Daze in the Valley by Jay Cantrell – Epilogue: The Last Chapter

Daze in the Valley
by Jay Cantrell

Epilogue: The Last Chapter

The completion and release of “Dragon Lore” didn’t slow things for Looker Lass Productions, Five Friends Casting, Petal Technologies, Carter Creations and Subarctic Enterprises.

If anything, things got busier. The performers were in high demand and Veronica, Jackie and Reanna hustled to keep the schedules straight. Bringing in Tara Twain (Reanna) and Sheila Corvette (Jackie) had been a godsend but it also opened up a new problem that, coupled with the immediate dividends shown by the feature, threatened to consume the small company.

The agents finally did what they hoped they could avoid. They divided the roster between them, with each of the women taking care of certain performers.

Veronica handled calls for Adam, Timm, Leslie, Lucy, Meredith and Anya; Jackie worked with Allie, Rebecca, Shelly, Tyanna, Beth and Jason; Reanna was responsible for Sarah, Karlie, Elena, Ekaterina, Katey and Cameron.

Two more ex-performers – a male and a female (the former Cassandra Curtains) – were hired as agents-in-training to keep up with the influx of talent that called, e-mailed or wrote letters (who does that anymore, Adam wondered) to Five Friends seeking information and/or representation from the group.

The number of new starlets didn’t surprise Adam. It was the number of established performers seeking to change agencies and the number of retired stars looking to get back into the business that made his head spin.

The influx started a couple of weeks after Betsy Hamilton signed. Ashley and Sahara had started the company after a rift with Elite, the industry bigwigs had believed, so they didn’t count. Rita and Cassie’s signings had been dismissed by most in the industry as a fluke. Neither had used an agency so Five Friends wasn’t taking an established star away from someone else.

Betsy Hamilton was something else entirely. She had already been pegged by several big houses as the next “It” girl. Majestic had dropped out of the pipeline when it transferred ownership, so its talent was fair game for poaching. Two agencies, Summit and Silver Wing, were prepared to make Betsy a substantial offer to sign with them.

They didn’t get the chance. Before either group could contact Betsy, she was off the market. It caught all the major players by surprise. It got worse for the larger agencies when word leaked about Five Friends’ unusual fee structure. Suddenly major-name talent began actively seeking release from their contracts in order to give Five Friends a look.

The self-imposed quarantine lasted 45 days before RapidFire broke ranks with the larger studios and resumed production. It was too little, too late to do anything but draw the wrath of the Chronicle, which continued its assault on the cross-breeding in the industry. Adam found this amusing, given what he knew about ownership in the media markets.

Finding male talent was as difficult as ever. As the roster expanded, it placed additional burdens on Adam, Jason, Cameron and Timm. Not only did the females represented by Five Friends Casting insist upon working with them, but a host of other starlets (some that none of the guys had heard of and some they would never consider working with) also told producers they wouldn’t do a scene unless he landed a Five Friends male. Veronica, Reanna, Jackie and Darla worked tirelessly to ensure that none of the performers found themselves working in a risky situation.

Then the feature film was released.

“Dragon Lore” made Looker Lass Productions one of the most prominent names in the industry only a few months after it came under the Subarctic umbrella and the Five Friends roster swelled to 30, two dozen females and six males, before Sarah decided that was the maximum number at any one time.

That didn’t even account for the women that Anya and Katya were bringing over on an almost-weekly basis. Five Friends became the place to call if a producer hoped to find a major name or an unknown European performer for a scene. No one even balked about the unusual riders inserted into each contract.

Five Friends was honest and expected honesty in return.

If you dicked over one of their performers, they took it personally – and they had long memories. You needn’t bother calling them in the future. They made it perfectly clear that there were groups they refused to do business with and if you didn’t treat the talent well, you found your way onto it (and you never found your way off unless you sold the business to someone else).

Not surprisingly, Erin and Trinity chipped in wherever they could, doing whatever needed to be done that might have slipped through the cracks. Sean, Rachelle, Mary and Walt also found time to work the phones when the need arose, despite that fact that Petal Technologies and Carter Creations were growing as fast as Five Friends Casting and Looker Lass Productions.

But, as with Five Friends, Walt and Mary only had to look around once to find someone willing to help them.

The apartment complex helped immensely. Having Elena, Beth, Lucy, Tyanna, Veronica, Cameron, Timm and Jason nearby was not only fun but it was useful. None of them had any qualms about adding their talent or ideas to any portion of life. Wayne Carter said the new office building should be completed by the time the crew returned from Europe.

Adam wished there was a way to help Jackie and Reanna, but they found a nice apartment only a few blocks from the rest of them. The sad part of the whole situation for most of the group was that the agents became the first real Subarctic employees. They weren’t almost like a family, as the rest of the people had become. They were simply employees who had lives outside of the rest of the group and went home at 5 p.m. each day to be with their actual families – husbands, wives and children.

Celina, Mike and Nora also were around a lot of the time. Weekends were almost always a time for cookouts, volleyball games, mini golf tournaments or trips to places someone wanted to see. Ben and Melody began to visit whenever they could and even Tate and Jerry were known to stop by just to visit.

Adult Medical Services foundered and couldn’t recover. Wilma Scott decided the industry couldn’t live without her – and she was wrong. The health department, along with Cedar-Sinai, USC Health Services and UCLA Medical Center – and funded by a generous no-strings-attached grant from an unnamed source – introduced ASH (Adult Safety and Health) Clinic with three offices in Los Angeles, one in Las Vegas, one in Miami and two in Montreal. ASH was run by a board-certified infectious disease specialist and had a much broader understanding of the needs of the people who worked in the adult industry.

Not only did it offer same-day medical screening, plans were in the works to provide other services including mental health counseling, addiction programs, financial planning and long-term career guidance.

ASH accepted no outside contributions from businesses but instead relied upon state, federal and local grants and in-house fund-raising to meet its budget. At the urging of its director, Dr. Celeste Brannon, ASH brought on board the entire staff of the now-defunct AMS – including its former administrator.

Wilma Scott’s only role was as an unpaid member of the performer advisory board but at least it was something. Dr. Brannon decided Adam Walters was correct again. The woman did have some decent ideas. She just lacked the ability to implement them. ASH had that ability. Its medical decisions were dictated by a panel of health professionals. But its industry policies were put together by Dr. Brannon, Wilma Scott and a group of 12 performers – four each from the boy-girl, boy-boy and girl-girl segments of the industry.

Giving the performers a real voice in policies turned out to be one of Dr. Brannon’s best ideas. The ones who worked in the business were able to spread the message in a way AMS had never been able to.

A large percentage of the new performers got together and decided they would refuse to work without a condom with anyone who did not have a same-day test from ASH. Workers in the higher-risk segments began to insist upon same-day broad-spectrum testing before agreeing to any bareback scene. Every time a studio would balk, the performers would walk.

The group’s motto, suggested by Allie: “No job is worth dying for.”

More than a few producers and directors heard those words for the first time when the quarantine finally broke industry wide a few days after RapidFire was handed its ass in the Chronicle.

——-

Adam worked like a demon for the last weeks before school started. He appeared on numerous web sites – including scenes with Molly Caudill (Elena) and Emily Proper (Lucy). He had continued his work on “Bountiful Assets” and with Dazzle, Daystar and Goldwall. But once school began, he slowed down considerably. He had scheduled his classes to where he was on campus almost all day Tuesdays and Thursdays but had Monday and Fridays free. He still had a dreaded night class on Wednesdays (and he still despised it).

Many in the group had considered quitting college but, in the end, they decided to stick with the plan they had entered the year with. Sean had argued that everyone should continue. After all, larger businesses than Subarctic had tanked. There was no guarantee the company would be able to fulfill the lifelong monetary needs of the owners and employees.

For some the choice was simple. Leslie, who had decided the mental health field was in her future, along with Tyanna and Jason, who wanted to practice law in the future, would need many more years of schooling.

For others it was a matter of pragmatism. Sean planned to attain a master’s in business administration because, if the worst should come to pass, he would need that to be taken seriously in the real world.

Mary, Walt and Rebecca were in the same boat. They had not reached a point in their career path where they could legitimately succeed without learning more. All had their elective classes finished so they would be working on the major course of study for the next two year. They needed the training that college would provide and adding three extra courses over two years to attain a degree wasn’t a hardship.

For others, it was pride. Allie, Sarah, Shelly, Trinity and Rachelle discussed the relative merits of a degree. Trinity and Rachelle knew they could take specialized training and drop the bullshit classes they hated. But the girls working in the adult industry argued that, like it or not, people give more respect to those with college degrees. Allie was determined she was going to get at least an associate’s degree. The rest decided that they would take it a year at a time and assess the situation each summer but for now, college was still fun.

For Adam, it came down to a promise he’d made – to himself and to his parents. Neither of his parents had attended college, nor had his sister. He was the first person in his family to make it this far and it had always been his mother’s goal to see him with a college degree. Intellectually, he knew she was beyond caring. But he decided early on that he would stick it out and earn a degree if it took him 10 years.

Promoting the release of “Dragon Lore” had taken up much of his free time before school started. Adam, Allie, Sarah, Shelly, Tyanna and Cameron had spent many afternoons chatting with bloggers and taking publicity photos.

After much consideration, Dazzle, Daystar and Looker Lass decided to release “Dragon Lore” in multiple formats. They put together a DVD and a Blu-Ray disc that was available at adult video stores and from mail-order houses. But it was also available for download from web sites associated with Dazzle, Daystar and Subarctic.

Adam was surprised at how well the DVD and Blu-Ray discs sold. He had been the lone vote against using the format, figuring it was a waste of money to have them made. But the hard-copy discs had bonus features that made owning them worthwhile – include outtakes from the filming, interviews with the cast and contributors, a making of the video section and a blooper reel (that consisted mostly of Adam busting his ass during the fight scene from six angles).

Life was busy but it was good, Adam decided.

——-

Life was equally good for the rest of the Five Friends Casting roster.

Allie and Sarah had rapidly grown into two of the most respected performers in the industry – much to the surprise of each of them (but not to the surprise of those who knew them well).

Allie had become the most recognizable talent at Daystar Studios, which was growing by leaps and bounds. She had turned up on a number of their sites and was in constant demand to pose for adult magazines. Her line of swimwear was an immediate hit with buyers. The major chains would not stock a clothing line from an adult performer, regardless of how tame the apparel, because they feared backlash from conservative groups. Instead she sold it online – until Wally Walrus contacted Celina about selling the Malibu by Design line from their stores. Her work with ASH had raised her profile even more, to the point where she was considered one of the foremost businesspeople in the industry.

Sarah was regarded in much the same manner. Several adult studios and a B-movie producer had offered to let her direct and star in any feature she would write for them. She turned down all offers, however, despite the fact that every member of the Subarctic board made sure to tell her that her creative properties were solely hers and did not belong to the company as a whole in any manner.

Still, she refused to offer her work to anyone but Looker Lass Productions. Her latest project, set to begin filming in about a year, was her most adventurous. She had decided she wanted to produce a musical – which meant Adam and Ashley would not be included in the cast.

Sarah hoped Emily Proper would still be in the business when the movie was shot because every time Sarah sat at the computer to write, it was Lucy Miller she pictured in the starring role.

Shelly had begun to limit her work to Daystar, Dazzle and her web site. She found that she didn’t need a fantasy life because every day of her life was a fantasy. She worked with Jerry and Tate to completely redesign their lighting systems and had received calls from other producers asking her opinion on their stage set ups.

Karlie decided to take a break from anything but the “Sweet Things” web site. She had too much going on with helping Allie get Malibu by Design going and helping Sarah craft costumes for “Sundown in El Dorado.” She steadfastly said that she hadn’t retired from performing and that she fully expected to be considered for a part in Sarah’s next feature.

Leslie picked up the slack from any of the other females who wanted to take a break from the industry. She had become the performer who worked with most of the new talent (both male and female). In that regard, she was instrumental in Five Friends’ success. But her biggest contribution to the industry came from working with ASH. She turned down an offer to be on the performer advisory board but she attended every meeting and she was one of the few people whose opinion Dr. Celeste Brannon solicited on almost every serious decision.

Rebecca, perhaps, changed the most. She had come to realize that none of the personalities she had tried on for size were really her. She determined that she needed to be neither dominant nor a doormat. She could interact with people as equals and still be regarded as a success. By the time “Dragon Lore” was released, Rebecca had found what made her happiest: the people she loved and who loved her in return. Melanie Schott had approached Rebecca in late summer to ask if she would be the main director for shoots at “Fantasy Time.” Rebecca had agreed and had performed only a handful of shoots in the following months.

Jason had landed a recurring spot on Dazzle’s revamped websites, which caused his star to rise considerably. But he didn’t forget the sites that helped him make his name. He worked “Bountiful Assets” every other week and was always available to help Ben, Tate or Melody if they needed it.

Tyanna was the undeniable star of “Dragon Lore,” so much so that Tate convinced Sarah to write a series of scenes for Tyanna that appeared on Daystar’s sites. A contract offer, almost identical to Allie’s, came next. Tyanna worried that Allie would be offended but she was wrong. Allie was excited for her friend and happy to see her succeed. Her next project would be a multi-appearance non-sex role in a premium cable channel series.

Cameron’s performance in “Dragon Lore” also brought rave reviews and produced a host of offers for starring roles in other features. He was selective but no one was surprised when a new web site, “Aesthetic Visions,” made him its leading male star. Cameron loved the concept of the site, which focused on sensuality and not the actual sex act. A host of starlets were waiting their turn to appear on “Aesthetic Visions.”

Timm had joined Leslie in becoming the most visible of the Five Friends Casting roster. His easy-going personality made newcomers to the industry comfortable and almost all the sites that focused on fledgling talent wanted Timm to appear as often as he was available.

Meredith did two boy-girl scenes (including one for “Fantasy Time” that had been rescheduled three times – and no, she couldn’t convince Sean to appear) before moving exclusively to the solo and girl-girl portion of the industry. Her career wasn’t as lucrative as Tyanna’s but she was still happy. She was still taking things slowly with Sean and Rachelle but everyone seemed confident it would eventually work out. She spent a lot of her time working with Walt and Timm in the now-expanded garage.

Betsy, who possessed perhaps the highest earning potential of all the performers, moved away from boy-girl shoots from the outset of signing with Five Friends Casting. Another casting agency would have been appalled but the Five Friends agents simply shrugged and booked her where she wanted to appear. She went on a series of individual dates with Walt and Mary but, as with Meredith, was cautious about taking the final plunge into a committed relationship.

Beth appeared frequently with Jason on Dazzle’s sites but she also worked with others. She and Jason still dated occasionally but both recognized from the outset that anything more serious would have to wait for their adult careers to end. Both had plans to work through college then retire from porn before they attended graduate school.

Elena found she didn’t really enjoy the adult industry as much as she thought she would. Instead she spent her free time working with Malibu by Design. Like Karlie, she said she would return to performing if the role was right for her but, at the moment, she was more interested in designing swimwear than she was in performing.

Lucy fit seamlessly into the group – and into the adult industry. Her hook was irresistible to most web site owners. She acted so demure but that was left by the wayside once the action started. She became a fixture on another new site, “Her Naughty Side,” and was asked for by producers as frequently as Allie, Sarah, Leslie and Tyanna were.

But Katya became the most requested starlet, not because she would do things the others wouldn’t, but because of the enthusiasm she brought to her performances. But, as with the others, she turned down five or six offers for every one she accepted.

Anya also almost disappeared from the adult scene for several months. She would appear periodically on “Sporty Spinners” and similar sites but her focus turned to making Budapest Central Casting into a major player in Porn Valley. She and Katya worked tirelessly with the agents (who agreed to help without hesitation) to find the right sites for the influx of European talent. If the size of the bonus check the two women got in early fall was any indication, they appeared to be succeeding.

The second set of “Sweet Things” arrived in late August. The original cast worried there wouldn’t room for everyone who wanted to join but it worked out in the end. Anya, Katey, Lucy, Meredith and Tyanna had expressed interest from the outset.

Beth, Elena and Katya had decided early on that they weren’t interested in chatting with the members.

The group went from wondering if there would be enough spots to wondering if there would be enough participants to unveil the new members on Labor Day weekend. Erin vacillated for several days before deciding she would pass because of other commitments. Trinity decided she didn’t have enough time to devote to the site.

Adam found that he wasn’t surprised when Rachelle asked to become the sixth new member – with Sean’s wholehearted support. The group offered a three-day membership for a dollar to the new sites over Labor Day weekend and they hit the ground running.

In addition to joining “Sweet Things,” Rachelle managed to find time to buy advertising space for an adult movie, “Dragon Lore,” in some of the unlikeliest of places. She didn’t confine herself to the Internet and adult stores. She branched out into alternative newspapers and magazines. She found a station which would let the group purchase late-night time for a television commercial – so long as the content was relatively family friendly. The commercial was so well-produced that viewers only realized at the end that it was advertising an adult movie.

Mary was in constant demand, not only getting calls from adult and mainstream movie producers looking for her expertise but also from web site designers wondering if she had any tips they might be able to use. She briefly considered dropping out of college and devoting herself full time to Petal Technologies. The rest of the group immediately volunteered to help her in any way necessary to make sure she stayed in school. Lucy and Beth both became her protégés and both switched their majors to information technology and computer science.

Walt was making plans to take Carter Creations to a new level since Timm and Meredith were around to help him. He was working with Shelly to create camera trolleys for the next feature and looking for other ways to keep production costs down. Timm decided to return for a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, and Meredith chose organic chemistry, hoping she would be able to craft lighter-weight alloys to use.

Sean spent his time working with the outside contractors employed by Subarctic Enterprises. He was also tasked with finding fledgling companies to either purchase outright or to offer low-interest loans. Jack Simms (Renaldo) and Steve Rayburn were approached first and accepted assistance immediately. Both took low-interest short-term loans and both seemed to have made it through the tough times. By late-September, Subarctic Enterprises held an interest in 22 businesses ranging from adult web sites to a custom motorcycle shop.

Celina was preparing to move her office from her downtown location to a corner suite in the new office complex as soon as Walt’s dad and the city gave the OK for occupancy. Retired Judge Arthur Barrett would have an office beside hers. The partners of Barrett and Gomez didn’t mind working next door to an adult industry casting agency, nor did they mind having the stars the agency represented live next door.

Matt Tolliver, the group’s financial adviser, was given the unofficial role of “Devil’s Advocate.” He was surprised when the group paid attention when he made a valid argument and his advice saved Subarctic from several potentially damaging investments, although he still wasn’t able to convince Celina to go on a date with him.

But it was Trinity and Erin that the group looked on with the most pride.

ASH hired Trinity, despite only being a junior in college, to be their media liaison – barely beating Tate and Jerry to the punch. Trinity crafted a media blitz that brought ASH to the attention of not only the porn bloggers but of the mainstream media. Her face appeared almost nightly for two weeks on talk shows and she was quoted extensively in newspapers and magazines.

But as often as Trinity was on television, Erin had her beat. Shortly after “Dragon Lore” finished filming, the owner of one of the largest chains of fitness centers in Los Angeles contacted Jack Simms to inquire about hiring a new spokesmodel. Jack thought for only a moment before deciding Erin was the perfect combination of grace, physique and charm. He recommended her immediately. It took only one meeting before the owner offered Erin the job and Five Friends Casting had its first non-adult industry client. She did a series of television commercials and by the first of the new year, Erin’s face would be on 30 billboards in and around Los Angeles. There was also a life-sized cutout of Erin in every Frank’s Fitness Center (and in the kitchen of the house she lived in – of course, Trinity had drawn a mustache on that one).

——-

The Adult Video Awards came and went in September without so much as a nomination for anyone from Five Friends Casting or their friends. Tate explained that those awards were decided by the industry, which was still dominated financially by the larger houses. Even Cassie and Rita’s web sites, perennial nominees since their inceptions, were ignored.

That pissed Adam off but he knew there was nothing he could do about it. His opportunity for revenge came a month later, when the Adult Cinema Prize nominations were handed out. These were fan voted, not only for the winners but for the nominees. The nominations were revealed on a Monday morning and Adam was awakened by a shrill scream coming from the first-floor bedroom that was still serving as the group’s headquarters for all intents and purposes.

He jumped to his feet and raced upstairs, dick swinging in front of him. Thankfully, everyone in the room had already seen it – and ridden it – before so he wasn’t embarrassed.

“What!?” he asked.

“We’re nominated like a hundred times!” Sarah almost shouted, ignoring Adam’s nudity for once.

“OK,” Adam said. He had no idea what she was talking about.

“The ACPs,” Allie explained. “We have someone nominated in almost every category we’re eligible and so do our friends. Now, go put some pants on. I mean, you know, unless you want to do me real quick before you go to class.”

“Tempting,” Adam laughed. “But I guess I’ll have to pass.”

Sarah had the printer humming when he returned upstairs and she was highlighting things as the pages came out.

“You’re nominated for Best Male Performer!” she said, clapping her hands. “Allie and Leslie are nominated for Best Female Performer. I’m up for Best Female Newcomer with Tyanna and Beth. Oh, no. Cameron, Timm and Jason are all nominated for Best Male Newcomer.”

“That’s good, isn’t it?” Adam asked.

“It could lead to problems,” Sarah said, shaking her head.

“If they were women,” Adam said. “I think those three are close enough that they’re will be a lot of joking but no jealousy. What about Allie and Leslie in the same category? Or you with Tyanna and Beth?”

Sarah waved her hand dismissively. She doubted that anyone would be upset – unless none of them won.

“Damn,” Allie said, “look at this. Almost every nomination in the individual scene categories comes from someone we work with. Hey, we’re up with ‘Sporty Spinners’ for Best Group Scene and you’re up again for the scene you did with Rebecca and Leslie.”

She started jumping up and down.

“Katya is nominated!” she said, hugging Adam tightly. “I’m going to go wake her.”

“Like she could possibly still be asleep,” Adam muttered. Sure enough, Katya and Anya came bundling down the stairs a moment later. They had met Allie halfway.

“Is all OK?” Anya asked.

“We’re all nominated!” Allie repeated. “I think every one of us is nominated at least once. Katya, you’re nominated for ‘Best Blowjob’ scene.”

“I give good head,” Katya said with a laugh. Her immersion in the English language had gone well. She still had a slight accent but she was including every requisite word in a sentence now. She was also helping Adam, Timm, Jason and Cameron learn Russian – which was not going nearly as well.

“I can’t argue with that,” Adam said, leaning over to kiss Katya and then Anya on the cheek.

“Shelly and Katey are up for best ‘Girl-Girl’ and so are Elena and Meredith,” Sarah continued. “Karlie and Adam are nominated for ‘Scene of the Year.’ I knew that was a killer when they shot it. Rebecca is in the running for ‘Best Web Site;’ Lucy is nominated for ‘Best Solo Scene’; Beth and Cameron are nominated for ‘Best Interracial Scene’ That’s all of us, right? Hey, there’s more. Damn, I got so excited when I saw Karlie’s name for ‘Scene of the Year’ I completely skipped the rest of them. Jason and Leslie are up for it, too. Timm is up for ‘Best Anal Scene’ with Apple Kelley. This is so cool.”

“What about the features?” Allie asked. The answer was cut off when Leslie came racing into the room and gave Allie a huge hug. The two small women were dancing around when the other core performers from Five Friends found their way into the room. Adam wasn’t surprised to see Walt, Sean, Mary and Rachelle were with them, along with the others from his house.

“Maybe we should find a bigger area,” he suggested. The group looked at him like he was an idiot, completely disregarding the fact that there was barely room to move in the office.

“OK, fine,” Allie said, directing everyone to the main room. “Now, what about features?”

“Well, ‘Dragon Lore’ is up for best feature,” Sarah said. “We’ll win that one, no problem. Hey, this is cool. I’m up for ‘Best Actress in a Feature’ but it’s for ‘Interludes.’ Kenzie will win that category, no problem. She was amazing in ‘Dragon Lore.’”

“Still awesome that you’re nominated,” Shelly said. She was in awe that the fans had nominated her for an award.

“Well, we’re all up for ‘Best Group Scene, ‘” Sarah said. “Of course, Adam and Cameron are nominated for ‘Best Actor.’ That was a given. OK, let me sort through these and I’ll read them off.”

“Read the whole list so we’ll know who we’re up against,” Karlie suggested.

As Sarah read down the list, the smiles spread across the room. Anya was the last one to learn she had been nominated for an award in America.

“You are serious?” she asked. “I think that is wonderful. That was an amazing scene.”

“It was,” Adam said. “You know, almost every web scene is from one of the sites we support. Did ‘Bountiful Assets’ get any nominations?”

“One,” Sarah said, scanning the list. “They are up for ‘Most Improved Web Site.’ I’m not sure whether that is a good thing or not. ‘Best Breasts’ is up for ‘Best Busty Web Site.’ I’m surprised that Adam and I weren’t nominated in that category. I think we got screwed.”

“You wish,” Erin said.

——-

Life returned to relative normalcy during the eight weeks between the nominations and the awards ceremony with a notable exception.

PlayCo. released a program called “Yoshi’s Cannonade,” purported to be the software that would end internet piracy for good.

It wasn’t.

Movie studios, recording companies and software engineers rushed out to pay the $1,200 PlayCo. demanded for each license. A few industrious hackers also managed to get their hands on the program.

As Mary had predicted, it took the hackers about 10 days to deconstruct the code and to find a way to exploit its flaws. Then it was business as usual.

Mary was disheartened for a few days until Lucy pulled her aside.

“Your program still works,” Lucy said. “I’m not sure why but you can’t share material from those who got the program from us.”

Mary was quiet for a few moments then hit her laptop to connect with some of her computer friends. She was able to acquire a copy of the source code.

After a few minutes of perusing the lines, she pulled Lucy into a hug.

“Those stupid bastards changed the code,” she exclaimed. “They tweaked it in places and that’s where the pirates are getting through.”

The debacle put PlayCo. out of business. Even the owner’s private fortune couldn’t stem the tide of the negative publicity – not unexpected considering the industry to which the product was marketed.

But “Polar Power” still seemed to work just fine.

The millionaires in Hollywood, New York and Nashville finally convinced the U.S. politicians, fully aware of where their campaign dollars came from, to step in and shut down several file-sharing sites – regardless of their country of origin.

Still, Mary predicted that in less than a year, the pirates would rebound. They would find a new way to share material across the Internet.

The rest of the group knew better than to bet against her.

——-

The Adult Cinema Prizes came at the perfect time for the group. First semester classes had ended for everyone and their trip to Europe wasn’t set to be begin for four more days.

There was a clear segregation at the tables. The venue was a large dinner theater in Van Nuys. The major companies, despite having far fewer nominations that normal, sent significant contingents, and they all sat together on the left side of the aisle. The smaller companies sat on the opposite side.

The group from Five Friends might as well pulled their tables to the stage. The first award set the stage. “Bountiful Assets” was named the “Most Improved Web Site” of the year. Christina Webb made it a point to veer off to give Adam a hug before accepting her award. From there it was a continual procession of Five Friends, Goldwall, Daystar and Dazzle. Most of the winners gave a simple thanks to the fans – since the show was being web cast live and an edited version would be broadcast on pay-per-view later.

“This is a lot better than recent years,” Ben said, sitting with Melody, his fiancée. “Usually by this time, some actress has taken her top off or simulated a blowjob on the statue. The presenters are actually funny this year, too. I sort of like it but I don’t think the pay-per-view sales are going to be worth a shit.”

“Maybe,” Adam replied. “But if we keep it low-key, maybe they can market it to cable next year.”

“True,” Ben said, shaking his head. “You’re always thinking ahead. Man, I can’t believe how awesome this night has been. Look at Dad. He hasn’t stopped smiling.”

There were smiles all around for much of the rest of the night – at least from the group of smaller studios and agencies. There were mostly frowns from the other side of the aisle. The larger agency’s stars had pretty well been shut out. They had won three times in the web categories and only once – “Best Anal Scene” – in the features category. Adam suggested, probably more loudly than he should have, that they won that category only because there were no anal scenes in “Dragon Lore” or “Interludes.”

It brought a round of laughter from the group around him but scowls from across the aisle. He had done his best to stay above the fray but the attitude of the major houses had pissed him off. Still, he had high expectations when the final award of the night, “Best Feature,” was up.

Adam about choked when he saw that Sadie Strutt was one of the actresses picked to announce the award. Then he remembered she was one of the stars from the previous year’s winner – one of the hideous XXX parodies that popped up and still were being pumped out by the major houses at a rate of about one per week.

Thankfully, the envelope was in the hands of the other performer.

“Well, this is not a big shock,” the girl said. “They won everything else. The ‘Best Feature’ is ‘Dragon Lore, ‘ from Looker Lass Productions in cooperation with Daystar Studios and Dazzle Video. Whew, that’s a bigger mouthful than Derrick Driller’s cock.”

Sadie Strutt simply scowled and stalked from the stage as Adam stood and shook hands with Cameron, Ben, Tate and Jerry. The girls were exchanging hugs with just about everyone.

Tate, Jerry and Ben pushed Adam to the front to accept the award. He tried to get Sarah to step forward but she simply shook her head and pushed him to the lectern. He looked down and saw a bunch of unhappy people through the footlights and took a deep breath.

“Wow,” he said. “I guess I could go all humble and tell you I didn’t expect this. But most of you already think that I am an arrogant ass so I won’t bother to disillusion you. I expected tonight to go exactly as it has gone. First off, ‘Dragon Lore’ is the best movie produced this year. In fact, I would wager it might be the best movie this industry has ever produced. And it will stay that way until we release our next feature. What makes this award so special is that it was voted on by the fans. Even though Austere and Velvet Tickle hired people for the sole purpose of rigging this vote, we still won early and often.”

He turned to face the bigger studios and agencies.

“That’s just more money you’ve wasted and, frankly, you can’t afford much more. Yes, we know about it and so do the distributors of these awards. Petal Technologies handled the site security for the ACPs. More importantly to you, the FBI knows about it. Rigging a contest is still a crime but you’ll learn more about that in the coming weeks, I’m sure.

“I know it’s been a tough few months for those who consider themselves the major players in this business. First it was the stories in the Chronicle followed by the exposure of the money men behind your operations. The group of starlets you counted on to keep your coffers full have sued you for breach of trust and left your agencies and studios. The new wave that is just arriving in Los Angeles view you with nothing but revulsion and disgust – as well they should. They will never work for you or even work with you.

“You lost your trump card when AMS folded and now you’re forced to deal with an agency whose main goal is to give the choices you took away back to the people who earn your money for you. I’d tell you how sorry I am for you. But since these problems are your own making and the groups on the other side of the room are reaping the benefits of your short-sightedness, I’m not sorry in the least.”

He hefted the statue of a naked couple to his shoulder.

“This tells you what the future holds,” he said. “It is no secret that ‘Dragon Lore’ is making a huge profit. In just a week it became the second-highest grossing feature of the year, behind only ‘Interludes.’ A week after that, we were at the top. In the four months since its release, it has grossed more than $120 million. It is no secret that the web sites from this side of the room are making big profits. That is because the fans enjoy what we’re doing.

“Take a look at the number of awards on that side of the room. That should tell you what the public wants. Then look at your half of the room. That should tell you what it doesn’t want. Your profits are dwindling and so is your relevancy. You’re at a crossroad. You can find a way to create a product that doesn’t glorify humiliation, degradation and violence or you can take your place with the companies you displaced a decade ago.

“You, like they, will be nothing more than an afterthought and a footnote in history. I wish I could say that you’ll see the light and adapt. But given the amount of arrogance and ignorance on this side of the room, I doubt you will. Sadly, it will be no huge loss and the industry will not mourn your passing.”

Adam turned back to face the cameras and the entire venue.

“This movie started as a single thought from an immensely talented woman, Sahara Rain,” he said. “She wrote the script and created the concept behind ‘Dragon Lore.’ From there, it steamrolled. Michelle Foxx took charge of the production and made a realistic product. Candy Bottoms handled the computer graphics that made the movie so interesting to watch. Ashley Malibu and Ann Jones worked tirelessly to create the look we wanted for the scenes. Willie Makeit found a way to save us money and Cash Money kept us under budget. Destiny Lixxx created a marketing campaign that has never been tried in this industry and it worked wonders. The other folks you see over there, Fallon O’Shea, Cade Leather, Lex Battle, Cassie Charms, Rita Looker, Jenny Cinnamon, Shawna Young, Betsy Hamilton, Lia Pepper, Molly Caudill, Emily Proper, Ekaterina Federova and Anya Kovec, helped out in any way needed to make sure this picture came out as well as it did.

“I can’t say enough about the acting skills of Kenzie Cole and Parker Grant. Their performance made this movie what it is, as the trophies they have tonight can attest. Their upbeat attitudes make Five Friends Casting what it is. But it’s more than this picture. Tate and Ben Benedict and Jerry Goldsmith have become not only valued contributors but trusted friends. The people you see on this stage and the people on this side of the building are a team. I am proud to be a member of the Five Friends Casting and Looker Lass Productions team.”

I am proud to be a part of the team with Dazzle Video and Daystar Studios,” Adam continued, smacking the podium for emphasis. “And I am proud to be a member of the team that we have created with the web site hosts and the agencies on this side of the room. We are committed to doing things the right way. The fans have spoken. This team is a winner!”

After the applause from half the room had died down, Tate followed Adam to the center of the stage and looked down the line at the people he had grown to respect and like immensely.

“I have nothing to add to that,” he said. “Except to say that I agree with him. We saw a chance to give the public something worthwhile and to help this industry revive itself from where we found ourselves. I think we succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. Jerry?”

Jerry smiled when he stepped forward. His company had had a good night. The few awards “Dragon Lore” hadn’t picked up had gone to “Interludes.”

“The only thing I have to add is that every team needs a captain and we have ours,” Jerry said, gesturing toward Adam. “While ‘Dragon Lore’ is the concept of one person that was made a reality with the help of many others, so is the revival of our industry. Derrick Driller saw something distasteful, something that needed to be changed, and he has worked tirelessly to change it. He’s had help along the way. He will be the first to tell you that this was never about him and always about the rest of us.

“It’s true. It was never about him. He has done what he did for Ashley Malibu and Anya Kovec. He has done it for Parker Grant and for Kenzie Cole. He has done it for Christina Webb and Chad Raymond. He has done it for me and Tate Benedict. He has done it for Judy Jackem and Ben Benedict. But mostly, he’s done it for the fans. Our industry was dying a slow, painful death. We were irrelevant and looked at with little more than disdain.

“Now, we’re not. In the past six months this industry has evolved not only with our on-screen products but in our off-screen behavior. We are finally taking a look at the human toll we ignored for too long and we’re finally listening to our fans instead of forcing the same tired dreck on them. ‘Dragon Lore’ and, to a lesser extent, ‘Interludes’ were hugely successful because we made a concerted effort to make it palatable to the general public. We came to that conclusion after watching Derrick and Sahara work. I wish I could say that I was the one who thought ahead far enough to foresee this night. But I wasn’t.

“Luckily for Dazzle Video, Daystar Studios and the industry as a whole, Holly Ball and Randy Readywood saw it. Ben Benedict saw it and pressed forward with it. The group from Subarctic Enterprises saw it and refused to take ‘no’ for an answer. They wanted us on board, mostly for our own sakes, but they were committed to making this happen with or without Dazzle Video and Daystar Studios. Still, Tate and I took a wait-and-see attitude. We needed proof before we would jump aboard the train. Anyone else who is waiting for proof – here it is. This is not an anomaly. This is the future.”

“It is, you know,” Karlie whispered from Adam’s side. “Nine months ago, you could never have convinced me I’d be standing here. You would never have convinced me that I would have an award to put on our mantle. You would never convinced me that I’d be happy to be a part of this business and that this industry could be so much better than when I started.”

Adam thought back briefly to the first day he’d seen Karlie and shuddered.

“I guess you’re the real catalyst behind the change,” he said. “I never wanted to see someone treated the way you were that day ever again. I wanted you to have the option to do what you wanted even before I met you and fell in love with you.”

“Maybe,” Karlie said softly as they walked off the stage with the rest of the group. “And you did it. We all benefit but you’re the one who took the risks and made the decisions to do it.”

It took a moment for Adam to realize that the half of the room where his group had sat were all standing and clapping.

He surveyed the faces in front of him: Chad Raymond from “Sporty Spinners” and “Leggy Ladies;” Judy Jackem from “Naughty Newbies” and “Fantasy Time;” Mel Antolini from “Best Breasts in the West;” Christina Webb from “Bountiful Assets;” the proprietors of “Doable Dolls,” “Cotton Panty Chronicles,” “Handjob Hotties,” “Cream Cravers” and “Lady Lovers.”

There were others there he didn’t recognize but who he knew had worked with someone from Five Friends Casting and had been supportive of what the group was trying to accomplish. There were a couple of bloggers who had taken up the cause. Even Dr. Brannon was there with a few others from ASH.

Jerry, Tate and Ben had led the way down the steps and they stopped, turned to Adam and joined in the applause. Rachelle, Sean, Meredith, Katey, Walt and Mary soon followed. Then it was Jason, Timm, Cameron, Tyanna, Anya, Ekaterina, Beth, Elena, Lucy and Leslie.

Adam smiled helplessly when Allie, Shelly, Sarah, Karlie, Rebecca, Trinity and Erin formed an aisle and clapped as loudly as the rest of the group. Adam knew he was taking credit for the work everyone had put forth and it embarrassed him. He leaned forward to kiss Rebecca, the closest to him, on the cheek and followed up with the rest of the girls.

He spent the next 10 minutes shaking hands or kissing the cheek of almost everyone left in the building as the larger studio execs and their stars slunk out the side doors.

Adam knew the industry was in good hands no matter what he and his friends and lovers decided.

What he saw before him was nothing like the world he’d entered only nine months before. He was excited about what that future held.

He couldn’t pinpoint exactly when it happened – perhaps it was that very first scene he shot with Sahara Rain in a vacant storefront somewhere in the Valley or the day he met Ashley Malibu on the street in Downtown L.A. The adult industry had stopped being just a job to tide Adam over until things got better.

It had become his career and, perhaps, his life’s work.

Edited by BlackIrish; Proofread by ZoltanTheDuck and Lee.

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The End
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