The One Where I Interview a Porn Star

| Ted Landau's User Friendly View

[Warning: This article contains links to Web sites that display graphic sexual images.]

Last week, while the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was taking place in the Las Vegas Convention Center, there was an entirely different show in town, just a few blocks away: the Adult Entertainment Expo (AEE). For fans of adult movies, this is their annual opportunity see and meet with their favorite stars. As for me, I wasn’t planning on going. I don’t know whether it is more embarrassing to admit that you have never seen an adult movie or that you frequently watch them, but I am clearly closer to the former. While I have occasionally viewed free promo clips from porn sites (like pretty much everyone else with a Y chromosome and a pulse), I have never watched a “feature length” porn movie — at least not since Deep Throat in 1972. So I didn’t see much point to my attending AEE.

However, I was contacted by one of the exhibitors, Digital Playground. They were interested in having me do a few interviews with their “talent.” To make it more convenient for me to do so, they offered to get me a press press to AEE. I told them that my journalistic interests ran more towards computers than adult films. They didn’t mind. They assured me that there would be a “techie” angle, including news of a forthcoming iPhone app. What the hell. I agreed. It figured it could be fun.

Interviewing a porn star might show up somewhere on my list of 1001-things-I-would-like-to-do-before-I-die, but I would have given it very low odds of ever happening. Appropriately enough, here in Las Vegas, I beat the odds.

Before arriving at AEE, I did a bit of background research. First stop: Digital Playground’s Web site. In most ways, it seems little different than the dozens of other competing sites on the Web — a bit classier in design perhaps but otherwise much the same. However, beyond the collection of pornographic photos and videos that these sites all offer, Digital Playground aspires to deliver something that is a step up: more polished, bigger budget feature-length films. These films have apparently been quite successful (Teachers, the company’s most recent major release, is currently in the top 5 of AVN’s Overall Sales list). Two of their films (Pirates and Pirates 2) became so popular that Digital Playground created less-explicit R-rated versions of them —  so that they might be seen by a wider audience.

[I have not seen any version of the Pirates films, but it’s hard to imagine that there is much left to see after the graphic sex scenes are deleted. These scenes, after all, are the main point of the films. I know this, because in the interest of being informed, I did watch Teachers. The plot is minimal to non-existent and the acting ranges from decent to poor. For my taste, the sex scenes go on far too long and are too graphic. I don’t say this because I was offended by them. But because they lost any erotic value for me long before they were over. I kept wanting them to move on to the next scene already. I guess I am not their target audience.]

The higher quality production values of films such as Teachers are evident. You can tell that Teachers took considerable time, money and technical talent to produce. As another example, for their next “big budget” film (Fly Girls), Digital Playground did location shooting in an airplane interior, rather than using a cheap studio mock-up (as would be more typical for such films). Still, in the end, these are pornographic films; no one would confuse them with even the raunchiest R-rated movies coming out of Hollywood.

Digital Playground lists about a half dozen women as “contract stars.” There is a certain cachet within the industry associated with this exclusivity status. For Digital Playground, these are the women who star in the company’s big-budget films, as opposed to the much larger stable of women who appear in these and all their other videos.

Figure: Digital Playground’s booth at AEE, showing several press interviews in progress.

With this novice’s understanding of the porn business now under my belt, I showed up at Digital Playground’s AEE booth, ready to do my interviews. Aside from the women walking around in revealing outfits and the posters in the background, the atmosphere here was surprisingly ordinary. All the people I talked to were friendly, in a subdued business-like way — without any hint as to what the business actually was (see photo above).

Joone and Jesse Jane

I first sat down to interview Joone, the owner of Digital Playground (his full name is Ali Joone, but he prefers to go with just the single name). He told me about the company’s forthcoming $1.99 Jesse Jane iPhone app. Jesse (see photo below) is currently Digital Playground’s most well-known contract star. The app has already been approved by Apple and should be available soon. Given all the hassles with Apple’s approval process, especially for anything the least controversial, I was a bit surprised. Joone explained that there is no nudity in the app, just Jesse in swimsuits and such. What makes this app different from the other “sexy” iPhone apps already in the Store is its “interactive” feature: you can insert a photograph of yourself into a scene with Jesse Jane — making it appear as if you were actually with her at the time of the shoot. Joone didn’t have a demo to show me, so that’s all I can say about it for now (to see a video of Jesse talking about this iPhone app, click here).

Jesse Jane

Figure: Jesse Jane, the porn star featured in Digital Playground’s forthcoming iPhone app.

Regarding the tame nature of the app, Joone added that, if you want more graphic images, you can always visit their Web site — a site that has been fully-optimized for the iPhone, with special features such as menus at the top and bottom of the screen that remain stationary while you scroll through the content in the center.

Given the hoopla surrounding 3D televisions over at CES, I asked Joone if he was looking ahead to this market. He certainly was. In fact, they are already shooting films in 3D. However, they won’t be released until after 3D televisions are more generally available for sale. As is typically the case with adult entertainment, Digital Playground intends to be at the bleeding edge of this latest technological innovation.

Raven Alexis

My other interview was with Digital Playground’s newest contract “porn star” Raven Alexis — featured in No Love Lost and the upcoming Fly Girls. Digital Playground wanted me to talk with her because she was their “techie” star. Raven told me that this meant she was skilled in Web design and HTML coding. Raven said she had done all the work behind her two personal Web sites (ravensplayhouse.com and ravenalexis.com).

Where did she learn how to do all of this Web stuff? It started six years ago, when she was a pre-law student at Boise State University. While playing in World of Warcraft tournaments there, she became friends with a group of players who taught her the beginnings of Web skills. She took off on her own after that. 

But how did this lead to where she is today, making movies for Digital Playground? This began with a photographer friend who asked if she would do a photo shoot. She agreed. She found herself “empowered” by the act of posing naked in front of a camera and having other people eager to see the results. Eventually, she decided to abandon her law career goals in favor of one in the world of adult films. It was she who contacted Digital Playground about the possibility of contract job. She chose them specifically because, after looking around, she felt that Digital Playground was the best of the companies out there. They hired her and the rest, as they say, is history.

RAven Alexis

Figure: Raven Alexis, Digital Playground’s contract star and Web expert.

Sitting across from Raven, who was one of the more conservatively dressed woman present at the booth that day (see photo above), and discussing HTML coding — it was hard to imagine that this is the same woman, looking quite different, who performs oral sex and engages in sexual intercourse in her pornographic videos. A bit of a surreal experience; one I will not soon forget.

The rest of AEE

While at AEE, I briefly walked around the rest of the Expo. Just so you know: none of the women at any of the booths were topless or bottomless. Apparently, the law prohibits this. A few came very close to crossing this line, but none actually did so. The Expo consisted primarily of several booths from the makers of adult films (such as Digital Playground), where attendees lined up for a chance to meet and have a photo taken with their favorite porn star. Beyond that, there was a booth showing sex dolls (from the company who made the doll featured in Lars and the Real Girl), another with an animatronic sex robot (which looked not at all life-like to me), and an assortment of booths featuring sex toys of every imaginable variety (as well as a few that might be beyond your imagination).

On a humorous note, the Expo opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony by porn star Bree Olson. She had a bit of unexpected trouble cutting the ribbon (as seen in this video).

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Comments

pgb0517

This column was completely unnecessary. Mac Observer is supposed to be about tech stuff, not sex stuff, especially links to a porn star Web page. What’s that for? The porn industry doesn’t need Mac Observer’s publicity.

People of all ages and moral standards read this site, including young people who love the Mac. I’ve had a lot of respect for Mr. Landau for a long time, but I’ve lost a lot of that respect today. Please keep your content family-friendly in the future.

Against vigilantes

Vigilante pgb0517, if you think your are likely to be offended by the nature of the content, don’t read the article! After all, Ted?who did and impeccable job out of the difficult assignment?clearly outlined the theme in the title.

I guess you couldn’t resist the temptation after all.  wink

And don’t you worry, any kid could teach you way more than you’ll ever know on how to find hardcore porn on the internet. Nobody is going to faint for a couple of links, even less be shocked that they lead you to a pornstar’s website (again, Ted did prevent you of what they were).

And guess what? I did grow up in Europe, in a family very liberal in its approach to those matters (as small kids we were allowed to read Playboy-like magazines that were around the house) and nowadays not only I’m not a deranged psycho but I don’t specially care for the whole porn industry. Amazing, huh?

As you said, people of all ages and moral standards read this site so don’t try to impose your judeo-christian guilty-ridden values to all of us, please.

Ted, you have all my respect. I guess you obviously knew very well this reactions would happen and still took the risk to publish the article. Good for you and the freedom of the press! Again, you did a good job of interviewing some of the most boring and?sometimes?half-witted people around.

Have a nice one, Sirs.

James

For my part, I’ve had friends that worked in the sex/porn industry! What does that say about me? wink I’m not a porn fan either, but the mishigas surrounding this subject in America is unbelievable at times.

Ted was at CES and there are indeed some very tech-fueled advances being made in that industry. And hell, 3D porn is a heckuva lot less creepy than that freaky sex-bot thing that was also being showcased. wink

pgb0517

... I always get a chuckle at how easily offended the tolerant are!

Against vigilantes

... I always get a chuckle at how easily offended the tolerant are!


Don’t be so condescending, that’s childish.

I’m not going to bite on your provocation but just so your narrow mind understands it, it’s not about being offended. It’s about restricting our liberties. If you don’t want to read it, that’s fine by me. On the other hand, if Ted censors himself, then we don’t have the choice to do so.

Get it now?

D Lane

My eleven year old reads this site - no more.

pgb0517

You’re all reading a lot into my concern. I am not trying to censor anybody or restrict anybody’s liberties. I’m saying this column was not appropriate for a mass-market tech site. You want porn, go find porn. If Landau wants to write about the porn industry, let him do so somewhere else. If he and Mac Observer want to write about the porn industry here, they have that right, but they need to know if a reader objects to that. That’s why we have feedback, right?

Against Vigilantes: My mind is probably a lot less narrow than you think, keeping in mind you don’t know me. Especially if your position is, those who disagree with you have narrow minds.

Ted Landau

Perhaps it might help if I chimed in here:

It was my decision to write this article. I thought there was enough tech/Apple stuff there as to be relevant to TMO. Beyond that, I thought the different angle might be a welcome departure for readers tiring of the more typical CES coverage. However, I was aware that there might be some problems with it, at least for some readers. That is why (1) I put the warning at the start of the article and (2) asked my editors whether or not they supported running the article (they did).

Beyond that, I am fine with the fact that some readers may object to the article. It’s okay to disagree. It happens all the time when you do as much writing as I do.

It would be too bad if this one article (which is certainly not representative of what I have generally written about nor will be writing about) had a permanent effect on a reader’s “respect” for me. But this too happens (like when a person cancels their subscription to a magazine based on one article they find objectionable).

pgb0517

Questions, then: 1. Why were the links to porn sites necessary? 2. Why isn’t respect something that, once earned, needs to be earned again and again? That’s real life. 3. Why are some offended that others are offended by objectionable or inappropriate content? Not offended, you say? Please re-read the posts that followed my first one, and see who has the most offended tone. I made a few simple statements, engaged in no name-calling or sarcasm, and was promptly accused of being “narrow-minded” and imposing “judeo-christian guilty-ridden values” on everyone. It wasn’t I who brought down the level of this discussion.

I am not ashamed to say that porn is wrong; it demeans and objectifies women, even those who willingly participate, and it has caused great harm to careers, marriages and families, and society. These facts are easily confirmed. Start by researching the Meese Report, and Ted Bundy’s interview with James Dobson. (I am confident that you open-minded, pro-freedom types won’t mind reading anything associated with Dobson, of course, because you are open-minded and I am narrow.)

Then, to the editors of Mac Observer who didn’t have the good sense to turn down this porn propaganda piece, was it worth it in hindsight, to have part of your otherwise reputable Mac-tech online community sidetracked by a debate of this nature?

Oh, I remember now, I’m the one who started the debate, so it’s my fault. If only we narrow-minded sorts would keep our “guilty-ridden” opinions to ourselves, everyone could just get along. Because open-minded folk would never, ever object to anything on the basis of conservative religious viewpoint, perceived racial or gender bias or any such thing. And if they did, why, it’d only be because they found it necessary to do so, so there you are.

ry

Good story—you walked the journalistic tightrope successfully, imho.  One could further argue that the adult industry often finds the earliest commercial uses for new technologies (for example, shooting on video instead of film; hard drives instead of tape; etc.).  It’ll be interesting to see what happens with 3d and how it plays out…

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