For the performers, the adult entertainment industry has – is? – a huge revolving door. Thousands of people enter every month, most for a few low-rent photo or video shoots, a few for some kind of career.
They leave in similar numbers. A few might hit the mass culture radar and show up on VH-1’s Where Are They Now? but the question remains: Where, exactly, do all these folks go?
They aren’t aliens, so they go where other humans go: back to school; to Indiana; to Hollywood for a shot at “regular” acting gigs.
And they start health clinics for their former colleagues.
Former starlet Sharon Mitchell, according to a Washington Post story in 2004, “was so alarmed by HIV rates” in adult entertainment that she lobbied for a California law to require monthly testing. She ran the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation and, according to its website at the time, went by “Dr. Sharon Mitchell, PhD in Human Sexuality.” Mitchell didn’t merely make a career change; she went from passion to compassion to crusader.
Others leave the whole thing behind.
Trinity James made over 200 adult films, and claimed to have worked in a Las Vegas brothel. In 2006 she decided to go to cosmetology school in Indiana. James, 24, decided to quit porn after meeting Craig Gross, co-founder of Los Angeles-based XXXchurch, a ministry that “targets those in the pornography trade” and helps them “get out of the industry,” according to the December 2005 Christian Examiner. Gross started the Trinity Project, whose first fundraising goal was $14,000 to send James and her 5-year-old son to the new life she had decided to start in the Midwest.
A very few adult performers have parlayed adult film stardom into any kind of mainstream success. Besides Ron Jeremy in a few indie roles, it’s mostly the ladies who get a shot.
Traci Lords turned infamy into a brief acting career (Married … with Children, Serial Mom), and Ashyln Gere, according to urban legends website Tafkac.org, proved in some X-Files to be “one of the few porn stars who can actually act.” Ginger Lynn, Charlie Sheen’s “girlfriend” when the Heidi Fleiss scandal broke, made the movie Whore and some episodes of NYPD Blue.
After a porn career, these people go back to doing what everyone else does. They go back to school. They go to Iraq. They go to work every day.
Just like everybody else.
And, just like everybody else, they die: Linda Lovelace in an accident, director Alex deRenzy by stroke, John Holmes of AIDS. For a sobering reminder of the all-too-human nature of “porn stars,” visit the “Dead Porn Star” page. Scrolling through the long list of deaths by accident, murder, overdose and AIDS is a humbling exercise, stark testimony to the frail human condition.
Anyone who wants to leave this business can; anyone who wants to enter can do that, too. They all deserve our compassion and respect as fellow humans, doing their best to get along in a sometimes joyful, often tragic, world.