By Rob Perez
XCritic recently attended the 12th annual CineKink Film Festival--honoring the best in sex positive independent cinema--in New York City, and among the most highly anticipated panel discussions was the reunion of Club 90, the adult industry's first support group. The much talked about reunion of the Club 90 members—Veronica Hart, Candida Royalle, Veronica Vera and Annie Sprinkle—definitely lived up to the hype. During the two hour reunion, the superstars of porn’s golden era fondly recalled their time in front of the camera as they shared stories as well as clips from some of their favorite scenes with a nearly sold out, enthusiastic sex positive crowd.
L to R Veronica Vera, Candida Royalle, Annie Sprinkle, Veronica Hart, Lisa Vandever
Beginning the discussion of the history of Club 90, Veronica Vera talked about how the geneses of the club was formed when Veronica Hart was pregnant with her first son, a baby shower that grew into a club where women who were involved in the sex industry either in front of or behind the camera, were invited to join. Hart further noted that it was one of the first times the women were getting together as women, not women in the industry who could “really dish the dirt” which elicited laughter from the crowd. It was a true bonding experience Vera recalled especially after finding out each of the women had been to dance school and “here we were stars in our own way in a different way than what we thought.”
Royalle then took to the mic to say how wonderful the experience of the shower was and that it should be done more often. Sprinkle, who was considering leaving performing behind, then contacted Royalle and by this time Royalle had been retired from performing for several years and was seeing a therapist who had also been a sex worker, and described that experience as very positive.
“Gloria Leonard was from the women’s movement, and she said ‘Let’s start a support group at the end of the baby shower,’” added Sprinkle. “The baby shower was at my apartment at Lexington and 27th (90 Lexington), and that’s why it’s called Club 90 but we would go to each other’s houses. We met up every three weeks and the core group became the five of us. “
Kelly Nichols and Susie Nero were also original members of Club 90 and it was the world’s first porn star support group according to the ladies. Interestingly, almost all the women who were in the adult industry at the time had left and were bitter whereas the core group remained in the sex industry but on their own terms, paving the way for sex education and other areas of adult entertainment.
Vera concluded the panel discussion by thanking CineKink co-founder Lisa Vandever for the rare opportunity to get together with her friends who have since moved on but still meet up online whenever possible. The panel was followed by a delightful showing of clips spanning the careers of all the ladies present including the late Gloria Leonard who passed away last year. An empty chair and a photo of Leonard were symbolically placed in honor of the late Club 90 co-founder.
After the clips the panel opened the discussion to the audience. The first question was in regard to what advice the ladies would give to aspiring feminist porn filmmakers. Royalle noted that just because a woman is doing it doesn’t make it feminist pornography. “While I find some of it inspiring, I find some of it the same old, redundant porno which kind of disappoints me,” said Royalle. “I just think we desperately need new ideas. [Do] something new; surprise people. Don’t come out and do the same stuff . . . Do something different. That’s what I hope so.”
Sprinkle took the time to say she hopes to see more activist porn especially concerning environmental matters and has since become a well-known activist for the environment. Concerned that technology is doing damage to the environment, Sprinkle suggested the adult industry bring back live sex shows which brought a thunderous applause from the audience. Vera took her opportunity to speak on behalf of the transgendered community “Who actually put their bodies out there for all to see. [They’re] real pioneer people and I’d like to salute them now and I hope that we can continue to see a whole variety of people with all kinds of bodies and all kinds of people having sex together.” Vera recalled that during orgies in the past they were very mixed with gay men, women and would love to see films with people of all different body types, orientations “all cumming together,” which also resulted in thunderous applause from the audience.
Hart had more practical advice for aspiring filmmakers. “Keep your mouth shut. The one thing I used to do was kill any kind of chemistry my actors might have had for one another. In my mind I had to get this shot, I had to get this shot. We had to get the hard version; we had to get the soft version. So the one thing that I have learned in the over 30 something years of doing it, keep your mouth shut when you’re directing. Set it up. Tell them about the kind of sex that you want to see, what your ideas are but once they start going, ‘shut up.’ If you don’t get the exact angle, the exact everything the passion and the intensity of the couple are going to carry you through. That’s just something that took me a long time to learn and boy, do I know it now.”
Sprinkle gave a word of advice to all in attendance that are connected to the sex industry in one way or another. “I really encourage anyone who’s in the sex industry to call up a group of peers and start meeting and supporting each other. It is so healing and empowering and you can grow together.”
PHOTOS BY ROB PEREZ
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