Sunday, December 13, 2015


WHAT HAPPENS TO FORMER PORN STARS?I was a porn star in the 80's. I starred in Throat: 12 Years After, which was the sequel to the original Deep Throat. I also appeared in Flashpants and Piggy's, not to mention dozens of layouts in adult magazines.I found that the porn industry was composed of nothing but lost souls--all yearning for the love and attention that they never received as children. On every set, there was a pervasive cloud of sad darkness hovering over the entire production.The sex industry exploits wounded hearts. Every woman I met while working in that business--whether dancing, modeling, or acting--possessed a wounded heart. All had experienced abusive situations in their childhood which resulted in a skewed view of their own sexuality and value. Certainly, no woman with a healthy dose of self-esteem would degrade themselves by exposing their bodies and having sex on camera. I was the only porn actress I knew who didn't use cocaine. The other women told me they used in order to numb themselves from the humiliating reality.I walked away from the money and fame (well, on a porn star level, anyway) because I knew it was an evil, destructive business. For more about my life as Michelle Maren, visit

Thursday, May 07, 2015


I first tried to commit suicide at the age of eight. I tried to suffocate myself with a pillow. Of course being a child, I wasn’t familiar with the word “depression.” All I knew was that I desperately wanted to be someone else. I had seen Miracle on 34th Street on television in which Natalie Wood showed Kris Kringle a photo of her dream house.

As with most Hollywood films of that era, a happy ending was provided for all and Natalie got her house. I concluded Kris Kringle must be God to perform such a miracle and if He could give Natalie Wood her wish, He would do the same for me.

So I opened our gargantuan Sears Roebuck catalog to the girls' clothing section. I selected the little girl I wanted to become. She was thin, blonde and smiling. I wanted my name to be Debbie because all the Debbies in my school were thin, blonde and smiling. If I were Sears Roebuck Debbie no one would beat me, no one would yell at me and call me names, I would live in a house (not unlike Natalie’s dream house), both my parents would live in that house and love each other, I would be a Girl Scout and a cheerleader, take ballet classes, ride a bicycle and have a dog. Yes, if I were Sears Roebuck Debbie, I would be happy. I opened the catalog to Debbie’s page, so God could see my wish.

I also put a bookmark where God could find my dream bedroom. It was a white furniture set complete with a canopy bed. The bedspread and canopy were ruffled and pink. Barbie had the same bed.

And a Teddy Bear was resting comfortably on top of the ruffled pillows. I had always wanted a Teddy.

I then got into bed and buried my face down into my pillow. I was determined to keep it there until I was gone from the world so I could then wake-up as Sears Roebuck Debbie in her dream bedroom, in her dream house, with her dream parents, living her dream life. But I discovered suffocation is neither pleasant nor easy. I started coughing and choking, so I gave up. I put the Sears Roebuck catalog away and returned to my real life filled with fear, violence, isolation and abuse.

It was during the Christmas season when I was twelve that I learned in school poinsettias were poisonous. So I got idea to commit suicide by poinsettia. I took the red leaves of my mother’s poinsettia plant and cut them into tiny pieces. I then put the bits into a glass of orange juice and drank it. I sat and waited for the end. I waited and waited and waited. Nothing happened.

My sister moved out just as I was beginning high school. My mother’s abuse escalated because she then had only one child on whom she could take out all of her frustrations.

The summers were the worst because I was so very isolated. I was not allowed to have other girls over to our apartment, so every day of my summer vacation was spent watching our little black and white television all day and night. Despite my love for old movies and TV reruns, I was exceedingly lonely and my depression worsened.

One day I watched a Natalie Wood movie where she stuck her head in an oven to kill herself. (That Natalie gave me the worst ideas!) So I turned on all the gas jets of our stovetop without lighting them. I lay down and waited. Suddenly, I could hear my mother’s Volkswagen Beetle’s muffler rounding the corner a block away. It was my warning alarm that Ma would be home in another two minutes. In a panic, I turned off all the jets. Unfortunately, I couldn’t open the windows, because years before my mother nailed them all shut. So I opened the back door and tried to wave the fumes out. When I heard Ma driving into the parking lot, I immediately closed the door and sat on the bed, trying to look innocent.

As soon as she stepped into the apartment, she commented, “I smell gas.”

I lied, “Oh the pilot light went out and I just now lit it.”

She seemed to buy it.

After the gas fiasco, I decided to go another route. This time I tried suicide by NyQuil. I drank the whole bottle. Again I waited. Again nothing happened. When my mother got home from work, she noticed I was groggy. I told her I was just tired. Watching TV all day can be really exhausting you know.

After I ran away from home for the second time, my mother forced me to see a psychiatrist. As I sat in my sessions, I wouldn’t say anything - not a single word. I just stared at the man for forty-five minutes. And he just stared back, not asking me any questions or making any comments. As I sat there, I dug my chewed-up fingers into the sides of the big chair in which I was sitting. After each session, I went home with black leather embedded under my fingernails.

The psychiatrist put me on a drug called Haldol - a powerful antipsychotic. It turned me into a zombie. It was hard enough sitting through Sister Innocent’s Chemistry lectures, but now I found my head continually dropping onto my desk. It was my junior year at Mount Saint Mary Academy. I had third-year Latin, fourth-year French, Algebra II… I just couldn’t focus at all. Up to that point I had always been an A and B student, then suddenly I was struggling just to pass.

To punish me further, my mother decided to have me board at the school. Much to her chagrin, I liked it. No one yelled at me or beat me. It was a clean environment and they fed me a full breakfast and dinner. My roommate, Marianne, was very sweet and understanding. I found some peace as a boarder. Although I did have to visit the housemother every night to get my Haldol.

When I began my senior year, my mother had me living at home again. I didn’t have to see a psychiatrist and was taken off Haldol. I was back on the honor roll again, but the abuse was worse than ever. I ran away again and never returned.

I wish I had found proper mental health services as soon as I arrived in New York.

Sadly, I did not.

Instead, I just tried to survive on my own as best I could.

1985 was an especially tough year for me. My father told me he did not want me in his life. My older sister told me she did not want me in her life. Though I had quit working in the porn industry, I also also gained a lot of weight. I felt more lost than ever.

I bought a bottle of 151 proof Bacardi rum, a package of Unisom sleeping pills and a can of Tab diet cola. I washed down all the sleeping pills with a tall glass of half Tab and half Bacardi. After about fifteen minutes, I threw up blood all over my floor. I was never a drinker and apparently my tummy couldn’t handle 151 proof Bacardi. When I saw all that blood, I felt frightened and called 911. I was taken to the psych ward at St. Lukes-Roosevelt on 10th Avenue. I stayed two weeks and came out with even more problems than when I went in.

In 1990, once again I found myself tired of living. I took another overdose of over-the-counter meds, and also once again I became scared and called 911. This time I was admitted to a very old hospital called St. Clare’s on 52nd Street and 9th Avenue. While there, a doctor gave me a physical and discovered a large solid tumor in my right breast. He said he had to operate right away and could not tell me if I had cancer or not until the tumor was removed and a biopsy was performed. I panicked. Yes, I had wanted to die, but not of cancer. That I could not handle all by myself. In desperation, I called my father who was living and working in New Jersey at the time. He had his secretary, a woman I did not know, call me. That was the only comfort he offered. They did the biopsy and, thank goodness, the tumor was benign. After two weeks, I left St. Clare‘s, and once again felt more traumatized than I did when I had been admitted.

After moving to back to New Jersey in 1990, I further struggled to survive. Though I went back to school and graduated with a 4.0 and a BA, I still found it difficult to hold a job. My life was becoming increasingly more and more out-of-control.

I discovered my fiancé was cheating on me. He was cheating on me with prostitutes. He was cheating on me with prostitutes who were men. He was cheating on me with prostitutes who were men dressing as women.

It was a level of betrayal beyond my comprehension. I decided I did not like this world or the people in it. I did not want to be abused or rejected by one more person.

At 4 am I went to the roof of my building, took a cocktail of prescription meds (three handfuls) and planned to jump just before the pills would knock me out. While I was waiting in the dark for the drugs to kick in, I prayed to God and asked for His leniency. I also prayed to Jesus, Mary and every angel and saint. I asked them all to intercede for me and ask God to be merciful. This was not a call for help. I wanted out of life once and for all.

I said to God, “If you really didn’t want this to happen, you would do something to stop me.”

I stood quiet for a moment. Nothing happened so I figured God was not objecting.

There was a tower clock lit up in the sky. At 4:20 am I felt as though I would pass out in another 30 seconds. I was too short to climb up on the parapet, so I got an empty tar can and stood on it. I took off my glasses and put them in my coat pocket. The thought of getting shards of lenses stuck in my eyes as I landed on the sidewalk did not appeal to me.

I stepped up from the tar can onto the parapet. Looking up I saw a figure made of the purest white light imaginable. I could not make out a face. It was a being completely made of light who stretched out his arms to me as though he was beckoning. For the first time since I was very little, I felt no physical pain, no depression, no anxiety… My entire body was imbued with only joy, peace and love. As the being of light continued to beckon, I wanted to go to him. So I took one foot off the parapet. Suddenly a hand grabbed the back of the neck of my coat and with a strong, swift jerk, pulled me backward onto the roof. I fell flat on my back and everything went black.

I have flashes of memories from that morning… I remember feeling like an anvil was suddenly thrown into my chest - twice. Then I felt something like acid fill every vein of my body. I later learned that while in the ambulance, my heart stopped twice and I had to be zapped back to life. What I thought had been acid coursing through my veins, was actually a shot of Epinephrine. Apparently, even though it was 4:20 in the morning, someone who lived in one of the apartments across the street saw me on the roof and called 911. It was the rescue workers who yanked me off the parapet.

I woke up three days later in a dark room that smelled of urine. The room had tiled walls and no door. I was lying on a thin plastic-covered mattress that had no sheet. I was wearing a paper gown and paper pants.

I thought, “I must have done something really terrible because now I’m in jail.”

There was light coming in from the hall. I got up from the bed and walked to the doorway. I peered into the lit hall and saw a woman. I asked her where I was.

She screamed at me, “Get back in your room!”

She then pointed to my toes, which were past the door’s threshold and sticking out into the hall.

I pulled my feet back a few inches and asked again, “Where am I?”

She told me I was in “The Crisis Unit” and could not leave. When I saw she was not around, I walked as quickly as I could to the nearest exit sign. I pushed the door open and sirens went off. Within seconds, security guards were grabbing my arms and hauling me back to that ever-so-friendly woman in the hallway.

Some sort of black gunk was oozing out of every one of my orifices. I asked what was happening to me and was told that I had been given activated charcoal after my stomach was pumped in the ER and my body was purging it. I then understood why my esophagus had been hurting so much. In addition, I had a huge black and blue bump on my sternum and a tremendous pain in my chest from being zapped in the ambulance.

Because they had no beds available, The Crisis Center shipped me off to a psych hospital far away in the country. After arriving there, I was asked for my emergency contact. I did not have one, so I gave them my father’s office number since he had never wanted me to have his home phone number. When the social worker called him, all he did was tell her about his business problems and what a stupid mistake it was for him to get my mother pregnant. He did not ask anything about my condition or prognosis. The social worker told me all of this and I wish she hadn’t.

When I was released, I still felt very shaky and was certain I would attempt suicide again if I had to be alone every day. So I enrolled myself in an outpatient psychiatric day program. I was there for a couple of years.

It was at that program that I learned about mental health recovery. I learned that having mental illness does not mean that one cannot have a fulfilling life and accomplish one’s dreams. For me, mental health recovery is a state of wholeness where a person is physically and emotionally stabilized so they can achieve goals and function well in society.

Mental health recovery doesn’t necessarily mean “cured.” For me, it is an ongoing process that began many years ago. It means I am doing everything in my power to support all aspects of my being (physical, mental, intellectual, spiritual, financial, creative, social and environmental). Slips and relapses have been part of my recovery path. When a roadblock occurs along my journey, I now possess the tools to go around it, over it, under it, or to just kick the darn thing out of my way.

My mental health recovery has involved finding love, joy, peace and balance in my life.

I have been diagnosed with many mental disorders. The most deadly has been depression and it has been the illness I found most resistant to treatment. It has almost killed me on more than one occasion. I have been so ill that I had to keep all my windows closed and blinds pulled down for fear that I would be tempted to jump from my fourteenth floor apartment. After trying many, many antidepressants and not finding any relief, I finally found one that helps me to remain stabilized. In addition, talk therapy had been very useful. I find it most beneficial to open up to someone with whom I have no personal connection.

Anxiety plagued me even before I entered school. I grew up in a very unstable, dysfunctional home where I never knew what to expect. I was yelled at and criticized every day. Nothing I every did seemed good enough. So I was constantly worried that I would do or say the wrong thing and make everyone angry. Anxiety became a way of life for me. For many years I was on anti-anxiety meds, but I am happy to say that I have been off of them for over six months now. I utilize prayer, meditation, mindfulness, yoga and walks in the park to combat my anxiety. Also, excluding sugar, white starch, animal fat and sodium from my diet has helped me handle both depression and anxiety. I eat lots of veggies, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, sardines, salmon, nonfat dairy, olive oil and tofu.

When I was growing up, my mother kept me isolated. Like other abusers, my mother used isolation as another form of control. As a result, I never learned how to socialize and cultivate supportive relationships. For several years I hibernated in my apartment. I could not handle being around people. When I absolutely needed certain things, such as food or medicine, I forced myself to go out, only to quickly return to my cocoon as soon as possible. However, I always made sure to attend my psychiatric appointments. I was diagnosed with Social Phobia. These days, I have relationships with others and am pushing myself to go out more. I know the more I socialize, the easier it will become. I am learning that not everyone will reject or abuse me. The world is not as scary as I had previously believed.

Years ago, I was diagnosed with Schizophrenia and later with Schizoaffective Disorder - Depressed Type. My psychotic symptoms manifested as auditory hallucinations. I had these psychotic breaks during the times of my life when I was feeling most anxious. I was prescribed a number of antipsychotics over the years (aside from Haldol, I took Zyprexa, Mellaril, Geodon, Abilify and Seroquel.) I have not heard those psychotic voices in many years now.

My disordered eating began around the age of eight when I first started to feel I was fat. My mother had eating disorders. She would binge on sweets and then go on some sort of starvation diet like The Watermelon Diet or The Stillman Water Diet. Ma was absolutely obsessed with dieting and weight. One of her co-workers was named Elaine. I never met Elaine, but I heard about her everyday. Ma would tell me how fat Elaine was, how disgusting Elaine was, what Elaine had “the nerve” to eat that day at lunch, how Elaine was “as big as a house”…

One day I was walking in NYC with my mother, many years after she had retired. We passed by a Fifth Avenue art gallery. There was a stone hippo in the window.

My mother stopped me and pointing to the hippo said, “Look Michelle, it’s Elaine!”

Even when she was ill with dementia and in her last months, Ma still talked to me about her weight, food and... Elaine.

I went on my first starvation diet when I was twelve, eating only 500 calories a day. My mother thought it was great because I was getting skinny.

And so began the binge/starve cycle that continued until I was fifty-years-old.

Back in the 80s I jumped on the Jane Fonda aerobics bandwagon and became an exercise fanatic. If I did not feel as though I was going to collapse at the end of a workout, then I had not done a good job. Jane said I needed to “feel the burn” and “work through the pain.”

I would binge on huge amounts of junk food, then starve and over-exercise. Sometimes I would not eat anything for as long as three weeks. I would start eating again only when I felt I was going to die if I did not.

I have been too thin and I have been too fat. In fact, for more than ten years of my adult life I was clinically obese, weighing 175 to 200 pounds at a height of 5’ 3”.

I was diagnosed with Binge Eating Disorder and Bulimia - Nonpurging Type (meaning one uses fasting and excessive exercise to purge calories).

It wasn’t until I watched my mother suffer and die that it finally sunk in what damage I had been doing to myself. My mother had Vascular Dementia, which was the result of a series of mini-strokes over a period of many years. The strokes were caused by atherosclerosis. She had clogged her arteries with all those decades of binging on junk food. In her nursing home she became completely helpless - unable to do anything. She could not bathe or dress herself, she could not walk, she stopped eating, had to be tube-fed, and eventually she couldn’t speak or see. I realized that I can take control over my health, just by eating a healthy diet and moderate exercise.

Trichotillomania is a long word that means compulsive hair pulling. When I was twelve, I started to pull out my right eyebrow. Similar to nail biting, I found it strangely comforting. In high school I started pulling hair from my middle part, my temples and the crown of my head. For me it was a way to deal with extreme stress. After I left home at seventeen, the trichotillomania stopped. When I was twenty-two, it started up again, and with a vengeance too. I was working in the porn industry at the time. Strange, I did not make the connection. Of course, I was feeling enormously stressed because I was doing something that utterly humiliated me. I needed some sort of release. And trichotillomania provided that for me. I think people who cut themselves feel this type of release. Even though it is a self-injurious behavior and causes physical pain, there is this enormous release that occurs when the pain is felt. When the compulsion to pull was at its worst, I decided to shave my head. Being bald was preferable to having to fight those horrendous urges twenty-four hours a day. I couldn't pull if there were no hairs available. I wore a little black cap in public. I have yet to find a therapist who accepts my insurance and is really trained in treating this particular disorder. The way I manage trichotillomania is by taking proactive, positive measures to deal with stress (healthy diet, moderate exercise, prayer, mindfulness, meditation and journaling). When I am alone in my apartment, I wear my hair in topknots and put a little nylon bonnet over them to discourage my fingers from being tempted. In addition, I take care of my hair and use coconut oil on a regular basis. I find any acts of self-care only aid in my recovery process.

When I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder I had never heard of it. I immediately bought books by Marsha Linehan, who is considered the foremost authority on the subject.

The Diagnostic Statistical Manual describes Borderline Personality Disorder as:

A pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-mage, and affects, and marked impulsivity, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts…

For me personally, BPD has been a response to past severe and repeated trauma, marked by feelings of profound emptiness and nonexistent self-esteem.

BPD has many symptoms and those symptoms vary from person to person. It has manifested in my life with intense depression, anxiety, phobias, isolation, overspending, binge eating, promiscuous sex, unstable personal relationships, trichotillomania, other self-injurious behaviors such as head-banging, multiple suicide attempts, identity issues and to a very great extent - an intense fear of rejection and abandonment.

Therefore, BPD encompasses many of my other diagnosed mental disorders.

Currently, I am diagnosed as in recovery from BPD.

I have learned to live within my means and am no long a spendaholic.

The depression, anxiety and eating disorders are all under control.

I have not had promiscuous sex since I worked in the sex industry thirty years ago.

Because I did not find out I was African American until I was seventeen, I do have some serious identity issues. Also, I did not grow up with my Italian father, so I do not identify with my Italian heritage either. None of my family members are willing to have a relationship with me. So there remains an emptiness in my heart regarding my identity. It is something I pray about often. It is something I continue to work on.

I also continue to work on developing healthy relationships and creating a positive support system. In the past, I gravitated towards those people who were unloving and emotionally abusive because that is what knew from my childhood. It seemed I was innately attracted to those who would inevitably reject me, just as my father and other family members did. That is all I thought I deserved. My level of self-esteem was based on the opinions and treatment of others. My self-esteem now comes from deep within my core and I realize how much I deserve respect and love.

I used to idealize the men in my life and put them on a high pedestal where I would worship them. That was unfair to both them and me. It was unfair to them because I was setting them up to fail. It was unfair to myself because I was setting myself up for diappointment. Now I am learning not to idealize anyone. We are all imperfect human beings and it is in our weaknesses that we are strong.

My seeking out and developing healthy relationships is definitely a challenge and a work in progress. Yet I am progressing every day.

For many years, I was unable to discuss my childhood and history working in the sex industry with anyone, not even my therapists. Now I am telling the world about my past.

I have not been hospitalized or attempted suicide in ten years and my overall condition has stabilized. I am now making and achieving goals, and am helping others do the same.

Yes indeed, I have found my sanity in mental health recovery. The search is over.

Mental health recovery is possible.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015


I worked in the sex industry from 1979 to 1987. During that period, I was a go-go dancer, men’s magazine model, wrote pornographic articles, wrote and performed phone sex tapes and was a porn star. Most notably, I was one of the leads in Gerard Damiano’s Throat: 12 Years After, the sequel to his original Deep Throat.

I suppose my descent into that dismal world began when I became a sex surrogate soon after my eighteenth birthday. Some months before, I had run away from home to escape the abuse of my mother. She demanded complete control of every aspect of my being. I was not permitted to socialize with other children, talk on the telephone, wash my own hair or take a bath when I wanted. Normal activities such as sitting in the living room and dining at the kitchen table were forbidden. I was forced to spend all my time, including eating all my meals, in a tiny bedroom. My mother was paranoid and kept every window nailed shut, with the shades down and shutters closed. She was convinced the neighbors were plotting to kill us. After my father abandoned the family when I was very little, my mother’s abuse escalated. I was yelled at every day and beaten whenever I broke one of her many rules. My mother told me I was a worthless burden and sadly, I believed her. Craving freedom, I finally escaped.

After arriving in New York City, I worked a series of minimum wage jobs, quickly learning that I needed a significantly higher salary to survive on my own.

I answered an ad in The Village Voice for a sex surrogate, even though my carnal knowledge was seriously limited. I was a true innocent. My mother never allowed me to date a boy or even go to a school dance. A few months before, my virginity was taken from me by a case worker at Covenant House, where I had stayed after leaving home. The men who were my surrogate clients were supposed to suffer from sexual dysfunction. Yet when they were with me, they seemed to function just fine. The office was run by two men who had no medical qualifications. Their only concern was making money. The onsite “therapist” was a woman Gita who would call me into her office before I saw each client. She proceeded to describe each man’s particular dysfunction and tell me exactly what I was to do during the session. To this day, whenever I think of that place I can still smell its stench: a stomach-churning brew of latex, baby oil and men. I hated every minute of it.

Someone told me about go-go dancing in Jersey and put me in touch with an agent. Compared to being a sex surrogate, go-go dancing did not seem that bad.

“At least I don’t have to have sex with anyone,” I rationalized.

I was directed to a Times Square go-go agency called “Joe M Enterprises.” It was located in the Castro Convertible building. The smoke-filled two-room office had its walls plastered with yellowed 8x10 glossies of 1950’s burlesque queens named Bubbles or Fifi who sported feather boas and balloons.

Neither Joe M nor his partner Carmine asked me for ID. They gave me my first bookings in New Jersey and directed me to a shop on the main floor of the Castro building that sold go-go garb. I purchased a gold lame number with gold sequined trim. It scratched my skin - a lot.

So there I was, parading around in my little gold lame G-string, a kid really, being leered at by dollar-waving, cigarette-puffing drunken men perched on tattered bar stools.

At first, I worked exclusively in New Jersey, where the laws were strict - no topless dancing, no touching by the customers, and pantyhose worn at all times. Clubs had names like La Vien Rose, The Red Shingle, The Flamingo, The Caboose, The Zoo, The Toy Boxx, Uncle Charlie’s…

As time went on, I found myself also dancing in Manhattan - topless and without stockings. I danced at The Mardi Gras, The Metropole, The Pussycat and The Babydoll.

I was still trying to get into legitimate show business and weekly read the trade paper Backstage. I came across an ad for “promotional models.” The agency was called International Escorts & Promotions and it was located at 330 West 56th Street.

I was asked to bring professional pictures to the interview. The young woman who ran the office described two types of modeling positions. The first was a “promotional model,” meaning that I would work at boat or car shows wearing a bikini and looking pretty. The second was a “private model,” meaning I would be a professional escort, accompanying men to diner and special events.

I said, “I think that ‘promotional model’ job sounds great. Sign me up for that.”

I left the agency and for the next the next three weeks waited for my phone to ring, to no avail.

I returned to the agency and asked what was the problem.

The office gal told me, “Well, actually we don’t get that many calls for promotional models. If you become a professional escort, we could book you tonight.”

So I agreed.

That night my first “call” was at the Hilton on Sixth Avenue. The man was very handsome, in his thirties and from the Middle East. He had a suite and we sat on the sofa and talked for awhile. He then asked me to get comfortable and I began to figure out that we weren’t going out to dinner or a special event. So we had sex and I went home with $300.

I continued to work for escort services on and off for seven years. With each call, I lost a little bit more of my soul.

One woman who owned an Eastside agency said to me, “What’s so bad about it? Someone loves you for an hour!”

I also posed in men’s magazines - Cheri, Gent, Adult Cinema Review

There was a magazine called Velvet published by David Zentner. He was absolutely the most disgusting man I ever met in the adult magazine business. David Zentner’s casting couch was notorious. He had a gross-looking brown plaid couch in his office and if a young woman wanted to get a cover or spread in one of his magazines, she would have to pleasure that dirty old man on that dirty old plaid couch. Yuck.

The polar opposite of David Zentner was George Mavety. He published not only many porn titles like Erotic Film Guide, Juggs and Leg Show, but also a lot of legit mags about all sorts of topics - crochet, cooking, wrestling, etc. George was truly a bigger-than-life character with a bigger-than-life girth to match. He was 300 pounds and the most well-groomed man I had ever met. Always immaculate, George had perfectly trimmed hair, wore crisp white shirts, custom tailored suits, shiny polished shoes and had manicured nails. His extroverted personality matched his size. He could charm anyone. In fact, I introduced him to my mother and not only was she bowled over by him (even though she knew as a pornographer), but I think he found her quite appealing. A year before my mother died, when she was in a Queens nursing home, she told me that George had asked her out on a date. I believed her. George did like the ladies. When he died in 2000, his last legal wife and mistresses were embroiled in a litigious battle over his millions.

I was offered a role as a dancer in a porn film called Flash Pants. I wouldn’t be nude and got to dance on film, so I did it. There was a young woman who was one of the porn actresses. She was covered in bruises and told the rest of us that her boyfriend had beat her up. No one even bothered to cover up her black and blue marks with make-up. They were perfectly visible on film. Another porn actress on that set looked young - very young. Her mother was also on set and brought the cast and crew homemade macaroni salad. I later learned that the mother accompanied her daughter on all her jobs, both in magazines and films, and sometimes participated in the shoots. Double yuck. I feel ashamed of myself that I did nothing to help this girl. However, my own moral barometer was so skewed, I myself did not know right from wrong, or appropriate from inappropriate.

I danced in another film, Piggy’s and then was cast in my first lead part.

Like most women in sex industry, the longer I worked in that business, the lower my standards became. Dancing led to becoming an escort, which led to posing in men’s magazines, which led to becoming an extra in porn films. Within a short time, I was meeting with Gerard Damiano, who made the original Deep Throat. He cast me as one of the leads in the sequel.

Whereas breaking into legit show business was so very difficult, it was so very easy to become a porn star. And I could fool myself that I was a real movie star. After all, there was a script (not a thick one, but I did have lines to learn), I had a character to play, there was a make-up gal, boom mics, a cinematographer, a director and a camera. Oh yes, it wasn’t until I saw the camera man get partially on the bed during my sex scene, that I understood exactly what I was doing.

After about a half dozen porn films, I was finished. I just could not handle it anymore. Having sex on camera was the absolute lowest thing I had ever done. I understood why all the other women had to do lines of cocaine before the cameras rolled. Not only was I selling my very soul, but I was doing so in a room full of people who were recording my humiliation on film for the entire world to see. I was the only porn actress I knew who did not do drugs. The down side of that was I was perfectly alert during filming and therefore clearly remember every single disgusting detail.

Though I quit porn films and go-go dancing in 1985, I continued to sell my body as a professional escort for another two years. My self-esteem was nonexistent. I felt I was of no value and the way I lived my life reflected that. For two years, I was a call girl and nothing else. I decided I was going to be the best escort in New York. Whatever revolting thing the men asked me to do, I complied. After every call, I would go home and surrounded with hundred dollar bills, sit on the floor and cry. No, not just cry, I would wail. It was a slow suicide indeed--a suicide of shame.

One day while at the escort service, I was told that one of the other women had passed away. She died of AIDS. This was someone I knew. She had an adorable three-year-old boy. I had just seen her at the agency weeks before and she looked fine as she gleefully modeled her new mink coat. When I heard the news, I began to shake as I was overcome with sadness and pure horror. It was a monumental wake-up call. Right there and then, I walked out of that office and never worked as an escort or anything else in the sex industry again. I was twenty-six and the year was 1987.

Since then, it has been my faith in Jesus Christ, sense of humor and sheer determination that have propelled me through life.

Why did I degrade myself all those years?

My childhood was fraught with abuse, neglect and abandonment. I had been sexually molested by doctors as well as a family member. When I was a teen, I was raped. I had no sense of self-worth and thought I did not deserve respect. Because of the sexual abuse, my sense of identity became based on my sexuality. I craved the male attention I never received from my father. I craved love - from anyone - any little scrap of love. The sex industry offered me those scraps. Someone, many actually, “loved me for an hour.”

In addition, I had mental health issues that I did not address until I was long out of the sex industry. Over the years, I have been diagnosed with (at least) eighteen different mental disorders.

An Autobiography of Michelle Maren explores my search for wholeness, forgiveness, recovery, healing, closure and love.

What has been the outcome?

Please watch for the release of An Autobiography of Michelle Maren to find out…

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Times Square in 1979 was not the Disney-dominated tourist trap that it is today. Elmo and Hello Kitty were not harassing out-of-towners for tips. No, there were even scarier characters walking the streets back then.

At that time, the seedy streets of Hell’s Kitchen were overflowing with teens selling their bodies which possessed lost souls. It was a dangerous den of pimps and Johns and… sadistic killers.

A 12-year-old prostitute named Veronica was thrown out of a Times Square Hotel by her pimp. Another girl of 15 was chopped to pieces by one of her tricks.

In January 1979, the same month I arrived in New York, a teen prostitute named Helen Sikes went missing from Times Square. Eventually her body was found with the legs missing. Her limbs were later discovered a block away.

In December of that year, two young women were found ablaze in a sleazy hotel on 42nd Street. Their heads and hands were missing. One woman was identified as 22-year-old Deedeh Goodarzi. Nothing was ever learned about the second woman, only that she was around 16 and weighed 110 pounds.

Richard Cottingham, a computer operator at Empire State Blue Cross Blue Shield in Manhattan, was convicted in 1981 and 1984 for these two murders and four additional killings that he had committed beginning in 1967. He also assaulted, tortured and mutilated countless other young prostitutes who had survived.

Cottingham targeted working girls because he said “they had to be punished.”

I can assure you, any woman working in the sex industry has already been punished enough in life. These are women who come from exceeding dysfunctional backgrounds of sexual, emotional and/or physical abuse. Parental neglect, rejection and abandonment also play key factors.

As I sat on my little bed in my mini-bedroom (a.k.a. closet) at the West 47th Street Covenant House group home, I felt thankful - thankful that I now had a roof over my head and hot food in my tummy.

With a sigh of relief, I thought, “I’m finally safe.”

But was I?

At the group home, there was a 12-year-old streetwalker named Lucy. She was going to testify against her pimp who, according to the Vice Squad and FBI, was a very big player in the New York crime scene during the Seventies.

That March, Lucy (along with Father Bruce Ritter) appeared on a 60 Minutes special report on teenage prostitution titled “Runaways, Throwaways.”

I sat and watched the episode with Lucy and the other girls in the group home. Lucy was interviewed while in shadow.

On a daily basis, there were strange black vehicles parked outside of the group home. Creepy men peered at our building through darkly tinted car windows. Sometimes, they very, very slowly drove up and down the block - peering all the way.

From behind prison walls, Lucy’s pimp had put out a hit on her.

We were all extremely frightened and asked the staff to relocate Lucy. They did and I never knew what became of her.

One night, I was sitting in the group home’s living room mending a shirt, when suddenly my mother walked in.

I went into panic mode, became hysterical and hid in a corner.

“Keep her away from me! Keep her away from me! You said I never had to see her again!” I screamed at one of the case workers.

They made my mother leave, but the man who accompanied her remained behind. He was a private detective Ma had hired to find me.

“Your mother loves you,” he said in low tones.

I shrieked, “I don’t know you! And you don’t know what my mother put me through! Go away!”

He left but my body continued to shake for the rest of the night. Once again, I was promised by staff I would never have to go back to Scotch Plains and live with my mother.

My mother started legal proceedings to have me committed to a state psychiatric facility. My assigned social worker arranged a meeting with her. I was told to be there. Reluctantly, I went but my mother never showed up and never called.

One of the Covenant House case workers was a 29-year-old married man named John (PS: that wasn‘t really his name). He seemed to take a special interest in me and often would call me into the office to have a heart-to-heart conversation.

I was a desperately lonely girl who desperately longed for attention and love.

One Saturday night, John was working the overnight shift. He gave me permission to stay up late to watch The Midnight Special. All the other girls were asleep.

I was sitting on the living room floor watching The Jacksons sing “Shake Your Body Down to the Ground” when John whispered in my ear, “Do you know how fine you are?”

I felt my face flush.

“What me - fine?” I pondered.

No one had ever called me pretty before. In fact, I grew up thinking I was quite hideous. None of the girls and young women on television looked like me. My classmates only confirmed my suspicions of my unattractiveness. They relentlessly taunted me because of my ugly hair, my ugly body, my ugly face…

Now John was telling me that I was actually good looking? Wow!

John proceeded to nuzzle my neck. I had never been to even a school dance, let alone experience a boy's nuzzling.

Then he kissed me - my first kiss ever. I felt myself float above the room, above the Jacksons, above 47th Street. I was in heaven.

I felt loved.

John continued to give me “special attention” during my stay at 47th Street. He taught me what necking meant.

Soon my two month limit was up at the group home, so Covenant House relocated me to an Alphabet City drug rehab on East 10th Street called Project Contact. Mind you, I had never so much as smoked a cigarette, let alone do any sort of drugs. But it was the only place that had a vacancy.

I moved out of the group home with two brown paper bags of belongings.

While at Project Contact, John asked me out for my 18th birthday. He took me to Beefsteak Charlie’s and ordered a pitcher of sangria. I never tasted alcohol and had never heard of sangria.

John explained, “It’s like punch. See? It’s got slices of fruit floating in it!”

He poured me a large glassful.

I guzzled the sangria like it was Kool-Aid and soon was drunk for the first time. I barely made it to the all-you-can-eat shrimp and salad bar.

At dinner, John gave me birthday presents - a sterling silver ring and two matching bracelets.

“He really cares for me,” I thought.

Afterward, John took me to his apartment. His wife and kids were away.

He proceeded to have sex with me. I just laid there like a log because I didn’t know what to do.

Then I felt excruciating pain sear throughout my body.

John said, “Michelle, you’re bleeding.”

I started to cry because I knew I had just lost something that I could never get back.

"You'll never forget me because I was your first," John proudly proclaimed.

I continued to meet with him for many months after that night.

Then I learned that John had given his “special attention” to many other girls at 47th Street. He was found out and Covenant House relocated him to an all-boys group home.

Most of the clients at Project Contact were from the streets and given the choice of rehab or jail. One very tall man had a long scar across his face and was missing an eye because of a bar fight. He turned out to be a nice guy and we became friends, often joking with each other to ease the tension of living in such a restrictive environment.

I thought living in Alphabet City was even worse than Hell’s Kitchen. At least there were people walking on the street in Times Square. In 1979, East 10th Street between Avenues B and C was fairly desolate. The Project Contact building was one of the few on the block that hadn’t been abandoned. We were surrounded by junkie squatters who would do anything to anyone to get their next fix.

One evening I was a half block away from Project Contact. It was a Friday and I had my week’s pay in my purse. I was jumped from behind by two young men. I was punched and pushed to the ground. They took my purse and ran. I was left sobbing and bleeding in the filthy rubble on the sidewalk. I crawled my way to Project Contact and the police were called. Of course, the junkie muggers were never caught.

Project Contact treated me like an addict, even though I wasn’t. The staff had a tendency to yell their instructions to the residents rather than speaking in a normal tone of voice. My mother had yelled at me almost every day of the 17 years and 9 months we lived together. To this day, I cannot handle being yelled at. I have quit many a job, simply because someone shouted at me.

If one person broke the rules at Project Contact, all the residents were punished. We were often put on lockdown, though I was allowed to leave so I could go my clerical job at the ILGWU on 7th Avenue.

Sometimes we had to “GI” the entire building. This meant scrubbing the place from stem to stern with a toothbrush. I was told to wash all the windows and handed a gallon of white vinegar and a stack of newspapers. It was a sloppy, smelly, back-breaking mess.

One day I decided I couldn’t cope with Project Contact anymore. I was tired of being yelled at. I was tired of the lockdowns. I was tired of GI-ing the building. I was tired of vinegar and newspaper. I was tired of constantly being punished when I hadn't done anything wrong. I was just plain old tired.

So I packed up my two brown paper bags and went back to Covenant House on 8th Avenue. I begged them to find me another placement. They moved me to a Franciscan convent in Southside Jamaica, Queens.

It was run by a few very kind nuns and housed about ten women. I had my own room and did my share of the chores.

One day, while walking to the convent from the subway, I was followed by a shirtless man with drug-crazed eyes and a crowbar in his hand. He was screaming incoherently as he followed me. I didn’t see any other people and was terrified.

“This guy wants to kill me,” I thought.

I was a block away from the convent but felt like I wasn’t going to make it there. I saw a phone booth, went in, closed the glass door and called the convent.

In a very shaky voice, I told one of the nuns, “This man is following me. He has a crowbar and I think he wants to kill me. I’m in the phone booth on the corner.”

She said, “Stay on the phone, someone will go and get you.”

The man was standing outside of the booth, tapping the crowbar on the ground as he bellowed obscenities.

I didn’t hang up and in a few moments I saw a female phalanx walking up the street. I waited until they got very close to the phone booth, then opened the door and began to walk with them toward the convent. The drug-crazed man was shouting louder and pushed me from behind. I didn’t fall down, but rather, continued to walk with the other women. None of us said anything. It was clear that doing so would only exacerbate this man’s rage. He followed us until we got to the front door. Someone from inside opened it and we all ran in. The man howled a string of expletives before eventually making his exit.

I was working at SYMS clothing store when I moved into the convent. It had been my latest in a string of piddly, dead end, minimum wage jobs.

I saw an ad in The Village Voice for a position in a medical office on East 43rd Street called Contemporary Psychological Services. When I went to the interview, I was told they needed a front desk person, I would have to buy a nurse’s uniform and the salary was $250 a week. That was an enormous amount compared to the meager $2.95 an hour I was making at SYMS.

Then I found out the catch: I would not only have to perform front desk duties, but also be a sex surrogate. Contemporary Psychological Services offered sex surrogates to men with sexual dysfunction.

Since I had sex with John, the Covenant House case worker, I already felt used and dirty. My self-esteem was completely nonexistent by this time, so I took the job. I find it sad and ironic that a barely 18-year-old girl, with very little sexual experience, would be hired as a sex surrogate.

I told the Franciscan nuns that I was working in a medical office. I left the convent every morning wearing my nurse’s uniform, so they believed me.

Contemporary Psychological Services was run by two men. Their main goal was not to help sexually dysfunctional men, but rather make money - lots and lots of money. They advertised in the NYC newspapers and had a large clientele.

An older woman named Gita told what to do with the men. She was a “therapist,” although I never saw her credentials hanging on her office wall, if she had any credentials at all.

Gita’s first question to me was, “How’s your fellatio?”

I didn’t know what the word meant.

Perplexed, I asked, "Fella who?"

The vast majority of the men I saw did not seem to have sexual dysfunction at all. All they wanted was a prostitute.

I consider this job as my entry into the sex industry. I hated every minute of it.

Whenever I think of that awful place I can still smell its stench - a putrid blend of baby oil, latex and men.

I worked the front desk with a fortyish woman named Dorothy who was not one of the surrogates. She asked me to move in with her. Dorothy lived on East 15th Street in a very nice building and needed help paying the rent.

I agreed, but though I paid half of the rent and all the other bills, I did not have a bedroom. I slept on a futon in her living room.

I had been living with Dorothy for two weeks when she told me I would have to move because her mother was coming for a visit.

She recommended I check into the nearby Hotel 17, which I found to be a disgusting, filthy, roach-infested, dilapidated hellhole. I stayed there one night and kept on all the lights.

One of the other sex surrogates told me to relocate to her building. She lived across the River.

So again, I moved. But this time it was to my very first place. After being in New York for 8 months, finally, at the age of 18, I was no longer homeless. It was a furnished efficiency, but it counted as an official apartment and I was paying the rent on my own.

Though I wasn’t proud of the way I was making a living, at least I was independent. As miserable as I was on my own, anything, anything was better than being abused by my mother.

During my first 8 months away from Ma, I had been attacked, raped and mugged. I had gone through 6 jobs, moved 7 times, lost my virginity to an older man and became a sex surrogate.

Yet through it all, I had survived. It is the one good trait I inherited from my mother. Ma always knew how to survive.

Today I still stand firm in the knowledge that no matter what happens to me in this life, I will survive.