Prometheus Books published Luke's book A History of X: 100 Years of Sex in Film.
The back cover reads thus:
The sex industry grosses billions of dollars each year by appealing to our erotic daydreams. Revolving around lust and money, porn springs from the most primal desires and feeds our unspeakable urges.
Pornographers, with varying degrees of success, live out the fantasies that captivate millions. By delving deep inside the porn world and the lives of those who inhabit it we can discover the effects of living the lives others only dream about. Do fame, fortune, and fornication lead to happiness? The lives of such porn stars as Marilyn Chambers, Ginger Lynn, Traci Lords, and Harry Reems provide differing answers.
Although Americans spend billions each year on pornography, most know little about the industry that strokes their deepest fantasies. Despite porns proliferation, very little has been written about the genres history or about how it acts as a social mirror, reflecting contemporary mores. Luke F-rds A History of X finally fills this void.
". . . [a] serious history of the dirty-movie business. It contains frank, nonpejorative descriptions of pornography. . . . Hot stuff or legitimate cultural inquiry, this is a worthwhile book." -Booklist
This in-depth comprehensive history of cinematic pornography is the first book of any kind to detail sex in film by probing the earliest attempts of a century ago and chronicling the proliferation of porn to the present, concentrating on the last quarter-century since the legendary Deep Throat, when porn penetrated popular culture.
Luke F-rd is the best-known source on the contemporary world of pornographythe only journalist writing about the industry, yet not employed by the industry. It is this unique position that gives Ford the objectivity he needs to successfully complete a project such as this.
Bold and compelling, A History of X takes readers on a delicious romp through the back rooms and film studios of the fascinating array of characters who gave porn its start in the 1900s as a daring and risque attempt at sexual freedom, and explains how it transformed into to the closed-door, multimillion-dollar corporate film machine that operates today.
Tracing the origins of pornography to novels written in the 1650s, Ford follows the progression of the genre, providing a close examination of the themes that still trigger male arousal today, and the films that celebrate them: adultery, lesbianism, bondage, and group sex, to name just a few.
Relying on exclusive interviews with major players in the porn world as well as a wide array of printed sources, Ford details the controversial careers of such top stars as Linda Lovelace, Harry Reems, Traci Lords, Max Hardcore, and Ginger Lynn, among others. Ford reveals the great benefits and tragic consequences that sometimes result from the fame--and infamy--associated with porn. Ford also boldly tracks the producers and distributors behind the movies, from the once secret Mafia influences to the false claims of victimization by some porn stars.
Extensively researched and documented, A History of X provides a fascinating exposé of a business few dare to touch.
The 2/1/99 edition of Publisher's Weekly hacks into Luke's book:
"A history of pornographic film that achieves neither coherence nor climax, Ford's book suffers from the disregard for narrative and production values typical of pornography. Though Ford (who runs two Web sites covering the porn business) makes sporadic efforts at delineating the development of sex in films, such attempts tend to get derailed by his rambling, defensive discussions of favorite porn figures and by collections of often contradictory quotations, grouped approximately by topic. Even when a particular subject catches Ford's interest -- the Cosa Nostra, for instance, discussed at length in Chapter 5 -- he fails to shape it into a readable story. Nonetheless, such interludes of relative lucidity offer a welcome respite from Ford's offensive generalizations about, among others, Jews ("Though only two percent of American population, Jews dominate porn"). Perhaps most disturbing of all, Ford doesn't appear to be especially well-informed on his topic; he barely mentions gay porn and the vast majority of his many, many plot synopses are quoted from other sources. He's not even clear on whether porn should have plot and character or whether they're just annoying distractions. Finally, there's not much new here. Even porn devotees will find little of interest, unless the pictures (not seen by PW) prove more alluring than the text, which reads like a very rough draft."
From "Bookviews" on www.caruba.com for July, 1999: "Finally, it needs be said that pornography in America and around the world is Big Business. Americans and others spend billions on it annually. That's what makes A History of X: 100 Years of Sex in Film by Luke F-rd so interesting. This is a book about the business of porn and, while it says it's about a hundred years, it's really about the way porn became a major enterprise in the 1960s and 1970s, and how that transformed what was once an illegal enterprise. If you're seeking the salacious, you won't find it in this book, but you will find some interesting and surprising insights about the entrepreneurs and the "stars." And, yes, they were sleazy people doing sleazy things, often paying a terrible price for it."
From Booknews.com: "This book purports to be a "serious" study of the film and video pornography industry, but is not sufficiently well-written to satisfy this claim. While it may synthesize some information not easily available elsewhere, it appears to add precious little in the way of original research. Ford, a journalist who specializes in writing about porn, seems to feign objectivity while secretly desiring to be an apologist for the industry; this conflicted approach succeeds only in watering down his prose beyond the point of interest. The narrative is scattered as well, moving haphazardly between the general, the anecdotal, and the statistical."
U. California-Berkeley: BOOK REVIEW: Luke F-rd 's 'A History of X: 100 Years of Sex In Film' 06/25/1999 By Mark T.R. Donohue , Daily Californian (U. California-Berkeley)
BERKELEY, Calif. -- Most casual moviegoers perceive that a wide chasm exists between mainstream filmmakers and hardcore pornographers. "Real" directors are viewed as artists, bringing our dreams to life on the screen; while "porno" filmmakers are opportunists, misogynists and criminals. Very few people would make the claim that the two industries have similar core motivations, if they even share anything in common at all.
Yet judging by the tales laid out in two new nonfiction works, both mainstream and porn filmmaking are subject to demands of good old-fashioned capitalism. When it comes to scripting, casting and content, the prime concern is always -- always -- getting the biggest box office payoff.
In A History of X: 100 Years of Sex In Film, Luke F-rd traces the evolution of stag films, from silent loops to the cultural phenomenon Deep Throat. Ford assumes an objective stance throughout; he deflates myths about snuff films and child abuse, but he's also frank about the drug addictions and diseases many porn actors fall victim to. He doesn't come out wholly for or against the genre, but he does do damage to many of its justifying myths. Porn, Ford states bluntly, is made for and consumed by males. The notions of "feminist" or "couples" adult films are the fictions of apologists.
All of the major periods in the "evolution" traced in A History of X, from the '70s takeover of the industry by Mafia dons to the early '80s move to home video, are defined by the quest for greater and greater profits. Ford suggests that the reason porn films are so formulaic, representing women as submissive and men as controlling and tireless, has less to do with the beliefs of its producers than the desires of its consumers. The industry is not to blame for the sorry state of its product, but the American male population, Ford would have us believe.
The author's attempts to draw conclusions about the overall American condition from hardcore sex movies are unconvincing, but as narrative, A History of X is fascinating and inherently readable -- who knew there actually existed an "art porn" movement in the late '70s?
Thom Taylor takes on more traditional filmmaking in his The Big Deal: Hollywood's Million-Dollar Spec Script Market, but the players are no less ruthless, or cash-obsessed, than in Ford's tome. Taylor tells of a Hollywood so desperate for new material that ideas -- in the form of independently-written "spec scripts" -- become million-dollar plus propositions...
Hollywood, awards ceremonies aside, is no less dollarcentric than the opportunist pornographers of A History of X.
Source: Booklist, March 1, 1999 v95 i13 p1141(1). Title: A History of X: 100 Years of Sex in Film.(Review) Author: Mike Tribby
Pornography is all about blow jobs and losers, says a porn historian cited in this history of sex movies and videos. And "through understanding the sex industry," says Ford, "I better understand humanity." For instance, "fewer nice girls gave head" before Deep Throat (1972) raised fellatio's public profile. Ford supposes that Deep Throat "probably ranks among the top ten grossing" U.S. films but adds it is hard to say because "it is not in the interest of distributors to release accurate figures.., even if they know them." Radical feminists Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon probably won't like this serious history of the dirty-movie business. It contains frank, nonpejorative descriptions of pornography, after all, not to mention discussion of the industry's Mob connections, and names are named and sources cited. Linda Lovelace's contention that she was forced into the business is disputed, and the long-simmering feud between erstwhile teen star Traci Lords and smut goddess Ginger Lynn is laid bare. Hot stuff or legitimate cultural inquiry, this is a worthwhile book.
In the October, 1999 issue of AVN, Gene Ross reviews Luke's book: The Brooklyn Bridge was finished in 1884, but as we dawn on the New Millenium, there are still some hucksters selling it, and some suckers buying it. In which case Website gadfly Luke F-rd did a completely masterful job in persuading Prometheus to reach into its equal opportunity publishing pockets. Unfortunately, what comes out is an exercise a tad shade duller than trouser lint or your average college term paper effort.
Which is a crying shame. Ford's a particularly clever wordsmith. When he writes with passion and commitment, he's second to none; however, Ford seems to have approached this project with a late night cram session urgency to finish at all costs. And it's painfully evident in the sloppy referencing and critical footnote miscues. Not once, but on several occasions. Hardly foudnations to build a credible fact-finding reputation upon.
In essence, Ford's book rises and falls on the strength of one chapter titled "La Cosa Nostra" - his never-ending commitment to form an organized crime thread to the adult industry. What it reads like, however, is the Cliff Notes version of Donnie Brasco with a bewildering array of nicknames and no particular hook to hang them on. Even if Ford is on target with some of his facts, the narcolepsy that he infuses his characterizations with will daunt the one-sitting read required of this book. Even wiseguys deserve a better fate.
From www.geneross.com for August 3, 1999: In Luke F-rd's book, A History of X, Ford in a chapter titled "Fallen Angels" talks about Traci Lords and Alexandra Quinn being underage when they did pornos. That much we know. An eyebrow raiser is Ford's contention that Nikki Charm was "guilty of the same crime".
We asked AVN Hall of Famer Nikki about that. Charm: "I've been through these rumors before. This was well publicized and actually covered in the LA Times and all kinds of other publications. That was never the truth. I planned and prepared to come into the industry. I planned it from March, 1983 until I came into Reb's office in May of 1984. I knew I needed to be 18 because my brother's fiancee, Mercedes Perez, was working as an actress in the industry. I told her I wanted to get into it. She said, great, wait until you're 18. You can get into a lot of trouble if you don't. Not only that, but you'll make a lot of enemies. I waited, planned and prepared. I worked out two hours a day, tanned my body and came into Reb's office at 18, just about the time when Ginger was over at Vivid and they were doing the big videos. At that time Reb was really excited, 'Watch out Ginger Lynn!' He verified my age at the time. I never worked underage. Now, I can't work overage."
Gene sez: "Not to put too fine a point on it, but Luke's book does have a tendency to blow information. In a chapter titled, 'The Golden Age of Porn,' Ford tries to make a connection between Burt Reynold's character in Boogie Nights to such directors as Henri Pachard, Bob Chinn, Anthony Spinelli and Lasse Braun. Which is valid, except that Ford refers to Reynold's character as 'Jack Anderson'. It's Jack Horner. Jack Anderson was the journalistic heir to Drew Pearson, the legendary Washington D.C. muckraker. Perhaps somebody at Prometheus should have hired a fact checker?
"In another chapter titled, 'La Cosa Nostra,' Ford quotes extensively from the Gay Talese book, 'Thy Neighbor's Wife', Doubleday, the 1980 edition. Just so happens I had a copy of that book in my library and checked Lukie's footnotes. Not one of the five Talese references Luke makes match up.
"Okay, so I thought perhaps I was being a little bit picayune. Then, Luke, in a chapter titled 'Snuff Child Bestiality', quotes Jim Holliday's book, Only The Best, about the Story of Joanna. Ford cites a Holliday quote as appearing on page 77. Wrong-o. Sorry, Beulah the buzzer goes off once again. On page 77 of his book, Holliday discusses the obscure Lure of the Triangle and the Annette Haven film, Once Upon a Time. No mention in sight of Story of Joanna which is talked about on page 35 and once again on page 233, but nothing resembling the Holliday quote Ford cites.
"I just get the uneasy feeling that a student studying Luke's book for porn history runs the risk of either flunking the course, or, at the very least, the art of footnoting."
From the 5/99 issue of Swank's Video World edited by Paul Gambino: "Luke F-rd, the dubious chronicler to the adult film industry, you'll probably remember him as the guy who broke last year's story that five adult actresses tested [positive] for the AIDS virus, has penned another sensational piece of work A History of X, an expose-style book being published by Prometheus Books. Ford defends his reputation as a whistle-blower and rat of the porn industry with his possibly delusional stance of educating and protecting those associated with the adult industry. Claiming to be an avid defender of the First Amendment, in A History of X, the Los Angeles based investigative journalist covers drug abuse, the Mafia, phone sex, cable television, money, child porn, snuff porn, strip clubs, and the legality and illegality of porn in general."
Hustler Erotic Video Guide editor Mike Albo writes Gene Ross.com 6/18/99: "From 1987 to 1990 I was on the faculty of English Department at University LaVerne. One [of the] classes taught [was] 101B in which [the] main focus [was] how write a college research paper. It probably [was] most dismal time [of] my life - and believe me have experienced some dark moments time - simply because had read so many poorly researched shoddily executed papers. Thought [I] put all that far behind until [I] received [a] copy [of] Luke F-rd's History X.
"This "book" reads like a long version of a bad term paper. There are no new insights proffered here, and Luke seems content to merely parrot what others have said before. When Luke does say something that might bear closer examination, he drops the ball. A good example of this is when he states as fact that most porn chicks f-ck dogs, just not on camera. What proof can he offer to back up this ludicrous claim? That people would buy this waste of time boggles the mind. Of course, they believe that Luke's book is actually written by someone who knows what he's talking about rather than some guy who is more concerened with being perceived as "controversial" than imparting any sort of knowledge to the general public.
"Perhaps I can save all those who are considering buying Luke's book a few bucks by stating that "The History of X" is a poorly written piece of crap that should be avoided at all costs. What can you say about a man who puts himself up as some sort of moralist and who then turns around and plagiarizes material from other sources with no attribution? Any self-respecting journalist would be loathe to do this type of thing, but Luke does it on a regular basis. He has also stated on record that he "is not concerned with the facts."
"On the plus side, there's a very funny photo of Luke-looking very fey, I might add-on the back of the jacket. Has this doofus ever taken a photo that didn't look completely posed? Anyway, for a more detailed critique of this book, please look to the November 1999 issue of HEVG in which a well-known author dissects "The History of X" page by page."
Johnathan writes: I just read it. You'll be happy to hear that several libraries in the Minuteman Library Network of Eastern Massachusetts have bought the book and display it. I liked it. Though you post criticisms that say it's poorly written and organized, it is clearly at the same level as books written by the usually accepted investigative reporters. My capsule review, pretending I know nothing about the subject, is:
"A History of X" an enjoyably written, fairly light and easy reading book about the porn industry. It is in no way salacious or obscene. Unlike many investigative books, this is no polemic hammering over and over on the same points. It appears on the whole well-researched.
It would be impossible to write a comprehensive, readable history of sex films. There are too many threads to pull together, ranging from porn's relationship to the sexual revolution to organized crime involvement. This book touches on the major themes and is a useful primer.
I found the quality of the facts (or proof-reading) improved as the book moved closer to the present. For example, on p. 38, while talking about European porn in the 1960's, this sentence appears, "Over the next two decades, Europe published over 250 billion sexually explicity pornography magazines." That would be over 10 billion a year! Ten million is possible, but 10 billion hardcore magazines would be 2 per person on Earth each year.
The book's strongest sections are about the period when porn became legal and how it dabbled in the mainstream. It becomes clear that the shift into video and away from theaters leads to an increasing focus on fetishisms, like anal and degrading sex, that cater to the narrow audiences that rent tapes. In this way, porn is shown as moving farther away from what women like.
I got the strong impression that porn is ever-changing yet eternal, complex but simple; it responds to changes in society but presents the oldest acts known to humanity. Many of the pioneers of modern porn seem to have had mixed motives, with avarice competing with urges for sexual and cultural freedom.
The modern porn maker comes across as a businessman whose complexity comes across as a combination of business skills and fetishistic sexuality. It's clear that the moment of idealism has faded.
This book takes a unique point of view. It clearly condemns the sleaziness of the industry, but there is an underlying acceptance of the fact of porn's continued existence, indeed of the needs that porn clearly serves. Most books about porn are aimed at stirring outrage or at making claims about the role of porn, positive or negative, in the development of sexuality and in the progress of women in society. This book is far more clear-eyed.
Prometheus porn critic Pat Riley, author of the X-Rated Videotape Guides, writes on RAME:
The combination of Luke's pussy attitude (sorry Luke)--i.e. lack of agression--and obviously an editor who just wants to avoid controversy and push the book out to satisfy Prometheus' release schedule was clearly a disaster. Although you can see their point too. The book business is not like the video business where they release tapes all the time but rather is divided into Spring and Fall release cycles. If they don't make the Spring catalog they have to wait for Fall and this upsets budgeted cash flow, printing schedules, work load, and a whole lot of other things that don't really have anything to do with the quality or content of the book.
Luke seems to be pinning his hopes on a later edition to correct the problems but this may turn out to be a mirage. Doubtless he has discussed this with Prometheus but I suspect that if the first edition doesn't do well there won't be a second despite any promises. Judging from the review in Publisher's Weekly they obviously assigned the book to someone who was somewhat conversant with the industry but I suspect either an industry apologist ("Don't you dare criticize our wonderful industry. If it goes down the tubes, I won't be getting any sex at all.") or a liberated feminist ("Sex is a wonderful thing that the patriarchy has kept women from enjoying for so long."). Either way negative comments by Ford would be treated with the usual "Prove this beyond a shadow of a doubt" attitude. Thus we get a comment like " Even porn devotees will find little of interest, unless the pictures (not seen by PW) prove more alluring than the text,..." Unless nearly everything has been stripped from the drafts I've seen, this is patently untrue. I consider I was reasonably familiar with the porn industry long before Ford appeared on the scene but I found many things in his writings that I didn't know. PW's comment is near impossible to argue with and is the sort of put down designed to denigrate the book without having to actually produce cold hard facts.
Similarly their PC complaints of "...welcome respite from Ford's offensive generalizations about, among others, Jews ("Though only two percent of American population, Jews dominate porn")" tells me that the reviewer has an agenda. Is Ford's comment correct? I think so. So why is it an offensive generalization? Because the reviewer doesn't want the truth known or wants it de-emphasized.
The criticisms of Ford's writing style or lack thereof are however on much more solid ground. Isn't this exactly what the denizens of this NG have been complaining about from the beginning: too much reliance on quotations and too little narrative by Ford himself? Writing a book is a lot more work than just cutting and pasting quotations and unless there have been major changes since the last drafts this seems to be something Ford won't do. OTOH, this is where a good editor comes in and obviously Prometheus were not willing to assign or don't have anyone who falls into that category. Having had some experience with the publishing industry totally independent of my books and Prometheus I can say that Mr. Average simply doesn't understand the process. The editor is not just a grammar- and glorified spell-checker but someone who is an integral part of the creative process. Often the final printed book, even those by world-renowned authors, doesn't look anything like the original manuscript. The result you see in the bookstore is really a combination of the ideas of the writer and the skills of the editor in rewriting, cutting out, and adding whole chunks of text. If I were Prometheus, given the review in PW which unfortunately carries lots of weight among the independents, I'd withdraw the book, get a new editor and plan for a fall release.
August 26, 1999
A reader from San Francisco writes on Amazon.com about Luke's Book: The Publisher's Weekly review says it all: let me add that Luke F-rd's "A History of X" must rank as the most poorly written and worst edited book ever published; I cannot recall ever having read a worse book all the way through (yet I did, in widely spaced sessions, read it all the way through -- I did not abandon it, which is one of two good things I can say about the book).
Aside from the author's lack of coherence and a pitiful grasp of syntax, there are numerous errors (Ford simply can't add; when he mentions the passage of time, it is enough to strain credulity). The errors (I am a professional editor by the way) are SO numerous, I started underlining them after the first two dozen pages to calm my rage. An extremely inept writer, Ford uses liberal doses of quotations that sometimes fill half the page (albeit, in different blocks on the same page) as he seemingly is unable to paraphrase or mold source material into his own voice. Ford will present a quote and not even try to interpret it or question its validity. For instance, he uses a quote saying that John C. "Johnny Wadd" Holmes (whose woebegone life inspired the film BOODIE NIGHTS) was a true bisexual who willingly engaged in homosexual acts in his gay films, a questionable assertion; I have read more than once that Holmes despised being reduced to making gay pornos and had "elevator trouble" on the sets.
Other examples of a questionable use of quotes come in his recap of the career of Russ Meyer, the most respected (by the mainstream; I don't know if that is true with industry insiders) pornographer ever to make a dirty movie. In his discussion of Russ Meyer's BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS on pp. 106-7, Ford writes that critics "disagree" (note that he does not use the past tense) with Meyer's own assessment that B.V.D. is his best film. Yet, Leornard Maltin in his "1996 Movie & Video Guide" gives the film three out of four stars and notes that two "prominent critics" picked the film for their 10 best American films of the 1968-78 decade! In other words, this film (which I first saw in Boston 21 years ago as a midnight cult film that brought great guffaws of appreciation from the audience -- the theater was packed!) IS appreciated by the critics (that was why Ford's use of the present tense is important; I don't know if the film was dismissed critically in 1969, but he's flat wrong to say it currently is disdained; I've read that if Meyer's MUDHONEY, a steamy "Tobacco Road" style story had been shot in French, it would be considered a masterpiece; when discussing Meyer, he never mentions his inspirations such as Erskine Caldwell or the cultural background of Calvinistic guilt that the World War 2 G.I. generation confronted, and which likely was old hat by the explosion of hardcore; no analysis of the generation gap here). Ford backs his dismissal of Meyer's film with a quote calling B.V.D. an "atrocious film". (This is EXTREMELY questionable.) What is not discussed is that BVD was a big money-maker for 20th Century Fox, and its success was instrumental in that studio financing Meyer's filming of Harold Robbins' THE SEVEN MINUTES. In 1969-70, the Hollywood studios were reeling financially and the old guard was in shock, fighting a rearguard action against boards of directors and stockholders reacting to the astronomical success of EASY RIDER, which was made on the cheap as were Russ Meyer's profitable softcore movies, which is the reason why 20th Century Fox turned to him. This pivotal background is not discussed by Ford, who seemingly disdains Meyer. He also uses a quote of Meyer on the same page in which Meyer claims that the softcore pornography game was up for him as soon as hardcore became popular, but the fact is Meyer continued to make profitable films for seven years after DEEP THROAT was a national sensation in 1972. Ford's marshalling of quotes makes for a losing battle.
Ford's sense of style and pacing are atrocious: on that I think critics WILL agree. The poorness of this book may be attributable to the wholesale layoff of copy editors by publishers. On page 29, a paragraph relates, in the words of journalist cum pornographer Mike McGrady, how the spoof NAKED CAME THE STRANGER was conceived in a "gin mill," a memorable phrase of my father's G.I. generation. (The quote, about the alcholic consumption of alcohol by writers in that era, is no way relevant to the story, by the way.) However, the force of this turn of language is dissipated when the term gin mill is repeated in the quote in the next sentence (Ford's quotes do run-on, like my own sentences) and is completely obviated when Ford -- now in his own voice -- uses the same phrase gin mill without any irony or consciousness of style in the very next paragraph -- with only one sentence without the now worn-out phrase intervening between McGrady's voice and his own!
This book is a pure excercise in amateurishness in both style and contruction. There are hardly any transitions between the stories his material relates, and there is a lack of interconnecting material to elucdiate for us why two stories are placed next to each other. A HISTORY OF X seems to be a rough draft which never had seen the hands of an editor of any experience, published with little regard to quality (thus mimicking the very genre it chronicles). Sometimes, the material in adjacent paragraphs is not even related to each other.
Factual errors include attributing the production of BONNIE AND CLYDE to the post-1968 dropping of the ratings code (the film, a nominee for Best Picture of 1967, was shot in 1966 and its success, along with that of WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, was instrumental in dooming the code) [p.31]. We are told that porn actress Kelly Nichols "did three mainstream films in the summer of 1983....A few years later, Nichols was Jessica Lange's stunt double in the remake of KING KONG" [p. 170]. In the planet I inhabit, as do most readers, the remake of KING KONG that introduced the world to Jessica Lange was released in 1976!!!! (Lange had already won the first of her two Oscars by the time KING KONG introduces her to the public on Planet Ford.)
Then, there is his inability to add: 1980 comes 10 years (rather than a decade, which one could allow) after 1969 [p. 30]. After running through a chronology of Linda Lovelace's life (born in 1950) which brings her up to the years 1969-70, two sentences later she moves to Florida and it is 1967 (what did she use; a time machine?) [p. 45]
I will give Ford credit for the chapter about the Mafia's involvement in the porno business; I was not aware of the extent of its control over the industry (a subject skirted by the film BOOGIE NIGHTS). However, I was irritated about Ford's handling of the Supreme Court's 1973 Miller decision, which applied community standards to porno and put the brake on the whole party until the skyrocketing sales of VCRs in the 1980s. While Miller is mentioned frequently, I never felt that Ford truly elucidated the deleterious effects the decision had on the development of the pornographic film industry or on the arts and entertainment industry in the US as a whole. The decision is just not given the WEIGHT it deserves in the text, though I must concede, this may be an honest matter of different interpretations.
My point is, though, there is precious little interpretation or application of authorial skill to the telling of this fascinating story. A HISTORY OF X is slapdash effort that should shame the publishing house, Prometheus Books.
Mike Albo dedicates much space in the October issue of Hustler Erotic Video Guide to my book.
Page 14 is entitled "Ask the Exxxperts." R.K. from Panorama City writes: "Hey, have you smart guys seen the new book from Prometheus Press called A History of X? While I have been a fan of this publishing house for some time - their X-Rated Videotape Star Index is a handy research tool - the publication of this book by Luke F-rd has caused me to rethink my position. This is a poorly written, boring piece of crap that sheds no new light on anything and is relentlessly negative in tone. Worse, there's this strange undercurrent of anti-Semitism that is just appalling. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised. I looked at the photo of the author on the back cover and he looks like a solid flamer..."
Page 20 features "One Extremely f-cked-Up Aussie's Opinion," where the author skips the movies and reviews the women. By Duke Cord:
Since this is the first time I've been allowed to write in a medium outside of the Internet, I thought I might spend a brief moment introducing myself to you. I am an Australian born to a Seventh Day Adventist preacher daddy and his cancer-ridden wife - my mommy - who died when I was five. I have a lot of anger inside of me because of this...to say nothing of the fact that I desperately wanted to break into the world of porn journalism and was shut out by every editor this side of the San Fernando Valley which forced me to go on the attack on my Web Site, dukecord.com. I hate all of you, by the way.
On the positive side, I am obsessed with second-rate radio talk-show host Dennis Prager, who no one but myself recognizes as one of the great Jewish philosophers of out time. My daddy would disagree. I hate him and want to shame him for allowing my mommy to die. My lustful yearnings for Mr. Prager and my hatred for my father inspired me to convert to Judaism, a religion that allows me to wear funny little hats and hobnob with pornographers who, if they aren't Jews, are Italian mafiosi. I hate all of them too. But I digress. Let's move on to the girls, shall we?
Guttermouths 12 was the first movie I examined.Jade is a cute little Asian slut that I have tried to boff on several occasions. Unfortunately, she doesn't seem all that impressed with me. And I even handed her my business card which clearly states that I am "porn's most controversial journalist." She didn't seem to be much impressed with my one appearance in a porn video. F--- her. I hate her. Mikki Taylor isn't much better. Like so many porners, Taylor thinks she's doing the world a favor by f-cking for the cameras. While I jerked myself raw watching her do her schtick (a Yiddish word often used by Jews), I nonetheless couldn't shake the feeling that I had done something wrong. More to the point, I had done something wrong because of her behavior. She'll pay for that, I assure you.
Tabitha Stevens is my kind of girl. She's a whore, of course, who has no hang-ups about spreading her tawny thighs for every Jew porn CEO who antes up her day rate. And she has big teeth. I tried to boff her once and she laughed at me. f-ck her. I have a feeling that her current "boyfriend" is really a shill for the mob. Same goes for Tracy Love. My proof? I don't have any, nor do I need any. While this attitude may seem unethical to many people, I don't really care. I have the right to be satirical, don't I?
Club Godiva was an interesting movie. Interesting because Jerome Tanner is the uncle of Legend CEO Jack Richmond. Need I mention that both are Jews. I thought not. It's funny how so many Christian girls seem so willing to engage in such morally repugnant behavior as long as some Jew is waving a buck in her face. Which is why I'd like the opportunity to sit down with a little cutie like Gina Ryder and discuss the moral imperative to be found in the Book of Leviticus. That goes double for Inari Vachs. Both these girls seem to have a strong predeliction for partners of nonwhite races. Is it the Jew influence at work here, or is it the evil machinations of the Italian mob? I find myself oddly attracted and repelled at the same time. Which brings me to Bonita Saint. What a whore. A lot like my dead mommy who got cancer and left me on my own at an ungodly early age. I've never gotten over her death - or the anger it caeses me to this day. one day, I will get off my soft, lazy ass and write about my feelings in detail. As I've said elsewhere, to live is to die; to love is to die. Die, die, die.
Again, I seem to be slipping from my moorings. Which is why I saved Pussyman's Campus Sluts for last. Director David Christopher, like so many porners, is, of course, a Jew. There is a very Jewish line of thought throughout this video. As we all know, the American college campus is overrun by Jews, who, like their fellow Jews worldwide, are just not content unless they are plooking Christian girls. Thank God for the Sabbath, when we can all reflect on such wordly issues. Taylor St. Claire, Azlea and Charlie are all fine-looking women with whom I'd love to sit down and discuss the ramifications of fornicating for dollars. In fact, I've tried, on several occasions, to do just that, but these bitches just laugh at me. Well, I'll show them. All I have to do is post on my Web Site that they are all part of a West Coast prostitution ring run by members of the Gambino crime syndicate (with cooperation from the Jews). That this might not be 100% true is beside the point. I'll just say that it's satire. You see, I really do try to enlighten and uplight through my wit and amateurish writing style. Hear that, David Aaron Clark? You're no Joe Christ, I'll tell you that.
Unfortunately, my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is starting to act up again and I feel myself getting tired. I need to crawl into bed where I can stare at the poster of Dennis Prager that I have taped to my ceiling and leisurely stroke myself off imagining myself in his tender arms while he whispers passages from the Torah in perfect Hebrew just for me. Dennis, if you are reading this, please know that my love for you knows no limits. Make me your bitch. I need it bad.
And please be advised, that NO PARTS OF THIS ARTICLE MAY BE REPRINTED WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION FROM LFP, INC.
On page 70, Joseph Banks (Mike Albo?) describes my book as one of the worst ever on porno. "It's an awful book. It reads worse than a tenth-grade history paper, complete with a literal definition of the subject at the start of the report. It is long-winded, dull and offers no new insights into the business."
Banks takes me to task for:
1. Defining MIPORN (the 1979 federal crackdown on the porn industry named for "Miami Pornography") twice within five pages. My editor insisted on it.
2. Defining beaver. My editor insisted on it.
3. Defining raincoaters. My editor insisted on it (and numerous other things which drove me crazy and caused me to eventually throw up my hands in disgust and give up on this book).
4. Defining trade publication. Yes, my editor insisted that definition be inserted into my book.
5. Claiming Traci Lords films are easily obtainable in some video stores. LF: Yes, in Europe and many stores in NY.
6. Claiming many porn girls have sex with dogs.
In short, my harshest critics have yet to show substantial factual errors in the body of my book A History of X. Gene Ross quoted Nikki Charm as disputing my assertion that she did porno underage and Ross also showed that I had the page numbers wrong on several of my footnotes.
Thomas Helmer (email@example.com), database editor in Boston, September 8, 1999, An interesting tale the telling of which is hurt by its abysmal editing The book is a fairly interesting overview of the industry, but the book is so badly edited (the writing is pretty bad, too; at times, you feel like you're reading a thesis by a high school sophomore that had been word-processed the night before it was due), I would counsel any interested party to read it at a bricks n' mortar book store. You wouldn't want such a piece of -- ahhh, such a slap-dash production in your own personal library, and you sure as heck aren't going to read this again for its style or wit. You'd probably be better off buying the Meese Commission report on porn; at least that was crafted by the head writer for the CAPTAIN KANGAROO show, who knew something about writing!
On Amazon.com, Michael Woznicki writes: One of society’s most controversial areas of discussion is pornography. Most books written about that industry usually trash the filmmakers, actors and actresses calling them depraved, perverted, and indecent and morally corrupt.
Luke F-rd delves into the industry with a brash, unbiased viewpoint to give you a first hand look at what goes on. Talking about Marilyn Chambers, John Holmes, Traci Lords, Linda Lovelace Ginger and Amber Lynn, Ford shows the behinds the scenes stories of how these people got into the business and what they are doing to promote their work.
Ford, who amazingly enough does not work in the pornography industry, takes an almost unheard of position of impartiality, to show you that everything you have heard may in fact not be the whole truth. Ford’s ability to be objective throughout the book is a refreshing change.
Although this book is graphic in some parts and the details may take you a step back when you read them, the book does give the reader a new insight into the pornography industry. Whether you agree or disagree with what these people do for a living, The History of X may have you thinking a whole new way.
Herman Nietzhe, editor-in-chief of Contact Publications: "As jaded as I am when it comes to pornography in general and the adult movie industry specifically, I found it [my book A History of X] a thoroughly fascinating read."
Here's a review of my book from The Chronicle, Duke University, 1/14/00:
The author is a kind of Arriana Huffington of the adult industry: Despite being despised by most in the business, he runs the most well-known gossip column (at l-keford.com) and seems to know every actor and actress, producer and director working today.
This is his book's greatest strength: Much of it is based on extensive conversations with the individuals involved, giving it an air of authenticity and depth. Ford sticks to the usual historical division, distinguishing betweenthe stag era (1900-1970), the golden years (1970-1980) and the video age (since 1980). Surprisingly, he makes little reference to the new wave of pornographic films that began, around 1990, to invest more money in production and tried to revive some of the narrative quality of the golden years.
Unfortunately, Ford is a rather indifferent writer. The book does not have a coherent argument and reads like a collection of snippets instead of a full history. Ford constantly reveals the obsessions that bother him on his web site - such as Jewish (he is a convert to Judaism) and Mafia involvement in the industry - and gets some of his facts wrong - for instance, Fanny Hill was published in 1749, not 1640.
But most irritatingly, Ford's text is too simplistic and makes many unsubstantiated claims. Central to his story is the assertion that "Porn belongs solely to men masturbating," yet instead of addressing the challenge to this statement by recent feminist pornography, he simply brushes it off as irrelevant and uninteresting. Moves like that keep A History of X at a low level of intellectual engagement - even while the book is fascinating for its glimpses of those involved in the industry.
Sam Gaines writes on Eyemag.com:
Notorious for his kiss-and-tell porno gossip website, Luke F-rd has battled his demons even as he's courted them (and illusions of journalism). His vacillations between his orthodox Judaism (of a sort) and smut scene-hopping are strangely fascinating stuff, and Ford is often as quick to deride his own intentions and actions as anyone else's. For a guy who travels in porno circles, Luke F-rd has few friends in that self-contained industry.
Long anticipated, Ford's book is at once a thoroughly bibliographed history of porno moviemaking (long on footnotes, short on style) and a bizarre collection of snapshots of industry long-timers.
Ford does an excellent job of documenting (via secondary sources, which he marshals ably) the reputed organized crime ties to the porno industry, the drug problems that have plagued porn stars, and the extra-legal kinks that have spawned their own sub-genres of "erotica."
What's missing from A History of X is coherence; Ford bounces back and forth between performer profile and timeline development, rendering narrative flow nearly nonexistent in the process. In other words, what works well on Ford's website makes for a real mess on the printed page.
That said, Ford's history is actually worth the read, if only for the many resources he's gathered together in presenting his case. It's as if the moral train wreck that is the porno industry now has a document as confused as its ethics.
Retired FBI agent Bill Kelly phoned Luke Tuesday with corrections to his book A History of X.
Bill: "You write on page 198 that the California Supreme Court in the Freeman decision effectively legalized the production of hardcore. That's not technically correct. The decision wiped out the ability of the LAPD to charge pornographers as pimps but it had no real legal effect, though a practical effect, on prosecuting these guys for obscenity.
"Also, you talk about postal inspectors, going after child porn, were entrapping some defendants. I think you're talking about the Supreme Court case of that Nebrasks bus driver who got set up by the postal inspectors. I was involved on those cases on the periphery and they did not approach anybody whose name they did not get off the list off known purchasers of child pornography. Those are the ones they directed their pitch to to buy additional child pornography. Legally, that is not entrapment. To entrap somebody, you have to induce them to commit a crime they were not predisposed to commit.
"On page 222, you talk about Harry Mohney entering prison in 1991. It happened exactly on 10/16/92 and I was in the county when they locked him up. They locked him up in Boron, California, out in the desert outside of Bakersfield, in Kern County. I happened to be doing a radio show in Bakersfield that day."
BOOK REVIEW: “A History of X: 100 Years of Sex in Film,” by Luke F-rd
Toward the end of his desultory survey of blue movies past and present, author Luke F-rd informs us, “Porn has never produced either good writing or good journalism.” Ford—as we will soon see—is no exception to the rule, but as the Bob Woodward of the triple-X scene, spreading all the news that isn’t necessarily fit to print (see his website: www.l-keford.com), he certainly knows what he’s talking about. His (admitted) tendency to mix rumor with fact has made him a controversial figure in a community not known for its puritan ethics, but what distinguishes his commentaries is his undisguised loathing for the porn scene: Ford, a convert to Judaism, looks upon the pleasures of the flesh with a moralistic disdain uncommon among insiders.
This is obvious on virtually every page of “A History of X,” which takes us all the way back from the first stag film (in 1896, believe it or not) to the shot-on-tape gonzo productions of the present. Unfortunately, what’s also obvious is the simple fact that Luke F-rd can’t write.
252 pages of stumbling prose and superficial analysis, “The History of X” is shockingly amateurish, to the extent that you have to wonder whether they trouble with nuisances like editing and proofreading over at Prometheus Books. To begin with the basics: Ford regularly unloads grammatical horrors like grizzly when he means grisly, comprised of (always wrong) when he means composed of, who’s when he means whose, continuously when he means continually. He is apparently unaware of the redundancy in sentences like “Anthony [Spinelli] jumped in at the start of the burgeoning porn business” (hint: either start or burgeoning has to go).
These are inexcusable lapses in a professionally published book, but they would be easy to overlook if the prose weren’t so doggedly mechanical. The book reads like a college term paper banged out at 3AM. Ford is nowhere a graceful writer, and when he tries to be witty the result is usually painful, e.g. “In 1969, Naked Came the Stranger exploded like an orgasm to the top of the New York Times bestseller list.”
Cookie-cutter prose aside, “A History of X” is atrociously structured; for all his evident distaste for his subject, Ford doesn’t advance an argument so much as pile digressions on top of digressions. A typical rhetorical tactic is to shoehorn a personality profile in the middle of a discussion of something else. Suddenly the name Linda Lovelace crops up in the text; a few paragraphs later, we get, “Born Linda Boreman in 1950, Lovelace was the daughter of a New York policeman”—and we’re subjected to a blandly written bio for the next few pages. Or we’re reading about ‘50s stripper/stag actress Candi Barr when the author, veering momentarily off the subject, devotes exactly two sentences to refuting some old urban legends: “Barr’s notoriety raises the perennial question of whether such Hollywood stars as Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, or Marilyn Monroe appeared in stag films. Probably not.” Well (says Ford, dusting off his hands), that settles that. This kind of “oh, by the way” analysis is all too common.
Ford not infrequently gets the facts wrong (Spalding Gray becomes “Spaulding Gray”), and he’s especially hopeless with dates, e.g. the Jessica Lange King Kong remake (from 1976) was assuredly not an ‘80s film; director Radley Metzger's first hardcore production was not 1974's The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann (that would be Score, 1972); the various rumors surrounding “snuff” films almost certainly date prior to 1973 (some commentators have traced this lurid myth back to Charlie Manson, whose followers stole TV camera equipment not long before the Tate-LaBianca murders and are alleged to have recorded the killings).
It’s only fair to point out that Ford does a few things reasonably well; for one, he’s properly indignant toward the wild claims advanced by anti-porn activists. The highlight of the book is a well-researched and convincingly argued chapter on the mob’s involvement with the early years of porn—even despite Ford’s tone-deaf prose, this section is mildly compelling. But this only underscores the stolid mediocrity of the book as a whole. “The History of X” is not without value—enterprising porn scholars will be pulling it off the library shelf for years to come—but it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that “X” still awaits a suitable history.
From the March 14, 2002, Chicago Daily Herald:
The book has no pictures. It is 350 pages long, has more than 400 footnotes and an eight-page bibliography. Yet one Elgin resident says it is borderline pornography.
The book in question is titled "A History of X: 100 Years of Sex in Film" by Luke F-rd.
Ronald Milner saw the book, which documents the history of cinematic pornography, one Sunday while browsing through the film reference section at the Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin.
Milner said the book is "appalling" in its description of the subjects of those films. "It's not something I want my 6-year-old or any 6-year-old reading."
Milner stood before the library's board of trustees Tuesday evening and asked that the book either be removed from the shelves or be placed under restriction so young readers would not have access to it.
The board, minus President Joan Berna and Trustee Sandra Wegman who were absent, unanimously rejected both requests.
The demand pitted the 34-year-old Milner against library Trustee Mike "E.C." Alft, a 76-year-old historian who argued over the book's alleged offensiveness and said he had found recent novels more vulgar.
Alft defended the library's selection process, which depends on reviews by standard sources. He also challenged the possibility of censorship. "(The library) provides information for the entire community, even the 'sickies,'" he said.
Under the library's bill of rights, resources are made available to everyone, regardless of age.
"We're not going to have books in a locked case," Alft said. He suggested parents censor their children's books.
Having exhausted the library's three-step process of opposing material through the library, its director, and, lastly, its board, Milner said he now will bring his fight before the city council and rally citizens for support.
Although "A History of X" is standard in local libraries, including those in Arlington Heights and the library at McHenry County College, Milner said Elgin residents should choose whether they want it on their library's shelves.
FROM COUNTERPOISE, Vol. 5, No. 1, January, 2001:
Martha Cornog writes: A History of X is useful and appealing to two sorts of folk: those interested in inside dirt on the porn industry and hang the niceties, and serious researchers of erotica/pornography - but not for the reasons you might expect.
Ford is a journalist interested in porn, and he maintains a website on the industry. His "History" is extensively referenced with books, magazines, newspapers, web sites, and interviews. Unfortunately, it also shares many of the characteristics of bad porn: disjointed, badly edited, jump-cut without coherence, superficial, short on analysis/synthesis, and seemingly lacking any overall point other than simple expose. Some chapters have themes that roughly relate to a time period; others have themes roughly related to a topic. Either way, a topic can appear several times in various chapters without crossreferencing - or necessarily appearing in the brief index.
Don't look for coherence, trends, conclusions or insight. What you get are anecdotes, stories and quotes strung together or juxtaposed sometimes by theme, with occasional hand-waving generalizations such as that cum shots reflect attitudes towards women of hatred and revenge, or that the porn industry's mainstay are secular Jews. Some points such as these are supported by material in the book, but not argued coherently.
Now, why would the book appeal to those two classes of readers? For those seeking "behind the scenes" details on the industry, Ford's anecdotes, stories and quotes tell lively if often depressing tales.
Curiously, because Ford's ultimate point is so opaque, both porn-phobic and porn-friendly readers can see the book as supporting their side.
As for serious researchers of erotica/pornography, well, there just don't seem to be any recent books out there that cover the same ground, even if Ford covers it badly. The bibliography and chapter references, especially, could save researchers a lot of time. Let's hope someone else does pick up on Ford's sources, go beyond his attempt, and make a more substantial history out of it.
Yesportal.com's Lori Selke writes on Amazon.com: The PW review really summed it up -- this book is poorly edited, incoherent, meandering, and filled with shameful generalizations about the nature of men, women, and sex (and Jews, and...). If it weren't about the only book out there that even bothers to attempt to review the history of porn movie making (with most of its focus on the California era of the 70's through the 90's), it would deserve one star -- or less. As it is, its facts are wrong, its gossip misleading, and its author clearly conflicted about his love and loathing of sexually explicit entertainment. But it is an interesting enough read (perhaps in the train wreck sense) that I finished the book. I didn't learn much more than I already knew, however.
The shame of it is, this could have been a really good book, had some editor taken Ford firmly in hand and made him shape his chapters into a coherent form. It's not for nothing that the man has earned fame as a porn industry watcher; Ford has a trashy tabloid style that certainly grabs the attention (and there's nothing wrong with trashy tabloidism in its place!). But instead of guidance, he was handed a book contract and allowed to ramble without rein. The result is sad and unworthy of being clad between two covers. Blog-like ramblings on a website are one thing; I expect more rigorousness from a book I'm supposed to pay for.