Authors: Legs McNeil,Jennifer Osborne,Peter Pavia
The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry
Because I miss her and love her more
every day, this book is dedicated to:
May 9, 1974–January 26, 2001
“Everyone gets everything they want.
Absolutely goddamn right.”
The Sword Swallower
Porn Goes Better With Coke
The Party’s Over
Fame and Misfortune
Killer & Filler
The overwhelming majority of the material in
The Other Hollywood
is the result of hundreds of interviews conducted by the authors. In some cases, interviews and text were excerpted from other sources, including anthologies, magazines, newspapers, journals, federal wire taps, police reports, FBI 302s, coroners’ reports, psychiatric records, court records and testimony, published and unpublished interviews, and other books. A list of these sources appears on page 591. We wish to acknowledge the contributions of these sources, which have enriched the content of our book.
Of the seven years it took us to complete
The Other Hollywood,
we spent roughly half the time trying to sell the book to a publisher. Surprisingly—or not—pornography was considered an uncommercial venture by the literary publishing industry, who seemed to believe that even people who watched porn would not want to read about it. It wasn’t until we produced the three-hour television series
Adults Only: The Secret History of the Other Hollywood
for Court TV—and it became that channel’s highest rated original program to date—that the New York publishing world took notice. In the end, it was the maverick publisher Judith Regan who took a chance on us; we can only hope this book will live up to her expectations.
Just before this book was sold to ReganBooks, my girlfriend, Shannon McNamara, died, after injecting herself with black tar heroin that had been infected with flesh-eating bacteria. When the infection spread throughout her body, Shannon was forced to undergo surgery to amputate her leg and did not survive the operation. I didn’t know she had been using dope, nor dealing it, and the resulting emotional fallout was crippling for me. For some time I couldn’t face the book—or myself, for that matter. It was Gillian McCain, my coauthor on
Please Kill Me,
who reminded me that if I didn’t continue my work on
The Other Hollywood,
no one else would tell the story of the porn industry’s rise from a marginal criminal enterprise of starving hippie actors and mob-sponsored back-alley loops to the multibillion-dollar juggernaut it is today.
Through me, Gillian had become friends with former porn stars Jane Hamilton (whose stage name was Veronica Hart), Sharon Mitchell, and Tim Connelly, and she realized that their story demanded to be told—without the cheap put-downs and hip moralizing that every magazine reporter who went slumming in the porn ghetto had already exhausted. As Fordham professor Walter Kendrick wrote in
The Secret Museum: Pornography in Modern Culture,
“Pornography turns writers and readers
alike into amateur psychologists, who never ask what an object is, only what is meant by it…. Pornography names an argument, not a thing.”
What I remembered, from my conversations with Gillian, was the goal that had started me down this path in the first place: to try to capture the birth and first few decades of the porn film business in all its hilarity and horror, to tell the story of America’s obsessive love/hate relationship with sex through the voices of those who embodied it. It was Gillian’s inspiration that sent me back to work, and I’m grateful to her for it, as for so much else.
All these many words and hundreds of pages later, I’m certain we’ve left out as much as we were able to put in. If we haven’t managed to include your favorite porn star or stories from the making of your favorite porn film, I’m sorry. I regret that this isn’t the history of gay porn: We tried, but in the end discovered that that’s another book unto itself. And to all our born-again Christian friends, I’m sorry that we’re not judgmental in our narrative—but to our minds porn’s been demonized long enough. What we wanted to do, instead, was to let the people involved speak for themselves: the actors and actresses, cops and mobsters, producers and directors, photographers and writers, hustlers and suitcase pimps, and everyone else in between. Whether my cowriters, Jennifer Osborne and Peter Pavia, and I have succeeded is for you to decide.
JOHN WATERS (FILMMAKER):
There was a theater in Baltimore, where I grew up, called the Rex Theater, that showed all the nudist camp movies—which was what we had before porno.
Since I was twelve years old I’d read
which was the only paper that covered the pornography business at the time.
reviewed every film—and I saw them all. Not just the exploitation movies, but the nudie movies, which had to be the most ludicrously unsexual films ever made, like a girl on a pogo stick or a nude volleyball game. You just saw their backs—asses and tits, but never dicks.
DAVE FRIEDMAN (EXPLOITATION FILM PRODUCER):
The exploitation business was an extension of the circus carnival—girlie shows, freak shows, gambling games, rides, ballyhoo, hullabaloo, all done at a local level. But think about this: If you’re in the carnival business, you can be in only one place at one time. And if you get rained out, you’re dead.
But what if, all of a sudden, you can put this stuff inside? And be in more than one place at one time? That’s when these guys started figuring out: “Hey, we’ll put this crap on film!”
Kroger Babb was one of the first great exploitation filmmakers. He went around to bingo halls and firehouses with his movie
Mom and Dad
that played for ten years all over the whole world.
Mom and Dad
showed the birth of a baby. It was the only way to show parental nudity at the time. I guess men liked looking at the vaginas, and ignored the baby—which is really scary—birth as an erotic act. And they would have men see it in the day and women see it at night. They also had fake nurses selling sex education literature.
So Kroger Babb is one of my heroes. I mean, I have the poster for
Mom and Dad
in the hallway of my house.
The exploitation filmmakers quickly realized they could make a picture about any controversial subject—as long as it was done in bad taste.
They had to do only one thing: They had to “square it up,” like you do in the carny. The “square-up” is the pitch at the beginning of the picture where they say, “The producers of this picture show you these scenes not in any ter
rible attempt to exploit this subject, but to make the public aware that these things exist in our beloved land, and that through education it will be brought to the attention of the proper authorities, so that child marriage can be stamped out, so that dope can be stamped out, so that miscegenation can be stamped out, so that juvenile delinquency can be stamped out…”
The exploitation film business was an industry based on slowly and sneakily showing what the studios wouldn’t show—like the nudist camp movies.
These movies were about as erotic as walking through the cold storage room of Swift and Company in Chicago. You got these poor, tired old dames with their breasts hanging below their navels, and these old guys walking around…
Nudist camps were the salt mines of sex, so to speak.
ROGER EBERT (FILM CRITIC):
The nudist camp movies were one of the most pathetic and least significant of the 1950s subgenres, of interest largely because of the actors’ difficulties in manipulating bath towels while standing in shrubbery. Their inevitable strong point was a volleyball game made somewhat awkward by the need for the male actors to keep their backs to the camera.
Nudist camp movies couldn’t show “pickles and beaver”—which was the trade term for genitalia.
ANN PERRY (FILMMAKER):
If you accidentally got a shot of a man’s penis, the cameraman would yell, “PICKLE!” and have to reshoot the scene.
That took a long, long time—to show pubic hair. So you really had to use your imagination—because naked people hidden by pogo sticks are not exactly erotic.
BUNNY YEAGER (MODEL /PHOTOGRAPHER):
Doris Wishman made all her movies down here in Miami. I did a lot of her stills. Doris was a pioneer, of sorts, because nudist camp movies were pretty bold for that time, even though she wasn’t showing
nudity. I think the first one was called
Nude on the Moon
DORIS WISHMAN (FILM DIRECTOR):
I don’t care what people say. I make my films with love and care, and as I always say, “Not Eastman Color, but Wishman Blood.”
Doris couldn’t afford to shoot her films with sound in them, so when somebody’s talking, you only see the reaction shots. After filming was finished, she would hire experienced actors and have them dub in the sound in New York.
I think Chesty Morgan was from Poland. So I had to dub all of her lines because you couldn’t understand what she was saying. And a lot of the people I worked with couldn’t speak properly, so I had to go back and dub in their lines, which was more costly—but at least it was professional, and you could understand what they were saying.
Bunny Yeager was very important in those early days because she had a stable of chicks in Miami that you couldn’t believe. You see, Bunny had something going for her as a woman. She would see a beautiful girl walking down the street, and she could walk up to her and ask her to pose.
I was always out looking for girls because at that time I had a rivalry going with Russ Meyer. We were both selling pinups to the same magazines. And Russ always had the big-busted girls—bigger than anybody. And I just thought,
“Where does he find them?”
Bunny would say, “Excuse me, dear. I’m Bunny Yeager. Have you ever considered modeling?”
The girl would say, “No.”
And Bunny would say, “Well,
you consider it? Maybe with underwear or maybe…uh,
If that would’ve been me, the girl would’ve smacked me in the mouth.
I was a high fashion model. I posed in furs and dresses and did runway work. And if you did that, you weren’t supposed to do bathing-suit modeling, but I liked bathing-suit modeling—so I went out and got my own work.
I was kind of a maverick at the agency; I did what I wanted to do. They didn’t like it, so I said, “As long as you get paid your fee—what do you care?”
BILL KELLY (FBI SPECIAL AGENT):
I was in love with Bunny. When she was thirty years old, she was the best-looking thing on two legs you ever saw.
CHUCK TRAYNOR (LINDA LOVELACE’S FORMER HUSBAND AND MANAGER):
Was Bunny Yeager good-looking? Well, you know, to a sixteen-year-old, anybody with long blond hair and big boobs is good-looking, ha, ha, ha. That was enough for me.
I had been called “The World’s Prettiest Photographer” on
magazine. Here’s how it happened: Roy Pinney, who was a New York photographer, came down to Miami every year to shoot stock
photos—a woman pushing a grocery cart, a woman holding a baby—and he used me as a model.
After we finished, Roy said, “Let’s shoot some cheesecake—you know, in some bathing suits.”
So while he was shooting me, he asked, “What are you doing these days? Anything new?”
I said, “Oh, I’m going to photography school.”
He said, “That’s a good angle. I’d love to do a human interest story on you.”
I said, “Well, that’s lying because I’m not really a photographer; I’m just taking this course for the fun of it.”
Back then, there were thousands of young girls and guys that lived up north, and come wintertime, they’d do anything in the world to get out of that weather. They’d come down to Miami and become waiters, waitresses, whatever—anything to make enough money to spend the winter in Florida.
That’s how I met some of the girls, because I’d modeled with them. Most of them were too shy to pose in bikinis, so I was thought of as a little risqué. But that’s how I met Maria Stinger; her husband showed me a picture of his wife and asked me to make a bikini for her. He said she was shy, but she looked like a movie star. I said, “Does she do any modeling?”
Eventually she agreed to let me shoot her at her house. But I preferred shooting in natural light, so I asked her, “Would you like to pose with some wild animals?” She said she loved animals, so I said, “Let’s go up to ‘Africa U.S.A.’ in Boca Raton. I’ll make you a little leopard bikini, and we’ll take some pictures with live cheetahs.”
It was actually for a school assignment—we had to shoot something in color, which was new at the time. My instructor said, “These are pretty good. Maybe you should try to sell them to a magazine or something.”
I asked, “Are you kidding?”
He said, “No. I’m serious.”
So I did, and it sold for a cover right away.
One of the first jobs I got after I married my first wife was driving a dump truck for the Three Bays Improvement Company, which was digging the Kendall Canal.
And while I was working there, I found out that along the Kendall Canal lived Maria Stinger, one of the early pinup girls. Well, for some reason I thought—like most guys—that if a chick poses for a pinup magazine, she must run around her yard nude, too.
So I used to climb this fucking crane to look over the top of the trees to see into Maria’s yard. I did that every chance I got—but I never saw her.
Of course Bunny knew I was an FBI agent, but she used to talk to me anyway—halfway. She would never implicate anybody. She was reluctant, and I don’t blame her. Bunny wasn’t into it very heavy.
But it is true that Bunny Yeager was America’s most prominent female nude photographer at that time.
used my photos in a big spread; then
picked it up, and they’re the ones that put me on the cover. And that was great because I started getting phone calls from people all over the place, and one of those people was Bettie Page, the famous pinup model.
The first photos I shot with Bettie were taken in my studio. After that we shot at the beach many times—though we did no nudes.
Bettie had a couple of bikinis that she had made—which I found very interesting because I had never met anyone who made bathing suits like I did. I designed the leopard suit she wears in the Africa U.S.A. pictures that are so popular. I wanted to avoid trouble, so I designed two suits—a one-piece and a bikini—and Bettie said, “Here, give me the material. I’ll take it home and sew it.” That way she didn’t have to come in for the fitting.
Lo and behold, one day I stopped in front of Maria Stinger’s house, and there was this woman outside unpacking some stuff, and I said, “I always wanted to meet…uh…Maria….”
And this lady looks at me and asks, “Why?”
I said, “Well, because…I…you know, I’m a fan.”
She said, “You ever wanna be in a movie with her?”
I said, “Sure.”
She said, “Well, my name’s Bunny Yeager, and we’re gonna be doing a movie here. If you wanna be in it, I sure could use you.”
Chuck Traynor said that when he was sixteen he knocked on the door? No, I don’t think so. Maybe he would’ve liked it that way. Maybe he called me up and offered his services—I don’t remember that. But I do remember Chuck Traynor.
I always liked Chuck. He was always a good old country boy from Homestead, Florida—very likable, very charismatic, very laid-back, easy to get along with, and quick to laugh.
I was supposed to screw Maria Stinger in the movie, but at that time they only did simulated sex. So I played with her tits—that’s
when they used those real hard implants in girls’ tits, and I wanted to see if they felt like plastic. But they were real.
I just think commercially, you know? If I’m going to shoot a girl, all I’m thinking about is, “Can I sell this?”
So I was lucky to run across this new magazine,
. I thought, “They run pictures of pretty girls. Maybe they’d like my photography. I think I’ll send it to them.”
Bunny Yeager was a friend of Hugh Hefner’s, and supposedly the word “bunny”—the idea for
bunnies—was based on her. Now, whether that’s fictitious or not, I don’t know.
I get a call from Hugh Hefner, but I have no idea who Hugh Hefner is because he isn’t anybody yet; he was just this kid out of college who’d started this magazine.
Hefner said, “We’re looking at these pictures you sent us, and we’d like to use them.” So that’s how I got my first
centerfold: Bettie Page. And Hefner started telling me all his dreams for his magazine, and I liked him. I thought he was very charismatic.
I first met Bunny Yeager when Herschell Gordon Lewis and I were down in Miami making a nudist camp picture. A friend of mine, Wally, who worked for
gave me Bunny’s phone number. So I called her, and she asked, “How’d you get this number?”