Mika Tan was the first adult performer I met, back in July, 2002 (I was a fetus) on the wholesome set of “Whoriental Sex Academy 4,” directed by Bud Lee. I still recall Bud suggesting Mika have some lunch from the craft services table but she declined, since the choice was Mexican food (Baja Fresh) and she was doing anal later. At the time I studiously scribbled down this exchange because I was learning something important. Now I think, “Why bring Baja Fresh to a porn set in the first place?”
At the time, director Lee was married to Asia Carrera, another Asian porn star. Carrera remains one of a handful of adult performers who became more famous than the mainstream celebrities whose names they appropriated (in Asia’s case, “Wayne’s World” star Tia Carrera). Asia Carrera was also briefly seen as Bunny La Hoya’s roommate in the Jackie Treehorn film “Logjammin’.”
Mika has lived a rich life, which I might try to persuade her to document (or let me document) later, but I thought about her the other day when I wrote this story about antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea and remembered an interesting anecdote about speed bumps, so I called her up.
Mika retired from porn (“for good!” she says), in 2016. As Chris Difford wrote in the Squeeze song about someone else, “Now she lives another life in some fantastic place.”
“But I’m not dead,” says Mika Tan.
We started by talking about gonorrhea, which she has had three times—twice while in the adult business and once, before, with a partner who’d caught it in the Marines. But the conversation zigged back and forth, so we’ll start here:
“I will never get back into porn,” Mika says. “Market value has gone way down. I like to wear my Chuck Taylors and my combat boots (but not at the same time); so putting on makeup is a big deal. I don’t put on lipstick for less than $350.”
Tan worked as an escort in the 1990s with a New York outfit called Exotica 2000. “It was mostly Asian girls,” she says. “$3500 an hour or $5000 for two of us. Miko Lee kept telling me that I was too chipper. she kept telling me to be more bitchy! but I couldn’t help it. People were always trying to save me because I seemed so nice and chatty. Dennis Hof (late founder of the Moonlite Bunnyranch and several other legal Nevada brothels, for whom Tan worked in the 2000s and appeared alongside in the HBO show “Cathouse”) called me the worst whore he’s ever seen because I was so chatty.
“Later, I finally worked out a plan where I’d just meet someone for coffee and we’d hang out for a dollar a minute. When I finished my coffee—that he’d paid for—the date was over or he’d buy me another coffee.”
Her first porn name was Mika Okinawa.
“I got it from (the late porn agent) Jim South,” she says. “There was Asia Carrera, Lily Thai…’They need to know where you’re from,’ he said, as if people couldn’t tell I was Asian already. But Mika is my family’s nickname for me.”
And she’s not from Okinawa.
If I hadn’t had such a pleasant time on the set of “Whoriental Sex Academy 4” with Mika, Bud Lee, Alex Sanders, and the late Sledge Hammer, I wouldn’t have visited another one. I would have turned in my article and been done with the porn industry forever, just another interesting story. Instead, I accepted a job offer from AVN, in whose employ I met the woman who’d later be the mother of my wonderful offspring. So thanks, Mika!
Gonorrhea Pt. I: From Hoo-ah to Hoo-ha
“We weren’t in the business, really, my partner and me. We did some couples scenes and I was doing some femdom. He was a Marine. We had ground rules about seeing other people. I just said, ‘Wear a condom!’ He deployed and got it from his dive instructor. He gave it to me when he came back on libbo (liberty), and I felt it within days. He denied having it—I think guys feel like they can power through it, but it should have burned when he came. After awhile my hoo-ha was hot to the touch. It burned when I peed and there was a foul-smelling discharge.”
What did you do to get rid of it?
“I went to Dr. Rigg and he hooked me up.” (Dr. Robert Rigg, of West Oak Medical in Canoga Park, has been the Urgent Care doctor to the Porn Stars for decades.)
“But recently I called him for some anitbiotics but he couldn’t help me because I’m in another state.”
“I was with (porn performer) Alec (Knight) for years,” she says. “His mother was an ordained Methodist minister. I like to find nice guys. A little kinky on the side. They like to play with my butt.”
Mika was married to Knight for 13 years. “I just talked to him the other day,” she says. “I’m friends with most of my exes.”
Too chipper to tooth chipper
While she has had gonorrhea, Tan says that it was concern for her winning smile that may have saved her from syphilis.
Gonorrhea and chlamydia, according to performer Mr. Marcus in a 2012 interview with The Daily Beast, are STDs to which newer performers are especially susceptible. “We have a joke among the veteran guys that we build up such an immune system (that our bodies get) so used to chlamydia or gonorrhea that we don’t even notice we got it; [our body] just gets rid of it for us.”
Marcus had tested positive for syphilis in the summer of 2012 and admitted to altering an STD test so he could keep working. The mainstream American and European porn industries shut down for weeks.
“I was supposed to work with Mr. Marcus (during the time he was later known to be contagious) but I chipped my tooth on my sink when I dropped the cap on my toothpaste.”
Gonorrhea Pt. II: Greentinge from Porn Valley
“I was working in a 2-girl anal scene with Ava Devine. I don’t think the scene got released, obviously. This guy was directing and performing. When he came—it was a little chunky and had a green tinge to it—he let out a yelp. And not a sex yelp. By the time I realized it, it was in my mouth. I tried to make it look sexy by dripping it on Ava’s tits.
“It was esophygeal gonorrhea that time. Antibiotic garglewash took care of it. But you can get throat cancer from esophygeal gonorrhea. Is it worth it? Is it worth not having a voice for 300 bucks? I used to joke that I was deep-throating so much that God gave me speed bumps.”
“For a long time, the industry required 30-day testing. This was an improvement over No Testing. But when you think about month-long tests and everything that can happen between, it’s exponentially it’s terrifying,” says Tan.
In September, 2013, industry advocacy group Free Speech Coalition proclaimed—to many producers’ consternation—that STI testing should be increased. 14-day tests are now standard.
“One thing I liked about the Bunnyranch was that we had to test every two weeks. So it was safer there. Dental dams and condoms. I learned so many things there, and not all vaginal! I could lube up my armpit or whatever and make it feel like a pussy. I could use hospital-grade antiseptic and lick their balls and give them a neck job.
“I mean, (an escort agency that advertised dates with porn stars) was offering $500 bareback if (johns) could provide clean tests. And look at Mr. Marcus. You can’t control what other people do. You can’t force people to be safe for other people’s sakes. It’s hard to trust people.
“So I would never go back to porn. Market value has gone down and the price reduction isn’t worth the loss of safety.”
“I miss Ronnie.”
Mika and I talked about Ron Jeremy, who is now in custody at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown L.A. He has been charged with numerous counts of rape and sexual assault and is awaiting trial. In March, Jeremy turned 68 behind bars.
Ten years ago I ate dinner with the late Roy Karch, the late Dennis Hof, and Jeremy at the Sunset Blvd. In-n-Out Burger, as one does. This was before the 2013 aneurysm that accelerated Jeremy’s decline, but he was still far more a jovial gray-haired homunculus than 70’s porn god. Regardless, women were lining up to sit on his lap and be groped by him. I saw this at least a dozen times. I couldn’t interview him without women backing or fronting into him; it was like talking to someone on an airport tarmac and waiting for the plane noise to pass. Similarly, I would often watch him casually reach out and squeeze a passing woman’s parts at some adult event. From where I stood those many times, no one seemed to mind.
But apparently many people did, and he was eventually barred from adult conventions. Dozens of women in and out of the adult industry, and several near his former West Hollywood home, came forward to accuse him of unwanted groping, to assault, to rape dating as far back as 2000.
“I miss Ronnie,” Tan says. “He’s not a monster. We were fuck-buddies for a long time. He used to have sex with my aunt in the 1980s. She went by (the nom de porn) China Lake. Sometimes we’d be fucking and he’d say, ‘How’s your aunt?” A real boner-killer.
“My problem with #MeToo and Ron is I remember girls throwing themselves at him to get into mainstream, because everybody knew him. Women use their bodies as collateral. I know I did. I don’t automatically believe women. Motivation to use sex to get what you want is something I’m very familiar with.
Gonorrhea Pt. III: Blood Sugar Sex Ice Cubes
“I had a girl/girl scene with Kate Frost, who was dating Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers. We shared a toy. I got gonorrhea from Kate, who got it from Flea. That was the worst one. I had to put ice cubes in my hoo-ha.”
Why Mika left porn
“Alec’s son (from another relationship) was born in 1990.” (Alec Knight was Mika’s husband for 13 years.) “I started getting MILFy roles, of course, but I had a tough time with that age group. It felt too close and creepy. Plus, I don’t like boys.”
Mika keeps in contact with a few porn friends, but not many. “I just want to go home to my marshmallow bed at night,” she says. “When I tell you I hardly hang out with people from the business anymore, I mean it. She talks about a falling-out with a close friend from the industry who kept tagging Mika’s location in photos.
“But it’s hard to leave when you get used to superficial attention. People are giving you money and gifts and accolades. They may have seen a scene you shot five years ago. I didn’t realize I liked this attention, but I did, and it’s hard to leave that revenue stream.
“Then, your fans—or people who know what you did—won’t let you leave. I got a job as an admin at a warehouse and someone found me out and started a whisper campaign. This happens to so many people.”
“For the girls and the guys in the biz who are trying to make it, it’s hard. And then when you leave, it follows you. Places where you don’t think it will. My advice would be to change your name constantly! Pick a name that’s a noun. I’ve got a high school diploma and two G.E.D.s because I have to prove my education under different names. Give me a test and I’ll pass it! I’m Asian!
“I’m watching my scenes fade away. I see them on the tube sites and they get grainier and grainier. I used to correct them when they got my name wrong but now they just describe me as ‘voluptuous Asian.’ I’m OK with it.”