THE LAND DOWN UNDER—What more could any porn star need beyond box-cover fame, contract-star status and a secure bank balance except, perhaps, her own published autobiography?
For Monica Mayhem, Australia's finest export to the American adult industry, that time finally came in October 2009, when bookstores in her native country began stocking Absolute Mayhem: Confessions of an Aussie Porn Star, issued by the Ebury Press imprint of Random House Australia. Charting the course of her long career—she'll be a 10-year Porn Valley veteran this year—the book is a travelogue taking readers from her early years living with her alcoholic mother in the Brisbane suburbs to the bright lights and big cities of Sydney and London, where she climbed the corporate finance ladder before eventually leaving the security of Salomon Smith Barney (where she worked in oil futures) to ply a new trade as a stripper at the Spearmint Rhino in London and then as a porn star in Los Angeles. It's not at all your garden-variety porn-chick life story.
The book is a 240-page tome with color photos aplenty. It views the San Fernando Valley as a parallel universe, with behind-the-scenes flashbacks (on and off the sets), and offers pointers on the Mayhem Method of survival: her Wiccan spirituality (yep, she's a true-blue, real-life witch!) and strategies for mental health in an industry that could do anyone's head in (as noted in two spicy chapters called "Compilations and Violations" and "Health Before Wealth"), plus some crazy shenanigans with her rock band. Mayhem and Lim first disclosed their project to the world on Sept. 18, 2008, live on the internet as guest hosts on Rude TV's "Smell My Finger" show.
The following conversation, which occurred during the Christmas holiday season of December 2009, examines the porn-star lifestyle in all its restless glory. Absolute Mayhem is presently sold only in Australia, though Skyhorse Publishing in New York plans to release an American edition in November 2010. However, rabid fans anywhere can procure their copies through Seek Books here.
GERRIE LIM: We began discussing this book back in October 2007, after I forwarded a press release to you and you were really upset because this company had used the only anal-sex scene you ever did, for your own movie Skin, in a comp movie without your permission. And so you told me you wanted to do this book to set the record straight.
MONICA MAYHEM: Yeah. I guess I was just fed up with being screwed over and said, 'Fuck it!' I decided it was my life, and this was something I needed to do for myself, to get everything off my chest. The only reason I didn't do the book in the first place, when you asked me a year before that, was because my family freaked out about it. But I was sick of hiding. For years, I had been unknowingly sabotaging my own career by turning down big offers and mainstream media interviews because I was scared to lose what little family I had left.
GL: One of the main reasons that got us the book deal was your unusual career transition from the financial markets world to the adult entertainment world, which is not something most girls in the business can ever claim.
MM: I was very lucky to have worked in such a great industry, making so much money from the age of 16. And I'm not bitter about it at all; I just couldn't stand the stress anymore. It really wasn't me. I'm an all-round artist and always have been, and so I needed to pursue my dreams, even if that meant getting naked and having sex for a living!
GL: I was amazed at what a good memory you have, even things like all the shoots you hated doing.
MM: Of course, you always remember the shoots you hated and the people you would never work for again. You also remember the shoots that were just awesome or a lot of fun to work on. It's funny how that works, though. I'll have fans come up to me and say: "Remember when you did this and that, with this person for this movie?" and I'll be racking my brain trying to remember! But other times, when certain little things stood out—well, like certain people slurping their own cum off my back, or sticking my foot up a girl's pussy!—I'll totally remember vividly.
GL: Well, personally, I've always been interested in "consensual degradation" in porn, and we covered this issue in the book, with your memories of doing a five-man blowbang in Cum Greed and then putting your foot into Harmony's vagina in The Violation of Harmony, for which you were nominated for a 2010 AVN Award, for "Best All-Girl Group Sex Scene," sharing with Harmony, Audrey Hollander, Holly Wellin, Gwen Summers and Jennifer Dark.
MM: I'm glad we wrote about that, because it's just something that a regular person would never do, or never think to do in their own life, so it's definitely worth talking about. It would have been pretty bad if I didn't remember doing scenes like those!
GL: I wondered if you ever had second thoughts about exposing all that to a mainstream audience. Were you thinking at the time that the readers had better be open-minded or else they're never going to believe all this crazy stuff we're telling them?
MM: (laughs) I think people are fascinated by this sort of thing, even if it's all a bit much for some to take. If you're buying a book about a porn star's life, then you must be an open-minded person; that's the way I had to think when exposing all this information. There is some major shock value in the text, and a lot of people have said to me they've thought it the most honest adult industry book they've ever read. Everyone who knows me knows that I've always been upfront and honest, although sometimes a little too much for my own good!
GL: Someone who works in our industry, a publicist, read the book and told me he was amazed that you "turned out so well-adjusted despite such a dysfunctional childhood." Does this surprise you to hear people say that?
MM: I've actually heard that many times, and I do realize that it's a miracle I didn't turn out completely messed up. Everyone reacts to situations differently, and I just happened to come out stronger every time something bad happened in my life. I somehow would always find a way to get through it, rather than just giving up and dwelling on everything for the rest of my life. One reporter asked me, "Do you think it's a little too much information for your fans to be reading? Do you think it will turn them off, knowing so much about you?" The people who have written to me or who have come up to me while I'm signing, they usually have said they really feel like they know me now and are going to go and find all of my movies now. So I don't think it's "too much information." What do you think?
GL: I've always believed that more information is always better than less, as long as it really is information rather than mindless drivel. But it's sometimes a tricky thing, because you need to preserve your celebrity status and project that "mystique" about you that makes you so alluring to them.
MM: I agree there should be some kind of mystique. But look at all the mainstream publications displaying the private lives of celebrities. People love to know what they do off-camera, and I think the same goes with porn stars. I'm glad to know that I can help open people's minds and help them see things from a different perspective. I just got an email from a girl who got the book for Christmas and she wrote, "Wow, I couldn't put the book down! Now I realize that porn stars are real people too." It's funny how everyone has this misconception that we must all be from another planet!
GL: Well, she must have loved the part where we talked about how you prepare for shoots, especially the bit where you talked about how you shave your own asshole. That was hilarious when we did that, don't you think? I mean, it's not something anyone talks about in a public space, let alone porn stars who do anal sex scenes!
MM: Well, you know, people need to be educated on how to keep it neat and tidy down there, so I felt like I was providing a service to the community by sharing that! (laughs)
GL: Probably the hardest parts of the book for me to write were all your family stuff, especially the chapter devoted to your alcoholic, abusive mother—especially all the nuances about her drunkenness and all your juvenile delinquent and teenage drug issues.
MM: Yes, that was the hardest part for me, too. I remember having flashbacks of things that happened in the past. It was particularly hard for me to not only read over and over but to actually dredge up all those repressed memories and talk about them—having to remember all the bad things that happened, how cruel my mother was, remembering how it felt to not feel loved or wanted. When we had to write about my childhood, every time I read over everything, I was like, "Wow, this must sound really fucked-up to someone who grew up with a normal family!" I hated every minute of every day and I guess that's why I turned to drugs, to escape reality.
GL: After that infamous AVN Online interview, published in April 2002, the producer of your website at the time wrote me to say she really hated the part where you admitted to me that you have a very hard time getting pleasure from penetration alone, which she felt was not something porn stars are supposed to tell the press or let their fans know! I thought it strange, that she was so paranoid about people knowing you were not some super-orgasmic super-slut type which would have reduced you, I felt, to an American porn stereotype.
MM: Here's the thing where you and I got it all mixed up. You said "pleasure" when I meant "orgasm." Actually, I do get pleasure from penetration; I just have a hard time orgasming from penetration alone, as do many other women in the world. So that whole thing was taken totally out of context, and I can understand why she would have been freaked out about me saying that. I cringed when I read it too, because I was thinking, "Shit, me and my big mouth again!"
GL: I guess she thought your fans might be disappointed to know that in real life you have issues like any woman would have and you're not some sex goddess with extraterrestrial powers.
MM: You don't have to be some super-orgasmic slut to be a porn star. As long as you love sex, have a good attitude and are a great performer, that's all you really need. What do you think? Do you think a typical porn star should be over-the-top nasty and multi-orgasmic even if they're faking it? Or do you just appreciate beautiful women who enjoy sex and do it in their own style?
GL: I do like them beautiful and stylish, but also hot and slutty. I like a certain amount of realism—meaning, I don't want to see them intentionally faking it to the point where it's so obvious. You know, too much leering and sneering, excessive fake smiling and repetitious moaning. Actually, all the porn-related sections were easy to write, and the hardest thing for me with the book was to get your tone of voice right, to capture the way you speak and think, and I wanted to do it while injecting some of the smartass humor that we both share.
MM: You definitely captured my tone of voice and smartass humor!
GL: We addressed the issue of porn and prostitution in the book, without trying to appear snooty about how porn is different and potentially better as a form of sex work. Some people are probably not going to believe you danced at the Spearmint Rhino in London, but never "crossed the line," if you know what I mean, and I think we were walking that thin line in the book, where your credibility was at stake.
MM: I don't know why people would find it hard to believe that I could just be dancing at the Rhino. And I don't see how my credibility would be at stake anyway—I am a porn star, after all! I get paid to have sex for a living, and so do prostitutes. The only difference is, I let the whole world see me!
GL: I still like the sections of the book where we warned young girls thinking of entering the industry about some of the harsh realities, like where you talked about how your images often get used without any direct control from you and how sometimes you end up appearing on very tasteless box covers, with a big cock in your mouth and your cheeks all stretched out.
MM: Yeah, all of those things we said are just reality. We were just being honest about a few things that most people would never talk about.
GL: Do you think we were fair to the adult industry or were we too harsh with it?
MM: We weren't slamming the adult industry at all. In fact, I've stuck up for this industry in every interview I've done relating to the book, especially with one asshole who was completely anti-porn and said some really stupid things that made no sense at all, on an hour-long Australian talk show I did in Melbourne. I was so angry I was shaking and holding back from really going off on him. I can't stand ignorance and hypocrites!
GL: When you talked about your onscreen career in our book, you paid due tribute to a number of people who were influential towards the direction of your career—most notably Hank Londoner, Bill Witrock, Nicholas Steele, Rick Davis, Darren Kaye, Jim Holliday, Jim Powers, Kelly Holland, Suze Randall and Jill Kelly. Did we leave anyone out?
MM: There may be people we left out. We also talked about Jay Allan, who shot a lot of my favorite photos and magazine layouts, then F.J. Lincoln and Bud Lee who shot most of my VCA movies, and also Nick Orleans for my Adam and Eve movies. All of these directors helped me move forward in my career by putting me in lead roles in feature films for big companies, and I'm forever grateful.
GL: We first discussed Freddie Lincoln back in 2005; I asked you about doing Uninhibited with him, and you said that movie was so old you couldn't remember anything about it! That was the first time I felt like we should work on something someday, where we would take you on a trip back down memory lane—and now we have, with this book. I still think your boldness and bluntness is actually the single best selling point of the book. I knew we could make people sit up and think, to entertain as well as to educate the readers.
MM: Yes, I think we have achieved our goal of making it entertaining and also educational. And I think my bluntness is enough to make people want to read.
GL: Remember the part where you talk about real-life relationships? I loved what you said: "Seriously, guys, try asking me out if you want to date me and then remember this: Every time I'm sucking on some guy's cock and letting him spew him sperm all over my face, I do it because that's what I do for work. Think you can handle that? Yeah, right."
MM: (laughs) Yes, that was very blunt and in-your-face! I'm sure no guy reading the book would ever want to date me now!
GL: Do you think we were too hard on the readers there? Maybe we shocked some people too much?
MM: No, I'm all about shock value. Actually, the number one question I get from people and reporters is, "Are you single and is it hard to have a relationship in this business?" My answer is always, "Yes and yes!" I don't know how so many people do it, but I've just had bad luck. And these days, it's me, not the guy. I can't seem to really like anyone, or give anyone a chance. I see guys here and there, but no one I've connected with. I just work all the time, finding new things to do to secure my future.
GL: You said over wine—or maybe because of the wine!—that you didn't think there was anything more you could learn from the industry or about being a porn star, that you had done everything there was to do and your learning curve had peaked. Do you still feel that way?
MM: Yeah, I'm really not sure what else I could learn about being a porn star. I wouldn't mind getting into directing, since I am a creative type, but porn seems to be so over-saturated that I fear I've left it too late to pursue that. As of now, I'm back to shooting movies after a six-month break, feature dancing, doing live webcam shows, updating my website, and working on a lingerie line—which, I've just found out, is a lot harder than I had initially thought! It's going to take some serious time, energy and money. In the long run, I'm still hoping to put out a CD with my band. The one thing I have learned about porn is that it's not about how good you look doing it these days. It's about how nasty you can be, how much you're willing to show for the camera. Times have really changed. So the regular sex that you used to see me do on-camera is now about to become a lot nastier. All you AVN readers out there, stay tuned!