Monday, February 16, 2009
Dear Mr. Booth,
My name is Michelle Maren. Only just recently, it has come to my attention that on January 27th, 2008, you made comments about me on your Internet radio show.
Despite the time that has passed since the original show airing, I would like to respond.
Making the rounds is an interview with ex-porn performer Michelle Maren, who promotes herself through her MySpace page. It contains such juicy quotes as "It is a fantasy that the women performing porn actually enjoy it. No one does. That is why most get high before filming a sex scene—to numb themselves. I was the only female porn actress I knew who didn't get high and that is why I didn't last in the industry for very long."
Actually, according to the Internet Adult Film Database, Maren only made six films, four of them were non-sex roles. By her own account, she only did three sex scenes, including a single lesbian scene in Caballero’s Public Affairs, and this was all back in the 1980’s.
A lot has changed since then, and as a born again Christian, I really doubt she has been keeping up on the industry. Still, she’ll get quoted by lots of conservatives as an expert, even though she knows absolutely nothing about the porn industry as it exists today… Her comments now are completely irrelevant, and she has no right to speak for the experiences of other women 20 years later.
I spoke about my experiences in the sex industry during the interview I did last year. They were just that--my experiences. I don’t understand how you can refute that. I don’t remember ever meeting you. You were not there. I was.
While I was a porn actress for only just over a year, I did waste eight years of my life working in the sex industry in general. I was a go-go dancer between the ages of 18 and 24 and a professional escort (a.k.a. prostitute) for eight years. I also was a men’s magazine model, recorded phone sex messages, wrote articles for porn mags and was the figurehead of one. In addition, during those years, I met literally hundreds of women in the sex industry who shared their own personal experiences with me.
Certain things never change. What humiliates a woman doesn’t change. What degrades all of womankind doesn’t change. My story is as relevant today as it was twenty years ago. Through my myspace page, I have heard from many former porn actresses of all ages including many who are decades younger than me. Yet their experiences were the same as mine. If you look at Shelley Lubben’s website: www.shelleylubben.com/ or her myspace page: www.myspace.com/shelleylubben, you will discover many former porn actresses with similar stories.
She says “The number of suicides, over-doses, murders and AIDS-related deaths are quite high among porn actors.” By percentage, because adult stars are screened, there is much less AIDS in the adult community than in many other communities that are at risk, and even coming down with AIDS is a huge story. And I guess I missed all those murder stories.
Since you are not familiar with the many porn stars who have met with tragedy, I suggest you look at the website www.rame.net/faq/deadporn/. You might find it enlightening.
And she infers that minors were allowed in porn films as long as a mother was there. I can’t remember a single film that even had a minor in a non-sex role, and certainly they would not have been on set if a sex scene was filmed- just as it is in mainstream film.
While working in porn films, I did meet an underage girl who was on set with her mother. She appeared in more than one of the films I was in and performed sex scenes with both women and men. This is not an “inference”—this is a fact. Once again, you were not there and I was.
My wife had sex on camera, primarily because it was fun. Sure, there are some women in it just for the money, but I personally know a lot of women who really enjoy the sex. Which is not surprising, because sex can be really enjoyable. Maren did not last, because she did not like what she was doing, she did not want to be there, and she absolutely should have gotten out of it. She is celibate, so sex is not even an important part of her life… The only useful message we can glean from Maren is that if you really don’t like sex, maybe porn is not the occupation for you. Just like if you hate food, don’t become a chef. And that’s not all that insightful.
None of the women I met in porn or any other aspect of the sex industry expressed to me their enjoyment of the business. What they did talk about was their abusive childhoods. That was the one common denominator we had. Regardless of ethnic or socioeconomic backgrounds, we all had a history of emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse. As a sex worker, it can be extremely difficult to admit to this. While I was active in the industry, I would tell people I did it because I was a sexually liberated woman. It was too painful to admit the truth. But eventually I became brave enough to break free. It was only then that I experienced true liberation.
I am not celibate because I don’t like sex. Quite the opposite. I am celibate because I now RESPECT sex. It is an enjoyable, beautiful experience that I want to share with someone I love. I no longer degrade sex by selling myself. Another fact: whenever a woman sells herself, she sells a little piece of her soul.
Mr. Booth, I ask you the question I would ask anyone who supports the sex industry—is it something you would want your daughter to do? Please remember—every woman in the sex industry is SOMEONE'S daughter and deserves respect, as do all women.
Since you are a believer in freedom of speech, I trust you will make my response public.
Thank you for your time.
Michelle Maren is a former New York City beauty queen and dancer turned adult film star. Michelle only appeared in a handful of films in the early 80’s. Her most notable films are Flash Pants, a take on the popular mainstream film and TV show Flashdance, and Throat: 12 Years After a sequel to the legendary porn film Deep Throat. Michelle left the adult entertainment industry after only a few years and eventually graduated college with a degree in Communications and has spent time working in mainstream television production. She is now a 46-year-old devout Catholic, living in New Jersey.
At the request of a reader, I did some checking on Michelle and discovered her MySpace page. Michelle later found the messages about her on this site and posted a response. After Michelle’s response, I contacted her through her MySpace and she agreed to do an interview. Below is the Q&A between Michelle and myself. Please keep in mind that the questions were emailed to Michelle and her responses were emailed back. At times some of the questions may sound stupid and irrelevant given some of Michelle’s answers, obviously the questioning would have been a little different if it were a live face-to-face interview.
Big thanks to Michelle for being so willing to do the interview. I appreciate her openness and honesty. There are so many women who get involved in adult entertainment who end up dead or screwed up. She definitely has her head on straight and has turned her life around for the best. I want to wish her happiness in all that she does because she is truly a class act.
NW: Where were you born? Where did you grow up?
MM: I was born and raised in Scotch Plains, NJ.
NW: Did you have any siblings?
MM: I am the only child of my father and mother, but have four half-brothers and sisters and one half-brother who is adopted.
NW: Describe your early childhood and family life.
MM: My family was extremely dysfunctional. I was abused both emotionally and physically. The worst thing was being isolated from others. It was a very lonely childhood.
NW: Where did you go to school?
MM: I went to public school until the ninth grade. Then I attended an all-girls Catholic high school.
NW: What was your earliest sexual encounter?
MM: Because I was so desperate to be loved by ANYBODY—I fell madly in love with the first man who offered me the smallest crumb of attention. He was a social worker at Covenant House in NYC—the place that was taking care of me when I left home. He was twenty-nine and waited until my eighteenth birthday to de-flower me.
NW: Were you involved in a lot of beauty pageants?
MM: I was a contestant in the Miss New York City pageant, but didn’t make the finals. Then I won Miss Chelsea and Miss Big Apple.
NW: What year did you win Ms. Big Apple?
MM: My “reign” was 1981-82.
NW: How was the experience of winning that particular pageant?
MM: During the finals, as I was standing onstage at Town Hall lined up with my fellow contestants garbed in identical green one-piece bathing suits, I realized that my body was being compared to the other girls’. Suddenly, I felt like a head of cattle. I needed to be validated because of my non-existent self-esteem. I needed someone to tell me that I was worthwhile and beautiful. Mistakenly, I thought that winning a beauty contest would fulfill that need. However, obtaining the title of Miss Big Apple did afford me the opportunity of appearing on several local TV programs and making various public appearances in the New York City area.
NW: IMDb says that you were a singer/dancer that often opened for Tiny Tim, were you a good friend of Tim’s? If so what are your memories of him?
MM:I was one of Tiny’s opening acts. He was a very kind man who was anything but “tiny.” I remember him towering over me and looking down with his very pretty blue eyes. He was extremely generous to newcomers–giving anyone a chance to perform. Tiny was always a gentleman.
NW: What type of music did you sing or were you primarily a dancer?
MM: I liked to sing standards—Gershwin, Arlen, Berlin, Porter, etc. When I sang in Japanese clubs, I learned many songs in Japanese. As a dancer, I did routines to Pop and Broadway tunes.
NW: Did you ever record an album?
No, I never had any interest in recording.
NW: How did you become involved in the adult industry? What factors in your life up to that point do you now see as contributing to your decision to become an adult actress?
MM: I started out as a go-go dancer and eventually began posing in men’s magazines, which led to films. My first was FLASH PANTS. I was the “Flash Dancer” and I posed for the film’s poster and video box cover.
Over the years of working in the sex industry—not only in films, but also as a men’s magazine model and go-go dancer—I met literally hundreds of other young women doing the same. I can tell you with all certainty that women who work in the sex industry are wounded spirits, as was I. We all came from family backgrounds of abuse and/or neglect. We did not value ourselves because we were not valued as children.
NW: Were you a fan of adult films before you joined the adult industry?
MM: I was a fan of adult films neither before nor after my experience.
NW: How many adult films did you appear in?
MM: I performed in five films and worked behind-the-scenes in one—DRILLER. Joyce James had written the female lead for me, but by the time it was made I had decided to leave the business. The actress who played the part needed to have her lines looped (dubbed over). So Joyce asked me to do it.
NW: Which of your adult film roles is your favorite?
MM: I do not favor any of them. I am speaking from both my experience and my heart when I say that the adult film industry is a very dark scene. When I first started out in the business, a director told me that the adult film industry is made up of people who all initially wanted to work in “legitimate” fields. Whether they are actors, directors, or writers—none of them started out saying to themselves, “My goal is to work in porn.” Compared to the straight film industry, the porn business is very easy to get into. You have to possess only mediocre talents to get quite a bit of work.
NW: Do you have any fond memories of making adult films?
MM: The adult film industry is very seductive to a young woman lacking self-esteem. On a film set, she is told that she is pretty and there is a make-up artist, cinematographer, director, and even a script—everything that you would find on a regular movie set. During the filming of THROAT: 12 YEARS AFTER, I remember thinking, “This would be really fun, if only I didn’t have to have sex on camera.” That’s where the low self-esteem comes into play. Any woman with a firm sense of self-worth would never do such a thing. I can tell you with all sincerity that when a woman sells her body, it robs her of a piece of her soul.
NW: You mentioned that you only appeared in one boy/girl scene, what was the movie?, who was the actor, and how was your experience during the filming that scene? Did you enjoy it? was it a bad experience?
MM: Actually, I was in two boy/girl scenes in one film—THROAT: 12 YEARS AFTER. The first was with Eric Edwards—a porn veteran. The second was with George Payne who was very popular at the time. I remember trying so very hard to give a real performance. Both Eric and George were very kind but, no, I did not enjoy it. It is a fantasy that the women performing porn actually enjoy it. No one does. That is why most get high before filming a sex scene—to numb themselves. I was the only female porn actress I knew who didn’t get high and that is why I didn’t last in the industry for very long. I know this may not be what you want to hear, but I am speaking the truth. And the sex industry feeds off of lies—lies about what sex should be, lies about male-female relationships, lies about what women enjoy, lies about sexuality… Please believe me—the sex industry lies.
NW: Most of your scenes were either non-sex roles or with women. Do you or did you prefer women in your personal life or were the scenes something that you tried out of curiosity? Or for money?
MM: I am not now, nor was I ever, a lesbian. I had one girl/girl scene in PUBLIC AFFAIRS with Annette Heinz and I started to cry in the middle of it. The director had to cut and wait until I calmed myself to start filming again. I felt terrible because Annette thought I was crying because of something to do with her. I tried to assure her that it did not have anything to do with her. I simply did not want to be there.
Most women who come from a highly dysfunctional childhood find it difficult to function in mainstream society in a regular nine-to-five job. That is why I continued to work in porn even after I decided not to have sex on camera anymore. I thought, “Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad as long as I don’t have sex on camera.” But I was wrong. It was still an extremely negative environment, regardless of my level of participation.
NW: What was the average pay for a porn girl back then?
MM: As I recall, I was paid $1500 for THROAT: 12 YEARS AFTER for three days work. I believe “West Coast Girls” were paid more.
NW: You appeared in the film Shauna Every Man’s Fantasy w/ Shauna Grant, did you actually get to meet Shauna? If so what are your memories of her? Was she troubled? Did she show signs of the bad things that eventually happened to her?
MM: I never met Shauna. When I started working in the industry, Shauna had already quit. In addition to performing in films and posing in magazines, I also wrote articles. I was assigned to write an article about Shauna’s life. She was scheduled to start filming a “comeback” film the day after she shot herself. At the same time, her boyfriend (who was in prison for dealing drugs) told her to move out of his house. I think she felt lost and hopeless and the thought of going back to porn was too much. Yes, Shauna was troubled, as are all women who perform in adult films. The number of suicides, over-doses, murders and AIDS-related deaths are quite high among porn actors.
NW: You also appeared in the film Public Affairs along side porn legend Annette Haven. What was it like working with Annette? What are your memories of her?
MM: I have never seen this film, but I don’t believe that I had any scenes with Annette Haven. I only remember the scene with Annette Heinz, which I have already described.
NW: What is the wildest or craziest memory or experience you have thinking back to your time in the adult business?
MM: When I was working on PUBLIC AFFAIRS, they were supposed to feed the actors. For lunch, a couple of crewmembers dragged in a large black garbage bag filled with some sort of stew. The garbage bag burst open and huge amounts of brown sludge-like stew flowed throughout the studio. This incident showed me how the filmmakers regarded the actors—we were befitting of eating garbage.
In FLASH PANTS, there was a girl appearing in the film who was underage. Yet it was legal for her to perform because her mother was on the set and signed the release forms. I remember the mother brought homemade macaroni salad for the cast and crew.
In the same film, there was a young woman who was covered with bruises. I asked the make-up artist about her, and was told, “Oh yeah, her boyfriend beats her.” No one did anything about it. Her bruises are clearly visible in the film.
Getting the shot is the most important thing. It doesn’t matter if the woman is high or battered or even underage—as long as you get that shot.
NW: Why did you decide to quit making adult movies?
MM: My conscience told me that it was the wrong thing to do.
NW: Do you regret your decision to appear in adult movies?
MM: I am grateful that I got out when I did.
NW: If you could give a bit of advice to girls who are thinking of getting involved in adult entertainment or are already involved in the industry what would it be?
MM: If asked for my advice, I would say to a women who is attracted to any aspect of the sex industry that she would benefit from a close inspection of herself. The sex industry is a world of loneliness and lies, of emptiness and coldness, of hurting human beings who pretend that they don’t feel the agony. It is a slow suicide—a suicide of shame. Fulfillment cannot be found in the sex industry. It will only pull you lower into the pit of darkness. Value yourself and live in the light.
NW: You mentioned that you have some porn actresses on your MySpace friends list. Do you keep in touch with any of the porn people from your time in the industry or are these people that you met after you left the business?
MM: I always thought that porn actors are good people. Through MySpace, I recently re-connected with Ron Jeremy, with whom I never worked, but met at a film premiere. The women from my day have either moved on to other things or, sadly, have passed away. There are some women on my page who are currently working in the industry, but I do not preach to them. I try to live by example. But if anyone asks me questions regarding my faith, I am more than happy to answer.
NW: Do you still watch adult films?
MM: I was never interested in watching adult films.
NW: Do you consider adult films immoral?
MM: I believe adult films are extremely immoral because they promote the objectification of women and the objectification of sex—which is a beautiful gift from God to be shared by a loving husband and wife. I choose to live a celibate life until I marry.
NW: Have you ever been married? If so, how many times and are you currently married now?
MM: I have never been married, although I came very close a few times. However, I haven’t given up hope that God will provide me with a wonderful husband.
NW: Do you have any children? If so, how many? how old are they? If not, then what has been behind your decision to not have children?
MM: I have never had any children. Though I love animals and consider my pets my children.
NW: Your faith is obviously a big part of your life these days. Did your faith play a part in your decision to quit appearing in adult films or was it something you became more serious about later in life?
MM: I was baptized at the age of thirty—many years after my decision to quit the adult film industry. Yet, I know that the Holy Spirit was always speaking to me and guiding me. Sometimes I just didn’t listen.
NW: Were you raised Catholic or did you convert later in life?
MM: Though I attended a Catholic high school, I was not Catholic. In my late twenties, I wanted to join a Christian church but was confused by all the different denominations. I prayed to God for guidance. Every weekend I visited a different denomination. When I arrived at a Catholic Church, it felt “right.” I took religious instruction and was baptized and confirmed in 1991. Now I try to live a life that’s pleasing to God. Through my faith my life has direction and purpose, which was previously lacking.
NW: Do you currently work? If so what do you do for a living? What other jobs have you held since leaving the porn business?
MM: Suffice it to say that I have a degree in Communications and have worked in television production.
NW: Where do you currently live? You do not need to be very specific on this question.
MM: After living in New York for many years, I moved back to New Jersey.
NW: What are your goals, dreams, aspirations?
MM: I would like to write my autobiography and become a motivational apeaker. Also, I would like to perform a cabaret act and/or one-woman show.
Thank you for your interest in my life. I have tried my best to answer your questions honestly.