Dirty Little Secret

Oklahoma Gazette | February 9, 2006
Countless lurid fantasies tend to race through one’s mind before sitting down to interview a porn star.

Take, for instance, a recent chat with white-hot Digital Playground starlet Jesse Jane (née Cindy Howell), who makes her home in the Oklahoma City metro area: Weaker souls would’ve been a gelatinous mess before the interview proper ever got going.

“I just got done taking a shower,” Jane said, by way of introduction. “I had a little too much fun and was like, ‘Oh no, it’s time (for the interview)!’”

Wow, is it a thousand degrees in here or is it just us?

‘A very sexual person’

The sultry blond 5-foot-3-inch beauty, a native of Fort Worth, Texas, has become an elite performer amid a sea of dewy-eyed nymphets in less than three years — in a cutthroat business built upon out-promoting the other guy, Jane has made a highly profitable art out of being seemingly everywhere, both within adult films and more mainstream projects (music fans, grab that dusty copy of Drowning Pool’s “Desensitized” off your shelf: That’s Jesse on the cover).

Jane, star of popular adult diversions such as “Island Fever 3” and “Busty Cops,” has also turned up on HBO’s hit series “Entourage” as well as the Todd Phillips-directed remake of “Starsky & Hutch.” She’s been linked with rock stars such as Tommy Lee and Kid Rock and, in her spare time, gained a rabid international following.

It’s a far cry from hawking wedding gowns, wrangling Hooters girls and modeling barely there bikinis for Hawaiian Tropic, a few of Jane’s former day jobs.

“I’m a very sexual person and always have been,” Jane said. “I used to work at Hooters and it wasn’t enough. Then the Hawaiian Tropic modeling; I was like, ‘No, it’s not enough!’ I just love (working in porn) because … I travel the globe and meet really cool people. You get the fame, so you can date rock stars and live that life everybody always dreams of, plus I can be (in Oklahoma) more and spend time building my own family, my own home.”

Catch a rising star

So how is it one of the porn world’s brightest stars came to make her home in our neck of the woods?

Simple — Jane, a military brat, said she first settled in the 405 area code when her parents’ jobs at Tinker Air Force Base brought her to the area in time to graduate with honors from Moore High School in 1998. After buying a home in the metro area in 2005, she returned.

“I’m a country girl,” Jane said. “I moved to L.A. and L.A.’s fun, but everybody’s so fake there. Nobody knows what muddin’ is and I like the lake and just hanging out and I like to have land. In California, you get a house, but you really don’t have any land — you’re lucky to have a little patch for a yard. I always got made fun of because I still drive trucks, so that’s why — I just love the country.”

Eschewing college for a brief stint modeling for retail outlets such as 5-7-9 and David’s Bridal, Jane landed a job shooting a TV commercial for the venerable chain restaurant Hooters. The commercial begat a budding career with the home of hot wings and even hotter girls, as Jane ascended to the rank of regional training coordinator before switching gears and becoming a full-time Hawaiian Tropic bikini model (which, incidentally, led to a walk-on role in the 2003 instant classic “Baywatch: Hawaiian Wedding”).

Signing an exclusive contract with the California-based adult production company Digital Playground in 2003, Jane debuted as a leading lady in “Beat the Devil,” the first in a string of less than a dozen starring roles. Jane also hosts a pair of shows for the Playboy Channel: “Naughty Amateurs Home Videos” and “Night Calls,” making her the first woman to ever host both of Playboy’s top-rated TV shows simultaneously.

She’s also garnered considerable critical attention in her brief career: Nightmoves named her “Best New Starlet” in 2003; in 2004, she was dubbed “Best American Actress” at the Venus Award Show in Berlin; Arena Magazine listed Jane as one of the “150 Hottest Women of All Time” and she even served as the host of Adult Video News (AVN)’s 2006 Award show. Her latest work, “Pirates,” is ranked among the costliest adult films ever made and Jane walked away with a 2006 AVN Award for “Best All-Girl Sex Scene.”

“Jesse Jane is a different kind of animal altogether,” said Seth Grahame-Smith, author of the recently published “Big Book of Porn.” “I believe she came to California with every intention of becoming a porn star. She is one of those rare, huge success stories. I don’t think anyone in porn is truly successful. But Jesse has managed to turn herself, in less than two years’ time ... she has managed to turn herself into a brand much like a Jenna Jameson.”

Sure, but Jameson cranked out the flicks — a glance at Jane’s filmography doesn’t elicit revulsion at the titles so much as mild surprise at the relative brevity; for such a hot property, Jane’s only starred in 11 films in two years. Having appeared in just 19 films overall, that’s almost enough to practically qualify the 25-year-old as the Terrence Malick of skin flicks.

It’s not as though the adult genre has a dearth of available material, so what gives?

“(Porn) lets me live my life,” Jane said. “I can think of things that I like to do and have more fun instead of — I listen to everybody all the time: ‘Man, I have to work all the time.’ (People) complain about their life and they don’t travel and they don’t do things they really want to do or they can’t take off work to go on a vacation — I just don’t want to be that girl.”

Yet with all she’s achieved in her nascent career, Jane is far from


“I have two years left on my contract with Digital Playground, which I’m going to fulfill and try to do really cool projects,” Jane said. “I still work for Playboy — I’m contracted with them to do shows and I really, really want to … distribute my own line or even just go off on my own and make my own projects, make my own movies, write my own book.

“I pretty much just want to take the lead that Jenna Jameson took and be a very smart businesswoman and be a multimillionaire.”

Welcome to the jungle

Grahame-Smith said there are typically two ways people get into pornography: They either work their way into the business (witness the trajectory of a certain Ms. Jane) or get pushed in. Stacy Valentine (née Stacey Nicole Baker) falls into the latter category, but she doesn’t mind where she landed.

Born and raised in Tulsa, Valentine was 22 years old when she married in the mid-Nineties. After just a couple of months with her new husband, Valentine said he started buying adult magazines and encouraging her to send photographs of her attractive body to the magazines’ editors.

“He was like, ‘That would just prove to me how much you love me. That would be so sexy and I would be so proud of you,’ blah blah blah,” Valentine said. “I was young enough to be gullible and buy all of that.”

Valentine wasn’t the only one buying it. After sending her photo to one adult magazine, the editors came calling. Within a month, Valentine’s nude frame was adorning covers and inside pages of well-known porn magazines like Hustler and Gallery.

Soon she would get an offer to further her career, part of the process Grahame-Smith describes as hard-core pornography indoctrination, leaving Oklahoma and the Baker name behind and becoming Stacy Valentine — porn star.

“Typically (porn stars) are working as strippers or dancers somewhere and go into it on their own free accord,” Grahame-Smith said. “Or, as in Stacy Valentine’s case, they have a boyfriend or husband who has a fantasy of them doing it and encourages them to do it and before you know it, it takes off.”

Valentine was flown to Mexico to make her first sex video, “Bikini Beach 4.” The experience convinced Valentine it was the right career move. She knew very little about the porn business before the Mexico trip, thinking it was just a sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll lifestyle where everybody is in one big orgy.

“I walked into it thinking that’s what was going to happen and it was very much not that way,” she said. “People in the adult industry are normal people. When they’re not working, it’s not a constant party.”

Having sex on camera won her over.

“After I experienced that, I thought, ‘This is much more fun than being married,’” she said. “So within a month, I split with my now ex-husband.

“It makes me smile when I look back because he’s the one who wanted all of this and this lifestyle so he could ride along and I didn’t take him for the ride.”

The ride includes appearances in nearly 70 porn movies, her own adult Web site, clothing line, talent agency, exclusive contracts, fame and money.

By the late Nineties, one of the biggest names in the adult movie business was a blond girl from Oklahoma.

“She’s such an all-American girl that is in the adult film business. You don’t find it that much,” said Christine Fugate, director/producer of “The Girl Next Door,” a documentary on Valentine’s life in porn released in 1999. “It’s one of the reasons she was such a huge star.”

‘Image is everything’

For all the greenbacks that flow like so much spilt KY Jelly throughout the porn industry, all too frequent are the sobering horror stories of starlets and studs who flee to Hollywood seeking wealth and fame, only to be chewed up and spat out by the vicious machinery of the adult film business.

“Porn out here (in L.A.) is a factory that needs new hot young bodies all the time,” Grahame-Smith said. “It turns out a ton of products in a really short amount of time, then sits out a guy or girl and moves on to the next one. I don’t think most of them know what they are getting into, or even why they’re getting into it.”

Call it knowing her way around the factory: Jane has developed something of a reputation for being extremely business-savvy in her short time having sex professionally. Her keen sense of self-promotion and fan awareness (her Web site, jessejane.com, is updated daily with diary entries and photos) is equaled only by her grounded approach to safeguarding her cash flow and marketing prowess.

“She’s paid good money — she has her own Web site which she sells merchandise through,” Grahame-Smith said. “She’s making money.”

Good money, sure, but were it not for the thriftiness instilled by Jane’s father, she might well have become the latest sob story from Tinseltown.

“My dad was in the Air Force and he was very business-smart and tried to teach me to always be good with money and stuff like that,” Jane said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m still naive to the adult business and I don’t know everything. But I have a brilliant marketing team and I’ll always hold a certain image, because your image is everything.

“A lot of people in this business actually think, ‘Oh, I’m hot, I can make all this money and it’s always going to come.’ They spend it on everything, they don’t save, they don’t invest. … So I’m just pretty good about saving things; hopefully, I’ll end up on the business end of it when I’m done performing because there’s just so much money to it, it’s not even funny.”

Cold, hard cash

When Valentine entered the world of pornography, the industry was in the midst of another explosion. Adult films were breathing new life with the advent of DVDs, which gave consumers more viewing options in the privacy of their homes.

But it was the Internet that took a multimillion-dollar-a-year business and added a few more zeroes; today, porn generates $14 billion a year annually.

It’s a business that can take shy, naive Oklahoma girls and virtually turn them into corporations after just one day of work.

“They realize they can make $1,000 or more a day just for having sex on camera,” Grahame-Smith said.

When asked how much she made per movie, Valentine would only say it ranged in five figures.

In Fugate’s documentary, Valentine’s manager gave the pay scale for women in porn. A regular sex scene can pay $1,000. Should the actress choose to engage in other sexual forms or positions in front of the camera, including sex with multiple male partners, the pay can go up another $1,000.

Valentine told Fugate at one point she was making five movies in a month with each movie taking about three days to shoot. Depending on the number of sex scenes done in one day, Valentine’s estimated pay for the month ranged between $15,000 and $60,000.

Money is the candy that lures the curious into the business for at least one sex scene. But another factor may kick in as well.

“The second thing that clicks is I think they are getting the attention that they’ve craved for a long time,” Grahame-Smith said. “It’s the only business in the world where you do one movie and they call you a star. And there’s a reason they do that, because they want these girls to feel that admiration.”

For Valentine, it was all those factors and more:

“I wasn’t struggling with money anymore. The sex is great. There’s all kinds of beautiful people to work with. I love California. Making the decision to stay in it, there wasn’t a downside.”

But making it in the porn business is as tough as surviving in Hollywood.

Most porn careers last just a year as the novelty of a fresh face and body quickly wears off. Unlike a mainstream actress who may do a couple of movies a year, a porn actress’ name might appear in dozens of films and videos. During her first year, Valentine could be seen in at least 14 flicks. Grahame-Smith said some actresses do more than 60 titles in one year.

The Oklahoma girl gained notoriety with her on-screen body and vocal passion. Like many porn actresses, Valentine enhanced herself with breast implants, twice. But she went too far, as shown in the documentary, and ballooned to a double-E size, and needed breast-reduction surgery. By the end of the documentary, Valentine had undergone augmentation on her lips, hips, waist, butt and thighs.

The enhanced features may give an actress more sex appeal to bring in film offers. But Grahame-Smith said there’s more to a successful porn career than silicone breasts:

“Most of the time these girls are just traipsing through, going, ‘Oh, I made 900 bucks today,’ until they get sick of it or they stop getting called. But the ones who end up like Jesse or Stacy, they’re the ones who say, ‘All right, you’re going to use me for my body, but I’m going to use you for what I want,’ which is financial security.”

Everybody’s a critic

By its very nature, the porn industry attracts its fair share of detractors.

Since its explosion in the early Seventies, those employed by adult film and the, uh, end users are often easily criticized by those who feel XXX-rated flicks are asphalt upon the proverbial eight-lane freeway to hell.

“A lot of people assume the worst when they think of porn,” Jane said. “When you think of pornography, you think of all the bad things; you think of child pornography or degrading women and there’s stuff out there like that, don’t get me wrong. But there are also adult films that are beautiful and fun and entertaining and it shows in the sales. This business is a multibillion dollar business — it never goes down.”

Moving back to Oklahoma to be near her family did give Jane pause — for a woman in her line of work, the odds that she’d be, say, clubbed with a Bible by a well-intentioned moralist were certainly high enough.

“It bothers me because people just assume things — that I’ll just sleep with anybody and I have no morals, but I’m used to it,” Jane said. “I’m comfortable with it, I know what I’m doing, I choose what I do and really, whoever wants to judge me, it’s just their opinion. You know what? I have opinions about certain things, too, and nobody agrees on everything, but I have so many people that agree (with my career) and love what I do that I really don’t care for other people’s opinions — they’re entitled to ’em. Go ahead, you’re not stopping me.”

Quite surprising then that Jane has stumbled upon unexpected pockets of fans in the Sooner State.

“It fascinates me how many people know who I am here, even if they just go to Christie’s Toy Box to buy magazines or through the Internet,” Jane said. “I can’t go anywhere, not even to Toys “R” Us. (People are) like, ‘You did that, um, that one movie’ and they’re trying to hide it — ‘‘Pirates,’ you’re a porn star.’ I’m, like, this is so funny. I mean, it’s awesome because that means Digital (Playground), my company, does a great job at marketing. I just think it’s funny that I’m known here where they don’t have porn — you’re like, ‘How do you know?’”

Porno pride

It may be bizarre that two women have claimed fame and fortune from pornography while maintaining ties to a state rich in conservative Christian values. But to those interviewed for this story, it made perfect sense.

“No matter where you go in this country, red state, blue state, it’s all the same,” Grahame-Smith said. “You can’t argue with the fact that this is a $14-billion-a-year industry by some estimates. And that’s not New York and Los Angeles spending $7 billion apiece.”

Valentine said for those who think pornography’s main interest resides on the coasts, think again. She believes the state’s conservative, religious culture spurs more interest in porn:

“I think when you repress people, people are going to find outlets and it’s going to come out somewhere. That’s a big problem I have with Oklahoma.”

While Valentine holds a grudge against red-dirt attitudes, Jane has a more positive outlook on flyover country.

“I hate to say it, (but) I’m surprised that there are these people who are like ‘Hey’ and they’re not like, ‘Oh my God, you should go to hell,’” Jane said. “I’ve gotten that maybe very, very few times, hardly ever — it’s amazing. Everybody’s been really cool here, it’s another reason I love Oklahoma — everybody in the South is friendly so that just makes me love Oklahoma a lot more, makes me feel comfortable and safe and happy.

“I think in five to 10 years, we’ll have a porn store, one porn store will get past. And it’ll be a controversy, don’t get me wrong, but eventually, one porn store will open here and it will be successful because we don’t have one here. Everybody drives over the Texas line to get it.”

Oklahoma Gazette

In its inaugural issue of Oct. 15, 1979, Oklahoma Gazette, at that time an upstart, bimonthly publication with a mere 2,000 circulation, featured a page-one story about the Oklahoma City Council’s recent passage of an urban conservation district. Hardly sexy...
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