This post is not going to be work-safe, because it is about the death (and possibly the murder) of a woman who starred in porn movies. The woman’s stage name was Haley Paige, but her real name was Miriam Haley (or Maryam Haley).
Here’s the wikipedia page about the woman. There’s a very peculiar thread on an adult website (Not Safe for Work). This thread is messy and hard to read, so I have quoted significant portions from it below on this web page. It starts with the picture can you see here (warning: topless photo). At first glance, it appears to be a random publicity photo of a porn star signing autographs. But it strikes me as unbelievably tragic. The woman is “dressed” in her sexy regalia while signing a calendar with a raunchy nude photo of her on it. In the background, random male fans are waiting in line to get autographs, laughing, having a good time and yet barely paying attention to her. She is in the foreground of the photo and her body receives the best lighting, her skin positively glistens and her body (while perhaps not perfect) is still very beautiful and yes, sexualized.; but her figure is isolated from the rest of the people; it reminds us of the existential loneliness of the adult performer. For her, the autograph session is just another day at work. One might say it’s exploitative, and maybe it is, but to me it seems mundane and even dull. Just another model, just another set of tits, just another porn convention.
The thread for this photo is awful. (If you remember, I wrote previously about how adult stars actively post on bulletin boards, leaving a permanent record of whatever they do–like the rest of us!) At first, fans criticize her breasts, and then Haley Paige herself comes on the thread to complain about the way they disparaged her:
“modt of you who wrote such odious comments about my breasts should find a real past time and get a fu*king life, as it is, obviously my self confidence is not good to say the least, thank you for ruining my week you feeble assholes. yes, my breasts sag, do you think i dont know that?
i look at my self in the mirror everyday and hate them but refuse to get a breast job.
so you will be happy to know that i have basically quit performing and focusing on my studies, as fr the suicide coment, it does cross my mind.”
“ive been through enough in my life and ive never treated anyone in the industry with disrespect, and i think it is fair to say i did not deserve those comments you fu*king worthless cunts.
Later on in the same thread, fans wonder where she has been, then someone posts a news article about her death, then her father posts a full comments filling in the details. I’ve tried to sort through the details; it’s unclear to me whether she died of an overdose or was murdered. I suspect the details will be revealed over time (and the wikipedia page will be updated). Either way, the circumstances are both horrifying and tragic.
I could say a lot about porn as a social phenomena (I wrote a little about it already here ). I’m fairly tolerant of the genre, but contemptuous towards the mass commercialization of it. The pay is pitiful, and so are the working conditions; only a few are lucky enough to get good-paying parts. Maybe people can do it for a few weeks for the hell of it or even a few months, but after that, it becomes a bad place to be unless you have really thick skin and an ability to avoid the crazies. I once watched a porn film with a striking and smart-looking woman in her twenties. The woman (not Haley Paige) was being interviewed briefly before the sex scene. She said that her ex-husband kidnapped her child when he didn’t win custody. She was an exotic dancer and dabbling in porn. She was doing the porn shoot to pay for a divorce attorney and a private investigator to track the ex-husband down.
Of course, that whole backstory could have been faked, but it came out so randomly during the preliminary interview that it struck me as genuine. The director/interviewer was momentarily silenced by the sad dimension to this woman’s motivations. “Aren’t you afraid that your ex is going to use this movie as evidence that you are an unfit parent?” the director asked on the video.
“He already did that,” she said. “And that has always been his excuse for stealing my child away. But this is honest work, and I’ve been a good parent so far. I’m doing this to make a living. I have nothing to worry about.” And they had the sex scene, and they laughed and moaned the whole time, as if nothing was wrong.
The problem with porn is that it presents people as expendable and without a past. Porn by itself doesn’t have to be exploitative or ugly or demeaning, but when people have to adopt personas, we no longer have to treat them as people. They are just people with ugly tits.
Now getting back to Haley. Haley apparently came in contact with a lot of people in the industry over the past few years. Even her childhood (which she described as abusive) wasn’t as bad as she described it (if her father’s post was accurate). In California she will be remembered by friends and coworkers; apparently lots of people liked her (and in life, isn’t that all that matters?) When she disappeared, people noticed it, although not immediately. Her living arrangement in her final months was isolated, not nurturing. A year earlier she agreed to marry someone to help him get a green card, and recently, she got involved with a fetish video director (who did drugs with her and may have been her murderer). Although Haley was relatively well-known, a drug addiction isolated her and prevented others from injecting a dose of reality into her fragile life. To escape from the real world is sometimes necessary and sometimes glorious, but you can’t do it very long..or you’ll have no bungee chord to bring you back. In those final months Haley had no one around to “keep it real” or bring a fresh perspective on things.
The Wikipedia page lists an interview with her, one of the many that porn stars do with websites over their short career. These interviews are mostly respectful and bland, asking questions about hobbies and how was it like to work with director X and actor Y. She was glowing about a recent movie she made, the Villa with Vivid (and it was directed by Paul Thomas, truly one of the most respectful and talented directors in his industry). I haven’t seen that movie, but I’m sure it was well-made and probably Hailey was thrilled to be in it.
We may say, “it’s just another porn star, another dead porn star,” but that is too easy. Haley was a porn star who lived; she had adventures, traveled around the world, had political opinions (she did work in the Green Party), and met all kinds of crazy and interesting people. She read Richard Brautigan, loved All about Eve and other classics, went to folk festivals. If I met her at a party and had no idea she was in the porn industry, I would have probably found her interesting. She felt, she thought, she lived.
I don’t want to launch a tirade or even a defense about the sex industry; all I know is that some people do well in it, and others do badly. These are unconventional paths for people to take in life, probably not anyone’s first choice (but my jobs after college weren’t my first choice either). But it’s probably good that so many different paths in life exist for people to explore…as long as these alternate paths don’t make us feel trapped. There are bad people to avoid everywhere (and porn has more than its fair share).
I remember a notoriously sadistic and perverse Japanese movie I saw a long time ago, “In the Realm of the Senses.” I remember the movie’s claustrophobic qualities; two lovers were in the bedroom for the entire movie, playing these weird sexual mutilation games which ultimately resulted in death. It’s one of those arty movies, so of course the sexual games and violence were meant to be taken metaphorically (although it was based on an actual event). The lovers in the film were portrayed in the movie as romantic and beautiful (though perverse); we were supposed to find them charming and maybe doomed. But if anything similar actually happened to a friend or loved one in the real life, it would sicken us. The movie’s lovers lived only for the darkness. But that was only a movie. Maryam and her porn director boyfriend were teetering on the edge with their alternative lifestyles. Drugs and fetishes brought escape; nothing was forbidden anymore; drugs became their God. Inside a hotel room, strung out on drugs, everything seemed fucked up and terrifying. I would like to think that her psychotic fetish-loving boyfriend was entirely to blame, but who really knows?
If Haley had lived a few more years, she would have gone out of the porn business, escaped the gaping maw of drugs and found some alternative niche. Maybe it wouldn’t have brought her happiness, but at least there would be a semi-normalcy. In your twenties, the world is built on absolutes. You haven’t established a pattern of living; you don’t yet have enough worldly knowledge to see the ephemeral qualities of fortune; you have no way of knowing how precious every single breath and footstep and conversation really is. At that vulnerable age, it is easy to fall into quicksand without realizing it actually is quicksand…or that hundreds (if not thousands) would be eager to help bring you out of it. Haley could not have foreseen the consequences, both of her death and its effect on those who knew her..and even those who didn’t. That is the irony and also the tragedy.
Postscript: These two photos seem sad, and looking back, I think it is unfair to define a woman’s life (and death) by pictures..even sad ones. Her father has put up some public photos and of course you could probably google her name and find thousands of porn photos where she is happy and smiling.
Postscript #2: (July 4, 2008). In May, the father writes on the original thread:
I’m glad I’m back, too. Crass comments don’t really bother me. Well, they do, if I let them, I suppose. If I think about them and what they’re saying about my daughter. But in my state of semi-denial, the comments are not about my daughter at all, but some fictional character I don’t quite associate with being her. I relate to the comments about her personality and her real self, not the porn star performing acts my mind won’t let me imagine. Yet intellectually I know it’s her, and I sense the amazing crossover she made by just being herself in an environment that is a polar opposite from her upbringing. I know about the real Maryam, so I can relate to the feelings people have about her as a person rather than an actress.
I realize that what we’re doing on this forum is quite extraordinary, talking about an adult performing artist on levels that go way beyond the subject of raw sex. We have taken the life and soul of a woman in its elemental form, examined her unjust fate in terms that transcend sensational voyeurism, and are in the process of redefining our understanding of her, our concept of her being, in the brazen expectation of discovering something valuable to cherish both in her life and in her death, and at some point, in each of our own hearts. What I find fascinating in our discussion, loose as it is at the moment, is that most of you don’t know her before Haley Paige, and I don’t know her since. I think we’re telling each other we’d like to swap stories so we can put them together into one. OK by me.
July 24 2008: Apparently Ken Haley through an email to the bastardly.com site, has provided a lot more background information. Rather than try to summarize, I’d prefer just to include the contents verbatim (especially because bastardly seems to be having technical problems with publishing comments):
Thank you so very much, Ida Clair. I’m still going through early levels of grieving, such as denial and suppression, and only briefly do I experience the anger that inevitably come in heavier doses. There are moments late at night when it hits me that she will not appear to me in person again, that our memories will not be laughed about in happy reunions, that new memories will not be born or even imagined. I feel somewhat dissociated from Haley Paige, the pornstar that people write about, both with dignity and crassness. I never knew Haley Paige, and Maryam Irene Haley would never do what Haley Paige did. Denial? More likely, a self-protection mechanism to suppress overwhelming grief and pain. But grief and pain slip through anyway, when I’m alone and out of earshot of my wife (Maryam’s mother and I are divorced) and other people. Despite the anguish at the loss of my precious daughter and friend, I am buoyed by the words of you who have written with compassion and tenderness, and those who have been affected by her reality and her life.
I will write Maryam’s story, though how soon I can’t say. So meanwhile, if there are questions, like Robert’s, I’ll be happy to try to answer them.”
“To kind of set the timeline straight, or as straight as I know it to be, this is what I can help you to understand. I last saw Maryam in October 2006 when my wife (her stepmother) and I visited her in L.A (we live in Oregon).I still did not know much about her professional life. For two or three years she had told me she worked for a modeling agency as an assistant and chaperone for the models, and then as an appointment setter. She never told me that she was a model herself.”
“A few months before I last saw her she wrote me about directing an adult movie, but she specifically said she was not an actress or performer. So when I visited her in October 2006, and met Chico, I thought she was still working for the modeling agency. She seemed a bit out of it during the visit, her eyes looked way too droopy, and she took a lot of pills during the time we were there.”
“In earlier phone conversations and emails she had told me of an addiction to oxycontin, and at the time of our visit she said she was taking prescribed methadone for the addiction. Despite her apparent drowsiness, she was quite active and alert with us, at least during the daytime. We played tennis in the complex tennis court (I took photos of her playing), and she ran and jumped and had plenty of energy. We had lunch together, including Chico. He was somewhat subdued, appeared intelligent though a bit arrogant, and he paid for the meal.”
“After we went to her place and arranged to stay the night in her apartment he disappeared. I got the impression she had to ask him for permission for us to stay and he probably wasn’t happy about it. But she was cheerful and didn’t let on there was a problem. As the evening wore on, she seemed to get drowsier, eventually falling asleep while eating a piece of cake. We stretched her out on the sofa and spent the night in her room. There was another bedroom in the apartment, which Maryam said was locked because somebody was keeping a dog in it. We could hear the dog, and during the night I heard someone going into the room, adjacent to the room we were sleeping in.”
“Before she fell asleep, Maryam whispered to me that her boyfriend was paying for all her living expenses, but that she didn’t care for him very much, and would soon be leaving him, but couldn’t right away. She said he made lots of money in a secret business, and I immediately imagined he was a drug dealer. In the morning she greeted us at the bedroom door as we were getting ready to leave. She was a lot more bright-eyed, not drowsy-looking, and very sweet with us. She hugged and kissed us goodbye and seemed very much at peace. That was the last time I saw her, except in recent dreams.”
“In may or june of the next year, I got a call from Maryam one evening. She seemed to be chatty at first, and then suddenly asked me a question in a childish and whiny voice. “Why did you let my uncle molest me?” she asked, startling me. I knew what she was talking about. When she was about 3 years old, we (her mother, herself, and I) were spending the night at my sister’s home in San Diego. We were living in Mexico, and when we visited my sister and her now-deceased husband, we would usually stay with them in their big home. My sister’s husband was an alcoholic, but I always thought of him as a lovable person and a good uncle.”
“As Maryam’s mother and I were settling in for bed, Maryam came running into the guest bedroom and said: “My uncle touched my pee-pee!” We didn’t let her go back out of our room, and after she went to sleep, my wife and I discussed in low voices what we should do. Make a fuss about it? Accuse my sister’s husband of touching Maryam? Probably alienate my sister? We made the decision not to bring it up, because we felt that if he had done something inappropriate, he had done it while drunk.”
“We decided, though, never to leave her alone in his presence. Which wasn’t hard to do since we seldom visited them overnight again. He visited us once in Mexico before he died, but he stayed in a hotel and we made sure he wasn’t alone with Maryam. We never discussed the event with my sister or even brought it up to Maryam again. How she remembered it, I don’t know. But as I tried to explain the episode to her on the phone when she called, she kept saying things like, “Why didn’t you protect me from him?” Then suddenly, Chico came on the phone, and started a rant about me allowing her uncle to molest Maryam, and he was going to tell the authorities. I hung up on him, but he called about 8 more times over the next week or two, and I still have the taped messages. Each time he called he ranted for five or ten minutes (I never picked up to talk to him). A few times Maryam’s voice is heard in the background, sobbing and saying, “Dad! Dad!” Like a call for help.
“At first I was angry with her as well as Chico. In an email that Chico sent, he said he wanted us to pay him $100,000 for all the money he spent on Maryam’s addiction, or he would tell the authorities that I allowed her to be molested and probably molested her myself. I found out that he made the same calls to Maryam’s mother and to my sister.”
“Just a couple of weeks after those disturbing phone calls, I got an email from Maryam that she had left Chico because he had beat her up, and she was staying at her mom’s in San Diego. She said she had some information that would put Chico behind bars for a long time, regarding a rape or a murder, and that she was going to testify against him. She apologized for the phone calls, saying that he had made her do in order to extort money. Right after that I got an email from Chico saying that Maryam had left him and he was going to have to destroy her cats. He attached half a dozen photos of Maryam in various hard-core porn positions. “See what your actions made your daughter do?” he wrote. I don’t know how to describe my emotional reaction to those photos. It was like a Hitchcock movie, when lights and twistings spirals zoom in and out on the screen of the mind, and reality warps into a blur of tears and gasps of disbelief. The next day, after a sleepless night, I wrote to Maryam that I had found about her professional life, and that I did not condemn her for it. She wrote back briefly and said she had a lot to talk to me about. A few days later I got a frantic call from her mother that Maryam had left her home and was probably going back to Chico. Maryam’s mother was heartbroken. She said that she knew Chico was an evil person and that Maryam was terrified of him, but that her had a hold on her.”
“On August 23, 2007 I got a call from my wife on my cell phone as I was returning home from photographing a friend’s wedding. “Come home immediately!” she screamed. Intuitively I knew it was about Maryam. “It is Maryam?” I asked. “Yes!” “Is she dead?” I asked. “Yes!” Maryam’s mother had called and my wife had taken the call. Though they hadn’t met before, my wife and my ex-wife seemed to bond in grief. My wife had a good relationship with Maryam, who had often stayed with us, including several months in Oklahoma in 2001 and periodically in San Diego over the next couple of years. After Maryam moved to Los Angeles, she visited every few months, and we had several nice visits with her. Maryam’s mother had called 2 days after Maryam’s death, because she had immediately driven to central California when she got the news from the police on August 21. Maryam’s remains were held a few days in King City or Soledad, the county seat, at the coroner’s office. Her mother had gone up there and started to make funeral arrangements at her own hometown in Contra Costa County, not far away. I wish she had called me sooner, but I didn’t blame her. As soon as the coroner released Maryam, we planned to have a family ceremony, which took place the following week. My wife and I drove down from Oregon, and my first wife (I have 2 children from my first marriage, both who knew Maryam, but couldn’t attend the funeral) attended from where she lives nearby. All three of my wives came together at the funeral, and I took a lovely photo of all three, arms locked in friendship and in tender remembrance of Maryam.
Maryam’s mother told me that there was an investigation about Maryam’s death, and a sheriff’s official did take a statement from me, but I haven’t heard of any conclusion on the authorities’ part about possible murder or even suicide. The only drug that I know was found in her system was methadone, which I knew she was taking.”
“Chico sent me a long email right before we left for the funeral. It rambled and didn’t make a lot of sense, but he seemed subdued and remorseful. I haven’t shown it to anyone. He talked about driving for weeks with her after she went back to him, and about getting married in Los Vegas, and making plans for her to get off drugs and having a normal life. Some of those events were later confirmed, such as their getting married, so it’s possible that this account was basically true. He said he was sorry that she died while he slept, that he didn’t know she was sick during the night, and that he loved her and felt lonely without her.
When I read about his own death by suicide just a month later, I wasn’t as surprised as I might be. Because something tells me she had exacted a revenge on him in some way. She might have come to him in a dream or a vision, like she has come to me (sometimes as a hummingbird, sometimes as a beautiful mature woman clothed entirely in long flowing black hair) and scared him to death. Or he may have been overwhelmed by a sense of loss, though according to accounts of his treatment of women, it’s unlikely he was so sentimental about any woman that he would kill himself for losing her, unless he had done something to facilitate her death and the guilt got to him. Another possible explanation is the fear he expressed in different forums of his family finding out about his profession. Perhaps they had found out, and they had dispossessed him, and he killed himself out of humiliation.
It was a weird kind of poetic justice, but I’m happier that he’s dead, though if her life would bring back his, then I’d let him live just to have her back. Even if Chico didn’t have anything to do with Maryam’s death, his control over her, the morbid decay of the drugs and degrading sex and brutality he visited on her sapped her of her vitality and innocence, and made her life a form of death already. Either way, justice was served, in my opinion.”
Many questions remain, lots of information I would like to compile in order to write a thorough biogaphy, or perhaps a fictionalized biopic of a sweet young woman who made a career decision that confounded all of her friends and family, that led to incredible success and to her untimely death in a matter of a few years. I think tonight I wrote about a chapter’s worth already.
Love you all.
If anyone reading this blog personally knew my daughter, then you also know me to some extent. She and I share a number of attitudes and values, including honesty and openness. I’m not afraid to be open with people I don’t know very well, and can quickly make connections with supposed strangers. I’m not reticent about expressing my feelings and passions, and I think she was the same way. I have received much appreciated warmth and compassion from people on this blog, and I want to repay you who have given me a piece of your heart. It is a bizarre situation that brings us into each other’s acquaintance, I accept that, yet it also is natural and as human as any of us can be. You are a source of solace for my aching soul, and I even welcome the sickos who insult me and my daughter, for they will by some measure be touched by your kindness and by the honor you are bestowing on the young woman who left this life too soon. Haley Paige, Maryam Haley, is not in my eyes the adult actress many of you have seen in explicit detail. She is not the innocent girl who got mixed up in something beyond her power to escape. She is my closest friend, who knew me better than anyone ever has, and who wanted to make me proud of her accomplishments. And I am proud of what she accomplished, even in the industry that took her life, but more so for the effect she had on people, and continues to have on you who read these words. Keeping her name fresh and alive, and her memory as strong as her last words on this earth, is more than enough reason to share my thoughts and heart with all of you. Simple as that. Let’s keep talking about her. That includes the sickos who feel a need to insult and degrade. I can hope some of them aren’t as sick as they pretend to be.
(in response to some criticism by one of the posters)
It’s hard to take any of this dude’s language personally. He seems to illustrate one extreme of people in the adult business who are totally without morals or humanity. I’m convinced this person is Hunglo, who worked closely with Chico Wang and who broke away from Chico for some reason just before the tragic events that surround Maryam’s death. He probably knows more about the circumstances of Maryam’s final days than anyone alive. Too bad he doesn’t have an ounce of morality to at least give Maryam’s family some sense of solace and consolation regarding her last days of life. I never met Hunglo in person, though I’m sure he knew Maryam well. I don’t know why he caricatures her so grossly, in contradiction to other people in the industry who knew her personally and who have praised her for her character and personality, and even in contradiction to his hero Chico, who supposedly loved her. However, Chico did write me emails that were degrading of her, also, interspersed with assertions that he loved her and cared for her. He wrote me a day after Maryam’s death saying he was overcome with grief at her passing. Both Chico and this fellow seem to be cut from the same tragic cloth. Nearly devoid of soul, they seek self-aggrandizement in the degradation and abuse of people who are much better than they.
As an aside, I’m not sure whether reposting this passage is the right thing to do. I will try to contact the man personally and obtain permission. The father’s words strike me as reliable, thoughtful and yes, profound. Yet they are also the words of a man in mourning, and later he may have regrets about the amount of candor he showed on this Internet thread. These are events too tragic to be settled on a discussion thread.
Finally, I wish to acknowledge that my original essay about the death was wrong-headed in some ways. Reality turned out to be more complex. Haley hadn’t isolated herself that much; she stayed in touch with her father and probably other family members. Chico was a bad man, but had redeeming moments and probably genuine regret about what happened. We still don’t know the whole story. I don’t know if a “fictionalization” of the death will do it justice, but a literary treatment offers more freedom to explore emotions and hidden thoughts and ponder the significance of small details. A reporter (on the other hand) is constrained by the need to make events easy to understand and verifiable. A news article (or an essay like this one) or a discussion thread is limited in how it can portray a person or an event. In this discussion thread we see how different people are trying to impose their own narrative on events.
August 14, 2008 Update: Here’s further information from the father.
I just communicated with Maryam’s mother who said she got the official autopsy report. Officially, Maryam’s cause of death is UNKNOWN. There were no signs of trauma on her body and she only had trace amounts of tylenol in her system. She had no other drugs in her system. According to the report, her cause of death is a mystery. That sure doesn’t bring a lot of closure to any of us, but it does answer the main question about a drug overdose.
A few days before she died she said she wanted to tell me all about her career, and though I wasn’t quite ready to hear every detail, I felt that we would share our lives on a new level. She would no longer be my angelic daughter, perhaps, but a grown woman who had done things I could not imagine a child of mine doing. And from me I guaranteed she would not feel an ounce of guilt or judgment. Can your parents handle your revelation in the same way? You must be aware that they may not, and be prepared to reveal your life’s secrets wisely and according to their capacity to be shocked. I don’t think many parents would be quite as composed as I tried to be. Even if yours say they want to hear it all, just be wise and tender with them. At the same time, if they have questions, answer truthfully, even if you give part of the story one day and more of the story another day. If they prove to you they can hear more, then reveal a bit more. If their words or expressions indicate a form of rejection or judgment, it could silence you for a long time, or at least damage the open trust you want to have with them. I’d love to hear from you how you break it to them. I’m happy to be your sounding board. But you do need to share it with people you love, as Maryam so desperately wanted to share it with me.
August 21 Update. Apparently the letter I reprinted was incomplete. It is now corrected. Today has been one year since Maryam’s death.
August 21 Update Part 2. A little reflection about the tragedies of people’s lives.
August 24. I changed the topless photo with a more natural (albeit more tranquil and beautiful) picture. The topless photo was stark and had a social statement to make. On the other hand, it only reminded us of her involvement in the porn industry…which while interesting, is an example of trying to pigeonhole a person too easily. There will always be an abundance of stimulating visual depictions attached to the name Haley Paige…and a shortage of ordinary photographs.
August 24. I welcome people’s comments and observations. I don’t mind a free and open discussion, but if a comment is profanity-laced or insulting, I will probably delete it.
January 18, 2009. Another reflection by the father last Thanksgiving:
Yes, there are a lot of unanswered questions. I realize Chico talked about Maryam’s heroin addiction, but the hospital and autopsy remarks listed no needle marks on her body, and family members who prepared her for the funeral said there were no marks on her. And according to the same reports, she had no heroin in her system at time of death. I believe Maryam was taking methadone for treatment for an oxycontin addiction that she readily discussed to me and others. I would hope she didn’t have a heroin problem, but I can’t say for sure. It’s hard to believe anything Chico said at any time about anything, but when looking for clues about Maryam’s last days, his words have to come under scrutiny. I’m glad you’re trying to piece together the clues, vague as they are.
Thanksgiving Day we had a guest who had lost his young daughter a couple of weeks ago in circumstances similar to Maryam’s. He didn’t know his daughter very well, since his life took him away from her early on, and his self-guilt was eating at him. He said he made choices back then that he might regret now but that he can’t say he would have changed in the face of circumstances. I told him about my sense of guilt, that I examine my choices during Maryam’s childhood and young adulthood that may have changed her life’s outcome. But I told my friend that I would make those choices the same way, because life is seldom about one person or one choice.
For example, shortly before Maryam got into the adult business, she was living at my home in Oklahoma. She had come to visit from California, and her car broke down, and my wife and I invited her to stay with us for an extended period of time. She was under the influence of a controlling boyfriend, who wanted her to return to San Diego, and she found that distance from him diminished his control over her. She was moving into a different kind of lifestyle in Oklahoma, when my wife and I made a decision to move from Oklahoma to California, both for family reasons and to pursue better job situations. Maryam at first didn’t want to go back to California, then decided that it would be OK, and we all traveled to California together. We invited her to live with us, but she declined, and in a few months got a traveling opportunity with a travel writer, and spent a year in Australia. When she came back she got into the adult business, according to her interviews.
She didn’t tell me all the truth of her professional work, so I’m not sure how and when things took place. I feel somewhat responsible for where her life went in California, because if we had stayed in Oklahoma, and she had remained there, it’s doubtful she would have gotten involved in the adult scene. Yet, given the reasons for making the choice at the time, I can’t blame myself too harshly. I told my friend this, and he agreed that his decisions, too, were ones he had to make for various reasons.
As for influencing Maryam in any way that would have directed her to the adult business and her tragic death, I have no weight on my conscience. She received total and unconditional love from both of her parents, and full support for her wishes and opinions. As an only child she had no competition for her parents’ affection and admiration, and she had a loving circle of friends and relatives (for the most part). In her mid-teens she endured the break-up of her parents’ relationship, and although she approved of our divorce when that decision was made, there was a two year period when the family circle that had been strong for most of her youth began to erode. However, both her mother and I remained committed to her well-being, and she was a good daughter to us by her return love and affection.
She and I continued a close relationship even when I moved away from California. She visited me in each place I moved to, including Arizona, Michigan, and Oklahoma. She wanted to know what was happening in my life, and wanted to meet and approve of the new people in my life.
She often mentioned that I did not know some of the things that happened to her in high school and in later years, and said that one day she would shock me with the details. In a discussion just months before her death, she said she wanted to challenge me with gross stories about our lives, in which we would one-up the other in the telling of sinful things we did. I told her that she would probably win, but I was game. We didn’t get the chance, but it was one of her hints to me that she may not be the innocent girl I wanted to believe her to be. She knew very well how I felt about her, and believed I would be disappointed and hurt by her immorality. She may have accepted that I was pretty open-minded, but she realized that a father, no matter how liberal-minded, doesn’t want his beloved daughter to be involved in activities of a degrading nature. Still, she was willing to take the chance of my displeasure, because ultimately, she didn’t want to keep secrets from me, as I never kept any from her.
But I would prefer to have her with me now, telling me all the gory details, laughing them off or trying to reconcile them in my soul, than living in darkness from her absence. The hole in my heart is every growing, and one day will consume it.
January 18, 2009. I forgot to mention a remark I made a while back. According to her father, Haley had married a man who she loved, but it turned out he mainly wanted to become a permanent citizen. When she realized this, she was deeply hurt. Here’s my comment: Isn’t it ironic that she would not resent being a sex object in adult films but be appalled that someone was using her purely for immigration purposes. It’s too bad though that it didn’t work out. Disappointment is disappointment, I guess. I guess you can distance yourself from the theatrical nature of the adult business, but you can’t laugh off a failed relationship as easily.
January 18, 2009. Here’s an interesting quote from a parent who knew her before she went into porn (From pornstarsupdate.com–warning NSFW)
Her name was MIRIAM and I knew her when she was a teen, her and my son were good friends…she was a sweet girl! I asked my son about MIRIAM just yesterday, if she was ok, if she ever got out of this demon business called Porn and he told me she was dead, murdered…by her husband! I knew MIRIAM, she loved only 1 man, his name is Jason or “T” for short! Not my son, but my former neighbor here in San Diego, California,,,Spring Valley to be exact! MIRIAM was a good young woman who went terribly wrong after the break up…! I always asked about her, if she was ok…and then I was told this…May the Lord have mercy on her, she did not deserve this, MIRIAM was not “Haley”…MIRIAM was a person, not trash and she deserves respect and the kind love she finally can have in the arms of the angels!
February 17, 2009. Thoughts from her dad about her unusual name:
Maryam’s spiritual vibe begins with her name, which is one of my favorite names, it’s the Persian rendition of Mary; her middle name, Irene, is after a courageous woman in Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico, near the town where Maryam was born in 1981, so she began life with a rich spiritual heritage. Her friends prior to her adult movie career have much the same feelings for her as Zach has expressed. In life she impressed with her tender sweetness, her devotion to her mother and father and close friends. She trusted easily, gave her heart freely, and attacked her challenges and desires with a ferocious passion. Since early childhood, when she dedicated her powers to accomplish something, she never failed. She applied her power gently, but with unbending will power. Although I lament her choice of medium, I am both amazed and proud of her accomplishment. Reactions such as Zach’s, one of many that praise her spiritual beauty as more meaningful than her sexuality, gratify me and increase my amazement and appreciation of the lovely soul I helped bring into the world.
January 15, 2010. Another post from a friend on pornstarupdates:
She was my friend. I knew her since she was 13. I wish she still was alive. That person who said she was the mom of a friend of hers seems to mean well but obviously only knew her as a little girl. She didn’t only love one person. That is silly. No matter what anyone said to her or did to her, you could never really “touch” her. She went thru a number of traumatic events in her life, starting when she was a child and she learned that no matter what happens to you, you always have yourself. No one can take that away. So sex was not as big of a deal to her. It was like walking or riding a bicycle. It was nothing. That Wang guy could never really “have” her. You can never really “have” anyone. And so he killed her and he still didn’t “have” her. The last email she wrote to me was simple the last line was “We won”. You may not understand what that means but I don’t give a shit. She and I do…
Jan 15 2011 Update. Here’s a charming and honest 9 minute interview with Haley Paige. There’s a little about working in the porn industry, but mostly it’s about her life and perspective. She mentions a fiance in her interview — I’m assuming that she is talking about her first marriage, which was a show marriage to get a man his green card in 2005. She also mentioned some of her dreams: to travel, to work in real estate, to be a mom. She said she only did porn for the money and did a lot of work — almost every day. When asked, her greatest moment in her life was when she got her first apartment.
February 2012. Here’s a comic excerpt (it’s on youtube and totally safe for work!) from a porn film where Haley and her partner were having some fun. Apparently this silly dialogue has now become famous….
April 2012 Update. Wikipedia has some SFW casual and unposed shots of Maryam on porn sets. Interesting, but her father’s photos of her (linked to at the top) are much better– he is an avid photographer.
December 2015 Update. For those of you who are interested in exploitation issues and the psychological issues on viewers, I recommend Belle Knox’s recent mini-documentary on youtube about it. Belle Knox is smart and well-informed and played her cards well to parlay her porn career to advance her career in feminism and law. I had been pointing her case out as one of the few showing how a career porn could be a good thing. But the end of the documentary seems to arrive at the opposite conclusion. It’s well-worth your time, but it feels like she’s protesting a little too much. She underestimated how public the whole thing would become and how much it would alienate her family from her. To that I would respond, isn’t that her family’s problem instead of hers? If her family supported her all the way, would she still have turned on the porn industry? But her motives are honorable; she wants other girls not to repeat her mistakes. I have seen a couple of similar “confessionals” on youtube; they are all sincere. But they reject their “porn selves” a little too absolutely. To contrast, on several times I have listened to audio podcasts that interviewed porn stars where they told their stories without regret and almost with relish. Perhaps this positive attitude was an act, but I think most of it is genuine, and the attitude just depends on the individual. I have googled a few porn stars from the past and have been pleasantly surprised that some have mainstream careers and possibly even personally run nostalgia website and sell porn memorabilia items (just like a baseball card collector, etc). Where is the harm in that? One writer suggests that the real harm is in reducing humans to dichotomies: “The fantasizer becomes the star and director, while the performer slips into the persona of the pleasure-loving recipient or servant. These personas are not intrinsically wrong or destructive. But they reduce the human personality to dichotomies. Kate down the hall becomes “Sexual Kate” or “Asexual Kate” and not just “Kate.” It becomes easier to deal with people who play up these dichotomies and harder to deal with those who refuse to. When you create a permanent record of your sexual escapades (either real or imaginary), you run the risk of being treated as a slut or pervert. Perhaps that is the goal – for a certain point in time anyway. But what if this point in time stretches into an eternity?”
A more important development on the exploitation issue is the unmasking of the sexual predations of adult actor James Deen. Deen was always regarded as a “female-friendly porn star,” but now (if the multiple accusations turn out to be true), it would appear that one actor is unable or unwilling to to differentiate between sexual coercions within a fantasy film context and coercions in private life. I’m sure many people in porn enter it with their share of family and romantic baggage. But it would be a new criticism to say that porn itself provides a context for professional porn stars to act out their aggressions in an illegal fashion. I’m guessing that this is more the exception than the rule — although to be fair — any commercial enterprise is adept at burying bad publicity with press releases.