By Michael E. Miller
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This isn't entirely virgin territory for the Office of Film and Entertainment: "[Nude calendar photographers] ask me: 'Can I take the top off, can I do the bottom?' Well, topless sunbathing is more or less accommodated on certain areas of the beach. You can be topless as long as the pose is not lewd." When it comes to porn shoots, she says, "I'd treat it the same."
In fact Edwards notes that Miami Beach's own laws now make it the porn-friendliest part of Miami-Dade County. With the production industry contributing an estimated annual $60 million to the city's coffers, Miami Beach officials were anxious to lure more films away from competing cities such as Pittsburgh and Toronto, whose relative bargain-basement costs had turned them into mini-Hollywood Easts. Accordingly in May 2001 the City Commission legalized residential shoots. Permits -- which are free -- need to be applied for, but the only concerns now are traffic and noise.
"If a porn movie was filming in a home and their neighbors couldn't see them, I would permit them," Edwards says. And if they're in a hotel room or a commercially zoned property they wouldn't need a permit at all. "Certainly they should get the permission of the hotel." But if the hotel accedes, Edwards goes on, "It's totally kosher. Knock your socks off!" She stops to reconsider her choice of words with a groan: "Which I'm sure they will."
Given porn's legality, then, why not commit the film office to actively attracting this burgeoning market? After all the local film industry is struggling, clearly in need of some new blood. According to the office's own figures, Miami-Dade County film revenues have fallen from a 1997 high of $211 million to $154.5 million. The Beach has been particularly hit hard, with locals bemoaning the transformation of a once-exotic locale into just another tourist trap. Wouldn't creating a porn mecca on South Beach provide an economic boost, as well as a fresh injection of enticing glitz?
Sensing dangerous waters ahead, Edwards reiterates, "The position of the film office is clear. We don't make judgments on content and we're happy to accommodate everyone." As for marketing, however, she insists on deferring the question to her boss, Miami Beach's director of arts and entertainment, James Quinlan.
For his part, Quinlan doesn't offer much more than awkward silences. Finally after much hemming and hawing, he says, "We don't set policy in this office." Passing the buck higher, he adds, "I'm going to look to the mayor for direction on this."
During a phone conversation, Miami Beach Mayor David Dermer agreed that film and television production was a key component in the city's economic health. "If we're on these national television shows, it's really a great way to send out what Miami Beach -- visually speaking -- is all about," he gushes. "It really sends the message out of the visuals of our city in ways advertising could never buy."
The notion of chasing porn dollars, however, immediately dims his enthusiasm. "Woo the adult porno business?" Dermer asks incredulously, making sure he heard the question correctly. "When you have more mainstream, network-type things, it shows a different imagery. Porn is a whole different bag of beans."
Beans aside, isn't this just semantics? Much the same argument was made for barring Miami Vice in the Eighties: Portraying drug kingpins running amok was hardly an auspicious advertisement for the city. Yet just the opposite panned out.
Moreover, it's hardly our Art Deco imagery that draws tourists these days. It's the promise of ogling bikini-clad Rollerbladers and table-dancing models. Flip on any of the many cable-television specials about South Beach and you'll see the city portrayed as a nonstop freewheeling party. Porn seems just a small step away.
"I think it's a pretty large step, frankly," Dermer counters. "You look at the E! channel -- sure there's some featuring of nightlife in the city, but I think that's a pretty far step from trying to woo the adult porn video business."
So Hustler shouldn't be expecting a key to the city?
Dermer begins laughing heartily and then stops short with a hint of panic: "The Hustler corporation is looking to come here and do porno movies? Larry Flynt?"
Informed that Hustler has in fact already shot two videos in the heart of South Beach, with plans for far more, Dermer sighs deeply.
"It's just another day at the office," he grimaces before offering an abrupt goodbye.
Joey Ray has fame. His 2001 Adult Video News award for Best Couples Scene caps a filmography that's reached the three digits. Like any accomplished Los Angeles actor, now he wants to direct.
At the moment he's sitting inside the West Avenue condo of a friend from his preporn Beach days. Having just come in from a Jacuzzi session, he collapses onto a couch alongside fellow actor Jordan Perry. Swathed only in towels, the duo would appear to be living out a certain male fantasy, paid to do what many men can only dream about.
Don't you believe it, corrects Ray. "This is a very difficult business for a guy," he says. "It's much tougher than modeling. You've gotta be able to get hard and fuck for hours in front of people in uncomfortable positions, with cameras up your ass and lights near your balls. A lot of people can't focus and do that." With dripping scorn he continues, "Posing for a fashion photographer? Please. That's nothing, nothing! It's a walk in the park."