They Shoot Porn Stars Don't They

In the late 19th century, California State Senator Charles Maclay stood atop the Cahuenga Pass that runs between Los Angeles proper and the San Fernando Valley and, of the pastoral landscape that lay before him, proclaimed: “This is the Garden of Eden!”

Nowadays, conquistadores Californianos galloping past cattle grazing under massive oaks have been replaced by depressed suburban sprawl: “FOR SALE” ranch-style houses and bloated McMansions; “FOR RENT” strip mall stores and closed gas stations; “FOR LEASE” warehouses and empty gravel lots. Between these lines, the adult movie industry conducts its business in condominiums that homeowners rent out by the day to forestall foreclosure, on soundstages where independent contractors have sex to pay the bills, next to kidney-shaped backyard pools that serve as backdrops for explicit movies in which everybody gets laid and nobody swims. From this 345-square-mile valley, bound by a series of dramatic mountain ranges, a never-ending deluge of porn is sent out across the country and around the world.

Welcome to Porn Valley, USA.


I follow the 101 north over the Cahuenga Pass, heading for Woodland Hills, a mostly affluent suburban community in the Valley’s southwest corner. At the end of a cul-de-sac, I park at the bottom of a steep driveway lined with blooming red rose bushes. I wave at the workers funneling the contents of a cement truck into a neighboring yard and begin hiking up the incline. Halfway there, I reach a gate, press the intercom buzzer and identify myself. The gate swings open. At the summit, half a dozen cars are parked in front of a four-bedroom, 6,000-square-foot, $2.2 million mansion with 360-degree views of the surrounding valley. Inside, the making of “Fuck Machines 5” is already underway.

I step into the foyer. It’s cool and quiet. The noonday sun is streaming into a glass-enclosed courtyard with a red door. The door, I note, has three fist-sized holes drilled into it at waist level. Later, I will learn these are newly installed glory holes. After today’s shoot, this house will turn into a brothel—a whorehouse smack-dab in the middle of suburbia.

In the living room, panoramic windows offer expansive views of the property’s manicured grounds, a line of palm trees, and distant smog-laced mountains. A built-in sectional sofa is covered with a remarkable number of stains. The mismatched furniture has been pushed up against the walls. In the middle of the room, a naked, young woman hangs from a swing, a half-circle of tall lights surrounding her. A machine waits nearby. A metal prong extends from its base. A hot pink dildo is attached to the end of it.

“I don’t want you to swing too much,” Jim Powers, the director, cautions, sounding paternal. He considers the starlet in the swing. “It’s like a ride at Magic Mountain,” he muses, contemplating her ankles held by straps that spread her legs apart. “I don’t want you to get sick.”

At 46, Powers is a 20-year veteran of the business and the creator of some of the most bizarre porn movies ever made. His inarguably outré oeuvre includes: “Whore of the Rings,” an X-rated remake of “The Lord of the Rings,” described as an “all anal epic tail of sprawling proportions”; “Texas Dildo Masquerade,” another explicit cinematic re-envisioning, in this case of one of Jim’s personal all-time favorite films, “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” only, in his version, the weapon of choice is a chainsaw with a dildo attachment; and “Ass Blasting Felching Anal Whores,” the title of which is relatively self-explanatory.

Most of the time, his spiky brown hair sticks up in various directions. He is not infrequently wild-eyed. When he is trying to make a point, he waves his arms around dramatically, as if this is the only way that he could possibly be understood. Typically, his work uniform consists of blue jeans, black Converse sneakers, and a black T-shirt. The night I first met him, nearly a decade ago, the back of his black t-shirt, stretched taut across his shoulders, declared “CAN’T HOLD BACK THE DEMONS.” On another occasion, it pronounced him “BEYOND THE GRAVE.” This afternoon, the front of his shirt trumpets “IMMORAL PRODUCTIONS.”

The girl in the swing is Ryan Hunter, a pretty, 24-year-old aspiring actress who looks like a young Sandra Bullock, whose career she would like to emulate. Last year, she moved to Los Angeles from Las Vegas, where she was a student and a cocktail waitress. Now, as Jim dotes on her, she giggles and smiles, leans back in the swing, and tosses her shoulder-length brown hair highlighted with blond streaks. She lets her mouth fall open, and her gratuitously glossed lips part. She runs a hand along her long, lithe body, which bears no signs of surgical intervention, and is, like the body of nearly every other performer in this business, deeply tan. When asked why she got into porn, she shrugs and responds simply: “For money.”

Powers gives Hunter some direction, gesticulating wildly, and contorting his body into various sexual positions. Then, he lies down on the floor, video camera in hand, and begins shooting. Close by, a production assistant—who looks to be in his forties and could be mistaken for somebody’s dad playing hooky from carpool duty—turns on the machine. As the PA slides the contraption into frame, the mecha-dildo thrusts robotically in Hunter’s direction, its engine whirring softly.

Hunter spreads her legs and the robo-phallus penetrates her. “Wow!” Jim enthuses. “Does this look sexy, baby!” He leaps to his feet and starts shooting between her legs from the robot’s point of view, as the PA struggles to keep a hold of Hunter’s right foot, so she won’t swing out of frame.

“The fuck machines are, like, mesmerizing,” Powers considers as Hunter is resituated in the swing to lie facedown. She pretends to fly, her arms extended at her sides, and giggles. “It’s like watching a fish tank,” he contemplates thoughtfully. “It’s very relaxing.”

Standing over the spread-eagle Hunter, he shoots the machine penetrating her from behind. The machine drones onward. Hunter groans, straining.

When it’s time for the final position, Hunter turns nervous. She squirms in the swing. Her face twists. “I will definitely, like, not be able to do this full-on anally,” she announces, staring at the machine. “I might, like, poo on it.”

“We can try a smaller one,” Powers suggests politely.

Judging by the expression on her face, Hunter looks to be doing the math on her predicament. If she doesn’t do what Jim is asking her to do, she may or may not get paid. If she doesn’t do this, it’s entirely possible no one else will hire her after today. So, she concedes.

“I think I’m gonna cry,” chokes Hunter, teary-eyed, as the machine anally penetrates her.

“Just try to look happy,” Powers consoles, reaching up from below to gently pat the inside of her thigh. “Sell it to me, baby.”

Eventually, he gets what he needs. Finally, the set photographer steps in to take the photos sold to adult magazines to maximize the amount of money made off the scene. Inadvertently, he steps on the machine’s controls. The robot slams into overdrive. The dildo thrusts in and out, the engine screaming, narrowly missing goring Hunter, who promptly bursts into tears.

Afterwards, she confides in me about the experience: “Anal sex is, like, a very emotional thing.”


They Shoot Porn Stars, Don't They? Words & photos by Susannah Breslin. Logo & design by Chris Bishop. Copyright 2009 HOME CREDITS