Porn and managed expectations: When Derek met Nikki [interview]

Derek Hay and Mikki Lynn

Derek Hay and Mikki Lynn

Derek Hay at one of LA Direct’s model houses[/caption]Derek Hay is Porn Valley’s most prolific agent, running the largest of its talent agencies, LA Direct Models. As he leads me through a nondescript corridor to LA Direct’s offices on Cahuenga Blvd. (sharing a floor with Vivid), Hay mentions that he just signed a lease for an additional five years. So much for the Jizzful Cliff; even if the problematic Measure B sends some companies out of the Valley, Porn’s heart remains here.

“Measure B is Boring,” Hay says, refusing to talk about it.

Porn Valley has a handful of talent agencies serving a diversity of large and small studios, independent producers, online companies, and specialty service providers such as bachelor party planners. But while individual performers might swear by the services of boutique agents like Mark Spiegler of Spiegler Girls, no agency comes close to LA Direct’s footprint, which also represents male performers, transsexuals, shooting locations, directors, and crews.

logoHay is handsome, short, and powerfully built (as a performer, he uses the name Ben English). British, he resembles in form and tone a younger Ben Kingsley from “Sexy Beast.” He is one of the only people I’ve met in porn who will refuse to answer questions rather than just lying. I find this directness reassuring and, as I found later, Hay’s bluntness prevents potential problems in a business filled with people-pleasers.

“There’s much less work and there’s more actors now,” Hay is saying. He launched LA Direct in 2001 after booking California-bound talent from his home in London. When he moved to Los Angeles to operate locally, it was from the apartment he shared with then-girlfriend Hannah Harper. At that time the agency landscape was dominated by Jim South’s World Modeling, a decidedly analog affair on Van Nuys Boulevard that employed binders full of Polaroids.

There are numerous performers working today who got their start with Jim South, who was an early rep of Christy Canyon, Ashlyn Gere, and a (too) young (it turns out) Traci Lords. After closing down in 2006 in the face of the slicker, web-ready advent of agents like Hay, World Modeling reopened the following year and continues to operate with a much smaller clientele.

While the industry’s general laments concern content piracy, STD testing, the .XXX Internet porn ghetto, the occasional obscenity prosecution, and potentially devastating legislation like Measure B, Hay notes that similar trials have always faced porn. Hay’s special problem comes from excess.

Derek Hay at one of LA Direct's model houses

Derek Hay at one of LA Direct’s model houses

“It’s Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian,” he says. “A decade ago there were fewer girls who wanted to be adult actresses, and I’d say the taboo has decreased by 50 percent or more. If we could find the models in 2001, there was a mountain of work for them. Now it’s much more accepted.”

It is a dark winter Sunday night when we meet, and I am asking Hay about the way he interviews new talent when he gets a call. There’s a new model on her way.

“Some girls have done the research,” he says. “People do not say they want to be the next Jenna Jameson. They say they want to be the next Tori Black or Alexis Texas. Someone like Tasha Reign will say that she thought long and hard about it, knows who she is, where she’s come from, and knows what are her expectations for the future.”

But on the other hand?

“Some have no idea,” he says.

Hay’s phone beeps again (his ringback tone is The Clash’s “London Calling”). Nikki (not her real name) is at the door downstairs.

“You can sit in,” he says.

Up the concrete back stairs totters Nikki. She is shivering in the cold because she’s used to winters in Jacksonville. She has brought a friend, Cassandra, for moral support. Both are wearing skimpy outfits and high heels under rabbity coats.

Nikki has contacted Hay by sending some photos taken by a photographer working with Hustler. She is tall and eager to please. When her knees stop knocking, her charming drawl comes out.

Like a therapist, Hay lets Nikki begin the interview after she and Cassandra take seats across his desk.

“I’m happy to have sex with boys, girls, bi-racial, anal, multiples,” she is saying. “I like guys to sexually abuse me, but when it’s a girl position I like to be the boss.”

Hay asks Nikki what inspired her to seek out this type of work.

“I was in Havasu over Memorial Day,” she says, “and saw (model) Mishka there. I was like: ‘Mine.’ I lined the girls up and bent them over and played the pussy flute.”

Hay considers this for a moment and begins speaking. I am sure that much of what he says is an oft-repeated boilerplate that has been honed and refined out of need, but customized fpr Nikki’s level of enthusiasm.

“You will be working as an adult actress,” he says. “This isn’t to fulfill your fantasies. This is a profession.”

“Oh, I know—” she says.

“If Armani hires Kate Moss,” Hay says. “Then Kate is wearing Armani that day. You will be hired for specific things.”

“Oh, I think I came off wrong,” Nikki says. “I don’t want to do it wrng. I’m just saying that I don’t have any restrictions.”

“That is good,” Hay says.

Derek Hay and Mikki Lynn

Derek Hay and Mikki Lynn

Hay and Nikki then go into another room for five minutes while she disrobes for him. During this time I talk with Cassandra. They are staying together in Thousand Oaks, about 30 miles west of Los Angeles. They don’t get into town often, but that night will be going to some clubs, which is why they’re dressed the way they are.

“Bouncers let us right in,” she says.

Nikki and Hay return. Things looked good, so the job breakdown (it is no longer an interview) continues. Hay begins talking about scheduling.

“You will get a text message when we book you,” he says. “That text message will contain the day of the job, the studio, what you’ll be doing—such as a creampie (“What’s a creampie?” asks Nikki. “It’s when the guy comes just inside the girl’s pussy,” Hay explains), and the pay. Girl/girl is $700 and Boy/Girl is $1,000. You can expect to be there between five and six hours, which might include between 45 minutes and an hour and a quarter of hair and makeup, and photos.”

“At what point do the rates go up?” Nikki asks. “Do the rates vary?”

“The rates are standard,” Hay says carefully. “We will let you know if and when they vary.”

Nikki is OK with this information, saying that she has “always been a fan of sex and porn in general, and I’m ready to do it.”

Nikki is going to school but also couch-surfing, having just broken up with a boyfriend. She lets Hay know that her school schedule will not interfere.

“It will not be any difficulty to maintain your school schedule,” Hay says, explaining that if she wants time off, she can have as much as she needs, but she must let them know first.

“When I text you back, then you know it’s off,” he says.

Her living situation being up in the air, Nikki inquires about The Model House.

“We have two homes (in the Los Angeles area), that you can stay in for a fee, that are very comfortable,” Hay says, asking me not to reveal their locations. “Both are valued at more than $1.5 million [I have been to one of them, and I believe this number]. It is the opposite of how you would imagine it. It is quiet. You cannot bring children, a boyfriend, or pets.

“Or,” he says, smiling (but just a little), “a firearm.”

“I’m from the South,” Nikki says. “I prefer baseball bats.”

“Now,” Hay says. “Back to the day of the job. The day before you will receive an email from Serena (in the office) with wardrobe requirements, makeup, and anything else you might need. To the location you will bring two forms of picture identification and a valid, printed test. You are required to be STD tested every 27 days. Testing costs $120, and there are two locations in the Valley where you can be tested. This is an expense you will have to spend every month while you are working. At the location you will sign a model release—”

“—I need to read it before I sign it?” she says.

“Most people don’t read it,” Hay says. “But the bottom line is that you need to sign it before you can be paid. The company shooting you owns every image from that day.”

“I did hair and makeup for 15 years professionally,” Nikki says.

Hay pauses.

“Good,” he says, “but there will likely be someone there who will do that for you. Now: if you go to set and things are different than we said they would be, first thing to do is don’t do it, and the second thing to do is call us.”

Hay gives an example, asking me not to print the name of the company.

“An actress was booked for a Girl/Girl shoot,” he says. “When she arrived, the director asked her to also do a solo masturbation scene. ‘I’ve been doing this for years,’ the director said. ‘Direct Models knows about it.’ The actress called me. I checked the original email and talked with the director and quoted him an additional $150. The director said he didn’t want to pay that, and I said that was fine—just do what (the actress) was originally booked for.”

Earlier in the evening, Hay spoke about some of the things he now knew to say earlier rather than later, and he continued with Nikki on the subject of transportation. She said she didn’t currently have a car.

“LA Direct employs drivers who will bring you to and from set if you choose. If you are asked to fly somewhere, it is mandatory we drive you to the airport. This is free. You may arrange your own ride home if you choose, but we have found that we need to provide transportation to the airport.”

Nikki asks about percentages.

“As an agency,” Hay says, “we are licensed by the State of California, and no agent can be a convicted felon. We are also restricted in the amount of money we can collect from you. For the first 30 days of your employment, we will take 15 percent commission. After 30 days, we will take 10 percent. If you choose a driver (for local work), we will take 15 percent of that day’s check. You will often be paid that day, but never more than two weeks after you work.”

(When I directed “The Facts of Life XXX,” I didn’t happen to use any of LA Direct’s talent, but I paid an additional $100 Porn Valley standard “agent’s fee” to each of the other agents whose talent I used. So a thousand-dollar scene would actually cost me $1100, would net the talent between $850 and $900, and the agent between $200 and $250.)

“Will they pay it to me,” she says, “or will they pay it to you and then you pay me? I would prefer they just pay it to you.”

“It depends on the producer,” he says.

It is now 7 p.m., full dark on the Cahuenga Pass outside Hay’s window. The conversation is coming to a close, and they talk about lingering minutiae.

Mikki Lynn

Mikki Lynn

“What if I go to the shoot and I’m nervous?” she says. “Is it OK if I take a shot?”

“You must not consume anything that will make it obvious you have consumed it,” he says, carefully.

“What if I’m nervous?” she says again.

“You will not fail,” he says. “You will soon find that you have a lot of friends.”

She asks if she can bring Cassandra to the first few shoots.

“I will see if that is all right,” Hay says, explaining that it would be up to the producer, and that boyfriends on set are strongly discouraged.

Finally, Hay explains that porn is a unique industry that is affected by the economy more than most.

“If Kobe is sick,” he says, “the Lakers still play. But you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that it can’t happen that way here. If you are sick, and there is no replacement available, we incur a loss. If you cancel on a shoot you’re booked for, you pay $200 production damage. If they cancel on you, the company pays $200. We encourage people to get a good night’s sleep.”

Ostensibly Hay already knows that Nikki is 36. No one in the business can accept nude photographs without some statement of the age of the subject. But in talking about wardrobe Nikki—who looks younger than 36—says, “I can dress myself down to 19.”

While there is a shortlist of people who managed to breach the industry’s low ethics standard sufficient to “flunk out of porn” (this is usually temporary), none was ever outcast so much as Traci Lords, who supplied Jim South and video-age directors with a forged license. When she was found out, producers needed to pull her titles from shelves, as they depicted a 17-year-old having sex.

Nikki neither looks 17 nor 19, but still, Hay makes it clear that, for all the web-optimized functionality and diversification of LA Direct’s services, he’s right there with Jim South:

“One thing we never, ever do in this business is lie about age,” he says.

Nikki is a model of deference.

“I appreciate you talking to me about limitations,” she says.

We all leave together. Over the next few days, Nikki becomes “Mikki Lynn” (not to be confused with “Micky Lynn“) and gets some more photographs taken. She is added to LA Direct’s website, and her age is not altered. She joins Darla Crane (46), Ava Devine (38), and RayVeness (40), as well as plenty of women half their age, like 18-year-old Raven Rockette, the type of women Nina Hartley is fond of telling “My boob job is older than you.”

Nikki/Mikki has the job. She will soon be working. Still, she knows that jobs are hard to come by, so as I make my way onto Cahuenga I hear her tell Hay, “I haven’t done double-vag before, but I’m willing to try it.”

“We’ll see,” he says.

Previously on Porn Valley Observed: Eying Jizzful Cliff, porn lawyers prepare to sue; You can’t put a laugh track on genius—”The Facts of Life XXX”; Mark Spiegler—the last man working in porn; I interview Ron Jeremy at LA Direct’s house
See also: LA Direct Models

4 thoughts on “Porn and managed expectations: When Derek met Nikki [interview]

  1. “I did hair and makeup for 15 years professionally,” Nikki says.

    Those are becoming a model. So many starting out have such terrible make-up and the studio doesn’t always have a professional on hand.

    “Good,” he says, “but there will likely be someone there who will do that for you.”

    Seems like about half of the time there is not, so I say that is a huge bonus if she can make herself look right. Bad makeup really shows up under set lighting.

  2. Thank you so much for your very truthful article. I really do love working for Derick and Chris they have been very paitcent and have treated me well XOXO Mikki Lynn

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