Retired Actress Melissa Hill Shares Memories of Jenteal

LOS ANGELES—Melissa Hill began her adult entertainment career in late 1993 in the San Francisco Bay area, with the late Dan Barros acting as her agent. In fact, in his career, Barros only had two clients: Hill and a newcomer who entered the industry just a few months later and adopted the name Jenteal. AVN had a long conversation with Hill about her memories of Jenteal—the former Vivid Girl who recently passed away—and what follows is what Hill related about her long-time on-and-off friend.

"I knew her almost since her first day in the industry," Hill stated. "We had the same manager, Dan Barros, up in northern California, and she started in the industry when she was 18 years and two months old. I was her first on-screen partner, aside from her boyfriend with whom she had originally started in the industry. My memories of her are that she was a sweet young girl, and when she was picking out her stage name, she wanted to use just the word 'Teal', and I was like, 'Why would you want to be one word that's a color? Don’t you want to be a name?' And I looked at her and she had these big green eyes and the blonde hair and was just such a sweet girl, and said, 'I think you should be Jen Teal.' In my mind, I thought her first name would be Jen and her last name would be Teal, but she was very stubborn, like she always was, and just wanted to go by one word, and so she decided she liked my suggestion but she was gonna call herself Jenteal."

Though several sources have identified Jenteal's family as living in Oklahoma, Hill met Jenteal when the newcomer was living in Sacramento, and it's unclear if she was born in Oklahoma and moved west at some point, perhaps to follow a boyfriend who was attending college in the Bay area—a man she later married—or was born in northern California. In any case, Hill took Jenteal "under her wing" and gave her pointers on handling a career in front of the cameras.

"I was already working in the industry and I was just starting my career with Vivid, so our manager had asked me to just be a mentor for Jenteal, so that was our relationship, and being as she still lived in northern California, we would occasionally drive down to southern California together for work. Before that, though, I used to write scripts for a mail-order company called Wildgirls. Our manager founded it, so it was a girl/girl mail-order video company, so we worked together then. The first time she and I worked together was for a custom video, and someone had paid for us to be dressed up like ballerinas, and I was a ballet dancer, so we had these little babydoll outfits, and since this was a custom, scripted specifically for that person, I remember at one point during the scene, she looked down at me and she complimented me and said I was better than her boyfriend. I just remember, since she was about the same age as one of my sisters, I had a mental block. She's two years older than my sister, so it was strange for me, but she became like my sister. Even though we worked together, it was more playful and giggly and frolicking and things like that, partly because she seemed so fragile to me; she was just so delicate. So that was the beginning of our friendship."

Hill had appeared in several features for what was then known as Vivid Video, and she used her connections there to score an introduction for her new friend.

"At the beginning, it was she and I, and since we were trying to get established in Los Angeles and she was still brand new, the pathway for her to get into Vivid was actually done because of the work I had already been doing for them, and so they found me favorable and when our manager approached them about Jenteal, they were open to meeting with her because they had already established a working relationship with me," Hill recounted. "So when Vivid opened their doors to Jenteal, they automatically put me in a lot of her films and it became Melissa and Jenteal, Melissa and Jenteal, Melissa and Jenteal, which was fun for me; I loved it because I was very protective of her. When she signed with them, part of the contract was that she had to do a boy/girl, because up to that point, she was only working with girls, so they said she had to work with men and it couldn't be with the same man that she worked with previously, who was the person she was in a relationship with. So I believe Alex Sanders was the first one they chose for her, and I was so protective of her, I just remember standing there on set, just off-camera, bawling my eyes out and she was laughing at me; she kept stopping and looking at me, going, 'I see you over there crying. Stop it!' I wanted to make sure, since she was so young, and because up to that point, she had only been with me, I was very protective of her, and I just wanted to make sure she was making the right decision for her and she was going to be okay."

So Hill and Jenteal appeared in several of what Hill calls "buddy films," but it wasn't long before the fact that Jenteal had a Vivid contract and Hill didn't started to take its toll on the friendship.

"I believe the last production I worked on that was hers was the movie Arcade," Hill said. "Alexandra Silk also starred in it, and I remember that was kind of when she went from being always very smiling to just being—things started changing a little bit. At one point, she decided she was tired of it being the 'Melissa and Jenteal show', and she wanted to start proving herself, proving her abilities as a Vivid Girl on her own without me. She became more intense, and she looked at me while we were doing our scene together and she said, 'Why are you always smiling like that?' And I was just really taken aback and so I told them, 'I don't think it's a good idea that you put us in movies together anymore.'"

Arcade was released in 1999, and it was one of Jenteal's last movies before her retirement—and before her breast enhancements, which likely served her well on the road dancing at clubs across the country. However, in 2000, Jenteal married her longtime boyfriend—a wedding to which Hill was not invited—and about a year later, she gave birth to twins, so it's unclear when Jenteal again began taking dance gigs after those momentous events.

"She started going on the road dancing in between movies, and she would hire me to housesit for her, so I kind of became her housesitter, and to be honest, her personality changed," Hill assessed. "They always used to say, 'Once you become a Vivid Girl, you become a livid girl.' That was the saying that was on set between cast and crew, especially makeup artists, and I was like, 'Oh, well, that makes sense,' because she started going on the road dancing and she was all wrapped up in being friends with all the other Vivid Girls, and this is something she and I spoke about a few years ago."

Jenteal was living in Manhattan Beach at the time, and Hill stayed in the Topanga Canyon area of the San Fernando Valley in order to avoid the commute from the Bay area.

"While I was in Topanga Canyon and she was in Manhattan Beach, I would often drive over and we would go to dinner, me, her and her fiancé at the time," Hill recounted. "We would go to Benihana's. That was her favorite restaurant, Benihana's in Manhattan Beach.

"We didn't have a Christy Canyon/Ginger Lynn type of relationship," Hill added. "We had just a regular two regular girls type of friendship where on occasion, on camera, we would get intimate. So we didn't have an intimate relationship off-camera. We were just two girlfriends, two friends, so it was very innocent; we had a very innocent friendship off-camera."

In part because they weren't intimate friends and in part because Jenteal had left Hill out of her wedding party, the women lost touch with each other for several years, although Hill remembers bumping into Jenteal at an airport shortly after her twins were born. But it wasn't until around 2015, when their agent Dan Barros passed away and Jenteal reportedly began having some medical problems that Hill declined to talk about, that the pair reconnected.

"Our manager passed away unexpectedly while I was at that year's Legends of Erotica ceremony, and so when he died, I believe it was Dirty Bob who contacted me, and I searched for Jenteal," Hill said. "I went online and searched for her and I had to go through a former makeup artist, Dan Fry—I contacted Dan Fry and he put me in touch with Jenteal, and that was when she was completely out of the industry, had no connection whatsoever to anyone. When she and I spoke about Dan's death, she said that there was no one in the world who could ever understand what it was like for her other than myself, and what feelings she had, because we were the only two people that he represented, and so it was like we picked right back up where we left off, in 2015. She apologized to me for everything. She apologized for leaving me out of her wedding and just all the other 'livid girl' things. So my friends and I flew her to town from northern California and she stayed with us, stayed in our house, and she became Auntie Jenteal to my dog."

A couple of things Hill found out about Jenteal's post-porn life was that she had gotten divorced, and that she had taken a job at a Trader Joe's market—and what happened to her as a result changed Jenteal's life for good.

"She had a job working at Trader Joe's and she injured her back, so much so that she had to have back surgery, and after the surgery, there were things that went wrong," Hill said. "The pins that were holding the rods together in her back I think were protruding and causing major pain in her spinal cord, so she was dealing with a lot a lot of pain, and it was affecting her ability to function normally. But she had received a settlement from the back surgery gone bad, and last year at some point, she started traveling around the world."

It was partly that back injury together with some other health problems affecting Jenteal that the former actress decided that she needed to change her lifestyle.

"She suddenly started eating right, she quit drinking alcohol and smoking, I believe, and once again I saw her on Facebook and she's paddling a boat down the Amazon River, and I'm like, 'How the hell did she get to the Amazon River?'," a slightly confused Hill reported. "So apparently when she finally received her settlement, she decided to use that settlement to travel and do all the things that she had enjoyed before the back surgery. So she was traveling around and she was becoming certified and becoming like a hiking tour guide, and the next thing I know, she's in the Philippines. She was there for a while, and then the pandemic happened, and myself and other people were urging her to come back home, but she chose to take the advice of somebody else and that person told her to stay where she was."

One of Jenteal's activities while living in the Philippines was to get more tattoos, and according to Hill, she even got a tattoo artist to break quarantine to come to her home to provide new ink.

"That's when she received the tattoo on her ankle and she basically was unable to walk, because that tattoo never healed properly," Hill said. "We were still communicating up until early June, and in June is when she received the injury on her foot, so we weren't speaking but I was still watching her posts, and publicly, she was saying that she was exactly where she wanted to be. What she said was, she wanted to make her kids proud by sticking it out in the Philippines until she had accomplished what she went there for, which was to be certified as a diver."

Jenteal's ex-husband is reportedly making arrangements for her body to be flown back to California from the Philippines, and it's not known whether there will be a memorial ceremony for the actress.