What a long strange FIP it’s been

This is the first thing I ever wrote about porn, and it kind of looks like the first thing anyone writes about porn. I’m not proud of it. It appeared, in various forms, in several “mainstream” publications so, whether or not it was any good it got me a lot of work in the adult industry.

Take Me to the FIP: On the Job in the Valley

I am spending some time with the nice folks of the adult entertainment industry in my adopted neighborhood.


My friend, whom I like to call The Undisputed King of Porn but who will have to remain nameless, pointed to a spot on the ground at a Northridge skate park and said, “This is the center of full insertion in the world.” Tattooed and scabby skaters performed listless half-pipes around us, as adult film women ground up and down at the rim of the bowl. On a massive screen by the DJ setup rolled a 15-minute looped snippet of “Skate Trixxx,” a filmic experiment combining less-than-extreme skating and Hot Adult Action. I watched several times as a shot of a randy dwarf servicing a sex-grimaced pornstress dissolved into footage of the same dwarf crashing into a railing with his skateboard.

Having fun on a warm summer night.

Depending on whom you ask, the porn industry in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles generates between $4 and $11 billion a year, and employs upwards of 50,000 people. So legitimate a business is it that it funds its own congressional lobby and is, for better or worse, at the forefront of internet innovation (online credit card authentication, webcams, and clickable banner ads were popularized on porn sites). If proponents of Valley secession get their way in the L.A. elections this November, the porn industry will be the resulting city’s number one business.

I am not from here and pornography still titillates me. As professional and well-regulated as the set of a porn movie is (more on that later), there is still something about it that takes me back to searching for sun-faded Hustler pages in the woods behind my junior high school, amongst broken beer bottles and the occasional mattress. Even the more liberal and cologne-wearing dads of my childhood friends knew enough to keep the Playboy stash in the hidden drawers beneath the waterbed. As cool as I am, I suppress the urge to giggle delightedly when the security guard admits me to the set.

The Undisputed King of Porn, who works in the public relations wing of a Triple-X distributor, says that the key to working in a below-the-line position in the world of adult entertainment is the lack of desire to. “If you want to work in porn,” says he, “you shouldn’t.” The most successful people wish they were somewhere else. His co-worker in the print department spends nine hours a day pasting stars onto pictures of nipples and vulvae for inclusion in the classifieds of respectable newspapers. They have a healthy dislike for their jobs.

At the skate park, it’s Old Home Week. Veteran talent and up-and-comers mingle and pile Swedish meatballs on paper plates from the V.I.P. tent. Skater kids shuffle around nervously in their baggy pants, not believing their luck. There’s a couple of silver-haired Fred Blassie-looking guys about, and I am reminded that even porn has its class system: you wouldn’t see Hef trolling around this fenced-in stretch of concrete and wicker baskets of pretzels.

Still, everyone is very polite and friendly. This party is a lot more inclusive than any Viper Room event, and I realize that P.T. Anderson had it right when he characterized this industry as a big family in “Boogie Nights.” I bum a cigarette off a 6’1″ stunner in hot pants and a weapons-grade bustier. “Where did you get that lighter?” she asks.

“Third place in the Spelling Bee,” I say.

“That’s awesome.”

My group stays for about an hour, watches the porn loop some more, and depends on those of us with the right-colored bracelets to get free drinks. Then, the V.I.P. meatballs are getting cold and it’s time to go. A few skaters are drunk and there have been accidents. As I leave I am handed a goody bag with a skateboard keychain, a skateboard t-shirt, several glossy flyers for adult products from the line of corn-fed nymph Tera Patrick, and a vibrator.

Somehow the vibrator seems out of place. Aside from the porn loop, the sexualizing was merely fun at the skate park. The vibrator, on the other hand, seems too frank. It’s pink, and pretty thin. The directions read, “Insert 2 x C bateries and operation.” It is called the Slimline Executive Series, and I wonder if the common perception of executives is that they have narrow penises. The Nothingness Embracing of the Undisputed King of Porn comes in handy here: empty your mind and let knowledge flow through it. Executives have little dicks.

My first visit to a porn set was the next day. The movie was the fourth in a series of Asian-centered fare that, by this sequel, bore no relation to the original title except for the presence of Asian women. I was lucky enough to show up on an Action day as opposed to a Story day. A Story day is nothing but the dialogue-heavy narrative scenes, usually filmed for the benefit of soft-core cable audiences.

The set is in a warehouse in Chatsworth, part of the Valley that reminds visitors that Los Angeles was stolen from the desert and the desert wants it back. I park next to a line of Jaguars and SUVs and walk through an ambiguously-marked door, which is sandwiched between an audio-visual gear distributorship and a surveillance equipment warehouse.

The receptionist is a beautiful young woman dressed, let’s face it, as if to allow easy access. She rings the Undisputed King of Porn and he greets me. As he and I walk to the set, I ask how deeply the receptionist is involved in the industry. He replies that he thinks she’s done some hardcore print stuff, but not any movies yet.

“We still need someone to answer the phones,” he says.

A wrong turn leads me to the dressing rooms upstairs, where there is a long craft services table with nothing but diet soda and candy. One of the actresses says hello and leads me to a hidden refrigerator where there are some cellophaned Store 24 sandwiches.

Downstairs I am led to the set, which is a series of six small rooms, sparsely furnished and shoddily constructed. I sit on a hotel bed behind the Director of Photography, who is running the show from behind a monitor. I know that the bed I’m sitting on will later be used by the talent, which is exciting the way seeing Fonzie’s jacket at the Smithsonian is exciting. What confuses me is that this narrow bed is part of a twin-bed set, separated by a night table. Is somebody going to go to town on Donna Reed?

I watch the action taking place about fifteen feet away. It’s a man-woman scene, and the actors are in a position that looks uncomfortable. She’s moaning rhythmically, her mouth open, and he’s employing a look of concentration. For a moment it looks real, and then he falls out for about ten seconds, during which time she keeps moaning. There are no wranglers around, so he stuffs himself back in there (he’s not hard yet) and they continue. In fact, they continue in that position for about 45 minutes, during which time I come to understand how much of a job this is.

There are fifteen people on the set besides the actors and each knows his job and executes it quickly. The director is also manning a Canon XL-1 digital camera and he and the DP lightly argue about shots. There are no “fluffers” and no one is just hanging around, mouth agape. The boom operator, a guy in his 20’s, captures each of the non-essential grunts without dipping the microphone for a 25-minute stretch. That’s torture. The other camera crew move around gracefully in a lateral crotch-level ballet, never once getting in anyone else’s way.

The action stops and now it’s time for Stills. Several men with high-octane cameras swoop in and the actors pose for shots in various simulations of arousal. The still shooters work for websites hosted all over the country and as far away as Japan, and their snaps will be uploaded within the hour. These photos will generate credit card cash for subscription services. After several Stills breaks I say Fuck It and angle in there myself, getting several shots of the back of a Wisconsin porntrepreneur’s head as it bobs within inches of the nether parts of the woman who showed me where the sandwiches were.

I am feeling nervous about the male of the pair. He told me later about how Viagra has changed the industry, allowing for greater longevity and more work hours, but lamented that there was a stigma attached to those actors who couldn’t keep it up naturally. I think that those chains will fall away with time, much as the stigma of silicon enhancement has evolved into a necessary expense in this area. But the man wasn’t able to get a dose of Viagra from his contact today, and it shows. Three hours into the shoot, he looks frustrated and she looks dog-tired. What’s more, they have been in a series of esoteric modern art positions all this time, and he hasn’t been allowed to let go, only FIP.

A FIP is a Fake Internal Popshot. Cannily, most companies shoot two versions of a porn film: one for Skinemax and its ilk and one for hardcore behind-curtains-at-video-stores audiences. Soft-core viewers are not exposed to male frontal nudity or South of the Border fluid exchanges, so the FIP is called for to convey climax: the man’s face gets all screwy and sincere and he yelps loudly and says, “Shit you’re gorgeous,” in exact similitude to how it actually happens.

“Can I drop the bomb?” the actor says.

“No, we’re just FIPping now,” the director replies.

“Shit, Bro!” the actor says.

Actually, “shit” is used a lot in the process of FIPping. In the three FIP scenes I watched that day, each actor got falsely off with the following line of dialogue:

“Oh shit. Aww shit .”

At one point, the most natural of the Asian actresses ad-libbed the following line:

“Ohhhh. SHIT.” (I know it was ad-libbed because I was following with the script.)

When, after three hours, one of the guys was finally allowed to release, the result was surprisingly small. At that point a production assistant rushed in with a squirtgun filled with condensed milk and, waiting for the actress to move her hair out of the way, shot her in the face. When this was documented, the cameras stopped rolling, stills were shot, and the two actors, naked on a table around which buzzed crewmembers moving the props and adjusting the lights, carefully and gently wiped each other off.

The crew took a break and sat around smoking on the hotel beds. Two actresses waiting for the next scene fell asleep together on a bed across the set. The crew talked about one of the actresses who didn’t show up that day because she got busted – again—for crack possession. I asked if the talent routinely didn’t show up for work. “At least once in every shoot,” they replied, “but we can always replace them.” Open casting calls for porn companies regularly draw hundreds of willing actors and actresses.

The sandwich actress walks by and says to me, “I’m so hungry; I haven’t eaten since yesterday breakfast.” Indeed she is whippet-thin. Overhearing this, the director, a burly guy with a gray ponytail, says, “Please take an hour for lunch, honey.”

“I can’t,” she replies, “I’m doing anal later.”

So again I learned something new, and it was really just common sense. After seeing how long the filming of one position takes, what would it benefit this actress to go get a big Baja Fresh lunch and then do an anal scene?

The shoot is ahead of schedule, and the director decides to get a Story scene out of the way. It is at this point that everything I expected comes true. These people cannot act, improvise, or walk across a room with any credibility. It doesn’t help that the script is bad, of course, but the same people who looked so intent on their craft earlier while perched half on an IKEA table and half on a sofabed now look utterly confused in their ill-fitting clothing. I’m reminded of when tomboy Scout appears in the Finch’s kitchen wearing her First Day of School Dress in “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Their wardrobes look to be chafing them, and the men and women appear profoundly uncomfortable. The director eventually cuts half of the dialogue and says he will fix the scene in post.

Still, the Story scenes maintain the Balance of Innocence. While I have spent the day in full Robert Fulghum slack-jawed wonderment awareness at the carnal exertions in front of me, now the actors reciting their lines are like bright first-graders earnestly wrestling with phonics.

Here is the scenario: Two buddies walk into an oriental restaurant where it’s not Chinese food on the menu but Chinese ladies. One of the Buddies (both of whom alternately refer to each other, and all men on the set, on camera and off, and in life, as “bro,” “partner,” or just “buddy”) has been coming here for years. It is Buddy #2’s birthday, hence both are dressed at the heighth of Chess King fashion.

BUDDIES ONE and TWO enter and sit down

BUDDY ONE (looking around): This place is a trip.

BUDDY TWO: Thanks for taking me out to lunch, partner.

PROPRIETRESS (who has been standing at their table the whole time): Good afternoon, I am Ming Lo. I am happy to take your reservation today.

BUDDY ONE (consulting a menu): I usually like the American food, and sometimes Czech, but for someone with Yellow Fever as bad as you’ve got it, bro, you came to the right place.

BUDDY TWO: What are you talking about?

PROPRIETRESS (to BUDDY TWO): We have a special Birthday menu for you.

PROPRIETRESS leaves and two more ASIAN WOMEN arrive to fellate the two BUDDIES.

Easy enough, and no further clarification necessary. These scenes are usually fast-forwarded through. But while I accept that the plot isn’t really important and that I need to suspend my disbelief long enough to allow for the spontaneous blowjobs, certain logical lapses abound and could have been avoided, such as:

  • If Buddy One had been there many times, why did he need to look around before declaring the establishment “a trip”?
  • If they were such good Buddies, why hadn’t Buddy One ever told Buddy Two about this place before, especially when Buddy Two’s Yellow Fever was so well-known?
  • Why did the Proprietress allow the Buddies to seat themselves?

I go outside to the parking lot and the No Viagra Today actor is leaning against his Lexus SUV, smoking. He says, “Hey Bro,” to me and tosses me an energy bar. I ask him how he’s doing and he says that he had laser surgery on his dick the other day—to remove some calluses—and it still hurts. I lie and tell him that he looked comfortable in there, and he believes me.

I ask him if I can ask him a stupid question that he probably gets all the time, and instead of answering that question he answers the question I didn’t yet ask.

“I still like sex with my girlfriend,” he says, “but that totally is not the focus of our relationship, pard. We like to ride our motorcycles a lot.” One of the P.A.s, the only female on the crew, comes out and gives him a 5-minute warning for the gang-bang scene.

“Thanks, sweetheart,” he says.

I ask, “Do you hang around with the other cast and crew?”

“Yeah, we all get along,” he replies. “We go to parties and stuff together. We’re like cops—a lot of us can’t relate to people who aren’t in the industry.”

He told me that he was writing a script but said he couldn’t tell me what it was about, just in case someone saw this in print. He asked if I liked being a writer, and I said I liked it fine. He went inside, limping a little and looking like it was the Monday morning after a tough weekend. I decided I didn’t need to see anymore and went to Baja Fresh for dinner.

Whoriental Sex Academy 4

About Gram the Man 4399 Articles
Gram Ponante is America's Beloved Porn Journalist

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.