‘Deep Inside Porn Stars’ (1984): Club 90 meets the Downtown Art Scene – An Oral History

‘Deep Inside Porn Stars’ (1984): Club 90 meets the Downtown Art Scene – An Oral History

‘Deep Inside Porn Stars’ (1984) was a performance piece featuring the members of Club 90 – adult film performers Veronica Vera, Gloria Leonard, Veronica Hart, Candida Royalle, Kelly Nichols, Sue Nero, and Annie Sprinkle.

It was only performed three times – on consecutive evenings in January 1984 at the downtown art space Franklin Furnace in New York City – but it proved pivotal in the lives of those who appeared in and those who witnessed the event, as well as being a famously controversial lightning rod in the opening battles of the culture wars.

This is what happened.

With special thanks to Annie Sprinkle, Veronica Vera, Sue Nero, Veronica Hart, Lisa Be, Martha Wilson, C. Carr, Alan Moore, Debra Wacks, Mariellen R. Sandford, and Jean Fisher.

You can find Annie online here.

You can find Veronica Vera here.

Please visit the Franklin Furnace website here.

———————————————————————————————

Prologue – The Downtown Arts Scene:

For over 150 years, downtown New York was an epicenter of creative ferment. Indeed, for New Yorkers and just about everyone else, Downtown was synonymous with experimentation.

Emerging out of the deflated optimism of the Summer of Love and energized by the enactment of the Loft Law which made it legal for artists to live in SoHo’s industrial spaces, the Downtown scene attracted painters, sculptors, photographers, musicians, performers, filmmakers, and writers who could afford the then-low rents of SoHo lofts and Lower East Side tenements.

Downtown artists violated the gap between high art and mass culture, removed the production and reception of avant-garde art from isolation in elite circles, and directly confronted social and political concerns. Creating work that was both populist and subversive as well as utopian and raw, they irreverently pushed the limits of traditional artistic categories – visual artists were also writers, writers developed performance pieces, performers incorporated videos into their works, and everyone was in a band.

C. Carr, staff writer for The Village Voice (from ‘The Fiery Furnace: Performance in the ’80s, War in the ’90s,’’ TDR: The Drama Review, Volume 49, Number 1, Spring 2005):

From the late ’70s to mid ’80s – the (New York) art margin percolated with manic energy. That was the era of ‘schizo-culture,’ post- modernism crossed with punk, and so much began then.

Between 1979 and 1984, the East Village performance clubs opened in basements (Club 57, Darinka, 8BC), storefronts (WOW, Limbo), actual bars (the Pyramid), even second-floor apartments (Chandalier), and performers had great freedom, restrained only by occasionally raucous audiences with short attention spans.

It was a time of political engagement with art’s impact (The Real Estate Show, 1980) or America’s impact (Artists Call Against U.S. Intervention in Central America, 1984), and galleries blooming in dozens of tiny East Village storefronts (starting with Fun Gallery in 1981).

Certain artists took their work directly to the street (Jenny Holzer, Jean-Michel Basquiat) or the subway (Keith Haring), or re-created ‘street’ in an old massage parlor (The Times Square Show, 1980).

It was an era of fashionable heroin, DIY aesthetics, and Super-8 blockbusters starring Lydia Lunch.

*

1.     Franklin Furnace

In 1976, an arts institution named Franklin Furnace was founded by Martha Wilson. Its intent: to serve artists who chose publishing as a primary, ‘democratic’ artistic medium who were not being supported by existing arts organizations, and to identify, present, archive, and make avant-garde art available to the public.

Martha Wilson, Franklin Furnace founder:

I was Franklin Furnace: an organization that existed on the ground floor of this building known as the Franklin Street Arts Center.

Willoughby Sharp coined the term ‘Franklin Furnace’: I was going to call it the ‘Franklin Stove’ and he said, “No you must call it ‘Franklin Furnace.’”

I agreed. It’s a hothouse for artists’ ideas, a place where ideas create light and heat.

Alan Moore, Art Historian/Activist (from ‘Being There – The Tribeca Neighborhood of Franklin Furnace’ with Debra Wacks – TDR: The Drama Review, Volume 49, Number 1, Spring 2005):

When Martha Wilson opened the Franklin Furnace in 1976, the downtown neighborhood called Tribeca was getting hot. It was full of artists, and the venues that served them were crowding in. But there were limits to the degree to which artists would be able to make this district their own. Ultimately, norms of quiet tastefulness would prevail over artistic fancy.

Franklin Furnace found its physical home in an orphaned location at 112 Franklin Street, a place as uncompromising and challenging as the art it generated.

C. Carr:

The performance space at Franklin Furnace never stopped looking like the ordinary basement it was. Exposed pipes. Clip-on lights. At the back a couple of windows opened on an airshaft, where the occasional intrepid performer entered the so-called stage (There wasn’t one.) The sink and refrigerator were occasionally incorporated into a piece, while the cement floor and brick walls never got an upgrade even to rec-room ambience.

Yet this basement was the opposite of ‘nothing special.’ This was rare. This was an autonomous zone.

The Furnace accommodated artists the way a gallery does, but like the East Village clubs, the space was funky and impervious, the attitude ‘no holds barred.’

Mariellen R. Sandford, Associate Director of The Drama Review (from ‘Sublime Discomfort’, Spring 2005):

The rough-and-ready basement of 112 Franklin Street was uncomfortable: the stairs were steep, the chairs were hard, and it did get hot down there in the unfinished room back behind the boiler.

Some of the performances were uncomfortable too—and that was a good thing. Franklin Furnace was a place for discomfort, for trial and error, for roughness and danger, for anger and humor, and sometimes for moments of great theatre.

Soon after it was founded, Franklin Furnace found its niche, supporting emerging, overlooked, controversial artistic expressions.

C. Carr:

The Furnace helped fill in some very important cracks, by supporting artists who might have otherwise fallen through them.

“Yes” was the ethos of Franklin Furnace. Martha Wilson approached her job like an artist – with a willingness to take risks – and said “yes” if it was at all feasible. This would end up changing (art) history.

As with all arts institutions, funding was a key focus for Franklin Furnace, not to mention a persistent constraint and concern.

The primary source of financial assistance came from The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), an independent agency of the U.S. federal government, created in 1965 and dedicated to “supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education”.

Martha Wilson:

In those days, NEA program officers came to the Furnace to encourage us to apply.

We were the darlings of the avantgarde. I think it was an age of innocence, because we were still under the impression that we could change the world.

The 1970s were a golden age – though we didn’t realize it until a couple of decades later.

*

2.     Carnival Knowledge: The Second Coming

In 1981, Franklin Furnace started hosting monthly events put on by the PADD (Political Art Documentation and Distribution) group.

These evenings included performances, slide shows, and talks. One of these meetings was put on by a feminist collective formed within PADD called ‘Carnival Knowledge.’ Their concern for reproductive rights issues led to a full-dress exploration of sexual political issues.

In 1983, they proposed an exhibit at the Furnace to be called ‘The Second Coming.’

Deep Inside Porn Stars

(Click on cover to read full document)

Annie Sprinkle, performance artist/former adult film star (from ‘Some of my Performances in Retrospect’):

Carnival Knowledge put together a series of performance events. (They) invited Club 90, my porn star support group, to participate. We were a group of seven women porn stars (Veronica Vera, Gloria Leonard, Veronica Hart, Candida Royalle, Kelly Nichols, Sue Nero, and I) who had been meeting every few weeks to discuss problems, share successes, to network, and of course, to gossip.

C. Carr:

Carnival Knowledge’s The Second Coming was a pioneering show that brought feminists and sex workers together to ask: Could there be feminist porn? A porn that doesn’t denigrate women or children? These questions were posed in a manifesto painted in red on the Furnace wall.

The feminist artists in Carnival Knowledge had first encountered Candida Royalle, Veronica Vera, and Annie Sprinkle at a porn trade show. They all met together for a year, wrote a proposal, and Wilson said, “Yes.”

Annie Sprinkle:

I think it was Candida who was first contacted, and she talked to us about it. Candida was already making feminist adult material/art.

I’d done a couple of things at Franklin Furnace before, such as my first Bosom Ballet performance art piece for a show with Spider Webb. I’d also seen other friends’ shows there – Diane Torr for one – so I was already a fan of the collective.

Veronica Vera, writer/activist/former adult film star:

When Candida Royalle brought the notice about Carnival Knowledge to one of our Club 90 rap sessions, we decided that this might be our opportunity to do something away from the restrictions of formula porn.

Through our meetings every other week, we have discovered that not only were we pieces of ass, but we were pieces of ass with something to say. While we all acknowledged the great opportunities available to us in this booming business we call X, our major complaint was the business’s limitations. We were presented as one-dimensional sex fiends who were perfectly content to suck and fuck our way to oblivion. This was certainly a major aspect of our lives, but in no way was it the complete picture.

We met with the women organizing the Carnival. They got turned on to us; we got turned on to them. They thought even our everyday clothes were glamorous and exciting. We found their paint-splattered pants very sexy. We wanted to reach a more ‘artsy-fartsy’ audience. They were tired of being ‘poor artists’ and wanted to appeal to a more commercial crowd. We decided to combine forces.

Deep Inside Porn StarsCarnival Knowledge: The Second Coming – Exhibit

Jane Hamilton, actor/former adult film star:

I wasn’t in the art world at the time: I was busy as I had a baby! For me, any opportunity to act, and one that would debate the feminist as porn star or porn star as feminist, was an amazing event not to be missed. This was the first incarnation of ‘Deep Inside Porn Stars’ and the first public showing. We developed this show particularly for this night.

Veronica Vera, from ‘Club 90’s ‘Deep Inside Porn Stars’, ‘Veronica Vera’s New York,’ Adam magazine:

If the women of Charlie’s Angels make your tongue hang out, if you think that The A-Team packs a wallop, then watch out for Club 90-because, baby, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

Not just three or four but seven of the most exciting women in X-rated films-Veronica Hart, Gloria Leonard, Sue Nero, Kelly Nichols, Candida Royalle, Annie Sprinkle and myself-have produced our own show, starring ourselves. It is called ‘Deep Inside Porn Stars.’

Annie Sprinkle (from ‘Some of my Performances in Retrospect’):

Up until that faithful night, I had, rather contentedly, been living as a multimedia whore – making porn films, doing burlesque, nude modeling, photographing and being photographed for sex magazines.

I enjoyed my work, but my deep, dark secret fantasy was to be…an artist!

Carnival Knowledge

*

3.     ‘Deep Inside Porn Stars’ (1984)

C. Carr:

(The Second Coming had) hundreds of artist books and videos with sexual themes on display on the main floor. Gossamer fabric breasts hung in the stairway leading to the basement, and there, Carnival Knowledge featured ‘domestic’ pieces dealing with everything from eating to masturbation.

Performances included mud-wrestling done by artists and monologues done by sex workers, most notoriously ‘Deep Inside Porn Stars’, in which they talked about their lives.

Veronica Vera:

Club 90’s existence had spawned a lot of curiosity. Al Goldstein wanted to do an article about us in Screw (an idea we quickly nipped in the bud). The production team for Gloria’s Leonard Report on WHT wanted to videotape one of our sessions. Everyone wanted to be a fly on the wall, especially the men in our lives, who’s behavior seemed to improve when they realized that each move they made might be dissected at our next meeting.

It seemed obvious that we were dealing with a hungry public, and if someone was going to break the code of secrecy we vowed at our first meeting, it should be us, presenting ourselves in the way we wanted.

Annie Sprinkle (from ‘Some of my Performances in Retrospect’):

Our show, ‘Deep Inside Porn Stars,’ was to be a reenactment of one of the meetings, portrayed in an honest, albeit stylized way.

Deep Inside Porn StarsCandida Royalle (right) in ‘Deep Inside Porn Stars’

Veronica Vera:

We began to divide the responsibilities. Candida Royalle had a lot of stage experience and was a charmingly dominant bitch. We chose her to be our director. Veronica Hart, who was skillfully manipulating a new career as producer, director and non-sex performer as well as wife and mother, seemed a natural to juggle the technical aspects. Together with them, I developed our original group concept into a loose script.

Annie Sprinkle got her photographic rocks off turning our various souvenirs into slides and making our performance a multi-media presentation. She also designed a program to rival any New York playbill (This was going to be class all the way.) Gloria Leonard got the program printed by a wonderful man. The same production company responsible for her TV show documented our performance on videotape.

The most important thing was that we were able to work together: no hair-pulling, no back-biting, no stepping on each other’s high heels.

Annie Sprinkle:

Within the ‘meeting,’ we each had a spot in which to share a bit about ourselves in any way we wanted.

For my spot, I chose to illustrate with slides, words, and a few props, how shy, insecure, scared, Ellen Steinberg had re-created herself as Annie Sprinkle, exhibitionist, confident, fearless sex slut.

My personal visual poem, was titled ‘Ellen/Annie.’

Veronica Hart:

It came together pretty organically, showing us arriving at the meeting and then giving us each the spotlight to further fill in our characters. It was a blast with no animosity from anyone that I remember, especially not the feminists involved in Carnival Knowledge.

Veronica Vera:

Sue Nero kept showing up late for meetings, practically begging us to throw her out of the project. But we weren’t going to let her off that easily. We all knew she could do it – and we were right. Her flaky, party girl attitude turned out to be the perfect balance to the show’s more serious moments, as when Kelly Nichols describes a photo shoot she hated to do.

Deep Inside Porn StarsSue Nero in ‘Deep Inside Porn Stars’

Annie Sprinkle:

The Franklin Furnace experience really bonded Club 90 in a beautiful way. We worked together on it three times for development and rehearsals. Then we did it.

(Click on cover to read full document)

Jane Hamilton:

The space wasn’t so much a theater, but a meeting hall kind of room with folding chairs set up for the audience.

Veronica Vera:

On Wednesday, January 25, we did a performance for the press and for close friends who had not made reservations (‘Deep Inside Porn Stars’ was completely booked for both of its scheduled performances on the following night.)

The Wednesday night crowd was knocked for a loop. People in the X-rated business were very touched by what we said and how we said it. It was as if in expressing ourselves, we had expressed a little of their feelings too. Others, like my oil magnate friend, Billie Bob, were amazed at what we had accomplished with no money and no time.

None of us wanted to go to sleep that night. We celebrated at a club near the theater and then went home, most of us to get marvelously laid.

Deep Inside Porn Stars

Annie Sprinkle:

On January 26, 1984, I did my first ‘performance art piece.’ So powerful was the experience that it changed my life forever – for the better.

Delighted to have an opportunity to reveal other sides of ourselves, and to a whole new audience, as well as the sum of our peers (even Bob Guccione came), we accepted the invitation. We welcomed the challenge to try our hands (and bodies) at something new.

Veronica Vera:

The next night we faced a more varied audience. This time there were more strict feminists in the crowd. There were also some regular porn fans who had never seen us perform with our legs closed. We turned them all on. We succeeded in making the feminists more curious; they wanted to know more than the confinements of time had allowed. The porn fans agreed that they would be even more excited to watch us suck cock now that they knew more of what might be going on inside our heads.

Intro to ‘Deep Inside Porn Stars’

Annie Sprinkle in ‘Deep Inside Porn Stars’

Gloria Leonard in ‘Deep Inside Porn Stars’

Candida Royalle in ‘Deep Inside Porn Stars’

Veronica Vera in ‘Deep Inside Porn Stars’

Suzie Nero in ‘Deep Inside Porn Stars’

Veronica Hart in ‘Deep Inside Porn Stars’

Closing of ‘Deep Inside Porn Stars’

Annie Sprinkle:

In retrospect, here are some of the main things that struck me from that first show:

1.     The art audience was very nice. I enjoyed the nice treatment and the respect that I got from folks in the art world: it felt kinder, more inquisitive, and more mature than my usual all-male audience who looked to get sexually aroused;

2.     It felt liberating to expose myself in a new way, to reveal a deeper truth of who I was;

3.     Preparing for and doing the show was fantastic therapy. It really helped me to understand myself and friends better. The intensity experience bonded our Club 90 group even more.

4.     I was titillated and intrigued by the art world, and the art world seemed titillated and intrigued by me. I could really relate to performance art;

5.     There was no specific “commercial style” or “formula” one had to adhere to, as one does in the sex biz. There was total creative freedom, and far less censorship. For example, in a burlesque show you pretty much had to dress and act a certain way. Performances were always twenty minutes long, and there were strict laws about the sex and nudity. In art you could dress how you wanted, act how you wanted, and perform for as long or short a time as you wanted, and there didn’t seem to be any very specific laws about the sex and nudity.

Deep Inside Porn Stars

Martha Wilson:

The Annie Sprinkle performance in ‘Deep Inside Porn Stars’ was about dual citizenship in self-love and self-loathing, since Ellen Steinberg is a fat girl from Southern California while Annie Sprinkle is a voluptuous porn star who lives in New York.

Lisa Be, writer/activist/former adult film star:

‘Deep Inside Porn Stars’ was one of the most memorable experiences of my X-rated years.

I will never forget how in the darkness of that packed theatre, the world was – for the first time – treated to a hefty, overwhelming dose of reality about the pleasure and pain of our lives!

I particularly recall how Kelly contributed something very important.

“What was it that you didn’t want to discuss?” someone asks her.

She is reluctant to say.

“Come on, Kelly; that’s what we’re here for,” Annie gently nudges.

“Well…” she says with a frown, “I didn’t want to do it.”

How common is it for us to be postured in a shoot, or asked to say a line too far from our real selves in a movie?!

“Why didn’t you leave?” asked Veronica Hart, always strong, independent and in possession of herself.

“They had flown me to California,” Kelly said, because that’s where Hustler’s headquarters were.

Annie said: “Well, the way I handled that [being asked to do kinky stuff] was by doing EVERYTHING!”

This drew such a loud laugh from the entire audience that everyone onstage was having trouble maintaining their composure. The interesting conversation about how to say “no” (or “yes”) that followed was one of the pithiest subjects explored in the entire production.

Then, Suzie Nero danced, Candida sang, and Annie shared photographs showing the dichotomy between ‘Ellen,’ her shy teenage girl self, and ‘Annie,’ whom she’d invented as an 18-year-old massage parlor recruit.

The schizophrenic contrast between her two identities and the images of her large breasts brought on such loud laughter and loud, loud applause that Annie became Ellen for a moment – lowering her eyes with shy embarrassment.

It was Kelly who delivered the highest kudos to the X-rated world, relating her joyous experiences and international travel: “It’s a fucking great industry!

Earlier in the performance, Kelly asks Veronica Hart: “You don’t miss it [being a porn star] at ALL?”

Veronica replied saying it was a relief to her to know who she was going home to.

Deep Inside Porn Stars

Annie Sprinkle:

I also had a visual art piece, which was exhibited in the show – which was a big photo collage. I really worked hard on it and really liked it. It went from childhood to the present (at that time) and had a lot of really kinky Polaroids, tattoo, and piercing stuff. It was one of my first gallery art pieces.

Veronica Vera:

The sofa with writing on it that we sat on during our performance was actually another participant’s art piece.

Jean Fisher, art critic/writer (from her review of ‘Deep Inside Porn Stars’, Franklin Furnace):

‘Deep Inside Porn Stars,’ one of the performances presented by Carnival Knowledge, was billed as “a semi-fictionalized recreation of the ongoing support group meetings between seven celebrated sex stars.” The scene was the living room of duenna Gloria; the narrative was a kind of Canterbury Tales of the skin-flick performers’ domestic and professional experiences, liberally spiced with bawdy talk, during which each of the characters took turns in addressing the audience with a slide presentation of her ‘life’ and aspirations. One performer, ‘Susie,’ by contrast gave a demonstration of an erotic dance routine aimed deliberately at the male members of the audience.

The play was fraught with ambivalences which reflected those of society’s attitudes to the commodification of sex and its protagonists, and which infused the women’s own senses of identity. Emphasis was placed on the porn star as a professional worker who enjoys the glamor, attention, money, and travel; who takes the acting seriously – “the hotter I was, the hotter it would be for the audience” – and whose private needs include nothing more exotic than ‘love’ and a healthy relationship. Already there was an oscillation of uncertainties: the projection of the “good” girl over that of the “bad” girl was combined with an assertion of the pleasure of exhibitionism, which shifted the site of potential exploitation from the woman as object to the viewer, with his desire for sexual arousal. One star, commenting on her marriage, expressed wonder and delight that such a straight guy would want “a girl like [her],” a slippage that, despite the bravura, revealed an entrapment in the language of public morality.

The woman as spectacle: all the stars initially presented themselves in glitzy, revealing costumes – the body displayed and packaged as merchandise. In this they not only conformed to audience expectation but, intentionally or not, exposed the discrepancy between the idealized photographic image of the body and its reality. One star, ‘Kelly,’ specifically took up this issue through a demonstration of the transformation of the face by makeup, the mask by which, along with other signs of the constructed image, the woman’s self-projects an idea of itself to the world. The tragicomic Annie Sprinkle, however, came closest to expressing the struggle to establish an identity, a sexuality, not overburdened by the strictures of those stereotypic roles demanded by society. In her presentation, ‘Ellen’ was the conventional girl whose college education was being financed by “Annie,” the porn star. Both were equally objectified by their narrator – two personas presented by yet a third, who confessed that she sometimes did not know who she was. Annie Sprinkle’s tale represented the central dilemma of the play itself. “Deep Inside…” could reveal no “truth” except that it was one masquerade hiding but another, whose cast of victims of uncertain sociosexual identities included us all.

Deep Inside Porn StarsClub 90 – and friends

*

4.     Backlash

Carnival Knowledge’s Second Coming program occasioned one of the opening public battles in the culture wars: the Morality Action Committee picketed outside of the performances and coordinated a postcard campaign where church groups complained to Franklin Furnace’s funders – in particular, Furnace’s corporate sponsors. As a result, Exxon and Woolworth withdrew funding and support.

At the same time, the show split feminist opinion between those who had been battling the porn industry since the 1970s, and those who called themselves ‘sex positive’ and opposed any kind of censorship.

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) requested that the agency not be credited where it was not fully responsible for the programming.

Martha Wilson:

We got money. We got praise. The notion that experiment is good and should be supported by the culture was out and about. We had no idea that the climate would change 180 degrees. By about the mid-‘80s, the avantgarde was viewed as a virus eating away at the body politic – something that needed to be stamped out if possible.

Artists should be – if not killed – at least silenced.

Questions were suddenly being asked as to why, and how, Carnival Knowledge’s Second Coming – and ‘Deep Inside Porn Stars’ – could have been allowed in the first place.

Martha Wilson:

The Carnival Knowledge group was selected to exhibit at the Furnace by a peer review panel.

I would ask for blanket money for my entire season, and I wouldn’t tell them who the artists are going to be. And after a decade had gone by, they started to say: “No, we don’t want you to pick the artists, we want to pick the artists, we want to know who we are giving the money to.

“And we want to know if Annie Sprinkle is in your program.”

The controversy over Carnival Knowledge’s Second Coming and ‘Deep Inside Porn Stars’ proved to be another vanguard moment. And just the prelude to real trouble.

C. Carr:

It’s easy to forget how revolutionary that event was.

1990 was the blitzkrieg year when repression and paranoia hit nonprofit arts organizations with gale force. That was the year that Mapplethorpes’s show opened in Cincinnati and museum director Dennis Barrie was indicted for pandering obscenity and the illegal use of a child in nudity-oriented material.

It was the year that Congressman Rohrbacher accused the Kitchen of using taxpayer money for Annie Sprinkle’s Post Porn Modernist (Sprinkle had never even applied for a grant, much less received one.)

And it was the year the House of Representatives engaged in an hour-long debate over Judy Chicago’s 1974 Dinner Party.

No one knows to this day how Franklin Furnace ended up on the far right’s radar screen. Maybe it dated back to the Carnival Knowledge show, where Annie Sprinkle made her transition from porn star to performance artist.

In March 1990, Senator Jesse Helms ordered the General Accounting Office to investigate the “questionable activities” of the endowment.

It got worse.

On 21 May 1990, Wilson came to work to find large white stickers affixed to the front door:

“VACATE—DO NOT ENTER. THE DEPARTMENT OF BUILDINGS HAS DETERMINED THAT CONDITIONS IN THIS PREMISES ARE IMMINENTLY PERILOUS TO LIFE.”

That day, after 14 apparently perilous years, the Furnace was charged with not having an illuminated exit sign or emergency lighting and with keeping the front door locked during a show. The basement performance space never opened again.

Since it closed in 1990, it hasn’t been replaced on the New York performance scene, and may never be.

Today, Franklin Furnace exists as an arts organization-in-residence at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York.

*

Epilogue – Legacy

Veronica Vera:

‘Deep Inside Porn Stars’ is the story of seven women in one particular business, but it seems to have an appeal that touches everyone, just as each of our seven very different personalities reaches out to all kinds of people.

(After the Franklin Furnace production), we had several offers of off-Broadway theaters and nightclubs in which to continue to perform and develop the show.

Annie Sprinkle:

We wrote a script together for a bigger play we had wanted to take Off-Broadway-ish. But ultimately the personal support group was more important than any business opportunities.

I still feel that way today: Veronica Hart and Veronica Vera are my rocks and know me so well, and they always offer the best advice. They are my magic mirrors.

For Annie Sprinkle, the performance was transformative.

Annie Sprinkle:

The Ellen/Annie piece that I developed for ‘Deep Inside Porn Stars’ was only a few minutes long, but it became a huge breakthrough for me, the springboard for a whole new and improved life, and set the basic style to much of my later work and became the foundation of my show ‘Post Porn Modernist.’

As quickly as possible, I transformed myself into a professional performance artist. I began traveling the world making a living by sharing stories of my life.

As for Franklin Furnace, they have been champions of sex worker artists. I give them donations every year – and Martha Wilson has really been a great support for decades. She has helped keep the avant garde safe!

Franklin Furnace gave Club 90 a great opportunity from which we benefited in a myriad of ways. And still do!

Mariellen R. Sandford:

Franklin Furnace was a vital and unique part of this time and place, this art zone of activity.

I hope there is someone out there right now saying “Yes” to an artist who walks in and says, “I want to try something, something uncomfortable…

*

Deep Inside Porn StarsAnnie Sprinkle, Gloria Leonard, Veronica Vera, Candida Royalle, Veronica Hart in 1995

*

  • Posted On: 9th June 2024
  • By: Ashley West
  • Under: Articles

14 Comments

  1. Jay · June 9, 2024 Reply

    Thanks for such an HONEST telling of this story. I have heard others try to tell it over the years – and it has always been told form the POV of Annie or one of the other Club 90 members. It is good to have some balance!

    • Jim Stevens · June 9, 2024 Reply

      Thanks so much for this. I wanted to go the reunion in 2012, but it ended up not being feasible. And thanks for the video clips…I’ve always been curious about the whole event and it paints a very clear and fascinating picture.

    • Jay F. Carr · June 13, 2024 Reply

      It always amuses me how the family members of XXX legends did very little to preserve their heritage when they were alive….. but then suddenly try seek to monetize their parents’ achievements after they pass….

      Tremendous kudos to THE RIALTO REPORT for appreciating them and collecting the best interviews when they are still alive.

      Mentioning no names… ahem…

  2. Hans G. · June 9, 2024 Reply

    Is The Rialto Report the only one to interview ALL members of Club 90??? It seems so… and so thank goodness!!! And I add Kelly Nichols and Sue Nero into the mix as well. In this era where everyone is trying to claim ownership of every story so that they can monetize it, I am forever grateful that you quietly go about the business of preserving oral histories in a heartfelt and honest manner.

  3. Melissa Lamond · June 9, 2024 Reply

    I am sure CLUB 90 are truly grateful for allowing you to tell their stories over the years, as you have accorded them hours of time for their wonderful HER-stories.
    And this is the icing on the cake – hearing all the viewpoints behind their stage piece brings the story and the New York context into sharp focus in a way that hasn’t been done before.
    BRAVO!

  4. Fred Gentry · June 9, 2024 Reply

    Excellent as always: the best!

  5. Cathy Gigante-Brown · June 9, 2024 Reply

    Really enjoyed this feature. Especially the clips. It was so wonderful to hear Gloria and Candida “speak” again, to hear their voices, their thoughts. Bravo! Excellent job.

  6. Jeff Robertson · June 9, 2024 Reply

    Awesome Article Keep Up Good Work

  7. Jay Peterman · June 10, 2024 Reply

    These ladies had so much intellectual information to disseminate! But the world was not ready for sex works to have open conversations about their reality. With a little help, this could have been an off Broadway hit and financial success.

  8. J. Walter Puppybreath · June 10, 2024 Reply

    Another deep dive into a genre/era that, often, seems to be from distant planet – in the absolute best way!
    Please keep doing what you’re doing. RR.

  9. P.L. · June 13, 2024 Reply

    Quality essay – it could have been a titillating piece or a fawning article, but instead is a balanced view.

  10. Nicky Dash · June 13, 2024 Reply

    Yes, I agree it was groundbreaking and this worthy of this excellent coverage.

    No, Deep Inside Porn Stars wasn’t particularly… good? Rather amateurish, no??

    I saw the whole performance, and the number of innuendo jokes about a pussy being a cat would shame a prepubescent teenager.

    Nevertheless thanks Rialto!!

  11. June Emms · June 14, 2024 Reply

    The best writing I’ve seen on Club 90. Big props to the writer.

    Thank you.

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