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"I was trying to explain to him that she wasn't in the pictures, she took the pictures," says Holly. "The teacher took the magazine to the principal and it became this whole big deal in school. Everyone found out that my mom took dirty pictures for a living." Holly knew that her parents were photographers. Although she can't remember the exact moment when she became aware that the photos they took were of naked people, she never thought their profession was strange or shameful. Holly (whose parents named her for Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, where she was born) fondly recalls going to Larry Flynt's house to swim in his pool and remembers beautiful women sometimes staying the night at their house after a shoot. At the time, she had no idea that her mom, Suze Randall, wasn't just any ol' picture taker, but a world-renowned erotic photographer.
Suze began in front of the camera in Europe in the '70s. After shooting pictures of some of her fellow models, she caught the attention of Hugh Hefner, who hired her to shoot for Playboy; she was the only female staff photographer at the time. Later, she worked for Hustler and Larry Flynt, whom she credits with influencing her style: "Larry wouldn't allow any of his photographers to shoot with diffusion; he wanted the viewer to see every pore in the model's skin. That made it a challenge to hide flaws that almost every girl has. I had to learn how to do it with posing and lighting." She went on to have pictorials in every major erotic magazine and direct videos like Too Naughty to Say No and Stud Hunters in the '80s.
After Suze launched her website, suze.net, and it began to take off, she needed help to maintain it. So she asked her daughter Holly, who was then a 20-year-old student at the prestigious Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara. Holly wasn't thrilled with the conservativism and commercial emphasis of Brooks; though still enrolled, she moved back home and began "helping with computer stuff." She became friends with some of Suze's models and shot them for some school projects. When one asked Holly to shoot a nude layout of her, she decided to go for it. Soon, she dropped out of Brooks, transferred to UCLA, and started photographing full-time. She began doing more layouts for suze.net, landed jobs with magazines like Penthouse, and even launched her own website (hollyrandall.com). Holly's aesthetic reflects her mother's influence, though Suze is quick to point out, "She's doing so much better photography than I was at her age. If you go back to my old stuff, it was really hairy."
They recently worked together on a coffee-table bookdocumenting 20 years of Suze's photographs of everyone from Jenna Jameson to Aria Giovannicalled Fetish Divas (available at marquis.de). "I still look at my mom's work and say, 'Why didn't I think about doing that?' " says Holly. "But it's a learning process. I have only been doing it for six years and she's been doing it for 30."
In 2004, after a 17-year hiatus from adult films, Suze Randall returned to the world of directing, this time with a co-director: her daughter Holly. Since then, they have collaborated on several well-received videos, including Addicted to Sex and Undressed and Oversexed. Suze's still photographs have a very distinct look, one that's vivid and stylized. Everythingthe hair, makeup, wardrobe, and settingsis lush, decadent, beautiful. Her images capture drop-dead-gorgeous women with incredible bodies and manage to make them look even more gorgeous and incredible. The videos reflect her signature style, combining attractive people, beautifully decorated sets, slick cinematography, and really hot sex.
When I met the unique mother-daughter team at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas this winter, the resemblance was unmistakable; they're both smart, animated, energetic, funny. But I had to ask Holly, now 26, the obvious question: Isn't it weird making porn with your mom?
"When I first started doing it, I'd be sitting there watching people having sex, and I'd think, 'Yeah, that looks good.' Then I'd look over, see my mother, and think, 'This is really weird if you think about it,' " she says, sucking on a green-apple Blow Pop. "But then again, normalcy is relative, and for us it works." Especially since, now, 58-year-old Suze sets up the scenes and shoots the stills, then hands the reins over to Holly to direct the fucking. "I get too excited watching the sex and make too much noise," says Suze with her trademark British accent and a devilish giggle that echoes through our talk. "Plus, I'm not the same age as the talent or even the crew; here's old Granny cheering them on from the sidelines. They throw me out, and that works much better."
Regardless of Suze's age, she hasn't missed a beat in the fast-moving world of adult video. Her latest thrill is the advent of technology that brings porn to cell phones: "With every girl I shoot now, I have that cell phone in mind, shooting her with her ass in the air and her head down. I feel like I am getting back to my Playboy days, shooting more softcore. It's exciting to find new ways to get really raunchy without being vulgar."
While fathers have passed on their adult-film legacy to their sons, until now there's been no mother-daughter pornographer team. Suze and Holly admit they've learned a lot from one another about making great smut. "We find whatever we can do to bring the best out of the models or performers. We're just there to encourage them to be creative," says Suze, unwrapping her own green-apple Blow Pop (like mother, like daughter). She's thrilled by the move in the industry toward more unscripted videos. "I don't want it to be acting, I want it to be real. We try to put people together who have the hots for each other. Acting is for Hollywood. We're trying to get the real thing."
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