Big Business

by George Christy MAY 2005 Big Business The Hollywood crowd packed into the Berman Turner Projects gallery at the Bergamot Station complex in Santa Monica – the complex is a booming art arena with dozens of galleries in the former huge streetcar stomping ground (now that streetcars have vanished in Los Angeles). “For a while, the crowd was out of control – who knew porn is such a hot ticket,” says the gallery’s Bill Turner, born in Williamstown, Mass., studying and practicing law in San Francisco, and loved living in his house in Sausalito for 10 years before relocating South and invading the art community. Checking out Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ 40″x30″ limited edition nude portraits of infamous porn stars during the vernissage sponsored by distribution company, Ten, while listening to the jazz combo and lingering over gossip, were literateur Gore Vidal, Oliver Stone, Kelly Lynch with her screenwriter-producer husband Mitch Glazer, Harry Dean Stanton, Amy Heckerling, Evan Handler, Alexis Arquette, Eric Balfour, Cleo King and Jennifer Esposito. Awed they were, indeed, by Timothy’s portraits priced at $35,000 each that also were exhibited in San Francisco earlier this year at John Berggruen’s gallery. Also on hand were a number of his subjects from Timothy’s bestselling coffee table tome, XXX: 30 Porn Star Portraits, already racking sales of more than 40,000 copies at $35 a pop. Posing by their portraits were Nina Hartley, who says, “Zen Buddhism is the single most influential philosophy in my life”; Tera Patrick, a military brat admitting to being “hypersexual”; Chloe, who’s been performing for “nine years, going on 10…porn defines me as a woman”; Bay Area partners Jeremy Jordan & Jason Hawke, who met on one of their movie sets; Sean Michaels, also studying directing and writing his autobiography; Tawny Roberts, who had plans to study fashion and design; and Seymore Butts, now 39 and confessing he was uncomfortable with his nakedness. Among the photographed porn stars unable to attend (some were working!) was San Francisco’s May Ling Su, who’s married and still sees herself as “a mischievous, giggling schoolgirl but also as an empowered woman.” ReganBooks publisher Judith Regan notes that “porn is big business” ($10 billion a year), adding that Jenna Jameson’s autobiography topped the New York Times bestseller list with its 579 pages of text, countless photos, and the tale of Jenna’s rise from Las Vegas stripper to today’s porn queen. “Jenna’s such an out-there star,” offers Judith, “that she does ads for Pony sneakers.” Judith’s currently suing to stop Jenna from negotiating her A&E reality series, contesting that Regan Books has participatory rights. In addition to Timothy’s 60 full-page photographs are essays from Gore Vidal, alluding to the “splendid new images to ponder in the dark before dawn”; John Malkovich, who’s new to computers and is “playing porn catch-up on the Web”; the distinguished author Francine du Plessix Gray, whose biography At Home With the Marquis de Sade offers that “heterosexual relations are not any more ‘normal’ than homosexual ones”; John Waters interviewing Chi Chi LaRue, who’s directed 400 films and says, “Yes, I do get sick of sex”; Salman Rushdie writing that “in Pakistan, more than 60 percent of the Internet users visit porn sites, and Internet access is freely available in thousands of Net cafes around the country and costs 10 cents an hour.” To give Timothy his proper credit, he majored in art history at Columbia University, received his master’s degree in film studies at the American Film Institute, and is an award-winning photographer whom we were proud to be among the first to hire several decades ago to document the rich and famous for my Hollywood columns. A Vanity Fair contributing photographer, he’s published several books, one on major contemporary artists, and has photographed President George H. W. Bush, Madeleine Albright, Orson Welles, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Hillary Clinton, Sidney Poitier, Marty Scorsese, Ben Stiller and Toni Morrison, which gives an inkling of his range. It was during the late ’90s, after seeing the movie Boogie Nights with Mark Wahlberg and Julianne Moore playing porn stars, that he began to think of porn stars as people. “That there was more than nudity there, so I planned a series of photos of them, fully clothed, and after my first shoot of a male star, he insisted that I photograph him in the nude, which I never expected. Apparently it’s radical to shoot them clothed; they’re more relaxed with their clothes off. “The series, which shows them dressed and undressed, took off, and I was in a bidding war with 10 publishers after Mel Gussow of the New York Times wrote an article about the project when I mentioned it to him during a dinner party at Diane von Furstenberg’s. “Publisher Michael Sand of Bulfinch Press brought a ‘refined reputation’ to the table and the heftiest advance. The night before I appeared on 60 Minutes, the book was listed on as 1260, and by morning it zoomed to 25, and ranked for weeks in the top 100.” Timothy is wed to arts attorney Karin, and at Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Film Festival last month in Manhattan, their daughter Liliana premiered her Ghosts of Grey Gardens, about Jackie Kennedy Onassis’ cousin Edie Beale living in a desolate state in the Hamptons. Timothy’s daughter Isca will be exhibiting her mixed media this year in San Francisco at the John Berggruen Gallery. “Tranquil beach scenes inspired by vintage family photographs that Isca finds at flea markets,” says gallery staffer Lauren Rosebush. “Bands of color with sky and ocean, fresh and bold…art that refreshes.”