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Cover Story

The Actress, the Producer and Their Porn Revolution

Steven Hirsch Recognized That VCRs Could Bring Adult Movies to a New Market--Couples. But First He Needed a Different Kind of Star.

January 06, 2002|RALPH FRAMMOLINO and P.J. HUFFSTUTTER | Times staff writers Ralph Frammolino and P.J. Huffstutter are business reporters who cover entertainment and technology. Frammolino last wrote for the magazine about union activist David Koff. Huffstutter's most recent piece was about Microsoft's new X-Box video game console

Then the mainstream work dried up three years ago. So did the big crowds on the nude dance circuit. In a market flooded with porn-star strippers, Allen finds herself competing for half her normal appearance fee to strip for uninspired audiences. "Everybody's been inundated with sex and nudity, it's not exciting anymore," she says. "So my income has drastically changed because of too much sex."

Allen says she has refinanced her house twice in five years to pull out equity, but faced with a $5,500 monthly mortgage and other bills, she recently decided to go back to porn. Charles Clay, her Hollywood agent for 14 years, says he warned her it would hurt her prospects for mainstream roles. She called Hirsch first. "His response was, 'Come back to us after you get your best offer,' " she says. "It was kind of a little slap in the face." Hirsch says Allen made the decision to look elsewhere. "We wished her well and still do."

Allen eventually made a deal with rival VCA, another San Fernando Valley adult production house, for less than her asking price of $100,000. Directed by a friend, former porn actress Jane Hamilton, Allen ended a 13-year absence from hard-core videos by starring in comeback movies, "Torn," "White Lightning" and "New Wave Hookers 6."

She turned to VCA again in mid-2000 after routine medical tests showed she had an illness, says Hamilton, who acted in porn under the name Veronica Hart. Hamilton says Allen tracked her down via telephone during a trade show to see if she could make yet another film. "She said, 'Jane, I found out some bad news. I don't know how much longer I'll be able to make movies,' " Hamilton says. "I know she has cancer. I know where it's located. But as far as speaking the words, she doesn't actually speak the words."

Allen declines to confirm her illness. "I don't want to jinx myself," she says. She emphatically maintains it is not HIV and volunteers that she survived cervical cancer 10 years ago. Her father says he and his daughter do not discuss the illness in detail. "We just leave well enough alone. We know that she's ill."

Her illness was apparent during the filming of her fourth comeback video at VCA, "Taken."

Hamilton says she was forced to stop production at one point. "She finished with a scene and was throwing up and it was obvious that we weren't going to push on." Allen asked for work again in July because she couldn't pay her medical bills, Hamilton says. VCA used her in a one-day shoot for a scene in a movie starring Ashlyn Gere. "I could get a girl who would do the same scene for a lot less money, but she is having a tough time," Hamilton says. Allen also picked up temporary part-time work as a director and emcee for a porn Web site run by Suze Randall, the former Playboy photographer who took the first nude test photos of Allen in 1983.

Allen has tried to sell her house and continues nude dancing, against her doctor's wishes, she says. In Chicago, she earned $550 a show, about half the rate the Admiral pays top stars. She attends AA three to five times a week, making friends "not because I'm Ginger Lynn, not because of something they want from me, but because of who I am. I have people that I help to stay sober."

At home she is an attentive mother to a son who knows nothing of his mom's career. For the Fourth of July, she baked red, white and blue cupcakes and bread for his preschool class. For now, all he needs to know is that she signs autographs for fans. A further explanation will come later and go something like this, she says: When people want to laugh, they watch comedies. When they want to cry, they watch dramas. When they want to be frightened, they watch horror movies. And when they want to feel good, they watch grown-up movies--like Mommy made.

"I really don't want to be pitied," Allen says. "I've made my choices in my life. I put myself in this position. I am the one who is going to have to get myself out of it. I've been very fortunate. Most girls don't have the career that I've been fortunate enough to have. They don't have a shelf life of 18 years."

Allen occasionally still receives royalties from her Vivid videos. But they're intermittent. She says it is up to her to call if she's due royalty money from the company. She telephones Hirsch directly. Usually, she says, he takes her call.

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Times researchers Penny Love and Nona Yates contributed to this report.

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