XXX: MUSIC FROM THINKING XXX
XXX started back in 1997, the night I saw Paul Thomas Anderson’s brilliant film Boogie Nights. Why not create a series of portraits of porn stars? Clothed, of course, as everyone knows what they look like naked. What intrigued me was to photograph them as people. How did they dress in real life? What were they like off the set? So for the next two years I thought about the idea, but did nothing to make it happen other than mention it to a few trusted friends.
One day in 1999 Beauregard Houston-Montgomery called to say that he had “become friendly with a porn star” and offered to bring him over for a test shot. The next day Mr. XXX arrived and posed for me, clothed of course. But, after a few shots he said, “so let’s do the nude one now.” Unsure how to shoot him, I thought of the famous Goya paintings, The Maya Clothed and Nude, and suggested we copy the clothed pose...in the nude, like Goya had a few hundred years ago. XXX: 30 Porn-Star Portraits, clothed and nude, was born.
For the next three years, other than putting a few names on a list and making some phone calls, I did virtually nothing on the XXX project. But in April 2002, Linda Lovelace, the adult film legend and the star of Deep Throat, died at age 57. I was shocked into action. I also began to realize that the subject of porn had become more important and more controversial within our society. The country was polarized; as the shame-based Bush agenda fought the mainstreaming of porn. Attorney General John Ashcroft was busy covering up statues with fig leaves while radio’s Howard Stern was making celebrities out of porn stars.
Initially, XXX was a modest project, a gallery show of porn star diptychs, clothed and nude, young and old, straight and gay, legends and new comers. My New York art dealer Mary Boone set a date for the show and I started focusing on the world of porn. Then I got ambitious and grandiose, 100 porn stars, a nice round number? Fortunately, at dinner one night, Laurie Anderson brought me back to earth. “XXX is Roman numeral for 30, just shoot 30 porn stars,” she said. I felt a great weight lifted from my shoulders.
Out came my 8x10 camera and the porn star shoots began. Nina Hartley arrived and stunned me with her brains and beauty. It was exciting to meet people who were so open, so comfortable with their bodies, so honest. Why not document the shoots in video? I had learned from Andy Warhol years ago to document everything, in every possible medium. “You’ll wish you did, if you don’t.” I kept hearing in my head.
The idea for a book just happened organically. My writer friends were excited about the project and I collected names for possible contributors. Three names became five, five became ten and finally XXX: 30 Porn-Star Portraitswith 15 writers and an introduction by Gore Vidal became a reality. Bulfinch agreed to publish the book. And, I had another deadline.
In the middle of all this madness, editor Lukas Hauser stitched three minutes of photo shoot video footage to Peaches’ “AA XXX.” I had a sit down with HBO’s Sheila Nevins and said, “Why not a documentary film about the making of XXX?” Porn stars posing, writers pontificating. Sheila got it in about 30 seonds and shooting began a few weeks later on my documentary Thinking XXX.
Well, a film needs music, so I turned to Lou Reed for advice. “Let me know what you need and I’ll make it work,” Lou said. The next day an amazing 15-minute sound-scape of chilling guitars arrived from Lou. My wife Karin, a Lou Reed expert, suggested The Velvet Underground’s “Here She Comes Now” as the perfect XXXsong. New York musicians Sebastian Blanck and Mary Louise (ML) Platt offered to score the film. Lukas suggested Ladytron and Felix da Housecat and soon Emperor Norton was as excited as we were. Then, Jenna Jameson graciously agreed to be on the cover and before you could say “why not a soundtrack album” XXX, the CD was born. An exhibition, a book, a film, a soundtrack CD and a DVD in the works. A lot of great people helped make this happen. And, I’d like to thank them all for making the hard work so much fun.
– Timothy Greenfield-Sanders