Specter of AIDS Triggers Deathly Fear in Porn Industry


Thanks to steeladdict for sharing.

Here’s an article related to the LA porn industry in 1987. A couple interesting quotes from Amerson including (words to the effect) “AIDS might be a good thing for the porn business” and “Gay porn actors would be better off robbing liquor stores”.

Bill Amerson at the 6th annual Erotica Awards. Early 80s.

Specter of AIDS Triggers Deathly Fear in Pornography Industry
RUSSELL KISHI. Los Angeles Times. Aug 16, 1987.

The perennially controversial and perennially lucrative pornography industry, which tends to shrug off the bruises it receives from government and moral activists, is deathly afraid of the latest threat against it.

Insiders have generally viewed government studies and the occasional publicity from underage actresses as something of a nuisance rather than a threat. The government itself, after all, estimates porn profits last year at between $8 billion and $10 billion. And the industry estimates that Americans rented 104 million X-rated videocassettes from video retailers last year in spite of the negative publicity.

New, More Serious Threat

But the specter of the sexually transmitted disease AIDS could very possibly damage the X-rated film industry in ways that legislation and law enforcement could never hope to achieve.

It is an alarming prospect, perhaps, but a logical conclusion based on conversations about the acquired immune deficiency syndrome with people who produce hard-core films and a law enforcement officer who has spent 15 years studying the phenomenon in Southern California-generally considered the capital of the porn industry.

“There have been people in the pornographic business who have been diagnosed with AIDS,” said Sgt. Don Smith of the Los Angeles Police Department’s vice division.

“Now the scare is in and the industry is absolutely afraid of AIDS.”

“Because of that, it’s harder to get people to come into the industry. I know of two sources who have reportedly got AIDS in the industry. By sources (I’m referring to) performers. I really can’t comment any further on it, but (details will be) coming out shortly.”

Sharon Mitchell, a 12-year veteran of pornographic films, disagrees.

“That’s a rumor,” she said of the reports of AIDS among porn actors. “It’s not so. It’s hearsay.”
Mitchell, who estimates she has performed sexual acts in approximately 700 films, said: “A lot of people seem to love the gossip factor. Those two people who have been accused do not have AIDS. I have been with them and they both deny it.”

It is difficult to elaborate or speculate on Smith’s statements because of the very nature of the business itself-a business that prides itself in its ability to protect its performers under a First Amendment umbrella.

Beyond that, Bill Amerson’s 20 years in the pornographic trade tell him that if any performer had indeed tested positive for AIDS, they would not necessarily be willing to disclose the finding to their co-workers.

Carrying Tales Out of School

“I don’t think anyone would tell anybody,” Amerson said matter-of-factly.
Amerson’s position in hard-core films might be comparable to the so-called moguls who established and reigned over the major movie studios during Hollywood’s most prolific era.

He moved away from conventional film production and gravitated toward pornographic features during the late 1960s as it became clear that the nation’s moral standards were becoming more liberal and a huge profit could be made as hard-core films moved from peep shows to big screens.
He still maintains a production and distribution facility in the San Fernando Valley, but complains that the porn trade is “no longer fun,” in large part because of the AIDS crisis. Despite accumulating a fortune of several million dollars he is looking to abandon the business entirely.

“It’s not a good thing for the country that people are getting AIDS,” Amerson said, “but as far as the pornography thing goes, maybe it is a good thing.

“To me, porno is getting worse. It’s getting sleazier, more disgusting. I haven’t shot a picture for six, eight months. I probably will not shoot any more X-rated films. I just don’t have the heart, the feeling for it anymore.

“I’m tired of dealing with the dregs of humanity.”

And those sentiments, he insisted, are shared by many porn performers.

“I talked to Jamie Gillis the other night,” Amerson said of a former leading man who might be described as a B-grade John Holmes in the hierarchy of porno stars.

“He called me from New York. Jamie’s driving a taxi. He said he’s waiting for some R-rated work. He said he will never make another X-rated film.

“These are the smart people. I was with Amber (former queen of X-rated films) last week. I had lunch with her. She said, `You can’t get me in front of a camera with somebody else.’

“The people who don’t have a lot of intelligence, people who think it (AIDS) can’t, it’s never going to happen to them” will continue to work in hard-core films, Amerson said.

“And there are people who just don’t care. Most of the time they’re jacked up on drugs. Unfortunately our industry is full of it.”

Estimates are that an unknown performer can earn between $500 and $750 per day working in hard-core films. A proven moneymaker can earn between $1,500 and $2,000 a day.

But, “It’s usually a very short-lived career,” Smith said.

“A lot of girls are what we call `six-monthers.’ After that, they get burned out. Some of the big stars are completely burned out after two or three years.”

Although the careers are short, the risk of AIDS is intense.

“You’ve got numerous sexual partners,” Smith said. “You have sodomy. . . . The majority of the people that I’ve talked to have been involved in drugs, and by that I mean intravenous drug use. So you’ve got to say there are two strikes against them (in terms of AIDS risk).”

Performing in hard-core homosexual films, Amerson said, “is like playing Russian roulette with six bullets.

“If I were gay, instead of making a gay film I would rather rob a liquor store if I needed money that badly,” he said.

“The worst thing that could happen would be you’d go to jail.”

The overall risk has been further complicated, Smith added, with the advent of bisexual, or “crossover” films.

“You have homosexual males and females involved in the same film,” Smith said. “Many performers who have been involved in sexually explicit male films have made the crossover and are now doing the bisexual films.

“Because of that you would think there would be a greater possibility that someone within the industry would contract (AIDS) and end up giving the disease to someone in the heterosexual industry as a result.”

John H. Weston, legal counsel for the Adult Film and Video Assn. of America, said it has become commonplace for producers he represents to demand AIDS testing of all performers before a single frame is shot.

“Many of the actors and actresses themselves are utilizing safe sex techniques,” Weston said. “Some women are using a particular spermicide which has apparently been medically sanctioned as being protective against AIDS. Many of the men are increasingly using condoms.

“I think AIDS at the production level is a factor. It’s a phenomenon. People are going to have to function in a very careful, protective way. I think they should. Nothing is worth a human life.”
One person who sees no reason to change is Mitchell.

“I don’t participate in any high-risk sex,” she said. “Since the AIDS crisis we have outlawed anal scenes by our own choice.

“I don’t feel pressured by (the AIDS epidemic). I like the people. I’ve found my niche.”

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