Dick Smothers Jr. Interview

From CNN.com 3/18/03:

LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- They say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, but the eldest son of veteran humorist Dick Smothers of the Smothers Brothers says his life's ambition is to become "the Orson Welles of porn."

Late last year, Dick Smothers Jr., 38, shocked his father by embarking on a career path that so far has included acting in several porn films, developing a Web-based X-rated game show and launching an adult entertainment Web site.

In fact, the younger Smothers, a self-professed exhibitionist who says he has "an incredibly overactive libido," made his porno film debut as the star of an adult movie titled "Bad Influence," playing the Dustin Hoffman-inspired role in an X-rated send-up to "The Graduate."

...Of course, his father, renowned as the bass-playing, straight-laced half of the Smothers Brothers comedy duo, was stunned at first. "I think he told me after the fact," Dick Smothers Sr., 64, recalled in a separate interview. "My first reaction was, 'What name are you going to use?' ... He says he's going to use his name, and I said, 'Wait a minute. That's my name. I had it first.' "

The elder Smothers stressed he does not condone his son's current career path but doesn't condemn him either. He said his son has always been a firebrand and has tried to break into show business for a long time.

Dick Jr., the second of six children and the eldest son from his father's first marriage, even appeared once with his old rock band on a short-lived revival of the Smothers Brothers' TV variety show.

I got an email from Dick Smothers Jr. (born in 1964) Friday morning. It was perfectly spelled and punctuated. Impressed, I asked him for an interview.

We begin our telephone conversation at 8:37 a.m.

Dick: "Am I correct that you don't like people [who do bad things]?"

Luke: "I'm just a reporter, so the bigger the scumbag, the bigger the story. I don't get emotionally involved."

Dick: "Randy Detroit is like a minor-league scumbag. He's not terribly fascinating.

"Back when Randy and Pamela Peaks did their first Pamela Peaks In The Kitchen? cable TV show. Kat Kleavage called me up. She's a friend of mine. She doesn't have a mean bone in her body. Neither does Pamela. She's just stupid.

"I did the show as a favor. They told me it was just going to be on local cable. But then a year later, I got a message from Pam asking for me to sign a release so they could sell it on DVD. There was no way I wanted that out there. I didn't bother to answer the phone call.

"I ran a search on it and sure enough she's selling the thing without a release. I contacted both of them. I said, 'You broke the law. You can settle with me or I will sue you.' Here's Randy's response: 'I'll give you a $100 for your IDs and your release.'

"I emailed back: 'You had your chance. I'll see you in court.'"

Pamela Peaks emails me: "We have the release."

Luke: "So what are you doing these days?"

Dick: "I left penetration performance in porn the day they announced that AIDS broke out [April 2004].

"Because I can act, I will now and then get offered a movie. They'll cast me in the lead and they'll edit in the stunt.

"Obviously the business isn't overflowing with competent actors. It's worth it for them to do this with me. You can't train a seal to fly.

"I've got some job opportunities up here in Northern California. My family's all up here on my mom's side. I've been out of touch with them for a long time."

Luke: "How do you feel about your time doing porn?"

Dick: "I got out of it all that I could've without immersing myself in the culture. From a purely adolescent viewpoint, the bragger's rights will follow me for the rest of my life. When civilians find out what I did, I'm elevated in their eyes to heroic status. That's the best part out of it.

"From the press I got, I was able to parlay it into some other jobs. I was selected to host a pilot that never aired for Howard Stern Productions and Pilgrim Films to do American Chopper and this sci-fi show Ghosthunters."

Luke: "You must've paid a price?"

Dick: "Emotionally it was not the easiest. It was more work than I thought it would be. When suddenly f------ is a job, it's just not fun anymore. And if it's not fun, what good is it?

"I'm not the person who can just lapse into a mindless animal state, which is the space you need to be in for sexual performance on camera. I'm more cerebral than that. After the initial excitement wore off, I found I was becoming distracted. I would find my mind wandering. I'd try to remember if I had set the VCR.

"Unless I liked the girl I was working with and I could tell that she liked me, I didn't want to do it. I was like a punk. They'd be like, 'Do this!' And I'd be like, 'No!'"

Smothers did about 40 hardcore scenes.

Luke: "What did you come to love and hate about the industry?"

Dick: "I loved the acting. Many people made the assumption that I got into the business because I was a failed actor. I'd never acted in my life until I did my first [porn] movie. I knew that I could and I always wanted to.

"Cash Markman handed me the script and I learned it and I went out and did it.

"I like the friends that I made -- Cash, Tony Tedeschi, Nick Manning, Randy Spears, Layla Jade."

Luke: "Do you own an adult website?"

Dick: "No. I don't own any of the titles. If I'm going to earn a living, I'd rather be given a defined task with set hours and a guaranteed pay check every week.

"If I'm going to run an online store, it's going to be for my music, and that's enough of a nightmare."

Luke: "How did your time in Adult affect your dating and love life?"

Dick: "I made a conscious decision when I entered the industry to not date while I was in it. I didn't bother dating any porn girls. I didn't bother asking out civilians. I knew they weren't into it. It was too difficult for them to handle even if they were attracted to me. At some point they are going to think, 'OK, what happens when I introduce him to all my friends? And they ask what he does.'

"I didn't date at all during the two years I was in the business. The only sex I had was on camera aside from a hairdresser. It got lonely."

Luke: "That's a stiff price to pay."

Dick: "It is. Unless you are going to immerse yourself in the culture, but it was not a culture I wanted to be involved in. Swinging etc is not what I'm into. I still have a problem going out with a girl or having emotions for a girl who gets gangbanged for a living.

"If I was going to have sex in a relationship, I would like that to be the one part of my life that is just mine. Something exclusive. If you are going to date someone else in the industry, you aren't going to have exclusive anything.

"When the AIDS things came out a couple of years ago, it prompted me to make a decision that I wanted to make anyway. I was not into it anyways, and then [stuff] like this starts happening, no, I don't think so."

Luke: "What about the prices you've paid since leaving the industry? I imagine that half the female population would not date or marry you because you've done this?"

Dick: "No. Having it in the past is not nearly as unacceptable to them as doing it now. I started dating right away when I got out. I've had a fulfilling dating life. I had one girlfriend for about three months. That ended for issues that had nothing to do with the porn industry."

Luke: "Have you ever been married?"

Dick: "I was married when I was 20. It was, technically, for four years but we were only together for two years."

Luke: "What's the longest time period you've been monogamous for?"

Dick: "Two-and-a-half years."

Luke: "Do you think you are capable of monogamy?"

Dick: "I prefer monogamy. I love having an intimate exclusive relationship but I'm finding that a lot of the girls I'm dating don't want that. That's what usually ends up ending the dating. I don't date more than one girl at a time. It saps my energy. I want to be intimate with somebody.

"The vibe I get from the culture in America is that everybody wants to leave themselves open for something better. I'm not good enough? Fine, keep hunting bitch.

"Any last vestiges of that ego-motivated promiscuity that existed before I got into porn were burned out of my psyche during my time in porn. I came out of it valuing monogamy more than when I went in.

"It's analoguous to people who were beaten by their parents. They either grow up to beat their own kids or they become the best parents in the world.

"The same thing with porn. People either become extremely jaded or refine their values. I'm definitely the latter. The highest, most satisfying sexual expression we have is to do it with someone you love, or, depending on your old lady, with one of her friends now and again. That's never happened to me."

Luke: "Did you learn anything about the media from your time in the media spotlight?"

Dick: "To maximize any heat you generate, a lot of energy has to go into it. I did it all on my own. I didn't have a publicist. It could've been more properly exploited if I had had an organization behind me.

"When it came to getting straight acting gigs, it didn't matter how good my reel was. They were not interested. As far as they were concerned, the [porn] work I had done was not legitimate. They didn't even give me the time of day.

"It wasn't so much that they were hostile against someone who was in porn. They viewed me as having no experience even though I did 40 f------ movies. Sometimes I did 30 pages of script. When we did The New Devil in Miss Jones, I shot for ten days. There was a lot of acting. I've got a great reel. I turned in some really really good dialogue scenes.

"They don't shut anybody out for having done porn but they don't take it seriously. I heard a lot from porn actors, 'They're just jealous.' I bit my lip. I wanted to say, 'No, it's because you act for s---. You don't have what they consider legitimate experience.'

"If you have studied and done some commercials, then they'll take you seriously."

Luke: "Did you exploit your father's good name for nefarious ends?"

Dick: "Hell yeah. I don't consider it nefarious and I don't consider his name that good. Did I exploit his name for my own ends? Absolutely.

"It's about heat. Heat is recognition factor. Brand recognition. It's celebrity. To generate heat, you have to take heat from somewhere else. If you want to start a fire, you can't do it just by thinking about it. There has to be some ignition source.

"I've been a musician for a long time. Primarily I'm a singer. It's a nightmare trying to get musicians together. It's like herding cats. If you can't pay them, forget it. You're lucky if they show up at all.

"I knew that if I was going to take a stab at having a career in entertainment, I was going to have to generate heat. My father and uncle being 30 years past their relevancy [as The Smothers Brothers], even though they are still out there gigging, but as far as being big stuff, it's been a long time. Their heat has diminished greatly over the years.

"For me to light myself on fire for the world to see, I needed to douse myself in gasoline. Dick Smothers Jr going out and releasing a CD of his music is not news.

"The closest you can get to breaking the law in the eyes of the public, without actually breaking the law, is to do porn.

"Since I knew people in the business going back 17 years... I got into the business because I was dating Mia Powers, who's long been out of the business and is still a good friend of mine in her civilian life. I had a relationship with Jeanna Fine when she was out of the business.

"I was almost 40 years old when I got into porn. There was nothing to ruin. I was working as a manufacturer's account representative for six years. I lost my job for the worst reason possible. I let my employers know that I caught them doing something unethical. They fired me.

"I said, 'I want to take a stab at something. I want to feel more in control of my own destiny.'"

Luke: "How did this affect your relationship with your father?"

Dick: "Not a bit.

"He was a little worried at first but then they saw that the media was coming to them.

"The only time it affected it was when we did Inside Edition. He kinda lost it.

"They asked me what it was like growing up having a celebrity for a father. I was honest. Celebrities will have people who work for them who become territorial and jealous towards the entertainer's family. I've talked to other people who experienced the same thing.

"It's humiliating when you visit the house you grew up in and some woman is following you around like you are going to steal the silverware.

"My dad said, 'That's because you stole that case of wine when you were 14.'

"I said, 'You're pulling the gloves off? OK. Let's get real, people.' I responded with a litany of things that I had done bad.

"How about you?

"My dad is not topical being off-script. He had what he thought were prepared responses to obvious questions and I took him out of his comfort zone. He was florid. The veins were standing out. He was screaming.

"Aside from that, it didn't affect our relationship. We've never been the closest family."

Luke: "Any similarity in the feedback you've received from others over the course of your life?"

Dick: "A friend of mine for 23 years told me the other night, 'You have always been consistent. It's always been easy being your friend. You've always been the same person. You never went off on kicks. It wasn't like you suddenly found Jesus. You never pulled any weird s--- on me.'

"People who knew me when I was younger, and then I ran into them after I did [porn], they said it didn't surprise them."

Luke: "You've described yourself as an exhibitionist."

Dick: "Not a pathological exhibitionist. I'm not one of those people who always has to have everybody's attention wherever he goes. But I like having attention. I like performing. I was asked, 'Do you like going to nightclubs?' 'Yes. If it is crowded, I'm o the stage and everyone is paying to see me.'

"I don't like being part of the crowd. I like being separated, whether that is being elevated above them and having their attention or being isolated from them... I'm not a super-social person. That whole Spring Break mob mentality has always pissed me off. If I have a girlfriend, I like going out and doing things. But by myself? No.

"I love to perform. I love to create and project a persona. David Bowie is my one idol. That's what he was all about. When he's a character, he doesn't try to pass that off as who he really is. I can't stand the whole celebrity vibe where I am always a star. No, you are not. You get the runs like everybody else. You get halitosis like everybody else.

"A friend has a good line for these guys, 'Save it for the stage, asshole!' That's my philosophy.

"Being on stage or on screen is a great feeling. Having that kind of attention is a nice feeling. Fortunately it is not one that I am addicted to or have to have all the time."

Luke: "When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?"

Dick: "A paleontologist. I love dinosaurs. Then I found out that paleontologists just dig up bones and realized it was boring. I like dinosaurs with the flesh on them. I wanted to be a sea biologist for a little bit because I had this fantasy that I was going to discover a sea monster.

"I collect comic books. I read science fiction. If you looked at my interests on paper, you'd think you were looking at a guy who played Dungeons and Dragons.

"Once I picked up an instrument when I was 14, from then on, that's what I wanted to be. From before then, as soon as I discovered KISS. I wanted to be a rock star."

Luke: "What did you love and hate about your upbringing?"

Dick: "I love that I got to experience things that other kids didn't. If it was Christmas and my father and uncle were performing at Harrah's Tahoe, we'd spend Christmas with them. The tab was picked up. We got picked up at the airport in a limousine. We stayed in a suite that was three stories high. There was a 20-foot Christmas tree. There was a cook and a maid. All this stuff we didn't have at home. I grew up in normal middle-class surroundings in Santa Cruz. We didn't have maids. I had to do chores. I got $5 a week allowance.

"In one sense, I liked that my dad was adventurous. He bought this converted trawler, 67-feet long, and he thought he was Jacques Cousteau and that we were going to sail around the world.

"My father was impulsive. This is what we're doing. No advance notice. No discussion. We just find out that we're going to be sailing around the world. We were scared. I didn't want that. I was eight years old.

"My dad found some beds he thought were cool. If he liked something, he'd think you'd like it. He thought he was doing something cool for me and my brother. We came home and found out our beds were gone and they were replaced by these bunk beds made out of dinghies.

"Dad's like, 'Isn't it great?' We said no. His feelings were hurt.

"My dad was the only celebrity in Santa Cruz. Everybody knew who I was. Other kids are prejudiced. They think they know who you are -- you're spoiled, you've got everything you want, you think you're better than everybody else.

"The reality was that I did more chores than most kids I knew. My mother was much stricter... They had freedoms I did not have. I had the worst of both worlds for a bit. I did the time without enjoying the crime. I was never bought a new car. My brother (18-months younger) and I shared a car. My dad bought us a used Volvo station wagon. We almost killed each other. Two teenage having to share a car. We lived outside of town. We couldn't take buses down into town. We couldn't ride bicycles down into town. If we were to get where the women were, it was the car.

"It was almost like Greek myth. 'Here you go, work it out.'

"I wish that I would've grown up in LA and I'd been around my own kind, other kids who dealt with some of the same issues that I had. I would've been part of the entertainment industry culture rather than have been isolated from it. I would've been part of the industry. I would've worked in the industry.

"My father only worked in the industry. He showed up like a guy to a 9-5 job. Aside from that, he didn't have anything to do with it.

"I was clueless about the industry. I grew up in Santa Cruz, which was hippies, lesbians and surfers. When I wanted to be in the industry, I didn't know anybody. There was no red carpet waiting for me. 'Oh yes, we've been waiting for you, oh son of Dick Smothers. You have returned.'

"No, it was, 'Yes? Who are you? What do you want? What do you have for me? Nothing? Well, nice talking to you.'

"I'm grateful that I know what it is like to be a normal person. I know what a normal person's life is. I've had to live that life. I didn't have an example of how to live that life. My example was a guy who told jokes for a living, did TV shows, screwed girls and all kinds of fun stuff. I thought that would be my life."

Luke: "How do you think your father's promiscuity affected you?"

Dick: "He and my mom would get together and break up, get together and break up. It was like a yo yo. They were divorced and married to each other twice. We lived together as a family, and then apart, so many times. I saw how it affected my mother emotionally. You're a kid. All you know is that your mom's mad. I had anger towards my father for that.

"Since then, I've made an effort to understand my father. He was only 20-years old when his ship came in. When that happens, you don't have a lot of incentive to grow up. You can be impetuous. You can act on whims. There are people around you who are more than delighted to enable you.

"If it was me, I don't know what I would've done. I would've been off the hook. I would've been f------ everything that moved.

"My father wasn't promiscuous as much as in love with romance. He didn't just bang chick after chick. He'd see a woman that he liked and he'd wine her and dine her and be very romantic. Then, when they'd want too much of him, he'd cut them off and find another one.

"Wife and family was a comfort zone that he would return to when he felt he needed to. It wasn't a place that he made the focus of his life. When things were tough and the world was getting to him, he had his family to come to. When things were going good, he was off doing his own thing.

"I've seen a lot of growth in him over the past ten years. He's tried to be more of what he thinks a good man is. It's made it easier for us to get along.

"My personal issues were different from his. When I was in my early 20s, they were identical. My wife left me because I was screwing hookers."

Luke: "Why were you screwing hookers? Because you could?"

Dick: "Excitement. I was a kid. When things started feeling old, they just weren't fun anymore.

"The way we got married was different. We didn't have an engagement and send out invitations. We were drunk and in Las Vegas. I was 20. She was 19. We'd been having great sex for four weeks. She's like, 'Let's blow everybody's mind and get married.'

"We wound up falling in love and staying together [for two years], but still, she was more mature than I was. I lived with my mom when I married her.

"Because I was a jerk in my marriage, I wasn't holding up my end. My wife was stripping. I was managing an apartment we lived in in San Francisco. It entailed vacuuming the hallways once a week and rotating the cans underneath the garbage shoot.

"She busts her ass wearing high heels and make-up all day with these creepy guys drooling all over her, and when she gets home, the place is a mess and I'm lying there watching TV.

"She became an authoritarian figure to me, which contributed to me not being attracted. I turned her into that. I wasn't like that before. She was wild about me. She was very sexy. I was dumb s---. She was hot. She was a great woman. I just wasn't turned on by her anymore.

"My mom died the same week my wife left me [in 1986]. I don't have a religious upbringing, but I felt, 'Dude, somebody up there is really angry at you.'

"My wife wasn't some awful woman who found another man. I drove her away.

"As far as my mom goes, that wasn't my fault. She got run over by a car."

Luke: "In some ways, you were trying to recreate your dad's life."

Dick: "Yes. I wanted to be like my dad. I wanted to be a bigshot who did whatever he wanted and had money and had fun. He had fun. He was wined and dined and he bought cars and went skiing in Switzerland. The thing that sucked about it is that we weren't really in on it.

"I've never been to Europe. We went to Mexico. I haven't even been to Canada. I had friends whose dads weren't celebrities and they went on vacations [overseas]. My dad was more like, 'This is mine, man. You've got a house and s--- that I paid for. Leave me alone.'

"Who wouldn't want to be like my dad? He raced cars. He had his own TV show. My dad was cool."

Luke: "But you didn't seem to internalize the lesson of how much devastation he wrought with his promiscuity."

Dick: "I wouldn't say 'wreaking devastation.' It was more the damage he caused by being self-absorbed. He wanted to run on his own schedule and his own whim.

"I didn't get that [lesson about promiscuity] at all, only in so far as it directly affected myself. It was more like, I want to have that kind of fun. I want to be the guy that does that. I don't want to be the one who gets left at home.

"I was completely disconnected. Intellectually, I could've recognized that, but as far as internalizing it, no I didn't.

"The process began when my wife left me and my mom died."

Luke: "Do you think you can be sexually promiscuous and not wreak havoc on other people's lives?"

Dick: "I don't think so because there are always emotions connected to it. Even if you are just dating somebody, you are being intimate. Part of you has to be either in denial or messed up to be able to have sex and to have it mean nothing.

"I can't just date. If I don't like somebody enough to have an exclusive relationship, then I just won't have anything to do with them. I know other people for whom this seems to be easy but somebody has to be getting hurt somewhere. Even if you are not making promises. Even if you are being straight forward and saying, 'Look, I am just f------ you.'

"You're dead right."

Luke: "How many women have you slept with in your life?"

Dick: "I started having sex when I had just turned 13. A couple hundred."

Luke: "How do you think that has affected your soul?"

Dick: "I don't think it has affected my soul. The path of excess can lead to the palace of wisdom. My experiences have led me to be more true to who he is. I have an enormous amount of integrity now and I don't violate it. I will not manipulate emotionally. I will not go after something just because it is something I want if it could hurt someone else.

"To get those things out of my system... Those things we do because of insecurity or ego. I don't feel the need to impress anybody. Any time anyone tries to one-up me, I can go, 'Dude, I used to ---- girls for a living.' If we're going to butt heads like that, I'm armed to the teeth.

"I was able to get all that ego crap out of my system. I have no insecurities about my abilities as a man and my value as a lover.

"My main issues revolve around being able to go out there and make a living as normal people do. I dropped out of highschool. I was a musician. The only training I've had is as a singer.

"I have friends who own houses and businesses. I'm still working it out."

Burt Kearns writes me: "Dick Smothers Jr made his debut in "My First Time," the softcore series we did for Showtime."