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THE EARLY DAYS… HOW DID A NICE GIRL LIKE YOU… ?
I had left my native New York City and was living in San Francisco leading a very free “alternative” life style, making art, performing in avant garde theatre and singing in jazz clubs. I went looking for nude modeling for extra money and was asked to appear in porn movies but had never seen one. Insulted, I stormed out, but my boyfriend decided to try it. He landed a lead role in Anthony Spinelli’s “Cry for Cindy.” I visited the set and was impressed by how professional it was and how attractive the people were. The money was good for a struggling artist, cultural attitudes toward sex at that time were quite open, and back then there were no serious life threatening diseases. The last movie I appeared in was “Blue Magic,” which I wrote and starred in, in 1980 .
The highs were the fun, creative parts…getting made up, dressed up, playing different roles. I loved the friends I made, even met my husband of 9 years, a young producer. We’re no longer married but still close.
The lows were running in to the stereotypical sleazy guys who inevitably turn up in an underground biz, “bottom feeders.” Most directors were very nice, but you can’t help but run in to a few sleazebags who think they can get over on you. And I thought the way the sex was depicted was mostly unsexy and uncreative.
No, it’s a lot easier! There are so many movies being made! Though I think the standards for how you look are much more difficult. You have to be so thin and perfect and have big firm boobs. Back then we were allowed to be more natural with varied body types, which I prefer!
STEPPING BEHIND THE CAMERA
I had been out of movies for 4 years already and was mostly writing for men’s magazines at the time. I was doing a lot of soul searching to make sure I was OK with the controversial career I had taken on. In the process of looking at whether adult movies were actually bad for society I concluded that sexually explicit art and movies were not necessarily bad and could in fact be informative and inspiring. That said, it seemed to me that most porn was sex-negative and did not present a woman’s point of view or show what women liked sexually. At the same time I could tell women were becoming more curious and felt permission to explore their sexuality due to the woman’s movement of the late ’60’s, early ’70’s. With the advent of home video they had a safe place to look, but there was nothing out there for them. I also sensed that men wanted to share the experience of watching a sexy movie with their woman and again, there was little they felt comfortable bringing home to her. I saw a challenging new market that no one was paying attention to and I felt I would be a perfect person to provide content for it: My whole education had been in the arts, I had been a performer in adult movies and had first-hand experience on the set, and, having been a feminist activist in college, I liked the political challenge of putting a woman’s voice to a genre everyone assumed was for men only.
I feel I have more compassion and respect for my actors and actresses. They also trust me because they know I’ve been on their side of the camera and I don’t judge them.
BEING A FEMALE DIRECTOR vs. A MALE DIRECTOR
I can’t speak for everyone and I don’t know that gender necessarily plays a role in making one more sensitive or compassionate. As an actress I had worked for some of the early female film directors. Ann Perry Rhine was a lovely woman to work with who gave me the freedom to express my own sensuality in PRO-BALL CHEERLEADERS, while Svetlana, whose film ULTRA FLESH I did a challenging stunt/sex scene for, was not someone I found to be particularly warm or sensitive.
When I was an actress I felt good about what I was doing when I worked for a director who seemed to really care about what they were doing and treated me with respect and kindness. I was a professional and gave my all, and I deserved to be treated well. But when I found myself working for sleazy producers who displayed disdain for the talent I felt badly about what I was doing. I always remembered that. I still hear from young women who are hit on by so-called adult “filmmakers” who feed them lines like, “I have to make sure you can do it.” These people give the business a bad name and should be run out of town.
I think the people who are willing to perform sexually for others to watch are providing a real service and putting themselves out there in an extremely vulnerable way. They deserve to be treated with respect and compassion. I expect professionalism from them, and I reward them with a work environment that’s safe, sensitive to their needs and fun to be part of.
Everyone assumes I was probably given a hard time by the adult film biz but they always treated me fairly, even if they at first doubted me. They’ve come to respect that I was the first one with vision and recognition of what would become the “couples” market.
I do not mix business and pleasure. Once you cross that line with a performer (or an employee) it changes the working dynamic. You are no longer in charge and they will try to take advantage of the “new” relationship. At least that’s how I feel as a female director. I’m certainly flirtatious – I like to flirt, and I let my actors and my actresses know I find them sexy and desirable, but I do not cross that line.
I certainly keep an ear to what women seem to want to see, that’s how I began my career as a director/producer in the first place. But like any artist, I create from within. I write from my head and my pussy! There are so many adult directors who once it comes to the sex, they just go in to formula mode…this sex act, then that one, etc etc…or those that do “surveys” of what women want to see. That’s like painting by numbers. If it doesn’t turn you on, how will it ever turn on your viewers? Sit down, imagine the scene, let your imagination go, and if it gets you wet or hard, it just might do the same for others!
WHY DO WOMEN LIKE YOUR MOVIES?
Yes and no. An entire culture doesn’t change in 30 or 40 years. The old double standard that makes women fearful of being thought of as a “tramp”or a “slut” or a “bad girl” is still firmly entrenched in our culture. The mixed messages are abundant: Dress like a woman who is available for sex at any moment but then act coy and innocent for fear of appearing too “experienced.” It’s all about control and the way women are controlled is by being kept fearful of being judged and not acceptable for marriage. A woman who likes porn, or knows what she likes, who speaks up for herself in bed, a woman in touch with her sexuality, is a woman who’s been around, too experienced, or just plain “bad.” We women have to fight these negative stereotypes that impact on our well being and our quality of life. It’s neither good for us nor for our relationships.
I agree, that’s why I say drop the “formula” and get creative with the sex! The first thing I wanted to do was change the way the sex is portrayed. The porn industry is like a dinosaur unable to see beyond its own shadow. I think it will take more women from outside the industry who will have the courage to put their film-making skills to work in an industry that’s still quite taboo but actually affords women directors opportunities that the mainstream film industry does not. The glass ceiling is far lower in Hollywood! And as I always say, if women don’t get out and create their own erotica men will continue to do it for us.
TASTE vs. FREE SPEECH
I think if we want to live in a world where free expression is allowed, we have to accept that there’s going to be imagery we don’t like or agree with. The best way to counter it is to get out there and create what you’d like to see yourself. Then let the public choose for themselves. You can’t force people to choose the positive stuff, but hopefully if it’s available, that’s what they’ll go for. On the other hand, if you try to censor works of art or porn, it just becomes more desirable, like “forbidden fruit.” I think it’s important to censor and prosecute people who make materials that victimize children and animals. The rest of it-if it’s with people who are adults and it’s consensual, if someone likes to be spat on and slapped, who are we to forbid them to do it? I have the choice not to look. It does concern me that so many men like to see brutal violating behavior like this, but so do some women. And look at the violence in our mainstream non-sex movies. . .is it any different? These are the challenges of living in a free society.
CHALLENGES FOR WOMEN IN THE ADULT INDUSTRY
Actresses have the toughest time. I think the demand to have unrealistic bodies to the point of surgery, and perform sexual acrobatics that are often bizarre and probably uncomfortable make it very hard work. I would definitely not have gotten in to this biz as an actress were it like that back then. I also think the resistance to condom use is reprehensible. I have employed the use of safer sex (except when they were real-life lovers) since 1987. While the testing has become stringent, there is still a window of opportunity for mistakes and I don’t feel we as directors and producers should be asking people to play Russian Roulette with their lives.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO CALL YOUR WORK?
I don’t mind the term “feminist.” . .I am a feminist, have been since college days. To me feminist means self determination and choice. As a feminist I am seizing control of the reins of production and creating adult movies that I as a woman would prefer to see.
It’s the porn word I take issue with. Pornography has come to mean a certain kind of visual imagery or depiction of sex that I don’t feel accurately describes my work. Pornography comes from the Latin word that means “prostitute”, so historically pornography meant stories about prostitutes. Eros is the root word for sexual love. Though not all my movies are about sex as it relates to love, they are not about prostitutes. My stories are about real people engaging in the expression of sexual desire and sometimes sexual love.
In addition, the word pornography, or porn, conjures up images for many women that are distasteful. They assume it’s something they won’t like. Having been the first filmmaker to try and appeal to women viewers, calling my work porn was likely to turn them off before they even gave it a chance and took a peak! Calling my work erotica or adult entertainment seemed more accurate and more productive in terms of marketing.
HOW HAS YOUR WORK AFFECTED YOUR PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS?
This is not a simple answer. I always say the amazing thing about being in the adult industry for a woman is that while literally millions of people who rent and buy adult movies ogle the women who perform in them, they continue to judge and often condemn those same women. It’s part of being shamed in to feeling uncomfortable about our sexuality and our sexual curiosity. It’s a lot easier to blame the bad girl on screen for those naughty feelings we’re not supposed to be having!
I have coped well with having been both in front of and behind the camera due very much to my introspective nature and the time I spent working with a brilliant therapist to make sure I was OK with my controversial choices in life. It’s inevitable for a woman in our culture not to have some ambivilance about committing one of the biggest taboos for a woman, performing sexually for others to view. And judging by some of the earlier media response I received when I first started out, the only thing worse than a pornographer was a “female pornographer”! So a woman must be willing to confront her own choices and the fact that there are people who will always condemn her if she wants to do something like this without emotionally “paying” for it in the end. I once did an article on whether female porn stars can succeed at relationships, and it divided pretty much half and half between those who had good enough self-esteem to choose loving men who were confident enough to accept their woman’s career and love them for who they are inside; and those whose fractured sense of themselves led them to cruel men who did eventually throw it in their faces and “punish” them at some point. And then there were the men who fell in love with the “whore” and then tried to turn her in to the “Madonna.” My friend, Dr. Marcia Pally, professor and founder of Feminists for Free Expression (FFEUSA.com) called this phenomena “doing battle with Mary Magdalene.”
I have always run in circles made up of artists, musicians, writers, basically people who were individualistic types, who thought for themselves. I have had very loving men who were open minded, hip, and saw me and loved me for who I am. I’ve never dated men who were looking to date Candida Royalle, I’ve reserved my affections for men who see the woman I am inside, and at the same time are comfortable and respectful of the Royalle personae I have created. And as for my friends, they are hip and sophisticated and have always gotten a kick out of what I do.
My parents, now deceased, were shocked when they first learned of my clandestine life as a porn star but ultimately declared their love for me, and respected what I created in terms of my production company and the business woman I became. My father, a successful jazz musician, always taught me to think for myself and not follow the herd.
I have lost many of my traditional Italo-American relatives on my father’s side. But that happened even before I entered the adult biz. They began to be puzzled by me as soon as I displayed signs of being a political free thinker heading in to the alternative lifestyle back in the late ’60’s into the early ’70’s. And after returning from California 10 years later, having been in porn movies and experimented with drugs as we did then, I think there was just too much between us, a gulf that could never again be crossed. It was sad to lose them from my life, but my Irish relatives on my mother’s side accepted and even took delight in what and who I became.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
REST???? If only! More movies, more vibrators, and who knows? Maybe even another book! Right now I’m grooming other young women to direct movies for Femme Productions in the style I have pioneered, and starting a whole new additional line to meet another untapped market, FEMME CHOCOLAT: ethnic erotica.
I love to dance. I trained in dance for many years. While I don’t go out to clubs much anymore, I work out and dance and do yoga at home and occasionally go to Bhangra dance parties. I adore spending time in my country house where I garden and where my cats are happiest. And I love just spending time with my fiance, bike-riding, walking, decorating the house together, having dinner out with friends. We both work way too hard so we’ve really come to appreciate the time and the small things we share together.
OTHER CAUSES, OTHER PASSIONS?
I’m very concerned about the environment. We are blessed to live on such a beautiful planet and yet we are allowing big corporations and industry to get away with bending the rules by buying our politicians and leaders and polluting our beautiful Earth. People have got to wake up and become active or we will be facing great disasters, if not us, then our children and grandchildren.
I’m also a big animal rights advocate. I so love animals. If we don’t look after their interests they will be cruelly exploited at best, driven to extinction at worst. I refuse to support the horribly cruel and wasteful practices of factory farming, so I haven’t eaten meat in over 20 years, and I always opt, when given the choice, products that are humane, including dairy, and even cosmetics (cruelty free). We must vote with our pocketbooks!