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June 1, 2006 | Interview

An Interview with Eric Spitznagel

Elizabeth Ellen

An Interview with Eric Spitznagel photo

Eric Spitznagel didn't always write porn. (And doesn't, it should be noted, anymore.) In fact, for most of his adult life (we can't answer for his teen years... God only knows what he was doing then) he's been a writer of humor, which would seem, on the surface, like the exact opposite of being a porn writer. Prior to moving to L.A., he spent ten years teaching comedy writing at the famed Second City in Chicago (which means he probably knows way more famous people than you or I do) and is currently a contributing editor at The Believer (which means he gets to interview people like Beck and Paul Giamatti on a regular basis). But, let's not forget, the guy did once write porn. He did -- he'll have you know -- write the sequel to Butt Crazy! And that's really what we're here to talk about.
 


 

First of all, Eric, do you consider this book to be a memoir? And, if so, can you assure us of its accuracy? I mean, you’re not trying to pull a fast one on us the way that Frey guy did Oprah, are you? I don’t see a disclaimer anywhere. Why don’t you take this time to come clean: Have you ever even had a root canal? Did you really talk an NBA star out of doing a porno? Was your pseudonym actually Freckles Madison?
 

It’s weird how this has become such an issue in the post-JT-Leroy-and-James-Frey publishing world. When I sold the book, my publisher didn’t once ask me if any of it was true. But after Frey’s public stoning on Oprah, I was suddenly getting frantic phone calls about adding a disclaimer. So yeah, I’d have to admit that this book is a sorta-memoir. Everything I wrote about is at least based in reality. I was a porn screenwriter, I didmeet some very eccentric and weird people, I did have delusions of grandeur and convinced myself that I could write the Great American Porno. But the details of the story have been tweaked for dramatic effect. Okay, fine, wildly exaggerated. I was, for instance, given a mystery drug by a porn actress, but I didn’t hallucinate and end up talking to Jerry Stahl in the desert. I did meet an NBA player who was considering getting into porn, but he hardly qualified as a star. And our conversation wasn’t nearly as colorful as I described it in the book. I think most readers will be smart enough to figure out for themselves when I’ve crossed over into fiction. To me, Fast Forward is a memoir in much the same way that Hunter S. Thompsen’s Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas is a memoir. You know that Hunter probably really went to Vegas and did a staggering amount of drugs. But did it happen exactly as he described it? Probably not. 

     
  I was talking to one of my writing friends from Second City, and he mentioned that he’d been writing porn to pay the bills and offered to recommend me to his director. It’s so much easier to make a terrible career decision if you know that you’re not alone.  
     


 

You’ve already led a very interesting life, one that hasn’t always moved in the most predictable of fashions. For instance, one minute you’re teaching comedy writing at Second City in Chicago and the next you’re writing porn screenplays in L.A. How does that happen? I mean, firstly, how’d you get the Second City gig, and then, secondly, how’d you go from that to writing porn in L.A.? 
 

I have no clue how I got the Second City gig. During much of the 90s, I was working at the theater’s box office, and one day they asked me if I wanted to teach for them. I had no experience as a teacher, much less writing or performing sketch comedy. At the time, I was writing mostly snarky little comedy pieces for magazines like Spy and Playboy. Why that qualified me to tell somebody how to write sketch comedy, I have no idea. It took me a few years to get my sea legs as a teacher, and even then I felt like a fraud. When my wife and I moved to LA, it was mostly because it was the expected thing to do. Everybody who works for Second City eventually moves to either LA or New York. If you stay too long, you feel like one of those college guys who put off graduating until their late twenties. But LA is filled with Second City alumni looking for familiar faces, so it was like moving from one dysfunctional community to another. They hang out at the same bars and perform at the same theaters and have incestuous relationships. That’s actually how I got involved in porn. I was talking to one of my writing friends from Second City, and he mentioned that he’d been writing porn to pay the bills and offered to recommend me to his director. It’s so much easier to make a terrible career decision if you know that you’re not alone. Normally, I wouldn’t have even considered getting involved with porn. But because my writing buddy was already doing it, and we could both laugh about how ridiculous it was, it became our shared inside joke. I wasn’t making a mistake because I could point to somebody else – somebody that I considered talented and funny and smart – who was doing the same thing. Stupidity thrives on strength in numbers. 

 

Did your training as a comedy writer help you at all when it came to writing porn? Is there, or should there be, anything funny about porn?
 

Not at all. And that’s one of the main obstacles I came up against. I set out to write a porno comedy, but I eventually figured out just how impossible that is. David Sedaris couldn’t write a truly funny porn script, and it isn’t because the actors are terrible and the production values are so shoddy. It’s because porn can’t exist on two levels simultaneously. People watch porn to masturbate. That’s it. That’s all they want. Try to give them anything else and you’ll only end up annoying them. The very idea of a porno comedy assumes that your audience wants to laugh and jerk off at the same time. Is that even possible? I’ve never tried it, but it seems like it’d be a little confusing. Maybe I’m being too cynical about it, but I have yet to meet anybody who told me, “Man, I saw this porno last night, and it was hi-larious.” If they did find it funny, it was mostly in an Ed Wood “So Bad It’s Good” kinda way. But there’s never going to be the porno equivalent of, say, Groundhog Day or Waiting For Guffman.

 

When you first arrived on the scene you seemed to harbor somewhat lofty ideas of writing a porn that would revolutionize the industry; a porn in which dialogue actually mattered and wasn’t fast-forwarded over. Do you still think it’s possible to make such a film? There’s got to be a niche, and here I’m thinking primarily of a female audience, for a “smarter” porn, one in which characterization matters as much as cum shots. 
 

Well, first of all, I’m gonna have to respectfully disagree with you about whether women really want “smarter” porn. Obviously, most porn is very guy-centric. It puts far too much emphasis on the male orgasm. I’m sure that women aren’t quite as awestruck by the sight of sperm flying across the room and shattering a lamp. Guys find this kind of thing endlessly fascinating, if only because it feeds into our illusions that our viscous fluids can be powerful and dangerous projectiles. But the women I know who regularly watch porn are more interested in seeing something that plays into their fantasies. They want more foreplay and more sexual acts that actually correspond to what they find arousing. But does that mean they want more dialogue? I really don’t think so. Maybe they’d like a little more creativity in their porn. They might like the occasional costume drama, or scenarios that have more backstory that just “Hi, I’m the pizza delivery guy. Take off your pants.” But I’ve watched porn with plenty of women and they’re usually as impatient about sitting through the dialogue as I am. They want to get right to the action. They want to see naked people doing impossible feats of carnal gymnastics, not hour after hour of talking. I honestly don’t believe that anybody – men or women – want “smarter” porn, because we don’t look to porn for intellectual stimulation. We watch porn because we want to get off. And that’s what I found funny – and, in some ways, tragic – about the writers and directors who put so much effort into making porn that strives to be something more than just fodder for masturbation. It’s the one creative genre in which having a meaningful connection with your audience is inherently unattainable. It doesn’t matter how good the dialogue is, or how engaging the plot might be. Your audience isn’t paying attention. They’re just looking for something visually exciting, something that will inspire them to take matters into their own hands. It’s utilitarian. After you have an orgasm, you turn off the porn. You don’t stick around to see how the story plays out. So it’s kinda sad when you come across a porn film that was clearly made by people who cared about the finished product. You want to shake them and say, “You’re in the wrong business! Go write stories or make paintings or perform music or anything else! If you want to be an artist so badly, go do something where art actually matters.” It might still be terrible – you don’t end up in porn because you were blessed with a lot of creative talent – but at least they’d have a better shot at finding an appreciative audience.

 

     
  I mean, these were people who made their names writing some truly awe-inspiring comedy. How do you go from The Simpsons to Best Butts In the West and not feel like you’ve traded in on your talent?  
     

 

I don’t know. Maybe we’re talking about two different things here. Or perhaps there are (or should be) two different reasons for watching porn in the first place. On the one hand, if you’re watching porn by yourself in a darkened room, I completely agree with you, you’re just looking to get off. Male. Female. Doesn’t matter. Dialogue’s irrelevant. Plot’s irrelevant. Just give us the cum shot and let’s be done with it. If, on the other hand, you’re watching porn in the living room with your honey, or a couch full of honeys, you might just want something more. You might want something a little more erotic, a little more engaging, than your standard pizza delivery guy bangs hot, horny housewife scenario. There’s a reason movies like “9 1/2 Weeks” and “Sex and Lucia” and “Last Tango in Paris” are so popular with women. They’re essentially female-acceptable porn. Most women watch them with a lover as a precursor to sex. And it’s my belief that if you took a movie like “9 1/2 Weeks” and allowed for things like full penetration, you’d not only not cut your numbers, you’d triple them. You know, back in the ‘70’s it was not unheard of for couples to go to a theatre and see an X rated movie together. But that’s probably because a) you could see it in a “normal” theatre (as opposed to the dreaded “adult” theatre) and b) you had movies like “Behind the Green Door” and “Deep Throat” and “The Devil In Miss Jones” which some would say at least attempted some artistic merit, some semblance of eroticism and a storyline. So why is it impossible to think that we couldn’t do better than that today? Go farther than “Behind the Green Door” as far as making a movie couples would pay to see in a theatre? All I’m asking, Eric, is this: If we build it, will they not come? If we make a better porn, won’t women (and men) pay to see it? In a theatre? On date night?
 

I think you were right the first time. We’re talking about two different things. There’s porno and then there’s erotica. I never considered “9 1/2 Weeks” or “Last Tango in Paris” to be porn. They both seem to qualify as erotica. As Gloria Leonard once said, “The difference between pornography and erotica is lighting.” You couldn’t ask for a better definition. Porn is about gynie shots of spread-open beavers, but erotica is more concerned with sensuality and eroticism. If you added a lot of explicit hardcore to “9 1/2 Weeks”, would it really appeal to a wider audience? I tend to doubt it. Because the audiences who love this movie aren’t necessarily titillated by the sex. They’re responding to the seduction. It’s about the undressing rather than the nudity. It’s about what you don’t see rather than what you do see. If the director suddenly panned down to Mickey Rourke’s throbbing erection – well, aside from the fact that nobody wants to see that, it would take away all the mystery. You’ve crossed over into porn, and porn has absolutely nothing to do with seduction. Even a film like “Behind The Green Door,” which everybody points to as this pinnacle of porno storytelling, didn’t have much in the way of seduction. Marilyn Chambers is kidnapped, and five minutes later she’s brought out on stage and diddled by a black man in a mask. There’s no foreplay. There’s no mystery. There’s very little left to the imagination. Actually, nothing is left to the imagination. As for why couples went to see “Green Door” and “Deep Throat” at the theater, I think this had less to do with the quality of these movies than the mainstream tolerance for porn during the 70s. It was the height of the sexual revolution, and porn was still in its infancy. People didn’t flock to theaters to see “Deep Throat” because it was a good film. I think we can all agree that it was god-awful. It was because “Deep Throat” was an event. It was something new and exciting. By watching it, you were taking part in a shared cultural experience. But I highly doubt if anybody walked away thinking, “Wow. That was amazing. I can’t wait to see what the porno industry does next.” It was a fad, and like all fads, it was also short-lived. I honestly believe that you could make a porno today that had a riveting plot and stellar performances and it would never lure audiences back to the theater. You can’t reproduce porn’s so-called “Golden Age.” It’s never going to be like that again. It’s like those wanna-be hippies you see hanging out at Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, still pining for the summer of love. You can stop bathing and smoke all the dope you want, and you’re never going to experience exactly what it was like in 1967. “Deep Throat” and “Behind the Green Door” were the right movies at the right time, and we’ll never see a porno again that has the same impact. There’ve been a few directors since then that have tried to make “smarter” adult films. Look at somebody like Andrew Blake. His films are more about sensuality than graphic depictions of sex. And I’m sure that, as you said, there are many couples that like to watch these films as a precursor to sex. But the majority of people who rent and buy porn are looking to sit alone in a dark room and masturbate. If you make a better porno, will they watch it? Maybe a few will. But most of them will probably just fast-forward through the plot to get back to the sex. If they want erotica, then by god, they’ll watch erotica. That’s why movies like “9 1/2 Weeks” exist; to give audiences an alternative to the overly explicit, cut-to-the-chase aesthetic of porn. It’s like saying that the world needs smarter teen sex comedies. Sure, there might be a few teenagers out there who would love to see a sex comedy that isn’t so aggressively stupid and obvious. But there’s a reason why movies like “Porky’s” and “American Pie” become hits, and “The Opposite of Sex” and “The Sure Thing” are mostly resigned to cult status. If Hollywood has proven anything, it’s that the public is not necessarily looking for smarter stories. A smarter drama? Sure. Even a smarter comedy. But a smarter comedy about teenagers trying to get laid? As we’ve seen time and time again, that’s hardly ever true. The lowest common denominator always wins. So, if you want movies that play into your fantasies and offers something more than cum-shots, you should probably be looking for smarter erotica. But smart porn is a rarity, and for good reason. As soon as genitals are dragged under bright lights, you’ve given up any pretense to eroticism. You might as well be asking for smarter CAT scans. You’re not going to convince a porn director to make a film that 99.9% of his audience has no interest in. He’s making porn for his audience, and his audience wants cum-shots.


 

I think the part of the book that surprised me the most was when you talk about the actors (actresses mainly, though I’m assuming you meant both) being so highly sexed in their personal lives. I’ve always thought that most of them, the women in particular, seem a bit bored, if not downright robotic, in their roles. But you retell a story that you say is near legend in the industry in which an actress stops tape in the middle of a scene involving a Domino’s delivery man, claiming Pizza Hut delivery men are more likely to have sex with their customers. Okay, first of all, to believe this scenario, one has to believe there are men out there, pizza deliverymen, who are turning porn actresses down for sex…Secondly, I don’t know why, but I would have thought Domino’s men would be more responsive. What has been your experience?
 

That was actually one of the most shocking things about working in porn. It’s impossible to make generalizations about what all female porn stars are like, but the women I encountered did seem to have frighteningly overactive libidos. Not in a sexy, frat-boy-dream kinda way, but in a sad, needy, “I need your attention” kinda way. Sure, there were times when they were bored, because porn is still a job, and when you’re doing the same thing all day, every day, it’s bound to become a little redundant. But more often than not, they really enjoyed what they were doing. They wanted to be having sex, as often as possible and with as many different partners as possible. Once, I was on a set and saw a director tell an actress that her scene had been cut. She was devastated. She was still being paid the same amount, and you’d think that would’ve been great news. She’d got a paycheck without needing to let some drooling, creepy stranger paw at her. But she was sincerely disappointed that she wasn’t going to get laid. She complained and cried and begged the director to let her do it anyway, even if the cameras weren’t rolling. Now, I don’t for a second think this is healthy. Clearly this woman had a lot of deep-rooted emotional scars. She equated sex with her own sense of self-worth, and that’s a dangerous thing. But it was vastly different than my preconceived notions about what happens in porn. I always assumed that the actors hated their jobs, and they were only doing it because they needed the income, and they’d gladly give it up for a chance at a legitimate acting career. But that just isn’t the reality. They’re doing porn because they love sex – they’re obsessed with sex, really – and porn allows them the excuse to do it within a safe environment. As for this Pizza Hut vs. Dominos pizza deliveryman story, yeah, I’m not sure if I buy it either. It’s an old urban myth in porn circles, and nobody seems to know with any certainty whether if it’s true. I just can’t fathom that some pimply-faced teenager would turn down the chance for sex with a porn star, regardless of which pizza company he worked for. I think the story is mostly used to demonstrate the very thin line between what a porn actress does on screen and what she practices in her private life. Most of us know that when, say, Harrison Ford battles Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark, he’s probably not basing his performance on an actual experience from his own life. It’s a safe bet that he’s never even met a Nazi, much less been involved in a high-speed chase with one. But when a porn actress has sex with a pizza delivery guy in one of her movies, she’s not necessarily playing out a fantasy. She’s had so much casual sex with so many random partners that there are very few scenarios she hasn’t already tried. I know this sounds ridiculous and a little far-fetched, but it’s closer to the truth than you might imagine. These people are sexual extremists. To them, a typical evening might involve having sex on a trampoline, or hosting a 40-guy gangbang. And that doesn’t even include what they’re doing for the cameras. When Harrison Ford goes home after a day on a movie set, he probably relaxes and does things that don’t involve being thrown from a moving car. But when a porno actress finishes work, she calls up some friends and ends up being tied to a bed with rubber handcuffs while a midget attaches nipple clamps to a donkey. It’s not just a job for her; it’s a lifestyle choice.

 

As a woman, I have to ask a follow up here. I notice that in answering this question, as well as in discussing the porn actors in the book, you focus almost exclusively on the women in porn. For instance, I have to wonder if anyone would ever say of a male porn actor, ³He equated sex with his own sense of self-worth, and that¹s a dangerous thing.² Or find it odd that the male porn actor was disappointed they¹d cut his scene. Or even think to say of a man, ³It¹s not just a job for him; it¹s a lifestyle choice.² So, first of all, did you find the men to be sexual extremists as well? Is there such a thing as a male nympho? Or are all males assumed to be nymphos? I guess I just find it a bit dangerous to assume that men are never victimized and woman always are, when it comes to sex, be it in porn or otherwise.
 

Those are all excellent questions, and I wish I had a thoughtful, intelligent response for you. But to be honest, it never really occurred to me to think about how the men in porn might be victimized. Maybe it's just a knee-jerk reaction from my liberal arts education. You get accustomed to talking about porn in terms of how women are objectified and degraded, and the men are just an afterthought at best. But I suppose you're right, it is something that effects both genders. Of course, the women do get the worst of it. It's just a sad reality of our culture that sexuality is usually equated with something negative when it comes to women. A women who devotes her life to sex is called a whore while a man, more often than not, is a stud. It's okay for a man to be overtly sexual because we expect it of them. We have a difficult time thinking of men in any sexual situation -- porn or otherwise -- as victims. It seems healthy even when it's not. But the moment a woman starts being too sexually aggressive, there must be something wrong with her. She's a victim or a prostitute or some combination of the two. That's completely unfair, I know, but it's how our moral compass is wired. And I guess I just fell into that trap. But at the same time, I'm sure that if I tried to write about how the experience of male and female porn stars were similar, I would've been crucified. I've even had a few readers accost me for suggesting that porn might objectify men as much as it does women. In the book, I quoted another porn writer who told me, "Look at the average porno and you'll always see the woman's face. But the guy is only shown from the waist down. He's just a cock and balls, an anonymous torso with moving parts. Now you tell me, who's the one being portrayed as an object?" I don't know if I agree with that, but it is an interesting point. Porn is just about the mechanics of sex, and neither the man nor the woman is seen as anything more than genitals with legs. But you're on dangerous ground if you try to make people question whether porn degrades both sexes equally. Our society wants to believe that women are the only casualty in porn, and a humor writer certainly isn't going to be the one to change their mind.

 

     
  You don’t want to be making a public mockery of an adult film director. I’m not suggesting that they might have my legs broken in retaliation, but you never know.  
     

 

Halfway through the book we find you lost at the release party of your first porn. Somehow you stumble into a conversation with about five other porn writers, most of who had worked either for Hollywood or for television (shows like The Simpsons and Futurama are mentioned). Were you surprised that these writers were seemingly happier writing porn? And why do you think you weren’t?
 

I was surprised, because most of these writers were much smarter than the porn scripts they were being paid to churn out. I just couldn’t understand how anyone could be satisfied with the lowest common denominator. I mean, these were people who made their names writing some truly awe-inspiring comedy. How do you go from The Simpsons to Best Butts In the West and not feel like you’ve traded in on your talent? But they didn’t seem to mind being hacks, because the pay was the same and the expectations were almost nonexistent. In their mainstream careers, there was a constant demand for quality. But in porn, they could write a script in their sleep and still be lavished with praise. You can get away with slumming and still work pretty consistently. They probably had the right idea. I mean, even at the time, I knew that I was deluding myself. I knew that porn was stuck in its cultural niche and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do to change that. But there was still a part of me that really believed I could be the one to bring porn into the mainstream. I think it’s something that every porn writer goes through, at least in the beginning. They may start writing porn with a sense of ironic detachment, but it’s only a matter of time before they start to take themselves too seriously. Because who wants to believe that their words are meaningless? And when you’re doing porn, you’re reminded of that every day. It’s right there in the job description. They call scripts “Fast Forwards” because audiences are expected to fast forward through the dialogue. So your first impulse is to think, “Oh yeah? I’ll show you. I’ll write a script that’s so goddamn entertaining and funny that it’ll change porn forever.” You have to think that, because otherwise you’re admitting to your own irrelevancy. Most writers get to the point where they either embrace the irrelevancy that comes with writing porn or they walk away from it. You have to make peace with the fact that what you’re doing is largely ignored, and my ego just couldn’t tolerate that. It wasn’t enough to get a paycheck. I wanted to believe – I neededto believe – that somebody actually cared about what I was writing.

 

When you made the decision to leave porn you also decided to leave L.A. Do you think you could have left the gig without leaving the town?
 

No, not really. I mean, it’s not like I’m Al Pacino in The Godfather. “Just when I think I’m out, they drag me back in!” But I don’t think it would’ve been as easy to give up writing porn without fleeing LA. My Second City friend who got me involved with the business is still writing porn to this day. He keeps telling himself that he’s going to quit someday, but it’s difficult to turn down the easy money. He’s still working on mainstream scripts and he’ll take any writing gig he can get, but when the end of the month rolls around and he doesn’t have enough cash in his bank account to pay the rent, he knows that he can just knock out a five-page script and solve his financial problems. Whose gonna say no to that? Those thoughts still cross my mind, but luckily I’ve lost all contact with the directors I used to write for, and it’s not as easy to sell a script if you don’t live in LA. So the option has disappeared for me. Giving up porn when you live in LA is like trying to quit an addiction to pills while working for a pharmacy. It’s so easy to slip another bottle into your pocket and think, “This is it. This is the last time. Tomorrow I’m going cold turkey.” But the temptation is always there.

 

It does sound a bit like leaving the Mob. Or breaking up with an abusive boyfriend. There’s even the cheesy dialogue to prove it. Clark, the guy you primarily dealt with, asks you, “Why are you doing this to me…I had no idea you were this unhappy…why didn’t you come to me sooner?” Did it feel a bit Godfatherish at the time? Did you ever worry you’d wake up next to a horse’s head?
 

You’re damn right I did. And that’s why I was very careful not to name any names. Most of the directors – including Clark – are composites of several different people. I even used fake porn titles, because I don’t want anybody to trace these movies back to the source. This is partly to protect the identity of the people involved – I say some rather rude and disparaging things about them – and partly because I’m scared shitless of them. You don’t want to be making a public mockery of an adult film director. I’m not suggesting that they might have my legs broken in retaliation, but you never know. It didn’t seem fair to drag anybody through the mud just because I happened to have a bad experience with them. It’s entirely subjective, and maybe they thought that I was the crazy one. But yeah, I met a few directors who made some not-so-subtle threats. One of them even told me exactly how he would have me disemboweled if I even considered writing for another studio. I don’t take that kinda thing lightly. I’ve seen that documentary about John Holmes. I know all about the Wonderland murders. I’m as paranoid as the next guy.

 

In the book you claim you never used your personal fantasies when writing a script. Which led me to wonder, what if you had? What might an Eric Spitznagel fantasy look like on screen?
 

Oh god, do you really want to open this can of worms? I don’t think my personal fantasies would be of interest to anyone. It’d be like a Fellini fever dream. I briefly considered trying to write the porn version of Amarcord. Not because it’d be sexy, but because I love the idea of midgets having sex. It’s the same reason I think Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits would have made a fantastic porn. Naked midgets everywhere, bouncing off the walls and screaming in ecstasy. That’d probably make most people cringe, but I’d find it fascinating. I’ve also had thoughts of trying to do a porn dream sequence, like the one in Hitchcock’s Spellbound. Do you remember that? All of a sudden, the story breaks away to this really bizarre hallucination with huge, veiny eyeballs being sliced open with scissors. I always wondered what a porn dream sequence might look like. Maybe there’d be disembodied cocks with wings and, I don’t know, a chorus line of gigantic vaginas singing something from the musicalGypsy. “You'll be swell! You'll be great! Gonna have the whole world on the plate!” See, I warned you that you didn’t want to know about any of this.

 

You were hired to write the sequel to Butt Crazy! So, I’m afraid I have to ask: do you consider yourself an ass man? I mean, don’t you sort of have to be an ass man to write a Butt Crazy! script
 

First of all, thank you for adding the exclamation point at the end of the Butt Crazy title. Because it’s not “butt crazy,” it’s “BUTT CRAZY!!!” You need to have the requisite enthusiasm to really sell it. Alas, I am not an “ass man,” as you so gingerly put it. I’m a fan of the female posterior in general, sure, but I wouldn’t consider myself a connoisseur of rumps. It’s not like I set out to write a porno about butts. I wasn’t calling directors and saying, “Let’s make a movie about tushies! Mile after mile of tushies! A veritable sea of kiesters!” They hired me to write the script, and I was told that it needed to be about butts. Which presents a pretty unique sort of challenge. How often does a writer have to come up with a plot based solely on a body part? It’d be like saying, “Write me a story about elbows.” How the hell are you gonna make that work? But I think I did an okay job, given the obvious limitations. The script was never produced, mostly because the director thought it was too dialogue heavy. As he told me repeatedly, “Have you ever seen a porn actor try to speak in complete sentences? Their fucking synapses catch on fire!” It’s a valid point, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that he nixed it. But I still think it’s some of my best work, at least in porn. The complete script is included in the book as an appendix, so now readers can decide for themselves if Butt Crazy!deserved to be made.

 

A couple years ago, while interviewing the infamous porn star Ron Jeremy, he turned the tables and asked you who you’d rather “bone” – “a nineteen year old, breathtaking girl or a girl in her thirties” – to which you replied, “the choice is obvious.” Do you still stand by that answer? [It should be noted that the interviewer is thirty-six.] 
 

I do stand by that answer, because to me, the obvious choice was the woman in her thirties. I thought it was hilarious that Ron just assumed I was talking about the 19-year old girl and didn’t press me to elaborate. Why would you want to date somebody in their late teens, aside from the fact that they might be a bit more physically elastic? From what I remember about being a teenager, and even most of my early 20s, I was pretty much a self-involved and clueless ass. I might have had more stamina when it came to sex, but I certainly had none of the creativity and sexual mojo that I developed later in late. It’s like that old argument about whether it’d be better to sleep with a virgin or somebody with more experience. Why the fuckity fuck would you want to sleep with a virgin? Wouldn’t you want to be with somebody who actually knows what they’re doing, who knows their own body and how to use it? I mean, would you want a doctor who just got out of medical school or a doctor who just finished his 500th surgery? Again, the choice is obvious. I don’t care if the young doctor is full of plucky enthusiasm; I still want somebody with a little more experience using a scalpel. 

 

Well, I think people want to sleep with virgins for the same reasons they want to be the first person to set foot on Mars. It's all about the conquest, isn't it? And I'm not sure you're being a hundred percent truthful in your answer but I appreciate the effort nonetheless. But back to your book. Do you have any juicy industry gossip for us? Did you ever work with or meet the reining star of porn, Jenna Jameson? Does writing porn get you laid?
 

Writing porn never got me laid, but there were certainly plenty of opportunities. During one of my last days on a set, the director came over to me and said, “We really appreciate everything you’ve done. Why don’t you pick out a girl and she’ll give you a blowjob.” I thought he was kidding at first, but he was being completely serious. I told him, “Uh, no thank you, I’m married.” He just stared at me like I’d personally insulted him. “I don’t understand,” he said. “I’m married, too. What does that have to do with anything?” To be honest, I wasn’t turning him down just because of my wife. I could’ve been single at the time and I still wouldn’t have had any interest in taking a dip in that swimming pool of STDs. He kept insisting that I pick out a girl, and the more I declined his offer, the more offended he became. “What’s wrong with you? These are beautiful women. Most guys would give their right arms to be with them. I’m trying to do something nice for you. Why are you being such an asshole?” He thought that by rejecting them, I was actually rejecting him. He didn’t understand that sex was something very different for me than it was for him. For him, sex was just currency, something to be traded and exchanged among friends. But I don’t think about sex in the same way. I’ve thought about this a lot, and I think I’ve come up with the right analogy to explain it. Say you’re at a bar and a friend offers to buy you a beer. You say, “No thanks. I have a beer at home.” Obviously, your friend is going to take it personally. “Well, so what? Drink it when you get home. Why won’t you let me buy you a beer? I know you drink beer. You just don’t want me to buy you a beer, is that it?” That’s exactly how the director was responding to my refusal. In his world, offering somebody a blowjob is no different than offering to buy them a beer. So when I turned him down, it was inconceivable to him. Who turns down sex? Where’s the harm in letting a friend treat you to a blowjob? “So what if you have a wife? Fuck her when you get home.”

 

One final question, Eric: At one point in the book I was delighted to find you stepping outside for a cigarette. Please tell me you haven’t given up the habit. Why is it so impossible to meet a writer who smokes these days?
 

Sadly, I haven’t given up smoking yet. But I’m still hopeful. I’m determined to quit someday, though it seems almost hopeless at this point. I’ve been a smoker for so many years, the very idea of quitting seems like such a useless, empty gesture that signifies nothing more than a complete misunderstanding of human nature. I sometimes feel like one of those born-again gay men who claim that they’re going to give up homosexuality. They may have the best of intentions, and they may actually succeed for a few weeks, but we all know that it’s just a matter of time before their mouths are wrapped around another anonymous cock. But I’m going to try anyway, because I’m sick of it. I’m sick of being perfectly content if my electricity is shut off, but petrified if I don’t have $5 in my wallet for more smokes. I’m sick of tables piled high with ashtrays and lighters and empty cigarette packs stacked into morbid little pyramids. I’m sick of being the guy who neighborhood children refer to as, “Old Man Wheezy.” But most of all, I’m sick of not being able to write a sentence without a cigarette in my hand. Without the crutch of cigarettes, I fully expect a future of creative impotence, in which I’m incapable of crafting even the simplest sentence without softly weeping into my keyboard. I believe Sigmund Freud said it best: “Since I can no longer smoke freely, I no longer want to write.” Then again, Freud uttered these words shortly after being diagnosed with cancer of the jaw, throat, and lips. I suppose it’s unwise to share the philosophy of a man who smoked until the entire lower half of his face became one big tumor.

 

* A portion of this interview originally appeared in the Ann Arbor Paper.

image: Fast Forward cover design


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