Jesse Adams: “Why Am I Not in the Hall of Fame?”

Jesse Adams: “Why Am I Not in the Hall of Fame?”

Jesse Adams was an instantly recognizable figure in golden age adult cinema.

For a start, he appeared in over 500 feature films spanning a thirty-year period: he started in hundreds of loops, graduated onto bigger budget features, and ended up a reliable presence in video productions of the 80s and 90s.

And there were his distinctive looks: blonde hair, surfer’s physique, and a sporadic classic porno ‘tache.

Over the last few years, The Rialto Report has visited Jesse regularly, enjoying many Thai meals with him, and listening to his larger-than-life story.

There are very few performers who started out in 1974 and were still appearing in front of the camera in 2004 – and how many of those can claim to have Julie Andrews as a fan?

This is Jesse Adams’ story.

Jesse Adams


1.  Jesse Adams – Childhood

Where do you hail from?

Ohio. I was born August 12, 1949, in Washington Court House, a city in Ohio. It’s the seat of Fayette County, 30 miles south of Columbus. And I grew up in East Palestine, Ohio – just over the Pennsylvania border.

Who were your folks?

My birth father was Irish. His name was Bill Michael – two first names. My birth mother was Mary. Italian. Her father’s surname was Verderano.

My birth name is Kenny – Kenny Lee Michael. You’re the only people connected to adult business that know that now! [laughs] My birth parents had a second son a year after me so I had a brother named Roger Michael – two first names just like my birth dad.

You say birth parents?

Yes, my parents split soon after my brother, Roger, was born – and my birth dad quickly married another woman. Boy, was that woman homely [laughter].

What did your mom do?

She caroused around town for a while… seemed like everybody wanted to go on a date with her. And when she went out, I’d be at home to take care of my brother.

Even though I was just four years old, she made me iron her shirts before she went out. One time I burned my hand badly – and it took a long time to heal. Another time, my brother fell in a gutter and almost drowned – I saved his life by pulling him out. We were on our own a lot.

Did she remarry?

Eventually she met an Italian crooner. She always liked musicians. She wanted to keep me and my brother, but her new boyfriend didn’t want kids. He was wealthy and he worshipped her, so in the end, she was willing to give us up in a heartbeat to stay with him.

What did she do?

She took my brother and me to a local orphanage and left us there.

Jesse AdamsJesse Adams (left) with brother Roger

How old were you at that point?

Just shy of five years old. My brother got adopted by a family right away but I took a little longer.

Did you see much of your mother after that?

She came back to the orphanage to visit occasionally. One day, she took me by the hand and said, “Here, go with these people.” They became my adoptive parents. They were Russian – that’s how I learned to speak some Slovak and Czech.

What did your adopted parents do?

He was a pig farmer and she was a pastor. They had their own church – some kind of spiritualist congregation. They had me count the money that churchgoers put in the offering plates.

Did life improve when you went to live with them?

At first, they treated me well. I had a nice bedroom and they seemed kind to me. They offered to adopt me, so one day we went with my birth mother to a local courthouse. We all went before a judge, and the judge asked me, “Would you like these people to be your parents?” They were nice to me so I said yes. Then my birth mother signed the agreement, and that was it. That was 1955.

So it turned out well?

Not really. The night that I was adopted, my new parents took me back to their home and locked me in the basement. From then on, the beatings began. They quickly became regular. Like every day. I could do no right in their eyes.

What were you beaten for?

There was no rhyme or reason. Once they got me a collie dog, but when I spent all my time with the dog, they beat me. Then they adopted a little girl. One day I accidentally hit her in the head with a bat when we were playing baseball – they beat me badly for that.

Another time, they showed me a bag and told me it was for my head when they decapitate me.

Did you think their threat was a serious one?

Sometimes. My adoptive father made me work on the farm with the pigs and horses. I seemed to always make him mad and he’d hit me if I stepped out of line. Sometimes, I’d try to fight back because I was resistant and I didn’t like power over me, but then he’d beat the hell out of me. He had leather straps made by a friend of his – and they had holes in them just so they’d hurt more when he hit me.

What was your mother’s reaction to this?

She was the dominant person in that relationship: she had my dad wrapped around her finger. Sometimes she’d watch him beat me, counting the lashings. I used to pray for the devil to come and take her, but she wound up living until she was 96.

How did you cope with this abuse?

I would run away all the time. But I was always caught and brought back. The local police came to know me well.

Did you have anyone you could trust?

I didn’t trust anybody except my grandparents. My adoptive parents would go to Niagara Falls and leave me home to take care of my grandmother because she had Parkinson’s disease. She would shake and drool, but she would talk to me.

And then, when I was 14, my grandfather was murdered. That hurt me a lot.

What happened?

He went to the bank to cash his pension check. We were waiting for him back at home and he never came back. I ran downtown to see what was keeping him. When I got there, I saw a crowd of people on the sidewalk. The police, the fire department, the medical services were all there. And my grandfather was lying on the ground. Two guys had come up to him with a shotgun, and murdered him on the sidewalk.

I’d been close to him. I used to sleep in his room right next to him. My grandparents were both good people, yet somehow their daughter, my adoptive mother, was the exact opposite.

How did you react to the tragedy?

I went looking for the guys that murdered him. I had a gun and would have killed them if I ever found them.

There was a lot of turmoil back in Youngstown, Ohio in those days. The mafia was blowing people up and there was plenty of violent crime.

How did all this affect your schooling?

Even though I had such a tough time coming up, I was a good student. In high school, I hung out with a nice group of guys I’d play basketball with. For years, I won every game. I didn’t finish high school, but I passed my GED with flying colors.

And I liked motorbikes. That was my big passion. I loved racing motorbikes. I was good too!

Did you have your eye on any particular career?

I was always planning ahead: if this doesn’t work, then I’ll do that, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll do this. Like mental chess. Maybe it was a survival skill, but I thought like that since I was very young because I had to think of ways to get out of the beatings.

Basically, I wanted to leave home as soon as possible. So when I was 16, I went to the Job Corps to see how I could make some money. The guy there convinced me to go to cooking school, where I could train to be a cook. It was a tough job and I didn’t last long. My God, it was hot behind those stoves.

Did you date much as a teenager?

I had one girlfriend in high school who lived down the road from me. People called her the Country Bumpkin. But we never got physical. In fact, I stayed a virgin throughout my teen years. I was a late bloomer in that department.


2.  The Army

When did you leave home?

When I turned 17. I convinced my adoptive parents to sign the paperwork that allowed me to enter the Army before my 18th birthday.

Where did the army send you?

I did my basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia. I was in the infantry with the 101st Airborne. Basic training lasted about 8 weeks, then I got transferred to Fort Eustis in Virginia to learn troop movement control and logistics.

This would be around 1966, so was Vietnam on the cards?

Not at first, because they couldn’t take you into combat if you were under 18. So I got shipped to Fort Bliss, Texas, to the El Paso International Airport. My job was to arrange the logistics for the incoming army flights. I had to inspect every jet that left the airport with military personnel onboard… mostly I had to make sure the pilot and co-pilot were sober! They all drank a lot back then and you could smell it on them. More than once, I had to take military personnel off the plane because the pilots were drunk.

What happened when you turned 18?

As my 18th birthday approached, I finally got my orders to ship to Vietnam. When you get your orders, they give you a 30-day free pass to go and do whatever you want. I think it’s because you could come back in a body bag.

What did you do with your time off?

I went back to my family, but that was the same old story. They didn’t hug me or even acknowledge me. So after just two days back at home, I got on a bus. I didn’t say goodbye or nothing. I was quite nimble. When I got bored or frustrated, I’d be out of there.

Where did you go?

I headed west and landed in Berkeley, California. I wound up on Telegraph Ave and met this guy who let me stay in a water tower. There was no roof so the pigeons would sleep up there too. I stayed up there for two nights with all the pigeons. Every time I’d move, the pigeons would jump.

After a bit I headed to Oakland. When I got there, I was sitting in a local donut shop and noticed a guy with really long hair wearing a mailman’s uniform. So I said, “I see you’re a mailman – how’d you get the job with that long hair?”

He answered, “Oh, they’re really cool out here, man. They let you do what you want.”

I thought that was pretty neat. He started telling me about the anti-war activity he was involved in. It turned out there were a lot of protesters in Oakland. He asked where I was from and I said Canada. I lied because I was the only guy with short hair and I didn’t want to stick out. Meeting that mailman changed my perspective on life.

How so?

The mailman asked me if I had somewhere to stay and whether I wanted to crash at his place. I said sure – why pay rent if I didn’t have to? I could just meet people and sleep at their houses. That’s how cool things were back then.

The next morning, I headed downstairs and the mailman was sitting in the kitchen with two girls. The three of them were having breakfast and got me some coffee. Turned out he was married to these two girls. Not legally married because he said the government only let him have one wife.

Both the girls were good looking. I thought, “Boy, I should have been a hippie.”

Before long I started feeling funny. Turned out they laced my coffee with LSD. They lived across the street from a funeral home. As the acid kicked in, I ran over and started knocking on the coffins, trying to wake people up. Needless to say, they kicked me out of that funeral home fast.

I headed back to the apartment intending to give the guy a piece of my mind, but we wound up having a really long, deep talk. I confessed I wasn’t really Canadian and he said he already knew that because I didn’t have the accent. I told him I had orders to ship out to Vietnam, and he told they could help me get out of the country and have a new life in Canada. They were very anti-war. He told me he and his women were moving to Colorado and planned to start a school for kids and I could meet them there when things cooled down.

What was your attitude to the Vietnam war?

I admit there was a little bit of John Wayne in me. I wanted to go to Vietnam, and fight for freedom. Freedom was the most important thing to me. That longing for freedom went back to when I was young. Freedom is the best thing going on, so I was happy to go and fight for it.

So you reported back for duty at the end of the thirty days?

Yes, and I wound up shipping out to Vietnam in 1967, two days after I turned 18.

What was your experience of Vietnam?

When I arrived, I was given clerical jobs – actually logistics – but pretty quickly I wound up working as a security guard in a watch tower. At first it was an adventure, but then the shit started hitting the fan. Things got real very fast. There were always mortars flying everywhere. Guys were killed just 20 feet from where I was standing. When that happens, your adrenaline starts running like a racehorse. I was scared as all hell but excited at the same time. There’s something weird about adrenaline that lets you do things you normally couldn’t.

When an attack happens, you have to rely on your training. The guys who didn’t would do stupid things… and they’d suffer the consequences.

We lived in tents, and one night, I said, “Where are these guys in my tent? They’re late for dinner.” Turned out all of them had been killed. Every guy was wiped out but me.

I made friends, but I lost a lot of them.

Everyone was afraid for their life. Some of the guys stood in line at the dispensary every morning claiming to be sick so they wouldn’t get sent out to fight. Some went further than that: everybody carried atropine. If you got hit with gas, you had to stab it into your thigh. Some guys injected themselves every morning because it makes you really sick and you can’t fight. Then they would just sit around all day and smoke.

Did you get any breaks from the conflict?

I took my R&R in Bangkok and that was fun: I liked the weather and the food was so good.

How about the red-light district over there?

Well I didn’t have sex the whole time I was in the army. I was too nervous cause the guys around me were all catching sexual diseases… and the size of the needles they used to cure them was ridiculous! I wasn’t going to have any of that. I was like, “Hell no!”

Did you keep in touch with anyone back home while you were serving?

I was in Vietnam a total of a year and two days. The entire time I was there, I never heard from my adoptive parents. They didn’t write to me. Not even once.

But your experience in the army was positive for you?

All in all, it was a really good place for me at the time. This captain once said to me, “You’re the best guy here because you’re the fastest guy in the platoon.”

I had rank. I was a sergeant when I left.

What did you do when you finished your tour of duty in Vietnam?

I still had time to serve on my three-year enlistment. When I returned stateside, I became assistant editor of the Army base newspaper. We printed 13,000 issues every Friday. I made some money, and with my earnings I bought a car, a sweet Chevelle Super Sport.

It must have been a tumultuous period of history to be young.

It was. I had an old friend named Walter. Turned out he was in the Ku Klux Klan. He considered himself a constitutionalist, not a racist. He tried to get me to join them. He said with all the chaos going on the Klan would always come to my aid. I liked him, but I told him I wasn’t sure!

Jesse Adams


3.  Leaving the Army

When did you get out of the army?

In 1968 when I was 19. I went to stay with a couple of friends down in Norfolk, Virginia. One of the guys, a gay guy named John, asked me if I wanted to go to Woodstock with him. I told him yeah – mainly because I was desperate to lose my virginity (laughs).

Wait, you were still a virgin after running away from home several times, going to San Francisco, spending three years in the army, and having vacations in Bangkok?

(Laughs) Yes, and the girls in Norfolk weren’t with it either. I’d go to the drive-in theater and mess with them, but it was all just foreplay.

So what happened in Woodstock?

We drove up to New York and we got as close as we could, but we couldn’t make it the final stretch. There were too many people and they’d blocked off the roads. But we were happy because there were tons of people just hanging out by their cars and smoking joints. And you could hear the music from the road. It was the first time I ever heard Santana and it was so good.

And your virginity?

Nada. Still nothing (laughs).

Now that you’re out of the army, what do you do?

I went all over the place.

I started out in Asheville, North Carolina. That’s where my friend John was from and he was going home for the tobacco harvest. I joined him. The work was hard – you had to cut the leaves down with a machete, load them into a trailer, then hang them in the barns so they could air-dry. Your clothes would get covered with tobacco wax – this yellow sticky stuff. You couldn’t wash it off – you had to throw the clothes away. But the money was great: they were paying $12 an hour in 1969 and that was a lot back then.

I liked the farmers that we worked for. They would get us drunk on plum wine before we went out to the fields. Some days we got so drunk we passed out and couldn’t work. The farmers just laughed at us.

But John and I got really good at harvesting the tobacco: the farmers would compare the crews working for them and we were beating all the others. The other guys were drinking too much plum wine and moonshine! When they got really drunk, some of them would engage in bestiality, mostly with dogs. All those guys were watching and laughing, but John and I grabbed these guys by the shoulders and threw them right out. There are some strange things that go on in this world.

Where did you head after the harvest?

I had a lot of money saved, so I moved on to Atlanta. I’d never been there but it was the closest big city and I wanted to experience urban life.

I got a job at Southern Bell telephone company. They sent me to training to teach me how to use gaffs and go up on the phone lines. I loved climbing the phone poles, I was very athletic, and it was fun. I had my own van and would drive all over doing disconnects and reconnects.

And you still haven’t had sex?

Well… no. But by now, I set my sights on meeting some girls. I met a blonde who worked at the Federal Reserve. She told me she had a boyfriend, but she started calling me up all the time. And she ended up being the first girl I had sex with.

It was all kind of natural. I just dove right in, I guess. I mean, I was no expert, but boy when I started, I liked it a lot. I said to myself, “I think I’ll do this for a while!”

So she became your girlfriend?

No. It turned out the girl’s boyfriend was actually her husband. She was married but she didn’t tell me. One night her husband followed her to my apartment, came in, and dragged her out. So that was the end of that.

Trouble seemed to follow you around…

Tell me about it! One night, a little while later, I was walking past a bar when it got raided. Even though I was just walking by, the cops arrested me and threw me in jail for two weeks without charging me for anything.

How did you get out?

I’d met an English professor at Georgia State. She wound up liking me and bailed me out, but when I got back to my apartment, everything had been stolen. And there was a letter from Southern Bell saying I’d been fired because I hadn’t shown up for work. I was angry because I loved my phone job.

I moved in with this professor chick who let me stay at her place, sleeping on the couch.

What did you do for work?

The Professor had a friend who had a job taking cars between Georgia and Memphis, and he needed a back-up driver to go with him. I grabbed the opportunity.

One night we were driving and we got pulled over by the police in Tupelo. They searched us and found tons of bottles of whiskey in our trailer. I had no idea it was there. The cops made us open each one and pour out the contents. They called us ‘boy’, just like in the movies.

After the cops pulled away, my co-driver broke out laughing. Turns out he had a huge block of hash stored under the car as well! I thought to myself, “My God, I’m going to die in prison!”

We made it to Memphis, dropped off the drugs, and celebrated by going to a trailer that was owned by a whore that he liked. We walked in and she didn’t say a word – she just put out her cigarette, counted our money, and took him into the back.

I guess you gave up the driving gig after that.

Yeah. I met a biker guy who wound up giving me a motorcycle – a ’69 BMW. I still had money in the bank from the tobacco work so I was getting by. I ended up in Boston for a Vietnam protest. I wasn’t into the protest, but I wanted to meet hippie girls.

And were you successful?

Yeah! By now, I was banging them left and right. We’d go on panty raids to Radcliffe college – the girls would literally throw their panties out the window and if you caught them, you could have sex with them.

I had a good time in Boston but it was getting cold so I drove all the way across Canada on my bike. When I got to Vancouver, I met a guy at a park who said, “Go to California. There’s things happening there.” So I headed south. This was 1972.

Jesse Adams


4.     Adult Films

How did you find a place to live in California?

I met a girl on the beach who lived down near UCLA in Los Angeles. She was a student and I rented a room in her place at 143 Wadsworth Ave in Santa Monica. It was just a hippie crash pad then; now it’s prime real estate.

We lived next door to a place where lots of lesbians lived. One day, one of the women invited me to a big group dinner. Jane Fonda was one of the guests – this was when she was married to Tom Hayden. At some point the conversation turned to Vietnam and I thought, “Well, here’s a subject I can talk about. So I said, “I was in Vietnam. I was in the Army.” Well, that didn’t go down too well, and I was kicked out soon after they heard that. There was no tolerance for a different view at that table.

Jesse Adams

Did you find work?

I picked up some construction work in Los Angeles, and I thought about going back to college but didn’t get far with that, so I took some acting classes at Warner Brothers Studios – mostly to meet girls but also because I enjoyed it.

Did it lead to any acting roles?

Yeah, I had some success – mainly community theater productions. At one point, I got a small role in a Minnie Pearl movie, playing guitar and singing a song. But in the end, Minnie pulled out of the film so the whole thing was scrapped.

Did you enjoy living in Los Angeles?

I was feeling a bit lost to be honest. One day a girl who lived in the same house suggested we drop acid. She said it would help me figure out my next steps. So we scored some acid from a friend at UCLA and while we were there, I met a guy named James Auker. His father was Eldon Auker, who’d been an all-star baseball player for the Detroit Tigers. James was a producer of commercials for big companies like Dodge cars but, on the side, he told me he produced short sex films with a guy named Donn Greer. Turns out they were making these films for two groups of guys – one was a couple of gangsters and the other was a small group of Jewish guys in New York.

James said it was fast work and easy money, and told me that if I went to the shoot, I could have a non-sex role in one of his next movies. So I turned up on set, which was actually a house in the Hollywood Hills – the same one they used a year or two later in the movie ‘Earthquake’ in a scene where the house falls down a hill.

When I turned up, I realized immediately it wasn’t a real movie set because there was just a director, a pretty young woman, and a redhead from Simi Valley in her 40s. No other crew… and there was just a single camera on a tripod – not even any lighting or anything.

You were the only male actor there?

Yes, and it became clear fast that the director expected me to have sex for the film. I didn’t want to do it because I thought I could have a mainstream acting career ahead and that this would kill my chances.

So what did you do?

Well, the director said I’d get $100 if I did it, and I was broke. I needed to pay the rent which was $80, so $100 was a lot of money – that would leave $20 for food for the month.

You have to understand, I really didn’t want to do it. But… I needed the money so I said yes.

Jesse Adams

Did it feel strange?

Hell yeah! I’d never even been naked in front of anyone – except guys in the Army, I guess. The director wanted me to have sex with the redhead but I wasn’t attracted to her. She was older and I didn’t know how many guys she’d been with. So I told the director, “I’ll have sex with the other girl.”

He said, “But that’s my girlfriend!”

And I said, “Well… it’s gonna be your girlfriend or nothing.”

So I signed a release, did his girlfriend, and then jumped on the redhead and came on her face.

Actually, the whole thing wound up being very easy. I remember the redhead laying there on the couch afterwards and she was mad at me because I didn’t like her. I told her, “Listen, nothing against you, it’s just that I’m kind of new at this.”

I knew how to bullshit ’em. (laughter).

What happened next?

The next day I got a phone call from a guy wanting me to perform in his film. He said, “You don’t know me, but my name is Howard and I heard you did pretty good when you shot yesterday.”

Then I got three more phone calls from other guys with similar offers. I’d ask them how much they were paying and then I said yes.

Jesse AdamsJesse Adams, in one of his earliest films, Hardly Married (1974)

So that became your new job?

Before long I was a regular. Sometimes I’d wind up doing four loops in a single day. I kept getting calls ‘cause I could cum a lot. I was working every single day: I’d do a couple of scenes, then I’d cover for guys that couldn’t get a hard-on… and there were a lot of those. I used to stand in for them all.

A director once said, “Oh, man, you’re the stand-in cock of L.A.!” Not a great claim to fame, but I’ll take it.

What do you remember about the guys who were doing the shooting of the loops?

I made hundreds of loops with Jerry Abrams. Mostly in his triplex house. He’d shoot six in an afternoon, and I’d be in several of them. He was a cheap sonofabitch but he was the main shooter.

Then there was the Swedish Erotica series. That was Bob Vosse. His productions were a million miles above Jerry’s. He had lighting, set design, make-up, everything. The problem with Bob were those dumb scarves that he wanted the girls to wear!

I also used to work a lot for a balding Jewish guy with a mustache. He was a pilot from New York. He had a lot of connections. He’d fly to L.A. and while he was in town, he’d shoot sex loops.

I also worked a lot for Max Baer Jr. His father was a heavyweight boxing champion, and Jr. was a regular on ‘The Beverly Hillbillies.’ At the time he was producing a lot of porn films. He used to call me up and say, “You got any big titties for me?”

I heard he later dated Christy Canyon for a bit, but she broke up with him ‘cause he was too quirky in the bedroom.

That always cracked me up: he was too quirky for a porn star!

You were in a lot of loops…

Oh man, hundreds and hundreds! That was my bread-and-butter throughout my career. If I ever wanted money – and I often needed a few bucks – I could always do loops. There weren’t always feature films being made that needed me… but there were always loops. I don’t know if there was any actor that made more loops than I did. Swedish Erotica, Diamond, the loops that ended up on the Blue Vanities series… I did them for another twenty years.

Jesse Adams

Do you remember much about the other actors in loops?

I met John Holmes on the set of my third movie and we wound up working together a lot. He was a real cocky guy. He grew up just 40 miles from where I was born, but we didn’t have much in common. He was a little too much in his own world, but he was always fine with me.

I knew Serena from the loops too. That was when she was hanging out with Eddie Nash and his guys at the Starwood nightclub that Nash owned. That was the place to be – everyone was on cocaine there.

One night Eddie and a couple of his guys picked me up on the way to the club. They said they needed to make a pit stop to rob a guy. I considered asking them to drop me off first. Luckily nothing happened – that night was just a dress rehearsal for what happened later with the Wonderland affair, I guess.

You got Sue Nero into the adult business.

Yes, she was staying at a guest house near where I was living. I really liked her curly, frizzy hair. And those thick lips. She came over with some lesbian girls one night and they were all a hoot. I got along great with them. I took Quaaludes and banged about five of them that night.

Sue and I started hanging out, and we were sleeping together for a bit too. One day I took her with me to a place called Wild Bill’s in Berkeley. It was the studio of this photographer named Ralph who called himself Wild Billy. He hired me all the time and paid me really well – a thousand dollars a shoot. He’d call me and say, “I got some new titties for you.” He liked buxom women. And he’d pay me an extra $500 if I brought a girl with me. That gig went on for years.

Jesse Adams

Did you date many women from the business?

I dated Annette Haven for a while, but she smoked too much pot. A little is ok, but not 24/7. I couldn’t take it, so we split up.

I worked with Desiree Cousteau a fair bit too. She was crazy but I was used to that after Annette (laughs).

How complicated was your dating life due to the fact that you were now becoming a star in X-rated films?

It was tricky. Around 1977, I fell in love with an Italian girl who lived in Santa Cruz. It was my first time in love, and I was crazy about her. She wasn’t in the business – just a girl I met at a nightclub. A sweet free-wheeling hippie. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long, and I missed her when she was gone.

A few years later, I bumped into her on the street. She she’d told me she’d had a son – and that I was the father. I was stunned but she walked away before I got my bearings. I never even got to learn the boy’s name. But I believed her.

What films do you remember from this period?

It’s difficult to remember actual films because we made so many and we only saw the scenes we were in. Still to this day, I haven’t seen 95% of the movies I made.

I remember moments like the stunt car driving I did for Fantasm Comes Again (1977), or having sex with Lysa Thatcher in Beyond Shame (1980). Good moments like that (laughs).

Lysa ThatcherJesse Adams, with Lysa Thatcher in ‘Beyond Shame’ (1980)

What did you think about the fact that, for a time, adult films were becoming an alternative industry to Hollywood?

It was great! We were treated like stars and we had our own awards ceremonies. I presented an award with Candida Royalle at the Erotica Awards in 1979. A guy came up to me during the ceremony and said that Hugh Hefner wanted me to go to the Playboy mansion for the afterparty. I took Johnny Keyes with me. We had a ball!

Yeah, we definitely felt like stars back then.

Jesse AdamsJesse Adams (left), with Candida Royalle

There seemed to be a greater level of acceptance of adult film stars in the late 1970s. Is that accurate?

Oh yes. I was friends with the singer, Eddie Money, for example. And later, I had a girlfriend who rented a room with Huey Lewis, so I got to know him too. I loved his music and it was always good to hang out with him.

You even appeared in 10 (1979), the Blake Edwards film with Julie Andrews.

Me and fifty other porno stars! We all got the call to turn up for a party scene. There was Serena and Jamie (Gillis), Chris Cassidy, Annette (Haven) and Blair (Harris), Constance Money, John Seeman, and many others… there were more porno stars in that film than in a regular porn film!

We heard that we were invited because Blake Edwards and Julie Andrews were actually big fans of the new, higher budget sex films that we were making. There were rumors that they’d sneak into the Pussycat in L.A. to see the latest XXX movies. They even wanted to come to our awards ceremony one year.

Julie Andrews was very friendly on set with us. I had a long conversation with her, and she was very attentive. She said she was a fan. I couldn’t believe this was the nun from ‘The Sound of Music’! I liked her a lot.

Julie AndrewsJulie Andrews, with Jesse Adams

Didn’t you spend some time living in New York in the late 1970s?

Yes, I had a great apartment in San Francisco at the time and a girlfriend I liked who was a law student. Then in 1979, I met a 16 year old girl in San Francisco who’d already been a prostitute for a couple of years. She said, “I’m going to New York next month to do a movie for these two brothers from Israel.” She said I should come along and be in the same film.

I knew New York was a good place for adult work at the time so I figured I’d set up shop there for a while. I left my girlfriend, but I kept my apartment because it was so great, and I headed east.

How did you get on with those two brothers in New York?

When we arrived, we went straight over to their office in Times Square. They told us it was going to be a three day shoot and they’d pay me my day rate. Trouble was… I wound up with a peptic ulcer and couldn’t do the film. The guys were nice and wound up paying me for the film anyway. I said, “Look, I owe you guys a movie now.”

Jesse Adams

What happened to the 16 year old girl?

She wound up boning the Superintendent of New York schools! You couldn’t make it up.

Oh boy, it was the wild west back then.

What differences did you notice between the industry in New York compared to the west coast?

Unlike in California, most of the guys in the east coast adult business didn’t seem to want to pal around with me. Or at least the men didn’t. They had this negative attitude – like an animosity for the people from the West Coast. There was some kind of rivalry going on. I don’t know why.

Did you make any friends in New York?

Bobby Astyr – he was a nice guy. I also liked Dave Ruby – the porn stenographer! He worked for the New York court system and did porn on the side. We worked together a lot and got along great. He was the first one to take me to Plato’s Retreat. We went a few times but I never got laid there.

I remember Ted Snyder and Jason Russell took Dave and I up to shoot loops in Vermont for some reason. We took Vanessa Del Rio and Samantha Fox.

Jason RussellJesse Adams with Dave Ruby, Vanessa del Rio, Samantha Fox

I assume you came across Bobby Hollander?

I knew him well – more than I wanted to… because he was a big drug addict at the time. He was freebasing all the time.

He got an old girlfriend of mine hooked on cocaine when I was in New York and he was back in California. She became a totally different person. I was so angry that when I returned I went over to his house and knocked his door down. He liked to talk like he was some bad-ass gangster, but he was just a junkie.

Where did you live in New York?

I lived on East 74th St and First Avenue. I used to head down to Times Square and hang out at the Melody Burlesque a lot. All the dancers there were sweet, and a good number of porn girls would feature there. We used to spend hours at Bernard’s across the street partying.

I got friendly with Sharon Mitchell. I told her that I had a deviated septum that was bothering me and I needed to get my nose fixed. She introduced me to a doctor friend of hers who lived in the Dakota where John Lennon lived too. He wound up fixing my septum but messed up the reconstruction. My nose was straight before that procedure – but after I had a noticeable curve. You can see the change in the movies I made!

Jesse Adams

Who did you meet at Bernard’s?

Vanessa del Rio. She was really sweet, and I liked working with her. I’d never been with a Cuban before. She was just… cha cha cha… (laughs). And Samantha Fox – she was always really friendly.

I didn’t date anyone – apart from a girl who worked in advertising and was close with Priscilla Presley, so that was fun.

But I met some real gangsters then too. A Penthouse centerfold I knew introduced me to the Gambinos guys. I met the captains who owned and ran porn stores in Times Square. They were very nice to me. I ain’t saying they’re names though (laughs).

What movies do you remember making in New York?

I remember Larry Revene’s Sizzle (1980). I played a surfer and it was set in California, but we shot it out on Jones Beach on Long Island. In fact, they used pictures of me from that film in a Playgirl article.

Jesse Adams

Why did you leave New York and return to California?

After a while I got tired of the New York attitude so I headed back west. This time I went to San Francisco. Before long, I met a girl that I really liked. I kinda fell for her. She wasn’t into porn but was ok with me doing it.

One day I took her to a set ‘cause I had to do a quick scene before we were going to head out on a date. Don Fernando was on that set and while I was working, he tried to shove his dick into my girlfriend’s mouth. That wasn’t even the first time he’d tried it on with one of my girlfriends. A lot of girls told me he used to beat them up as well. Anyway, when I found out, I went mad. I went after him, kicked him out of the house, and threw a trash can at him. That was unpleasant.

Did you enjoy San Francisco?

There were a lot of good people there. I liked working for the director Kirdy Stevens. I became friendly with both him and his wife.

I met up with Jacqueline Lorians a lot and I adored her. It wasn’t anything romantic and we never had sex – we just became very close friends for a while. She was a sweet person, really cool. We’d sit and talk for hours.

Alex de Renzy was always around on the scene and he became a friend even though I never worked with him. A smart guy who’d done everything in life. You don’t find people like that anymore.

There seemed to be a porn Rat Pack in California back then.

Yes, there was me, Harvey (Herschel Savage), Joey (Silvera), Jerry Heath (Jon Martin), John Leslie, PT (Paul Thomas), (Jamie) Gillis. Guys like that. Most were nice but John was a prick to me the whole time. Never nice to me. Never liked me. Maybe it was all the cocaine he was doing. PT did a ton of cocaine too. I did a lot of cock stand-ins for them ‘cause they couldn’t get it up when they were using.

Harvey has always been a good friend to me.

Joey SilveraJesse Adams, with Joey Silvera in Anticipation (1981)

There was a repertory company of women as well.

For sure: Chris Cassidy, Jesie St. James, Mai Lin, Sharon Kane and the rest. All reliable and sweet and sexy as hell. Free spirits and easy-going beautiful women to work with – and most of them could act too, so that made it fun with the dialogue scenes.

Later on, I worked with a newer generation of women, like Seka. These women had a better sense of their commercial worth, so they demanded more money in return. In turn that meant that the companies made more effort to market them as larger than life figures… so that created the star system that started to take hold in the early 1980s.

Which directors left an impression?

Leon Gucci! That was actually Lenny Kirtman, this guy who’d started the industry in New York. I’m talking even before Deep Throat (1972). He was a character. Always looking to make a buck, and if he could get laid at the same time… then he was happy.

I did Female Athletes (1979), Deep Rub (1979), Inside Desiree Cousteau (1979) for Lenny… in the space of about a month. He was cheap as they came, but was always ready to give me work. I worked for him well into the 1980s.

Al Colberg was a friend too. I was in few of his movies, like One Way at a Time (1979) and Sissy’s Hot Summer (1979).

Jesse AdamsJesse Adams, accepting an award at the XRCO

Did you do live sex shows?

Yes, I did a bunch of them down on the Tenderloin.

I worked there for a few months and then I met a stripper at the O’Farrell. She’s just got back from working in Japan. That sounded like fun, so I got in touch with her contacts and got the opportunity to do shows over in Japan.

What was Japan like?

I loved Japan – the people were so nice. They’d advertise the sex shows with my picture right out in front of the theaters on the streets. People thought I was John Holmes, and after trying to tell them I wasn’t, I gave up and just let them think that. I even signed my name ‘Jesse Holmes’ when I did autographs.

But I did have a problem with the Yakuza. An agent sent me to do some work in Sendai, just up the coast from where the Fukushima nuclear plant is. After I’d done the job, the club manager didn’t want to pay me, so I barged into his office and confronted him. He tried to stab me with a letter opener so I grabbed him and stuck his head in an aquarium. He was bigger than me – a big, heavy, Japanese guy – but I fucked him up pretty bad. Trouble is, he was small-time Yakuza, so I had to go into hiding.

Were the live shows legal over there?

I don’t know the strict legality of it all, but I know I should’ve had a work permit. In fact, I would’ve stayed in Japan longer but one day the immigration police came to the theater where I was working looking to chase foreigners out of the city. The Japanese girl I was working with shouted, “Run, run, run, run!” So I ran outside in my underwear in broad daylight, and left the country the next day.

I went back and forth to Japan about four times in the years that followed. I did everything over there: I worked at nightclubs, I was in movies. And between jobs, I’d travel to places like Thailand. It was a good time!

Jesse Adams

In the 1980s, the XXX industry switched to video production. How did that affect you?

Badly. Let me explain. The early business consisted of a group of people who wanted to make good films. Some of the films were terrible – but that’s not the point. They all wanted to make good product. So in a sense, we all were invested in each other. We all wanted to contribute to make each other do well because that would be good for all of us.

When the business switched to videos… anyone could pick up a video camera and shoot something without getting any assistance from anyone else. That was a huge change. It meant that production costs went down and so people were less interested in trying hard anymore. Non one needed to help anyone else.

And of course there was less money to go around so we all got paid less. It was less fun. In fact sometimes it was grim.

Did you work for any particular video company?

No. I worked for anyone who offered me a job. I was just a cock for hire.

Jesse Adams

Did you do other work to supplement your income?

From time to time, I helped out as a crew member on productions. Other times, I took day jobs on construction sites. Whatever I could do to make ends meet. There’s no corporate pension plan for the early guys like me.

You had a long career in adult films – almost 30 years.

Many, many years. In the 1990s, I stopped working in front of the camera and moved behind it. I began editing full time – I could make $40 an hour and that was good money. Surprisingly that was more than I was making as a performer.

Who did you work for?

Pleasure Productions. I edited hundreds of movies over the years. It was lot of fetish films, not hardcore sex – but spanking, enemas, toe sucking, bondage.

Jim South was another guy I did a lot of editing for – he’d started a production company, so I worked for him. And I worked for another guy connected to the Gambino crime family back east.

This was before things went digital?

Yes. I worked a lot on the Sony 5800, three-quarter inch tape. There was a place on Hollywood Boulevard where a guy I knew let me rent his equipment. I made a lot of money that way.

Did you ever think of directing?

Yeah, but then I’d have to deal with too much crap. Editing was clean, easy cash.

And then in the early 2000s, in your mid-50s, you made a comeback as a performer.

I regret that. I made a bunch of cheap videos that were junk. Old men gangbangs with unknown girls, that sort of thing. It was a long way from the early days and serious acting where I started in the early 1970s.

It didn’t pay much, I didn’t like it, and so I got the hell out of the acting business completely.

Jesse AdamsJesse Adams (far right) in his final film, 2004


5.  Life After XXX

Where were you living at this point?

North Hollywood in a large three-bedroom apartment. I used to go to a Thai restaurant nearby and became friendly with the owner. He introduced me to one of his waitresses and said she was looking to stay in the U.S. He asked me if she could stay with me since I was living alone in such a big apartment. She moved in and, after about two weeks, she started asking me to marry her so she could stay in the country. I decided to help her out. We had to pay the lawyers a lot to help us, but we finally got her a visa to stay. It was never romantic or anything like that.

The stupid thing was I actually turned down a lot of offers from women at that time because I’d just gotten married. I came to regret that.

Jesse AdamsJesse Adams, with his partner, post XXX

What had happened to your family all this time?

My parents had long passed, and my brother, Roger, became religious so I never told him I’d done adult film work. Nobody in my family ever knew.

One day, I got a call from a woman – a stranger I’d never met. She said, “I’m your sister.”

I told her I didn’t have a sister and that she had the wrong number, but she called back. It turned out my mom had married again after she’d left us and she’d hitched up with the guitar player in Johnny Paycheck’s band. Her new husband had been a lot younger than my mom, almost my age, but they’d married and stayed together until she died in 1981. So it turned out I had a half-sister living in Louisville, Kentucky.

What happened to your editing career when it all became digital?

By the early 2000s, I stopped doing the editing work. It no longer paid well and it wasn’t worth my while. Around the same time, I was starting to feel really sick. I had gastrointestinal issues that gave me a lot of trouble. I was gaining weight and wasn’t sure why because I ate well and exercised but it was painful. The doctors just told me to take laxatives.

By 2007, it was so bad I checked myself into the hospital, and they found out I had colon cancer. They wound up cutting a foot of my colon out.

How was the recovery from that?

It was ok. After a while, I was back on my feet and I started helping out a friend of mine who had a construction business. I did that for a while but in December 2010 I fell off a ladder while we were working on a house in Encino. I broke my right heel and my left knee. Hurt like holy hell. So now I have big scars and some metal in my legs and areas of numbness. I was on disability a while for that.

And you were still with your Thai wife?

Yes – in fact, in 2018 we started a Thai food truck. We used to park it behind County USC and sold lunch to the doctors and nurses. People loved it, and the lines were around the block. The downside was that it was a lot of work!

A year or so after we started the business, I fell on the uneven sidewalk in front of where I live. I broke nine ribs and spent a long time in the hospital. The truck business died and, to this day, I still have trouble breathing.

That must have been tough.

Yes, and to make matters worse, not long after that, my wife took off. After she got the visa because of me, when I wasn’t well, she didn’t hang around. I don’t even know where she is now.

Since my fall, my health issues have continued. My cancer came back and I’ve been fighting that the last few years. I can’t work so I don’t have a lot of money, and I’m pretty much on my own.

What is the cancer?

I have multiple myeloma which has no cure and gives you lesions inside your bones. I also have necrosis of the jawbone. I have pain throughout my body, and there’s no cure. I’ve been told to move into a rest home – but that’s not for me.

What family do you have left?

My brother, Roger, died last year. His wife found him slumped over a waste-paper basket with a Bible in his hand. What a way to go…

How do you feel about your career in adult films with the benefit of hindsight?

Nowadays I often find myself reflecting on my life choices. If I could go back now, I would’ve liked to have been a professional motorcycle racer rather than do adult films. I had motorbikes since I was a teen and I was good at racing. I knew a handful of guys in the sport and I know I could’ve gone pro.

Herschel Savage and I used to talk about this a lot. We enjoyed making the films and the lifestyle… but it’s like the adult business took something away from us too. It took away what we could have been if we hadn’t made that choice.

But I had a restless soul, I guess. I’d always get tired of doing something, so I’d go do something else. I remember when I was in my army days working at the airport, I always dreamed of traveling around the world and meeting women. And then I did it! So who knows how happy I would’ve been with another life?

I’m still mesmerized by the idea that I can be here one minute, and gone the next.

I’ve enjoyed this interview… with a dollop of sadness too.

But I have a question for you: how come I’m never invited to be in the Hall of Fame? I made hundreds of films, I was there at the beginning, I was there at the end, and I worked with everyone – in New York and in California too. No one has ever suggested it.

I don’t know why no one has ever thought of me.

Jesse AdamsJesse Adams, with April Hall


  • Posted On: 18th February 2024
  • By: Ashley West
  • Under: Articles


  1. Dave Laine · February 18, 2024 Reply

    Phenomenal interview with a true foot solider of the industry. Jesse was indeed one of the most recognizable figures in XXX.

    What The Rialto Report is doing is exceptional for many reasons: obviously first and foremost is to record and document people’s lives. But what is equally important is the respect and humanity that you show to the interview subjects. In the hands of less caring researchers this would be risky, but it is clear that you have immense respect for the subjects – and the subjects have immense respect for you.

    Long may this wonderful project continue!

  2. Erland J. · February 18, 2024 Reply

    Calling AVN, XRCO, and all the other governing bodies!

    JESSE ADAMS should be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the next possible opportunity!
    The man is a legend

  3. Jeff Robertson · February 18, 2024 Reply

    Awesome Article About Jesse Adams It’s Reminds Me Of Peter North And Randy Paul Keep Up Good Work

  4. James · February 18, 2024 Reply

    Another phenomenal story of a performer who clearly needs more recognition. Thankful for you guys and how you cover these lives and legacies. Hang in there Jesse we are rooting for you.

  5. Dennis D Menace · February 18, 2024 Reply

    BIG fan of Jesse and his work with “Wild Bill”! “Bill” was a genuine pioneer of big tit fetish entertainment and Jesse was one of his lead performers. Sorry to see Jesse is ill. Hope Jesse gets recognized by the HOF, he deserves it.

  6. Thelma · February 18, 2024 Reply

    I am also a life-long fan of Jesse’s (but of the female gender identification). Expressing my deepest gratitude and respect to Mr. Adams and the Rialto Report for sharing this brilliant story with the world.

  7. Bram · February 18, 2024 Reply

    While guys like Jamie Gillis, John Holmes and John Leslie probably come to mind for most people when they imagine the embodiment of the classic male 70s pornstar – for me, it’s always been Jesse. I’m so appreciative he was willing to tell his tale, and that the RR is here to bring it to us.

  8. CTC · February 19, 2024 Reply

    Talk about interesting and unique experiences! Jesse has had an almost Forest Gump like journey through life (all be it an X-rated version).

  9. JL3 · February 19, 2024 Reply

    Thanks. Another great interview. Everyone has a story, and every story I hear at Rialto Report fascinates me. When I see a performer on the screen I never could guess just what they’ve gone through. Hearing about how much dealt with and how he’s still going through it is another reminder of the human capacity for survival.

    I best remember Jesse Adams for Striptease (or something like that). He and Tara Aire had a love scene which was beautifully shot, timed to just the right length, and had genuine tenderness and heat. Probably one of the most romantic, hottest sex scenes I can recall.

  10. Wanja Koch · February 19, 2024 Reply

    What a great read, thanks so much. My oldest porn memories, watching 8 mm film shorts in peepshow cabins. Pre-video area. Jesse stood out with his blond hair and was uncircumsized, very rare in American porn. Naming peers I was expecting Eric Stein, with whom he made many loops, but no. Eric is in the same league as Jesse and Blair Harris. I hope you’ll do a post on Eric, too, one day.

  11. J. Walter Puppybreath · February 19, 2024 Reply

    Loving the pic of the little guys with both belts AND suspenders.
    To quote a rather famous film, “How can you trust a man who doesn’t trust his own pants?”. 😉
    Keep doing what you do, RR!

  12. Leej · February 20, 2024 Reply

    Thank you, Jesse Adams. Thank you RR!

  13. Dave Garrow · February 21, 2024 Reply

    Wow–you guys are ALWAYS so great! You are such a GIFT to history, & I wish more professional historians would acknowledge the importance of the industry. You’re probably aware that Jane K (of HU–I won’t use her last name here) is doing a biography of Candace.

  14. Gary McEwan · February 22, 2024 Reply

    Another absolutely amazing interview guys! Great to see Jesse getting the recognition he deserves. All the very best to him and to you guys, keep up the good work!

  15. ken · February 22, 2024 Reply

    Great interview . Definitely should be in the hall of fame.

  16. Fred Taylor · February 22, 2024 Reply

    Another really great interview! Question, though – is there a particular reason that some performers get the podcast treatment while others – Jesse, Blair Harris, Jon Martin. etc. – appear only as written interviews? I mean, I get that podcast are time consuming and a lot of work, but guys like Jesse or Jon were notable, prolific performers and it would be cool to hear them tell these stories in their own voice! (I’m holding out for the Mike Ranger podcast LOL).

    • J. Walter Puppybreath · February 22, 2024 Reply

      I think you’re missing an obvious truth: It would take a HUGE amount of effort just to FIND these folks… and then, maybe they’d rather move on (as they have) from those days.
      I’m over the moon by what RR has gifted us, even if a few aren’t my favorites.

    • April Hall · February 25, 2024 Reply

      Hi Fred – the answer to your question is multi-part. Many followers explicitly ask us for written content over audio. Another factor is the wishes of our subjects – some prefer their stories to be told in one format vs another, and some do not want to be recorded. And another is the circumstances of our interviews – sometimes they’re in the studio, sometimes they’re in noisy restaurants or bars, etc.

      Thanks for tuning in!

    • Seymore · March 3, 2024 Reply

      actually, I prefer to READ the interviews rather than listen, so I’m grateful especially for all of the written-out stuff, even it it’s also available in spoken word.

  17. ken · February 22, 2024 Reply

    Me too! I’d love to hear how hot Loni sanders was. God dam!

  18. Ruben · February 25, 2024 Reply

    Amazing work as always

  19. Chris · February 26, 2024 Reply

    I like the written interviews and I enjoy learning about the guys I have never heard of in mainstream popular culture. He’s certainly an interesting story. It’s kind of sad how poorly a parent can treat their children. It’s admirable that he served time in an unpopular war and has no regrets over it. He shouldn’t. His served so others didn’t have to. Kuddos to him.

    Why not let the fellow in this HOF? It would seem to bring him a lot of happiness after enduring so many broken bones and cancer. Sad, but it’s likely more of an honor to be featured here where others besides old porno fans can know his story.

  20. Jw Durbin · February 28, 2024 Reply

    Jesse seems like he put a lot of people ahead of himself in his life.
    Hoping he can mend from the ravages of his body in these recent years.
    I do hope he gets to see his Hall of Fame induction,
    glad Desiree West finally got acknowledged although it probably was the
    least thing she wanted since I hear she went on to be successful in real estate.

    Thanks for the insightful interview.

  21. Matt · March 12, 2024 Reply

    Wishing Jesse for a longer and pain free life. What a great interview. His childhood seemed like a living hell, but he had a good life.

  22. Peter T · March 27, 2024 Reply

    I met Jesse many times in Thailand during the 90’s, each time for several months. I remember him for a big smile, big heart and we all know what else was big. He loved the Thai food, we would always have a Thai meal washed down with a bottle of Sangthip (the local whisky/rum), before hitting the bars of Pattaya, Bangkok and Phuket. April could you help him connect with his friends in Thailand. I hope this article helps get him into the HOF before he passes on. He was always proud of the fact he was an actor and that his movies had stories to tell.

  23. Dax · March 27, 2024 Reply

    For me, the reason he’s not a HOFer is I can’t think of a single memorable scene he’s been in…

  24. CMG · April 19, 2024 Reply

    No child deserves to have such awful parents as Jesse did — both his birth parents and adoptive parents were rotters. I hope he’s able to find a way to alleviate some of the physical pain he’s in now at age 74.

    Jesse Adams was an ubiquitous performer during the ‘Golden Age’ of shot-on-film adult features. He deserves a place in the Hall Of Fame. (I remember he had a non-sex role in TABOO if I’m not mistaken. At the orgy/party scene he’s decked out and tries to hit on (a fully-dressed) Kay Parker and she shoos him away after he keeps trying).

    One thing I didn’t know was that he was a frequent “stand-in” for his fellow performers who could not get their soldiers to stand at attention when the time came to film. Not surprising he worked so much!

    Best wishes going forward for Mr. Adams. I enjoyed reading his story and all the ups and downs that came with it.

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