Her Cash and Prizes

Throughout his seven Nevada years, Lancer had handed out his sideline business card numerous times. Like blowout cards inserted between the pages of every magazine imaginable, he never fooled himself into believing they’d cause any cascade of responses.

If magazine blowout cards were any indication with their 5-7% subscription return rate, his percentages would be lower. After all, glossies circulate widely. Their distribution and penetration make blowout cards worthwhile.

Operating in a localized market such as Southern Nevada as he did, Lancer knew projects would be fitful at best. Fortunately for better and worse, manumission at this stage of his career was a sideline augmenting steadier employment.

Nonetheless on those occasions his bait got bites, the tasks agreed upon received the same enthusiasm he’d displayed as a young journalist. Routine pressure sharpened the mind.

Then, meeting demanding deadlines and crushing these parts of his every regular workday. Nor was diligence skimped. After all, word of mouth has always been the best advertising. In the past one satisfied subject introduced a subsequent referral.

Naturally the flip side of a dissatisfied client meant having one fewer available for use as a reference. A good reference.

When his most recent prospect contacted him, call her Lacey, the correspondent was more grateful than usual. Not only from the circumstances that issued it – more on that in a minute – but thanks to Trumpvirus, he had the luxurious kind of idleness on his hands. Ordinarily taking an assignment meant juggling sideline tasks into scheduled life.

Yes, thanks to employer-sponsored health insurance, the latter always took absolute priority. A condition which sometimes forced the secondary’s intrusion into what served as his primary career.

Lancer didn’t multitask so much as cram both needs into the same time space. Were it science fiction, his otherwise separate lines might’ve been occupying the same dimension simultaneously.

A blast from his Las Vegas past, the prospective subject was among the first people he’d slipped his card. He’d met Lacey at the 2014 AVN Show hosted at the old Hard Rock Hotel. Not that he was a devoted smut film fiend, but attending an event a good many Americans might’ve deemed disreputable seemed an awfully Las Vegas thing to do.

Notice the adult performers and assorted ancillaries weren’t holding their convocation in Cleveland.

Lacey had overheard him pitching to an up and coming “new girl.” And they only conversed because Lancer discerned a spark of intrigue in her. Besides, listening to him rather than merely hearing, she responded in a manner beyond rote for fans. He found the new girl almost genuine gesture further alluring. Perhaps they could’ve extended their back and forth but the business’ exigencies (and her manager’s, minder’s, whoever’s prodding) insisted she depart in order to pose with head-to-toe turgid admirers willing to shell out for photos with “their girl.”

The correspondent deftly handed her his card. They shared naughty grins before she slid the lucky board into a warm snug spot and coolly enveloped herself among elated paying customers.

Unknown to Lancer, Lacey observed his interaction with the new girl. Better yet, she eavesdropped. After all the light and heat shifted away from him, she entered his orbit.

If remembered correctly he saw an attractive woman, yes, but not one he would’ve assumed in the industry. At least not in front of the camera. It never occurred to him to see her as behind the apparatus, as an executive maybe. Nonetheless she was pleasant and the hand shaking his was that of a boss. He conducted himself appropriately.

She introduced herself. She used her real name then. After all, as he discovered years later, no need then existed for her to conceal Lacey, an alter ego. Meeting down the road, she’d catch him up to speed of him of her “interim career.”

Unlike the attendees, the talent, personnel overseeing both, Lacey had dressed in business fashion. Her uniform, drab corporate rig rather than brightly casual, distinguished and distanced her. It lent her credibility as “somebody,” not just having been “some body.”

Attire bolstered Lancer’s impression of her. She backed this with an appropriate attitude.

They briefly conversed about his background, his abilities, goals. His replies suited her. She barest-boned a possible project. Its seeds had hardly germinated in her mind. Yet what she related gave him a clear gist of what she conceived.

Nevertheless Lacey hadn’t divulged enough to get both anywhere near hot and heavy as far as pursuing it then. He gave her his card.

Did Lancer ever expect anything to result from their short-lived meeting? Professional as he saw himself, the correspondent seldom expected much to result from such chance encounters. He was right to. He preferred always being grateful when fortune bloomed.

Pornography in and of itself didn’t interest him beyond its baldest entreaties. He was a straight man, yes. Seeing attractive naked women enthused him. None of the porn he’d watched had aroused him past that. No one-handed fantasizing about that month’s blonde, brunette, or redhead. Frankly, other than Marilyn Chambers (she and an acquaintance had gone to high school together) and Linda Lovelace (at one time her notoriety sufficient enough to have barged into the mainstream), he was only aware of adult actresses through watching the old Howard Stern Show on E!

And then pixilation disfigured their nudity.

While Howard didn’t make smut palatable, he did award 3-d humanity to several of its leading practitioners.
The day a gorgeously mild, cloudless, mid-spring Nevada early afternoon. Lacey answered the door. She’d applied a light dusting of makeup and had freshly rogued her lips. Clear brown eyes coolly took his measure. She grinned. Through this Lancer saw she was not displeased.

After escorting him through her neatly kept ranch house, they had stepped on the patio. There, they sat at a round table and conversed. An umbrella tilted against the sun above shaded them. His hostess had concocted a pitcher of Martinis. They libated in adult-like moderation.

As interview prudence dictated, his note pad and pen rested outside his right hand, while his left blocked the glass holding the elixir.

Defying expectations, Lacey’s house wasn’t a McMansion. She’d taken up residence in one of Las Vegas’ established neighborhoods. Homes there weren’t ostentatious but modest considering.

The owner’s sole concession to conspicuous affluence? The patio bordered a kidney-shaped swimming pool. And during Mojave summers as Lancer well knew her pool was a necessity not pretension.

Indeed while a good number of the neighboring ranches and out of place two storey single-family structures adhered to dun or white exterior palettes best suited for the Mojave, several others bore hues maybe better suited for Coral Gables, Florida. In that case, all these houses lacked were pink flamingo statuary out front.

During a less omnipresent and less nosy time, when privacy could still be maintained despite outrageous exposure, the prospective client had acted in adult films. Was she a star? Hard to determine meaningful hierarchy in this profession, no?

During Lacey’s career, actresses vied to be prominently portrayed on front of VHS slip boxes or DVD jewel cases. Why actresses? Silly question. Women move merchandise, whereas men predominately consume it. Moreover, more units sold featuring Actress X could having her demanding more money for sex scenes more or yield higher personal appearance fees.

Lacey hadn’t been a star. At least not memorable in the way of, say, Jenna Jameson. Remember this Las Vegas native? The porn industry is so relentless and remorseless when it comes to discovery, use, benefit, and abandonment. Truly in what other industry are “shelf life” and “fresh meat” so intrinsic besides dressing flesh?

Once, Jenna was “the shit.” And now? Maybe a cautionary greasy spot.

Lacey had always kept her partying within bounds. She witnessed the swirl chew up and spit out a lot of industry girls. Her daughter not only grounded her in this respect, but anchored. The tradeoff was never rising into the business’ echelon. She regarded this the best decision she’d ever make.

As a result, the industry never saw Lacey as the sort who’d inspire sweaty masses of American men into onanistic frenzy. She might’ve briefly aroused. She could not enflame with any sustained duration.

As in any profession, once pigeonholed …

She was the perky/sympathetic foil/friend next door whom the leading female performers bounced off what passed for exposition. She was also the means through which the stars’ husbands/boyfriends/business partners engaged in curiosity sating/revenge/plot sex. Not to mention girl-on-girl activities that always included “the scissors,” a sexual maneuver straight men everywhere swore invigorated lesbians, bisexual women, and just sexually adventurous females.

The last just one more example of the infinite number showing how little men knew about women.

All the above frequently conducted on a piece of furniture substituting for beds, the white couch. Seldom on “a couch,” but one whiter than wool.

Viewers who believed themselves delving past these films’ sex and glimpsing below the graphic scenes presented likely interpreted this color choice as symbolic. To them, the grappling being indulged upon such a pure surface might’ve indicated, um, deeper meaning. Aspiration.

“Why, yes, we were fucking mindlessly,” Lacey said. “In every scene we were trying to bust past every level of reflexive fulfillment. Ones we all hoped might result in achieving heretofore unreached pleasure plateaus. The white couch reflects the brilliant heavenliness we aimed towards. We hoped to drown ourselves in that goal.”

Oh! If only! An eye roll accompanied her disquisition.

Hers a doctoral dissertation in a nutshell. The truth is mundane. The plain background best highlighted the shenanigans of the entwined figures. While indicative colors abound – think fire engine red – these would lessen viewer perception.

Further years removed from her old field by the initial chat with the correspondent, Lacey retained few vestiges of having been a “bombshell.” Not that she’d “porked” and “ugged” out through laxity, but she did nothing to disguise or deny who she was then – a woman in her late 40s. Admittedly matronly, regular exercise nonetheless kept her shapely. Instead of futilely struggling against the tolls of age upon her face, she worked with these badges.

When life included cameras recording her “prurience,” Lacey’s tresses fell in line with styles of the era. The extravagance framing that 20-something-year-old’s face and piled atop resembled a brunette thunderhead. Years removed now from such lavishness, a much shorter, more easily managed cut infused with gray suited this comfortably mature woman.

In the correspondent’s view honesty kept Lacey attractive.

For their meeting she hadn’t dressed to sexually impress or intimidate him. Or summon her long-ago “hotness.” She still had photographs for that. A damned nice pile of them. Had several DVDs featuring her stored somewhere in the house. She offered to unearth them for Lancer if he liked. No, Lacey had no reluctance against displaying her past self before a stranger. Had she wouldn’t that have been something of an admission of ambivalence? Or guilt?

The latter just the judgment from people who hadn’t known her then, who didn’t know her now would insist from her. Her penitence would soothe them.

Speaking with Lancer, she could start gauging possible discomfort against revelation.

Lancer examined her past character’s portfolio throughout their discourse. Few photographs sufficed as mere cheesecake; e.g., Lacey skimpily clad posed provocatively. Naturally. Not having been a “star,” the bulk of these pictures would’ve consisted of her naked and engaged with whoever doing whatever. Caught frozen in coitus by the set photographer or in prints rendered from film frames evidenced the younger woman’s vigor.

Vigor, not necessarily enthusiasm.

Without a doubt the accumulation he paged through stirred Lancer. Her having done much of this work before waxing removed the mystery did more than gratify him, it restored memories. Back when he could go all night, went into wage slave the next day, and still had plenty left for that night.

Oh, lucky man! To have been able to use a blowtorch to burn candles at both ends again!

Instances when Lancer paused viewing “Lacey” and lifted his eyes from her past onto her present being, their eye-to-eye exchanges became those between admired and admirer. Remnants of her past yet guided her. Unlike a lot of women, she did not shy from the male gaze.

Plenty confident, or vain, Lacey invited this.

While “Lacey” had helped purchase the subject’s home, she did not reside there. In memory, on emulsified paper and film, on video, certainty, she lived. But not inside that address. Never at that address.

Lacey had been a born and raised Southern Californian. Father employed at a defense contractor. Stay-at-home mom maintained the suburban homestead. Bright, brunette, tall, slim, athletic, pert though not perky, that Lacey would not have supplanted Gidget in the minds of many horny teen boys.

A typical Southern California girl to the rest of the nation that conceives the region mythically, Lacey spent a lot of her teens at the beach. Often attired in revealing garments, she was keen on her flesh shown. At a young age she became fully aware of others’ estimations. This instilled in her a discipline to maintain appearances. She found indifference in this regard intolerable.

Lacey wasn’t so much a California tax refugee who’d relocated to Nevada. Nevertheless she saw how a woman like herself could exploit the state’s transience, its looser regulatory nature. For her a true haven might’ve been Arizona. She preferred the Copper State to its northern neighbor. But Nevada permitted way more “leniency.”

Okay. “Opportunity.”

She thought hers a worthwhile story because it didn’t fit the public’s comfortable notion of entry, thriving in, and leaving porn. Especially her aftermath.

No fallen woman Lacey. She hadn’t been abused a child or teen. No domestic violence bruising her self-worth rummaged in her past. She hadn’t ever stumbled along the road of youthful rebellion. Later, she never aligned beside any man incapable of functioning in proper society. She hadn’t loved one of those “bad boys” too many women crazily did. So no lover’s inability to stand on his own feet, much less support them both, didn’t push her into the adult entertainment field as their breadwinner.

If a woman existed who neighbors and friends never might’ve suspected of displaying her cash and prizes for just that, she ought have been Lacey.

Nothing in her immediate background should’ve led to this career. She’d been a dutiful studious daughter who met a suitable man. They married. Before they’d had a child, a daughter, she’d earned an A.A. information technology degree. The eventual goal was once entrusting the girl into child care, her mother could transfer credits and resume IT studies at a university like Cal State.

All this long before moving to Nevada.

Here’s where the path skewed. The once suitable man proved himself unstable, therefore unsuitable. Several years into marriage he determined bliss wasn’t for him. He bolted, leaving mother and infant to fend for themselves. Fortunate to have marketable IT skills, Lacey was unfortunately saddled with expenses meant to be borne by a pair, not just one.

A friend did not coax her into the adult film industry.

Square as Lacey seemed, square as she truly was, part of her truncated married wife life included watching porn. Her then-husband had a taste for smut. Wifely Lacey naturally gravitated to his side on the couch. There she spectated. What transpired on that television screen left her indifferent at best. However, portraying the dutiful wife, Lacey indulged him this pastime. At least he never insisted she he become his porn star in their marital bed.

“Maybe he should’ve,” she mused. “It might’ve made him stay.”

Unlike much of the general public, one cannot function in IT without being unaware of the greater world. While Lacey didn’t devour pop culture, enough of its triviality informed her. Moreover, given how pornography thoroughly grasped technological advances and exploited these years before mainstream media, she recognized how branding and platforming (concepts she dimly intuited before reality stars and influencers started making any kind of hay) could bolster revenue streams. Yet then theory ran far ahead of execution.

Before she could sit behind the desk and determine who acted in front of cameras which yielded content that lured consumers, she found herself as part of the grist.

“Talk about hands on!” Lacey exclaimed.

She never had any desire to publicly play out her sexual longings. She didn’t secretly seek desire through incalculable numbers of strangers. But the money was so inviting.

Surprisingly Lacey didn’t wrestle with moral qualms. A daughter who deserved more than the barebones existence a working single mother provided shoved that nonsense aside.

Finally revealing her past to her daughter was a toe-dance Lacey performed Lancer couldn’t imagine manning up enough to do had he any children. He admitted this to Lacey. She vigorously agreed. She understood his reluctance. For her to have “explained the past” to her daughter took more than one attempt and these ultimately fortified by good whiskey.

Had it been a boy instead …

Lacey saved disclosure until her daughter had reached an age of majority. Adulthood.

The girl surprised her mother. No, better than surprised. The girl confirmed her mother had done a good job of raising a woman.

The younger listened soberly as her mother told how they’d come to be. The elder sugar-coated or obfuscated nothing. She answered bolder questions without hesitation … or embarrassment.

In the end, Lacey’s daughter looked back on their mutual past with an astounding objectivity. She saw what another’s efforts had rewarded her. She saw what had been gained. She knew she’d have been considered an ingrate had she demeaned any of what her mother had done to secure both their futures.

The clear-eyed clarity only disturbed Lacey later.

“Good thing it wasn’t a boy,” Lacey said. “A son. A man, he would’ve resented the hell out of everything. I think the first thought in his mind would’ve been seeing how his friends might’ve come across, well, let’s say, compromising pictures and videos. Him seeing these, watching them would’ve been mortifying enough. His friends seeing them, watching the same? Shit!”

She laughed then continued.

“The male ego, his sense of self, is not constructed for bearing children or accepting behavior he’d rather confine to strangers he can freely insult than loved ones. A boy would’ve been outraged for all the wrong reasons. All those reasons belonging to him.”

Lacey said, “It still amazes me that people who’ve never had to do without or wanted more and did what was necessary to get it, can tell you with the straightest faces not having getting what you wanted is somehow more noble than having gotten it.”

A moment later, she added, “Okay. I’d love telling them throw out that thing you worked hard for then tell me how much better you feel about yourself afterwards.”

IT was Lacey’s entry into the above-line part of the industry. She approached a producer/director she’d previously worked with and admitted frankly how the possible money to be made could augment her salary. She was thankful to have approached a woman first. Good chance had it been a man, he would’ve insisted on a “favor trade.” And then who’s to say he would’ve fulfilled his end of the bargain?

If he didn’t, to whom would she have complained?

The woman producer/director understood her position. Who knew? Maybe the same circumstances formed her own past. She knew the available rewards. She needed to clarify any possible consequences.

Before Lacey’s first scene, before stepping naked onto a set, before steadying herself for cameras and crew, before being introduced or introducing herself to a stranger with whom she would share intimacy, the producer/director spared nothing regarding about what faced the novice. The bluntness braced her. Looking back, Lacey said the warnings ought have sent a weaker woman racing for the hills.

As Lacey well knew, once lenses captured images and were recorded, and once these were distributed, there was no recall and erasure. Search engine abuse could’ve made her life hell. Especially now with §2257, the 1988 law demanding pornography producers verify performers ages and identities as well as have these available for any individuals or entities requesting them.

The requirement had been enacted to thwart underage performers. What it did best was inconvenience adults. It intended bestowing embarrassment upon them.

2257 was a silly sop to an earlier era’s moral crusaders. They hoped that by through this measure to shame current and prospective adult performers from appearing in such content. A nuisance, it dissuaded few, if any, from pursuing whatever they sought.

Most revelatory thing about the law? Those most fervid decriers of porn partook of this entertainment the most. And the politicians who thundered the loudest regarding pornography’s deleterious effects on society consumed it at the same levels of the other hypocrites.

Foresighted Lacey gave a response that must’ve astounded her “mentor” because it stunned the shit out of Lancer. She had incorporated herself in Mexico under a false name then registered an ITIN to fulfill tax obligations as well as hinder easy identification.

Legality aside, it worked.

Lacey recalled her first scene. In detail. The tens of dozens that followed? Not so much.

It wasn’t nerves so much which firmed the moment, but the sense all eyes had settled on her. Naked as she’d never been before, more naked than she’d been upon dismissing her virginity, or the time cops had caught her and friends skinny-dipping.

The male talent had splayed himself on a bed. He lazily worked to maintain his large erection. Not only had he freshly showered and shaved, not conditions one might’ve thought neglected, but his cologne didn’t reek.

Lacey dimly heard the director’s instructions, such as these were. After a few less than pithy words, she was to have glided onto the sheets and submitted to the actor’s attentions.

Ideally she would fake some modicum of gratification during filming.

Her partner in that scene wasn’t gentle. He wasn’t insistent. He was a man.

Earlier Lacey had gotten fitted for a diaphragm. It surprised her how many women before the cameras and under the lights in this business forewent this simple precaution. While AIDS had abated, at least plummeting in performers who didn’t engage in unsafe sex or weren’t intravenous drug users who shared works, didn’t the menace still lurk?

If a flavored spermicide existed, Lacey also would’ve drenched her secret with this without a second thought. She would’ve hoped that day’s taste appealed to the man or woman, the men or women orally attending her.

The sex? That first sex? Ah, as would be repeated, instinct took over. She stepped outside herself. Whatever trepidation there had been yielded to rhythm within and pressure without. She gave herself to the first moment as she would future instances.

“Not sorry,” she said. “I didn’t think of the new refrigerator I’d be able to buy while getting stroked into delirium or licked into liquid by him or her. There’s distancing which lets you observe yourself. Then there’s pleasure you’re given and damn well better enjoy.”

Again, hers wasn’t a prominent body, face, or name. Until streaming severely reduced need for VHS and DVD purchases, their covers did little to highlight her appearances in productions. She sat on the low second tier/high third rung of “talent.” After several years of quiet accrual in a most exposed profession, she withdrew.

No shoutout to fans who’d followed and supported her. No mention that might’ve garnered, um, “acclaim.” She just stopped. Whatever the cold turkey equivalent of quitting performing porn was. The profession didn’t miss her, nor did she miss it.

Savings, investments, a vocation general society regarded as far less unsavory, let her walk away. Not escape. Walk. That stroll eventually led her to settle in Las Vegas.

Lacey never considered herself a topic for what might’ve been one of those late-night E! Channel exposés that once titillated early cable TV viewers. Unfailingly, those subjects rose fast, hard then crashed in the same manner.

Her life hadn’t derailed. Without failure, what need was there to hunt redemption?

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