It Took a Decade for This Reporter to Share What She Witnessed in the Porn Industry

Content Warning: This essay contains explicit sexual imagery including simulated rape.

Pornafied: Anal Sex and Other Extreme Acts

Strange things happen in a bar called Sarajevo.

A young blonde is sprawled naked on top of a piano on all fours with her butt in the air while a man in a full body frog suit– sauf for a hole around his crotch stands by. He has to stand on an apple box in order to get his schlong over the black mahogany.  

Brian Surewood is also gathered around the lucky piano. The porn star, who is now retired, has made 1,264 adult films in 17 years, which is especially impressive when you consider he was in jail for five and a half of those years. Surewood was charged with murder and vehicular manslaughter when an incident of road-rage led to the death of a 5-year-old boy and serious injury to the boy’s mother and infant sister.

But for this moment, he was ensconced in a warehouse deep in the valley about to shoot a two hour triple dick anal sex scene.

It was 2001; a year when Jimmy Wales launched Wikipedia,Timothy James McVeigh was executed for the Oklahoma City Bombing, America would experience 9/11, and George W. Bush  promised to clamp down on porn in America.

I was 28 and working as a researcher for a British TV series called Vice. We were looking at the seedy side of El Lay and my mission was to find characters, including madams, pimps, and drug dealers willing and worthy to share their lives on TV. Because I’d also started freelancing for Penthouse’s column The Unrepentant Voyeur, I voluntarily went the extra mile to find fodder, putting myself in situations like spending the day in a madam’s den, or hanging out on adult film sets in Chatsworth, Pornafornia.

The voyeuristic me stood in a corner in near amazement at the surrealness of the scene. A bar with a frog and lots of anal. How would Barret Moore’s asshole feel in the morning? The Hollywood-born pornstar with ‘nice big tits’ and ‘bouncy ass,’ was also known for her “great attitude on set.” Great according to whom I wondered? The men who instructed her to be their fuck puppet? Or was it because Barret, whose titles include Barett Moore Sucks Cock On A Grave or Hot Vixen Barett Moore Can Always Handle More – Cock!, was genuinely game for anything? It wasn’t like her face was one of pleasure.

Earlier, I had spotted a bottle of Vo5 sitting on a counter in the toilet. When a crew member caught me staring, she informed me the hair dye container was now a makeshift enema kit for Barett to shove up her bumhole to avoid ‘shit dick.’ This of course was followed by a little dab’ll do you of novocaine.

“Turn her over,” Tom Zupko the director yelled. “Watch your camera shot Axel.”

Barrett was now giving a hand job to Robert Axel, also known as a “ tough ass-destroyer who takes no prisoners in his endless homo pursuit of awesome manpower.” Surewood was also getting a blow job as Kermit fucked her in the ass.  

“Who’s your froggy? Rub it.Rub it.”

I laughed silently at the absurdity. This entire thing was loony toons. Sensuality and romance were nil. I can’t recall much else of the dialogue. It plays back in my mind like a Peanuts cartoon.  “Wah Wa Wa Wah Wa Wa” …  

After an hour and half of on-and-off anal sex, the crew had worked up an appetite and broke for lunch. While they ate greasy pizza, I opted for Pollo Locco with hormone laden chicken, still naive to the ills of industrialized agriculture. I returned to Moore puffing pot in the toilet off of a can of Seven Up and Zupko smoking a Marlboro red on set while making his way through a six pack of Bud.

Before he literally yelled “Action,” a young woman named Sylvia got some lube (toxic no doubt), to give it to Surewood who spread Barett’s cheeks with it before penetrating her.  

The anal sex continued. The actress showed no genuine signs of pleasure.

Finally Zupko announced that the boys were ready to pop. Was it in unison or is that only in my recollection?

The last of my notes read:

“Do it on her back. That’s a great shot. Keep it.”

Semen and Starbursts

When the executive producer first asked me to find a porn director, I wracked my brain for leads. I had not grown up watching porn. Was that because of a sheltered upbringing? Or because I had stumbled upon my Egyptian father’s porn magazine stash at age 13? I am not quite sure. My Barbie dolls had sex with Ken though, and sometimes even with each other.

Growing up in my teens, I watched Emanuelle on Bleu Nuit, a french soft porn channel, a handful of times. Ironically 20 years later, I would spend a couple of months in a Penthouse in the Cote D’Azur belonging to the French-American film producer and softcore pornography distributor who owned the Emmanuelle franchise.

But I had never watched porn, definitely not this type.

I recalled my former landlord’s son Erik edited ‘adult films’ and had dabbled in directing. In fact, he had shot some sex scenes in between tenants in one of the upper apartments of Barham Gardens. I’d tried to peek through the windows but he eventually taped them all up.

Turned out, the 30 something former cokehead worked for Extreme Associates, a studio known for producing controversial material with undertones of erotic humiliation and rough sex.The studio’s content has been described as “extremely violent,” “shocking,” “slasher porn” and “patently offensive.”

They were perfect.

When I arrived to their offices, a thirtysomething director by the name of Vegas asked if I was interested in sitting in on an audition instead of waiting in the lobby.

“We’re looking for fresh male porn stars; we see if they can stay sexually aroused and erect on camera.”

“Sure,” I found myself saying.

I was led to an office with florescent lights and two big white leather couches. I sat beside a man with a white mop of hair and a still camera. Jesus, a young latino with the name Maria tattooed on his left shoulder was sitting naked on the other couch, facing a camera. To his left sitting on a stool was Jasmine, a skank-looking girl with fishnets and a bleached blonde short bob.

“Look, I got my toes done,” she told Jesus.

When he looked down, she opened her legs and showed him her pussy.

His penis remained limp.

“Okay, so when I say ‘action I want you to get hard on camera,” Vegas tells Jesus.

“Action.”

It was embarrassing to watch. While perfectly understandable, Jesus could not get aroused.  

“Pretend that hole is some girl’s face because Extreme likes facials.”

That hole.

“Cut! Okay let’s recap. What do you think went wrong? You understand that you have to be on set and have command of your dick,” Vegas asks.

“I’m just a little nervous.”

“I’m going to give you two more minutes on camera.”

I caught Jasmine in a grin. Did she do this for kicks as payback for all the things she’d agreed to do for men and money?  

“Action.”

Let’s just say I’ve seen jellyfish harder than Jesus’ penis.

While Vegas continued to film, he unzipped his pants, pulled out a 7 inch hard cock, and started stroking himself.

“Come and touch it. Long hard dick,” he said from behind the camera although it’s not clear  who he was speaking to. He then started frantically jerking off while reaching for a starburst wrapper on the desk beside him. When he climaxed, it was as though he was putting ketchup on a hot dog at the ballpark. I was both repulsed and impressed.  

“And that’s how you do it,” he said as he crumpled the wrapper and tossed it into the garbage bin in front of him. “Thanks. We’ll give you a call either way.”

What a dick. But it gets worse. Later, Vegas admitted that because all these guys sign release forms, they just edit together the most embarrassing porn actor wannabe footage together and sell it as a blooper-like reel.

“People don’t realize that cumming on cue takes Jedi skills.”

Chez Zuppy’s

After that introduction, I was led to Tom Zupko’s office, which was painted black. ‘Zuppy’ as friends and employees liked to call him, wasn’t your average pornographer. He was regarded as the most controversial director at an already extreme establishment.

He was definitely flavor full.  Zupko, who was then 45, was pudgy with a thick carrot-copper- colored mane. He reminded me of The Animal in the muppets. He was a journalist graduate with an obsession for Dostoevsky.

“He’s God to me,” he shared behind sunglasses. He liked to believe that his films were an homage rife with moments to make you think. Yah, they made you think, “What the fuck?”

Zupko was the middle child of a ‘very dysfunctional family’ and the victim of verbal abuse. As he played his violin, I thought to myself “Wasn’t this the existing state of affairs in this industry?”

When he was 9, Zupko went into the shed to cut off two fingers. He didn’t do it, but life from then on became a ‘curse’ and a ‘chore.’

While he regarded his father as “brilliant,” it seemed Zupko also thought he was a loser for becoming a truck driver. At 16, his mom told the children she was leaving. Enter: female hatred although he certainly did not share or even necessarily know this. His older brother became a ‘jesus freak and Zupko ended up becoming a porn director full of pent up rage.

Not only was his office painted black, so was his home. Zupko, who had lasted six weeks in marine corps, also hated windows. As he spoke, I noticed a hair curler on his book shelf.

Back on the Frog And Ass set, I’d watched him scream ‘Action’ multiple times while simultaneously running a brush through his hair like a crazed Samson. I realized then that the curler was his and likely not a girl’s. Maybe in addition to angst toward females, Zupko also harbored secret envy?

Rejected by journalism, Zupko began managing a strip club and writing scripts for porn. As one does, of course. There, his creative anger was given license.

Zupko talked fast. Maybe he was on coke, maybe he was excited because he’d fantasized a moment where he’d be interviewed and profiled in an iconic smut rag like Penthouse.

That day, I left with three or four VHS copies of the movies he’d directed. His film The Attic, opens with an Anne Frankesque character trapped in an attic, likely one with no windows. The actress rips pages out of the Bible (or maybe it’s the Torah) and shoves it up her asshole.

Simulated Rape At The Veggie Patch/ Ass Lounge 3

The second time I turned up, it was on the film set of Ass Lounge 3. Surewood, 6’0, and another porn star named Valentino, 6’1, a Chicago-born mulatto who has appeared in movies like 10 Man Cum Slam and Assault on the Rectum, were standing around bales of hay dressed up as hybrid vegetable hillbilly men, naked except for loincloths made out of potato sacks with squash, and carrots hanging off of them. They looked ridiculous.

Zupko was seemingly glad to see me. “Welcome back. You’re a pretty girl. Are you going to get me into Penthouse?” he stated.  

“How pretty,” interjected the camera man. “Several hundred pretty?”

Ha ha, motherfucks, I wanted to respond. Why make a couple of hundred with my pussy when I can make a couple of grand with my brain?

But instead, the fresh meat (me) just smiled innocently and whipped out her notebook and pen.

A barn with fake vegetables and tons of hay was the set for Extreme Associate’s sex shenanigans.There was a toilet with faux feces smeared across it. PIG was also written on a wall in brown big letters.As I stood there scanning the wonders, I caught Valentino, with menacing hulk-like green eyes buried in deep sockets, staring at my chest. When i looked down, I had nipplitis.

“You better put on a jacket. Your nipples are hard. Someone might get the wrong idea.”

I shot him a dirty look. I am not turned on by this asshole, this set is just icy fucken cold.

The actress Chloe Dior, aka Drew Lynn, was 23ish. She’d told Zupko she was wanted to be their next poster girl aka fuck puppet. She was dressed as a bride, one who had gotten cold feet and run away, only to find herself in a vegetable patch holding two big shiny tomatoes.

“Remember how romantic the other one was?” Zupko said, “Well this one will be just the opposite.” The end of his sentence was almost a whisper. “Now remember don’t hold it against us, we’re only acting.”

Oh my God, had Chloe basically sacrificed herself to these men for her debut?

As Zupko sipped Bud and reached for his brush, he told a crew member to tend to the fake Gund-type stuffed dog, hanging by long rope in the forefront of the shot covered in fake blood.

Lube. Water. Baby Wipes. Stuffed dog.

“Swing the goddamn dog or everybody will be fired,” yelled Zupko at a crew member. He was clearly buzzed. “Come on swing it.”

Zupko was one sick puppy.

As the vegetable men sang Old McDonald Had A Farm, the dog swung from one end of the frame to the next.

“Why the dog?” I asked.

“Dead dogs are always good to throw into the mix. You know, in case they want to sell this film in Germany.” And with that he started laughing maniacally. At the idiocy of the shot? I could not tell.

When I looked beyond the stuffy, Valentino was fucking a squash.

Wasn’t that illegal in some southern states?

As Valentino jerked off with a vegetable, he looked my way and winked.

Ugh.

“Mama always said eat your vegetables.”

The scene was arguably comedic. Apparently Zupko was retaliating against the Cambria list, a set of guidelines the adult industry had put together in light of the Bush administration’s ‘war on porn.’ In this instance, he was proverbially spitting on the ‘no food used as sex object’ guideline.

And then things took a turn for the worse.

Drew Lynn squished the two tomatoes into smithereens while sitting cross legged on a pile of hay.

“The virgin killed our parents,” Valentino uttered.

Omg, did the tomatoes symbolize mom and dad? This was the act that would justify what would ensue?

At this point, Lynn smeared tomato guts on her face in a seeming daze.

“Wake up bitch,” Surewood yelled as he shoved his cock in her mouth. And then according to my notes, he spit on her and the bride was called a “field slut” and “cunt face,” before they picked her up and dunked her upside down in a nearby trough.

This violated yet more guidelines on the Cambria List: “No degrading dialogue”,”no spitting or saliva mouth to mouth” and “no shots with appearance of pain or degradation.” Instead of serving as recommendations to stay clear from, the list seemed to be more of a benchmark.

I hid my horror as I watched Dior swallow a bit too much water and lose a press on nail. Was it me or were the men a bit too into it?

“We’re going to plant some seeds in there.”

And then Zupko called ‘cut.’

“Ok let’s break. After this one vage and five anals. I am impressed, she’s phenomenal,” Zupko added to the nearby crew.

Yup, a veritable trooper. I certainly could not see myself consenting to such behaviour. Was she a product of sexual abuse? Did she think this was really a substitute for Daddy’s acceptance? What distinguishes a ‘ho’ on Normandie in Hollywood from a high end escort in Beverly Hills if not self-worth? Had all these men lost their mothers at a young age? How could they stay so hard while doing bad bad things?  

I had all these questions but I never asked them or even made it to the fucking. I walked out during the break and never contacted Zupko again. In the end, I never even pitched the piece to Penthouse.

I am not sure why took me so many years to write this tale. As a storyteller, this was ostensibly a ‘good story.” I could tell you that subconsciously I wanted to be yet another journalist to reject Zupko, denying him access into Penthouse. But in reality it was because a few months later I was hit by an SUV while navigating a crosswalk and lost the verve to write about the seedy side of life.

In 2009, federal authorities indicted the owners of Extreme Associates Rob Zicari (stage name Rob Black) and his wife Janet Romano for distribution of obscene material. Writes The Daily Beast, after six years of “legal maneuvering,” the duo each pleaded guilty and were sentenced to one year and one day in prison.

Many may argue that as a woman, my retelling of this experience is somewhat disassociated and clinical. But make no mistake, the male aggression, faux or not, disturbed me. The women didn’t seem to experience any pleasure or dignity. They were mere holes.

I didn’t even have an issue with anal sex per say, but I could not stand for the commercialization of hatred toward women.

I recall walking out of a theatre on Wilshire Boulevard while my then-boyfriend and friends continued to watch the film Irreversible. As an empath who still didn’t know it, I literally could not stand to watch the beginning where a man’s face is smashed on camera with an extinguisher a la Faces Of Death, let alone a 10 minute sodomy scene, even with Monica Bellucci.

Today, Black would argue that mixing violence (toward women) with sex has become routine with porn.

“The industry is Extreme [Associates],” he told Daily Beast. The industry is what I did. But they pushed it even further. They pushed it to a point where you can’t defend it. Because what I did was a fantasy. I was able to preach it is a movie. It is a guy in a costume. Now you have companies that do it in the guise of BDSM. You put a girl on a dog chain and chain her to a wall and then keep her there for two days and take a cattle prod and electrocute her and do all this under the guise of a documentary. You are taking the element of the movie out. Now, you are doing torture.”

 

Maryam Henein is an investigative journalist, activist, filmmaker and entrepreneur. She directed the documentary Vanishing of the Bees narrated by Ellen Page and is cofounder of HoneyColony, an online magazine and marketplace aimed at empowering people to be their own best health advocate.

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