A disco rendition of “Thus Spake Zarathustra” was blasting over the loudspeakers as spotlights zig-zagged across the dance floor. “Ladies and Gentlemen, put your hands together for the lady who made this all possible, Ms. Gloria Leonard!” Standing at the edge of the dance floor, I watched four muscle-bound men in loin cloths enter carrying a throne. On it was seated a 50-something-year-old woman in a G-string, who had a killer body and a striking face, but perhaps a little too much make-up. The four men carried her up to the small stage where the microphone was, and simultaneously lifted her onto the stage.
“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for cumming!” she said, to thunderous applause.
A wave of surreality hit me. What was I doing here?
Pat had handed out the free invitation at the end of one of our script meetings. “What is this, Pat?” I asked.
“An invitation to the twenty-fifth anniversary of Gent magazine. It should be quite interesting. There’ll be porn stars there.”
Rose graciously accepted the invitation with an intense smile and cooed, “Ohhhhhh, you shouldn’t have!” before crumpling it and tossing it into the wastebasket.
“Surely you ladies wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to schmooze with some of the finest performers on the big screen?” Pat said.
“I have to wash my pubic hair that night,’ Angela said.
My foray into porn began the night I arrived early for dinner at Dog Boy Manor, Boy Manor, which was the nickname of the entire floor of an apartment building up on 96th Street shared by Spanky and five of his closest marginally employed male actor friends. These included the perpetually giggling Ron, who had leather straps stitched to his mattress and, legend had it, once strapped a naked actress to it and then took off for the afternoon; Randy, who choreographed fight scenes for a living; and Dave, who wrote plays full of despicable characters and put away half a case of beer a night. I wasn’t really sure whether those guys actually called themselves Dog Boys. All I knew was that their residence was called Dog Boy Manor.
“Come on in!” Spanky said with an ingratiating boyish laugh, which he always did when he wasn’t a hundred percent comfortable socially. He already had a nice garlicky sauce going and was cutting up sausages to put in.
I took my six pack out of my bag and put it in the fridge. In the spirit of the evening, I had also brought a bottle of Merlot. I put it down on his kitchen counter, on which I discovered a personal computer. Immediately I thought, what’s wrong with this picture?
Spanky rarely had more than a few nickels to scrape together at a time and I had never known him to hold down anything remotely resembling a job. In fact, I was blissfully ignorant of how he managed to pay his rent. The last thing I could imagine him doing was sitting down at a computer to do spreadsheets or analyze data or something.
“That’s my L-o-v-e Computer,” he said in a gravelly voice and his laugh, consciously or unconsciously, was that of Popeye the Sailor Man.
“It’s on loan from Marlin Communications,” Spanky began, and then his buzzer interrupted. It was Dirk downstairs. Spanky pressed the buzzer to unlock the front door.
“What’s Marlin Communications?” I asked.
“It’s this gig Pat got me. I hook the computer up to a modem and trade dirty e-mails with various guys around the country, except I’m pretending to be this girl Susie. They pay me fifty bucks an hour to do it. I also help record phone sex tapes,” he explained.
“Phone sex tapes? What are you talking about?”
“They have these 900 numbers where guys call and they get these recorded one-minute phone messages where the girls talk dirty to them: ‘Fill me up with your love pump,’ that kind of thing.”
Dirk let himself in, brandishing a bottle of wine. “Uh oh, Spanky’s been at the L-o-o-o-v-e Computer again!” he said.
“You know about the Love Computer?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said dismissively. “Hey, Spanky, I haven’t been paid yet for the last three scripts I wrote. Who should I talk to?”
“Scripts? Scripts? What are you talking about?” I asked.
“I doubt you’d be interested,” Dirk said.
“It’s for the phone sex tapes,” Spanky explained. “It’s really cheesy stuff.”
“How much does it pay? “ I asked.
“Fifty dollars for a one-minute script. They usually take about twenty minutes to a half hour to write.”
One hundred to one hundred fifty dollars an hour. “That’s good money!” I said.
“Oh boy. Here we go,” Dirk said. “Now everyone wants in on it.”
“Talk to Pat,” Spanky said. “He’s the Golden Boy over there. If anyone can get you a gig, he can.”
Next Monday morning I found myself poring over a manuscript about the advisability (or lack thereof) of mixing insulin and oral agents in people with diabetes, while keeping tabs out the window at a prostitute who was trying to make her way down the street toward the Queensborough Bridge subway station. She (or possibly he, because there were a lot of transvestite hookers in the neighborhood) was apparently strung out on something and kept falling asleep by the curb. I was poised to call 911 if necessary, but eventually she (or he) managed to right him or herself, and I decided to take a break from my editing.
I called Pat’s apartment in Brooklyn. When he answered, I said, “Pat, it’s Rob. I was at Spanky’s for dinner and he mentioned that you were—“
“I’m glad you called, Rob. Marlin needs scripts and lots of them, and I’m sure you could bring a certain flare to them.” Pat gave me the 1-900 number to call so that I could get a feel for what the scripts were supposed to sound like. “Try writing a half dozen of them or so and bring them to me at Marlin on Wednesday I’ll show you around the place—that is, if they let you out of your cubicle over there.”
“Corner office,” I corrected. “Where do I have to go—Times Square or something?”
“This isn’t a peep show, it’s a lush communications office on East Fifty-Second.” He gave me the address and told me to meet him there at 12:30 on Wednesday.
I called up the 1-900 number and listened to a seductive-sounding Valley Girl coo about what she’d like to do to my love piston and ultimately what she would like me to do with it. Then she moaned and groaned and squealed with delight from an apparent orgasm, told me how much she loved it, and invited me to call back. I didn’t know any Valley Girls but there was something vaguely familiar about the sound of her voice. Some waitress at a restaurant I frequented, perhaps? I pictured someone tan with long, blonde hair.
I kept calling the number, as the scripts changed about every six to eight hours or so. I never did hear the Valley Girl again. Meanwhile, I started banging out one-minute scripts involving flight attendants, dental hygienists, and feisty secretaries.
I left the office in Long Island City around noon on Wednesday, explaining that I was hand-delivering galley proofs to the typesetter—which the V.P. always loved because it saved him the cost of a messenger—and took the N train to 57th Street. Marlin Communications, on East 52nd Street, was located in a very respectable-looking building. Pat, dressed in jeans and a khaki shirt, was waiting for me in the lobby.
As we rode the elevator up, I asked Pat, “How long has Marlin been around?”
“Just a couple of years, but it’s going like gangbusters. “
“How long have you been working for it?”
“About six months. I heard about it from some other writers at Gent magazine.”
The elevator opened to a carpeted reception area. Behind the reception desk, with its young and well-dressed receptionist, was a huge logo with a giant MC and “Marlin Communications” in lettering underneath. In the waiting area were two very attractive young women in business suits, whom I assumed to be actresses, sitting there nervously with envelopes that probably contained their head shots.
“Hi, Pat! Go on in!” the receptionist said, pressing a buzzer that allowed us to enter through the glass doors.
There, Pat introduced me around. At one point, we went into the soundstage where the tapes were made. I saw a familiar face, Spanky, who waved us in with a sheepish grin. We exchange pleasantries.
Apparently he was in the middle of taping one of the phone sex monologues. I could hear some valley girl over the speaker: “I want to wrap by tongue around your love piston until you fill me up with your sweet, sweet spunk!”
It was my extremely arousing Valley Girl. Would I get a chance to meet her?
“Cut!” Spanky called out to the sound booth. M Valley Girl’s voice suddenly morphed into something manly, as she/he said, “Aw fuck, man! What did I do now?”
The voice was now so incredibly familiar that I stared out the window in disbelief. It was our Fearless Leader, Dirk.
As it turned out, none of my half-dozen scripts sold. Pat said they lacked originality. And so my career in porn was over before it began.
After Gloria Leonard delivered her welcoming speech, I ambled back to the bar and ordered a Beck’s. As I was there, a fat but mischievous-looking girl in her mid twenties was coming on to the bartender, who didn’t seem to be all that interested. “I’m really good,” she said to him.
“A good what?”
“A good girl,” she teased.
Someone tapped me on the shoulder and I turned to see a fifty-something balding man with a goatee. “Hey, kid. Is this your first time at something like this?”
“I can tell by your wide eyes. Let me tell you something right off—you won’t get anything here.” I just stared at him, wondering what he’d say next. “I’ve been in this business a long time. I’m a photographer covering this for Screw Magazine, and I’ve met dozens of these porn stars. These porn stars, it’s just an act. Most of them have spouses and families. It’s a fantasy. Understand what I’m saying?”
I nodded and took another gulp of my drink. “You know, when you’re around this stuff as long as I’ve been, it kind of loses its mystique—you know what I mean?” Suddenly he looked off in the distance and said, “If you want, I’ll introduce you to some of the porn stars that I know. I don’t see any of ‘em right now. Mona Venus is supposed to be giving some guy a golden shower, and I need to get a shot of that. You know what a golden shower is?”
I shook my head. “That’s where she pisses on a guy. I’m not into it myself, but some guys are. I’m getting a picture of it for Screw Magazine.”
He got up and started moving toward a crowd that was forming in the corner. “What, are you coming or not?” he asked.
I shook my head. I had a beer to finish. And I did. And walked out. I have visited that world from time to time but made the decision at that moment not to live in it.