At its best, porn should be a lot of things: thought-provoking, expressive, beautiful, basic, and invigorating. But beyond all that, it should be fun. I hadn’t been having fun at porn shoots recently—I was feeling a little burned out—so that’s why it was such a relief to visit director Dana Vespoli and performers Sinn Sage and Dani Daniels on the set of Sweet Sinner’s “Wet Panties Trib” this weekend.
So you know, “Wet Panties Trib” is not a newspaper. Instead, it is a means of tribbing through wet panties. The idea is that panties should be moist so that the friction from the tribbng doesn’t cause the labia to burst into flame.
I have seen exactly two Dana Vespoli movies; one in which she performed and one she directed. On both occasions her work was riveting. She performed with fearlessness and abandon, and she directs with the eye of a dirty old man. That is why her work today, helming the latest installment of a series geared toward couples, might require some restraint.
“I think I’m good at capturing an energy,” Vespoli says, “and with Mile High [Sweet Sinner’s parent company] it’s like putting together a puzzle: ‘How do we get to the seduction?'”
What’s interesting on this set—and representative of the way successful pornographers are adapting to the economy—is the very freelance nature of the staff. Exclusivity with one company is no longer a supportable business model for the most part, and diversification of skills is necessary for survival.
Cameraman Kevin Moore is also the stills photographer. An established director with Evil Angel, Moore is responsible for the recent fetishy “Panty Pops” and “Spandex Loads” POV series.
His assistant today is Chad Diamond who, as a performer, is in just about every gangbang movie you’ve seen recently (Diamond also played Mr. Shu in a “Glee” porn parody).
And Vespoli herself directs for several companies, having returned to porn last July after an extended maternity leave (she has three children with performer/director Manuel Ferrara; the couple has split, she says, but she and Ferrara are amicable co-parents and they still work together).
“I always felt I was flying under the radar as a performer,” Vespoli says, “but I got into the industry to direct.”
And she’s so adept at it. New Sensations enclosed Vespoli’s 2007 movie “Dirty Little Stories 2” as a bonus disc in a box of their newer titles recently, so I found out she was also a director by a pleasant mistake.
Today’s shoot is north of Los Angeles on dusty La Tuna Canyon Road. Commemorations of the 1992 L.A. Riots, which started on April 29, 1992, have been airing all week, and this secluded hillside complex seems like a great refuge should shit start going down again.
It’s a property you’ve seen several times in movies, but it is my first time visiting. As I walk up the hill, a helpful neighbor points me to the correct door; as many homeowners rent to both porn and mainstream companies, I learned early to say “I’m looking for the production” rather than “Can you tell me where ‘Dirtpipe Milkshakes 3’ is filming?”
Inside, Dani Daniels sits demurely in the doorway. Just behind her, Sinn Sage is naked but for a new pair of glasses, which she says she got for $15.
“I’ve never got a pair of glasses for $15,” I weep bitterly through my weapons-grade prescription, assuming that Sage got hers so cheaply because she was naked.
“Seriously,” says Sinn Sage, “try Zenni Optical; you just need your prescription.”
It is the first time I’ve met Vespoli, and she does not look like she has given birth to three children, save for how motherhood might have benefited her directing. She is helping Sage pick out a wardrobe.
“Your clothes are: ‘I just don’t give a fuck; my dad owns the company,'” Vespoli says, and Sage quickly picks out some velvet jeans, which Daniels paws appreciatively.
It is not in my place to join Daniels in the pawing, but it is in my head.
Also on hand is Jeff Koga, one of the nation’s finest photographers, and with him is doppelganger and freshly-minted porn scribe “Josh Wheldon,” who wrote the just-released “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” parody that Lee Roy Myers directed for Adam & Eve.
Koga starts explaining something about “Buffy” and Joss Whedon and fans of Joss Whedon and I don’t know what he’s talking about. I feel like I need to finish the copy of Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom” which I’ve had lying around for more than a year before I give myself permission to watch “Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog.”
Also, I get Joss Whedon confused with Joss Stone, and I’m not the only one.
So I smile enigmatically at Jeff Koga.
It bears repeating that Sinn Sage is one of the most accessible and friendly porn performers you’d ever want to meet. I met her at a well-catered orgy about a year ago. I ask her stupid questions while she’s standing there bare-ass (and I mean ass) naked and she answers them.
“You are known for your ass,” I say, America’s Beloved Porn Jurnalist. “And now you know that you are known for your ass.”
“Yes,” she says.
“Knowing this, have you changed your regimen or lifestyle to accentuate and accommodate your ass, the way I might cater articles to the keywords people are using to find my site?”
“No,” she says. “I have changed absolutely nothing.”
And I hope she never does.
We go outside, where the sun dapples the shit out of her ass.
Back inside, Kevin Moore is taking a battery of “Pretty Girl” shots, which is an industry term (coined, I believe, by photographer James DiGiorgio) for the type of photos safe to display on boxcovers and in the classier gentlemen’s magazines.
“So let’s undo Sinn’s pants…” Moore directs Daniels.
“You want me to do a squatting pose for that?” Daniels asks.
“No squatties,” Moore says. “Too porno.”
Daniels and Sage have an easy, supportive, and workmanlike relationship as a group of men snap photos. The women strike poses one moment and talk shop while transitioning to the next one.
Hooking her thumb in her purple panties, Sage remarks that a fan sent them to her.
“He sends them to me, I wear them in a scene, I send them back,” she says.
Chad Diamond adds that he, too, sends underwear to fans. I am saddened that Sage is no longer talking and that I am now listening to a man talk about his underwear.
“I get $50 worth of dollar underwear at Marshall’s,” he says, and mimes someone taking a big whiff. “I can imagine what the guy does when he opens the box.”
Diamond’s story is at first hard for me to believe, for no one has ever asked for my underwear, especially not Belinda Carlisle at that Go-Gos reunion.
“It’s true,” Diamond says. “Socks, too.”
In front of the cameras, Sage and Daniels are topless and getting bottomless.
“So, I like my tits; I think they’re nice,” says Sage to Daniels. “But fuck: your tits are insane.”
I arrived at noon and ate a piece of celery. Now it is two and I have an appointment across town. In the short time I spent I got a picture of the several jobs that happen simultaneously on a porn set—Francesca Le is in the makeup chair as I leave—that could all be severely compromised if just one cog in the wheel is late, overmedicated, attitudinal, attention-seeking, or there for the wrong reasons.
Instead, it’s just a group of people having fun and getting their jobs done; I’m sorry I can’t stay.
I remember watching coverage of the riots long before I moved to Los Angeles, and how conflated they, the O.J. Simpson saga, “Yo MTV Raps,” and all those syndicated cop shows like “CHiPs” and “Adam-12” became in my folksy Appalachian worldview. It was only upon arriving here that I realized Tom Petty’s Los Angeles was different from Snoop’s.
And they forgot about Dre.
I imagine that anyone not living here might also have a distorted view of what it is like to work in porn.
As I drove down the 110 freeway to my next engagement, I noticed the Goodyear Blimp hovering between the Staples Center and the Pacific.
“Gram Ponante’s A Pimp,” it did not say.
Still, I gotta say it was a good day.
Vespoli’s installment of “Wet Panties Trib” will be released later this summer.