Name That Porn Star
With starry-eyed innocence, he tells his mentor, director Jack Horner: "I want a name, I want it so it can cut glass, you know, razor sharp. When I close my eyes, I see this thing, a sign. I see this name in bright blue neon lights with a purple outline. And this name is so bright and so sharp that the sign, it just blows up... because the name is so powerful.
"It says 'Dirk Diggler.'"
Almost from the beginning, porn has been an industry of "nom de screens." There are plenty of reasons why adult performers use aliases — to protect their identities from overzealous fans, to appear more glamorous, to hide their work from self-righteous family back in Podunk or just to have a screen name that's more memorable than, say, Karen Jones. The practice has become so common that it is now a rite of passage into the industry.
"I always tell [new performers] 'You want something that's easy to remember. If you get really fancy with it, some people will have trouble with it," World Modeling Agency owner Jim South told XBiz.
South has helped dozens, if not hundreds, of young men and women choose their own "Dirk Digglers" since opening his business in 1976, and he said that choosing the right name can have a direct impact on a performer's ability to book work. "One nice-looking kid came in to see me, and he had already picked his name," South said. "He was really set on going by Dick Hertzer. He never got any work."
On the other hand, a good name can launch a performer directly into stardom, as was the case over the past year with X-Play contract star Britney Rears. Before being renamed by All Media Play President Jeff Mullen, she was known in the industry as Jessica Sweet. As Sweet, she had a decent career in the works, but after taking on the Rears persona, she was able to wrangle appearances on "The Howard Stern Show" and headline events at radio stations, strip clubs and adult retail stores across America.
Rears isn't the first porn performer to find success modeling her name after a well-known celebrities. For example, there's also Dru Berrymore, Pamela Sandersin, James Deen, Kat Stevens, Tyra Banxxx, Cindy Crawford, Michael J. Cox and Wesley Pipes, to name just a few.
"Porn has always been filled with plays on names and parodies," Mullen said.
In porn, like any other industry, when people stumble across a profitable formula, they copy it, put their own spin on it and use it again and again. Adult stars use sound-alike names because the technique works — it brings instant recognition — but it's certainly not the only naming convention performers use. Here's a look at some of the others that have become industry standards:
- Names that reflect physical attributes. These are used most frequently by girls with big boobs — think Heather Hooters, Dixie Bubbles, Pamela Peaks, Honey Melons, Tiffany Towers, Kat Kleevage, Maxi Mounds, Crystal Gunns, Kimberly Kupps, Savannah Staxx and Ricki Raxxx. But the practice also can apply to something as simple as hair color: In the 1980s, there was a wave of girls named Blondie and Amber. There's also one girl named Jessica Biglips, apparently a nod to her surgically enhanced kisser.
- Male porn stars also use this tactic to call attention to their size, prowess and virility. The most blatant example of this is Long Dong Silver, the 1980s star whose name worked its way into the American Zeitgeist even though his career fizzled out after a handful of movies. Silver might be the best known of this group, but there have been and are others, including Byron Long, Dick Rambone, Brian Surewood, Dave Hardman, Erik Everhard and Carl Hardwick.
- Names that reveal ethnicity. You won't find any performers named "Whitey Humpsalot" in your Porn History 101 textbook, but you will find names like Ebony Ayes, Black Puma, Black Passion, Chocolate, Kenya, Afrika, India, Brazil, Asia Carrera, Lucy Thai and, on the male side, Mandingo.
- "Show me the money" names. Porn stars are all about bling and Benjamins — just ask Nikita Kash, Debi Diamond, Diamond Forever, Jewel De'Nyle, Jewell Marceau, Tiffany Million or John Dough. An adjunct to this is car names, specifically, ridiculously expensive, souped-up, foreign-sports-car names like Sofia Ferrari, Nina Ferrari, Claudia Ferrari, Porscia Lynn, Susie Mercedes and Lexus Locklear.
- Names that scream, "I AM A PORN STAR!" These performers want to make sure there's no mistaking what they do for a living and that anyone who hears or reads their names will know instantly that they are, in fact, porn stars. For example, there's not much chance that Jayme Fuckingham's mailman thinks she's a nuclear physicist. The same probably can be said for Anna Slut, Rene Pornero, Flick Shagwell, Fluffy Cumshot, Jacklyn Lick, Angie XXX, Max Hardcore or Buttman.
- Directional names. This category belongs almost exclusively to the men in the business. As World Modeling's South said, "There was one awards show where we almost had Jim South, Nick East, Peter North and Randy West on the stage together."
- Weather-related names. Maybe the fact that most porn is shot in California's San Fernando Valley, where every day is hot and sunny, makes performers nostalgic for their hometowns in the frigid Midwest. Or maybe stars like Aurora Snow, Crystal Storm, Desert Storm, Stormy Water, Harley Rain, Amber Rain, Taylor Rain, Jenna Haze and Autumn Haze are just meteorology buffs. Whatever the reason, performers bring a lot of moisture to Porn Valley.
- Stripper names. Let's face it, America's strip clubs are pretty much a de facto farm league for the adult film industry, where performers can hone their gyrating, back arching and crawling-on-all-fours skills. It's only natural that they drag their stripper names onto the movie set with them. As a result, the 1990s were littered with Nikkis, Vickys, Toris and Tiffanys. These days, you can't go to a porn party without tripping over a gaggle of Crystals, Ashleys, Katies, Britneys and Taylors.
- Summers, sunrises and sunsets. What's everyone's favorite season on the porn calendar? Why, summer, of course. Or perhaps Sunny Daze, Sunny Leone, Judy Suns, Teri Summers, Barbara Summers, Haley Summers, Paige Summers, Gwen Summers, April Summers and Summer Luv are actually distant cousins using the same family name.
- Names that sound good enough to eat. There tends to be a lot of mouth-to-whatever-body-part-is-available contact in porn, so it only makes sense that performers choose appetizing names like Rocky Roads, Cinnamon, Jessica Sweet, Candi Evans, Candy Cotton, Sweet Kandi, Candy Samples, Honey and Delicious. But the all-time cleverest food-related porn name may have been Keisha, simply because it inspired the movie title, "Real Men Eat Keisha."
XBiz certainly isn't the only media entity to recognize these patterns. Whether it's intentional or accidental, most porn names are pretty amusing, and the mainstream world has picked up on their entertainment value in a big way. There are websites that will automatically generate your very own porn star name for you (although XBiz has found that most miss the mark by a long shot). There's even a site where users can guess whether a name belongs to a porn star or a "My Little Pony" character. The test is surprisingly difficult to ace.
But porn names aren't just fodder for bored web surfers. The subject also has made its way into the ivy-covered halls of academia. The American Names Society, the American Linguistics Society and the American Dialectic Society, all three of which are comprised mostly of college professors and other assorted eggheads, held a conference in January to discuss the topic.
"My drag queen name, for the record, is Coco Butters," keynote speaker professor Ronald Butters of Duke University said in his opening remarks. The attendees then took part in a three-day methodical study that stripped all traces of fun from the exercise.
Much more entertaining is the porn name game that has become so popular around office coffee machines. It goes like this: Combine your first pet's name with your mother's maiden name. There's also a variant that uses your middle name and the name of the street you grew up on. According to these formulas, my porn name is either Pepper Grabowski or Francis Quinsigamond. Something tells me you won't see either of those names gracing DVD box covers any time soon.