The Best Laid Plans of Nikki Lynn
Picture the setup for a girl-on-girl tryst in a porn nugget titled Hot Seats released last summer on VCA video:
Horny babes on mountain bikes traversing the hills outside of Los Angeles, clad in tight bike shorts, nipple-enhancing jerseys and enough makeup to challenge any Spice Girl. Two of them meet up after a heated bike trek. One girl, Charlie, is a randy brunette with runway model lines. The other girl, a blonde, has exaggerated chest protrusions and bee-stung lips pursed in a patented porno power-pout. The dialogue:
"By the way, my name is Charlie."
"Hey, how's it goin'?"
"If you don't mind me saying, you are very beautiful. Don't these bikes get you all hot and horny?" Charlie says in a stilted manner not uncommon to porn actresses.
"Uh . . . Charlie . . . you said your name was? I'm not gay."
"Um, neither am I, but you have to admit, a woman's tits and ass are quite nice."
The blonde smirks, hesitates a few seconds, then grabs Charlie by the hand and says, "All right . . . this time."
The two climb 10 feet or so up a rock and, precisely at the moment the canned drum loop kicks in, proceed to disrobe and devour each other. One girl produces a long, snakelike dildo from out of nowhere. The rubbery schlong has faux penises on either end which they use to penetrate each other simultaneously. Feigned moans and groans lead to an elaborate parody of ecstasy.
The brunette, Charlie, is a not-quite-video-box-cover-material player in adult films who hails from Anaheim.
The blonde is an ex-Glendale High School cheerleader, current Kingman resident and full-on porn star named Nikki Lynn.
Kingman, Arizona, sits in a lovely valley below the Hualapai Mountains, 179 miles northwest of Phoenix. The town is noteworthy worldwide as a place where meth/explosives enthusiast Timothy McVeigh once resided in a trailer park.
Though commonly dismissed as a burp en route to L.A., Vegas or Laughlin, parts of Kingman retain a picturesque pre-World War II charm. At night, lines of neon still glow in the exterior darkness of tawdry taverns, aging motels and roadside restaurants. In old downtown, well-kept architecture remains on neat, uncluttered streets in the form of multistory office buildings, single-level shops and quaint eateries.
This setting of old Kingman is juxtaposed with the new, growing Kingman, corporate America's takeover of small-town Americana: Best Western, Kmart, Smith's and Taco Bell blanket the budding city of 37,000, adding the universal franchise color to the natural muted brown and beige tones.
It is also here, amid a grid of newish, ivory-hued stucco tract houses, that an international adult-video star, nearing the peak of her career, lives contently with her husband, their 4-year-old son, and her 14-year-old stepson.
Nikki Lynn's neighborhood in Kingman is like any other modern, working-class block on a Sunday afternoon in mid-July: Uproarious preteens zip around on shiny new bikes; shirtless, beer-bellied fathers with bored expressions spray water onto green lawns; tangy bouquets of charred meat waft from backyard barbecues; teenage boys in big shorts crowd around the open hood of a beat-up Pontiac while a hard-rock/hip-hop dirge blares from the car's interior.
A number of the roofs are decorated with satellite dishes. Resting in front of some homes are sporty camper-trailers with attached speedboats. Nearly every yard is strewn with children's toys.
Basically, it's your average all-American neighborhood in which the adult inhabitants work hard, watch lots of TV and raise their children.
Just like all-American mom/porn star Nikki Lynn.
Nikki Lynn was born Tammy Hallen in Torrance, California, 24 years ago, the eldest of five children. She moved to Phoenix when she was 12. Her first high school was Independence, but she soon transferred to Glendale High, where she became captain of the cheerleading squad.
During her formative years, Tammy built an athletic base of mostly dance, for which she credits her ability in front of a camera.
"I've done everything from ballet, tap, jazz, gymnastics, baton, Irish step dancing, cheerleading, swimming, drill team, rifle team, ROTC, assault team--which is sea and land training," she says. "You name it, I've been there, and it all wraps up into one package of who I am."
Tammy dropped out of school in her junior year and got her GED. In late '91, while visiting Kingman with her erstwhile boyfriend, Tammy met her soon-to-be-husband, an affable truck driver named Richard Schaffner, who was living in Kingman with his 7-year-old son, Ricky--a boy who had been in a tragic car accident that claimed the life of his mother.
Tammy baby-sat Ricky while Richard was traversing the country, driving 18-wheelers for MNX trucking. They fell in love, and Tammy moved into his Kingman home. They were married in Bullhead City that year.
In late '92, while vacationing in Tucson with Richard's relatives, Tammy started working at a topless club called TD's West for some "extra Christmas cash." She had never stripped before, but on her first day she took home $350. The money was too good to pass on, so Tammy remained in Tucson while Richard continued working and maintaining their Kingman home.
"That was hard," he admits, "being away from her and on the road while she danced. We were still just newly married and I kept thinking about all those guys hittin' on her all day long."
She convinced her husband to quit his truck-driving gig and move to Tucson. Tammy's pregnancy with their first child put a temporary stop to her dancing career. The couple moved to Phoenix and Richard went back on the road to support the family.
"I took another job going back and forth from Phoenix to L.A.," he says. "This drive wasn't so bad because I got to be home a lot."
Brandon was born in October '93. Six weeks later, Tammy wanted to go back to work, which she did, with short dancing stints at both Bourbon Street Circus and Tiffany's Cabaret. But the money wasn't that great.
Thanksgiving weekend of that year they drove to Las Vegas to check out the more lucrative--but highly competitive--strip scene there. Tammy danced at a place called Crazy Horse 2 on a whim. She made $750 in one shift--and a daytime one at that.
"They wouldn't even let her work the night shift," says Richard, "because they had so many girls."
Tammy was dancing while Richard stayed home and played the quintessential house-husband, taking care of Ricky and baby Brandon.
"I was a Mr. Mom," says Richard, who is soft-spoken and instantly likable. "And you know what got me, too, was the TV programs I would see which would say a father couldn't bond with his child like a mother. That a father couldn't have the tenderness. And ya know what? I went through it. I changed the diapers, and when she got home, she would help out, but I was basically the one who got up in the middle of the night when the baby was crying. So I took the role; it was kinda hard and I had no problem with it, but we made it through it."
Bored with the Vegas scene, the couple decided to explore other opportunities in the sex industry. The next step was to bolster Tammy's stripper/dancer career by elevating her to "feature" status. ("Feature" dancers are skin-mag celebrities/porn stars who tour strip clubs nationwide for heavy cash.) They sent nude bedroom snapshots of Tammy to various national men's magazines. The response was surprising.
"We were almost shocked how easy it was, and Bust Out was the biggest one that wanted to get us," says Richard. "They [Bust Out] hooked us up with a photographer named John Copeland in Vegas, where he took pictures. From that, she became Bust Out's Girl of the Year in '95."
It was Copeland who came up with an ever-ready nom de plume--Nikki Lynn was born.
More magazine credits and covers ensued. That led to dance agent calls. Nikki's earning power was increasing. She went on her first out-of-state booking at the end of '95, which proved to be a financial success. In 1996, the family packed up everything, put it in storage and took off on tour for more than 30 weeks in as many states.
Nikki's stepson Ricky, then 12, began a home-study program and was schooled on the road by mom and pop, an effort that Richard says was good for the boy.
"Ricky read over a hundred books during that time, and he studied all through summer," he says. "Both he and Brandon have seen and done more than any boys their age. And Nikki's work is kept separate from family life, even on the road."
It was during a stop in Nashville that the couple began considering the adult-film scene as a logical next career move.
"The people at the club there [in Nashville] were telling us how great Tammy was, but they were saying there was four times as many people there the week before. They all came to see a porn star, who they said couldn't even dance at all," Richard says.
That porn star was making three times Nikki's $1,500 to $2,000 appearance fee.
Nikki and Richard agreed to try the porno-movie biz.
"I wouldn't have gone into this if Richard wasn't behind me," says Nikki.
In January '97, Tammy went to porn's biggest event, the Consumer Electronics Show and Adult Video News Awards (the Oscars of porn) in Las Vegas, dolled up in full adult-star regalia. There, she nabbed attention away from some of the biggest names in porn who were there signing autographs.
"We were in the cafeteria and we couldn't even eat because we were surrounded by people snapping pictures," chuckles Richard. "I mean, they really figured she was somebody, she really drew the attention. We said, 'This is the kind of attention we want.'"
Nikki starred in her first adult video just two weeks after the CES convention, and since has graced glossy covers of hard-core porn videos released through some of the biggest production companies in adult video, such as VCA, Sin City and Wicked. (Titles include Lapdance, Spinners, Hot Seat, Babewatch 7.) Her porn movies have gotten the thumbs up from porn-mag mainstays such as Adult Video News and Adam Film World, among many others.
She has also appeared in more than 100 adult magazines, including Cheri, Oui, Hustler, Penthouse (three times this year), Swank, Club and High Society. Playtime Arizona even featured her in a nude spread. Her dancing titles include, but are not limited to, the Las Vegas Show Girl of the Year, International's Best Buns, International's Best Dancer and 1998 Miss Nude International. In early July, Nikki was first runner-up in ESPN's Miss Fitness Nevada, which will be aired in September.
Nikki is the Official Hustler Toy Company spokesmodel and cover girl for Wild Fire erotic toys. Tame versions of some of Nikki's hard-core movies, like Sin City's Boob Watch 3 and VCA's Shameless Strippers, have been running on the more mainstream Spice network and Playboy channel.
She recently signed an exclusive one-year contract with San Fernando Valley-based Sin City Entertainment, one of the biggest adult-film companies in the country. Her deal, which is lucrative by porn standards (her bonus was a white 1998 Camaro Z-28), will see her doing six "big-budget" movies for a name "adult" director, and all of which will feature her on the box cover. (This contract-style exclusivity for porn actresses is reminiscent of the Hollywood of yore, when actresses like Jean Harlow and Joan Crawford worked under multipicture deals with studios.)
Nikki's deal with Sin City is testament to her ascending status in the adult-film world; exclusive contracts are few and far between and reserved for the industry's elite. This contract will more than likely be the crown jewel of Nikki's porn career.
"We signed Nikki because we love her," says Sin City director of public relations Lysa Stone. "She appeals to the men because she's the cheerleader you always wanted to date in high school. She's exciting. She has this ability to draw people to her."
One of the most striking things about Nikki Lynn is her diminutiveness. Her magazine spreads belie her 5-foot-2 stature. Her thick mane of porn-requisite bleached-blond hair falls just below her shoulders. Her heavy bangs lightly bounce on her eyelashes, which flash camera-ready schoolgirl blues. Her lithe and sturdy frame is heavily gym-assisted and her breasts are implant-augmented up to a 34D. (Nikki's implants came in after Brandon was born. Before that, she was a C cup.)
In person, Nikki has a chameleonlike ability to change appearances. At a recent Sin City party in Las Vegas, she was sun-happy cheerleader innocent, pure bubbly effervescence.
A few days later in her Kingman home, she is awash in a kind of male-defined beauty, a porn-star shine--with an incongruent nurturing-mother side--a heady combination of the porn star Nikki Lynn and archetypal ma June Cleaver.
Nikki's syrupy voice has the hoarse characteristics familiar to strippers who spend many nights in a smoky atmosphere.
Sitting on her couch armed with the big-screen remote and eating an ice cream bar, Nikki is wearing black Laura Petrie tights and seems relaxed and talkative. Though not quite erudite, Nikki is an intelligent, self-taught woman who takes no shit from anyone--yet doesn't take herself too seriously. She's highly ambitious.
"I don't have a shy bone in my body," she says, "and I will come out and say whatever I want to say. When I want something, I go after it."
Asked for her views on feminism, Nikki doesn't bat an eye.
"Hey, I was born in '74; the bra smoke had already cleared by then. We [sex-industry workers] spend two grand on a bra!" she says. Then, more resolutely, she adds, "I am a woman and I can do what I want. That's what it's about."
Is her sexual on-screen persona empowering, then?
"It is in a sense a very powerful thing for a woman. It gives some women an opportunity to be something that there's no way they can be without the camera there. Some women are, as soon as they get out from in front of the camera, totally different. Other women are just very sex-hungry, very sexual, and there is no one man or woman in the world that can satisfy them. So being a [porn] film star is a great job for them because it lets them be who they are in their minds and their bodies.
"For me, being an adult-film star gives me the opportunity to explore different things in front of the camera. I mean, let's face it, we all know that none of us have sex like a porno movie when we are in our bedrooms. None of us scream for miles oooh, yeaahh, ba-by. The only sex you'll ever have like that away from the camera is with a porn star, because it's a habit."
Is video sex for Nikki just mimicry of something spiritual? Is it strictly for money? Or is it something she truly enjoys?
"For sure, I like having sex on screen. Otherwise there is no way I could be doing this. I am an exhibitionist. I have a sense of adventure. I don't have to do this if I don't want to. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with what I do.
"When somebody asks me if I enjoy my work, I just ask them, 'Gee, do you enjoy having sex?' I mean, really, the bottom line is, porn, although it's labeled porn, is sex. And I can't think of any person who says they don't like sex."
Is there any moral or religious dilemma?
"I was raised a Lutheran, but the bottom line was the Christians all said the same thing: God. And, yes, I was raised with God in my background for sure. My whole philosophy on that is everybody preaches and everybody says something different, and I've got one little fault with it all. And that is the Christians, the Baptists, the Lutherans, whatever. . . . They all think if you believe only the way they think, then you're going to heaven. That's not right, that's hypcritical in itself. With what I do, it's like if somebody is appalled, then don't look. . . . That's why I live in America.
". . . I only treat people the way I would want to be treated, and that's why I'm so successful in this industry. And that's the end of the story. I don't go deeper into it. . . ."
What must her mother think?
"For a long time, I had told her I was a cocktail waitress at a casino, and she went with it, because cocktail waitresses make good money. . . .
"But the first time I told her [about the porn], she said, 'So how much money do you make? Do they really make as much money as they say? And can I have $1,500 for curtains?' She said that in one breath!
"And I thought to myself, 'One day this woman is buying the whole house full of curtains for maybe 500 bucks, and the next day she finds out what I'm doing and she wants $1,200 for the living-room curtains only!' And I went, 'Huh?' We still talk, though. We are still close."
What about dad?
"Well, my real dad left when I was 3; my stepdad is who I knew as my father. Sometimes he would be drunk at 7:30 in the morning, but he was very loving. My family has always been very stable. It's always been very loving and very kind; the family is a very tight-knit family, especially on my mother's side."
One would think that for a porn starlet, a marriage would last about as long as flowers in an outhouse.
"The reason our relationship is so strong is my husband is also my best friend, my best buddy," Nikki says in a practiced soliloquy. "He tells me his feelings while I'm on the set; if something is bothering him, he tells me. If something is bothering me, I'd tell him. We are totally honest and open, so we don't have problems. We go off the set and have great sex. I mean, sex with Richard is some of the most gratifying sex in the world."
The sex industry, specifically porn, carries an undeserved HIV stigma. In reality, the participants are probably more acutely aware of their sexual health than your average stockbroker on the make in a fern bar. According to an organization called Protecting Adult Welfare, since January of this year, six adult performers have tested HIV-positive (including Marc Wallace, a 15-year veteran of more than 1,000 porn films). Consequently, most major adult-film companies have adopted a condoms-only format. Moreover, porn actors are required to test for the HIV virus every 27 days, using the more accurate PCR DNA test instead of the old standard 10-minute Eliza test.
"We ask to see every performer's DNA test before any sex scene begins. You are not supposed to be on a set if you've got a yeast infection, let alone something deadly," Nikki says. "Sure, if you got this many people together from any other industry, you'd probably find a lot more [HIV-positive] cases, but that's not the point."
Then why are all these HIV-positive cases suddenly popping up?
"Obviously, like any other industry, you've got your upper classmen and your lower classmen," she explains. "And the lower you go, the lower the quality of people doing it. Therefore, you're gonna find in our industry, the people who are getting sick are the people a little lower on the totem pole. They're not the people who are contracted with the big companies or the ones constantly on big sets. Those sets are watched a little more carefully. The production managers, the directors, the companies themselves watch that stuff harder. If you go onto an amateur set or something of that nature, it might be a little lenient, like, 'Hey, go get your test tomorrow and give it to me.' Well, tomorrow might be too late, and that is not acceptable."
Nikki and Richard's house is so not-porn. They've lived in it for about a year.
"We love Kingman," says Nikki. "It is a great place to raise children. We are just drawn here. Plus, we are close to L.A., Vegas and Phoenix."
The most powerful presence in the sparsely decorated home is the RCA big-screen television that dominates one corner of the living room. On one recent afternoon, it is running a loop of VH1 and various sporting events. Nearby, a small stand hosts a neatly arranged collection of mainstream videos: Field of Dreams, Independence Day, Caddyshack II, Dick Tracy and Disney's Bambi.
Two coordinated couches, each against separate walls, face the TV and are split by a matching table that contains a framed picture of Brandon at two months and a photo of Richard's recently deceased alcoholic father and stepmom. A stuffed cloth horse in Dallas Cowboy colors is mounted on a wooden stand and propped between the two family images. A turquoise sombrero and a two-foot-long green wrought-iron lizard hang above the couches.
In a small dining area off the kitchen, a dinette table doubles as a desk for Nikki's business affairs and fan club. Mail is stacked on one end of the makeshift desk; piles of opened and unopened letters from fans, a statement from the IRS, piles of outgoing signed photos of Nikki. In a hallway leading to the home's three bedrooms, a collage contains numerous family photos: In one, a pre-porn Tammy with '80s-style big blond hair looks awkward in the role of a young bride; in another, Christmas '94, the young family, all smiles in front of the decorated tree.
This scene is more Brady Bunch/Married . . . With Children than it is Horny Housewives/Anal Bangers 14.
A chain-link fence surrounds the backyard. There's a propane grill, a swing set perched in a sandbox and a smallish bright green lawn.
"This grass grows year-round," says Richard proudly.
Sounds of kids at play cascade through the neighborhood.
New Times' photographer is shooting Nikki, who is clad in a pink, vinyl bunny suit. She jumps, crawls and gyrates around the yard. She is good at her job. She knows where the correct light is. She is in tune with her body and how it's positioned. She pouts on command. She defines Madison Avenue sex appeal with a flick of the wrist, an arch of the brow, a jut of the hip.
It's a talent. She knows that look. That look that men can't get in real life.
Richard watches with a demeanor that is at once half adoring and half bored. He is in love with his wife, but he has seen this so many times before. It's strange. He is married to a porn star. One forgets after a while.
Richard is comfortable in a Hawaiian shirt that covers his slightly expanding midriff. He appears to be in his mid- to late 30s and has short brown hair. He likes to talk, and reveals personal things freely, with a kind of truck-driver ease.
Richard talks of Nikki's first sex scene in a porno film. It was with Shayla LaVeaux, in a film for Sin City. He was on the set--he's always on the set. The scene unfolded in the back of a moving cab, and Nikki kept trying to force Shayla's ass up to the window of the moving cab. The girls were having a blast even though they could've been arrested. This scene was also Nikki's first ever experience with a woman.
"I was nervous a bit, but the scene went really well," Richard says. "They [the crew] were going, 'Okay, we've got a new girl on the set and she's gonna be really nervous, so everybody watch what you're doing, and be gentle,' and all this, and she like just took over."
Richard is one of a long line of porn starlets' significant others who refer to themselves as their mate's manager. Often, they are looked down upon as hangers-on and referred to as "suitcase pimps."
Richard eschews this and for good reason: He is the man behind the woman. He helps with her extensive wardrobe, fan club and does the lion's share of child care and housework. Richard doesn't define his masculinity through doing. He just is.
What about her first scene with a male performer? What was it like watching your wife with another man?
"I knew we were gonna do the scene [Intense Perversions #5] and it was with Peter North. And it was a step-by-step thing getting into this [sex industry], you know, first [her] dancing was gonna kill me, then the photo shoots were gonna do it, and later, her featuring on the road I thought she was gonna get too big-headed and we would lose each other. And each step of the way I thought something would cause us to break. It never did. Then we got into the movie set with Peter North, and he came in, sat next to me and we were watching a basketball playoff game and laughing and talking about the game and the whole shot. Then they started their scene, and I just handled it."
He hesitates and repeats, "I just handled it."
No twist of agonizing jealousy?
"Maybe a little bit, but it was like, I know her so well and I know if it was me doing the scene, I can't say that I wouldn't enjoy some of it. I told her, 'Ya know, if you enjoy it, that's okay.'
"But afterwards, the only problem, I guess, was wondering if I could measure up to this guy," he adds without a hint of irony. "She assured me that I was fine, and we went from there."
Is there anything that Nikki doesn't do on-screen?
"Nikki doesn't do anal on-screen, even though most stars do. Sin City knew this when they signed her."
Later, in the family living room, we meet Nikki's stepson, Ricky. He's like any 14-year-old boy in the appropriate garb: baggy shorts, oversize shirt and cap. He looks like a white rapper. He says "Hey" in a strangely deep voice and disappears out the front door en route to a movie with his taller, gawky friend.
According to Richard, Ricky and his friends don't know Nikki's a porn star.
Nikki introduces their son Brandon. He comes in wet from jumping through the sprinkler. Brandon is a beautiful 4-year-old with big blue eyes and a blond Ringo bowl cut. He's always laughing. He farts and it just kills him. And like his mother, he's a ham in front of the camera. He mugs up to it and gives it a big world-revolving grin. Then he turns to his mother and tells her he loves her. She squeezes him tightly and tells him how much she loves him back. It's a tender moment.
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