8FOLD/ACRA: The House of Fiction # 4
milos_parker at yahoo.com
Mon Oct 10 06:54:39 PDT 2005
EIGHTFOLD COMICS PRESENTS
THE HOUSE OF FICTION # 4
BY TOM RUSSELL
I obsess sometimes about the nature of identity.
How much of me is me? Am I half my father and half my
mother? Am I the sum of their lives? Am I a
socio-economic-political product of my times? If
that's true, than I have no say over who I am. I
can't help who I am, and so I have no true me-ness, no
personality, no free will.
Though if there is an essential me-ness, a soul
that defies brain chemicals and physical reality, then
I don't have control over that, either. I'm created
with a core, basic personality. And what does that
say for free will?
I know that emotions are the result of chemical
imbalances in the brain. Science tells us this. But
I don't want to believe it. I want to believe in the
mystery of personality rather than its solution.
Drugs change the chemicals in your brain, they make
you happy or down or whatever, they dull your thoughts
(or speed them up). Let's forget side-effects,
over-doses, death. Forget all that shit, it's not
But if drugs change who you are, than it brings up
very curious and tricky questions about the nature of
me-ness. With drugs, I wouldn't be me. I'd be
Now, some people
(my brother Kevin)
are cool with that.
And so, I've stayed away from drugs. And so, I'm
afraid that in telling this story about my father and
my brother and drugs, I have no special insight to
give into drug use. In my fiction, I usually try to
stay away from it, because I know nothing about it.
I do know something about addiction, and so here is
CONFESSIONS OF A PORNOGRAPHY ADDICT
I met Carolyn and Thelma at a White Castle during
the summer before my senior year in high school. They
were just about the coolest people I had ever met, and
I lunched with them daily during the course of a month
at the world's oldest fast food restaurant.
Our discussions were fairly philosophical, with
Carolyn doing much of the talking.
This was the summer after my father died.
I had been fairly religious before, able to quote
bible verses at the drop of a hat, and could be called
upon to answer even the most obscure biblical trivia.
After my father died, predictably, I began to question
every thing I had ever held dear
does that mean that I am who I am now because my
I had questions, and Carolyn had answers. She
argued, for example, that my tendency towards putting
woman on some kind of pedestal to be worshipped was as
much a form of misogyny as treating them like whores
and sluts. It didn't treat the woman as who-they-are,
but as rather some fuzzy ideal: it denied them their
very identity, their very right to be a human being.
I agreed readily: Carolyn was so smart, so
understanding, so perfect. I put her on a pedestal as
I nodded my head like a panting dog about how it was
wrong to do so.
Thelma was the quiet one, but the freaky one: and
one day towards the end of our acquaintance she
invited me to come back with Carolyn and her to their
apartment. She explained that she was going to make
Carolyn come and Carolyn was going to make her come
and that they wanted me to watch.
Like a good little repressed virgin, I followed,
and I watched.
Carolyn had her name tattooed above her vagina. I
suppose that was because Thelma was occasionally
I had been going to Jay's Party Store since the
third grade, usually to get milk or pop for my mother,
and one day I noticed that they sold pornographic
videos. I bought one, called CREAMY WHITE GIRLS 3; I
thought one of the girls on the cover reminded me of
Once I had watched it, I went to Jay's to buy
One video was twenty dollars; two videos were
thirty. I bought two.
When I was really into comic books, I had no
ability to stop myself from buying them. And so, in
the course of about four years of collecting, I
accumulated close to five thousand. Most of them were
Marvel, most of them from the nineties; most of them
worthless, but I didn't buy them as an investment, I
bought them to read them, for the quality of the
But they were nineties Marvel.
Most of them were worthless.
I decided to set a ground-rule so that I couldn't
go overboard this time: I would not buy a new video
until I had watched them all. So after finishing the
third, I watched them all again in order.
Then I bought two more.
Around this time, I moved out of my mother's.
Having finished High School, and having my own little
room to myself
I had an alcove before, no door to shut, no privacy
but now I had my own little room with my very own
and working only a part time job, I found myself
with eight or so waking hours of time to fill. And
so, in my dark little room, I filled it with
I still watched all my videos before buying another
one; I bought one every two weeks.
I would watch them with my friend Stephanie, with
whom I had that whole weird
Ducky-unrequited-love-thing going on at the time.
Sometimes, she would pose for me naked while I drew
her; we would hint around but nothing ever came of it.
I would theorize about porno as an art form, and
she was a receptive audience, though sometimes I think
she was just humoring me. Several times, to
illustrate structure, we would get a hold of actual
porno movies, the ones with plots, and we would
fast-forward through the sex.
SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL PORNOGRAPHER
My guidance counselor's name was Larry, and he had
long been wary of me. I had a very cavalier attitude
towards his constant harping about how I needed to
think seriously about college
which I should have, and I've paid the price for it
and choosing a career path.
"And I've thought about it," I told Larry, "and
I've decided I want to make adult films."
He coughed. "Porno."
"Yes. I just need to figure out how one gets
"It'd be fairly hard to break into the California
industry," he began. "They're on the look-out for
women, to be sure, but as for male directors... what
you really need to do, is to create a demo reel,
though that's still pretty iffy-- they'll probably
take your actresses and leave you behind.
"There's these people in Wisconsin, who run this
website. And what people do, is they write them and
request a certain video, a certain fantasy-- say,
cuckolded husband, or a threesome, or whatever-- and
then they make the video, and send it to them. You
have at least one satisfied audience member, and
they're paying for it, on commission, covering most of
the technical and acting costs. That might be a good
way to go."
I sat there for a long time, stunned, having gained
a whole new respect for the man. "Thank you, Larry,"
I started asking people-- friends at first, and
then strangers-- if they wanted to be in my porno
movies, what their price was. I studied up on the
legal aspect-- U S code eighteen section two
fifty-seven-- and created applications with slots for
names, stage names, birth information, and a checklist
of forty different sexual acts that they would or
would not perform on camera. I got a lot of dirty
looks, and the few friends I had made started to drift
away from me.
I was oblivious. I was Don Quixote de la porno,
and nothing could shake me from my conviction.
Which, by the way, is a good way to be an artist.
Unshakeable in your convictions. Also a good way to
be a prick.
They had a career day at my high school, in which
students were invited to find someone in their future
field and bring them to school. There were a lot of
restaurant owners and a few professional sports stars,
with the occasional veterinarian and lawyer.
I was determined to have my field represented.
I wrote a letter to Little Sinderella, who wasn't
really my type body-wise but, damn, she really enjoyed
what she was doing and her skill was quite admirable.
I mentioned this in the letter and asked her to come
speak at my school.
She turned it down (of course) but made some calls
to see if anyone knew anyone in the teeny-tiny
cottage-industry level Detroit porno scene. Someone
did, and she sent me a phone number. I never forgot
her kindness, and I made it a point to buy any video
she was featured in.
In the strangest scene Little Sinderella was ever
in, she's riding some fellow on the living room floor
and about ten feet away, there's a glass sliding door
leading outside. On the other side of the door was
the saddest looking German shepherd I had ever seen,
just staring at these two lily-white bodies
I felt sorry for that dog.
I still do.
The pornographer I was put in touch with was a
black guy named Zeke Brampton, and his star actress
was his big-titted snow-white blonde wife, Gloria.
After a brief conversation, it was decided that she
would speak at my school.
Gloria was dressed in a fine suit with slacks and
clicking heels, and the only thing that would give
away her profession was the faux-glamour make-up job,
smeared and vibrant. She was pleasant and bubbly and
was quite happy that I was listening to the smooth
jazz station in my car.
"Zeke don't like it when I listen to smooth jazz,"
she said. "Zeke says it ain't real jazz, it's just
white people's music."
"What about Grover Washington, Jr.?"
"That's exactly what I said, what about Grover
Washington, Jr., he's a man of colour. But Zeke just
said, I don't like smooth jazz and left the room. But
I like it."
"I like smooth jazz," I said listlessly.
We had to go to the office to get a security pass
for Gloria Brampton. Since the secretary was off for
the day, it was being manned by Isis Pop, the
Attendance Supervisor, she was always quick to
correct. A nasty fat woman with a nasty fat temper,
Isis Pop was a recess lady-- Outdoor Extracurricular
Activities Chaperone-- before her friendship with the
Assistant Principal got her promoted to Attendance
Supervisor. She had never been a teacher, had no
degree to teach since a degree was not required to
yell at kids having too much fun on the playground.
Perversely, the Attendance Cop made twice as much as
any starting teacher.
Attendance Coppery consists of being told that
someone was reported absent-without-leave from one or
more of yesterday's classes. Isis Pop would then call
the student in and ask, were you in that class
yesterday? The student says yes, and she lets them
If the student is dumb enough to tell the truth,
they are given detention.
Additional anecdotal evidence against Officer Pop
(Ignatz, you're going to jail!): some kids went to see
the popular band, Flogging Molly. Now, as everyone
knows, flogging molly is a euphemistic expression for
Everyone save Isis Pop, who felt that the name of
the band was advocating spouse abuse. When those
students came to school the next day wearing Flogging
Molly t-shirts, she expelled them. Not suspended. No
No graduation. No summer school.
And this complete waste of school district dollars
was now poised behind the desk as I approached with
Gloria Brampton, local porn star. I said hello to
Isis Pop the Attendance Cop and introduced Gloria
Brampton, my guest for career day.
Isis Pop the Attendance Cop asked her what she did.
And so Gloria told her: I'm a porn star, proud as
That's what she said: I'm a porn star, proud as
pie. I'll never forget that.
"You think you're slick shit, don't you?" said Isis
Pop. The vulgarity was a novelty from her, and a
But my honest response was, "What? What do you
mean, Isis Pop?" (I do that sometimes in conversation,
calling someone by both names, a passive-aggressive
sort of thing, I think.)
"You know what I mean."
"No, I don't. Could you explain it to me, Isis
"You can't bring her in here."
"Why not?" said Gloria, a bit shrilly.
"Yeah, why not?" I enjoined.
"Because... because it's not..." She floundered
I went on the attack. "Are you trying to deny me
my constitutional right to bringing a career day
Never mind that there's nothing in the constitution
about bringing porn stars to school (there should be,
Having no alternative, she asked us to stay put and
went to get back-up. Next in the chain of command for
career day decisions were the instigators of the
institution themselves, the guidance office.
Which meant my counselor.
Which meant Larry.
He gave me a thumbs-up and a wink.
Which meant I got to march my porn star through the
hallowed halls of academia.
The third hour class-- the one right before lunch--
was by far the most satisfying. Everyone knew who we
were, and why we were here. The hushed controversy
had been building since Gloria's slide-show was
confiscated in the middle of the first hour class. "I
worked all night on that, damn it."
Second hour was video production, a kind of
suped-up A/V. The entire class was full of guys who,
much to the teacher's consternation, took it upon
themselves to fawn all over her. She described the
minutiae of the business (no, they didn't use fluffers
in her shoots; yes, they shot for about an hour and
the scene was then edited down; yes, it does require
practice to suppress the gag reflex, and, yes, I can)
and gave them her web address.
The site had record hits that night, and the server
ended up crashing.
But: third hour.
Third hour was pottery class. Now, the arts
classes attract a wide variety of students, but the
pottery class was almost uniformly women. I, in fact,
was the only man.
I was not popular for many reasons. First of all,
I had no fucking clue what I was doing and could not,
for the life of me, make any variety of pottery.
Secondly, I had tried to recruit many of my classmates
to star in the porno movies I planned to make, and had
received many severe and forceful rebuffs. Even the
teacher had stopped talking to me after a while.
And so, here we were: me and my porn star. One of
the teacher's pet
had brought in the mayor. For me, the
juxtaposition was golden. As the mayor continued to
speak about his responsibilities, about the budget and
plans for the future, et cetera, et cetera, the class
and my teacher became more and more uncomfortable.
For each minute that he continued to speak marked
another minute that he was closer to the end, marked
another minute that was closer to Gloria's turn. They
shifted in their seats, they squirmed, and when he
reached the end of his speech, they tried to stretch
his time out, tried to ask questions. But what
questions do you ask the twenty-year mayor of a
suburb? Soon, they accepted the futility of their
The mayor took his seat, and he, too, began to
squirm as Gloria click-clack, click-clacked her way to
the front of the classroom, her shoes and slack and
suit now a miserable failure when it came to
concealing her true nature.
"My name is Gloria Brampton. And I am a porn
I quickly scanned the room to see if anyone
fainted. No one did. Shoot.
"There are a lot of people that say that the
working world is not fair to women, that they do not
have the same opportunities and pay scale that men do.
This is not true in my industry, in which..." She
clicked her thumb, expecting to change slides. She
sniffled in mourning and then continued: "... in which
women comprise not only the majority of the
work-force, but also make close to three times as men.
They also have more opportunities to work, and can
shoot several scenes in succession. This is why I
feel this is a growing and vital field for young women
"You're a whore!" someone called out. We all
shuddered, even my teacher and classmates, when we
realized it was the valedictorian, who in twelve years
(thirteen, including kindergarten) of academic history
had never spoken without first raising her hand.
The teacher, sensing her duty, was about to send
the valedictorian out to the hall for the first time
in her life, when Gloria said, "I'll answer that one.
"A whore-- as you so crudely put it-- participates
in a sexual act for money. I'm no whore. I'm a porn
star. I'm an actress. I'm paid for the performance,
for the depiction of the sex act; not for the sex act
itself. There is a distinction. However fine and
however small, it is still a distinction and an
"Sounds like you're justifying to me."
"Am I hurting you?" Gloria said.
"What?" said the valedictorian, flinching.
"Am I hurting you? Is what I do, does it cause you
or anyone else harm?"
"No," she said at first. "But wait, you are.
Pornography is harmful towards women. It degrades
them. It reduces them to sex, to their bodies. It's
"Actually, it's the men that are reduced just to
their bodies-- or just one part, anyway." Gloria
smiled, wryly, and there were some giggles-- later and
forevermore denied-- in the audience. "Women still
have their personalities, and, yes, their carnality.
But it celebrates it. It makes it a force of nature.
Men, usually all you see are their cocks or their
muscles. But women, you get faces. Come all over
them or not, they still got faces, personality,
identity: life. Sex is life, it's a positive and
affirming experience. So, the kind of pornography
that I make, it's the most positive feminist force
that I know of."
One of the girls behind the valedictorian raised
"How do you start?"
She hadn't quite won the class over, and there was
a lot of shouting that followed, but we thrived on it,
and her arguments only became more heated-- and,
surprisingly, more erudite-- as the period neared it
close. We went to lunch, next, whispers flanking us
as we went through the lunch-line
The head cafeteria lady, by the way, was the wife
of the Mighty Igor, World's Strongest Wrestler.
Mighty Igor lived across the street from my father
when my father was a kid, and the wrestler's chest
muscles were so huge, he could not bring his arms
close enough together to grasp a lawn mower and mow
At the end of the day, Larry asked us to come to
"I was just wondering if you could autograph this,"
he said, taking an over-sized video box from a paper
bag. It was called GLORIA, GLORIA HALLEJULAH, and it
was a religion-and-glory-hole themed escapade starring
our very own Mrs. Brampton. The blurb on the cover
read, "redemption through sin".
"Do you have a pen?" Gloria said. Larry handed her
one from his pocket, and she gave it her John Hancock.
"We didn't sell many of this one. Thank you for
He nodded, sweating. "I support local independent
I had dinner that night with Gloria and her
husband, and I explained my career ambitions.
"I'm getting a second camera," Zeke said. "And
I'll need someone to run it. If you're game...?"
"Dollar to doughnut, you bet I am."
"Great. I should be getting it in a few weeks.
I'll call you then."
In the words of a very wise man, crazy rockula
It didn't pan out, though. I was living with my
uncle, who, while a pornography enthusiast
he had an obsessive fixation on "the girl next
told them in no uncertain terms that I was not
going to work in porno. When I finally found out
about it, it was too late: Zeke had changed his
On the off-chance that he might call, I continued
working on scripts and studying pornographic movies.
Weekends were especially fruitful, since I didn't have
to go to work. I spent sixteen to twenty hours a day
watching porno, sometimes masturbating, most of the
By the end of my first year with porno, I had
accumulated fifteen videos and created five comps of
my own. I would talk about it often, with co-workers,
with friends, with mentors.
The way one talks about the weather
nice blow-job he's getting, isn't it?
yes, it is.
and my "regular" fiction and poetry slowly found
porno weaving its way into it: porn stars (proud as
pie) became recurring characters, even in stories that
were basically devoid of sex, and my poetic metaphors
became increasingly scatological
clouds streak across the sky
like billowy come splashing
across a blonde's face
That haiku, by the way, didn't win me any poetry
contests. I think I was the first person to be banned
from entry, though, and so I consider that some form
of an honor.
And then, one day, for no particular reason, I
became utterly and completely disgusted with myself.
It was after a break-up with my second girl?friend
she was a hermaphrodite
I was single, and profoundly alone, and just plain
got tired of living la Vida Porno. On a spur of the
moment and with blinding clarity, I gave it all away
to my mother's newest loser boyfriend, Shane
no shit, that was his name
smoked pot all day, didn't have a job
spent his evenings sitting in a chair listening to
good music, but still!
and declared myself porno-free. In three months
time, I began seeing Mary, who would eventually become
my wife. She would not have approved of porno.
Perhaps I knew she was coming into my life in a big
way, and so I cleaned up my act, for her.
But, as it turns out, I am a Recovering Pornoholic:
never cured, always recovering.
Slowly, and with mounting guilt, I inched my way
back into the dark world of porno. First was the
google story groups, which I could argue weren't
really porno because there weren't any pictures.
Then, I came across a bondage blog
I'm on the masochistic side of the equation, btw
stories and pictures... but I was reading the
stories, could I help it if there were pictures there?
And then I found myself on thumbnail post dot com,
a website that was handy in the old days but proved to
be ultimately disastrous. One click on one of their
links and my computer was infested with a particularly
nasty Trojan virus, which carried scores and scores of
spy ware and ad ware and browser-changers and et all.
The computer-- our brand new computer-- was now
I called my wife in a white panic, staring at the
tiny text on my desktop that declared that my computer
had been infected. I knew that if she knew I had been
sneaking around her back, looking at porno
and pretty bizarre porno, too
my tastes were pretty mainstream before, but this
was golden showers and the like
this shit was weird
that she would probably leave me. So I lied.
I took a giant shit on the bonds of marriage.
The minute I hung up the phone, I tried to kill
Having failed, as usual, in my attempt to rid the
world of my prickly existence, I called Mary back and
told her the truth.
She was angry, and of course I couldn't blame her.
I was pathetic and sniveling and I begged her not to
leave me. She said she had no intention of doing so,
but that it would be hard to trust me. And that's
what hurt worst of all, that she couldn't trust her
That I had lied.
That I had risked everything to watch some girl get
come all over her glasses. That our marriage
apparently meant exactly that much to me, that it was
worth losing it for a fifteen second video clip and an
orgasm in the toilet bowel.
Porno is not important to a normal person, whatever
"normal" is. To the normal person, porno exists in a
little pocket of their lives and it's really a take it
or leave it kind of thing, and that's as it should be.
But for the addict, porno becomes not only
important, but the only important thing. I don't
think that it warps your thinking about women or sex
roles, no more than drugs would. But it warps your
thinking about life. When nothing else is important,
then you risk the truly important things in its
pursuit. I think it's the same way with drugs, though
I can't be sure: I only know my life, what I lived
through and with, and the little bit of insight that
I'm not saying porno is evil, no more than I'm
saying drinking is evil. In moderation, anything can
be good for you. But I have no control over porno; it
had complete control of my life. It changed who I was
how much of me is me?
And so it's just not for me.
I love my wife too much to risk it.
I'm a Recovering Pornoholic, and I have been sober
for seven months, proud as pie.
(C) 2005 Tom Russell.
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