Stormy Daniels, the sad decline of the porn industry, and the curse of the side hustle

Tonight, Stormy Daniels will be taking the stage at Greenville, S.C., strip club.

For Trump fans, the timing of Daniels’ Upstate visit must feel like a particular kind of VIP-room kismet, a chance to get a lap dance from the lady who reportedly spanked the president’s ass with a rolled up copy of Forbes magazine.

For others, it’s yet another international embarrassment that they’ll ignore as they watch the stock market rise and wonder when the Trump tax cut will trickle down onto them, and they’ll finally be able to bathe in gold ducats and wet, hot Bitcoins.

But lost in all of this is one cold hard truth: being a porn star has lost its luster. It’s a low-pay, dead-end job.

This wasn’t always the case.

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Two decades ago, the Triple X industry reached its peak. The industry’s taboo had worn off to such a degree that nightly news magazines like Entertainment Tonight regularly reported on the genre’s top female stars with all the gushing adoration that they bestowed on Hollywood leading ladies like Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock.

Hugh Hefner had been transformed into a kindly grandfatherly figure that was one part Uncle Walt and one part Viagra prescription. Even infamous smut-master Larry Flynt had been turned in to an American hero despite having his first sexual experience with a chicken. It was nonconsensual. Presumably.

This was an era in which a silicon Barbie like Pamela Anderson could make the transition from Playboy Bunny to the star of of world’s biggest TV show, “Baywatch.”

It was a world in which Jenna Jameson, the star of such X-rated classics as “On Her Back,” “Up and Cummers 17,” and “Philmore Butts’ Taking Care of Business,” would pen a biography that would top the bestsellers list and emerge as one of the first major internet success stories, bringing in $15 million a year through her now defunct website ClubJenna.com.

The following years weren’t bad either, as a wave of leaked home videos turned no-name non-talents like Kim Kardasian into celebrities. Meanwhile, the dirtiest porn star in the biz, Sasha Grey, parlayed her talents into a successful career as an actor (Steven Soderberg’s “The Girlfriend Experience” and HBO’s “The Entourage”), photographer, DJ, and CIA spy. Or at least that’s what Ms. Grey thought for a time.

But along the way from Jameson to the era of Trump and Daniels’ alleged tryst, something happened that destroyed the one-time glamorous life of XXX stars: porn became free.

Sites such as PornHub, Thumbzilla, and countless others came along offering the same content — often pirated — that other subscription-based sites hid behind hefty paywalls.

To make matters worse, the internet, coupled with the decreasing cost of video equipment, unzipped the latex catsuit floodgates on amateur porn and cam girls.

To paraphrase Dave from “2001,” the world was now full of stars, but as a result they had all lost their luster. There simply was little to no money for porn stars to make.

This same thing has happened to rock ‘n’ rollers and journalists. Both of their industries have been decimated by the changes that the internet has brought forth. Where musicians could once make a living on their album sales, now they must relentlessly rely on DIY T-shirts and miscellaneous merch, all while relentlessly hitting the road as both tour manager and roadie and serving as producer and mixer when they make recordings at home. Journalists, meanwhile, no longer even get paid; they only get the promise of more exposure and clicks, clicks, clicks.

When the product you produce is free — and when the barriers to entry have been all but obliterated — the professionals are left with no recourse but to fight over the skinned knee, side-hustle scraps. They become every bit as desperate for any attention, for any retweet mention, for any Like or Share or promise to subscribe to your newsletter, they will gladly put their lips to the privates of any Kickstarter-GoFundMe patron.

Today, porn starlets like Stormy Daniels, Lisa Ann, or Tori Black have to venture out on the strip club circuit when they’re not in L.A. or Vegas or Miami cutting a video.

Even sadder, they routinely have to schedule cam shows and literally beg their would-be laptop paramours into buying them┬áthe routine items you or I might order from Amazon — clothes, video games, books.

Like so many today in Trump’s America, they can’t get by on the $50,000 they make each year, despite shooting dozens of films, some even on the same day.

And few things detail just how dreary the financial prospects for porn stars in 2018 America are then then paltry sum of money Trump reportedly paid Daniels to keep the news of their alleged year-long tryst a secret: $130,000.

Consider this: In the late 1980s, Jessica Hanh was paid $363,700 to keep her affair with PTL snake-oil preacher Jim Bakker to keep the lurid details of their dalliance a secret. Spoiler alert: No chickens were harmed and Hahn went on to achieve arm-candy video stardom with non-deceased funnyman Sam Kinison.

Years ago, if Stormy Daniels had waited for her paramour to become president, she could have taken her story to a national publishing house — a Harper Collins or Random House — and sold her story for millions. Needless to say, the resulting press coverage would’ve turned Daniels into a household name.

Now, she’s just a footnote — a strange, sad footnote in a strange, sad tale about the decline of the American dream, one in which even a porn star has to engage in the dreary business of hoofing it from one hopeless gig to another like a some sort of G-string Willie Loman of the modern age. —Wyatt Duvall

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