On December fifth, what amounted to Inana Productions' brain trust got on a charter flight at McClellan-Palomar airport in Carlsbad and flew into the Yuba County Airport, located in a burg called Olivehurst. A Hertz office sat at the end of the driveway, where we picked up the Cadillac Brougham we'd reserved. In theory, we were seven hours early for our engagement at the Oregon House community center, but Steve and I wanted to show off locations to Bekka and Angel.
We started down in the valley. First stop, the metropolis of Meridian, a town which straddled the Sacramento River southwest of the Buttes. Meridian was a really beat-down looking kind of place, and would be perfect for the valley settlement and bazaar. From there, up North Meridian Rd. to Pass Rd, pointed back east. Pass Rd. ran through the Buttes and provided access to an area called Brockman Canyon, great rough terrain, perfect for our needs. We continued east, merging with Butte House Rd. and going back into Yuba City.
From there, we slouched in our seats and pointed towards the mountains. Angel wanted to see the waterfall where the final scene in "Succubus" was shot for himself. He couldn't quite believe someplace that beautiful actually existed in nature, at least not in California. We made the drive to Camptonville, about an hour drive, and pulled up at Crystal's place.
Crystal was an interesting specimen. When I first met her, she was the only punk rocker for miles around, and a train wreck of a human being. Her meth addiction rode her hard --- she banged her dope --- she was on probation, her young daughter was in the custody of her mom and step-dad by court order, and she'd have blown goats to score a quarter sack of shit. And there was her sister Mojo, a hippie chick who'd followed the Dead for a few years and returned home with serious acid damage. She would not speak, unless directly asked a question. Their parents owned a large chunk of the north end of Camptonville, where the waterfall was located.
I'd decided to try a little social experiment. Like everyone else who bangs their drugs, Crystal had an encyclopedic knowledge of every meth dealer in a hundred mile radius. The dope they got through this stretch of the Sierras was garbage, total bathtub crank. Everyone I shared with was highly appreciative of my shit, which was lab-fresh from my friend Boss. So.... I wanted to see what would happen if Crystal was provided with one hell of an opportunity. I gave her, totally free, one pound of meth, a triple-beam scale, and a reliable car (a three year old Ford Taurus SHO). Beyond basic advice --- deal to dealers, not consumers, don't try to tweak and work, keep your shit together -- she could do as she damn well pleased. I told her the price to re-up on a pound was $10K, providing a gross profit of $6K, if she worked things right. She could come down to San Diego, re-up, and keep on supplying the northern Gold Country with quality shit.
She worked things right.
The change in her was astounding. She went at the business of wholesale dealing of meth with purpose, establishing herself as the chick with awesome dope (who was also reliable). Her personal use actually dropped, she realized that if she wanted to keep her shit together, she couldn't do shit all the time. She was a far more relaxed, reserved person. Even her personal style had changed. She dropped the leather micro-skirts and ripped t-whirts in favor of black women's Levis and masculine-looking blouses. The hair went from Froot Loops color to jet black. At this point, she was shifting five pounds a week, running her business like a delivery route. She covered a lot of ground, so she let her customers know what days she would be in their area. Precious, her daughter, was returned to her, and Mojo took over the job of daytime parenting with surprising ability. Crystal's goal was to be clean and sober, and out of business, by the time Precious was in seventh grade. Crystal estimated she would have saved enough to live fairly comfortably for the rest of her life.
Also, Bekka and I turned Crystal into one of the world's raunchiest porn stars.
She had a fantastic body. She also had hepatitis C, which put the kibosh of her ever being an Inana Girl.... or so we thought. One night we were discussing the various sub-genres in porn, and the subject of bukkake came up. Bukkake was a Japanese invention. Without providing too much detail, bukkake is a gang-facial. One women, a shitload of guys. The woman remains still (usually kneeling on the floor), the guys step up and take their turns, one after the other. Personally, bukkake was bizarre and odd, but definitely not sexy: how obsessed can a person be with male bodily fluids?
Bekka had half-jokingly suggested Crystal could pick up some extra money by being the center of attention in a (Inana-produced) bukkake video. Since no actual sexual activity occurred between a bukkake queen and the men, there was no chance of the girl spreading anything, and they guys would have had blood tests. Where, when, and how much? asked Crystal.
So, Bekka's first gigs as a producer/director was making bukkake videos, half hour loops, which were packaged under the banner of "The Adventures of Cum-Crazy Crystal! (Directed by Becky Page!)" Even fellow members of the industry were aghast at Bekka's new project. Bukkake is, by its very nature, raunchy, crude, and rather gross. Bekka captured the action with loving detail, and edited the rough video into a half hour of pure filth, stuff that really did rank as "obscene" under the Supreme Court's ruling: there was absolutely no way anyone could claim these videos had any redeeming qualities whatsoever. The videos had the flimsiest set-ups for Crystal and her "slaves" (the eighteen guys who got $75 and lunch for ejaculating on a stationary woman), beyond that, it was a video of a punky-looking woman who acted rather enthusiastic about being slowly drenched with semen. We worked it out once. Crystal got $1000 for one hour and seventeen minutes of her time, including makeup, hair, and a shower afterwards.
We picked up Crystal and went to her parents' place. From there, we borrowed her step-dad's old Isuzu Trooper for the trek down to the stream, and the waterfall. While Angel marveled, Steve, Bekka, and I knocked around ideas for arrangement and blocking of the scene we'd be shooting here. The final scene of "Succubus" was rather seminal. It showed a fuck scene with Lila (Becky Page) and the Lone Scavenger (Roach) on a grassy bank by the stream, the waterfall in the background. It was about 4:40 at the end, with no dialogue, just well-done background music. Really, the finished scene as a montage of various acts.... but also shots of Lila and the Lone Scavenger kissing, holding each other, caressing.... It was a hardcore sex scene that actually conveyed love and did it well. Even the money shot was special. Bekka had the acting talent to make a money shot look like a deeply emotional experience. It's immediately followed by the two embracing, and staying that way. Fade to black. Women, and not a few men, told me that yes, the final scene was sexy.... but also put a lump in their throats. "You reminded me why it's called 'making love,'" one woman told me.
Crystal promised she'd come down the hill to Oregon House to be at the meeting. We headed that way ourselves, so show the locations we'd be using. Under further consideration, the community's concerns about traffic and noise and destructive behavior were really off-base. Obviously, the county knew where our exact locations would be, but would't provide that information to the local residents. Oregon House is damn uncrowded, and rather spread out. There are only two "main" roads, Marysville Rd. and Rices Crossing Rd. All our shooting would be miles away, there would be zero traffic interruptions for the residents.
Finally, we headed back into Marysville, in order to hit up a liquor store for six cases of beer, six cases of bottled water, Coke, Sprite, Dr. Pepper, and ten bags of Chex Mix. We'd been assured there was refrigerator space at the community hall. We arrived ten minutes before "Joan," the ersatz caretaker of the hall, arrived. She looked surprised at our presence: I was my usual punk rock self (not a lot of people with blue hair in Oregon House in 1992), Small Steve as in his Levis, Nikes, and pocketed t-shirt, Bekka was in a slightly more modest version of her usual style (her blouse was opaque, the slit in her skirt didn't go too high), and Angel was in a sport coat and tie. More relaxed for him (no three-piece Italian suit, like usual), but I had a hunch a tie would difinitely set him apart. In fact, Joan asked him about it. His response was a shrug and, "I'm a businessman from Queens, New York. If I showed up here in Levis, Tony Lama boots, and a flannel shirt I'd look like I was trying to be something I'm not. I don't want to insult people like that."
Joan observed the huge amounts of beverages we were moving in and commented, "I know plenty of people are talking about this meeti
ng, planning to come. Everyone is concerned about delays on the roads, and environmental damage, and litter, and...."
"And that's why we're here," I said. "We want to ensure people they don't have anything to worry about, and that's not just an entertainment industry asshole saying, 'Trust me.' Here...." I had just finished using thumb tacks to hold the topographic maps to the wall on the left side of the stage. "Here's Marysville Road. Here's the road into town, the one right outside. Here is the location of the farm we're sub-letting for a few days. And here are the three roads we'll be filming on, and will need traffic control. Odds are, we're gonna be working, and people won't even know about it."
The woman immediately brightened. "Oh, you won't be anywhere near where people thought you'd be! You'll be down on Yuba-Nevada, and Scott Forbes? There's not a soul around out there. Why are you filming out there?"
"This is post-apocalyptic adventure. We want things to look desolated. Shooting on maintained, clean two-lane blacktop would be a contradiction."
"What about making a mess? Is the county, or the community, going to be picking up after you?"
"Absolutely not," chimed in Bekka. "The only things we'll be leaving behind are tire tracks, nobody will know we were ever here."
"We're aware of the reputation Hollywood has of trashing locations they shoot at," said Angel. "We're not from Hollywood."
"Well, you're from Encino," teased Steve.
"And you live nine blocks from Richard Nixon," Angel shot back. "We've both got neighbors we're not very proud of."
I stated, "We're part of the entertainment industry, but not being around Hollywood means we've never picked up any of their bad habits. To be blunt, we've never learned how to be assholes, it's just not in our character. We'll pick up after ourselves, just 'cos it's the right damn thing to do."
"I have a personal concern," said Joan. "Is there going to be any, uh, nudity? Or sexual activity?"
We all began laughing. Small Steve said, "Nowhere on public land. There will be on some private property we're using, but that will be well out of eyesight of the public, unless someone goes to great lengths to spy on us."
Now Joan switched gears. "I've seen a couple of your movies --- 'Good Girl/Bad Girl' and 'Miss Treatment' --- and was impressed with what was accomplished. They were witty, intelligent comedies, whether they're porn or not. I'm wondering.... Why do you make porn at all? Your studio seems to have the talent to create 'normal' movies. Why have all the sex?"
We all glanced at each other briefly. I finally said, "At this point, it may just be force of habit." Everyone broke up.
Bekka asserted, "Because it's an intrinsic part of the art we create. When Lenny first started writing and producing features, his primary goal was to have adult hardcore video that simply didn't insult the intelligence, like almost all of it did...."
"In a nutshell, I couldn't figure out why hardcore features were always so crappy as movies." I explained. "I didn't want to start a new form of cinema or have a bold artistic statement, I just wanted to prove --- to myself, if no one else --- that you could make an adult feature that didn't suck as a movie."
"And damn, but did he pull that off. Inana seemed to have a collective realization that it's possible to entertain people on multiple levels at once. You can have a movie that isn't just a distraction, but is intellectually engaging.... and at the same time, you can stimulate the libido, provide that gut-level thrill many people experience watching porn."
"Another aspect is how our movies appeal to both genders," said Steve. "A few years ago, it was a fairly easy statement to make that most women really didn't care for pornography. Well.... I wondered why. I started asking women I knew what turned them off. Was it the simple sight of two people engaged in sexual activity? That wasn't the problem. The hang-up was women didn't like HOW the activities were portrayed. A lot had to do with basic production style. There was also the sex acts themselves, and how they were approached. And a very big concern was porn seemed to bend itself backwards to appeal to every base male fantasy, as often as possible.
"In a less specific way, a big objection was that porn portrayed male fantasies from a male perspective. Women didn't want some sort of feminist porn, or female domination. They just felt it would be possible to have a hardcore sex scene that was produced from a gender-neutral perspective. In most porn, women were there for the specific physical pleasure of men. Why not balance that scale some?
"So, I began adjusting things in how I shoot scenes. A big one was I pulled the cameras back some. You watch a scene from Inana, you're watching two people having sex, not getting an anatomy lesson....."
"Some videos, you can tell what brand of IUD the girl is wearing," chuckled Bekka.
Steve continued, "Without getting too graphic, uh, we began blocking our scenes so both partners would be having fun. Most porn, it's the woman servicing the man, as it were. We started arranging things so there was mutual enjoyment, you know? To be blunt, we'd block scenes so both partners would be getting off, not just the man."
"That was the cruncher," said Bekka. "All of a sudden.... May I be a bit graphic?" Joan gave her approval. "Okay, think of the standard oral sex scene in porn. It's almost always the woman going down on the guy. and a lot of the time literally on her knees in front of him. Hey, guess what? A guy can go down on a girl from the same position! Why not show a woman just standing there enjoying herself, while the guy is the active partner? That's an obvious example. Steve and Lenny started really talking to our female performers and asking them, 'What can a guy to to you that totally rattles your rafters, you know?' And we'd tell them, and that stuff would get put into the mix. The upshot is that at this point, a fuck scene --- pardon the expression --- in an Inana video is about two people working together to have fun, not just one person satisfying the other. See what I mean?"
I put in my own two cents. "Ultimately, there are always going to be people of both genders who are offended and horrified by the sight of graphic sexual activity. They don't like it, they don't want to see it, period. But to be frank, they're in the minority. It's been pointed out by anthropologists that humans are the only species who, if confronted by the sight of other humans engaging in sexual activity, will stop and watch, for no practical reason. Humans just like watching other humans going at it. Heh, we're happy to stand there and watch, going 'Wowww....' It's fun to us."
"So, that's why we do what we do," said Bekka. "We satisfy the intellectual craving for absorbing entertainment, but also satisfy a common primal urge at the same time, and do it well, in a way that both genders can appreciate."
Sounding a bit shocked, Joan said, "I just realized.... Watching the two Inana movies I've seen, the sex didn't bother me the way I was used to being bothered. In fact, I may have dismissed the sex as tacky without really processing it, just force of habit. 'Well, it's a sex scene in a porn movie, so of course it's going to be gross.' I should watch those movies again...."
Then a guy in a forty-eight gallon hat and bib overalls stepped in. He saw Joan and said, "Evening, Joan. So, them Hollywood people here yet?"
Everyone, including Joan, burst into laughter. I stopped long enough to offer the man a beer.
The community hall was packed, SRO, by our seven o'clock start time. People were grateful for the beverages. I started off by pointing out on the maps where we'd be working, and for how long. This brought about a huge sigh of relief, we would't be jamming people up for hours while we shot a scene. Steve explained we wouldn't be altering terrain or cutting down trees, for any reason whatsoever. We would have zero negative environmental impact. Bekka allayed fears about us leaving a mess behind, saying, "I know it's easy to say we're not going to make a mess, but.... the most I can reassure you of is, we're not jerks. Honest. Wherever we're working, the only sign we've been there at all the next day will be the tire tracks."
By eight, the audience was out of questions. The queries ranged from the basic ("How long will you be around?") to the bizarre: One man began going off on how the chemicals used to make motion picture film was a toxic hell-broth, it could poison soil like bleach, any film would have to be removed completely.... Steve finally cut him off. "Sir? Sir...? Sir? Um, we don't use film. We shoot everything on videotape, and the tape stays in the cartridges it comes in. Just like a regular VHS tape."
"Oh. Well, that's okay, then." The man sat back down.
Like any gathering in a rural area, folks weren't going to just take care of business and go home again. Being in a large gathering of your neighbors was an occasion, so people hung around and talked. So did we. Naturally, Bekka signed autographs (for men and women). I was quizzed about the story line of the "Succubus" sequel --- even in this small town, people seemed to be familiar with Inana's catalog --- and said it sounded like quite a project. Also, how did I accomplish what I had at such a young age? I'd answer, "My secret? Never ask permission to do things. I started making the movies I did because I thought it would be fun, and needed to be done. If I'd told anyone else in the adult film industry what my plans were, everyone would have said, 'You can't do that! That's impossible!' I'd have had that bias in the back of my mind, and probably screwed up."
You came up with the whole "Smart Porn" thing....
"Aw, shit. Newsweek thought up that name, not me. I'm flattered people like Inana's features. But honestly, my only original goal was to make adult features that weren't crappy movies. The industry has released an ass-load of features since the mid-Seventies, and I can think of two that are watchable: 'Cafe Flesh' and an auto racing-themed one called 'Fast Cars Fast Women.'
"For my films, the breakthrough was 'Bewitched,' Given how long I wrestled with that script, it damn well better have succeeded! I had a basic plot outline and a lot of ideas, and I realized how fun it would be to pose little intellectual puzzles and brain-teasers throughout the movie. The plot structure sort of loaned itself to that concept. Okay, fine, no one had ever made a damn dirty movie that pretty much required viewers to flex their brains while watching it. But I never thought to myself, 'I'm doing something revolutionary.' It was a much simpler, 'This will be fun to watch, and for more than the usual reasons.' And things just kept going from there."
You know, you people weren't what we expected at all.
Well.... We were expecting real slick movie studio types. We also figured you'd be bringing a bunch of lawyers with you, to threaten us.
"Nope. We're not from Hollywood, literally or figuratively. Me, Bekka, and Steve are from San Diego, and Angel is from Queens, New York. Honestly, it never occurred to any of us to bring a lawyer here. What the hell for? It was a situation where we'd solve a problem, and put people's minds at ease, just by coming up and talking with the residents of the area. We'd address concerns, and if there was a sticking point, we'd hash things out until we'd reach a compromise.
"I knew we'd be coming up here, for a scene like this, when I received letter number fifty from an Oregon House local.... And the thing is, all the letters we received were civil. Nobody was screaming about how we should all eat shit and get cancer, or whatever. People had concerns, and there was a lot of commonality in those concerns, so addressing the community, in person, just made sense. I won't lie, though, I was a little worried we'd have an angry mob of anti-pornography protesters here, objecting to us working in Oregon House at all."
(Looks at the floor.) Yeah.... Well....
Some of the, uh, more devout Christians probably aren't overjoyed with Inana working in the area. A few years ago, you probably would have had a few protesters. But these days.... My God, you were nearly killed just over a year ago, weren't you? Nearly shot to death by folk who thought they were doing God's work. I think for a lot of people, that jarred them out of the pious sorta mind-set they were in, trying to hold everyone to a very strict and narrow moral code. When those men attacked your studio, it hit home for lotsa folks: there's people out there who are so pious, so zealotic, they believe it's just fine to commit murder in God's name. That's.... That's just wrong. God is almighty, if He has a problem with Leonard Schneider or Becky Page or Inana Productions, He can take care of the damn problem himself. He doesn't need yahoos with rifles committing.... uh....
"Jihad? Acts of terrorism in the name of the Lord?"
Yeah. I guess that is accurate. Huh.
"Tell me, did you used to watch Jerry Fallwood's show, before he self-destructed?"
(A pause.) Yeah. Yeah, I did. And after he went off the air, I realized I didn't miss him one darn bit. I was actually a happier person.not having his voice in my head. I all but stopped watching his show about a month after that big scene at your studio. It struck me that four armed men, who claimed strict allegiance to Fallwood, had tried to murder you and Becky Page.... And Fallwood never said a damn word about it on his show! A big news story like that, and one that was connected to the Crystal Chapel, and he doesn't have anything to say? That made me mad. I realized those men thought they were doing exactly what Jerry Fallwood wanted them to do, and Fallwood won't talk about it at all. That made me mad.
And after a while, I realized how much better I felt, not watching his show. Finally it hit me like lightning, and hurt just as bad: I spent a lot of time hating people I'd never met, who'd never done a thing to me, because Jerry Fallwood had told me to hate 'em. And I took him at his word, never bothered to question him. Fallwood said the gays are all perverts and sinners, so hate 'em, and I did. But.... heck, my cousin Vance is gay, and he's salt of the earth, a good honest man. He lives in Burlingame, works for San Mateo County. Him and his, uh, partner have been together for years and years. They ain't hurting anyone. And dammit, on Sundays they go to church, they're Methodists. You know what Fallwood's response to that news would be? There must be something wrong with the Methodists, too, so start hating Methodists!
Um, I'd never seen any of Becky Page's movies, but I knew people who had, and there was nothing wrong with them. Fallwood said Becky Page was a tool of evil.... But he never really explained how. What, for, you know, making a living with her body? First off, Mary Magdalene wasn't sellin' Avon to make a living, okay? But she was the first to proclaim the Resurrection. And anyway, how can Becky Page hurt me? If I have a problem with her movies, seems the simplest thing to do is not watch 'em. Problem solved.
I hated the homos, I hated Becky Page, I hated the Catholics, I hated the Moos-lims, I hated rock musicians.... 'Cos I'd been told to, by a man on my TV, who said he spoke God's word. I think he lied, I think he was lying the whole darn time. Then he got caught out having, uh, weird sex stuff going on, and paying for it with the Chapel's money. I'd given up on Fallwood by the time that came out, and I couldn't help but laugh. I know what's gonna happen when Jerry Fallwood meets his Maker. The Lord won't have a problem with the sex stuff, he wasn't hurting anyone, not really.... But I'll bet God is mightily pissed over Fallwood's lies, and especially over the hypocrisy. That level of hypocrisy is gonna chap God's hide, and I don't think even Fallwood can talk fast enough to get out of that unscathed.
I chuckled. "I'm going to guess God will also be angry about fomenting all that hatred. Especially towards gays and lesbians. He's gonna tell Fallwood, 'So, you think I've got a problem with the queers? If I did, wouldn't you wonder why the hell I keep building 'em?'"
Have you ever hated anyone?
"Yeah. The Belgians."
"Yup. I figured everyone has some source of irrational, unjustifiable hatred, and I wanted mine to be unique. So, fuck the Belgians. Those weirdos put mayonnaise on their french fries, did you know that? Screw them."
Uh.... You're kidding, right?
"About hating Belgians? Yes. The mayo on fries thing is true, though."