Porno Princess called Tuesday to ask me for some work. Any work. She’s a pal, and I don’t mind helping pals out when they’re in a jam. Even though I’ve shot her for every site I either own or shoot for, I had some work. There’s a staircase in LA that starts in the middle of the sky, and it leads to nowhere. And it’s smack-dab in the middle of the city. It’s intrigued me for years, and I’ve always wondered where it used to start…and what it lead to. I’ve also wanted to make some sort of arty-farty statement on one of my hero’s work, and I knew — from the first time I saw it — this particular staircase would suit me just fine. And now, with the Tuesday phone call asking for some work, I had my model.
Porno Princess called me Wednesday to confirm our Friday job, and then she told me how happy and appreciative she was for it. Then, without hesitating, she went right into her story, and it went something like this: Porno Princess read a book that inspired her so much she wrote the author a letter, and now the author was on her way to Los Angeles to document Porno Princess’s life, starting with her job Friday. “Isn’t this great, Billy! I finally can get the help I need!” I knew about Porno Princess’s demons. What I didn’t know — until this very moment — was she was going to put her life on television in order to get help, and this author was gonna make it happen.
I’m gonna call the author The Interventionist, only cause that’s what she does. And Porno Princess really feels that if she gets her story to Dr. Phil or Dr. Drew or any of those kinda folks, she’ll get the help she needs. Porno Princess has no health insurance, and even with it, we all know rehab is a big ticket item. And The Interventionist liked the letter Porno Princess wrote very much. I’m sure you’ve already figured out The Interventionist works with TV production crews, and sure enough, Porno Princess will have The Interventionist in tow for Friday’s gig…and The Interventionist will be documenting it all.
I don’t like this one bit. It’s not about having guests on set during a shoot; I’ve done that plenty of times before (my favorite being the cuckold husband who watches his Porn Wife get banged out by a slew of black dudes as he sits in a dark corner and tries to figure out how to beat it without letting it be known he’s jacking to the show). I don’t like this cause there’s no positive spin ever when it comes to my biz and the women who work in it…under any circumstance. Especially in the mainstream media. So I don’t want to be part of this in any way. Shape. Or form. But Porno Princess has just hung up the phone, and she made it very clear that my gig was the segue to her rehab. “You’re so great to do this for me, Billy! Thank you so much!!”
Let me take a break from this story and digress a bit to tell you what I’ve been listening to lately: Japandroids “Celebration Rock”, the soundtrack to Darjeeling Limited (over and over), King Tuff’s self-titled debut for SubPop, The Ramones “It’s Alive” (perhaps the greatest live record ever produced?) “Dear You” by Jawbreaker, Jack White’s “Blunderbuss”, and, almost embarrassingly (or not so, depending on who-knows-what) The Rolling Stones “Some Girls” and “Exile on Main Street”…oh, and M83, too.
So how do I back out of this one? How do I call Porno Princess and say no no no to The Interventionist on my set. From her perspective, I’ll be the one to blame (for who-knows-how-long). Besides, I want to see Porno Princess get some help, and if she’s willing to do it in front of a national audience, so be it. Or, be it so. And when Porno Princess txt’d me on Thursday, to make sure we were “still good for Friday”, I txt’d back: I’m not gonna sign a release. That was my line. As in the line I draw in the sand; I’ll let The Interventionist into My World, but there was no way my mug was gonna (legally) end up on anything — besides her raw footage. Porno Princess hit me back: “Oh! That’s fine!” So be it…or, be it so. Friday’s gig was on.
When Porno Princess and The Interventionist walked into my studio Friday afternoon, I had my Defense Shields up at full force — even after The Interventionist said the goal here was not to bash porn…but to get someone the help they needed. Of course I wasn’t going to bring up any side agendas…like selling more books. But I did tell Porno Princess, the night she broke the news she’d have The Interventionist in tow, about “The Dr. Phil” story. It goes something like this: a few years ago, another Porno Princess told me about her Dr. Phil gig, and what they wanted her to do…which was to break the news to her folks she was in porn, right there on Dr. Phil’s stage when the show began…and then they’d have a big pow-wow during the show to talk to her about alternatives to The Porno Life — a college degree. And in return for her appearance on the show, she’d get the “help” she needed to get out. Well, after the show went down, Porno Princess was led to a green room, where a lady (probably a production assistant) met her and went over filling out paperwork for grants and student loans. “I thought they were gonna pay for my college, Billy. I mean shit…I know how to fill out student loan paperwork.”
And you guys thought porn was slimy.
I showed The Interventionist around the studio, and then we jumped in my ride and went to the stairs. On the way over, I talked about my admiration for Duchamp, and the story behind “Nude Descending a Staircase“, and how I’d had my eye on this weird staircase that started in the sky and led to nowhere, and all I really wanted to was photograph a girl walking down it…without any clothes on. Simple as that. The hard part of the shoot presented itself almost immediately after we pulled into the parking lot closest to the stairs.
The stairs sit on city property, but the parking lot in front of the stairs serves a fairly popular restaurant. There’s two valet guys working the lot, and it’s starting to pick up. In other words, shooting a girl walking around nude in front of a popular restaurant at 5:30 on a Friday afternoon wasn’t the best decision. “Can we get in trouble for this?” Porno Princess asked. “I’m sure, but you’re not doing anything sexy.” Then, in a goofy voice I said, “This is art, damnit!” which didn’t get the round of laughs I was hoping for. So I called my lawyer and asked him about worst-case scenarios, which turned out to be potential jail time and life-long status as a sex offender — for both the model and photographer.
As we sat there and contemplated the consequences, The Interventionist said something like, “just tip the Valet. They work on tips, you know.” Porno Princess said, “I don’t wanna go to jail. You know how bad it is for a junkie in jail?” I said, “how about you go up to the top of the stairs, see how you feel, and we’ll go from there?” Porno Princess asked, “Do I have to?” and I could feel The Interventionist’s eyes burning the back of my head off, waiting for my reply (The Interventionist was in the back seat running the camera for all of this). “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do,” I said.
Back at the studio, Porno Princess filled out a model release while she did some drugs. She let me take some pictures of that, too. Then I handed her a check and walked them both out. Porno Princess thanked me, and gave me a hug, and I said, “when you come back let we’ll take some more pictures.” Then I turned and said goodbye to The Interventionist. I could tell The Interventionist wanted to hate me from the moment we met, but I think the afternoon went pretty well. “I’ll see you soon, Billy!” Porno Princess said, then she turned and started to cross the street to the car. The Interventionist said, “You know you’ll never see her again. Ever.” And even though this happened only a few hours ago, I don’t remember what I said to The Interventionist. I think I just turned and walked away.