PORN VALLEY—See if you can figure out what is, sadly, all too similar about the following quotes from these mainstream news sources:
New York Times: "The pornographic film actress Stephanie Clifford, known professionally as Stormy Daniels, is offering to return a $130,000 payment if she is allowed to speak freely about what she claims was an affair with President Trump."
Politico: "On Tuesday, BuzzFeed’s lawyer wrote to Daniels’ attorney asking that the adult film actress, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, preserve various categories of documents."
New York magazine: "Shortly before the 2016 election, longtime Trump Organization attorney Michael Cohen arranged a payment of $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims she had an affair with Donald Trump a decade earlier. When news outlets revealed the existence of this alleged 'hush agreement' in recent months, Cohen claimed he paid Daniels (real name Stephanie Clifford) out of his own pocket. He wouldn’t explain his motivation, but insisted it had nothing to do with his boss’s business or campaign."
TheWrap: "The 38-year-old Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, seems to be enjoying the kind of attention usually reserved for Hollywood starlets."
SFGate.com: "Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, alleged she was paid $130,000 to keep quiet about an affair with Trump."
Los Angeles Times: "If nothing else, the case has vaulted Daniels into the top ranks of American porn stars. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is performing at strip clubs nationwide on a 'Make America Horny Again' tour."
Figured it out yet? Perhaps these slightly altered excerpts from other mainstream news sources will help:
"Nancy Reagan refused to help Rock Hudson, whose real name was Leroy Harold Scherer Jr. and who was one of the leading Hollywood stars of the 1950s and 1960s, as he sought treatment for AIDS from a pioneering doctor in Paris, it has been revealed."
"Gene Simmons is happy to be alive. 'Every day I wake up and I never take it for granted,' the legendary Kiss frontman, whose real name is Chaim Witz, says with conviction."
"The movie world's first clear view of Audrey Hepburn was in a newsreel: the beginning of Roman Holiday showed the young actress, as the ruritanian Princess Ann, on a state tour of Europe. The world's final view of Hepburn, whose real name was Edda Kathleen van Heemstra Hepburn-Ruston, was in 1992 TV newscasts of her visit to Africa last October."
"Meeting up with an old flame can be awkward, particularly when the relationship ended in heartbreak. Not so for Dame Helen Mirren, whose real name is Ilyena Lydia Vasilevna Mironov, and Liam Neeson. The pair were reunited on a chat show sofa, more than 30 years after their split, and shared warm memories of their love affair."
"Comedy legend Whoopi Goldberg, whose real name is Caryn Johnson, steadfastly refuses to say President Trump's name out loud, despite acknowledging that he's 'the man in charge'."
Got it? It's in part that dichotomy, and the implications of it, that impelled this author to send a letter last week to The Washington Post:
As a Senior Editor at Adult Video News, the longest running adult industry trade magazine, and a Washington Post subscriber, I write to express my dismay at the Post's (and many other publications') insistence on using the real names of adult performers in its articles.
I refer particularly to Stormy Daniels, whose affair with President Trump more than a decade ago, and the payoff she received from Trump's attorney Michael Cohen, may easily lead to the president's impeachment for campaign law violations.
Ms. Daniels is not known professionally by any other name than "Stormy Daniels" (though at the very beginning of her career in 2002, she was known simply as "Stormy"), and considering the extremely low esteem with which adult actresses are held by society, the actresses go to some trouble to keep their real names from being revealed, though obviously, journalists often have the resources to ferret out those names if they want to. The question is, aside from the tittilation value, why would they want to? After all, when reporters write about Tom Cruise, they don't go out of their way to include the phrase "whose real name is Thomas Cruise Mapother IV." The same holds true for Woody Allen "whose real name is Allen Konigsberg," or Whoopi Goldberg, "whose real name is Caryn Johnson," and hundreds of others.
Moreover, reports are rife of adult performers being physically accosted at public events both by fans and anti-porn zealots, as well as being approached with unwanted attention in public areas like supermarkets or simply walking down the street, and the fact that Ms. Daniels has been linked so closely to Mr. Trump—and not in a way that's likely to benefit Mr. Trump's political fortunes—certainly makes it far more likely that she would be in real, physical danger from some of Trump's more extreme supporters—and knowing her real name would make it much easier for such activists to target Ms. Daniels' residence and her family.
So considering the total lack of probative value in revealing an adult actress's real name in newspaper reports, and the real danger that such revelations could put them in, why not take the high road and simply use the name by which the actress is best known—and leave it at that?
The point is, adult performers not only use stage names to preserve their privacy, but they have legitimate fears that unsavory individuals will use that information to stalk and otherwise harass the performer in her (and it's almost inevitably "her") private life, to find her family (either husband, wife or parents/siblings) and harass them, or simply to send threats to any of them.
Make no mistake about it: their personal security is at stake in a very real sense. One recent example is actress Jessica Drake, who's become involved in the Daniels situation owing to her real name having been listed in Stormy's "hush agreement" as someone having "confidential information" about Trump. That "revelation" by mainstream news reporters led to a CNN news/camera crew being camped outside the front yard of her parents' home, attracting unwanted attention and cluing the neighbors in that there was someone presumably newsworthy living there.
And she's hardly the only one.
"I was horrified and terrified when [gossip columnist] Luke Ford revealed my real name, as well as dozens of others, on his blog in the early 2000s," said veteran actress Nina Hartley. "It's a reprehensible, rude, condescending thing to do, to treat performers that way, and it shows how little respect he—and anyone else who's done it—has for a group of what are essentially very normal people just trying to do their jobs and live their lives in peace."
And reports that have surfaced over the past two days drive home the dangers adult performers face when they are in the news—and how much worse it can be when those same perps can find out where they live, who they love, where their kids go to school—the list is voluminous. The situation is particularly fraught with danger considering that many of Trump's supporters are right-wing religious whackjobs—and if you think they are okay with driving a car into a crowd of peaceful protesters in Charlottesville, NC and killing one of them, think how much easier it would be for them to justify maiming or killing a "porn actress"! (Of course, in Stormy's case, the threats came either from Trump himself or one of his minions—her attorney wouldn't say, other than to refer those interested to Stormy's upcoming interview by Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes—but a lesser personality than Stormy might be scared by, for instance, a tweet she recently received, "@Stormy Daniels your 15 minutes are up you stripper skank"—to which she replied, "Commas are our friend. Don't forget them. And PS, I'm just getting started! xoxo." But let's remember, recent tweets have driven at least a couple of adult performers to suicide!)
So consider this a plea to all the workaday reporters and famous news personalities out there who seem to get some secret thrill Down There that they A) know an adult performer's real name, and B) can—and do—broadcast that knowledge to the world at large: You're not doing anyone any favors, and you very well may be putting the "personality" you're covering in real harm's way.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of flipchip at LasVegasVegas.com; used with permission