The XXXstasy Biz

Porn in Miami Beach is just another franchise operation

Balancing your own film career with that of your husband isn't easy. Just ask up-and-coming actress Lesley Zen. "I have jealousy issues," Zen admits during a break in the shooting of her latest picture. She sprawls in the back-yard hammock of the waterfront Miami Beach home of a local hotelier -- the set of Hustler magazine's DJ Groupie 2: Technosluts. Running her fingers through her long black hair, she casts an apprehensive gaze in hubby Trevor's direction. She's used to keeping a loving eye on him -- before moving to Los Angeles the two worked side by side at a South Carolina health club. But since this is a porn film, Zen's concerns are a bit more overt than merely casting suspicions on another leading lady.

"Sometimes it's hard to watch him make the faces he makes in bed with me, with somebody else," she explains matter-of-factly. Continuing in an offhand tone one might reserve for, say, complaining about a spouse's snoring, she continues: "And I don't do anal, so I was scared Trevor would really enjoy his anal scene."

If anyone has reason to be jealous, at least financially, it's Trevor.

We're ready for our closeup, Mr. Thring: Friday (Top) and Lesley Zen on the set of  DJ Groupie 2: Technosluts
Brett Sokol
We're ready for our closeup, Mr. Thring: Friday (Top) and Lesley Zen on the set of DJ Groupie 2: Technosluts

Porn pays by the scene, and the same work that earns Zen $1000 will net Trevor barely half that figure. At the moment, though, neither pay inequities nor the travails of domestic bliss are on Zen's mind. Preparing for her next scene, she discovers something missing. Sitting up in the hammock, she gazes down at her outfit -- a red bustier, a pair of stiletto heels, and nothing else. "Damn it -- I lost my clit ring," she grumbles and begins reconstructing the previous evening, scrolling back through a haze of alcohol, Ecstasy, South Beach club-hopping, and -- aha! -- a semicovert bout of lovemaking in a nook of the Opium Garden nightclub.

No cameras were rolling at the time, but as Zen recalls it, she and her husband put on quite a show as they moved their sweaty bump 'n' grind from the dance floor to a banquette. She was spotted by two hulking security guards, but they made no move to put a crimp in the action. Instead Zen was surprised to see them join the small scrum of gawkers.

"Are you kidding?" breaks in an eavesdropping Joey Ray from behind. Another of the film's male actors -- and a former Beach resident before also relocating to L.A. -- he breaks down the scenario to Zen. "This is South Beach! The clubs love that kind of stuff, it draws people," Ray says. "The security guys were just protecting you. Trust me, you go back there tonight, you'll get the royal treatment." He shakes his head and smirks, "They'll probably put you on the payroll."

Although Joey Ray's previous profession was in male modeling, he clearly has a firm grasp of macroeconomics. Miami Beach's city fathers may prefer to cite such factors as the historic preservation of Art Deco architecture as a key to their burg's early-Nineties rejuvenation. But speak privately to hotel owners, club figures, restaurateurs, and real estate developers alike -- all of whom have returned the area from its ramshackle collection of crack houses, Marielitos, and retirement homes to its earlier postwar status as the Billion-Dollar Sandbar -- and they'll tell you the obvious. Sex sells, and it's been the international marketing of South Beach as a hedonistic playground of surf and sin that has fueled its astronomical growth.

Little wonder, then, that porn producers such as Hustler are eyeing the city as a new base of operations.

DJ Groupie 2: Technosluts is just one of the approximately 11,000 adult videos that will be released this year, the cornerstone of a ten-billion-dollar industry that has long since moved up from seedy downtown theaters. Porn starlets regularly appear in mainstream culture, from cameos in Enrique Iglesias and Eminem MTV videos to Maxim magazine features; from the Howard Stern radio show to host duties on the E! Entertainment channel. And thanks to the involvement of satellite and pay-per-view providers such as General Motors' DirecTV, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation's EchoStar, and AT&T's Hot Network, hard-core porn is as close as your television -- no VCR required.

Going on the road? No problem. Forty percent of all the nation's hotels (including the Hilton and Marriott chains) offer in-room adult films to the tune of a $190 million annual gross -- a number the hotel industry itself admits far surpasses minibar revenues.

"We're in the small leagues compared to some of those companies like General Motors or AT&T," Hustler owner Larry Flynt told the New York Times. "But it doesn't surprise me that they got into it. I've always said that other than the desire for survival, the strongest desire we have is sex."

Not that corporate America is ready to fess up to its growing role in the porn trade. As stated in their own published reports, DirecTV and EchoStar already earn more money from beaming Hustler's and Playboy's pictures to their customers than those film companies gross themselves. But as one AT&T official told the Times: "It's the crazy aunt in the attic. Everyone knows she's there, but you can't say anything about it."

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