She was once known as Raylene, Vivid Girl, winner of an AVN award for best actress. One reviewer called her "a strong sexual performer and one of the prettiest brunettes working in the adult industry... with a long career ahead of her in hardcore."
He was right on all counts but one: Raylene had a decidedly short career in hardcore.
Today, Raylene is no more. She is Stacey Hirsch, and she's days from delivering her first baby, and the luscious body includes a tummy that extends well beyond her chest. Her tank top, cropped cotton chinos and flip-flops tell the tale of another hot day in the San Fernando Valley, and she's reached the I-don't-care-what-I-look-like-I-just-want-to-be-comfortable stage of her pregnancy.
She used to be featured in videos like "Dyke Diner" and "Pearl Jammed." Life used to be "just one big party." Now she sells real estate, lives with her boyfriend and looks forward to raising her new son.
"I held my breath and walked away," Hirsch said of her departure from adult film production. "I did like the fame, the money, the party aspect of it, but you can only do that for so long."
Born Stacey Bernstein to a Mexican mother and Jewish dad, Hirsch, 29, grew up in Glendora, Calif., east of Los Angeles. She describes her childhood as normal, without trauma. "I was lucky not to have had the bad stuff other girls [in the adult industry] have," Hirsch told XBIZ.
She met her first porn stars at age 15 on an excursion to Lake Havasu City, Ariz. "I was just wild and crazy," she said, and she became fascinated by the actors, who represented "the freedom to do whatever you want — the freedom to be a slut."
Plus, she added, the money was good, so in 1996, at 19, she began appearing on camera, first acting under the name Alexis Fontaine. In 1998, she signed an exclusive contract with Vivid Entertainment, making scores of videos as Raylene for the San Fernando Valley-based company before announcing her retirement from acting in adult films in November 2001.
A rundown of her movies shows a lot of all-girl work along with fellatio and facial scenes and videos that feature her long legs, shapely rear and much-admired breasts. Raylene graced many a set and worked steadily, garnering her share of praise, gallery shots and magazine pictorials. She also met Vivid co-Chairman Steve Hirsch's brother Brad, to whom she was married briefly after she stopped acting in adult firms and whose name she still carries.
"I wasn't Steven's favorite at Vivid," Hirsch said of her stock-company status. "But I worked hard to get publicized and build my career."
Hirsch's excitement with the glamour and liberation of the porn world dwindled after a year in the business. "I was really unhappy," she said. "It was not good for my soul."
At the heart of Hirsch's unhappiness was a substance- abuse problem. "I was in over my head when it came to alcohol and drug abuse," she said, adding that the partying didn't keep her from showing up on time and prepared for shoots. The poor self-esteem that substance abuse engenders made it impossible for her to form healthy relationships, though, and she disliked the gossipy, fishbowl nature of the adult world. Hirsch took a hard look at her lifestyle after "someone saw me loaded one night and spread it all over the Internet."
Walking away from acting was hard, Hirsch said, "because I didn't know what I was going to do." She maintained an income stream feature- dancing in clubs, but that wore thin, too. "You're traveling all the time, always on planes, always getting sick," Hirsch said.
She quit dancing in May 2004, performing one more gig late last year. "I had to go back for one more to make sure I was done, and man, I was done," she said.
Hirsch was married when her husband suggested they pursue careers in real estate. While he trained as a mortgage broker, Hirsch earned a real estate license and went to work for a company in Northridge, Calif. While waiting for her new career to take off, the two lived on equity from the home Hirsch bought during her acting days.
Out For Good
At Hirsch's first job in realty, she met fellow broker Staci Mintz. The two formed a team in early 2004 and later moved together to Pinnacle Estate Properties in Encino, Calif., where they've found homes for a number of people in the entertainment industry. "All of my networking and partying paid off because they remembered me," Hirsch said.
She and Mintz also found a new building for the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation (AIM), into which the foundation moved last year. Dr. Sharon Mitchell, AIM's director, said that Hirsch also has put most of AIM's staffers into houses and condos. "We consider her very much part of AIM," Mitchell said.
Mitchell added that Hirsch is "a good example of life after porn, a great example of reinventing herself." Mitchell said she considered Hirsch "both a role model and an effective professional in her own right."
Hirsch lives with the father of her baby, who's also custodial dad to a 15-year-old daughter. "This year my life's been real estate, cheerleading, homework and pregnancy," she said.
Hirsch understands that while performing in adult videos wasn't right for her, other actors enjoy the business. "If you're going to stay in, do it right," she said. "Start a company, direct, save your money, buy property."
Hirsch doesn't denigrate the business that paid her bills and allowed her to buy a home in her early 20s. "That's the one thing you don't do when you leave the business: You never talk badly about it," she said.
She doesn't keep her work in front of the cameras a secret, either; she was uncomfortable when the first realty company she worked for wanted her to keep it quiet, and is happy that Pinnacle is more open and accepting. "Always be proud," she said.
In fact, Hirsch feels the adult video industry has a positive role to play in society.
"When it comes to free speech, it's important that we support it," she said. "No matter how rancid it can be, if we didn't have the industry, we probably wouldn't have a lot of things."