From MOMA to Moaning

Timothy Greenfield-Sanders photographs the adult-film industry.

Assigning the infinitely smooth Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, who has 700 works in the Museum of Modern Art, to photograph the leading ladies and lads of the roughest trade this side of the street is a nice high-meets-low idea, and the result is the last thing you'd expect from porn: It's interesting. In XXX: 30 Porn Star Portraits (Bullfinch Press, $35), the men are so appallingly pentapod I don't feel like writing about them—suffice it to say that Chad Hunt (The Missing Link) is even more vain about his 11- by 7-inch, cut passion scepter than I would be, and that's not just sour, nongigantic grapes. I'm not a big porn-gal fan, either. To see Sunrise Adams in Last Girl Standing would almost certainly be a yawn, but it does get your attention to see her on facing pages as a nice girl with glasses, T-shirt, and bell-bottoms and then as her stage self in high heels, protruding hooters, hand haughtily on haunch. On the next spread, Briana Banks transmogrifies from a plain, shy blonde in a red sweatshirt that makes her look flat-chested to the come-hither-and-spritz star of Briana Banks aka Filthy Whore 1 and 2. Sunrise's privates are privately tucked away; Briana's reach out to touch someone and, quite possibly, fling him out the window. Greenfield-Sanders makes them unusually beautiful, and blindingly glossy.

Their brief autobiographies are sometimes intriguing, too. Only a few confess to scarring childhoods, and they're way upbeat about their job. "Becoming a Tushy Girl changed my life!" gushes Mari Possa (Jamaican Me Horny). Briana says that she and her porn hubby never watch each other doing good unto others—because it "would hurt beyond what words can explain." I guess not watching makes it painless. For cuntrepreneur Nina Hartley, life went like this: Screw a thousand people, piss off your family, get rich, and marry your childhood sweetheart. Got that, kids? The great heroine of the book, and the scene, is Sharon Mitchell, Ph.D., who survived coke-and-junk addiction, rape, and near murder and rescued the industry from AIDS.

Few of the celebrity writers in the book rise to the occasion like the porn stars do. A.M. Homes' and Lou Reed's lame literary riffs on porn themes are short and still too long. Gore Vidal reprises his same old wheeze about Christianity and plucky fucks who resist it. Nancy Friday, Karen Finley, and John Malkovich are snores—who cares if Malkovich lost his virginity to a childhood pal who'd just seen the swing scene in Emmanuelle? But Wayne Koestenbaum, J.T. Leroy, and John Waters are funny, and Francine Du Plessix Gray's chat about de Sade is so good it almost hurts—and not more than words can explain.

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