After the Spotlight Fades

Erik Jay
The career trajectory of an adult entertainer is much like that of a professional athlete. There's always a crop of fresh new faces, aspiring stars who are younger, in better shape and, in the case of male actors, better able to perform. As a result, the average retirement age for most performers is around 30 years old.

But that doesn't mean they have to retire from the industry altogether. For years, smart adult stars have used their connections, their names and their knowledge of the business to launch successful careers to sustain them after their performing days have ended — and a growing are laying the groundwork for smooth transitions into post-performing careers even before the spotlight begins to fade.

The website calls Jon Dough "one of the most intense guys to ever appear on the X-rated scene." He started working in the mid-1980s and has appeared in more than 600 features. "Like many other great male stars," Dough's Porn Legends bio reads, "Jon has turned to working behind the camera." Yes, he was working — but it wasn't always working out well.

After unsuccessful arrangements with Devil's Films and Hustler, Dough turned things around with a new distribution deal with NJ Films, run by production veteran John Knowles. Even as a man over 40, Dough is still working because, Knowles says, "he enjoys what he does" — and knows that "owning his own stuff is the only way to make money long-term."

Vince Vouyer would agree. After arriving in Los Angeles in 1989 with a body carved through weightlifting, it didn't take him long to find a home in adult films. His transition from performer to entrepreneur was similarly swift; when Red Light District Films was founded in 2001, Vouyer was the first actor/director on the scene, making the movies that helped create the corporate style. "He was the one who gave the product its unique look," remarks Red Light public relations director Larry Schwarz.

Like Dough, Vouyer knew that taking ownership of his work was essential to his financial future. "After working for other people, I realized I am more of a leader than a follower," says Vouyer, "so I decided to be self-employed, which automatically makes you the boss."

Although eager to run "several companies in the future," for now Vouyer dedicates himself to creating "a strong presence in the marketplace with quality product."

Setting Up Shop
Far more male than female performers have made the transition to management and ownership of adult film companies, so for the few trailblazing women executives there are some special challenges.

Skye Blue has appeared in 300-plus adult films, won myriad awards and been featured in every major men's magazine. Still, when she wanted to become a director, "I was told I should stick to being a performer," she recalls. And when she started Platinum Blue Productions, she says, "I was told I couldn't do that, either."

A strong personality and open lesbian in a "testosterone- charged business," Blue burned with a desire to do "something more" for women viewers of adult films — "women embrace softer values and idealize romance" — so she set out to make movies "that women would actually want to watch."

Not only did she launch a production company, she also became a worldwide distributor. Just how does another pretty face set up shop in the men's mall of adult entertainment? Like any business, it's partly about what you know and partly about who you know. Blue's partners, Nick Manning and Dean Sussman, are industry veterans who make Platinum Blue's whole much more than the sum of its parts.

Manning — college grad, fashion model and one of the industry's leading male performers — brought his experience on both sides of the camera. Already a production veteran with his own Nick Manning Films, he offered Platinum Blue his steady hand for managing both talent and technology. Sussman is an adult film supersalesman, having worked with Private, PurePlay and JKP following a decade on Wall Street.

"It's the glamour side [of the business] that makes it fun," Manning says, "but I keep everything in perspective and count my blessings that I can thrive in my chosen profession." With Manning's movie-making savvy, Sussman's expertise in sales and Blue's compelling vision for the company's unique niche in the adult entertainment industry, Platinum Blue seems to have charted a course to a successful future. "We're living the dream," Manning adds.

The nexus of art and business also is new territory for Gina Lynn, who's made some 50 films in the last decade and recently hung out a shingle for Gina Lynn Productions. She has boundless confidence, though, and attributes her ability to make the right business decisions to years of experience on both sides of the camera, as well as to paying attention as other professionals work.

The "ultimate goal," according to Lynn, is "to be an incredible film actor, producer and director, and to be successful at all three."

This is the common thread among those who have made a successful transition to the business end of the business. Adult performers are driven by the same goals and visions that drive Hollywood actors to become directors and producers: to continue doing what they love; to have creative control; to provide for their families. They just happen to be among the lucky few who realize, as Reed Rothchild says in "Boogie Nights," that "you can't fuck forever." But if you take the time to foster the right relationships, and you're smart and willing to work hard, you can continue to shine even after the spotlight fades.

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