Because she was married when she entered porn, her performances through age 18 are not considered underage.
"Sharon Mitchell is the adult industry's androgyny queen," says Wally Wharton. "From her calm, cool, legendary vantage point, she bravely champions sexual duality and gay rights in an industry whose audience is essentially male, heterosexual and homophobic."
Mitchell made bi-videos such as Be Careful What You Wish For, which were marketed to both straight and gay markets.
While watching the press screening of Careful, Wally noted the inherent similarities between homosexual and heterosexual expression. "One person sticks a cock or reasonable facsimile into one who enjoys subjugating his or her orifices to the other's more dominant trip. Somewhere along the way one or both have an orgasm." (HEVG)
Sharon's many credits include Barbara Broadcast, DMJ 2 and Night Hunger. She appeared in the latest Dr. Blacklove, the only cast member from the original of 1986.
"In school, I always felt like I didn't fit in. I was bright and ahead of people and always in trouble.
"I've always wanted to be a bad girl," says Sharon. "When I was little, I didn't know whether to be a cheerleader or a hood. So I smoked pot around the corner of the school and wore black lace under my cheerleading outfit. When you're a skinny little girl with big feet and a big nose you want attention.
"I began modeling at age 16. I did some commercials, off-Broadway and soap operas. I am not the type of person to wait around. I want it now."
While attending the Drama School of London in the early '70s, Sharon began working as a dominatrix to make money. "In London you can't get a job without working papers and you can't get papers without a job. There are a lot of people that are corporate demi-gods and rock stars, that need to be s--- on, in their minds. It's a public service."
Back in New York, someone asked her to be in a sex movie. "It was when budgets were quarter to half million dollars, and you had to wait two years for the movie to come out, and you see my pussy appeared sixteen feet high on screen as it should be… People talking to the screen and masturbating… It was a whole big world. I got paid a lot of money to f---. The characters were good and rehearsed for several weeks. I felt like a real actress.
"As an exhibitionist and attention monger, an egotist and an actress, all the madness that I was at that time, it was perfect to be a crazy tornado chick. I was whirlwinding around…
"I'd have bags of dildos and bags of soap opera sides… I would've been up all night on cocaine… Then I'd walk into an audition and unzip the wrong bag and take out a dildo.
"I attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City and New York University Film School, so I've always thought I'd end up directing.
"The first film I directed was Beyond Shame, featuring Seka in her first starring role. That was a $250,000 35mm film. I've gone downhill from there."
For years Mitchell lived on the strip circuit, performing at places like Show World in New York. "They told me it was mandatory to do peep booths. I just wanted to remain Miss Sharon Mitchell. A mystery. I am not a hands on type person. I am not accessible. But it was in the damn contract.
"I'm in this damn booth. The guy is on the phone on one side and I'm on the other. I didn't want to look at him. I'm trying to look like the world's most beautiful woman while sliding my panties down. They were around my ankles.
"And he's saying, 'You're Miss Sharon Mitchell. You think you've seen it all, don't you?' Well, turn around and look at this.'
"I turn around and this guy has a Louisville Slugger baseball bat with the thick end stuck up his ass and the small end against the window facing me and he's leaning into it. I try to open the door and run with my panties around my ankles. I scream 'Security, security. There's a man f---ing a baseball bat in the peep show.' The security guy comes in and says, 'Oh, that's slugger. Don't worry about him, Miss Sharon Mitchell. He comes in here all the time. We throw him out every week.'"
After ingesting enough drugs to kill ten men, Mitch now appears drug free. She's lived in California since 1985.
Sharon used part of her earnings from porn to buy her parents a house.
Mitchell wrote and performed hot sex in The Load Warriors set in the post-apocalyptic future where all is desolation. "Woman rule the realm, and semen is coin... since most men are radioactive." (AVN)
Sharon's stormy relationship with production assistant Tigr Mennett was the subject of the 1986 documentary Kamikaze Hearts. "Alternately distressing, instructive, contestable, and fascinating," writes Johnathan Rosenbaum in the Chicago Reader. "Juliet Bashore's 1986 documentary about a lesbian couple working in the porn industry--a cynical older woman (Sharon "Mitch" Mitchell), who is a seasoned porn star, and her lover (known as Tigr), who is an uneasy newcomer to this world, where drugs play a significant role--offers a disturbing glimpse of the modification of bodies, feelings, and lives. The camera's presence has a shifting role in the film, moving from seemingly impartial witness of certain events to stimulus and catalyst for certain others, and this tends to confuse and change one's relationship to both the film and its characters. Rarely has the alienation implicit in the porn business been so tellingly exposed, but in the process of exposing the film raises a few questions about its own tactics and complicity. And it isn't only porn that gets deconstructed; the central relationship between Mitch and Tigr seems to have been figuratively and literally taken apart."
Kamikaze Hearts, wrote L.A. Weekly, "drags you to a certain place - the world of lesbian-junkie porn stars - and keeps you there for 90 minutes. If you're excited by that place, or even if you find that place disturbing, you'll like this film because it's so relentlessly inside the world of naked bodies, make-believe, addiction, despair, two-bit sleaze and two-bit dreams."
In The Village Voice, Alisa Solomon called Kamikaze Hearts "the most interesting - and disturbing - lesbian picture, there are no taboos to break. Only the camera, with verite charm, trembles during kisses here."
Tigr Mennett aka Chelsea Manchester wrote Kamikaze.
Mitchell introduced Tigr (pronounced Tigger) to intravenous drugs.
Ten minutes from the end, Sharon and Tigr take a shower. "Do you know why I hate you?" asks Tigr. "Because you have this power… And you are a failure though."
Sharon: "I understand that. And when you understand something, it's all right.
"One person is going to get off on this. And that's enough. And more than one person jerks off to me. And I hate that. The Sharon Mitchell they see is not Sharon Mitchell. That's why I am, maybe a failure. But you just say that because you're talking about yourself. I can rationalize my way out of anything.
"I can be a snake. Remember the last time I was in bed with you? I was crawling around and pulsating like a snake. Did you dig that?
"I'm always f---ing acting. That's all I know how to do."
Tigr: "You're an asshole for doing this to me, Mitch. You're doing the same thing to Mantra. You're drawing us into your little game. All you do is perform. You have no real person. I really believed in you once. That you had a seed of power that would change the business. But you're not going to change the business. You're stuck. And you've got me stuck with you and you'll try to get everyone else stuck with you.
"I have to get high again. And say it on film."
Sharon: "This is the truth. You got what you want. You did not have to put it in. You could give it to me. I'll put it in my movie. As I said in the cab scene, there is no legitimate or illegitimate anything. No one dragged you into anything. This [Sharon holds up a needle] was my dick and I f---ed her with my dick. And I waited for this relationship to mature.
"This is a movie within a movie within a movie… This is timeless, just like the woman [Tigr] sitting here freaking out."
Tigr: "I am not freaking out. I just want to put in on film… There is too much dialogue in this…
"It's just the movie business… Something to fit into every hole. I feel like we have totally blown it but we still have another chance to do what we have to do. I wanna make a movie that shows that you don't have to find all these holes and creating holes…"
Sharon: "It's just in out."
Tigr: "I want to learn how to do it. I wanna learn technique, method… I have all this heart and guts but I don't have technique. I didn't used to need to fix all the time. I know that it is wrong but I can't get it together. What are we missing? Why do I have to keep doing this? It's not magic or the Bermuda Triangle. There's nothing left that gets me off. And I don't feel like killing myself either. That's the only thing that still gets me off is that I can still live. I have to find some other way of getting off without being a total junkie."
Kamikaze also starred Jon Martin, Sparky Vasque, Jerry Abrahms as Gerald Greystone, Robert McKenna as Bobby Mac, Jennifer Blowdryer, George Paul Csicsery, David Clark as the make-up man and Mistress Kat aka Kat Sunlove aka Kilgore Rangerette.
"I'm a survivor," says Mitchell. "I've come full circle. I never thought I'd live this long. I wanted to remain that whirlwind tornado chick. I couldn't envision myself becoming 40 in a business obsessed with youth and beauty.
"I set the standard for this business and I feel like it's f---ing itself up... I made lots of money for ten years, then made my career work for another ten years but now I'm
heading in a new direction. I want to get my Ph.D. and help people.
"I am the business. It's in my blood. I found a niche. I'm a talented actress. I ain't talking about dog training. I'm talking Shakespeare and Martha Graham. I chose to be
here [in porn]. There's nothing like knowing that thousands of people are going to be spewing because of you. That was my goal. To help people jerk off and forget their
problems for ten minutes. I rode that for over 20 years. It made me feel like a star, but now I'm over 40 and headed somewhere else... But I can't live without entertaining
"I'm not that beautiful anymore but I will always be 18 year old in that movie Joy. No one can take that away from me. There's nothing like seeing your pussy 16 feet high.
"I've been in jail and I've fought censorship... I've fought for your rights... You better stand up for them too, or you may lose the right to jack off. America's becoming a
police state. It's Big Brother out there." (Smutzine)
Sharon grew bitter through the late '80s and '90s at the small amount of money she made from porn. "I have a right to be resentful. It's not my fault the way things turned
out. I've made people millions of dollars. I want part of that. I've been forced into a nickel-and-dime situation...
"I've been talking to fans for over twenty years but sometimes I feel like I need a crutch... A cigarette or something...
"I've put my time in, but does it mean anything? I want to be validated... I'm so spoiled that I can only do what I want to do..."
Sharon finds it hard to maintain a relationship. "Sooner or later everyone calls you a whore. It's almost impossible to be in a normal relationship. How are you going to
explain to someone that it [porn] is just a job and you're just acting and 'I love you.' People always want to change you."
Mitchell has a low view of many of her peers. "I don't validate 98% of the directors in this industry as any kind of directors at all. They're out for the quick buck. They're insulting the intelligence of the general public… To be part of something for so long and then see it fall on its ass with a bunch of cheapskate cut-throats, it's a drag." (Hollywood Blue)
On March 30, 1996, a man approached Sharon after she'd stripped at a club, asking if she was willing to go further for money. Mitchell said no. He almost killed the porn veteran while trying to rape her. A year later, on Easter Sunday, Sharon hosted a party at her condo in the Valley to celebrate her resurrection. Free Speech Coalition head Jefferey Douglas attended along with ex-porn star Aja and two of her three teenager children.
Sharon's dream project is to make a movie about her life.
"There are lots of people in this business on drugs and alcohol. I want to help them. I want to become a licensed MFCC therapist. I want to get that piece of paper as well as the paper that says I was in nuthouse because of my heroin addiction. I want to go from certifiable to certified."
FEATURE: Porn's 'Very Bad Girl' Makes Good
By Mark Egan
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Sharon Mitchell began her epic porn career when she was 17 because she wanted to be a "very, very bad girl." Now, 2000 movies and 23 years later, she is trying to make a dirty business cleaner and safer.
Porn in the 1990s is a tough business. Actresses sell themselves by the body part, live with the constant threat of disease, often work in a drug-induced haze and spend much of their time stripping to make ends meet.
To make matters worse, porn stars are making less money than they did in the 1970s even though the industry has grown to more than $4 billion a year and is testing the limits of cyberspace, bringing sleaze into more and more American homes.
Back in the 1970s, the average screen siren could earn a cool $30,000 making blue movies, but those glory days, glamorized in the hit film "Boogie Nights," are long gone.
Mitchell, known for the films "Joy" and "Hard Rockin' Babes," now works as a tester for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and a counselor at Protecting Adult Welfare, although she still stars in the occasional movie.
PAW, a Van Nuys, California, group, was set up after the suicide of porn star Savannah, a heroin addict, to offer health services and counseling for adult movie players while lobbying Washington at the same time for the right to free expression.
ATTACKED BY CRAZED FAN
"I was attacked several years ago by a crazy fan who tried to take my life," Mitchell told Reuters in an interview. "He broke my larynx and bit me all over my body. ... We later found out he had killed two other women. I turned my life around at that point ... and Protecting Adult Welfare was there for me."
PAW helped Mitchell kick her heroin habit and go to school to study chemical dependency and child psychology, "which is perfect for the porn business when you think about it."
But Mitchell, 40, fondly recalls her 1970s Boogie Nights. "It sure was a lot more fun in the '70s. You didn't have the diseases hanging over your head, babe. It was a lot of fun and very family oriented, not competitive at all," she said.
"We got paid more and made real movies. We shot for three weeks at a time. I would get paid $1,000 a day, $500 a day if we weren't shooting sex ... you would make a good chunk of change."
But it is not fun anymore. In the 1970s, blue movies were made for theaters and had budgets of $250,000 or more. Now it is all on video tape, spawning thousands of titles, most of them shot for less than $15,000.
That leaves far less cash for the actors, who get paid by the scene. "You get paid by body parts," Mitchell said. "Like if you're doing a butt scene you charge this much for your a------. You sell yourself off by body parts."
How much? An actress can get between $300 and $500 for oral sex. Straight boy-girl sex is worth about $800, a lesbian scene $650. Anal sex brings $950, and you can add another $50 or so for sex with two men at once.
Male actors are paid even less, about $150 a scene.
Mitchell said many porn actresses take drugs while shooting movies to leave them "under enough anesthesia to feel that they are not there. If there's a little haze on everything then emotionally you can separate yourself a little better."
The average porn stars shoots four movies a month. Most careers fizzle in about two years.
A career in porn usually starts with lap dancing in strip clubs, where the highest paid girls are the ones that do it for real on video. In an easy decision driven by the desire for more money in their G-strings, many grasp at fame and fortune by working in low- budget, hard-core, pornographic videos.
Mitchell said PAW helps porn stars who have contracted HIV and those who are beaten by their husbands as well as those who have become destitute. On occasion she has had to admit actresses to psychiatric centers because "they have gone off the deep end with either depression or anxiety."
Part of her job is to advise those contemplating a life of porn. Before she gives young hopefuls a mandatory AIDS test she gives them the skinny on what a life of porn is really about.
"The person that you don't think will see your movie will see it. If you have children and are in a custody battle you will lose your children. You put yourself at risk of diseases such as chlamydia and HIV," she tells them.
"It's a high-risk industry. You think it's glamorous and everyone gets millions of dollars like Jenna Jameson? It's not as glamorous as that and it's not a backdoor into show business."
The upside, Mitchell said, is that a porn actress can build a lucrative career traveling the country's strip clubs. "You can bankroll a lot of money (stripping) on the road and then you can leave, maybe, " she said, but she added that the work is "very, very dangerous psychologically for most people."
A lucky few make millions. Porn queen Julia Ashton owns her own production company. Jenna Jameson stars in big-budget porn flicks. The biggest names are contract players who work for the big-budget porn houses.
They are the exceptions. "They sign a contract to do X amount of movies for us in X amount of time," said one industry executive. "It's similar to the old Hollywood studio system." But there is a big difference: Hollywood stars did not get paid by the sex act performed on screen.
A porn film executive said his company would pay a big name porn star big money to take part in sex with two men at once on screen if it was the first time she had ever done it. "She could get $15, 000 to $20,000 to do that."
Mitchell is quick to dispel any illusions of glamour. "People don't sit around and say 'I'm going to dump all my stock in Coca Cola and buy Xerox today, and then I think I'll make my way over to the porn agency,"' she said. "Working in porn is typically one of the last stops on the food chain."
Here are excerpt's from Sharon Mitchell's Yahoo Chat:
albert_300: About what percentage of actors and actresses in the industry are infected with various STDs, such as herpes, HIV, etc.?
Sharon Mitchell: A very small percentage. Less than 7% HIV, and 12-28% STDs. Herpes is always about 66%. People are medicated with acyclovir for herpes, which is very effective in preventing the herpes outbreaks. Chlamydia and gonorrhea, however, along with hepatitis, seem to stick to everything from dildos to flat surfaces to hands, so, pardon my expression, but we are usually up to our asses in chlamydia.
[Chaim writes: Hepatitis sticks to everything? Does she mean Hep-C? How on earth are they protecting themselves against it? Remember, Hepatitis often has lethal complications. Are the young shiksas who go into this trade warned in advance of the risks involved?]
Court TV Host: Those are all pretty high percentages, though?
Sharon Mitchell: Not when you consider that 700 people per month in the San Fernando Valley are working with each other. Most of these are co-infections. We are a partner notification facility, and all partners are located, detected and treated within one day of the original infected person coming forward. With partners Our statistics indicate that in this business, with first and second generation contact partner tracings, a disease can potentially reach as many as 198 partners in three days. So we have to move very quickly, medicate heavily, and rely on prevention, education and partner counseling. This is what makes Aim Health Care different and special because we're able to do it, and I'm a proud mother.
darsb69: What is your opinion of the quality/content of the movies made today?
Sharon Mitchell: What quality? Quantity? Actually, I don't watch porn. I really never have. However, short of driving a train up someone's anus, I don't know quite how much further it can go.
beachgirl_ca2001: Sharon, was there anything like this for you when you were a porn actress? And if there wasn't, is this why you chose to start this program? Thank you for your time.
Sharon Mitchell: Thank you for asking. No, there wasn't anything like this, and in 1998, there was an HIV outbreak in the industry. I had just finished graduating from the clinician's program in California, and part of me did not want to have anything to do with this industry ever again. I would have been happy to turn on my heels and walk away and work in a chemical dependency unit or an HIV unit, and blame my heroin addiction on the porn industry, but that's not true, and after a long meditation and prayer, I realized that here, at AIM Health Care, can I be of maximum service to God and to the people around me. And here, my life makes sense. The piece of the puzzle of the past fit together here, and I see myself in my chair in my office every day. I see 17- and 18-year-old girls every day who have no idea what they're getting into. I'm able to give them enough prevention education through my experiences and as a clinician, so that they can start their journey in the porn business based on all the truths, rather than all the assumptions. And as a counselor, I never tell people to leave the porn business or to get started in the porn business. Who am I to take the path away from the girl?
bobbyed53: What responsibilities do you feel filmmakers have towards actors regarding drug use, safe sex, etc?
Sharon Mitchell: That's a difficult question. AIM has been difficult to keep going, because the filmmakers feel that they have no responsibility for the health care of the talent. Whether I agree or disagree with that, the fact is, that ain't changing anytime quick. So my best hope is to do hat I have done: start a monitoring system for HIV testing that the industry has been grateful to comply with for 3 and a half years now. When talent gets a job, they cannot work without a negative test from AIM, so when new talent comes here to get their test, I get a chance to give them a tremendous amount of prevention education and information and knowledge of our support groups. And our unique programs, such as the Porn 101 series, which is actors like Nina Hartley, myself, Herschel Savage and Richard Pacheco, giving the benefit of our experience our strengths and our help to new actors getting started in porn. And being a recovering addict, IV drug users are my personal favorite.
Sir_Walter_1967: How do you think the industry is dealing with actors and actresses after they've been infected with AIDS, as far as emotional and financial support and being there for them?
Sharon Mitchell: They're not. If AIM were not in place, they would not have the advantage of early intervention programs, and what little support an HIV positive actor has boils down to working as a salesperson or an editor in these movies, which is better than nothing. However, in my opinion there's just not enough that one could do, considering the amount of economic exploitation these actors have experienced.
bdbwilde: Any chance of forcing filmmakers to take responsibility for health risks through OSHA or similar government agencies?
Sharon Mitchell: I have tried until I am blue in the face. To the best of my knowledge, this will not be happening any time soon. However, if Ashcroft decides to do that, I will be right behind him, tooting my horn.
domn8rx33606: Miss Mitchell, you mentioned you began in the industry underage, just how underage were you?
Sharon Mitchell: I was about 6 months away from 18, 17 and a half.
Court TV Host: Did that ever cause any problems for you or distributors?
Sharon Mitchell: No, honey, this was a long time ago. By the time my first movie was released, I was already 18. We're talking 27 years ago, guys. The only people that would've known were the raincoat guys.