Monday, April 3, 2017

Groove (Part 3)

     There were eleven Inana folks gathered at the mansion Friday evening, all looking forward to getting high on Ecstasy and wreaking havoc in public.  Present were Bekka, Sue, Toxica, Jenna Ng, Demetrius, Pill, Andy, Sally, Melissa, Jolene, and Stefano.  The hits had been distributed and washed down with the first beers of the night, everyone chatting and batting about ideas for which neighborhood in San Diego to terrorize.  The collective porn people were feeling gung-ho already.

      Well, almost all of them.  Stefano was a ball of apprehension.  This was very, very new to him.  First off, with the exception of Sally, everyone present made a living engaging in various sex acts on sound stages....  And Sally was a director and camera operator, she was quite used to seeing the whole spectacle.  Stefano had watched loops being produced on two occasions, and had nearly fainted from discomfort both times.  The casual, objective way action took place was as big of a shock as the actual intercourse.  He'd been around naked women two times in his life, and both times it was just him and the girl, alone.  He'd been at Inana for a month now, and still wasn't comfortable with the constant nudity of either gender.
     Also, Stefano was very much intimidated by the Inana Girls.  Sixteen years of Catholic schools had not prepared him for the personalities of porn stars.  The concept of "modesty" seemed to be utterly foreign to the women at Inana.  Catholic girls were (mostly) quiet, a bit shy, easy to make blush.  Every interaction he'd had with the women present had cowed him.  They'd been aggressively friendly when first meeting him, clothed or nude.  Given their fashion sense, Toxica and Sue would have had him terrified if they'd been walking down the street towards him, as total strangers.  Directly interacting with either one had been even more nerve-racking as dealing with the bullies in high school.  Both had been perfectly friendly, but....  My God, they were like superheroes out of a dirty comic book.  So was Bekka, the famous Becky Page.  At least Lenny wasn't there that night.
     He'd washed down his hit of Ecstasy with his beer, like everyone else, then stood and tried to look like he belonged there.  The others looked fashionable, if not a bit risque.  Stefano had gone home and changed into Dockers, a U2 concert t-shirt, and Adidas, far less formal than how he looked during the day.  He was the only one at Inana wearing a tie, except for when his Uncle Angel was down from LA to check on things.  Even then, Angel would be in a $3000 tailored suit.  Sue and Bekka had thier goth-hooker look going, Pill and Toxica were the stereotypes of "punk rock sluts," Demetrius was urbane black hipster, Jenna, Sue, and Sally were in pretty straightforward club wear. Melissa was wearing one of her modest wool skirts, but with a pair of fuck-me pumps and a silk sleeveless blouse, good and tight, showing off her lack of a bra.  Andy was in a black dress shirt, stone-washed Levis, and Doc Marten creepers.  Stefano felt like he may as well be wearing a flashing sign saying "NERD."
    Stefano stood near Demetrius, Sally, and Bekka as the three talked about various aspects of their current project, producing episodes of "Co-Ed Housing."  This was one of several half-hour mini-features Inana was making, the episodes like in any TV series.  "Co-Ed Housing" was an ensemble drama set in a college dorm, following six sets of roommates (three male, three female) as they searched for love as undergrads.  This being porn, the "love" they were searching for was well-documented on video.
     "So how many episodes do you honestly see happening?" Demetrius asked Bekka, who was acting as producer for the series.
     "Totally up in the air right now," Bekka answered.  "It's going to depend on our reviews and public response.  Mallory and I have knocked around the idea of expanding 'Co-Ed Housing' to a full hour.  There's a chance of having the series like s dirty version of '90210,' you know?"
     "It just seems like there's not a lot of room for character development..."
     Sally interjected, "Remember, the series' are more or less replacing our loops.  Getting lots of suck and fuck on video will always be the main priority.  The longer it runs, the more your character will get nuanced, don't worry."
     Bekka added, "And if you have an idea to expand the story line, or for the plot of an episode, say something to me and Mallory.  We'll kick around your ideas and see what we come up with.  Just keep in mind the suck and fuck is the priority, like Sally said.  Really, we're making thew world's smartest jack loops.  The ratio of dialogue to sex will always remain about thirty percent to seventy percent.  You'll get your acting chops in, but this is still jack fodder."
     Whacking Stefano on the arm with a smile, Sally said, "Hey Stevie, you've seen the scripts, right?  What's your feeling on how to handle 'Co-Ed Housing'?"
     Stefano's mouth opened as if to speak, with a half-grin.  He froze like that as he racked his brain for details about the scripts.  The other three looked at him patiently.  He finally managed to get out, "Ah....  With twelve main characters and only a half hour's time, um....  Maybe not have, uh, all the characters involved each episode.  Uh....  Unless you do go up to a full hour.  But....  Maybe only have focus on a few of the characters each episode?  Would that work?  I'm not sure, I don't really know what to say...."
     "Good point," Bekka said with a thoughtful frown.  "No sense in trying to cram everybody in each episode.  Maybe some characters only have a few lines of dialogue in passing each episode, and work up a fuller plot around just a couple characters.  Good point, Stevie."
     "That would allow the characters to get more refined," observed Demetrius.  He sighed.  "I have to keep reminding myself, this is porn.  I'm making porn.  Shee-it, I should just be glad I'm working, and have something a little more interesting to do than loops.  You say the series will replace loops entirely?"
     "That's what we'd like," Sally replied.  "Inana's features created such a huge market, and so many fans, it's what we feel should happen.  The fans of the features were hungry for more of our stuff, so they'd pick up our loop videos, and hate them.  They didn't want just suck and fuck, they wanted more complete entertainment.  So, that's why Lenny thought up the idea of doing the series'.  The series' episodes would keep our features fans interested without alienating people who want loops.  None of the series will ever be terribly involved, I don't think.  For God's sake, look at 'Pulse of Night.'  For anyone looking for straight-up jack fodder, that's gonna be the go-to series.  Except for the two staffers --- and the running oral sex joke with the two of them --- it's just going to be the coupling of the week on 'Pulse of Night.'"
     (It should be noted that "Pulse of Night" was set in one of those twenty-four hour yuppie gyms, late at night.  Anyone who's inclined to go work out at three a.m. is going to have an interesting perspective on life.  The series would simply have two (or three) people meeting at the gym and getting busy, no set cast at all....  Except for the two employees working at that hour.  These two, male and female, would pass the time by going down on each other at the front desk.  The running gag was while one staffer was standing at the desk being eaten, they'd have to interact with a customer, the other staffer refusing to stop for the duration.  Imagine having to converse with a customer, face to face, while out of sight someone is doing highly creative things to your genitalia with their mouth.  Each episode would have this running gag happen, about four minutes of screen time.)
     "So what's your favorite series, Stevie?" Bekka asked Stefano.
     Once again, Stefano had to forcefully make himself speak.  He finally choked out, "Uh.... 'Knock, Then Enter,' I guess...?"
     "What do you like about it?"
     (Oh shit oh shit oh shit....)  "It's uh....  I like that it's sort of a parody of 'Three's Company,' you know? I believe people would have liked if the series had dropped the coy flirting between the three main characters and had some sparks fly...."
     Bekka laughed and said, "That's why Lenny and Mallory created it!  They both felt 'Three's Company' not only needed more sexual tension, they figured it would be fun if the three roommmates just gave up being coy and started constantly fooling around, like they should have been.  Jack, Janet, and Chrissy as total libertines.  My only complaint is the humor is as simplistic in 'Knock, Then Enter' as it was in 'Three's Company.'  I like the more subtle stuff Lenny is coming up with for 'Duane and Dolly.'  It's not hyuk-hyuk funny, just humor that makes you grin a lot, you know?"
     Stefano worked up the courage to say, "Um, I'm kind of lost when it comes to 'Duane and Dolly.'  There seems to be a lot of drug humor, and uh, that's never, uh, I've never really, you know...."
     "Really, it's just Lenny making fun of your average suburban stoners," said Sally.  "Think back to the stoners you knew in high school."
     "Um....  There weren't any at my high school.  Not that I know of, anyway.  I went to Catholic school, we had to wear a uniform.  Uh, if anyone was doing drugs, they kept it well-hidden at school."
     "Oh.  Oh, wow.  Well....  Lenny is having fun with some pretty archetypal products of American suburbia, the wasted youth."  Sally sighed and continued, "Okay, maybe you didn't go to school with them but I'm sure you know the people I'm talking about.  The headbangers, the heavy metal fans...."
     Realization hit Stefano. "Oh....  They always have long hair and acne, and wear Iron Maiden t-shirts?  They call everyone 'dude'?"
     "Spot on," Bekka smiled.
     "Okay, yeah.  There were a couple guys like that in my neighborhood.  I tried talking to them a couple times, and they always would end up telling me I was into, uh, 'fag shit.'  It's like they never heard of Dungeons and Dragons!"
     The other three burst out laughing.  Demetrius said, "Role-playing games would be far too intellectually taxing for your average pot-head.  Some of them were probably into RPGs, but they kept it a secret.  Tell me, do you still play?"
     "Yeah," said Stefano.  "Although these days I'm more into the MERP system, Middle Earth Role Player.  Are you familiar?"
     "I am.  Love the concept, love the system even more.  How often do you play?"
     "Well....  I ducked out on my usual match tonight.  I play with a few people from home, I'll drive up and spend the night at a friend's place.  'Home' is Sherman Oaks.  Um, I called and told them I was feeling too tired tonight to make the drive.  I, uh, wanted to see what it would be like to be around, um, you people...."  Stefano trailed off.
     "I'm flattered!" Bekka exclaimed.  "You really want to hang out with the dorks and weirdos from work in your spare time?"
     "What?" queried Stefano.  "You people are really cool!"  He got embarrassed, and said quietly, "Well, you know what I mean...."
     The other three began laughing again.  Sally asserted, "Oh, please!  We are so not cool!"
     Demetrius elbowed Stefano and said, "Hey man, not only am I a black man who grew up in Northridge, I'm a black man who was a hardcore gamer!  Not a lot of other black dudes in the world spend their free time sitting around pretending to be a mage or an elf, you know?"  He paused and said, "We ought to set up a game down here.  Find a few more like-minded people and see how it goes.  Start off with one-shot games, and if the interest is there, have some marathon campaigns.  Some Tolkein-based role-playing sound good?"
     "Uh, yeah," said Stefano nervously.  "But, um, you'd really want to run a campaign with me?  I'm just, you know, kind of a nerd....  Do you think people around here would actually be interested at all?"
     Bekka responded, "Well, I know Ace and Bubba are gamers, they're into AD&D.  I'm not sure if they're familiar with the MERP system or not.  And there's plenty of other people around Inana who would like the diversion.  They'd be noobs, but they'd pick it up quick.  I'm in, I'll bet Lenny would be up for it...."
     Demetrius nudged Stefano again and said, "Man, with you, it's like your nerdiness is front-loaded, you know?  Shit, we all a bunch of nerds around here.  We're just nerdy for different stuff.  Sue is a nerd for surfing.  You know what Jenna does for fun?  Fix old clocks.  How is that not nerdy?  Me, I'd love to start gaming again."
     "I'll go toe to toe with anyone on the planet in Star Trek trivia, original series or Next Generation," said Sally.  "I've been going to the cons since I was fourteen."
     Stefano's eyes suddenly glinted, and he said with a bit of assertiveness, "Okay....  What is the frequency of Pon Farr?"
     "Every seven Vulcan years, and despite rumor, Vulcans can mate any time they want, not just during Pon Farr.  Sex during the state of Pon Farr is ritualized," Sally responded confidently.  "Try me on a hard one."
     "What the hell is Pon Farr?" asked Jenna, drifting up.
     Both Sally and Stefano began giggling like seventh grade girls.  Sally said, "In the Star Trek universe, Pon Farr is, essentially, a state of frenzy for Vulcans.  It's like both male and female Vulcans sort of freak out for a while every seven years, and....  Okay, you'd say Spock was a master of control and rational thought?  That shit goes out the window.  When in Pon Farr, Vulcans have the restraint of drunken college students on Spring Break in Miami."
     Sue's voice suddenly rang out, "Attention, fellow deviants!  We should figure out where the hell we're going tonight!  What area sounds good?"
     "Let's hit the jarhead bars here in Oceanside," suggested Jolene.
     Melissa responded, "Naw.  I hate having to remember to not use big words when I talk to people."  Everyone laughed.
     "Old Town?" said Andy.
     "Probably not a good idea," said Bekka.  "Too many bartenders will remember us from a few weeks ago, and haven't forgiven us yet."
     "How about downtown, the Gaslamp District?" offered Sally.  "A good mix of tourists and local yuppies, easy walking distance from one place to another....  We park in one of the all-night garages, we'll be good to go."
     "The downside is lots of cops," said Sue.  "We'd have to keep it a bit reined in, you know?  No getting tits out in the bars."
     "So we flash, not go topless," said Jenna.  "Besides, one flash from Melissa or Jolene is as good as me being topless the whole time, with these tiny things."  Everyone laughed.
     "We leave now, the first good rush from the 'E' will hit us just as we're parking," said Toxica.  "We'll be in just the right mood."
     So the Gaslamp District in downtown San Diego was agreed upon.  The Gaslamp District was the result of a major gentrification effort by the city, to help draw tourist dollars downtown.  Until the early Eighties, downtown San Diego was really low-brow.  Horton Plaza, with its fountain, was the focal point of existence for every wino in the area.  Broadway was lined with titty bars, tattoo parlors, peep shows, and porn shops catering to the Navy swabs.  Plenty of hookers working out of the SRO hotels.  It was an exercise in sleaze.
     Now, "Horton Plaza" was a large shopping mall.  The skin shops on Broadway had been squeezed out.  And the Gaslamp District was home to trendy and tony bars and restaurants, all with a turn-of-the-century feel.  A Smut 'N' Stuff store was the last source of porn in the area.  Both the tourists and cubicle-dwellers from downtown packed into the area, especially on weekend nights.  Downtown is flat and compact, so you can visit a lot of different places with little physical exertion (or having to move your car).
     Car-pooling made the most sense.  Bekka was driving Lenny's Fleetwood, to aid with this.  Sue had her own Sedan De Ville.  It was agreed that so long as the more narrow-butted among the revelers rode up front, all eleven would fit in the two Cadillacs.  Bekka (at the wheel), Jenna, and Pill occupied the front seat of the Fleetwood, with Toxica, Stefano, and Melissa in the rear.  Stefano was in the middle, sandwiched by the two scary girls.  Stefano sat and hoped he wasn't sweating too audibly.  To try and break the ice, he said to Toxica, "So, um, you're into the, uh, whole punk rock thing, huh?"
     Pill immediately inserted, "She's just another fucking poser.  A fucking fashion tramp."
     Toxica sighed quietly and said, "Yeah, fair enough.  I'm a poser."
     "Huh?" said Stefano.
     "I was never that deep into the hardcore scene.  But when I started my career, I wanted to be memorable, I really wanted to stand out but still have appeal.  It's all about building a brand, you know?  Just like Bekka did with Becky Page...."
     Bekka inserted, "Except Becky Page wasn't built by me, not really.  Okay, I had the haircut and the goth fashion sense and the shaved pussy, but the whole mystique about Becky Page was created by my fans and the media.  And I'd had my look for eight damn years of doing loops before anyone gave a shit."
     "But it worked," said Toxica.  "I've told you what an influence you've been on my career."  Turning to Stefano, she said, "Look, if I was seriously hardcore punk, I'd have a hell of a lot more ink and piercings.  My hair would be shorter and crazier, maybe even a mohawk.  I wanted a wild look, something that felt sorta dangerous, but wasn't too threatening.  To be a star in any arena of the entertainment industry, you've got to be accessible to Middle America.  If I had piercings everywhere and lots of ink, I'd just scare the shit out of the doofuses in Indiana or Kansas or wherever.  So....  I kept my look toned down.  I really am a poser bitch, and my look is a sham.  I like my look, but I'm not a serious punk rock girl like Pill or Feather."
     Pill said, "Oh Jesus.  When Feather was first campaigning to work at Inana, she had a safety pin in her cheek, and she looked like she'd had her hair cut by a spastic with a pair of pruning shears.  My hair was about the same, and with four different colors at once.  Lenny had to tell us both we had to tone it down, for exactly why you just said: we'd be scaring everyone not in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City.  Feather had been bugging Lenny to hire her about five months before her eighteenth birthday, she'd show up at the mansion and try to sort of just hang out.  Lenny told her if she showed up for her interviews with the safety pin still in her cheek, he wouldn't even bother with her.  She showed up with her hair in a choir-boy cut bleached blonde and no safety pin.  Good enough."
     "But Elspeth had a mohawk in 'Rocker Girls'...." said Melissa.
     "Which Lenny paid her two grand to get," replied Bekka.  "She had a good second lead, so she got that pay, plus the two grand for the mohawk.  Really, she rendered herself pretty much unemployable until her hair grew back out....  And even then, she cheated!  She got a damn good wig, totally natural looking, and worked in that for a few months until she had hair again."
     "So....  I guess me getting my clitoral hood pierced would cost me my job, huh," asked Jenna.
     Bekka considered and replied, "If you got a small, delicate hoop installed, something....  Well, feminine....  you'd be okay.  If you had a big-ass ten-gauge ring with a huge lock-bead on it put in, that would be a major problem.  You'd be fine if you were working at the Dirty Angel studio up in Van Nuys, but...."
     "What's that?" asked Melissa.
     "Dirty Angel is another studio Angel and Vinny Morelli own, it's their kink studio.  B&D, medium-grade S&M, fetish, domination, that sorta stuff.  Heavy body mods are a-ok around Dirty Angel, they encourage it.  At their other five studios, we're going for a vanilla feel.  Inana may be the famous one, but our sex is still pretty vanilla."
     "Wait, Angel and Vinny own six different studios?" asked Jenna.
     Bekka replied, "Yeah.  There's Inana, there's Dirty Angel, there's Man-Crush, which is their gay studio, and.... I can't even remember the names of the other three.  They're just cranking out standard suck and fuck loops, nothing special.  Remember, Inana was just another loop studio for years, until Angel gave Lenny the job of running the place.  It was Lenny that made Inana what it is."
     Stefano was feeling scandalized.  "Oh my God.  My uncle owns a gay porn studio?"
     "Sure does.  Man-Crush has been a good investment."
     "How did that happen?  Why did he decide to to make gay porn?"
     Bekka laughed.  "Because it was a good fucking investment, why else?  Gay men like their porn as much as straight men, and happily spend plenty of money on it.  It's a major part of the industry, why would Angel and Vinny ignore it?  It's just business."
     "Should we explain the concept of 'gay for pay' to Stevie?" chuckled Melissa.
     "What's that?" asked Stefano.
     The whole car burst into laughter.  Lighting a cigarette, Toxica said, "It's real simple.  You don't have to be gay to appear in gay porn, you only have to be able to get your cock hard.  John Holmes did gay for pay.  So has Peter North and even Ron Jeremy.  There's plenty of studs who've done gay porn, just for the money.  They're not gay in real life, they want a damn pay check, you know?  And if that means having another man sucking your cock --- or sucking another man's cock --- then what the hell, you know?"
     "Oh.... wow.  I don't think I could ever, uh...."
     "Most men couldn't," said Pill.  "But like we keep telling you, Stevie, it's called performance for a reason."
     A few miles passed in relative silence.  Pill was just about to start fiddling with the stereo when Stefano piped up with, "Can I ask what's probably a dumb question?"
     "Lay it on us, Stevie," said Jenna.
     "Um, this drug Ecstasy, uh....  What's it going to do to me?"
     All the girls started to laugh, but quickly cut themselves off, realizing Stefano would just feel like they were making fun of him.  Jenna said, "It's going to make you feel very, very happy."
     Elaborating, Pill replied, "Ecstasy gives you energy, euphoria, confidence....  You feel happy, you feel self-assured, and you're just fucking overjoyed to meet everyone you come across.  You're going to have fun just being around other people."
     "What other drugs have you taken?" asked Bekka.
     After a pause, Stefano said, "Um.... none."
     "Yeah.  I just....  I've always heard bad things about drugs, and they always seemed really scary and intimidating, you know?  And I didn't like the idea of just, I dunno, sitting there staring into space for a long time."
     Melissa snorted, "Okay, then never try heroin, or any opiate.  I'd say the same thing about smoking weed, but that sort of varies from person to person."
     "Great, now I feel like a total cunt," groused Bekka from behind the steering wheel.  "You'd gotten this far in life without taking drugs, and here I am handing you fucking Ecstasy like it's no big deal.  I feel like I corrupted you."
     "Oh, hey," Stefano protested.  "If I didn't want to take it, I wouldn't have.  It was like, okay, I've never done this, but everyone else seemed totally fine and relaxed about taking it, so I figured, 'Hey, how bad can it be?'"  He paused.  "I guess it's kinda weird to have never taken drugs in your life, huh."
     Pill leaned over the seat and said, "You know who Frank Zappa is, right?  And how crazy his music can be?  Frank Zappa smoked pot once in his life.  He drank one beer in his life.  When he smoked pot, afterwards he thought to himself, 'Well, that was three hours I could have spent working on my music,' and never touched the stuff again.  He drank a beer, decided he didn't like the taste, and never touched another drop of alcohol.  Frank Zappa comes up with the most insane art and music, and his mind is pretty much unfettered by any drugs.  So it may be unusual to stay totally sober your whole life, it's not a bad thing.  It's pretty cool, actually."
     Melissa put a hand on Stefano's knee.  "Tell you what, Stevie.  Hang with me tonight.  If you start feeling odd or out of control, you can just sit and talk to me, tell me how you're feeling, and I'll help you interpret it.  Remember, Ecstasy is an experience, but it's not a trip, like LSD or mushrooms.  You won't feel out of control, if anything, you'll feel the opposite.  But if you do feel a little weird, you and me can just find someplace quiet to sit and talk.  Is that okay with you?"
     Gratitude flowed through Stefano's brain.  "Yeah.  Thanks a lot.  Thank you."  Another pause.  "So, uh, what's the plan tonight?"
     Giggles filled the car.  "Fucking with people's heads," answered Toxica.
     "Okay....  How?"
     Pill responded, "Look.  We're a bunch of porn sluts.  While the Inana Girls do have some respect in the world, ultimately we're still thought of as a bunch of sluts.  We hear it all the time, in fan mail and in the media.  Bekka, Sue, and Jackie figured out one night that there's a lot of cathartic release in living up to our reputations, and in a really outlandish way.  You think we're exhibitionist nymphos and sluts, because we fuck on camera?  Fine, we'll show you just how wild we can be!  We started going to places with a real white-bread, homogeneous clientele and....  Not acting sleazy, but being very open about who we are and what we do, treating our jobs as just the most normal thing in the world.  A group of auto mechanics will talk shop over a few drinks, right, and not really care who's listening?  Why shouldn't we?  We'll drag people around us into our conversations.... Only we're discussing anal sex, and how to take a good money shot, and all the other details of our jobs."
     "Most people don't consider casually chatting about deep-throating a guy normal conversation," giggled Toxica.  "Or arguing about whose nipples get longer when stimulated....  And then having a comparison.  We treat it like perfectly acceptable topics and behavior to engage in public.  And if someone is bugged and lets us know, we'll be utterly confused about why they're bugged.  Hey, we're just talking about work, no big deal.  What's the problem?  Don't you compare the flavors of different men's semen you work with?  It's just a way of razzing people for the fun of it."
     "Um....  I'm not sure I'll have much to contribute," Stefano said nervously.
     "Don't worry," said Jenna.  "Just sit and look natural, like you hear this shit all the time, you know?"
     Pill snickered, "And you do hear this shit all the time!  You've eaten lunch with us enough to get used to it!"
     "Well....  I'm trying," Stefano mumbled.  The rest of the car burst into laughter.

     Downtown, the two Cadillacs pulled into the Horton Plaza parking structure.  Most places in the Gaslamp District would validate their parking stubs, especially with the number of drinks ordered.  Getting out of the Fleetwood, Stefano felt....  energized.  On top of the world.  Totally confident.  He was going to spend the evening in the company of porn stars, women other guys would be nervous about being with....  But hey!  These were co-workers, not strangers!  They were work friends, people he was around all the time, why should he be nervous?  (He was also glad he'd tied a flannel shirt around his waist before leaving home.  Downtown San Diego is right on the water, and got chilly on autumn evenings.)
     The first destination was Broderick's Saloon, a notorious tourist trap.  Male employees wore spats and striped vests, the garb on the females would best be described as "frilly."  Ragtime piano played resoundingly.  The place was already pretty crowded, but the crew managed to find two tables and drag them together, right in the thick of things.  Other patrons took in their arrival with questioning looks: hey, that's Susan Black, and....  Oh my God, that's Becky Page!  And these other girls look familiar too, for the most part.  There was plenty of nudging and pointing coming from the tables and booths around them.  Seating was packed in tight enough other patrons would be able to eavesdrop without any effort.
     While walking there, Melissa had advised Stefano that one of the effects of Ecstasy was a much higher tolerance for alcohol.  While he shouldn't start pounding shots like they were Kool-Aid, he could pretty much knock back beer all he wanted without worrying about developing too heavy of a buzz.  Stefano said candidly, "Okay, great.  You know, I was worried I was going to have a lot of anxiety tonight, you know, hanging around with everyone, but I feel fine.  I'm not a heavy drinker, and I figured I'd need a few drinks to relax....  But I feel okay.  I'm really happy to be here with everybody."  Melissa smiled at him and rubbed his shoulder.
     When the first round of drinks arrived, general talk and gossip about work started.  Jolene said to Toxica, "So you did a scene with Roach this week for 'Pulse of Night,' right?  Had you worked with him yet?"
     Toxica replied, "No....  But I'd been given warning.  I mean, everybody talks about what a gentleman Roach is, and it's true, but....  Holy shit, we're on the sound stage, we're about to start the fuck scene, right?  He finishes getting prepped and turns around.  Oh my fucking God.  All I could think was, 'I agreed to do an anal scene with that thing?'  Jesus Christ, he could be a dog to death with that cock!"
     Demetrius added, "Oh yeah.  I seen Roach in action, and damn!  He could put a lot of brothers to shame!"  The table cracked up.
     "What's scary to me is that Roach and Feather work together all the time, and they always do anal," said Jolene.  "I'm an anal queen, but I told Lenny straight out, 'No way is he going up my ass.'  And Feather is, what, five foot two and maybe ninety-five pounds?  She takes him and purrs like a cat while she's doing it!"
     Jenna smirked, "I swear, you anal queens gotta be kinda crazy.  You really dig that?  I tried once, when I was still in LA.  Hey, $1400 for that?  Sure, I'll try.  That was the first and last time, no way."
     Smirking back, Melissa gestured at Bekka's glass and said, "Anal is like scotch.  You either like it or you don't.  Just a matter of personal taste, I guess.  I won't lie, I'll take Roach up my ass with smile every time."
     Sue added, "Me too....  but not as a DP.  The first time I worked with Roach, it was a DP scene with him and Chip, and he was the one up my ass.  Oh shit, I was sore for two days.  If him and Chip had been the other way around, I'd have probably been okay, but...."
     "Excuse me."
     Everyone turned to look.  The voice had come from a yuppie, about thirty years old, who looked like he'd walked into Macy's and said, "Dress me like a hipster!"  He was with a woman about the same age, and dressed in the same manner.  Sally smiled at the yuppie and said, "Yes?"
     "What are you all talking about?" he asked.
     "Just talking shop," Jolene said casually.  "Who takes it in the ass and who doesn't, and who we take it in the ass from.  A co-worker of ours is one hung bastard, he can really challenge some of us...."
     "He can challenge us during straight sex!" exclaimed Pill.  "Unless you're hollow, like this chick."  She elbowed Melissa.  "So did you have your gag reflex surgically removed, or what?"
     The yuppie woman queried, "You're talking about.... anal sex?"
     "You got it," said Jolene brightly.  "Why, what's up?"
     The two yuppies took in the crew, then locked on Bekka.  The man said, "Hey, you're Becky Page!  So....  You're all in porn?"
     "Yes, we are," Jenna assured him.  "Not all of us are in front of the cameras, though.  Sally here is a director and producer, and Stevie is the main guy around the office, he keeps the studio running as a business, you know?"
     Andy said modestly, "Just for reference, neither me or Demetrius take it in the ass."
     "Not yet," said Sue.  "I'm gonna have you in a strap-on scene sooner or later!"  The crew burst into laughter.
     "Start paying us studs like you ladies get paid, and I'll think about it," said Demetrius.
     Stefano was feeling brash enough to swig at his beer and say, "So what do you two do for a living?"
     "Uh, we're realtors," the man said.
     "Do you have a local office?"
     "No, we're from Boulder, Colorado."
     Jolene blurted, "Hey, that's where Mork from Ork landed!  Right on!"  The crew broke up with laughter.
     The woman said, "I have to ask.  Do you often have discussions about sexual activity in public?"
     Everyone made a show of glancing around at each other.  Finally Bekka said, "Well....  Yeah, I guess so.  See, we've had a long week, so now we're out to have a few drinks and blow off a little steam, talk shop.  To you, we're talking about ass-fucking.  To us, it's just business, okay?"
     Sue continued, "Besides, it's still just a basic aspect of human sexuality.  Some girls like it in the ass, others don't.  But generally, sex is a universal common denominator with human beings, and it's our livelihood.  Why hedge about sex in conversation, regardless of location?  We know there aren't any children around, so what's the biggie?"
     "It would feel strange to hire someone who could engage in sexual activity without being able to discuss it," finished Bekka.
     From another side came a voice saying, "Hey Becky, are you hiring?  Can I show you my qualifications?"  Followed by braying laughter.
     All eyes now pointed in that direction.  Three dudes in their mid-twenties were at the next table.  All had the "overage frat bro" look about them, three guys who were kicking off their careers with loftier job titles than incomes: Junior Executive Assistant Manager of Regional Sales.  The one closest to the crew was grabbing his crotch while his friends laughed.
     Bekka put on her I-Am-Royalty smile and asked, "Why are you holding yourself like that?  Are you afraid someone may try and steal it?  Or do you just like to remind yourself of it's existence?"  Her table's turn to laugh.
     "Naw, I was gonna tell you about my work experience, baby," the Junior Executive replied.
     "I'll bet he has a very short.... resume," quipped Stefano, to more laughter.
     One of the other two snapped at Stefano, "Mind your own business, four-eyes."
     And Stefano heard his voice say, "'Four-eyes?'  What is this, fifth grade?  Can't you do any better than that?  Lemme guess, next you'll jump up to seventh grade and call me a faggot.  Gosh, how can I survive a rapier wit like that?"
     "He must be a faggot," commented the first one.
     "Are you a faggot?" challenged the third Junior Executive.
     Now Stefano heard his voice again, and also felt his face shift into an amused sneer.  He said, "Why, did you want me to fuck you?"  The crew laughed again.  Stefano heard his voice say with gleeful contempt, "Jesus, you jocks get locked in your heads around ninth grade and stay there.  'Faggot?'  I mean, if I was gonna insult you three, I'd try and stick with what evidence I have and call you all halfwits and spineless bullies.  I always wondered, back in school, how come it always took three of you to stuff me in a locker?  You were all bigger than me, what were you so afraid of that you had to operate as a team?  None of you ever had the balls to do anything unless you had your friends backing you up, you were all just the football coach's catamites."  The crew now broke into hoots and cheers.
     The three Junior Executives were staring at the skinny, bespectacled geeky guy at the next table in bald-faced shock, mouths open.  One of them finally said, "What the fuck is a catamite?"
     In a clear and formal voice, like a female George Will, Toxica stated, "In ancient Greece, a catamite was an adolescent homosexual with an attachment to an older man.  Usually the relationship was rather pragmatic.  The man would sexually exploit the youth, the youth would receive rather pricey gifts and favors from the man....  Like being moved to the first string of the sports team the man coached."  (Loud snickering broke out.)
     Junior Executive No. One graveled, "Nerd, you're looking to get hurt if you don't shut up."
     And now Stefano felt his eyes get big and wild, the sneer getting wider.  His voice said, "Damn right I'm a nerd.  I build computers for fun.  I play Dungeons and Dragons.  I was on the Chess team in college.  What's your point?  Now I'm out of college, and you know how I spend my work weeks?  I'm surrounded by beautiful naked women, I run the business end of a porn studio.  Funny thing, sometimes talent and ability win you a really sweet gig.
     "I have no doubt any of you three could beat me up, you're all bigger than me....  But I also have no doubt none of you are willing to try by yourselves, you'd just rat-pack me, three on one.  Any of the three of you willing to go outside with me, alone?  Just the two of us?  Yeah, you'll probably come out ahead....  But we'll both be going to bed tonight with a headache."
     Several Inana Girls realized that all sound and movement had stopped around them.  Stefano and the three Junior Executives were being watched closely, no one even breathing.  After a few moments silence, Demetrius said (in a very un-Demetrius-like voice) "Muthatfuckas, you need to get the fuck out.  My boy ain't playin' wit' you."
     The three glanced quickly at each other.  Then the first one quickly stood and threw money on the table.  The other two also stood, and they began walking towards the door, all of them keeping a close eye on the floor in front of them.  Everyone watched them go, until they were outside.  When the door closed behind them, the entire Inana crew broke into howls and cheers, everyone reaching over to whack Stefano on the back.  Demetrius kept saying, "Damn...!  Damn...!  Damn...!  This is my boy, right here!"  Stefano smiled and looked modest, swigging at his Heineken.
     "Nice Ice Cube imitation, Demetrius," commented Jenna.
     "Actually, I was going for Chuck D.," he responded.
     The male realtor said, "You people don't mess around, do you?"
     Bekka replied, "We can't afford to.  We can give no quarter.  If we do, we start giving away tiny bits of our souls, and eventually we have lost ourselves.  Enough people in the world hate us for who we are and what we do that we cannot suffer the slings and arrows."
     "Everyone in our industry always has the awareness of being hated," said Pill.  "No matter what our job is, anyone in adult entertainment carries a target on their back, you know?  We have to defend ourselves.  Like Becky said, we can give no quarter."
     Another round of drinks was ordered, Stefano requesting a double Hennessey over ice this time.  After the drinks arrived, he leaned over to Melissa and quietly said, "You said I could talk to you if I needed.  Um, if it's not too much trouble...."
     Melissa grabbed Stefano's hand and stood up.  They grabbed their drinks and headed for the relative solitude of the alcove in front of the bathrooms.  Once there, she said, "What's up?"
     Stefano drew a couple deep breaths and said, "I can't believe I just did that."
     "Oh?  Why not?"
     "It's just....  That's not a part of my personality."
     Melissa put a hand on Stefano's shoulder and said, "Yes it is, Stevie.  You've just never let it out before.  I have a hunch that's a speech you've probably wanted to deliver for a long time, and you finally had the opportunity."  She smiled wider and said, "Another effect of taking Ecstasy can be self-discovery, finding parts of you that you didn't know existed.  It turns out our dear Stevie is much more clever, and much tougher, than he suspected.  Tell me, what were you thinking when you turned your tongue on those three jocks?"
     Frowning vaguely at the floor, Stefano said, "I was scared....  But not really?  Does that make sense?  I was thinking that sure, one of them would take me up on my challenge, and I'd probably get beat up....  But it didn't matter, because I would know I'd faced a challenge like that without backing down or running away.  I've been beat up before, and by three or four guys at once.  One guy wouldn't be able to do as much damage, and I'd get in a few licks myself for once.  It was like, I'd be facing up to my fears, and that outweighed being scared."
     "How do you feel right now?" asked Melissa.
     "Oh wow," Stefano chuckled.  "I feel great.  I feel wonderful."
     "I'll bet I can make you feel just a little better than that," said Melissa.  She put her hand on Stefano's neck and pulled him close, and began to kiss him.  He was stunned with shock for about a half-second, then responded.  The two stayed locked like that for nearly two minutes, Melissa finally breaking away.
     "Where do you live?" asked Melissa.
     "Um....  I have a cottage in Cardiff," said Stefano, catching his breath.
     "Oh!  A cottage!  Totally detached, no common walls like in an apartment.  Very nice.  That means if I followed you home tonight, we could make a lot of noise without disturbing your neighbors, and them complaining to the police.  Would you mind if I followed you home tonight?  I'll be a good girl.  Or not.  I've been told that when I'm bad, I get even better."
     Stefano's only conscious thought was, Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy....  He managed to say, "That sounds great," in a voice much more relaxed than he expected.
     She held him by the shoulders, looking into his face with a curious expression.  "Will I be your first?  I can't tell."
     "My first...?  Oh.  No."  He looked at the floor and said, "You'll be my second.  I hope that's okay.  Um, I'm not really....  We only did it a few times, I, uh...."
     "Well!  Time to send you to boot camp!  I'll try to help you make up for lost time."
     Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy....

     Back at the table, it had been agreed they'd have one more round here, then head for a yuppie dive two blocks away called The Windrift.  After that, to TGI Friday's for snacks and more drinks.  Round off the evening by hitting the Smut 'N' Stuff to critique sex toys and browse videos.  Bekka noted, "On a Friday night, it's probably going to turn into an impromptu signing.  That store is always packed on weekend nights."
     "Maybe you and Sue can give us new bitches some leftovers," quipped Jenna.
     "Oh, your time will come," said Sue in a sing-song voice.  "And then you get to decide whether you love it or hate it.  Being recognized gets a little intimidating."
     Walking to the Windrift, Bekka, Jolene, and Sue taught the rest a chant the three of them had come up with on one of the earliest creepy-crawl excursions, when it was just three or four girls out blowing minds.  Everyone picked it up quickly.  Soon the street echoed with the sound of eleven adult video minions chanting,

     We are the sluts of the USA
     We are the sluts of the USA
     We can suck 'em
     We can fuck 'em
     We can bust a nut
     We wouldn't have it any other way.

     This was done three times.  The fourth round was altered in the last four lines:

     You can suck 'em
     You can fuck 'em
     But don't fuck with us
     Because we're gonna really make you pay.

     The Inana crew tried to teach this to their fellow patrons at the Windrift, but not many felt like joining in, no matter how loud or how often it was put forth.  "It's far more catchy than 'Anchors Aweigh,' admit it!" Toxica and Pill insisted to a handful of sailors at a table.  "Not everyone can be a swab, but anyone can be a slut.  It's a truly unifying song for our country."  After an hour, the bartender insisted the Inana crew leave, or explain themselves to the police: patrons were lukewarm to the idea of judging a "Who has the most aesthetically pleasing vulva" contest, even the single guys.
     "Why not have the guys with you do the judging?" asked one brave soul.
     "Man, when you see 'em all day, they start to look the same," said Demetrius.
     At TGI Friday's, fried things were consumed, along with a few rounds of Jaegermeister (Sue and Bekka abstaining, as relatively responsible drivers).  This choice of beverage seemed to irritate Andy.  "Jaegermeister is bullshit," he declared.  "It's proof of how well marketing can work.  If you go to Hamburg or Berlin and walk through town at night, you'll see homeless drunks hunched in the alleys, just like anywhere else.  They'll all have their bottles in paper bags close by.  You know what they're drinking?  Fuckin' Jaegermeister.  It's German wino swill.  But some asshole marketer realized that, damn, the United States doesn't have any high-powered booze that tastes like bad Ouzo, saw how little the crap costs, and built the marketing campaign.  Now look at us!  Shit, we should get revenge by marketing Night Train to the Germans as fancy-schmancy stuff."
     "Not Night Train, Boone's Farm," said Demetrius.  "You could convince the German yuppies  different flavors go best with particular foods."
     "That won't work," protested Jenna.  "I don't think Germany has any Taco Bell franchises.  Or Arby's."
     If nothing else, the patrons at TGI Friday's were more amenable to learning "Sluts of the USA."
     At Smut 'N' Stuff, the Inana Girls loudly debated the pros and cons of various sex toys, lamenting there were none available which ran on chainsaw fuel.  Going through the videos, Bekka was happy to find a copy of "Fast Cars Fast Women," a feature from 1981 which actually had a decent plot and a real budget (although the performances were still crap).  Bekka, Sue, and Andy were all recognized and asked for autographs.  In a strange turn of events, a half dozen sailors went into major fanboy mode over Sue.  Yeah, Becky Page is great, we love her, but....  Oh holy shit, it's Susan Black!  The dark angel of hardcore porn!  Bekka had also signed autographs for the squids, but it was Sue they were enamored with, enough so that all three guys sort of drifted closer to Sue, in case a bit too much ardor was displayed.
     "Is your star beginning to fade?" Sally teased Bekka.
     "Shit, I hope so," Bekka replied.  "Someone else can draw the psychotics out of the woodwork for a while.  After two assassination attempts, I'm perfectly happy becoming yesterday's news."

     Back at the Inana mansion, Demetrius grabbed a sheet of paper and marker from Stefano's office, and made a sign: "Let's Do Some ROLE-PLAYING!  (No, not that kind.)  Tolkien-based RPG group starting -- be a Mage, a Scout, a Fighter, a Bard, a Cleric, or a Ranger!  If you thought Dungeons and Dragons always sounded like fun, but hated the math and slow play, this is the RPG for you!  Contact Stevie (in L.C.) or Demetrius (O'side).  Orcs need not apply."  He made a copy to put up in the lounge at the Oceanside studio.
     And Melissa followed Stefano home, him driving his '92 Olds 98 (a graduation present from "the family"), her at the wheel of her battered but beloved '78 SAAB 99 Turbo.  They went inside his cottage, and within ten minutes Melissa was demonstrating some of the more esoteric coital arrangements.  They were interrupted around 4:30 in the morning by the police.
     A neighbor had complained about the noise.

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