One of the projects I’ve currently got on the back burner is a book called Rebecca: An Oral History of a Former Porn Star, in which my character Christy Kelly and her story is brought into adulthood. In writing it, I’ve tried to navigate the tricky turf of telling about a character’s coming of age and her involvement with adult entertainment from the inside out.
I’ve already decided that the book will be structured as a fictitious oral history, in which all of the characters tell the story through first-person accounts woven together into a narrative. Those accounts will be drawn from larger rough draft “interviews,” many of which I’ve already written, and five of which I’ve published in a small book called Interviews with a Porn Star.
Here is (as this post’s title suggests) another interview with Christy, aka “Rebecca Christy.” It doesn’t appear in Interviews With A Porn Star, although I will, no doubt, pull parts of it for the finished book. It was written in 2013, under the guise of being a “profile piece” for a free weekly alternative newspaper.
Rebecca Christy (not her real name) is a 53 year old married Centre County mom with two daughters (one in grade school, the other grown) and a 3-year-old granddaughter. She’s the wife of a Penn State professor and the daughter of a somewhat prominent former state politician. She’s a fitness and swimming instructor, a Red Cross-certified lifeguard who once revived a swimmer who had a heart attack in the pool, and a certified athletic trainer with a masters degree in kinesiology. She barely looks a day over 40, thanks to what she says is “fitness and diet and genes.”
Did we mention that Rebecca Christy also is a former X rated actress and model (“Don’t call me a porn star; I wasn’t a ‘star”) who, during the 80s and into the 90s, appeared in a couple dozen made for cable XXX videos and shoots in over 40 hardcore magazines? Or that last July, “on a whim,” she and her husband drove to a Philly area strip club where she won first place in their amateur night (“But didn’t stick around to get the prize. We had to get home and pay the sitter.”)? Or that this appearance led to a featured night at that same club in October, with a followup performance slated for December?
We spoke to Rebecca about her “career in X,” about the industry as she experienced it, what drew her to it as a 21 year old Penn State student, why she left it twice, and, finally, why a 53-year-old grandmother would come back to it after over two decades.
How did a nice girl from central PA get involved in porn?
Well, I was the second oldest girl in a big Catholic family and I went to parochial grade school, which was everything everyone always says it was as far as it being a kind of strict, repressive environment where the effect, at least for me, was the opposite of what they wanted, which means that by the time I got out of parochial school I was ready to make up for lost time.
So you broke loose in high school?
No, not really, not till college. See, in high school I was still living at home, so I still felt constrained to really explore things fully. When I went off to college I really became more of who I always felt like I’d wanted to be, because I was suddenly away from home and could explore all these different ways of expressing myself, different music, different ways of dressing, my sexuality. The nude modeling and then X pictures and videos, they were just a progression from that.
When you think back, was there any indication to you early on that you might do this?
I’d always been really physical. And always drawn in by the allure and mystique of sex. I remember my older brother had magazines and I looked at them and there was one picture in particular, a shot of a couple lying naked on a bed, and he was looking deep into her eyes, and I just remember thinking “I’d love to be her.” That really stuck with me. And always wanting to push the limits as far as I could with my boyfriend, even though I was pretty shy and reserved.
How did you first get into the business?
On a mutual dare, basically. There was a local photographer who worked with a couple magazines in New York City, and they were going to do a “college girls” special issue and had fliers up around campus looking for models. And a girlfriend of mine and I sort of said to each other, “If you pose, I will.” But I didn’t think it’d go any further than that, just twenty-five bucks and I’d have a picture in this magazine and that was it. But after the shoot, the photographer said that the publisher wanted to see more of me and did I want to do another shoot? And I said “For how much money?”
How much was it?
A hundred-fifty bucks, which was a lot of money back then.
So a lot of it was the money?
Well, some of it was the money. I don’t want to make it sound like it was just about the money, or even mostly about the money. But I mean, I was a student barely bringing in eighty bucks a week between lifeguarding and my work study, so to just go out and take my clothes off in front of a photographer for an hour and make almost twice that? Why not? You know?
But it’s kind of a big step from just posing nude to the more explicit things you did. How did that happen?
Well, I did the second shoot, and then Gerry (the photographer) asked if I was interested in doing something more. Those were his words: “are you interested in doing something more?” And I said “What’s ‘more’ mean?” Knowing full well what he meant. So he said more explicit shoots, and again, not that I was mercenary, but I said, “For how much money?” And it was a lot MORE money than the solo shoots, but I still said “no way.” Because my Dad was kind of a prominent person politically.
But you’d already posed nude.
Yeah, but none of those pictures had been published yet, and I guess I didn’t know, or maybe didn’t think about, before I signed the release and cashed the check, what the repercussions might be for HIM with me just having ONE picture in a “college girls” magazine, or a set of pictures under a fictitious name in another magazine. Let alone doing sex shoots? That just seemed way too risky.
So what made you decide to do it?
Well, I was talking to this same girlfriend about what I’d done and what Gerry had proposed, and told her “no way,” all that. But we were out at this bar and talking about the whole pickup scene, rating guys, like “I’d screw him, yes, no, no, yes, yes.” You know? And talking about how it’d be fun to do that, but you just always get so emotionally involved. And I said to her, like it was the most original idea anyone came up with in the post-feminist era, “It’s a shame you can’t just take a guy home for a one nighter and have a great night of sex and have no strings attached emotionally.” And she said “Kind of like what Gerry wants you to do, just in front of a camera.” And I swear, a light came on. And when I sobered up (laughs) I still thought “She’s right. Why not?”
I always noticed that with these shoots and ideas for them, there was a part of me that I call my “Rebecca Brain” that kind of kicked in and psyched me up about it. Like a little pornstar devil on my shoulder going “Sure, why not?”
Another part of it was, and I don’t want to blame the photographer, but another part of it was that he had a way of calling on short notice so that I didn’t have too much time to decide. It wasn’t pressure but it made me make decisions quickly that if I’d thought about them a little more, about the ramifications, like I said, I might have backed out. So there was that. He caught me at the right moment and I committed to it.
Mainly, though, it was like I said when I was talking with my girlfriend. I wanted to have the experience, and here was a way to do it. So to speak. (laughs) All sorts of bad puns, huh?
How many videos did you do before you quit the first time?
Videos? None. See, this was 1981. I don’t know what was going on in the business, whether there even were videos, but Gerry wasn’t shooting on video. Not yet. He was doing just film at that point, still pictures and movie film that he cut up and enlarged for good closeups.
So how many shoots did you do before you quit the first time?
Uhhhhh… I’m not sure. Seven or eight? Maybe nine? (My husband) would know.
How many magazines were there?
That many in just eight months?
Oh, no, that’s total. From all my shoots, including when I came back. During those eight months, nothing was published, actually. Everything came out after I’d quit. Most of those came out in those five or six years while I was raising my daughter.
Why did you quit the first time? Was it all of the Reagan anti-porn stuff, the AIDS scare?
No, none of that had really happened yet. It was totally personal. I’d been date-raped at a party and got pregnant, and when I realized that, I really… I kind of lost control and was… sleeping around. Picked up a couple guys at that same bar and had one-nighters…drove down to Philly and screwed my old boyfriend who I hadn’t seen in four years… during finals week got roaring drunk the night before a final and went to a wet t-shirt night instead of studying. I just barely passed the final. Just all sorts of acting out, things where while I was doing it I was thinking “Christy, you have to stop. What are you doing? Why are you doing this?” But what kind of woke me up was that I did a couple of shoots that I would never have done otherwise. A couple orgy shoots. And there was a moment during the one shoot where I’d basically been with four guys, and I thought “Well, they’ll never know who the dad is NOW.” Which was craziness; I was already pregnant. But at that moment, I mean you talk about a light coming on. I almost got dressed and walked out of the studio at that point. But I did the shoot and when Gerry paid me, I said “OK, that’s it. I’m done.” And eight months later I was a single mom with a beautiful daughter.
So it wasn’t the business that made you quit as much as…
…as much as other things that were going on with me. But you know: I sort of feel now like even if I hadn’t gotten pregnant, I’d kind of gotten it out of my system. That I’d wanted to do it and I’d done it and now it was time to move on.
Did you think you’d come back?
I don’t remember. I don’t think I did. Mainly because after I’d quit the magazines started coming out, and that was a horrifying experience.
Yeah. I quit because I felt like I was done with it and had put it behind me, and then I’m in a mini market and I look behind the counter at the rack of dirty magazines and there I was, on the cover of one of them.
Did the clerk recognize you?
No. But each time one came out, I felt the same way. Like I couldn’t believe I’d done what I’d done and I’d quit and now it was out there for everyone to see. Relatively speaking.
Were there any repercusssions?
No, because the magazines that Gerry sold to… they paid him a lot, which is one reason they went out of business, because they went broke because they didn’t sell many copies. They just didn’t have the distribution. Adult bookstores, mainly. It wasn’t like being in PLAYBOY or PENTHOUSE or OUI or one of the big magazines. Or even HUSTLER. These magazines were totally… I mean, hardcore. The kind of stuff you almost could only find either at adult bookstores or in the backroom of a big newsstand. Stuff you almost had to ask for.
What were the magazines?
COED was the main one. It was a hardcore college girls magazine. But then there were other ones with lovely titles like TEEN ORGY and COLLEGE CUMEATERS and ANAL TEENS and stuff like that.
That was part of it that I really hated. It was easy to feel like I was insulated when I was doing the shoots, but then when I saw those magazines, I felt like I was part of this ugly world that I really didn’t want to be a part of. It’s funny that I felt that way, but I really did. It’s like he took the pictures and I got paid but I kind of overlooked the third part of the equation, the whole “they’re going to be published now” part of it. Silly, huh? But I really felt that way. Insulated, like I said. It was easy to get that feeling of insularity up in Happy Valley. They say “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” and I always kind of felt that way about Happy Valley. Although I think I might have been more horrified if people up here had found out. That’s one reason why I still don’t give my real name in these things.
Were there ever any repercussions, to you or your dad?
Not to daddy, not that I’m aware of. To me… about five years after I quit the second time, mid-90s, I actually got fired from a job because the director of the place said she’d found out what I’d done. But I found out later that it was more about her just not liking me, because then she was fired a couple years later and one of the first things her successor did was hire me back as aquatics director. He said “I don’t care what you did when you were in college. That’s past.” So maybe there weren’t repercussions.
Why did you come back?
Money. Really. I was a single mom and in grad school and was tired of trying to scrape together rent money, and I knew if I did just one shoot a month, I could pay the rent. I wasn’t really that enthusiastic about it to begin with, but then when I started to do the shoots, I could see something had changed.
What had changed?
It was less fun. The whole thing of doing videos and having this kind of “money shot” approach to the videos just ruined something. And for me, the guys in the shoots were rougher.
Rougher as in little things like pulling hair, pushing my head down to their cocks, grabbing me and shoving me and a couple times even slapping me, spanking me, but not in a playful or fun way. I didn’t feel like I was making love with equals, but like I was being fucked by someone who wanted to be dominant. And when I think about it, the guys when I came back, except for one or two shoots, they were older guys, for one thing. In the early shoots, the guys were my age, college guys, and they actually felt like peers.
But also… you know, you asked about Reagan and the Meese Report and all that, and the threat of AIDS. The second time around, all that was on everyone’s mind, or at least mine. Guys could say they’d been tested and they were clean, but were they? Did you know for sure? And that made Gerry feel like he couldn’t push the envelope as far as he had earlier because he didn’t know if he’d be able to sell more edgy pictures, because the magazines he’d sold to before weren’t publishing anymore and the ones that were still around didn’t want to take the risk of doing the things he’d done before.
It’s kind of ironic that the second time around, you felt like it was less edgy.
You know what another part of that was? That I’d done so much, gone so far the first time around, I guess I just was kind of bored with it.
It all… what can I say? It just added up to “it wasn’t fun.” Seriously. I told myself going in, “OK… I need the money, I know I can do this, but I’m going to get through grad school and then I’m done.” And I did. Four years, that was it.
You said when we talked before that you consider yourself a feminist. How do you reconcile that with what you did in porn?
Because being a woman was never a reason for me to do or NOT do this stuff.
(after a pause) I know you’re looking for more of an answer than that. See… I’ve never really gotten the thinking that just because a woman models nude or does X rated videos or photo shoots that it automatically means she’s being exploited or that somehow it’s anti-feminist. I mean, I’m a woman and I did the X stuff, and I know why I did it. Whatever the reasons were, I chose to, I wanted to, I went in with my eyes opened and I wasn’t being used or exploited. I was exploring the limits of my sexuality and my physicality. I just happened to do it in front of a camera. But I had fun and when it stopped being fun, I gave it up. I really can’t think of anything being more empowered than that, and if one of the definitions of “feminism” is being empowered, making empowered choices and taking responsibility for them, not blaming a man or doing something or NOT doing something because you’re a woman and that’s what you think your role is… then doesn’t that make me a feminist?
So what made you decide to come back to do the appearances at the strip club?
I thought it’d be fun. Simple. I saw the ad for amateur night and said “That’d be fun! Let’s get a sitter.” And then when they asked me to do a featured night, I said, “Amateur night was fun. This should be fun, too.”
Oh, yeah! I was telling my big sister about it and she said “Wasn’t it sleazy?” and I said, really, no. Everyone was really sweet and nice. And like I said, it was fun.
You know, for my one show… (laughs) All right… I have this insertable remote control vibrating egg, right? And I thought it’d be fun to auction off control of the remote to someone in the audience, put the egg in and see if they could get me off. Sounds like a great idea. Well, if I told you what happened, you’d think it was a disaster: the guy didn’t know how to work the remote, he couldn’t figure it out, he made it vibrate too fast, too slow, all that. But really, it was so fun and funny. It was like a sex comedy act. And I raised a bunch of money for RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), which was nice.
Like I said, it was fun. I wouldn’t be going back and doing it again in December if it wasn’t.
Did people remember you?
Oh, yeah! That was great and totally surprising. That was probably the most I’ve ever been around anyone who remembered who I was. Guys around my age coming up to me, saying “God, I used to have some of your magazines, I loved your pictures, I always wondered what became of you, I saw your videos on cable, I remember sneaking down to the basement and watching your videos late nights, I had such a crush on you,” all that. It was very sweet. It was like they’d been waiting all these years to say it and I think a part of me had been waiting years to HEAR it. Because like I said, back when I was doing it I always was torn between feeling like it was OK, I was exploring my sexuality, all that, while I was doing it, followed by this fear of being found out and shamed over it once I’d done it. So having these guys come up to me and say “I used to love you,” it made me realize that I really did have a positive impact on people in ways I didn’t know. It felt good in a surprising way that I didn’t really expect.
You said your oldest daughter did porn in college too. What did you think of that?
I was fine with it. Really. She’s on her own path and had her own reasons for doing it. And now she’s a photographer and an artist and it’s given us one more thing we can talk about. She actually says “You weren’t a porn star, mom… you were a performance artist.”
Were you a performance artist?
I’ll say what I tell her: there wasn’t that intentionality behind it. So no. I wasn’t a porn star but I wasn’t an artist, either.
What about your youngest daughter? Do you worry about her finding out what you’ve done?
She knows I used to do nude modeling and that some of the pictures were sex pictures. She’s asked me about them and said she doesn’t understand why I’d do those sorts of pictures, being with another man besides her daddy.
You showed her the pictures?
No, she found them on the computer. So much for hiding pictures in hidden directories.
Was that awkward?
Yeah, it was a difficult conversation, mainly because she’s nine years old and she just isn’t old enough to understand so many aspects of it. But my thinking is that she’ll never understand it if I try to hide it or lie about it. So we’ve talked about it, but it’s not a closed topic, and I imagine as she gets older, it will open up more. And I’m fine with that.
Final question: How do you feel when people say “There’s no way she’s 53”?
I agree. I don’t feel a day over 44!
Interviews With A Porn Star by Max Harrick Shenk…
…gathers five unedited character “interviews” which will serve as some of the raw material for my upcoming novel Rebecca: An Oral History Of A Former Porn Star.