She looks tired by comparison to her photos from last summer. She's still gaining back the 20 pounds she lost after she went to Los Angeles -- the 5-foot-7 woman dropped to 102 pounds.
Now her dark hair has grown into a shaggy style, and she has decided to stop wearing makeup.
The sun has come out after days of rain, and Roxx is animated. She's talking to surprised passersby, introducing herself by her stage name. They clearly don't recognize her, so Roxx explains that she is the HIV-positive porn actress whose picture was on CNN and in the newspaper. All the media attention is "helping me accept my situation," she says.
Everywhere she goes, she carries a blue three-ring binder. When she was working, this was her professional notebook, the one she carried to every shoot at the recommendation of Rayveness, a veteran porn actress.
Roxx slid her provocative photos into the transparent vinyl pockets on the outside and kept her resume, her shoot schedule and the results of her tests for sexually transmitted diseases inside. Now, the notebook is a diary of her ordeal, stuffed with prescriptions, doctors' bills, and notes and poems that Roxx has written to herself.
There's a letter from Sharon Mitchell, executive director of the Sherman Oaks-based Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation (AIM), detailing Roxx's HIV test results. There's a prescription for AIDS medications from her new doctor in Montreal.
In the front vinyl pocket is a list handwritten in French titled, "My present and my immediate future." No. 1 is "Take care of my health." Other goals include launching a website, writing an autobiography and recording an album with Missy Elliott and possibly Dr. Dre.
"And the last point," she says, reading from the list. "It's not a rumor. I am broke."
Roxx pulls out another piece of notebook paper that at first glance is impossible to decipher. A jumble of words and scribbles, it's art, she says.
"This line is porn," she says, pointing to a blue bar at the top of the page. "And this," she says, pointing to an illustration of a naked, emaciated figure handcuffed by the ankles or the hands, hanging down the length of the page, "is me handcuffed to porn."
For now, Roxx wants to share her mother's modestly furnished two-bedroom duplex in Laval, a middle-class suburb 30 miles north of Montreal. She sleeps on a twin bed. Mickey Mouse decals border the bedroom walls.
He Needed the Money
On the day Sergio Ristie opened his copy of the entertainment trade publication Variety and saw Darren James' photo, he remembers, "I couldn't believe my eyes."
A personal trainer, Ristie recalled James clearly from the Hollywood boxing gym where Ristie often took clients for workouts -- the slight, clean-cut guy who worked nights at the counter.
"It was 1998, '99, something like that," he said. "Not many people come in late at night, and we started talking. He'd just gotten a job there, and he said he also did pornos. I said, 'Why're you in that business?' And he said he needed the money -- but he also said it worried him because AIDS was floating around."
Those who know James, from acquaintances to close family members, describe an amiable, passive man whose character was far more complex than the drug-addled drifters whom mainstream America typically associates with porn.
"He's just one of the greatest people you will ever know in the whole, wide world," said Brian Edwards, a nephew in Ohio who regards James as his "favorite uncle." Born in 1964 in Detroit, James, the nephew said, had been raised by his divorced mother in the Herman Gardens housing project, the youngest of six children.
"He had a hard life, one of the hardest lives you can imagine," he said, adding that James "would work out in the gym -- karate, taekwondo -- just in the gym all the time, pushin' it out, pushin' it out. He'd say that holding things inside could cause you to take it out on people, could make you just want to explode."
To escape Detroit, relatives said, he joined the Navy, traveling through Asia, eventually ending up in Ventura County at Port Hueneme.
Afterward, he lived for a while in nearby Oxnard, and in 1992 made a run at becoming a police officer, according to Steve Adams, a former Oxnard police detective. James later told his nephew that physical problems prevented him from making the cut.
It was while he was living in Oxnard, his Los Angeles friends said, that he began showing up in the offices of adult film industry casting agents.
Mickey Blank, a veteran manufacturer and distributor of porn in Orange County, remembers hiring him through an older amateur porn actress who worked the swingers circuit: "He wouldn't do gay or she-male, but he was pretty game otherwise," Blank said.
"Wesley B," a director for the adult film company West Coast Productions, recalls meeting James in 1996 or 1997 in the waiting room of World Modeling, a Sherman Oaks agency that works with adult-film makers, and hiring him to do a 30-minute oral sex scene for $100.