Industry Leaders Remember Candida Royalle

Industry Leaders Remember Candida Royalle
Dan Miller

LOS ANGELES — Candida Royalle inspired generations of adult entertainment professionals with her groundbreaking work, numerous industry leaders told XBIZ after hearing of her passing.

The pioneering feminist porn director, producer and author died Monday at her home in Long Island, N.Y., after a long battle with ovarian cancer. She was 64.

“Candida was the first,” said Kelly Holland, the managing director of Penthouse. “She cut the trail through the jungle so that all of us that came after her would have an easier path.

“She was brave, fearless and unique.”

Bob Christian, the general manager of Adam & Eve, told XBIZ, “Candida was literally the reason I joined Adam & Eve 20 years ago.”

“Candida had worked out the Femme Productions movie distribution with PHE (the parent company of Adam & Eve), and they brought me in to manage that and start our wholesale movie division,” Christian recalled.

“The quality of her movies, her intelligence, poise, dignity, her savvy, and her niceness were among the primary reasons my wife ‘let’ me stay in the adult movie world.

“Candice and I had worked together so closely and so well for so long — we became very good friends, and maintained that personal friendship along with, but also separate from, our professional relationship. I guess I am just trying to set the stage for saying that our industry, her friends and her family have lost a great visionary and a wonderful friend to so many.”

Phil Harvey, the founder of PHE and Adam & Eve, agreed, telling XBIZ Tuesday, "Candice was a true pioneer who taught the world that women’s sexuality could be both passionate and worthy. She was unafraid of controversy, constantly cheerful, and she revolutionized our views of women's sexuality the best possible ways."

Born Candice Vadala, the Brooklyn, N.Y. native Royalle made her porn movie debut in “Analist” for VCX in 1975. She performed in more than 75 films and directed another 19.

“Candida helped pave the way for every single woman working in the industry today,” New Sensations director Jacky St. James told XBIZ. “Being a woman in porn now has become somewhat accepted, though it may still seem ‘novel’ to the mainstream. It doesn’t require the same fortitude or brazen attitude that Candida had over 20 years ago.

“She was a soldier looking at an industry dominated by men and said, ‘It can be different and so — I’ll make it different.’ I am not sure there will ever be anyone as legendary as Candida was to the feminist porn movement, but I will happily and humbly follow in her gigantic footsteps.”

St. James in June joined Royalle on a Mindbrowse.com panel discussion about the history, evolution and future of feminist porn in an event called “Pioneers of Feminist Porn.”

Royalle addressed the growth of erotica made for women from when she first entered the industry to the works by the current generation of producers and also talked about her forthcoming documentary “While You Were Gone” as well as the “Natural Contours” line of personal massagers she developed in partnership with Dutch industrial designer Jandirk Groet.

Moderated by sociologist Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals, the discussion was produced by Angie Rowntree, the owner of Sssh.com that produces Mindbrowse.com events.

“With Candida’s passing, the adult entertainment industry has lost a true pioneer and one of its most courageous, creative and artistic minds,” Rowntree told XBIZ. “Candida’s influence and inspiration has been absolutely crucial to the women who followed in her footsteps as producers and directors of adult entertainment, and the entire adult industry owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to her.

“The quality and integrity of her work set the bar very high, marking a standard we should all aspire to as filmmakers, regardless of genre.”

Rowntree posted an extended tribute Tuesday afternoon at EroticScribes.com.

Wicked Pictures contract star jessica drake, who produces and directs the “Guide to Wicked Sex” series, told XBIZ Royalle had a profound impact on her.

“Words can't begin to explain the impression Candida has had on my life and career,” drake said Tuesday. “She helped pave the way for performer/directors like me, and I am forever grateful. I first understood the scope of her accomplishments as I was making the decision to get involved in sex education.

“As an actress, educator, advocate, filmmaker, and so much more, she changed the course of adult entertainment. 

“Last year at [CatalystCon], I had the honor of meeting her, as she and the other members of Club 90 (Annie Sprinkle, Veronica Hart, Veronica Vera, and the late Gloria Leonard) spoke at the closing keynote. I was able to talk to her about community in our business, and how we should better support each other. She gave me her full attention for those few minutes, and I'm so thankful for that day. I dreamt of a collaboration with her. Instead I will live and teach and hopefully inspire by her example.

“Rest in peace, Candida. You were an amazing influence to me and so many others. I stand humbly in your shadow.”

Rich Moreland, the author of the recently published “Pornography Feminism: As Powerful as She Wants to Be,” interviewed Royalle at length for the book.

“When I was beginning my research on the history of feminism in adult film, Candida stepped up immediately, offered me my first interview, and supported my efforts to their completion,” Moreland told XBIZ. “Her heart was classy, gentle and honest. A voice for women and barrier breakers everywhere, her spirit reminds us all that adult cinema has its place in our national heritage. Simply put, Candida Royalle is sexuality's mythological goddess — the soul of female-friendly erotica and in all things gracious, its sacred feminine.”

Nica Noelle, the seasoned director, screenwriter and founder of studios such as TransSensual and Icon Male, told XBIZ, “When I first started directing adult films 10 years ago, people kept telling me that there was a woman who had paved the way for female directors like me, and that her name was Candida Royalle.”

“I started researching her career, and I was blown away by what a pioneer she had been, how determined to put forth her vision at a time when the only women in porn were in front of the camera, not behind it,” Noelle continued. “She decorated her times with such elegance and dignity, and if not for her courage and artistry many of us would have had no path to follow.”

Adult star Jiz Lee told XBIZ Tuesday that Royalle wrote an essay for the performer’s new book “Coming Out Like a Porn Star,” which contains personal stories from more than 50 porn professionals who “came out” — or chose not to — to family, friends, and lovers.

“Candida’s early adult videos paved the way for new pornographers and sex-positive feminists to share their own erotic possibilities, my own work included. I'm eternally grateful for her legacy,” Lee said.

“Candida contributed a heartfelt essay for my new book, ‘Coming Out Like a Porn Star.’ We extended the deadline to accommodate her health issues post-chemo, and she spent a good amount of time writing and rewriting her piece (‘I always have to remind myself to just write from the heart, don't edit the first time around, and continue to write from the heart!’) and at last she was very proud of the final version. It saddens me that she will not be here to celebrate the book launch, but I hope it serves to honor her bravery.”

Lee continued, “As a young performer working within the queer porn scene in San Francisco, I was aware that her work played a large part in the history of the adult video industry, and meeting Annie Sprinkle I also learned of Candida's roll within Club 90, the first adult industry support group.

“I regret missing the Club 90 reunion held at Cinekink last year, how great it must have been to celebrate. I was able to sit on a panel with her on Feminism and Porn at Cinekink in 2013 and understand that were it not for her health, she would have been an active, vocal participant along with Tristan Taormino in cultivating media coverage and dialogue around feminist pornography. I'm glad I was able to meet Candida that year in New York and express and share the value she's given to our industry. 

“Before having the opportunity to meet Candida, I was familiar with her line of films and her role of having established porn which was marketed to women. The first film I saw was ‘Afrodite Superstar,’ a video she produced in her Femme Chocolat line. It was directed by Abiola Abrams (under the alias ‘Venus Hottentot’ while Candida directed the sex scenes). I was impressed by the artistic collaboration between the directors, which made the adult film possible, as well as the voices it gave to its performers of color, particularly in the film’s behind-the-scenes footage. 

“There's also an international community of female directors who have been influenced by her work, particularly in the U.K., Amsterdam, Australia and Germany.”

Adult filmmaker Shine Louise Houston, founder of Pink & White Productions, told XBIZ Tuesday, "I'd like to say that Candida was a visionary and a trailblazer. She was one of the women directly responsible for the emergence of the feminist porn movement and for creating space for directors like myself to gain entrance into the adult industry.

"I'm grateful for her creativity and dedication to adult filmmaking and I'm very honored to have met her in person and wish that she could've stayed with us longer."

Dr. Carol Queen, the noted essayist, sexologist and founder of San Francisco's Center for Sex and Culture, recalled how Royalle began changing the feminist narrative more than 30 years ago.

"In the 1980s, when I began my sexology studies at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco, the words 'feminist' and 'porn' evoked the negative rants of Dworkin and MacKinnon –– until Candida Royalle stepped into the fray and, along with other sex-positive and anti-censorship activists in New York and San Francisco, birthed a completely different way for feminists to relate to porn," Queen told XBIZ.

"She was never strident about it, although she was very clear and articulate about her politics and the social good she was trying to achieve. The great importance of her work at that time was that she wasn’t just talking about porn, but showing what could be different about it, and what a woman’s directorial vision could bring.

"I can’t overstate how important that was in the argumentative politics of the time. In my view, Femme Productions opened a door for all porn to be more carefully examined and 'read,' as Susie Bright used to put it."

Queen continued, "She was open about the way it helped her re-make her own image –– including her self-image –– too, because a really powerful thing about Candice’s work was that she had spent her time in front of the camera.

"In a career marked by so many trailblazing projects, the work of hers I love the most is the Star Directors Series, where she shared 'the means of production' with her Club 90 colleagues. Some people may have never even seen these –– they were all made before 1990, I think –– but they’re all wonderful. They offer several different erotic visions, directed by Annie Sprinkle (that’s the only porn movie that always makes me cry –– its early computer graphics let Annie get arty and cosmic in trying to show how it feels to have Tantric sex) and Gloria Leonard, Veronica Hart, and Veronica Vera too.

"Candice left us far too soon, and it’s up to the rest of us to keep the memory of this lovely, gracious, fierce woman alive."

Director Jennifer Lyon Bell, the Amsterdam-based founder of Blue Artichoke Films, told XBIZ Royalle was her mentor.

“Candida Royalle was a personal hero of mine before I’d ever met her,” Bell said. “Decades ago, I read current articles detailing her groundbreaking new approach to porn, and it rocked my world. How radical for Candida to acknowledge that women could absolutely enjoy porn (as I already secretly did)!

“And more radical still for her to suggest that people needn’t be secretive and ashamed of their porn habits, but could share the experience openly with a partner for fun. Nowadays shared-viewing seems obvious and natural, but back then it truly wasn’t. Candida made me feel like my sex lust and my porn lust were normal. She made hundreds of thousands of women like me feel less alone. Her words gave me the dizzying sensation that she was reading my mind. Moreover, she came across on TV like such like such a relaxed, nice person. She wasn’t glamorous or seductive in the traditional sense, even though she was graceful and charming and sexy in her own way. She laid bare all my assumptions about what a sexy person looks like.”

Bell continued, “Candida embraced me with open arms when she found out that I had quietly started to make porn from my own sex-positive female perspective. We met because a former boyfriend of mine had discovered that Candida lived in his building, and the two of them had a friend in common — Candida’s longtime producer and collaborator Michele Capozzi, a wonderful guy with a hilarious and lively brotherly relationship with Candida. Candida shared with me that she was mystified as to why no women had followed her lead in the prior 20 years, and I couldn’t offer any answers. All I could do was be glad I had found her.

“Starting around 2006, around the time I met her, alternative porn and female erotic filmmaking started to flourish. Candida mentioned often that she was seriously gratified to see younger people pick up the baton. Even though she had (I believe) not yet been diagnosed with cancer, she was already conscious of her mortality and was looking for ways to actively support other filmmakers who shared her values. These filmmakers asked her advice, and she was always more than willing to share her experiences on the set and behind the scenes. She was so gracious with me personally.  

“One evening, having dinner together in Amsterdam, she became my mentor. She told me tons, and she asked lots of questions too. She was invited — and gave witty, poised, historically interesting presentations — to lots of the events that were dear to both of us as well as so many others in the burgeoning art-porn community. She traveled to Porn FilmFestival Berlin, CineKink/NYC, and Mexico’s Cine y Sexo, La Mirada Feminina, aka The First International Film Festival of Female Directors of Porn. That latter trip became a struggle for her, because she was fresh from a round of chemo but didn’t want to miss the chance to spend a week with other female directors in a new exciting city.

“So she rallied her energy and not only gave engaging presentations to the surprisingly supportive (often Catholic) Mexican audiences, but she actually climbed a Mexico City pyramid with us on our free day. She was a lady with a core of steel.”

Bell added, “Candida was generous, warm, smart, fastidious, brave, wicked, lively, and extremely talented. Near the end, we spent as much time gossiping as we did talking about filmmaking. I never tired of hearing her talk. I will miss Candida terribly. She was a wonderful friend and she was my hero.”

Burning Angel founder Joanna Angel echoed her colleagues’ sentiments.

“She paved the way for all female pornographers and definitely anyone who ever shot porn in New York City,” Angel told XBIZ. “This is a very sad loss for the industry. Her legacy and her films will live forever.”

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