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Tag Archives: Annie Sprinkle

Memorial for a porn pioneer…

Last night I went to the memorial for Candida Royalle, the actress and filmmaker who started the couples erotica genre back in the mid-1980s and helped kickstart the whole feminist porn movement. She died in early September at age 64 of ovarian cancer.

Here’s the program from the memorial, unfortunately a little crumpled because I kept it in my overcoat while trying to juggle a plate of food and a glass of wine after the service…

CandidaRoyalleMemorialBooklet

The photo on the program is by Daniel Nicoletta.

 

Many people wore red, because that was Candida’s favorite color. I don’t have much red in my wardrobe, so I went to a souvenir shop near Times Square where I knew they sell inexpensive ties of many colors, including red.

There was a potluck assortment of food afterward, so I brought a box of chocolate covered cherries, since those also are red and a particularly voluptuous treat that seemed appropriate in memory of a woman celebrated for her love of sensuality.

She loved tomatoes—she even sang a song about them—which were passed out at the end of the service. Quite tasty.

Candida certainly was a very accomplished and energetic woman, and with the mourners like porn legends Annie Sprinkle and Vanessa Del Rio filling Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, it was overflowingly obvious she had an amazing gift for friendship too. I’m sorry I didn’t get to know her better; I only knew her as a professional acquaintance, running into her at events like screenings or, last year, at the memorial for another XXX icon, Gloria Leonard. I did note, however, that whenever our paths crossed, Candida had the remarkable ability to make you feel she was really glad to see you, and valued even a few moments of your presence. That’s quite a gift.

As her friends spoke their remembrances—people such as Annie, Veronica Vera, Veronica Hart, writer Ariel Hart, and her close friend and production associate Michele Capozzi—I found myself astounded that with all her busy filmmaking and sex toy designing and sinematic entrepreneurship, she had the ability to make so much space in her life for other people. Clearly she was one of those unique individuals who can cram into her allotted time on this crazy planet experiences and relationships that would take most average human beings three or four lifetimes to encompass.

As we of the first generation of legal porn creators, those of us who started in the 1970s when the obscenity laws relaxed, begin to age, illness and death become inevitable visitors, as to all people. But sometimes I feel in a kind of silly, post-adolescent way, “Wasn’t porn supposed to keep us young and strong forever?” Porn, or erotica if you will, has a unique “fountain of youth” quality whether you create it in film or writing or art, or bring it to life on screen by having the sex yourself;  and I think porn fans feel that eternal youthfulness in it, too. I think that’s certainly one reason why I continue to enjoy writing it and indulging myself in a young manhood that may only exist in my mind, but is certainly vivid enough as it parades across my imagination and comes alive in the words on my computer screen.

Rest in peace, Candida Royalle, aka Candice Marion Vadala. For more about her life and films, check out her site here.

 

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Annie Sprinkle gets me thinking: can a john take pride in hiring hookers?

Can a john take pride in patronizing hookers? This was the question set off in my mind after reading former porn star/prostitute/sex activist/performance artist/writer Annie Sprinkle’s review of Paying for It, Chester Brown’s memoir of being a john, in the New York Times Book Review for Sunday 7/3/11.

A “john,” as I’m sure most everybody knows, is the slang word for a prostitute’s customer. Also known as a “trick,” but we’ll stick to johns for the purpose of this discussion.

The book well captures the empty feeling that often results after a visit to a hooker.

A few weeks ago I looked at this book for about a half hour in the bookstore as a possible review subject for a column I do for an adult magazine. One thing that struck me was that Paying for It caught the loneliness of the “john experience” quite well and so I hesitated to read it. It brought back too many unpleasant memories. Over the years, I’ve had plenty of encounters with hookers. (By the way, I loathe the icy, emasculating word “sex worker,” and “prostitute” isn’t much better, although I can’t get around using it sometimes. Still, no form of positive thinking will ever salvage it from its harshness and judgmental tone.)

The number one emotion I have felt in connection with paying for sex is loneliness afterward–even when the experience itself was pleasant, as it frequently can be. Yes: emptiness, aloneness. Of something lacking in me. So I haven’t read Brown’s whole book yet. My impression of the style of the drawings in this comic strip-style memoir is that they are very detached, almost passionless. This artistic approach clashes with what I remember most fondly about my own experiences with hookers, which was of a fleshy excitement even when the encounter wasn’t so hot, of a tactile aliveness resulting from my pleasure and awe or just my fascination at this bountiful femininity being available to lil ole me for something as simple, and non-binding, as mere money.

I’ve written about this subject at length myself in fiction, short memoirs in adult magazines, and in X-rated screenplays. In film, The Masseuse 2 is from the hookers’ point of view, and The Masseuse 3 includes the customers’ angle more prominently. They were two of the best regarded X-rated movies of the 90s. A French critic recently wrote an interesting analysis of the film here; and here is the English version of that article, somewhat mangled in Google’s automatic translation but readable enough to make it clear that I treated the subject, and the characters, with seriousness. The fantasy of a masochistic man cleaning a domineering woman’s house, which figures prominently in my new ebook Learning to be CRUEL, pops up in Masseuse 2 as well.

Ashlyn Gere and Asia Carrera give memorable performances as the masseuses.

The complexity of man's relation to hookers is explored in the arousing context of this classic porn film.

Ms. Sprinkle, whom I know slightly from my work in the adult magazine business (although I haven’t seen her for many years), and who is a nice lady, makes the statement in her review that “There are millions of johns, but for one to come out voluntarily–with honesty, integrity, and pride–is rare indeed.” I had to shake my head at that. There are many writers certainly who have written well about this subject, with honesty and integrity if often in the somewhat veiled form of fiction. But Ms. Sprinkle, by her own admission on the Times’ ArtsBeat blog, rarely reads fiction. Still, I wonder if she is acquainted with James Jones’ great novel From Here to Eternity, which chronicled the interactions of clients and prostitutes with great skill, and to my mind is the best thing I ever read on the subject. Part of the story centers around a brothel that American soldiers patronize just before America enters World War 2.

Jones captures perfectly the obsession of a customer for his favorite hooker.

Jones certainly wrote with honesty and integrity. As far as “pride” goes, well, he wrote like a mature man of the old school, and about a subject such as this, his characters expressed the ambivalence any half-way sensitive guy would feel about falling for a woman who sells her favors for a living.

Having pride in being a john strikes me as oxymoronic. To my mind, the two don’t go together, because I’ll always have the sneaking suspicion that I couldn’t get for free what I just got for money. No, correct that–not the sneaking suspicion, but the knowledge, that I couldn’t get it without cash. That hurts my pride, doesn’t boost it.

Hey, maybe I will end up reviewing Paying for It at some point. I’m certainly qualified to do so and might have some interesting things to say further…and maybe I’ll even learn something once I get past my emotions about the subject.

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2011 in Erotica

 

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