A couple of years ago, we were contacted by a former adult film performer who’d been active in the business in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
She’d just discovered The Rialto Report, and liked what she saw, but felt conflicted about granting an interview. She’d enjoyed making films and wanted to share her experiences – but feared the consequences. 40 years on and now in her 60s, her family still disapprove and most of her friends still don’t know about her past.
Or in her words: “I don’t have a problem with what I did, but I know that other people did – and still do. So much time has passed, but some things just stay the same.”
Recently however she agreed to talk to us briefly about her experiences working on a Roberta Findlay film, Justine: ‘A Matter of Innocence’ (1980). The film featured Hillary Summers, Ashley Moore, Vanessa del Rio, Merle Michaels, Christie Ford, Christine De Shaffer, Robin Sane, Dory Devon, Rick Iverson, and Dave Ruby.
Her only condition was that we keep her identity secret – at least for now.
Here are her memories – together with a selection of rare and previously unseen candid photographs taken on the set of Justine: ‘A Matter of Innocence’.
Justine: ‘A Matter of Innocence’ (1980)
How did you get the part in Justine: ‘A Matter of Innocence’ (1980)?
I met Howard Winters at a party. He’d been making films for years using different names like Cecil Howard and Ward Summers, and my favorite, Umberto Corleone. We had a brief flirtation. He liked to act like a movie mogul from the golden years of Hollywood, and he grandly promised me a role “in his next big movie.”
Howard was actually a nice guy once you got past his arrogant exterior – though he was paranoid about having his Republican friends at the golf club discover the type of films he was making.
We hung out together and he mentioned me to Roberta Findlay and Walter Sear. They made films through their company, which I think was called ‘Sendy Productions’. I still have some paperwork with that name.
I went into Walter’s recording studio and met with Roberta and Walter there. We chatted and they offered me the role.
What was your impression of Roberta and Walter?
The strangest couple ever!
Walter was married, and ran this successful studio called Sear Sound which attracted big names in the music business, so he was a minor celebrity. He was a studious, academic man, who had a serious demeanor – nothing like a stereotypical porn producer. He seemed ancient to me even then.
Roberta was this tiny dark-haired woman, who looked like she’d been dragged through a bush backwards. She was having this relationship with Walter, and I think that he practically lived at her apartment with her – except for the sleeping. He went home to his wife each night. At least that was the scuttlebutt on the set.
What was it like working with them?
Very professional. It was clear that they knew exactly what to do in the most efficient way possible.
They hired capable crew members who they knew, and who knew exactly what to do. They had a script that was cute.
They also had great locations.
Oh my God… the house we shot some scenes in was to die for. A beautiful mansion, out on Long Island I think. It was a stately home.
What do you remember about the plot of ‘Justine’?
It’s about a teenage girl, Justine, who goes to live with her wealthy uncle when she graduates from a French finishing school… and he corrupts her.
It wasn’t a bad story. Howard wrote it, and he was a pretty good writer.
What do you remember about Roberta as a director?
Rather than Roberta directing it herself, it seemed like more of a collective effort – among herself, Walter and Howard. It was a fluid working arrangement, and they all contributed.
One thing that surprised me was that Roberta had a certain distaste for the sex scenes. She’d seen it all before not doubt, but that didn’t mean she relished filming the actual sex. She was happiest when she was working out how to film a technically challenging sequence. Howard, on the other hand, was definitely interested in the sexual dynamics in a scene.
How did this play out on set?
Roberta would be comically offhand in her instructions with regards to the mechanics of sex.
She’d say something like, “You put your thing over here, face this way, open your legs, and let him put his thing in you. And make sure it looks really sexy, ok?”
What do you remember about the actors in the film?
They were a good group of people. I started dating one of them. He was in medical school at the time, and in fact went on to be a doctor. His sex film career paid for his tuition. He’s been very successful since then and now has his own practice on Park Avenue in New York. I wonder if any of his patients ever recognize him…
Steve Tucker, or Ashley Moore as he was known in the film world, was lovely. A real gentleman. He was an aluminum salesman by day, and this was his kinky sideline. Sweet guy. I think he wanted to be a leading man in the movies, but it didn’t happen for him. He was much older than most of the rest of the cast, and he was conscious of that.
Dave Ruby was a scream. This was a guy who took his job as a sexual athlete very seriously. He told me he worked out and ate the best foods so that he wouldn’t let all of his fans down… He said they needed to see him at his best at all times. After the shoot, he invited me to a swinger’s party but I was busy. I regretted not going later… I mean, a swinger’s party with Dave Ruby as your date?!
I think Howard (Winters) had a role as a chauffeur or businessman as well. Not a sexual role fortunately…!
Vanessa (del Rio) was in the film. I was intimated by her as she had this… volcanic, hungry, aggressive sexual nature. It was strange, because there was a rumor going round at the time – and I’ve no idea how or where it got started – that she was a transsexual. Probably someone was jealous of her.
What do you think when you look back over the pictures taken during the shoot?
The photos look like they were taken yesterday. Everyone is so young and attractive. It’s strange, but I hadn’t noticed or even realized that at the time. When you’re young, you take it all for granted. I mean we look beautiful.
Do you remember seeing the premiere?
I believe there was a private premiere in a theater, and that the New York adult film community were invited. It was friendly. I was impressed with how good the film looked.
Did you keep any artifacts from your time making adult films?
Yes, I was like a pack rat! I kept many photos from the films in which I appeared. I have scrapbooks with newspaper cuttings, props, and so on. I also have lots of scripts, and correspondence too.
It’s a shame you can’t share these with anyone you know as it’s part of your life.
I agree. I’m proud of the work I did. Perhaps one day things will change. In the meantime, everything is in boxes in my closet.
By agreeing to let us publish these memories, people will be able to make an educated guess as to who you are.
I realize that. But it’s important for me to share my story, and The Rialto Report is the first place I’ve seen that allows anyone to do this in a non-judgemental, non-tacky, and… intelligent way. You do amazing work.
I’d like to be featured one day perhaps, and tell my full story.
What’s you memory like?
Surprisingly good. I remember a lot of it like it was last week. Time passes quickly, but this period is coming alive through the great research you do.
The house where much of the principal shooting took place
Hillary Summers and Andy Hayes
Ashley Moore and Vanessa del Rio
(from left to right) Hillary Summers, Andy Hayes, Rick Iverson, Robin Sane
(from left to right) Robin Sane, Rick Iverson, Andy Hayes
Dave Ruby, Christine De Shaffer
Ashley Moore, with Howard Winters (Cecil Howard) on right
(from left to right) Andy Hayes, Hillary Summers, Linda Vale
(from left to right) Ashley Moore, Christie Ford, Merle Michaels
(from left to right) Ashley Moore, Christie Ford, Merle Michaels
I want to be the first to leave a comment and congratulate you on your amazing site, and your new contract with The Deuce producers. This is great new for me and all the fans of this wonderful period of time.
The pictures and memories in this article are typical of the highest quality of your work.
I 2nd Marco’s post. Brilliant work here and good things happen as a result. Don’t get too busy on The Deuce and forget about us.
Ok, my guess is Hillary Summers.
At least I hope it is as I’d love to hear that she has been found, and is alive and well. She was one of my favorites from. the golden age, and this is a PHENOMENAL article.
Thanks for your feedback Gene!
Hi April, I found this site by accident looking for info on Christine De Shaffer. The site is fantastic but this story is the only mention of her here. I recently heard that she died in 2001 and I’ve found it very difficult to find anything about her and I find that odd these days since she worked in many movies over about 5 – 6 years and in several very well known movies now on BluRay. I realize there are hundreds of actors from that period and you probably get people asking about different stars all the time, but does anyone know what happened to Christine De Shaffer? Browsing at a few of your stories it seems like a mystery worthy or the Rialto Report. Thanks for the entertaining stories.
Wow, was anyone more ravishing than Vanessa Del Rio in her prime? just pure natural beauty and sexier than any mainstream actress at that time. Woman pay thousands of dollars to have crap injected into their lips so they can get what Vanessa had naturally. I guess the reason people still today ask Vanessa why she did scenes with dwarf performer Lusis DeJesus is because they don’t expect the biggest star in the industry to do midget porn? but Vanessa said she liked working with him, hard to believe he has been dead 30 years now.
It was also nice to see the beautiful Christie Ford in these shots, she always had that girl next door look to her. Boy porn was a lot better then before all the plastic surgery that today’s girls have. I forgot how hairy Ashley Moore’s ass was? too bad they couldn’t wax that thing! One of my all time favorite Melissa Melendez movies was Quicksilver, a video shot on location in New York, Melissa is gorgeous in this one, but when she has her legs in the air getting pumped by Ashley Moore his ass is so hairy it looks like he is transitioning into the wolfman
“..because they don’t expect the biggest star in the industry to do midget porn?”
It’s all relative. Makes me think of when Rosanne Barr said Tom Arnold had a tiny dick. His response? – ‘anything would seem small if it’s landing in the Grand Canyon.’
Although it’s a bit unfortunate the actress chooses to be anonymous, it’s entirely understandable, and you can’t hold it against her. Everyone’s comfort level is different, and those around us in our lives are not always open minded. I’m just grateful she values her past work enough to add to the history of the biz, and I would hope other actresses and actors might come forward to share what they feel comfortable sharing under similar presumably non identifiable circumstances.
I’m just glad she kept the memorabilia. It’s disappointing to hear in some of the interviews that people either tossed or lost all of those photos and articles.
Regarding the house, the exterior and interior were featured in Neon Nights and an exterior shot was used for Foxtrot. It would be nice to have a location article about this place.
Easily the most amazing set photos I’ve ever seen. Thank you, Ms X!
Also, all the nice things you said about RR are right on the money.
Vanessa del Rio, Linda Vale, & Merle Michaels were in Cecil Howard’s Foxtrot 1982 .
Man, I’d love to hear Merle Michaels being interviewed here someday. That would be incredible.
Thanks for the pictures here. 🙂
Agreed. I was hoping there was audio and it was her.
Nice to learn about an obscure Roberta Findlay film that has been sadly forgotten and is ripe for a DVD/Blu Ray revival(I hope that Vinegar Syndrome is listening),with an interesting behind-the-scenes expose from its Secret Mystery Female Star(and info about its cast,crew,and its production).
I watched Blind Ambition ( the Amero brothers) listened to a “The Projection Booth” podcast with April and got interested in Dory Devon’s bio. I then entered her name/therialtoreport.com and lo and behold this little treasure trove popped up. Again I thank you folks for the time and care you take to produce these memories and people’s stories
Whether or not it’s Hillary, I hope she considers writing a book or doing an interview. Would love to hear more about her.