The Sporadic Beaver

About Cherry

September 18, 2012

Tags: About Cherry, Stephen Elliott, Lorelei Lee, pornography, Tickled Pink, Boogie Nights, Gail Dines

Cherry (Ashley Hinshaw) and Frances (James Franco) look for love in the world of XXX.
There was a time in the porn industry, about 25 years ago, when people spoke of X-rated films that had "crossover potential." I discuss this phenomenon in my book Beaver Street, in a scene where I'm asked to play a "nerdy file clerk" in Tickled Pink, which I describe as "a screwball comedy with hardcore sex." This is a historic film, I'm told, because, "never before had a porn movie employed fourteen paid extras in one non-sex scene."

Tickled Pink, like a lot of other pornos produced in this brief "Golden Age," had "upscale production values," a quality soundtrack, "performers who could act and fuck," and a well-plotted script written by a smart young director who just happened to be passing through smut on his way to respectability.

Tickled Pink never did crossover into the mainstream. Nor has any other porn flick. In fact, with the porn industry having degenerated into amateur exhibitionism on sites like YouPorn, and professional studs wired on Viagra engaging, as the inimitable adult-industry critic Gail Dines would put it, in “body-punishing sex” with a succession of anonymous starlets, the idea of crossover porno has been long forgotten.

Though it comes very close, About Cherry contains no hardcore sex and therefore cannot be called a crossover movie. It does, however, contain a lot of very explicit sex scenes, and is also the best and most realistic film about the porn industry I’ve seen since Boogie Nights. It’s certainly the best movie yet to be made about pornography in the 21st century, an age when the Internet has taken over and relegated what remains of the venerable “men’s magazine” industry to its deathbed.

This realism can be attributed to About Cherry’s co-writers, director Stephen Elliott, who has written extensively about sex, and Lorelei Lee, a porn star who plays a porn star in the film. Obviously, they both know the business, and their insider knowledge and experience comes across in such scenes as when Angelina aka Cherry, played by the gorgeous young actress Ashley Hinshaw, is interviewed by a porn production company before they hire her to make videos.

Realistically depicted, as well, is the arc of a porn star’s career—single-girl still shoot/single-girl video/two-girl video/boy-girl video—as is the nature of a porn star’s romantic relationship. Cherry begins dating Frances (James Franco), a wealthy coke-addict attorney who doesn’t hesitate to tell her what he thinks of her job: “It’s disgusting.”

The extraordinary ensemble of actors—notably Heather Graham as Margaret, Cherry’s lesbian mentor/director who’s dealing with a jealous girlfriend; Dev Patel as Andrew, Cherry’s supportive gay friend; and Lili Taylor as Phyllis, Cherry’s alcoholic mother—create a milieu of such verisimilitude it can, at times, border on queasy. But the porn industry can, indeed, be a very queasy place.

The plot is basic: Cherry, a high school student, runs away from her dysfunctional family and sleazy boyfriend, Bobby (Jonny Weston), accompanied by Andrew. She winds up in San Francisco, needs a job, and after waitressing in a strip club, finds her way into porn. What’s different is that About Cherry, unlike, say, Boogie Nights, ends on a positive note, if not necessarily a happy one.

Guaranteed to piss off Gail Dines, and that’s a good thing.

Act Naturally

September 14, 2011

Tags: Sleazoid Podcast, R.C. Baker, Village Voice, Boogie Nights, Amazon, Beaver Street, Martin Scorsese, Justin Timberlake, Henry Dorfman, Paul Slimak



The good people of The Sleazoid Podcast wouldn't be the first to suggest that Beaver Street is a movie that needs to be made. R.C. Baker, of The Village Voice, said in his Amazon review, "Vivid and funny, Beaver Street moves at a cinematic pace, a period piece that picks up the story of modern porn where Boogie Nights leaves off." And, of course, I, too, have entertained such big-screen fantasies, musing over the possibility of Martin Scorsese directing (Who does sleazy and gritty better?), Justin Timberlake portraying a younger me, and Paul Slimak, whom I call Henry Dorfman in the book, playing himself. (Check out Slimak's work in the Beaver Street promotional video, above.)

Whether or not a filmmaker comes along and snaps up the rights to Beaver Street is obviously beyond my control, and I’m not about to max out my credit cards producing the movie myself. But with Beaver Street scheduled to be published in the US sometime in 2012 and Nowhere Man about to undergo an Italian Renaissance, I’m feeling unusually optimistic.

So, I’m putting the idea out there, my daily message in a bottle: Come on, Hollywood, let’s make Beaver Street, the movie. If it ain’t a natural, I don’t know what is.

The Business of Smut: Critique #5

June 18, 2011

Tags: John Holmes, Mike Sager, Slate, Rolling Stone, Boogie Nights, Wonderland, Susan Faludi, smut

John Holmes
Well written, well researched, and consistently interesting, “The Devil and John Holmes,” by freelance journalist Mike Sager, is the best of the five pieces about the smut biz recommended by Slate. I read this 12,500-word article when it ran in the June 15, 1989 issue of Rolling Stone. I enjoyed it then and it still holds up now. According to Sager’s Website, the story served as inspiration for the films Boogie Nights and Wonderland.

Thumbnail Critique
Plot: A detailed account of John Holmes’s involvement in the mass murder of a gang of LA drug dealers.
Mood: Hard-boiled crime story meets the history of pornography.
Highlight: John Holmes discovers he has an enormous penis.
Sample Quote: “In a career that would span twenty years, Holmes made 2,274 hardcore pornographic films, had sex with 14,000 women. At the height of his popularity, he earned $3,000 a day on films and almost as much turning tricks, servicing wealthy men and women on both coasts and in Europe. Since the late Sixties, Holmes had traded on his natural endowment. His penis, when erect, according to legend, measured between eleven and fifteen inches in length.”
Also See: “The Money Shot” by Susan Faludi