered the glorified realtor next to me.  "Yeah.... Um, we're probably gonna buy the property outright, not carry a mortgage at all.  Then if we paddle or die is none of your concern.  We wouldn't overextend ourselves to do what we want, that's not business, that's gambling.  Are you concerned about our ability to afford this place?"
    "I just wouldn't want you folks to get in over your heads."
    "Nope. If we'd decided to go up to LA and buy the entire Paramount lot, lock, stock, and barrel, then we'd be overextended.  But we're covered for what we want to accomplish here."  I gave him a look.  "So why are you worried about our financial stability?"
     "I'm familiar with Becky Page's movies, so I know who you are.  But....  Is there really that much money coming in from what you do?  Except for Bob Guccione and Larry Flynt, I've never heard of anyone getting rich in porn.
     I showed him a lot of teeth and said, "Well.  Huh.  Here's a little example.  You're familiar with what ROI is?  Return on investment?  Well....  Let's say you spend $480,000 producing a video, not including duplication.  That video turns around and sells about twenty-two million copies.  The tapes retail for $32.95.  Inana sees a net of about eight dollars per tape sold.  I can't do math in my head, but you can see what sort of money Inana made off those twenty-two million tapes.
     "And that is just one feature, 'Bewitched.'  Inana has released more than a few features since, and all have had fantastic sales.  Our most recent feature, 'Miss Treatment,' has been out for seven weeks now, and has sold just short of five million copies in that time.  'Miss Treatment' cost about $445,000 to produce, it was a fairly simple project.
     "You know why you never hear of people getting rich in porn?  First, no one has had the continuous string of blockbuster features Inana has.  For a long time, adult studios were over-fucking-joyed if they moved 500,000 copies of a video in a year, and that was reserved for major features like 'Devil in Miss Jones.'  Inana has shot the fucking moon, dude.  And the other reason is that, just maybe, anyone in adult film who does get rich has more class than to run around bragging about it.  Come on, man.  Excluding me, do we look like we're poor?"
     David Burger sighed and said, "Well.... You and Becky are in that old clunker, the other gentleman is driving another clunker, and Mr. Morelli has a fairly generic Japanese car."
     "Wrong, on all three counts.  Me and Becky are in her daily driver.  That's a 1964 Ford Falcon hot rod.  It's had huge amounts of work put into it, all of it aimed at making it go fast and handle well.  You hit the supercharger, and it's like being in a jet on takeoff.  Steve's car demonstrates his own quirky sense of style.  That's a 1961 Mercury Comet.  It's design captures a lot of really gaudy styling ideas that were around at the time, and put them all on one car.  The damn thing is so ugly it's beautiful.  And, uh, Angel's car isn't Japanese.  It's Italian.  That's a Maserati.  The damn thing handles as smooth as a Honda, and is capable of 180 miles per hour.  You don't want to know how much it cost.
     "I guess what it comes down to, David, is excuse the ripe fuck out of us for not driving Mercedes.  We all bought cars we actually like, and wanted.  We didn't need to announce to the world how goddamn rich we are by cruising some Kraut bomb.  Maybe it's just our artistic temperaments in play."
    David Burger muttered something neutral and wandered off.  The other three were in discussion about where things should go, in a general way.  We'd need to get an architect in for a consultation.  I informed them that Mr. Burger said a second floor was viable, creating more space for offices, meeting rooms, or whatever.  This sounded spiffy to everyone, they'd been trying to mentally insert every feature we wanted into a single floor.
     We were there for about another hour, discussing things and poking around, asking lots of questions.  (If nothing else, David Burger knew the damn property well.)  The four of us talked it over, and felt this would work.  Angel walked over to David Burger and said, "Okay, it's a go.  How much are you asking for purchase?"
     David Burger told him.  Angel said no, no, that's a bit unreasonable for the area and the spartan condition of the place.  The two went back and forth for a couple minutes, and finally agreed on an amount.  "Sounds great," said Angel.  "I'll send a cashier's check down to your office by courier tomorrow."
     With another of his disbelieving looks, David Burger said, "You're going to just.... buy it?  You're not financing?"
     "What the hell for?  Why pay the interest for all that time, when we have the money now?"
     "Okay, sir...."
     Angel and David Burger exchanged some information, then we rolled out.  Bekka has a look that was relaxed and pleased.  I asked her what was up.
     She said, "Inana will finally have the facilities it needs, and deserves.  We will have a full studio, built to spec any way we want.  No concessions having to be made because of the building size or roof height, we'll have fully professional sound stages, editing suites, makeup studios.... Everything.  Absolutely nothing will be shoestring or jury-rigged about production.  We'll be fully professional."
     "Uh.... We haven't been already?" I asked.
     With a sigh, Bekka said, "You know how you've got those tiny studios that people are operating out of their homes?  The production space is obviously their living room?  That's how the mansion has always felt to me.  Even after the restructuring, I never got rid of that feeling of, 'We're working out of someone's fucking house.'  I mean, we are.  The production quality we've gotten out of the mansion has been fantastic, and nothing is jury-rigged, but I've always had an inferiority complex working there.  Think about all the people who've inferred that Inana is 'just some small studio.'  Well, we must be, we work out of a damn house."
     I just nodded silently.  It was her hang-up, not mine.  After a while, I asked, "So, are there any special features you'd want in the new place?"
     She pondered, then said, "I want.... a good kitchen.  One like we have right now, in fact.  To many offices have half-ass places to prepare food in the break areas or whatever.  Not only do I want our new studio to have a very complete and quality kitchen, I want it to feel like a kitchen in someone's home.  It should be, uh, 'inviting' is probably the word I'm looking for.   The kitchen should have a very welcoming, human feel to it.  I want people to hang around there."
     "Okay, uh.... Why?"
     "Dammit, I want the sense of community we have at Inana to continue.  We're a team, and we're close.  If we grow like we're talking about, I'm worried everyone will start to become distant.  We won't have the sort of 'us against the world' vibe Inana has had since we made 'Bewitched,' we'll just be another damn business."
     I chuckled and said, "Don't worry about that.  Becoming a performer, or even being on crew, will still be hard.  All our new hires should still be made to feel welcome, the way they have been.  They made the cut to be brought on, so they have nothing to prove.  They're already part of the family.  Also, no matter how mainstream the whole 'smart porn' thing gets, a healthy percentage of our fellow citizens will still say, 'It's just porn!'  The Inana girls are still going to be marginalized as porn sluts, and not actresses.  And the rest of the industry will still be in LA.  Don't worry, we'll still be the iconoclasts we have been."

     Hustler Video was the first of the majors to try and give Inana a run for the money, and they did damn well.  Their contribution was --- get this --- a Western.  Horses, big hats, saloons, six guns, the whole nine yards.  It was about a group of saloon floozies who decide to pool their money and buy a ranch.  Of course, for that they'll need cowboys and ranch hands, and their litmus for hiring was a bit, uh, unusual.  If you like sex in the great outdoors, this feature was a box of magic wishes.  It got four and a half stars out of Adult Video News, and good reviews from the adult magazines.  Rumor had it sales were brisk.
     After I saw it, I called up my friend Lawrence Pelton at Hustler Video, a man in his fifties who looks like an off-duty small-town sheriff, talks like Tom Carvel, and is the number one altruist in the adult video industry.  He believes there is strength in numbers, and the adult video industry should be willing to form a united front.  Sure, there's competition between studios, but there shouldn't be animosity.  The studios should be willing to form alliances, temporary or permanent, to accomplish goals.... like producing high quality, "big" budget features.
     "Larry, ya goon, I love 'Saddle Tramps,'" I said over the phone.  "Your cinematography  is gorgeous, the plot is tight, great performances and dialogue, good balance of drama and humor, the fuck scenes are varied and well-done....  Damn dude, I wish I'd made that movie."
     "And I wish I'd made 'Succubus," laughed Pelton.  "Now we're even.  So what's in the works with you right now?"
     "'Miss Treatment' is headed for the duplicators, all the promo copies have been sent out, and I'm co-writing a script --- really, it's kind of a re-write job --- with the girl who wrote Miss Treatment.  Her name is Mallory Ollafsen, she's a Minnesota transplant, an out lesbian, a meter reader by trade, and probably has one of the most creative minds I've ever seen.  When we first met, I'd sort of knocked around the idea of her being a screen writer for Inana.  Being from Minnesota, she blushed and demurred, and didn't respond.  Well, it would seem she did like the idea.  The next time I brought the subject up, she said, 'Oh, I read a couple books on screen writing, and I've written two scripts, and I've created outlines for a bunch more.'  Okay, then.  She gave me brief descriptions of the two completed scripts, and I asked her to send one of them down.  That one was 'Miss Treatment.'  I may have mentioned it, but 'Miss Treatment' has some of the most savage, awesome satire I've ever seen or heard.  Mallory skewered almost every aspect of the whole 'alternative medicine' scene I can think of.  Like a woman with six kids walking into a health food store and buying homeopathic birth control pills.  When we did our initial read-through, I realized that at some point, everyone had gotten a little bugged: Mallory had bashed a sacred cow they had, some sort of medical hocus-pocus they believed.  That's when I knew I had a winner of a script.  Good satire needs to be willing to leave wounds, and this one does."
     Pelton said, "Hold on, step back a second.  What did you say?  A woman with six kids goes into a health food store and buys.... what?"
     "Homeopathic birth control pills.  You understand what homeopathy is, right?"
     "Yeah, it's that bullshit about water having memory....."  He paused, then began howling with laughter, and didn't stop for at least thirty seconds.  When he stopped, he said, "Oh, that is classic!  Is the whole feature like that?"
     I told him, "Well, that one is my favorite gag, but yeah.  All these smooth, awesome rips on anyone who's ever had a coffee enema or went to Tijuana so they could purchase Laetrile.  The story itself is about one of those woo-hoo chiropractors who do 'healing touch' chiropractic.  The ones who claim all sorts of shit can be cured through spinal manipulation.  Our girl, Skye Tyler, has some incredibly revolutionary ideas about 'healing touch.'  She's no longer manipulating your spine, let's put it that way.  Basically, her chiropractic office is more like massage parlor, only instead of these harsh women offering you a 'happy ending' for $40, her therapists are these earnest, bright-eyed girls.  They're a little spacey, but they honestly believe in what they're doing.  Half their clients are just looking to get off, the other half are new age neurotics, Age of Aquarius hypochondriacs.  We got great performances out of everybody, they're the sort of people you meet who seem sane enough at first, but after about five minutes of conversation, you're consciously reminding yourself to not roll your eyes whenever they're talking.  Dingbats who evangelize about how magnetic bracelets can prevent cancer, or whatever.  People you just want to look in the eye and tell them they're full of shit."
     "Remember, I'm in LA, we got plenty of those people around here," rasped Pelton.  "Some of 'em work for us.  I mean, what the hell does niacin even do?  I know it's a necessary vitamin, but should you be eating fifteen niacin supplements a day?  We got one idiot here in the office who does."  After a pause, he said, "So, what's next in the hopper?  You tell me yours, I'll tell you mine."
     "A rock and roll movie," I told him.  "A young girl wants to be a rock star.  She's only mediocre with a guitar, but she's a whiz with groupies of both genders.  Also, she's sort of being mentored by a local hero, a Joan Jett type, played by Becky.  Feather is the rock star wannabe.  Don't worry, it's not gonna have as much music as 'Rocker Girls' had.  With that one, it never struck me that not everyone loves hardcore punk as much as I do."
     Pelton's harsh cackle came down the line.  "Yeah, your punk rock sex movie.  I won't lie, Lenny. When I first saw 'Rocker Girls,' I was wondering what sort of mutant made the damn thing.  Then, well, I met you, so it made a lot more sense."
     "I paid Ella Belle $2000 to get that mohawk.  I still consider it money well spent.  So, what's your next big triumph gonna be?"
     "A comedy,"  said Pelton.  "Between 'Temporary Pleasures' and 'Good Girl/Bad Girl, you inspired me, Lenny.  It''s another period piece.  It's set in the Sixties, and it's about a group of would-be flower children.  They're really into the ideas of mind expansion and free love, but they're such ingrained products of the suburbs, they can't pull off the routine well.  And they're not in San Francisco, they're in Dayton, Ohio.  Still, you can probably guess they spend a lot of time working on the whole 'free love' idea."
     "Good," I said.  "Would-be hippie chicks in Dayton would still be shaving their legs.  Lemme guess, they try to smoke banana peels at some point?  They can't find LSD, so they chug cough syrup and pretend?  Draft cards don't get burned, just a little singed."
    "Along those lines.  "They decide to start cooking and eating vegetarian, but somehow think ground beef isn't an animal product.  Their commune --- a three bedroom apartment --- is the only one whose 'vegetarian' meals involve cheeseburgers twice a week."
     I told Pelton, "Naw, have 'em eating hot dogs.  Other hippies will ask them about it, and they'll put up the argument that since no one really knows what hot dogs are made of, who's to say they aren't vegetarian?"
     Pelton paused, then laughed again.  He said, "Lenny, that's perfect.  Ah....  You mind if I use that?  We're still not up to the final draft of the script, and that is perfect for these people."
     "All yours, Larry."

     That conversation happened all the way back in December.  After Inana had purchased the warehouse, Pelton congratulated me and Angel for having forward thinking and owning our own production space,  Hustler's sound stages were modern and professional, but were in leased light industrial spaces.  Now, Pelton was going to meet me and Bekka at the warehouse to see how things were progressing.
     Pelton pulled in the gate and spotted us standing by the Falcon.  He got out of his car, but didn't immediately approach.  He was staring in awe at the size of the warehouse.... And he was looking at the witch of it, not the length.  He walked up and shook hands, then said, "Just how the hell much space do you have?"
     "A metric shitload," I told him.  "Not all of it is gonna be monopolized, though.  When we open for production, there's still gonna be a huge amount of space that's totally empty.  But in a couple more years, if we decide we need a few more sound stages, we have the room to put them.
     "Also, all our shit will be in one place.  Right now our set guys, Campbell and Green, are having to run around to five different self-storage places to gather up what they need for sets.  All that stuff will be here, and organized.  We're gonna have our editing suites on site.  Right now, our editors are up in LA.  Angel told them that if they want to continue working for Inana, they're gonna have to move down here.  But Angel also told them the work environment will be nicer, the newest and best equipment in the suites, and Angel will even pay for their moves.  Shall we?"
     Walking up to the front, I told Pelton the giant rolling door would be going away, walled off.  The one at the far end of the warehouse would remain.  I pointed out the metal framing that advanced from in front of the pedestrian door.  This would be a security alcove.  Bulletproof glass would surround it.  There would be a desk and a chair, almost certainly occupied by a Hell's Angel.  The desk would have a buzzer to open the pedestrian door, which would be activated by the Angel.  There would also be a phone, and a binder.  The binder would have the names of everyone connected to Inana, who should be admitted.  (Performers and crew also had special Inana ID cards.)  There would also be a list, updated daily, of anyone with an appointment at the studio.  All others would have to stand there under the steely gaze of an outlaw hooligan while he called up to the offices, saying some dude named John Whoozis is here and wants to talk to so-and-so.  Hey, so-and-so?  This is Spike downstairs.  You know some bastard named John Whoozis?  He's here.  Okay, later.  Then the Hell's Angel would smile widely, press the button for the door buzzer, and say, Please enter, sir, so-and-so is expecting you.  Have a nice day.
     We went upstairs first.  The second floor would contain the editing suites, office space, meeting rooms, and a large insulated room for archived videotape.  My office would be up there, as well as one for Bekka.  She was doing more producing --- the "Cum-Crazy Crystal" series of loops were going like crazy, and she was also doing some production/management of our regular loops --- and needed her own space.  There would be one office for Angel and Vinny, which would be vacant a lot of the time.  Angel's attitude was, if Lenny got Inana to where it is without me hanging around, then my presence will only jam things up.  Angel or Vinny would stop by every now and again (more often than they used to, a cash cow like Inana couldn't be left to the fates) but at most stay overnight.
     That  was another addition to the second floor: living space.  Not as ostentatious as the mansion penthouse, there was still a well-appointed one bedroom space for use by Angel, Vinny, or any strays I may have picked up.
     Downstairs, the walls and sound padding were up in the sound stages.  They had higher ceilings than at the mansion, and were roomier.  All four were different sizes, to accommodate whatever activity would be happening.  The light racks were also in.  Along the south wall were ten small wooden rooms with exhaust fans.  These were the shower rooms, each containing their own water heater.  An alcove between the fifth and sixth one would be where fresh towels and the laundry hamper sat.
     Up front, there was a reception area and secretary space for Gina.  A mail room was the next door along.  We'd been getting enough mail that a staff had been hired, to sort and file, and also read fan mail for the Inana girls.  Fan mail would be opened and quickly read over, to see if this letter had anything remotely interesting or unusual about it.  It was sad to say, but we'd reached a point where our stars, Becky Page, Feather, Ella Belle, Skye Tyler, and now Gayla Goode, just couldn't handle reading the volume of fan mail anymore.  Every night, all night, would have to be devoted to reading missives from a wide variety of fans.  Some wrote to say (Inana girl) was just the most special woman, such talent and beauty.  Some said how they would enjoy taking their nine inches of throbbing manhood and insert into various bodily orifices of (Inana girl) while she was tied to their apartment radiator and slathered with Kaopectate.  Some just had a scrap of paper with a message along the lines of "So what do you think?" and a Polaroid of some dude's dick.  Some asked (Inana girl) to run away with them, the sender would make sure she never wanted in life, or in love.  And if Skye Tyler wants to come along too, that would be so totally hot, you know?
     Along with the four main sound stages, there were two mini stages.  These were for interviews.  In the past interviewing a prospective Inana performer meant monopolizing one of the three sound stages at the mansion.  We didn't need all that room for the interviews.  One interview was a still photo shoot (to gauge a hopeful's shyness with his or her body, and to see if they could follow basic stage direction) and the big one, the video interview.  The "interview" consisted of a director, a camera operator the hopeful, an Inana performer of the opposite sex, and me.  Once we were in and running, Bekka would also be watching.  The hopeful and the stud or slut would suck and fuck in different arrangements, the hopeful trying to look natural, interested, aroused, and hot.  Basically, the hopeful had to look like they were having the sex of a lifetime in front of a handful of people they didn't really know, with a partner they didn't know.  Also, the partner has probably been around Inana for a while, so he or she is just going through the motions.  The hopeful had to disregard the mild boredom their partner was certainly suffering, and bring their A game.
     There were four makeup studios.  We knew one would probably be vacant for a while, but we wanted it in place anyway.  Lights, lights, lights, comfy chairs like in barber shops, lots of mirrors, and shampoo sinks were in place.  Jeanette and Pill had seen the studios and squealed so long and loud, dogs as far away as Denver were being rendered deaf and sterile.  All the lights were built in, nothing hanging from nails in the wall.  Pill congratulated us on having the sense to install shampoo sinks made of black porcelain.  That way, if there was hair dye being used, it wouldn't stain the sink.
     Over lunch, Pelton said, "That is one hell of a studio you're gonna have, Lenny.  You're putting Hustler to shame.  We've got good facilities, but we also have had to improvise in a lot of areas.  Given our volume of production, we have stages scattered around.  Centralizing and doing a major build-out or refurb like you're doing always seemed like an extravagance.  These day, I'm thinking we were short-sighted."
     I shrugged.  "Yeah, well....  Inana has done shit different since the first day I got my own office.  It's like, I didn't know I was breaking the rules, because I never knew the rules to begin with.  I'd just run with what made the most sense to me, and with bits of advice from Angel or Vinny.  It never came into my mind that everyone else in the industry would have seen how I was doing things at Inana and started screaming, 'That's not how things work in this business!'"
     With a grin, Pelton said, "They are now.  The other studios have figured out if they want Inana's success, they ought to pay attention to how Inana does things."
     "There was certainly resistance to that idea.  I told you about dealing with that prick from Leisure Time, Ron Haley.  He was hearing how I ran Inana and thinking, 'What a bunch of idiots.'  I was hearing him talk about Leisure Time and thinking, 'What a shithole.'  Haley, and I guess a bunch of others at Leisure Time, were trying to put out a major feature, a 'Bewitched'-buster.  The thing was, they didn't get for that to happen, they couldn't produce it like they'd been producing their releases.  What Inana spent on 'Succubus,' Leisure Time would spend on fifteen features.  They just couldn't wrap their brains around spending money to get better results.
     "When I was dealing with Haley, they had a script, or so they said. Something about a woman who gains psychic powers when she has sex.  They couldn't put the script for bed.  Okay, they want a movie where a woman has telekinesis, she can move things with her mind.  To not look hokey, they'd need some special effects work, right?  No, too expensive, we'll re-write the scene so we won't need the effects.  I was given the impression the script was constantly being passed around among their big-wigs, who would add some of their own ideas and edit what was already there.  Nothing got locked down.  If you're going to write by committee, you need a head writer, a final arbiter.  And past him, a talented editor.  The script had been 'almost finished' for about two months.
     "It cost them one of their girls, a little chick named Trish.  Leisure Time made the decision that girls appearing in features would not appear in loops, and vice versa.  That meant there were all these girls, the feature stars, who were sitting around with zero income, waiting for something to happen.  Trish was one of them.  She's already had a string of really shitty luck in her life, and she asked me if Inana was hiring.  I told her our hiring practices, but it sounded like she'd work well, so come on down.  We took her on, which was a good thing.  Trish was down to her last hundred dollars, and everything she owned right then fit in a backpack and a trash bag.  Leisure Time lost a damn good performer because they were fucking around with their script instead of putting it to bed.
     "Anyway, Haley is giving me shit about how I spend money.  How my production costs are way out of line.  I kept telling him no, that's how much it cost to complete the project in a way we were happy with.  Also, look at the sales for that feature, our ROI is awesome.  Really, Leisure Time wanted to make a feature as good as 'Bewitched,' but refused to spend the money to do so.
     "Haley starts in on how I overpay people.  Inana's fluffers get $500 a day --- there's only one working per day --- and our studs get $300 for a scene, and we pay for all those blood tests, and blah blah blah.  I'm thinking, 'Yeah, and?'  All that money going out is coming back in again tenfold.  My studs earn enough that they can live on the money, so they don't go anywhere.  My fluffers....  Well, maybe it's easy to hire a fluff girl in LA, but not in Dago.  I don't want them going anywhere either.  Besides, they double as script girls during production of a feature.  And I pay for those weekly blood tests so everyone stays fucking healthy, duh!  Inana has never had to shut down for two weeks while everyone gets treated for the clap, you know?  Besides, the tests mean my performers aren't working with fears for their health in the backs of their minds.
     "I really, really hope Haley's attitude towards his performers and crew were not a reflection of Leisure Time's attitude.  Every girl was either 'bitch' or 'slut,' crew were dummies who could be replaced in ten minutes headhunting at the TV studios.  Leisure Time brags about having 'fresh new faces!'  In other words, they can't retain anyone.  Haley was mystified how I managed to retain all that talent, so I straight up told him, treat people well, they'll bust their ass for you.  Treat 'em like shit, they're gone by the next morning.  You wouldn't believe the look I got.  The very suggestion his girls be treated with respect was totally alien to him.
     "So, I'm still waiting for Leisure Time's magnum opus.  I heard Haley quit, so that should help things in general around there.  Vivid is supposed to have a couple mega-features in the works, but they knock out so many features as it is, I'm not sure what to watch for.  One thing I'll say about Vivid, their technical production is great.  They've got people with good eyes behind their cameras, they get good footage, and the editing is flawless.  The thing is, their features are still just the same ol', same ol' trite junk the industry has made for years, no real entertainment, just suck and fuck interspersed with random dialogue, performed by people who only saw the script that morning.
     "That was another issue with Haley.  He was shocked --- shocked! --- to hear Inana spends three weeks on pre-production: running lines, blocking, character development, all the stuff you need to do so your feature looks better than a grade school Thanksgiving pageant.  And we paid our performers for that time.  Well duh, of course we pay them, they're at work.  Haley thought that was yet another example of Inana's frivolous spending.  His bitches and sluts get their scripts in the morning, it ain't Shakespeare, bam boom, production is done in six days.  Uh huh.  And nobody gives a ripe fuck about your feature, because except for the suck and fuck, there's nothing worth watching.  What a fuckin' idiot."
     Pelton regarded me with an amused grin after this long tirade.  He said, "You'll probably be happy to know Inana's production and management style is being taken into consideration, and emulated.... to a degree."  He sighed.  "You're right.  Things have been done in the industry the same way since the Seventies.  Everyone had a formula down, and everyone was making money.  You know what, Lenny?  I thought you were a grade A asshole for a while, after I first saw 'Bewitched' and 'Dangerous Desires.'  It pissed me off: here's this kid --- some damn kid --- who's knocking out hardcore features that were actually really damn fun to watch, they worked as full movies.  And the way he makes those features is totally contradictory to how we've all done things in the industry for a long time.  That damn kid isn't playing by the rules, he should be failing.... Only he's not, he's releasing truly intelligent features that are selling better than a lot of the other studio's features combined.  Everybody felt like you were thumbing your nose at them, you were an obnoxious young punk, some asshole who had no respect for his elders in the industry.
     "I think for me, and a lot of other people, it really hurt our pride to see Inana do so well.  Inana was, in so many words, telling us our tried-and-true formulas were bullshit.  If we wanted to emulate Inana's success, we'd have to drastically alter how we did things.  Well, hell.  We've all been around this business for years.  We've been doing things wrong all that time?  And the worst part was, the person slapping us all in the head and rubbing our noses in our mistakes is some punk rock psycho from San Diego, some kid, a nobody.  We hated the message.  And the messenger pissed off even more, the messenger looks like he fences stolen car stereos for a living."
     "And until recently, the messenger had been moving meth in volume as a career," I grinned.
     Haley laughed at this.  "Are you serious?"
     I rolled my eyes and said, "When I first started working for Inana, I was exactly the sort of thug everyone thinks I am.  Breakfast every morning was three beers and a beef stick.  I was dealing meth for a living.  I brawled, more or less for fun, I liked a good bar fight.  You would have hated my music.... Okay, you'll still hate my music.  Yeah man, I was a fucking class act.
     "Angel Morelli is the one who straightened me up, in a lot of ways.  He gave credit for the brains to run the studio, and then just turned me loose to do so, once he'd trained me.  When I decided it was time for Inana do make real features, he went along with it.  I'd knock out a script, and him and Vinny would say, 'Hey, this is good stuff, keep it up.'  So I did.  My fourth feature was 'Bewitched.'  And, well, you know how things went from there.
     :"The other thing that got me straightened out was Bekka.  I was, and still am, madly in love with her.  It dawned on me over time that, hey, I want this person in my life.  If I'm in prison for dealing meth, she won't be.  If I catch a blade in a brawl and bleed out, she really won't be.  Maybe if I get my shit together, I'll have her around.  Lo and behold, it worked.  And despite all the headaches and media abuse and Christian picketers and being shot twice at work and massive stress, I'm a really fucking happy person.  I have Bekka, and that will always keep me happy.  I think that's all I ever really wanted out of life."
     Bekka leaned over to kiss my cheek and say, "Sei l'amore della mia vita."
     "Grazie amore mio," I replied.

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