Friday, May 05, 2006

The Other Hollywood book review

The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry by Legs McNeil and Jennifer Osborne (who also did the highly recommended oral history of New York punk rock Please Kill Me) is a seedy, sleazy and frequently riveting account of this world that has been largely underground despite the fact that porn generates billions of dollars a year in business. The book goes back to discuss the beginnings of the industry to the current.

I love oral histories when they are well done and McNeil/Osborne spend a majority of the 600+ pages looking into the early days of porn (1970s to early 1980s) when it was completely off the radar but still creating a tremendous amount of revenue, connected to the world of the mob and could get you tossed in jail for a variety of legal infractions depending on the state.

I knew little about these early days (or any of this actually) and loved reading about the unhinged 1970s films that have stamped themselves onto American culture (Deep Throat for example). Other subjects include John Holmes’ rise to fame and fall back down due to drug addiction, Traci Lords and her underage scandal, the various lifestyles of the people involved as they delve into all kinds of risky behavior (lots of sex, lots of drugs), mafia/FBI related issues, the transition from film to videos on the cheap and the affect of AIDS.

The interviews are lively, blunt and frequently on the filthy side when a performer is remembering other performers, films or how they were drawn into the business. It gets a bit repetitive by the end but for the most part this is an engaging, addictive look into the world of the porn film industry.

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