It’s not that no one writes about porn as a social phenomenon, or that the history of the adult industry in America is a mysterious subject. The truth is out there. But a pair of books by longtime porn scribe “Dirty Bob” Krotts sheds light on a time (the so-called Freeman Age) and a place (Tampa) that need a lot more attention.
“Naked Came the Porn Star” and “Tampa Teasers” are scattered but rich snapshots of a time where porn didn’t need to be so calculating. After 1988’s California v. Freeman case, in which the United States Supreme Court made shooting porn de facto legal in California, came an unprecedented filming boom that, coupled with the rise of pro-sumer cameras, de-emphasized the art and politics that had crept into porn in favor of a good time. This lasted at least until 2003, when DVDs began their slow, steady decline.
Granted pornographers still had to worry about obscenity stings and STDs (John Holmes succumbed to AIDS in 1988) in the 1990s, but people like Dirty Bob were there to capture the mood of women who had arrived to sample the freest the industry had ever been.
“Things back then were much more relaxed, less structured,” Krotts tells me. “It was during a time when porn was fun for just about everyone. And the girls were, for the most part, not tied down to specific [agents] – other than [Jim South’s] World Modeling to rep them, but even those people did little more than give them leads.”
Hailing from Ohio, Dirty Bob is chairman of the X-Rated Critics Organization (XRCO) and a long-time contributor to AVN magazine. The XRCO, founded in 1984 as an alternative to the AVN Awards, is like the Hollywood Foreign Press that awards the Golden Globes; unlike award shows funded by trade magazines which are themselves funded by studios, the XRCO is a democratic body that holds its own closed-door awards night each Spring in Los Angeles.
The XRCO Awards are a raucous celebration/trainwreck of women who like to take off their clothes, as are these books.
“Naked Came The Pornstar” covers, in its 19 pornstar interviews from the 1990s, a time when people like Lisa Ann (first porn name: Sunshine) stayed up late answering fan mail with Sharpies and 8 x 10s, where porn companies promoted their talent rather than talent hiring publicists, and where someone like Danni Ashe could lay claim to being “the most downloaded woman on the Internet.”
Writing for publications like Video XCitement Magazine, Bob’s 90s interviews don’t ask the hard questions or probe too deeply (there is also a spellcheck issue), but we learn so much fascinating stuff regardless.
Such as the case of Alexandria Quinn who, like Traci Lords, appeared in dozens of porn movies before the legal age of 18 (her story began to unravel when she tried to buy a car with her real ID and was recognized as a porn performer by the salesman). Unlike Lords, however, Quinn took only a short hiatus before returning full-steam to the adult industry following her 18th birthday.
She treated herself to a boob job on her 18th birthday, so it is relatively easy to determine if her scenes were shot prior to this date. It has been reported that some companies, in order to keep her titles in circulation, paid her to legally reshoot her scenes that had to be removed.
Krotts provides a helpful and italicized preamble to each interview, from the famous — Houston, Taylor Wane, Rebecca Bardoux — to the obscure (both Jessica Fox and Jerica Foxx, and a dozen others).
“Naked Came the Porn Star” isn’t a comprehensive Legs McNeil tome, written with flair and hipster objectivity, but it is an insider’s story that compares and contrasts the casual, unschooled press interviews with the real life that accompanied them.
Similarly, “Tampa Teasers & Other Imports” covers the wild “Tampa Show,” a weekend-long event centered around the Nightmoves Awards, which honor the frothy cross-section of strippers, escorts, and porn.
I have never been to the Tampa Show or the Nightmoves Awards (these terms are often used interchangeably), and a book like “Tampa Teasers” makes me regret it. Debauchery in the pool, debauchery in the hotel rooms, debauchery everywhere.
I ask Dirty Bob if anyone ever thought he was too dirty.
“I never had a problem with people thinking of me a a dirty old man – mostly ’cause everything I did was legit in the sense that, being listed as on the AVN staff since 1989, publishing Video Xcitement magazine, and all of the other things, the girls were eager for me to do whatever they could for publicity – with no strings attached or expected. Plus, despite the name Dirty Bob, I was thought of as probably the cleanest one (in terms of being in porn so to speak).”
The Tampa Show has been a Central Florida fixture since 1993, when it became the first award show to recognize future stars like Jenna Jameson, Tera Patrick, Jesse Jane, Bree Olson, and Alexis Texas.
Dirty Bob’s book covers the first ten years of the Nightmoves Awards, which celebrates its 22nd year this Fall. It is filled with recollections of permanent Nightmoves host Ron Jeremy, the late Anna Malle, Jameson, Houston, Kylie Ireland, Tera Patrick, and Sunset Thomas, among many others.
“Tampa Teasers” is a more functional history, less cobbled together than its predecessor, but it similarly has a nostalgia for a time that can never be again, for reasons not limited to the fact that, after 2001, no longer could fans and show staff surprise arriving stars at the airport.
“Everything these days is much too commercialized – and that limits the fun aspect,” Krotts tells me. “Back then performers ‘got the joke’ that they were making money in (gasp!) porn. Surreal. Nowadays few people get it and realize how surreal or absurd just being in the biz can be.”
I look at “Tampa Teasers” and remember the 1990s, fondly and wistfully. I am sporting a touch of gray myself these days, and when I walk onto a porn set to see a row of tiny women texting, my heart breaks a little. Women seemed more absorbent back then. Similarly, the Jenna Jameson of today doesn’t give me a shot of hope and “Have A Good Time, All the Time” like the one from 1994 in Dirty Bob’s book does.
Luckily, Dirty Bob eases this sadness with a lot of dirty pictures.