The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry
by Legs McNeil and Jennifer Osborne with Peter Pavia
(Regan Books) $27.95

The porn industry inspires plenty of sucking, fucking, banging, and tonguing, but it's not all one big exchange of bodily fluids. Since skin flicks' beginnings as innocent topless shots ("nudie cuties") in the '50s, the growth of turning cunnilingus into commerce has caused parallel advancements in areas that don't qualify as turn-ons (in well-adjusted households, at least): physical abuse, drug addiction, suicide, murder, mob hits, FBI stings, HIV/AIDS, obscenity trials, and accidental actors whose onscreen debuts are inspired by, for example, their wife chopping off their penis and tossing it out a car window. Not everyone can live happily ever after.

Enter Legs McNeil. The cofounder of seminal underground rag Punk magazine (which christened the genre and lifestyle) still has as his greatest legacy coauthoring the rock bible Please Kill Me--a book scoured a million times over for its details about the intersections of the early Detroit and New York punk scenes. Now McNeil has teamed up with writers Jennifer Osborne and Peter Pavia to peek into the world of cinematic sex with The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry.

In both Please Kill Me and The Other Hollywood, the authors' skills lie not in the writing but in their intrepid researching, interviewing, and editing talents. The books are compelling because they leave the narration to those who actually lived the history--there's no omniscient voice connecting the dots. The chapters unfold through the chosen voices--each subject is approached with concurring and opposing points of view. The device works incredibly well, as it allows Hollywood's marquee names--Hugh Heffner, the Mitchell Brothers, John Holmes, Nina Hartley, Linda Lovelace, and Ron Jeremy--to weave their insights around lesser-known players like undercover agents and film PAs.

Using text from firsthand interviews, federal wire taps, police reports, psychiatric records, court records, and journals, among other sources, the authors thread together five decades of illicit and erotic behavior--the composite of which is both humorous and scandalous, but overall the book paints a pretty grim portrait, albeit in a tabloid-style, Behind the Music kinda way.

Hollywood nails all the major targets--the chapters are chronological, divided by year and location (Miami, San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles)--and plenty of small ones as well, starting with the work of pinup photographer Bunny Yeager. The making of the United States' foremost feature-length porn film, Deep Throat, is described in exhaustive detail (dovetailing nicely with the new, unrelated documentary film, Inside Deep Throat). Depending on whom you believe, Deep Throat star Linda Lovelace was either an abused victim slapped around by husband Chuck Traynor--and forced into such humiliating scenarios as bestiality flicks--or a witless pawn who allowed herself to get used.

The life of John Holmes is chronicled from his rise as a well-endowed porn star through his descent into coke-fueled paranoia. Details of Holmes' selling his young girlfriend into sex slavery and allegedly helping mastermind the botched robbery that led to the grisly Wonderland murders are mapped out here. Violence is a persistent theme in the book, whether it's in the form of film stars committing suicide, a mob hit blowing up in one thug's face, or the constant abuse passed down from one generation to the next.

But the morose stories are balanced by the entertainingly moronic--the Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson sex tape; the debate over whether or not Traci Lords fueled her own pandering scandal; and, of course, the connection between sex and rock 'n' roll--from Sammy Davis Jr. through Slash and members of Motley Crüe. Along the way, feminists fight the sex industry, FBI undercover stings turn sour, legislators attempt to turn morality into law, mob bosses get served life (and death) sentences, and unsafe sex has fatal consequences when AIDS hits the United States.

Whether your idea of scintillating is taking it up the ass from Hugh Heffner in his hot tub or an antiporn agent getting caught shoplifting while his kid's in the car, the scope and subject matter covered in The Other Hollywood has enough juicy content to give many an ambulance- and tail-chaser a very pleasurable thrill.

Legs McNeil and Jennifer Osborne will read at Bailey/Coy Books (414 Broadway Ave E, 323-8842) on Wed March 2 at 7 pm, and at University Book Store (4326 University Way NE, 634-3400) on Thurs March 3 at 7 pm.

jennifer@thestranger.com

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