Dirty Vegas

Talking Henry Miller and ATMs at the 21st Annual Porn Awards

 Las Vegas—This could be the story of memories made and obliterated with alcohol; the story of Larry Flynt, proudly accepting an award on behalf of Snoop Dogg; the story of acceptance speeches that go, "Thank you so much for letting me suck dick!"; the story of a city in Nevada so gracious, it will overlook an overturned table's dozen shattered glasses and broken Tiffany lamp; or the story of a friend who passed out during an impromptu performance of Eminem and 50 Cent at the intimate club Rain after greasing palms to get in the door.

But the story that best captures the Adult Video News Awards, convention, and attendant celebration of below-belt cult belongs to a woman: a star who, more so than most others perched atop San Fernando Valley or Hollywood, we'd do well to chart our cultural course by. Her name is Ashley Blue, and her garbage-glamour Vegas attitude—"I wanna be white trash: not wear any shoes, drink out of the bottle, and run around yelling, 'Fuck you!' "—calls up for me half-remembered incidents, of which blurry digital photographs, crumpled receipts, and shame's stale aftertaste are the only evidence. This one, then, is hers to tell.

"I don't get recognized in public 'cause I don't look like a goddamn fucking whore," Ashley says matter-of-factly, as autograph-seekers swarm outside the JM Productions booth in the Sands Expo Center. A petite, 22-year-old brunette who pretended to make crystal meth on the cable show Cooking With Porn Stars, the two-year porn vet avers that she has a "foul mouth" and has "always been really dirty." Having seen movies in which she's wriggled ecstatically through rough double-penetrations and elicited stunned applause from a roomful of men she'd just sloppily blown, I can attest to the latter. The mouth that's delivered classic lines like "I hate fucking coke whores—fuck you!" in the incomparably foul Girlvert series (in which runaways, models, and the girls next door are very graphically exploited) also spills personal details as if its owner could hardly stand their taste. "Mine's the typical porn story," she begins, when asked about her family. "My dad took off when I was young . . . so maybe I'm just searching for my dad whenever I go fuck some black guy!" Dulled by a hangover, I neglected to inquire after her ethnic background, but the fact remains that you would not hear Jenna Jameson so ruthlessly parse her own psychology. (Ashley remains very close to her mother, about whom she speaks haltingly and with great tenderness.)

Which brings us to Trent, Ashley's ex, the most hair-yankingly aggressive of her on-screen paramours. "We broke up seven months ago 'cause he's a loser," Ashley explains. "He's not cut out for porn—you can't take the business home with you." Still, Trent encouraged her to suck dick for money. The two were living together in Hollywood and "started going to all these cool little sex parties together." When Ashley, at 20, answered a modeling ad and discovered it was a porn event, she thought, "Trent makes me fuck his friends anyway. What's the difference now?" There was one difference she remembers: "I fucked Ed Powers"—a creepily affectionate geek who traffics exclusively in newbies—"and his cock is, like, one inch long!"

The seeds of Ashley's depravity were planted early. "I read Henry Miller books when I was 13," she announces, belying her apparent aversion to intellectual pursuits. ("I liked high school," she'd told me. "The graduation part, at least.") Miller sparked an interest in something that divides the porn professionals from the dabblers—butt sex. "I found out about anal sex reading him, and I was like, 'Whoa!' He wrote things like, 'I stuck my cock up her ass and hit something'—really, really cool, great, disgusting things."

In Miller's words: "What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy, and strength, if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such." In Ashley's: "I was 17 the first time I tried it. I blacked out—we thought you just stuck it in! But he had a really small dick, so it was OK."

Ashley never imagined where this exploration would lead. "I'm a girl, and girls don't have to jack off," Ashley tells me, by way of explaining how she's mystified by all the men waiting in line for her signature and a snapshot. "The fact that these guys are treating me like I'm Winona fucking Ryder—I feel really cool!" Seeing as how Winona has her way with practically as many men in her social circle as Ashley, I'm not surprised. But then again, I regularly masturbate to Ashley's movies. She gets off on even more debased media. "When I have time, I always look at the hooker ads in the back of LA Weekly. The pictures are so disgusting, but they're not like penetration shots. You don't really know what they look like—there's some danger involved." Ashley's fantasies about these shady, work-from-home prostitutes, like the Girlvert movies, undoubtedly make mainstream porno's beat-off path seem all too smooth.

No such danger is in evidence at the trade show, although other stars of tasteless hardcore approximate it. Punk princess Rachel Rotten wears a black bikini with a skull-and-crossbones over each breast; Jenna Haze signs "Lick my pussy!" on the poster in which she holds a mace; and Nautica Thorn, almost disappointingly thin in person, gets down on her knees and throws open her mouth to pose by unfashionably clad crotches. The awards, on the other hand, seem as if they're being shaped for prime time. They pass, by all accounts, more smoothly, more quickly, more professionally than ever before. A curly-wigged Jenna Jameson hosts with the combative, genuinely funny comedian Jim Norton ("The first time I saw a Max Hardcore film, I didn't know whether to jerk off or call the cops!"). Better yet, the dirty South's dirtiest, Lil Jon and the Ying Yang Twins, rip into guttural dance-fuck joint "Get Low," and Ashley wins Female Performer of the Year.

The "quote-unquote talent" who share Ashley's current station in life do not impress her. But even if it is a whine, I wouldn't call her complaints sour grapes—she's reacting to the celebrity clichés engulfing porn as it enters the mainstream. "People in porn get all fucked up. 'I'm an adult film star.' Big fucking deal. This event is like a really weird [high school] trip. I go to parties, see people I know, and turn to one side and go, 'I can't stand that fucking whore!' "

"I've learned a lot," Ashley admits quietly, mindful of her own sacrifices to stardom. "I'll never think of an ATM machine the same way again." (Referring to either ass-to-mouth, or a bank scene in a movie I've never watched.) "Eventually I wanna have a life, like a real life—get married or something—and that will never happen as long as I fuck for a living." She brings up Trent again: "If he went out and fucked some girl, I would've gone crazy—isn't that awful?" But if she feels any shame, Ashley knows better than to spoil her fun by harping on it. "I don't wanna be too much in love," she asserts, not entirely without regret. "It'll hold me back." Henry Miller himself wrote, "There is no salvation in becoming adapted to a world which is crazy." But what about adapting that world to one's self?

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