Vice Tries to Bust Me
Whenever I go to L.A. to shoot my porn and sex-ed movies, my partner and I stay at his mother's house in Pasadena. And this time, his sister was getting married there in only two weeks. So the house had been transformed into wedding central. Rooms were filled with boxes of color-coordinated napkin rings and tablecloths and party favors. Everywhere you turned, there was a gift from Macy's or a set of silverware or decorations. In addition, about a dozen boxes had arrived for us, filled mostly with items for the movies like brightly colored buttplugs made from the same material as bowling balls, butter-soft leather-dildo harnesses from Aslan Leather, and assorted bondage toys from JT's Stockroom. I kept having nightmares of someone in the family innocently cracking open a box, expecting to find the Waterford-crystal champagne flutes and instead stumbling upon Sportsheets' Under the Bed Restraint System. Yikes! Luckily, I managed to keep the vibrating dildos separated from the personalized M&Ms.
Over seven days, we shot four movies, which is the most we've ever done in one trip. Not surprisingly, there were the typical casting snafus: Tuesday's performer just got her most recent test back, and she has an STD; we need someone else! Her replacement can't get her nails cut short in time for the shoot, which involves fingering buttholes, so we need to replace her! (I'm a stickler about short nails when it comes to anal penetration.) Tomorrow's girl sprained her ankle on the set of a zombie porn movie today, and she can't put any weight on it! There were also some less-than-ideal conditions—like the house in Studio City built on stilts with an amazing view and an air-conditioning system that barely worked. Under bright lights, with seven people breathing in one small room, I could swear it got to be 85 degrees.
On the final day, we were doing a scene with Aiden Starr, a feisty ex–professional dominatrix from New York, and Devin, a newish male performer who has appeared mostly on Internet sites like meninpain.com (where I first saw him). The plan was for Aiden to dominate him and rough him up a bit. While she was in makeup, we all chatted about the scene and they negotiated their limits, especially his, since he would be bottoming. When the scene began, she started taunting and teasing him with her sharp tongue. I think she asked him to bark like a dog a couple of times. Things had just started to get rolling (i.e., the fucking had commenced) when I looked behind me and saw two men I didn't recognize.
"Who are you?" I asked quietly, knowing that the performers couldn't see them from their vantage point and not wanting to disturb the fantastic handjob in progress.
"L.A. Vice," the one in front responded, and he flashed his badge. It looked pretty real to me. I didn't want to stop rolling, so I led them away from the bedroom into the dining room.
"Do you have a permit?" the vice cop asked.
"Yes, I do," I said. "I'm not sure where my production manager is—he must be getting lunch. Um, let me look for it." I started looking through the production binders somewhat frantically as the officers rolled their eyes at me.
"You're going to have to stop filming until we see a permit," the first cop said firmly.
"It's here somewhere, I swear." They continued to look skeptical. At this point, they clearly did not believe me.
Just like "regular" moviemaking, in Los Angeles as elsewhere, filming porn requires you to apply for and receive a permit from the city (or county). If you're in a residential neighborhood, the neighbors are notified in advance, and sometimes you also have to reach out to the community or homeowners' association in advance. There are rules about when you can film, where you can park, etc.—and for porn, you always have a clause that says nudity and sex cannot be visible or audible to people outside the house. In addition, officials from the permit office can drop in, the fire marshal can do a spot-check, and apparently, the vice squad can stop by, too. Houses become known as "hot" when they are busted too often for shooting without a permit, or the neighbors repeatedly complain, or there are too many companies applying for permits at one location. Apparently, I was filming in the hottest house in Northridge. Just my luck.
"We've busted this house pretty much every time we've come here," one of the cops told me. "No one ever has a permit. And last time we came, people were doing drugs and other bad stuff."
I picked up my phone and called the production manager. He came walking around the corner from another part of the house with a quizzical look, like "Why are you calling me when I'm in the house?" I told him I needed the permit. He produced it in an instant and handed it to the cops. They looked it over and clearly seemed surprised. Everything was legit, and they said we could resume filming. They asked us to call the owner so they could have a chat, and they stuck around for a while waiting for him.
I went back into the bedroom, reassured the performers and crew members that everything was OK, and said that we could get the film rolling again. But let me say that it's not exactly easy to restart yourself, mentally or physically, after a long, unexpected break. Aiden, however, was a real pro, and she had Devin barking again in no time.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.