Porn Stars of the '90s


For many years, throughout the 1980s and '90s, Screw Magazine impresario Al Goldstein hosted a late-night public access New York City cable show, Midnight Blue, where he documented the smut business in cigar-chomping, larger-than-life fashion. Porn Stars of the '90s, the informal seventh volume in a DVD series from Blue Underground that has chronicled the occupational insights of porn stars of previous decades as well as served as a digital-era cultural repository for its host's frequent rants on all manner of free speech and sexuality, collects two hours of Goldstein's interviews with various adult performers, slapped in between escort ads, phone sex promos and ball-busting celebrity endorsements (yep, that's Gilbert Gottfried and Al Lewis, of The Munsters) that originally ran along with his program.


The surprising thing is how well all this holds up. The roster of interviewees here includes Teri Weigel, Veronica Vera, Christy Canyon (above), Jeanna Fine, Tom Byron, Sharon Kane, Randy West, Ashlyn Gere, Tami Monroe, Holly Ryder, Nikki Dial and more. Goldstein is unabashedly crude, and sometimes a little cruel — he gives Weigel's husband, Murrill Muglio, all sorts of shit for his Cro-Magnon surfer look — but his interview technique is also laced with hearty self-deprecation, so he gets a pass on his coarseness because he so frequently makes himself the butt of the joke.

As for the interviews, Weigel talks about transitioning from Playboy and Penthouse to hardcore films; Ryder discusses the size of her clitoris (it's large, don'tcha know); and Vera talks about her testimony at Arlen Specter's 1983 Senate hearings, where she and Goldstein met. Meanwhile, Fine reminisces about doing it with Larry Flynt, talks about enjoying anal sex and gives detailed oral sex tips, saying that she likes "rompers," which she describes as seven inches or less, "because you can do so much more with them." There's a lot of this sort of frank sexual discussion, naturally, but equal time and measure is given to letting the interview subjects showcase their off-screen personalities. Ryder's segment is additionally entertaining since it turns out Goldstein went to school with her husband.

While it's certainly the main sell-through appeal of the title, those thinking Porn Stars of the '90s is all about cheap nostalgic titillation would be wrong. While film clips are interspersed throughout, they're scrupulously edited to avoid hardcore material. Goldstein is also notable in that he provided one of the first outlets for some of the more articulate adult performers to take on critics of their industry. Ergo, Gloria Steinem comes up in several chats, and Canyon and Vera both speak intelligently and fairly persuasively in making the case that they're the masters of their own situations. In this vein, Porn Stars of the '90s has a weirdly academic value, serving as it does as a primary document.

Naturally, there are corresponding moments of queasy, jaw-clenching disbelief (as when Dial blithely denies any sexual history of sexual abuse, only in the same breath to talk about her first sexual experience being with another girl... in kindergarten), or those that are simply jarring, as when Ryder's interview is then followed by an E! news segment detailing her later anti-pornography crusading. All in all, though, Porn Stars of the '90s does a good job of simply presenting its archived material in straightforward fashion while adding a few tiny grace notes of contextualization via text updates. The inclusion of the period-piece ads — some of which are sex-related, some of which, as with commercials touting Goldstein's barber, were probably run merely to help him score free swag, and services — helps further root this curious release, an indispensable time capsule of the adult industry at the tail end of the video age, pre-internet boom.

Housed in a sort of light blue, opalescent plastic Amaray case, Porn Stars of the '90s comes presented in 1.33:1 full frame, divided into two dozen chapters, with a Dolby digital audio track that doesn't sound like it provides much of a brush-up. The picture, too, is a bit shoddy, though the manufacturers at least score points for brutal honesty when, in a pre-program text crawl, they explain the image graininess — most notably featured in the title's interstitial advertisements — by way of saying that "while the DVD features digital transfers from the original 3/4-inch master tapes, you can't shine shit."

The DVD's most notable supplemental feature is a pop-up-style commentary track that provides the title with its own snarky, built-in self-critique, as well as all sorts of bizarre trivia and gossip, from Canyon's dalliances a coke-fueled, limp-membered Robin Williams to Hyapatia Lee faking her own death. Points, too, for an imaginative, sort of purposefully crude menu screen that puts all the content options on a computer screen, with a bottle of hand lotion lurking nearby. Other bonus material consists of a four-minute guide to cunnilingus by ubiquitous porn star Ron Jeremy; a silly five-minute studio segment where Annie Sprinkles smears her breasts with eggs, flour and other cooking ingredients; and a four-minute, bitter, profane jeremiad by Goldstein against Jenna Jameson. Apparently Goldstein was angry that Jameson stood him up for a scheduled interview and post-chat dinner date with her manager, without ever calling. So he calls her a cunt, and gets even more explicit and offensive from there. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. B+ (Show) B- (Disc)

 

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