Whether you’re a fan of adult films or an objector, there’s no denying the popularity of this form of entertainment. It’s estimated to garner about $10 billion in revenues each year. Its influence is so great in the entertainment industry that the battles between Beta and VHS, and Blu Ray or HD, were decided by the demands and trends set by porn. On the Internet, porn sites make up about 12% of all sites, taking in approximately $2.4 billion a year. 25% of all search engine requests are for adult material and 35% of all downloads are adult material. Porn actually was instrumental in developing key technologies for the internet, including credit card sales and web video.
Okay, so now that we have established the influence of pornographic materials, what about the people that make it? Here’s a list of those fine “actors” and “actresses” who have made it “big” in the business. All of these people got their start in hardcore, some have crossed over to become mainstream stars, some have become household names for other more notorious reasons, and some are just really, really good at what they do.
It’s probably impossible to star in over 200 films and stay anonymous, even if those films are hardcore. Seka was one of the best-known, and prolific, porn actresses in the late 70s through mid-80s. Her look was pure ‘80s excess, with a new wave, platinum blond hair style, heavy make-up and cheesy Flashdance clothing. She “retired” in the mid-80s in part due to the AIDS epidemic, but returned to make several more films in the 90s. Following her porn career, Seka hosted a sex talk radio show in Chicago, and was the focus of a documentary called, “Desperately Seeking Seka” in 2002.
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This Italian actor/director/producer journeyman of Euro porn is probably the most well-known male adult film star in Europe. Starring in over 400 films, he is sometimes called “The Italian Stallion.” The married father of two boys has done several mainstream projects, including movies, TV and a commercial for snack chips, that was pulled off the air due to it’s supposed controversial nature.
As a young model, Marilyn Chambers was the face of Ivory Snow, featured on the detergent box holding a baby with the tagline: “99 & 44/100% Pure.” Later, out of work, she accepted a role in a porn film called “Behind The Green Door,” which made her a household name, in part due to the Ivory Snow connection. She said that the film would help sell a lot more soap, but the ad industry was scandalized and Proctor & Gamble dropped her from the boxes. The 1972 film features Chambers having sex with an African American actor—a first for feature-length hardcore in the U.S. Both the porn industry and the public were shocked by the, then-taboo, image of a white woman having sex with a black man. She made a couple dozen adult films through the 70s and into the 80s. (The infamous Ivory Snow box is often strategically placed in her films). After bowing out of porn, Chambers tried to make a comeback with small maintstream roles, and also mounted a very unsuccessful bid for vice-president of the U.S. on the Personal Choice Party ticket in 2004. She died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 2009 at the age of 57. See the infamous Ivory Snow box here.
Shortly after her 18th birthday in 2006, California native Marina Ann Hantzis started a career in porn as Sasha Grey. Her popularity rose quickly, thanks to her good looks and on-screen, shall we say, enthusiasm. In her first year, she won several adult film awards, and was being called the next Jenna Jameson. A new breed of “adult entertainer,” Sasha also found success as a mainstream model, posing for renowned photographers and brands such as American Apparel. Steven Soderbergh (director of Traffic, Erin Brochovich, Ocean’s Eleven and more) read an article about Sasha and cast her as the lead in his 2009 film, “The Girlfriend Experience.” She received decent reviews for her role as a high-priced call girl (not much of a stretch, I guess.) She also appears in the seventh season of the popular HBO series, Entourage, where she plays herself and girlfriend to character Vincent Chase.
Also known as “la Cicciolina,” Staller is a Hungarian-born Italian politician, porn-star and singer. Seriously. She began her career in porn with her first hardcore film, in 1983. Prior to that, she did a radio show in Italy called “Do you want to sleep with me?” She went on to star in many more hardcore films and photo shoots. In 1987, she was elected to the Italian Parliament, in which she served one term until 1991. Once elected, she famously (and unsuccessfully) offered to have sex with Saddam Hussein for the release of his foreign hostages. During her term, she continued to make hardcore films. While other politicians vehemently deny sexual relations while in office, she was quite open about her antics, and even gave political speeches with one breast exposed. She also recorded a few songs, one becoming a minor hit. She is now 58, has written her memoirs and is the mother of one son.
After a childhood of sexual abuse at the hands of her father and stepfather, Patricia Kuzma (aka Traci Lords) began adult modeling at age 15, by using a fake ID, provided to her by her mother’s ex-boyfriend (with whom she was living). By the time she was 18, she had appeared in over 100 adult films, almost all of which were made when she was underage. Once discovered, in 1986, the fallout was huge, costing the porn industry millions. Distributors and video stores were obliged to pull hundreds of thousands of her videos off shelves, to avoid child pornography charges. Lords was arrested, but with all the media coverage, she became a household name. She was able to parlay the publicity in a move to mainstream, appearing in numerous films, most notably, John Waters’ fun “Cry-Baby,” starring Johnny Depp, and more recently, Kevin Smith’s “Zack and Miri Make a Porno.” She has made countless appearances in dozens of TV shows, as well as having recurring roles in Roseanne and others. Her autobiography was a New York Times bestseller. Today, Lords continues to make mainstream movies, mostly low budget, straight to DVD films.
As star of one of the most famous hardcore films of all time, “Deep Throat,” Linda Boreman, nee Lovelace, lived a confused and sad life. She had a strict religious upbringing and was involved in an accident and contracted Hepititis from a blood transfusion. While healing, she became involved with Chuck Traynor, whom she later married, then accused of brutal beatings and forcing her to make porn at gunpoint and with threats and drugs. Prior to “Deep Throat,” she made a number of short hardcore “loops” for peep shows, including one featuring bestiality with a dog (which she at first denied, then claimed she was forced to do it by Traynor). “Deep Throat,” which achieved unprecedented popularity among mainstream audiences in 1972, believe it or not, was her only feature-length hardcore film. After that, she starred in two softcore R-rated films, including “Deep Throat 2.” She later went on to denounce her porn career, write her autobiography, and become a voice for the feminist anti-pornography movement.
In 2002, Linda was in another major accident and never recovered. She died at the age of 53. She left behind two children from a second marriage. Lovelace and the film were the subject of a very interesting 2005 documentary, “Inside Deep Throat” and will reportedly be played by Lindsay Lohan in a film due out next year.
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Ron Jeremy Hyatt, born to a middle class Jewish family in Queens, NY, earned a degree in education and worked as a special education teacher before entering the adult entertainment industry in the late ‘70s. He earned the nickname “Hedgehog” from fellow porn stars due to his hairiness. Ron is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for most appearances in adult films (numbering over 2,000) and is ranked as the number one male porn star by AVN (Adult Video News). A couple of lowbrow claims to fame were his ability to perform self-fellatio and his lack of need for any stimulants (Viagra is apparently very popular among male porn actors).
Ron Jeremy has been one of the more successful crossover stars, appearing in a number of mainstream films, including “Boondock Saints,” “Boogie Nights,” several B-movies from Troma Films (creators of “The Toxic Avenger”), and is the subject of a documentary called “Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy.” His likability and self-effacing nature have led to his many appearances on TV shows as well, most notably VH-1’s “The Surreal Life.” He still appears in and directs hardcore films, despite his obvious weight gain.
One of the most prolific male porn stars of all time, John Holmes starred in approximately 2,500 films, from loops to features, in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and is estimated to have had sex with about 3,000 women (and several men). Known mostly for his large penis, Holmes later gained notoriety for his involvement in a drug related shooting in LA. Born in Ohio in 1944, Holmes kicked around most of his teenage life due to problems at home. He joined the army, and later married. He was “discovered” by a photographer, who saw Holmes’ impressive member at a urinal, and encouraged him to get into porn. Holmes’ quickly became the King of Porn, and starred in a series of hardcore films as detective “Johnny Wadd.” He made dozens of films during this time, making lots of money and taking part in the excesses of fame, such as drugs and partying.
By the early ‘80s, a severe cocaine addiction had taken its toll. He wasn’t able to “perform” as well as he used to. Desperate for money and drugs, Holmes began prostituting himself and his new young girlfriend to men and women. He became involved in drug trafficking with various gangs, and was arrested for his alleged involvement in the murder of four drug dealers on Wonderland Avenue, in Laurel Canyon. He was later released due to lack of evidence. Holmes was diagnosed with AIDS in 1986, probably from having sex with an HIV-positive man on film in the early ‘80s. (Holmes never used needles for drugs.) He died from complications of the disease in 1988.
His life was the subject of two movies, Boogie Nights (which was a loosely based account) and Wonderland. A documentary, Wadd-The Life and Times of John C. Holmes has attained some cult status.
Possibly the world’s most famous and popular porn star, Jenna Jameson (real name, Jenna Marie Massoli) has become an industry on her own. Allegedly raped several times in high school, she left home to live with her boyfriend and, after a failed attempt to become a Vegas showgirl, Jameson started stripping and nude modeling. She starred in her first hardcore film in 1995, after beating a drug addiction that left her weighing only 76 pounds. Her career took off quickly. By 2001, Jameson was earning $60,000 a day to shoot hardcore, and over $8,000 a night to make appearances at strip clubs.
Thanks to fan Howard Stern, who cast Jameson in a small role in his film, “Private Parts”, and regular appearances on his radio show, Jameson’s popularity grew. Her mainstream appearances expanded to shows on E! network, and other small film cameos. Taking advantage of this huge fanbase, she started an adult company called ClubJenna, that grew from one website to be a major force in the industry, with revenues estimated at over $30 million. Her autobiography, How to Make Love Like A Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale, spent six weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, in 2004. She continues to manage ClubJenna, and other businesses, while having retired from making porn films. In 2008, she had the lead role in the comedy-horror film, “Zombie Strippers.” Interesting sidenote: She is the first and only pornographic film star to be immortalized in wax by Madame Tussaud’s Museum. (In Las Vegas…where else?)