The XXXstasy Biz

Porn in Miami Beach is just another franchise operation

Accordingly, while porn may be more visible than ever, with its own awards show, star system, and trade journal, it is a multibillion-dollar business that still rests on the shoulders of mom-and-pop operators. "There's nothing in the industry that approaches a Universal or a Paramount," explains Mark Kernes, senior editor of Adult Video News. "It is basically a large collection of small businessmen -- and the occasional businesswoman." And, Kernes continues, as long as middle America retains its ambivalent attitudes toward sex -- watching porn in record numbers yet keeping quiet as Attorney General John Ashcroft launches an antiporn crusade -- "that's not going to change."

Back on the DJ Groupie 2: Technosluts set, that mom-and-pop vibe is in full effect, evoking the feel of a bare-bones independent film. The crew is little more than director Frank Thring shooting a digital video camera, a lighting technician, and a few assistants. Catering consists of a box of Subway deli sandwiches, and in lieu of private trailers, the ten-member cast simply lounges inside the home's living room, kibitzing about the latest industry gossip while waiting to be paired off for their scenes.

However, while the porn world may be based predominantly in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley, just over the Hollywood hills, its reach has gone global. Eastern Europe and Russia have become fertile sources for talent; as in the fashion industry, scores of strikingly attractive Czech and Hungarian women now compete for screen time with their American counterparts.

Newlyweds Scott and Mariella Nails plan their financial future, one adult video at a time
Brett Sokol
Newlyweds Scott and Mariella Nails plan their financial future, one adult video at a time
Lea De Mea and Daniella Rush -- just two of the Soviet Bloc's contributions to  adult cinema
Brett Sokol
Lea De Mea and Daniella Rush -- just two of the Soviet Bloc's contributions to adult cinema

Two of the Czech Republic's leading lights currently sit in the home's kitchen, languorously alternating between drags off cigarettes and plucking grapes from the bunch in the bowl before them. Daniella Rush, a lithe brunette with a smoldering look that has quickly drawn attention from directors come casting time, and Lea De Mea, a petite but busty blonde, were originally spotted by scouts in Prague. The two twentysomething women have now been in the business for several years.

In broken English, Rush explains that both regularly fly into Los Angeles for extended periods, cramming in a steady diet of work before returning home. With Eastern Europe's economy in a shambles, each can earn the equivalent of a year's salary in just a few weeks. That is, if a decent salary were available in their native land.

Rush is completing her last year of medical studies and does little more than shrug at the suggestion that her present career might somehow endanger her future as a physician. And the more she's peppered with questions, the more blasé her answers become. Yes, her longtime boyfriend back in the Czech Republic is aware of her porn work -- he moonlights in the business as well. Yes, her mother knows. No, her father doesn't, but she's up for an award at a European porn fete. If she wins, she continues -- pausing to exhale smoke -- she'll probably tell him.

Performing in adult movies is simply a job, like any other, both Rush and De Mea say, and neither has any qualms about viewing it as such. It's only in being quizzed about their American colleagues that either woman displays any emotion. Rush casts a sidelong glance at De Mea and then cracks sharply: "American girls talk too much shit." De Mea smiles knowingly, and that's all they have to say about that. This is a business, and if you can't put up, then shut up. It's an attitude that appears endemic among this latest crop of Eastern-bloc talent, and one that has endeared them to directors. "They're up for anything, anytime," enthuses Thring, "and every performance they give is intense."

Fellow cast members -- and newlyweds -- Scott Nails, twenty years old, and nineteen-year-old Mariella sound equally comfortable with their new professions, despite having only been in the business for three months. They're already well-versed in the industry's lingo, able to appreciate the visual merits of back-to-front sexual positions such as a "reverse cowgirl," or to be aware of the announcements of a particular company's latest "contract girl," a move that contractually locks an actress up akin to the Hollywood studio system of the Forties.

For the moment Scott attends college while Mariella dances in a Tucson-area strip club. They're looking to amass a financial nest egg, and acting in adult films seems to fit that bill. Like their Czech peers, the couple has begun flying into Los Angeles for short bursts of movie work. The first step, of course, was choosing stage names for themselves.

"My last name?" Mariella wonders with a puzzled look. The question has yet to arise in any of twelve films she's been in so far. She laughs and turns to her husband: "I guess since we're married, my last name would be Nails too."

That's about as far as either wants to take their onscreen personas.

"It's just work," Scott explains with a hint of weariness. "It's not like having sex at home. I don't enjoy it."

"You can't really get into it," adds Mariella helpfully. "People are telling you, 'Do this with your legs, do that position.'"

Scott chimes in derisively: "Pile driver?" He shakes his head and says, "You don't do that stuff at home! And then you go to do your pop shot and there's like 50 people talking!"

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