Thu, Jul 17, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Porn loses seedy image, becomes mainstream in US


It was once the province of seedy men sneaking in to even seedier cinemas in the worst parts of cities around America. Then the VCR was invented and porn went suburban -- videos hidden in the back of TV cabinets.

But now porn is coming out of the closet. With Playboy about to celebrate its 50th anniversary, porn has established itself firmly in the center of the American mainstream.

This week porn actress Traci Lord is blitzing the news talk show. CNN was so excited about her interview Tuesday with Larry King that the self-proclaimed "trusted news leader" hyped it throughout the day.

Traci's big news? The blonde sexpot has written an autobiography detailing how she was drugged on cocaine when she made 19 films before aged 18 -- films that are now banned as child pornography.

Elsewhere on TV, porn superstar Jenna Jameson has appeared on NBC sitcom Mr. Sterling and hosted shows on the cable channel E!.

The Fox network is planning a prime time soap opera called Skin about characters in the porn industry and starring former porn actor Ron Jeremy as a producer.

Cable channel Showtime is pulling in viewers with a reality show called Family Business about the porn star and film producer who goes by the name of Seymore Butts.

Meanwhile, Vanity Fair features porn stars as models, Val Kilmer will star in the movie Wonderland as porn legend John Holmes this September and, of course, your average teenage pop star wears clothes that would put pioneering porn star Linda Lovelace to shame.

The pervasiveness of porn is not just a cultural phenomenon. With an estimated US$10 billion to US$14 billion in annual sales, over 700 million video rentals a year, the adult industry is big business meeting a surging demand from ordinary Americans, not just cliques of sexual perverts.

Companies have realized that they cannot afford to ignore this booming sector. Reputable, squeaky-clean firms like Marriott International Inc, Hilton Hotels Corp and satellite and cable operators Comcast Corp and AOL Time Warner Inc send hard core movies to hotel rooms and homes all over the US, while Web portals from AOL to Yahoo host Web sites run by communities that feature a cornucopia of sexual imagery.

"Porn doesn't have a demographic -- it goes across all demographics," said Paul Fishbein, 42, the man who founded Adult Video News, a journal that employs some 70 people to rate adult films and track news developments in the industry.

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