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How To Be a Porn Star

The Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation's guide to porndom is critical information for a slumping economy.

12:00 AM, Sep 18, 2002 • By MATT LABASH
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Every five years or so, I like to clean up my office. Even by disheveled journalists' standards, it's really quite a dump. Once, when I had an OSHA inspector over for an interview, he thought I was setting him up. "You trashed it on purpose," he said, before literally declaring it a disaster area. So every quinquennial, I like to roll up the sleeves on my biohazard suit, and address the mounds of paper and half-filled cups, the oil spills, used syringes, and other detritus that accumulates from a life carelessly led.

Usually, after sifting through the rubble, I don't turn up much of great value. Sure, I'm glad I held on to the Purel hand-sanitizer given to me by Donald Trump's presidential campaign, issued on the off-chance The Donald dared shake reporters' hands. And there's my favorite piece of hate mail, from "Iron John" author Robert Bly, who wrote to complain that he'd been victimized by my "stupid slander" of his work (get in line, pal). But for the most part, the mess on my floor tends to be long-forgotten Nexis stacks, yellowed newspapers, and inky, urgent pamphlets, collected from the mentally unstable types that one often encounters as a reporter for a political magazine.

Every now and then however, the fates smile, and a pig finds a truffle. The other day, while de-contaminating my home office, I stumbled over a small cache of VHS riches. There, still wrapped in cellophane, were three videotapes I'd forgotten to watch. A year earlier, I'd dropped the ball on an assignment for another magazine. The editor had wished for me to infiltrate the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation (AIM) in Sherman Oaks, California, a clinic for porn stars that promises "health for the sex worker in body, mind, emotion & spirit!"

Founded in 1998 by retired porner Sharon Mitchell, herself a veteran of over 2,000 movies with titles such as "Load Warriors," AIM offers a wide array of services, providing everything from condoms to HIV testing, cosmetic surgery information to psychiatric assessments. It all sounded like great fun, but my goal was to focus on porn exit-counseling, where trained clinicians assist weary porners in facing life's harsh realities, as they transition from the soul-killing vocation of rutting strangers for money, into more rewarding careers as Wendy's drive-thru attendants.

My goal went unrealized, however, when I could not gain access to therapy sessions. Porners, it seems, will show you a lot--everything, really--except for their wounded psyches. So I abandoned the project before even viewing AIM's three-video Porn 101 series--which teaches aspiring porn stars the in's and out's (so to speak) of the business. I've never had much enthusiasm for pornography. Watching people have congress is a bit like watching people eat , in that eating is both necessary and satisfying, but when watching someone else do it, you just want to tell them to chew with their mouth closed.

Still, with our country on the brink of war, and with the economy set to go straight to Hell, it seemed an ideal time to heed my father's advice about always having a trade to fall back on. I chose journalism because it afforded me a ticket to ride and a license to pry, and because I'm supremely unqualified to do anything else. But if the writing thing doesn't work out, and several discriminating readers have suggested it hasn't, I've never given much thought to how I'd support my family. That is, until last weekend, when I popped my toddler's "Shrek" tape out of the VCR, and popped in AIM's how-to-be-a-porn-star video series.

The Porn 101 tapes, it should be noted, come with an "important notice": that the "material has been reviewed by independent experts who found, based on their professional experience . . . that the material does not appeal to the prurient (morbid or shameful sexual) interest of the average adult American." Moreover, no sexual acts are committed for instruction's sake. Or almost none. On one tape, veteran actress Nina Hartley, widely regarded as porn's Meryl Streep, caps off her talk on condom use by bringing out a pants-less actor, then applying one--with her mouth.