The mortician sitting next to her on the plane wouldn’t take the hint, but it was her own damn fault.
“I introduced myself, I was friendly,” says Ashley Fires, who turns 30 today. “But even when I was sleeping with a coat over my head, he was still tapping me on the shoulder, wanting to talk.”
I think he thought you were an angel.
Ashley Fires has had an incredible tripartite porn career—as a dancer, a porn performer, and a dominatrix, and for the past year she has been doing it all from the state of New Hampshire, the only other state in the country where shooting porn is legal.
“We want to be ahead of the curve when the shit goes down,” says Fires, who lives with her husband of eight years on the outskirts of an old mill town. “Still. I go to the grocery store and people look at me like I’m from Space.”
Fires grew up in Los Angeles and started stripping while in high school.
“Yeah, I wore a big scarlet letter in school when people found out, which they inevitably did,” she says. “I would get home from school on Friday, pack a bag, and drive to Vegas and strip all weekend.”
Why Vegas, and why stripping?
“I visited a friend in Vegas the spring before I turned 18, and I liked it there. I entered an amateur contest at the Spearmint Rhino and I won; I had some formal dance training, and I knew how to walk in heels—and dance in them—and it was really exciting.”
Fires volunteers that she had “a great childhood” and that there was never any abuse.
“I’ve just always been a really sexual person,” she says, “with boys and with girls. I would just wear people out.”
When she moved to Vegas, she and a girlfriend essentially switched mothers.
“I lived with her mom in Vegas and she lived with mine in Los Angeles,” she says. “[Her mom] would wash my little stripper panties and drive me around town, saying ‘Oh, that club might be good for you.'”
The friend who moved in with her own mother, Fires says, now works in a children’s center. Go figure.
Fires adopted her nom de porn not from dancing with fire (which she does beautifully), but from an ex boyfriend.
“Yeah, I got my name because of a ‘Him,'” she says. “When it turned out he was very likely gay, I took his name as my stage name.”
Gram: I think you’re the only porn star who got your name from a gay ex-boyfriend.
Fires: I wouldn’t be surprised if there were others.
I met Fires in 2007 at an XBiz event. Back then, there was more of a distinction between an Internet side and Video side of porn and Fires, having started as a dancer in Vegas, fit comfortably on the Internet Entrepreneur side of the spectrum.
“Websites aren’t what they used to be,” she says, “but I still get a bunch of signups whenever I dance.”
It was after three years of dancing in Vegas that Fires decided to try porn.
“My brother’s girlfriend at the time was in porn,” she says (she doesn’t remember the woman’s name, but said it was “fetishy,” which means it’s likely you wouldn’t remember the name, either). “And it looked fun. My first scene was getting my ass beat at Kink.”
But let’s pause there for a moment. From her arrival in Vegas at age 18 until the time she met her husband nine years ago, Fires says, she was drinking and drugging regularly.
“I was one of those girls who would show up on set drunk,” she says. “I would put vodka in a Gatorade bottle and call it Fate-orade. I was self-medicating. And there was this, er, incident in Vegas in which I drove a getaway car for some friends who had robbed a guy. I was arrested and had to go without booze, and really examined my life.
“The charges against me were dropped, but I remember the policeman saying, ‘You are such a beautiful girl. Why are you doing this?’
“That didn’t stop me, though.
“[The man who would become her husband] was sober for 12 years, and I know that when I met him my life changed.”
Fires doesn’t hide the fact that she’s married; she thinks it adds to the appeal in some ways.
“People think, ‘What must her husband think?’ or, for example, I’ll ask to keep my wedding ring on in a scene, though sometimes the director says No. I used to think it would ruin the ‘fantasy’ if people knew I was married, but I think it’s often the opposite—people feel closer when they know who I am.”
Fires says she and her husband don’t like the terms ‘swinger’ or ‘open marriage,’ just that they like seeing the other person happy.
“Don’t get me wrong, we get jealous,” she says. “I think jealousy is a way of someone saying they care about you—taken in moderation. If you didn’t get a little jealous, I think you’d be dead.”
Still, Fires says that she followed the standard progression of most female performers in relationships: she spent six years being Girls-Only.
“And then he started saying, ‘Well, if you want to try working with men…’ And it started as a gimmick: If you wanted to see me fuck a man, you’d have to join my site. At first my husband could not fathom the idea of seeing me take a cock on camera, but then it started to turn him on.”
Fires says things behind her husband’s back that most men would be lucky to have said to their face.
“‘Ashley Fires’ would not exist without my husband,” she says. “If I hadn’t met him I don’t know where I’d be. I can’t imagine being a single adult performer. We all need somebody.”
Fires’ husband works in 3D effects and is from the northeast (much like, Fires points out, Aiden Kelly, who is Belladonna’s husband). Also like Kelly, Fires’ husband does not perform but instead shoots many of her scenes.
“He’s like a stage mom,” Fires says, “and a great supporter. When I first started doing boy/girl, I was on the phone with him in the bathroom. ‘This guy has a really big penis,’ I said. ‘Oh honey,’ he said, ‘you’ll be great.’
Still, Fires acknowledges that relationships can be tenuous in porn. We can’t think of too many that have lasted more than five years. But there’s Nina Hartley and Ernest Greene, Jesse Jane and husband Rich, Belladonna and Aiden, Alana and Chris Evans…
“My husband and I think we must curse people, because we’ll hear about a breakup and say, ‘Didn’t we just have dinner with them?’
“Monogamy ends most marriages,” Fires says. “I’m secure enough to know he won’t leave me. We both know where our home is. When you connect with someone the first time there are chemicals that are released that can’t be released any other way.”
Gram: So, as “Anchorman” Ron Burgundy said, “It’s Science“?
Fires: [Having a more open relationship] says, “I love you so much that I want you to have the feelings that I have.”
Ultimately, like Jesse Jane, Fires believes that it is being away from Los Angeles that has kept her marriage happy.
“L.A. is not a bad place,” she says. “It’s just not the best place for a marriage.”
So it is in New Hampshire, north of where Colin and Angie Rowntree run Wasteland.com and Sssh.com, and west of where the Joneses market the OhMiBod iPod vibrator, that Fires and her husband are building a studio and have been shooting web content.
“It’s not like I can go to Rock And Roll Ralph’s at 2 a.m.,” she says, “but it’s just nice here.”
She is also the Best Spokesperson Possible for the DIY porn site Clips4Sale.
That said, as most of her online catalog is femdom (women dominating men), she is sometimes frustrated in finding appropriate talent from Granite State craigslist ads.
“But it’s not impossible,” she says. “They’re just not growing on trees out here.”
Fires divides her time between flying to L.A. or to Kink.com in San Francisco to shoot movies for other people (She is very proud of her Belladonna Entertainment movie “Burning Embers,” in which she has a 3-way as a runaway bride—”They wouldn’t let me call it ‘Fire in the Hole’), feature dancing (her favorite cities thus far are Philadelphia and Atlanta), and dominatrix work, though she prefers men come to her (“with a serious screening process”) than “to go through TSA with a bunch of whips and electrical devices.”
I ask Fires about the concept of Top Drop, in which the whip-cracker, rope-rigger, nipple-clamper in a couple will crash emotionally.
” I remember it was my birthday several years ago,” Fires says, “and I was hanging from ropes. I felt like a switch got thrown and I thought, ‘I’m not this person.’ I became a domme, or a switch, from that point forward.”
Fires says that even when she’s submitting, she’s not.
“No one is going to slap my ass unless they ask first,” she says. “No one is going to say, ‘I own your ass.'”
Gram: So you top from the bottom?
Fires’ Twitter followers are regularly treated to nude shots, which some porn performers do and others strategically don’t.
“It’s good advertising for live shows,” she says, “and they are like personal notes.”
(Personal notes to more than 23,000 people—Ed)
And that leaves us with Fires’ relationship with fans. She is very personable, and no one is surprised when she gets that kind of behavior out of a mortician. But does it ever go too far?
“Some people come to the conventions and just stare at me for four hours,” she says. “That’s a little tough. And there are knights in shining armor who are very devoted, and will tell me that a scene I was in showed up someplace, and [ask me] if I got paid for it. Then there are people who are especially devoted, who will get a little angry that I didn’t tell them first when a movie was coming out.”
But this line of work is where she needs to be, Fires says.
“I feel, especially as I’m getting older and more experienced, like I’m a kinky therapist. I quit porn for a while in 2004 and worked at an escrow house on Ventura Blvd. I told my mother: ‘I’ve been tied up and sodomized and felt less humiliated than when working in an escrow house.’
“I’ve never been someone who just cashes a check.”
I applaud her dancer’s work ethic.
“Well, that’s all ADD,” she says. “I work all the time because I’m like a 5-year-old on a sugar high. When I’m not moving a hundred miles a minute I’m laying around the house like a walrus.”
A walrus? For her birthday, Fires has invented the WILF niche.