Lori Michaels: Home on the Cyber-Range

Talking to Lori Michaels is like taking a long walk down a fall country road as the light fades and the dogs run up ahead, their noses skimming the ground for something to chase. You don't want the moment to end. So it is with the Texas girl with the soft twang who now calls the rolling hills of Kansas home. If you knew exactly where she lived (which you never will) you might just catch her taking such a walk, often, as she claims on her Website (www.lorilive.com), in the nude.

A Vivid Girl for five years, she didn't renew her contract when it expired last year, but not out of any ill will. "I love doing [the movies] and it worked out great for me, but I just didn't want to do a whole bunch," she said. (Lest any fans get short of breath at the idea of no more celluloid Lori, she'll probably make more movies, but when or for who is a mystery.) "Mainly, I'm just focusing on the Website," she says, "trying to make it go." She's being a tad modest. With some fans purchasing up to three-year's worth of memberships in advance, LoriLive.com should be able to support her for years to come.

The site is well stocked (sexually speaking), easy to navigate, attractive to look at, and mercifully contains no banners or ads. It has all the usual bells and whistles - photo gallery, Webcam, chatroom, stories, MPEG and personal videos, a store - but when all is said and done, it's true worth lies in the disarming honesty with which it reveals Michaels' personality. True to her down home ways, she maintains the site herself, posting updates, shooting most of the photos, and processing every order by hand. One almost expects her to get out in the field and lay some broadband cable too, because that's just the way Michaels is: real, and determined to stay real. She even uses her own name. "Why not," she says, "it makes it more personal, doesn't it?"

If LoriLive.com is not the greatest site in the world (and which is?), there are a number of qualities about it - and her - that help make the site a model for individuals who want to create a successful adult online presence. Most notably, Michaels' uses her personality to support her natural beauty, and makes sure that she stays in intimate and reciprocal contact with her fans. It sounds as if she's taken a few pages out of the adult amateur playbook, but in fact, she says, "I never looked at another site before I first did mine."

For some members, she even offers field trips. "Now that I'm not doing Vivid movies, or touring, I've figured out a way to meet my best fans. I do a two-day Branson, Missouri getaway," she says. "Branson's like Las Vegas, but country. I'll only do this with some fans I know pretty well who aren't too kooky. They fly in to Springfield, Missouri airport and I pick them up. Then we go to Tablerock Lake and just kind of cruise around, and then we eat dinner and go to a show at the Dixie Stampede. The next morning - of course they have their own hotel room - we'll get up and go shopping or whatever. It's a way for them to get to know me one-on-one, but I also have an escort with me, so there's no sex. But these men seem to love it. I tell them it's just a place to have fun, to let them know what it's like down home, and I've got almost 40 or 50 people signed up for August and September already."

It's precisely that creative business (and common) sense that has always dictated her moves, including her decision to make adult movies in the first place. In fact, the site came first, about six years ago, and then the movies, the reverse of the way most performers go about it. What she immediately saw was that the site wasn't getting enough traffic. "I'd done tons of magazine shoots," she says, "but it wasn't getting the hits it needed. I realized that men want to see more, but you have to have a name to get the hits, and that's why I did the Vivid thing. I realized Penthouse Pets are a dime a dozen nowadays, but become a Vivid Girl and they look you up on the search engines, because the best Website in the world is not worth a dime if it doesn't get the hits."

That's some pretty shrewd calculating for someone making her way onto the Net without a guide, even if she claims to be nothing out of the ordinary. "I'm a Midwest farm girl with the same desires as a million women out there," she says, "though maybe just a little more open about them." What really sets her apart is her dogged determination to make a success of her site while remaining true to her roots and ideals. It sounds like the same crock that every adult star spews, but in her case it happens to be true, maybe because she knows the ways of the porn star-making machinery, and that to be a success in that world you have to play the porn star game according to company rules.

"A lot of these [video] companies will use you," she says, "and when they met me they couldn't do that. It shocked them, and a lot of them got real angry, because they couldn't control me. I was a businessperson, and a lot of those people don't like someone who's smart. They'd rather you be woofy instead of being a businessperson who wants to work together to make something."

Living far away from the action, she wasn't able or willing to drop everything on a minute's notice to fly to Chatsworth to shoot a few scenes. At home on her 20-acre ranch, shooting content for her site and putting on her cam shows, none of that matters, and no one wants her to be anything she isn't. "I don't like to come off like a [typical porn star]," she says, "and a lot of people like that. When I put my stories online, it's me, and I'm not going to try and be something I'm not. I'm a straightforward-type person."

Michaels also loves cars, and has a site, www.dreamy.com, devoted to her beloved '96 Chevy Impala SS, which is currently being sponsor-converted into "the ultimate road racer/audio show car." We wondered if there was some sort of sexual association going on. "Are cars sexy," she said. "Damn right they are. Just think about it for a minute. You hit the starter and the battery slams that juice into the starter. It slides its gear into the flywheel and causes that big ol' crank to start turning and turning faster, slamming those big pistons into those tight cylinders, all that warm oil flowing all over everything. Oh yeah! And those long rods going up and down, up and down, as those pistons fire and slam back down with all their weight. Oh yeah, baby, tell me that ain't sexy."

She also loves animals ("I've got four dogs, nine cats, and two ducks"), and is building an animal care facility in Arkansas, all paid for by the Website. "Hopefully, I'll have it finished by next year," she says. "It'll be a place to take care of homeless dogs and cats, so they'll never be killed; other animals, too. I just love animals. They're probably my favorite of all creatures. They never gripe at you; they never scream at you. They just love you unconditionally. That's what I love. I love to be loved."

Oh, and yes, Michaels is a hardcore Republican, a proud supporter of Dubya, and isn't worried at all about some Ashcroft-driven obliteration of porn. "They think Republicans are going to shut down the porn industry, but that's like saying they're going to stop selling alcohol. They can't do it. This business is big and makes a lot of money. They're not going to do any of that stuff."

"Yeah," she adds, "I'm a pretty strong supporter of the Republican Party and the porn industry." Frankly, the industry could use a few more conservatives like her. There's a lot more to say about this interesting woman, but true to form she wanted to make sure that we added one last personal detail. "Put down that she's a good cook too. Brag on my cooking. I cook chicken fried steak real nice, with creamed gravy, and I cook a lot of lobsters and crab legs. But breakfast is my favorite." Likewise.