LOS ANGELES — Fetish model and producer Natali Demore and her video editor Jack Banner were found dead on Aug. 4 at Demore’s production studio in Panorama City, where they followed through on an apparent “consensual suicide pact,” multiple sources confirmed to XBIZ on Wednesday.
Demore and Banner died of wounds from two shotguns found at the scene that were rigged to fire simultaneously, sources said.
Banner, who was her editor for BondageOrgasms.com for at least the past three years, also produced and directed more than 50 titles since 2000, as well as performed and worked behind the scenes on numerous productions.
Adult industry veteran BDSM player Liam Lockran told XBIZ, “Her and her editor at her company were found on Saturday by her sister-in-law, who was sent to the studio where she was at to see if she was ok. There was a suicide note. It was a suicide pact.”
Soma Snakeoil, a lifestyle and professional dominatrix who knew Demore for the past four years, said there actually were “multiple suicide notes” left behind in various forms and locations, including at the studio where they were found.
“There were letters sent out by herself and [Jack],” Snakeoil told XBIZ. “They had a suicide pact for something like three years. I don’t know what that was based on initially.”
Snakeoil recalled that Demore was excited and appeared happy when she saw her at DomCon LA in May.
“She was interacting. She didn’t show any signs of any major depression,” Snakeoil said.
She also worked with Demore in a session last October.
“She was maybe a little disconnected but she seemed happy,” Snakeoil continued. “I spoke with her quite a few times over the past few months and she seemed really upbeat. She said she wanted to do some double dom work with me and we were making plans to go on trips together. But it ended up not working out. From what I hear she was struggling financially, but she wasn’t very transparent about that with many people.
“I think her site had taken some hits, as the rest of the industry has. I know she relied on a lot of custom work. She was going through some personal stuff, a divorce. She also had a lot of physical pain, especially her shoulder. Apparently [Jack] also had some serious physical things going on.”
Both Snakeoil and Lockran said the double suicide occurred on Friday night, Aug. 3.
Snakeoil described her understanding of what happened.
“I guess they went to her dungeon, put on a Sarah McLachlan CD and they built a tent out of sheets, and I think lightstands and rope that they stood in,” Snakeoil said. “And it appears like they had somehow built some kind of contraption so the shotguns could go off at the same time.”
Ed Winter, the assistant chief coroner for L.A. County, confirmed to XBIZ that both Demore and Banner died of head wounds at Illusion Studio, and their deaths have officially been ruled suicides.
Snakeoil remembers meeting Demore at a DomCon when Demore approached her and struck up a conversation. They connected quickly because they had a shared interest in medical play. Demore had done extensive work for MedicalToys.com, as well as DungeonCorp which Snakeoil said was like "an extended family" for her.
Demore, who was 35, is survived by her boyfriend. It is unclear who received any additional suicide notes left by Demore or Banner, Snakeoil said.
“I don’t know. I’m having such a hard time processing this sort of tragedy and darkness of planning with another person to do that,” she said. “Neither of them talked each other out of it. I don’t know if one person coerced the other or not. We’re still looking for more information.”
However, Snakeoil added, "It was very clear it was a consensual suicide pact. The studio was not sealed off [after the authorities arrived]. There were shotgun shells, and the contraption that they used was just left there.”
Banner, who was 60, had worked extensively for Harmony Concepts, one of the pioneering companies in the bondage community, as well as with Anton Productions, Dominic Wolfe and several other producers, sources said.
“He was very well known for his tight, elbow-together classic bondage style,” said model/producer Anastasia Pierce, who noted Banner’s “big-boob, padded-bra, detective style, damsel in distress stories.”
Pierce added, “Many people loved him and respected him. … He was a great guy to work with and a good friend too.”
Demore studied photography in college and kept her profession in the adult industry private from her immediate family.
“She was an artist. She was really into that and sort of fell into bondage and fetish and that led to girl/girl stuff,” Snakeoil remarked.
“I found her to always be highly respectful and very upbeat in her personality. When people die, I think you start to remember the good things first. But I heard her say good things about people that everyone else would say bad things about, so it was just such a shock hearing this.”
One of the suicide notes indicated that Demore bought a shotgun in May and that “she’s been thinking about this for a long time,” according to Liam Lockran.
“I’ve been in the [BDSM] lifestyle scene for over 20 years and as I traveled around the country to different events, to DomCon and FetishCon and all these parties, I was consistently running into her,” Lockran, who is also known as Master Liam, said. “We’d have friendly conversations and we’d always see each other at different events. We’d talk and laugh. We never got into serious conversations. … She was a wonderful person, very gentle, never rude or mean to anybody. If anything, for a mistress she was very passive.”
He added, “She’ll be missed, I’ll tell you that. I’m still kind of in shock.”
Lockran, a former producer who is currently the general manager at the “Dr. Susan Block Show,” said that Banner “actually shot a few of my films. He seemed like a nice enough guy.”
Veteran BDSM player Tim Woodman, who runs ProVillain.com and BondageBlowjobs.com, told XBIZ he was Demore’s rigger and production assistant off and on for about two years until 2009.
“We happened to have the same accountant and her business was booming and she was looking for some help,” Woodman said. “I was in between rigging jobs. ... She didn’t have time to do the ropes and grab the toys. … I also did backup camera for her.”
Woodman continued, “She loved every minute of her work. You could tell how much fun she was having. She was very generous to who she hired. If a girl was uncomfortable with something, she would change it. … And she always fed everybody well. We’d get either rockin’ sushi or a nice sandwich every day we worked. It was always a long day on her sets because it was a lot of goofing around. She just was not in any hurry to be done.”
Woodman recalled that Demore was also eager to share her contacts with others and helped connect him with talent agents and girls to shoot.
“I can say at least in the last three years more than half of the girls I’ve worked with are because I met them through Natali,” he noted. “I think she was well respected. There was an immediate outpouring of grief and condolences because everybody knows who she was or held her in high regard. Everybody’s got their problems, but I never heard anyone say ‘I can’t stand Natali. I’ll never work with her.’”
Indeed, dozens of adult industry personalities used Twitter to pay tribute to Demore during the past two days.
Performer Ela Darling said on her Twitter feed, “She was incredibly ambitious. She's been an inspiration for me since I met her. A smart, kind woman. RIP Natali Demore. Sweet, ambitious, and one of my favorite ladies in the industry.”
Fetish model Samantha Grace tweeted, “I admit, when I started she was 1 of the established models, I followed what she did. The fact she produced videos. Being like her was my goal. She was 1 of the girls, I would say, ‘I want to be like her when I grow up!’”
Aiden Starr: “The type layers render and the websites expand. I will miss you forever Natali Demore.”
Carissa Montgomery: “She was a wonderful person both in and out of the industry. She will be missed by all.”
Amber Rayne: “Wonderfully sweet and so very talented. Heartbroken that I’ll never see her again. Rest now sweet girl.”
David Mack: “She was a true friend and I am much better 4 knowing her.”
Numerous others offered personal condolences on Twitter, including Tara Lynn Foxx, Brooke Haven, Caroline Pierce, Ashley Edmonds, Dana DeArmond and Isobel Wren.
Veteran producer/model Julie Simone posted a tribute to Banner on her Tumblr page.
“I’m sad and shocked to learn of the passing of Jack Banner,” Simone wrote. “I did the bulk of my movies for Harmony with him. There were times I saw him every week. I learned a lot on his sets. He loved the female form and wanted to make sure the model’s curves were highlighted in every scene. When you worked with Jack you felt like the sexiest, most powerful woman in the world. He built you up where so many men in the adult business just want to tear you down and make you feel like shit.
“His bondage positions were challenging and sexy. Working with him made me a better rigger."
She said Banner's work had a "raw edge and sexual tension," and that Banner got her a directing gig at Harmony.
“Unlike many male directors, he never felt threatened by my talents," Simone continued. "He was smart and utilized them to make his own work better. He had no ego about it. He offered to teach me more about editing and made suggestions that helped me improve my work and hone my style. He shot some stuff for my site for free which was awesome of him.”
Simone said she last saw Banner at GlamourCon a few years ago. “He stopped by my booth to say hi and give me some good feedback about my work. He was always supportive of me which is something I appreciated and will always remember.”