Bambi Woods comes back (NSFW)

by Robert Nagle on 6/21/2007

in Pop Americana,Video/Multimedia

This is definitely NOT safe for work (NSFW), but this interview with Bambi Woods (of Debbie Does Dallas fame) was fascinating (here is part two). The actress who played her in the movie disappeared for more than 20 years, living in comfortable obscurity in Australia. She never reveals her identity, but makes this offer:

My family would KILL me if I gave any pictures out. What I WOULD do is an audio interview (my husband suggested this) in person if the company involved agreed to donate a sizable amount to charity. I don’t know why anyone would bother but if people can make documentaries and profit from them then they can donate money to charity if they want me to meet with them.

To be clear I am NOT asking for one cent for myself as I don’t need money and it would just be a once off interview. If anybody really wants my story (like the documentary makers) they can give some money to some sick kids. Everyone is happy to make up stories about me dying and doing “farmland” movies so they should be happy to hear the truth even if it isn’t as controversial as they would like.

In another NSFW piece by the same journalist (a pseudonym) about Debbie Does Dallas, we learn that 2 of the actresses committed suicide, one was an actor in mainstream films, one male performer did hundreds of films, one became a journalist/librarian, one actress ran a talk show about sex and porn in NYC, and still another had a short-lived porn career. The problem of that time apparently was drugs; those who used drugs ended their lives prematurely;  those who stayed drug-free usually managed to spring back from porn and even to leverage it into something fun and semi-normal.

That’s one thing critics usually overlook about the porn industry: the big problem is making it easier for drug addicts to make fast money to support the habit. Shauna Grant‘s suicide had little to do with the porn industry (although it definitely estranged her from her family). Instead, the suicide had more to with her drug addiction and the man who was giving her the drugs. People at that young an age aren’t mature enough to extricate themselves from such situations. Therein lies the tragedy. (Even today, people lay virtual flowers on her virtual gravestone). People who perform in porn films may not have been supertalented or working on projects of lasting artistic value; however, in the days of Shauna Grant, the films were luscious and bawdy and sparkling; the directors of photography made sure to give films a great look; screenplay writers gave them campy scripts to have fun with at least. I can’t speak of other porn stars, but the films with Shauna Grant will only grow more beautiful (and ephemeral) with time. Not high art, but certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

Contemporary porn comes with a different set of problems. Instead of trying to mimic mainstream cinema, it presents sex and nothing but; it’s a given that nobody lasts more than a few months in the industry (although some women can rack up hundreds of video credits during that time). Porn actresses have learned the art of branding. Make a few movies, dance in a few clubs, do a few live webcams and have cyberchat with paying customers. If you’re lucky, you can get signed on as a contract girl with one of the major studios. I guess that is progress over prostitution from previous eras. On the other hand, the decision to be exhibitionist about everything means being unable to take things back. I read a few more of the interviews on Luke is Back’s site. His interviews with the girl of the month are both sympathetic and sad. I followed one interview where an actress airs dirty laundry about her life: the STD’s, the quarrels, the estranged family (and often the infant child they are trying to support). All of us have hard lives; we ought not reserve special sympathy for porn stars; at some point, everyone makes choices and has to live with them. But people in adult industry have very public lives and end up having to spending a lot of time and effort building up the porn persona.

In the days of Bambi Woods and Shauna Grant, porn stars could appear in movies and remain a mystery to their adoring audiences. One had to deal with fans on occasion, but generally they stayed out of your way. Nowadays, though, the adult star not only does sex scenes; she is available for “chat” or “live shows.” It must be exhausting. The Internet puts everybody just an email away from everyone else; but that does not imply friendship or sympathy; I remember a while back reading a (warning: not safe for work) long forum post by a porn star named Liandra for Abby Winters — it is visible even to nonsubscribers apparently. The thread on the forum went on for 30 some odd pages. Liandra and her male admirers were chatting away about love, relationships, beauty, art. Clearly Liandra was smart and thoughtful (she was a literature student), and the male audience was treating her with the utmost respect (bordering perhaps on adulation). Liandra talked about her life and frustrations, while her male audience offered friendly advice and encouragement. It was uplifting to read; all participants were having fun, and the men (from countries around the world) were showering her with concern and affection and insight. There wasn’t anything wrong with that, but it just struck me as as both exhausting and a waste of energy. Liandra was finding comfort from strangers; and strangers were finding titillation in being able to have a real-live chat with a “porn star”. I actually considered paying for a membership for the opportunity to talk with her or post on her forum. Perhaps we would have said interesting things, and we might have made a lasting impression on the other. It is a new kind of companionship: lively, flirtatious and  still a bit empty.

It is sad that companionship (even virtual companionship) comes packaged with a monthly subscription; we should not be monetizing the personal aspects of our lives–unless we want these personal aspects to become the core part of our existence. I write. I share my life freely, and I wield ultimate control. But the Internet rarely forgets (and perhaps years later I will regret writing this post). Our attention is our most precious commodity; the problem with the modern adult star is having to babysit the fans and keep them entertained; critics are wrong to suggest that sex performances are exploiting these actresses; far more injurious is the burden of having invisible friends competing for your attention, juggling them around without offering any substantial connection.

Fortunately, that is one thing Bambi Woods never had to worry about.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Therapy New York September 29, 2008 at 2:18 pm

I think it’s nice that Bambi Woods is using the money from the interview to donate to charity. I can understand why she left the sex industry. I was reading how a lot of those girls were using drugs that were in the sex industry. I think its crazy how men will pay to sign up to a website to talk to with a porn star. Those girls are telling you what you want to hear so that they can continue to sign up for the membership.

Jim December 19, 2010 at 1:46 am

That interview was a hoax of epic proportions! I did some detective work and I figured out everything about Bambi Woods and yes…she is alive! I know her name and the whole nine yards! A-Z believe me or not!

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