An irony-rich ride more fun than a pop-up Popsicle, Daddy-O. A cab ride that is a microcosm of that reductive cross of porn and pop.
If you pay attention to the glossed shows and tabloids cramming our lives, you see that porn and pop are the two new, primary cultural colors rattling our collective and desultory brain pans. Over here is Ricky Martin surrounded by a wreath of faceless women swimming naked on the cover of Rolling Stone. And over there is Jerry Springer hosting a harem of pedestalized porn stars, some of whom come across as emotionally damaged and anything but consenting.
But now that porn has rolled over into pop's mainstream wet spot, it has, in the process, also become yawn-inducing. For porn to stay fun, it should remain under the bed where it is safe, dark and dirty. Porn does not belong on the bookshelf or all over Rolling Stone and Entertainment Tonight. Once porn is demythologized, nothing is left but gratuitous anatomy insertions, unsightly close-ups and men who are but life support for their penises.
But we are not here to talk about what we see on television or in the movies or that which we rent at adult arcades. Tonight the gist is this: A sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll magazine called POPsmear is shooting its Halloween issue cover in Phoenix, featuring porno purrer Raylene and Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, the duo that is Detroit's much media-maligned Insane Clown Posse.
With me tonight are 22-year-old Raylene; POPsmear scribe and Street Walkin' Cheetah shouter Frank Meyer; the senior vice president of media relations at Island records, John Vlautin; and tireless Vivid adult-flick PR flack Brian Gross.
From the Ritz-Carlton in Phoenix, the night's first stop is the Headquarters, a head shop in Tempe. Out of the haze of posters, pipes and other paraphernalia, Raylene purchases a massive plunger-shaped bong. The bong comes sealed in a box that for Raylene is no fun to carry around.
Raylene carries it around anyway.
Raylene has a burgundy mane, dark eyes and dark skin. She tells me her dad is Eastern European and her mother is Mexican. She can be seen in such highball porn flicks as The Bottom Dweller 5, Devil's Black Jack, Taming of the Screw, Up and Cummers 42, 69 Hours and As Sweet As They Come.
Next stop is Tempe rock venue The Green Room. Raylene, wearing nondescript white jeans rolled halfway up her shins, sandals and a too-tight tube top, carries herself with a puissant sexual persona. Her dressed-down looks deceive her job description. But when Raylene presses the flesh (shakes hands, that is) with curious mouth-breathers, porn fans and club girls, she is self-aware to the point of showing off. She has the kind of peripheral appeal that ensures a person success in any pop-skin trade from rock 'n' roll to modeling to porn.
Later, as eager faces look on, she sprays on the backstage wall, "Vivid kicks ass/Watch porn/Raylene XXX0."
For a record-company weasel, John Vlautin, it turns out, is really no weasel at all. In fact, he is very anti-L.A. and possesses a healthy sense of self-deprecating humor and geniality. He might be one of a very small number who got where he is in the music biz by being nice. At least he picks up the tab for everything.
On one side of me, Vlautin talks about his wife and 3-year-old daughter, while on the other side, Raylene goes on about how she used to do stock-car racers.
Later, after some rude cab drivers, we miss the 1 a.m. cutoff at Scottsdale's Cat-Eye lounge. At Raylene's request, we empty into the Dream Palace all-nude club. Here, Raylene wants to strip and dance for the few droopy eyelids scattered and nubile young women. The club's mouthpiece says it's against the rules, something about independent contracting. Funny, when Raylene tours strip bars like this around the country, she makes $6,000 to $10,000 a week.
"I really like doing porn," relates Raylene as she stares directly at the ample behind of a Dream Palace dancer onstage. "I really like this girl, too. I want her to take it all off."
Raylene gets up, sticks a $20 bill between the dancer's breasts and sits back down. The dancer teasingly removes her remaining garments. "I can make a lot of money at this," Raylene continues. "And what else would I be doing?"
It's clear that for Raylene -- and many of her contemporaries -- fame and money are yardsticks by which self-worth is measured. And in porn it is not uncommon to have a career whose arc closely resembles that of a firefly. Raylene is probably near her zenith. Her picture is everywhere. It has graced the cover of New Times Los Angeles with Luke Ford. She can be seen in the current issue of Rolling Stone. She's the High Society girl. She's on radio and TV. She has fans the world over.
"I love sex," Raylene says, laughing with a kind of stoner's guffaw. "And it's paying pretty well."
Brian Gross is a onetime NAU student who wrote for the NAU student newspaper and DJ'd at the school's radio station. Gross is a tireless sort who could sell air if he had to. He seemingly bounces off walls while taking care of Raylene.
"The NAU radio station was the most anal-retentive college radio station in the country," says the 23-year-old PR man in a rapid-fire whir befitting his vocation. "While Arizona is a great state and all, it was time to head back to the coast and pursue my dreams. I hear to go back to Flagstaff now is really depressing. These strip malls and such things. After NAU, I worked on Lollapalooza, at a couple of record labels [Elektra, Warner Bros. and Reprise], and now the largest adult-entertainment company in the world. I went from working with Filter and Barenaked Ladies to Janine and Raylene. Some of the most intense beautiful girls in the world. Rock star, porn star -- one is just a lot better looking than the other."
The next day, Vlautin is hung over. He wants to be back home in L.A.
Insane Clown Posse is late for its photo shoot with Raylene. In fact, faulty directions ensure everybody shows up late. The POPsmear photographer and his assistant move around the room hurriedly, figuring the colors and angles. Lots of sitting around and waiting. The Donnas, and Sweet blare from a blaster.
When Raylene arrives, she readies herself directly in the dressing area. She applies makeup like a pro. She has with her an elaborate assembly of Halloweenesque costumes.
At one point during a shoot, while waiting for the Insane guys, she has to pull off the garish cape that is causing her to sweat so profusely under the lights.
"Everybody turn around," she says mockingly as she pulls the cape off. Her implanted money-makers fall forth in all their gravity-defying glory.
I leave before the Insane Clown Posse arrives, thinking that they missed the shoot. Later, I hear, they do pull in and it all goes well.
When Raylene makes the flight back to L.A., the plunger-shaped bong is inadvertently left behind. That expensive piece of equipment she carried around the night before like some piece of detachable anatomy will spend the rest of the day in the dark trunk of a cab.