What I Learned from “What I Learned from Porn”

Photo by Jennifer K. Hugus for the Los Angeles Beat

Photo by Jennifer K. Hugus for the Los Angeles Beat

“Hey!  Looking to make some good money?  Care if your current source of income leaves you potentially ridiculed and perhaps even ostracized by your friends and family?  Looking to perform private and undercover acts (while not being quite so covered yourself) with virtual strangers whose real names you rarely know—kinda like an ol’ CIA spook?  Then perhaps a career in porn is for you!”  So rolls the fast paced opening “sales” film as paraphrased by yours truly.

In order to get started you will need a few key tools.  No, no, no, not in the drawer:  the bucket.  That’s where they keep them.—Yes, the bucket!  Yes, yes, yes, I know what bucket rhymes with.  Funny you point that out…like no one’s ever done that before…

The Tools:

-Baby Wipes

-Baby Powder

-Towels—paper and terry cloth

-Douches

-Enemas

-Dildos—all sizes, shapes and colors

Now, now…no need to bust a gasket, these tools are just like the everyday accoutrements used in all manner of other professions and you should just go ahead and think of them that way.

As porn stars need their towels and baby wipes so does a gas station attendant need his soap and squeegee.

As your average porn star needs his enema, so does a bassoonist need his…his spit valve.

As a lady porn star needs her douches, so does the slack-panted plumber need his Drain-o.

Just as your average construction worker needs his screwdriver and as your run-o-the mill bartender needs his own liquid version (in hopes of assisting his clients in achieving what only a porn star can, sans the nightly effort) the sex actor needs his/her dildo just the same!

Just as any great (or mediocre for that matter) gymnast needs rosin for her hands, and a violinist might perhaps need rosin for his bow…your average porn star needs baby powder for his…his…nevermind…nevermind…

Aaand I’m going to stop now before this turns into a really twisted Sesame Street Sketch and/or completely inappropriate series of SAT Analogies!

I am seated in the third row of the one-man play, “What I learned from Porn” at this year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival and hoping I haven’t made a risky decision.  The above (beginning with the “Tools”) is what I have learned from it so far…in my own words…sporting my own take…

But, “What did this rotund, middle-aged fellow learn from porn?” quips the star/playwright. “Well, I wasn’t always middle-aged…”

With 18 years and 400 plus credits to his name, screenwriter/performer Steven Kates, aka Frank Bukkwyd, is a ‘porn star’ to be reckoned with.  As picture after picture of all the varied and diverse characters he has played over the years flash on the silver screen above his head, he continues, “I always thought people in porn were supposed to be attractive.  (But I was a) non-sex performer.  We’ve all felt like non-sex performers at one time or another.”  The audience laughs knowingly (save the Ken Dollesque entity sitting three chairs down from me to the right <aka 6 butt cheeks in metric>). And “Let’s face it, you’re all here because you’re not having sex someplace else.”  The Ken Doll creature laughs at this.  It is something even he can’t deny!

Kates begins addressing his emergent days as a writer and using his imagination to weave and wend stories–tales with substance–centered around people taking their clothes off and boffing every few scenes coupled with his eventual acting cameos in earnest: “It’s not all smut, ‘Look at the bald guy, he’s not taking off all his clothes’.”  In order to act in these films, “I decided never to appear in the same frame with anything XXX.  In other words, once things started to go gonadal, I’d skedaddle…though people are always surprised when they meet me in real life that I don’t move in fast forward…”

Kates/Bukkwyd began his pornographic career in the mid-nineties, back when the art was more or less taboo, “in a world where it was against the law.  There were vice squads that would bust it up…” Windows had to be closed so no one could hear what you were doing.  Kates’ family knew however and just figured he was in the process of doing something “crazy again; like when I taught meditation or sold insurance.”  But other than that, “people were saying words under a name I made up so there was no real exposure.”

“What I Learned from Porn” Rule #1:  Nobody uses their real names, at least they didn’t back in the 20th century (i.e. the 1900s).

“The bottom line, no pun intended, in porn is making money.” Kates admits.  While his friend and co-writer Cash Markman got him involved in the business, Kates needed to find a name with just that much panache surrounding all things cash, so he invented the name Frank Bukkwyd: “Frank” equaling the French Franc, “Buck/Buk” symbolizing the all-American dollar and “Kwyd” as a cheeky nod to the term “Quid”.  FRANK-BUK-KWYD:  From then on Frank was on to making some serious bank!  But the results weren’t always as lucrative as one might hope.  As a matter of fact, depending on Frank’s dear friend Cash’s instinct regarding a picture/script, his own name might change in descending order regarding how well he thought it might do: “Cash Markman” remained on top, dipping into “Sterling Pounds” as a second best, decreasing in value to Dollars—“Bill Dollars” that is…and rounding out the barrel’s bottom at “Penny Nichols”. Not sure whether I should be offended that the least lucratively attractive name is that of a woman’s, I figure the reverse is true in actual porn films.  If not, perhaps I’ll name my unborn daughter Millionaira one day and set a new trend…

“Finding your porn name is easy if you have some fun about it!” exclaims Kates, at which point he picks a few lucky souls out of the audience and prompts them to give him their first pet’s name and the name of the street on which they grew up.  The friend with whom I have attended the night’s festivities is selected first and it is quickly discovered that he has missed his calling in life, “Boomer”, “Boomer Brown” he boldly articulates.  Ooh this is getting good.  A man behind us calls out “Billy” then “Hewitt”, “Billy Hewitt”…hmmm…okay we’re getting colder…colder…until the last audience member is selected by Kates and tentatively utters… “Ginger”—“Ginger Church”.  The crowd howls at the incongruous titular juxtaposition and I wonder if she is a plant.  I then go on to admit to myself that my porn name would not even fit my gender—“Herbert”—“Herbert Crestview”—what to do then…?  Get a sex change…?  Wear a prosthetic?  (Some folks are really into that type o’ thing y’know…) Or…or use my mother’s first pet name (like you’d use a maiden name or your mother’s maiden name as a password).  In this case “Taffy”, “Taffy” would be the order of the day. Aaah finally this game makes some sense where I am concerned!

Then again, not everyone can do porn, or is meant to do porn and I am fairly assured I am one of them.

Kates continues confirming this for me.  “You had that class of people on camera, otherwise known as the talent:  That onscreen breed that would breed onscreen. And some of them were so sexualized, you had to wonder what they would do if not for porn.  One lady, Bibi–blonde hair and boobs–had this strange habit of playing with herself absentmindedly, turning pages of her script and flicking away at her happy button… If that was her way of suiting up, getting into character, what’s it hurt by diddling her doodad?  What else could she do?  Teach Morse code? …and then there’s that guy gossiping with the crew and languidly stroking himself.  This guy’s a craftsman keeping his tools sharp and shiny!”

But in the end I, “developed a one on one relationship with these people, talked to them, found out what made them tick.”

Reason Number 1 girls do it: The $.  With the proper looks and demeanor they could go from 0 to 6 figures in a year to shopping sprees that would exceed it. One lady got into the business to pay her way through law school, then came back to porn!” (At the same time, couldn’t an attorney be disbarred for having a pornographic past I wonder…?  Then again, perhaps that’s why she came back!)

Reason Number 2:  The Sex:  Some women like sex, lots of sex.”  Kates goes on to reminisce about a starlet named Mildred who, flat out, asked him one day on the set (in a heavy Slavic sounding accent), ‘Why don’t you watch me do the sex?…But Frank, I like it when you watch!…No Frank, I like it when anybody watches…I like to think about all the people on the other side of screen watch me have the seeex…”  She then asked him if he had any friends who would like to watch, continuing on with, “Frank, maybe you have family?”

Number 3No strings.  “In today’s world, who has time to date?” quotes Kates referring to a woman who moonlighted in an IT firm by day. “I don’t even have time to date.  This way, I have an itch, I come down.  I scratch it.  I go home.”

“Well no wonder she had no time to date.” I muse. She was working two jobs.  Clearly her problem resided in her refusal to take a nice vacation from one vocation to the forest for the trees, or would those be bushes?  And perhaps she was one of those people who was all business as I can’t imagine porn sex being all that satisfying or date-inducing to begin with.  The hot lights, the specific bodily positioning to accommodate the lights, (the douches, the enemas) and the, “Oh, oh oh, I’m almost there!” only to be interrupted by, “Aaand cut–lunch!” (“Damn, sausage again?!?!  Way to rub it in!”) Regarding her business sense however, Kates confirms, “Her porn aspect only helped her get more business in her IT firm.”

(At this juncture I think it is also imperative to note that combining definitive gratification with work is obviously much more fair to the UNfairer sex. For, a rule not included in this portion of the play, but pointedly mentioned later on, revolves around male porn stars’ secret language and their own foreshadowing as to when the “cut calling” will be decreed.

“’The pop scene’, aka ‘The Money Shot’:  It’s about as up close and personal as it’s gonna get…and the actor will give them (the camera/lighting crew) a cue when it’s going to happen so they can uh…re-position themselves accordingly.  Once this happens, it often signals time for lunch.” Kates explains.

Git out the way…git out the waaaayyy!!! Aaah, the whole thing gives ME an idea for a book:  The Secret Language and Customs of Pre-Ejaculatory Male Porn Stars of the 90s—Now then, where’s Margaret Mead when you need her? Geez!)

Reason Number 4:  “They’re screwed up.  What goes on above the neck and below the neck are two totally different things…and they (these particular actors) tend not to be around very long.”  Well, I coulda toldjya that!—All of it!

Reason Number 5:  “They’re professionals – Sexual Professionals.”  Kates then goes on to hark back to his brief stint at a Nevada chicken ranch wherein most, if not all, of the actresses used were professional sex havers with non-professional sex wanters on the side, and just how nice everyone was.  Very forthcoming too as he reminisces some of the most no-nonsense advice he’s ever received on how to please a woman.  “What would you tell the men of the world?”  He recalls asking one of the more robust and heartily built girls.  Her answer immediately veers to that of oral sex and how gingerly most men perform it, “Pressure, we gotta feel some friction down there.  Oh we’ll make all the right sounds…but it’s never right.”  Then, as an example “she runs her tongue across the palm of my hand like she’s scraping barnacles off the hull of a boat.”  Hmm, perhaps most men just don’t want to be reminded of their days out in the fishery when performing this act…

Rule (not reason) but Rule Number 6:  (Or reason for NOT doing porn).  Bigger is not always better!  “Can you imagine being all stretched out like that?  He’s so big.  So glad my boyfriend’s not like that!”  Yes, even female sex actors, once having experienced the big time, don’t necessarily desire it in the grand scheme of things once they’ve been exposed…or someone else has uh…done that to them…

And on this note, the evening begins to draw to a close.  Kates confesses that he is no longer very active in the business and that most of the profits and high concept budgets for films with scripts and formula (i.e. a 90 minute sex film with the requisite 5 sex scenes equaling the need for 3-4 girls and 3-5 guys) died when the Internet took over.  “There were great profits off VHS and amazing profits off the DVD as it takes seconds to copy and the shipping charges are less but with a raised price.  I had started getting recognition.  Was referred to as the Susan Lucci of porn, kinda like being referred to as the world’s largest Pygmy …But now, nobody wants to pay for it anymore…”

In closing, to give us all an idea of how grandiose these films got, Kates shows us a clip of one of his most sophisticated and recent pictures wherein he plays a pirate hovering in a small, seemingly marooned boat on the beach, swashbuckling accent and all.  Suddenly, and out of nowhere, dozens of skeletons in Pirate garb, generated by what looks like a very early version of CGI, descend upon him and his little boat to his cries of horror!   Eventually, declares Kates, “you could take the hard core sex out and air adult films on cable.”

“What did I learn from porn?  All I learned from porn, I learned from Frank Bukkwyd.”  In closing, he quotes Walt Whitman, “I contain multitudes.”

The lights dim and I am somehow oddly moved and inspired…

What did I learn from “What I Learned from Porn”?  It is just all just as funny, crazy, serious and sane as I suspected…

In communicating with Kates after the performance, he reveals, “And — here’s the EXCLUSIVE SCOOP for your readers!! — I just signed to perform in the first Annual (I’m only guessing at there being a 2nd) Missoula Fringe Festival on August 16th and August 17th.

Yep, I’m hitting the road and heading for Montana — where what they don’t know about porn won’t hurt them.  Could be cool…

The basic point for me is to keep on doing the show, refining it, getting it sharper and more precise — there’s a pleasure in the doing that far eclipses my expectations of what the experience would be like — so, with all the opportunities providentially laid before more, it’s the direction most inviting.”

For more information on Steven Kates, Frank Bukkwyd and the performance itself, please visit, www.frankbukkwyd.com

Jennifer K. Hugus

About Jennifer K. Hugus

Jennifer K. Hugus was born at a very young age. At an even earlier age, she just knew she would one day write for the LA Beat! Having grown up in Massachusetts, France, and Denmark, she is a noted fan of Asian Cuisine. She studied ballet at the Royal Danish Ballet Theatre and acting at U.S.C. in their prestigious BFA drama program. She also makes her own jewelry out of paints and canvas when she isn’t working on writing absurdist plays and comparatively mainstream screenplays. Jennifer would like to be a KID when she grows up!
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