Jessica's Reviews > The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry

The Other Hollywood by Legs McNeil
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's review
Apr 26, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: california-über-alles, here-is-new-york, groups-of-people, crazy-ladies, love-and-other-indoor-sports, wish-i-owned, kind-of-depressing, chicklits, substance-related-disorders
Recommended to Jessica by: sister rachel
Recommended for: not readers faint of heart or with delicate sensibilities; "at-risk" fifth graders

If for some reason you need additional evidence that punk scenesters are relatively boring, this book is it! The Other Hollywood is infinitely better than Please Kill Me (which, by the way, I also really liked), and I cannot fathom why it's not more widely read. You don't need to find porn especially interesting to love this, though an appetite for sleaze is probably mandatory. The Other Hollywood is kind of more disgusting than that rat book I just read, but it achieves the transcendence I complained was missing from Rats, then just keeps going.... and going.... and going....

I spent my overcast, drizzly Independence Day this year lying around my sister's West Philly apartment, having at this thing with wild abandon. I was seriously crying out every few pages, shouting and carrying on a bit ridiculously. It's one of those special books that takes over everything else and shoves you into this alternate world of people with values and lives completely different from what you know, so that for 24-48 hours, your perception and world view are totally altered, and all you can think about is porn.

In other words, it was great!

Of course, despite having had the ride of my life, I'm not without a few criticisms and complaints:

#1. I don't think this book even once mentioned the issue of race in porn, an omission I find throughly inexcusable. Would it have killed them to interview Mr. Marcus and a couple other important non-white porn people?? I understand this thing was growing a bit long to take, but they could've sliced out the completely gratuitous chapter on John Wayne Bobbit. I mean, who wants to read about that crap, and what did it really have to do with the history of porn? Stupid. I would've definitely cut that....

#2. Needed more pictures. I was dying to know what all these people looked like, and what was there was good, but I really, really, really wanted more. More!

#3. Needed an Appendix with a cast of characters. There were so many people involved that I couldn't keep track of them all! At times this started to seem like one huge, confusing gangbang. It would've been helpful to have a list in the back reminding me who they all were, since at times they blurred together and it could get tough to keep them all straight.

Mostly, though, this was just fantastic. I mean, I totally loved it. My experience of reading this was very similar to the one that I had with Please Kill Me: all-absorbing and thoroughly addictive. I was basically incapacitated and couldn't do or think about anything else until I finally finished. And some of the stuff in here seriously blew my mind! I appreciate that. Sometimes I feel jaded and over it, like nothing can shock or appall me anymore, and now I'm just numb to human depravity. But clearly, I'm not! In fact, I'm embarrassingly naive. There's a lot of stuff going on out there that's so crazy and fucked-up I never could have thought of it, and there're people running around making decisions and living lives based on logic that is just totally alien and incomprehensible, and you know, somehow that makes me feel so happy and relieved.

Not all of this was shocking new information, even for a relatively porn-inexperienced reader like me. Still, it never helps to have certain bits of wisdom reaffirmed, such as:

* Freebasing is bad.
* Silicone implants -- especially involuntary, third-party funded, illegal silicone implants -- are gross (I've chosen not to quote the most disturbing passage in the book, which covers this topic).
* Drugs are really dangerous.
* Dealing with the Mafia has its downsides.
* Ditto pissing off the Feds.
* Everything Annie Sprinkle says is always so sweet that I just want to cry, and I wish she were my aunt or my Girl Scout troop leader or something. Seriously, I bet she knows how to cure a really vicious UTI like nobody's business! I just think my life would be so much better if Annie would hang out with me once in awhile, and give me matronly advice about my problems. If she or Sharon Mitchell ever need a social worker for anything they're doing, I hope someone somewhere will give them my card. I love these ladies!
* Becoming a porn star is not always the safest way to deal with a terrible childhood, low self-esteem, mental health problems, and a desperate and unquenchable thirst for attention (although hey, it does work for some people).
* Bottom feeders and sleazebags are everywhere, but you find an extra lot of them on the bottom, among the sleaze.
* Film is better than video.
* Powder is safer than smoking.
* This version of Traci Lords's career is a nice complement to Underneath it All, Lords's own rather tepid and dubious account. I wish Traci would've womanned up and talked directly to McNeil, instead of just having them reprint crap from that book that she obviously didn't even write herself. This book did such a great job of capturing people's voices! The wooden, ghost-written tone there was a real boner-killer.
* If you are John Holmes, you can be the worst crackhead ever and get a whole lot of people brutally murdered, and still manage to maintain a certain amount of grudging respect among peers.... but if you're a very young, horrifically screwed-up blonde girl like Lords or Savannah, no one will ever forgive you for being a stuck-up bitch and will make candid comments about how much you sucked, even after you die. Makes ya think, huh?

I could go on, but what's the point? You're either the kind of person who'd enjoy something like this, or you're not. If you think an oral history of porn is something you might be into, you should seriously drop everything that's going on in your life right now, stock the fridge, draw the shades, and hop into bed with this thrillingly long (though not oversized) bad boy. I had lots of fun with it, and I bet you will, too!


Tim Connelly: I was hanging out at the Melody, watching Helen Madigan strip, and I went into the bathroom to take a piss, and I hear this porn actress I know in the next stall selling a vial of urine to a guy.

He's going to pay a hundred dollars for this vial, but only if she can pee in it while he watches.

I just thought, "I love my life! I love my fucking life!"

Another sample:

Sharon Mitchell [aka, Jessica's new favorite celebrity ex-junkie]: I had been working steadily. Gloria Leonard was editing High Society, and I was working there during the day and babysitting for her at night. I was doing a couple Off-Broadway plays, and I was in a rock and roll band. You know, we'd do these a capella versions of "Peter Gunn" and we'd all dye our hair flamingo pink and drive motorcycles around the Mudd Club and then scale the side of the building. Just some fun shit. It was great to be young and alive and creative. It was a great life. That was when I started getting into drugs.

wait! wait! One more!

Sharon Mitchell [yeah, again]: I could go anywhere I wanted; I could do anything I wanted. I didn't wear fucking clothes -- I wore maybe a G-string and a mink coat. I had a lot of money. It was great then -- just great! Coke really helped because I was afraid I was going to miss something. I was really enjoying life so much. Coke really helped me stay up for quite a few years.

Then I started shooting it. And that was fabulous!

This book contains such remarkably clear-eyed, non-judgmental, unglamorous, dead-on accurate descriptions of the horror that is serious drug addiction, that I'm for a federal program to distribute copies in schools, to prevent substance abuse in the youth of tomorrow! Seriously, I bet it'd work. Good for the abstinence-only crowd, too.... I'm personally never having sex or doing drugs after reading this stuff. The Other Hollywood should be on public school reading lists all over the country, to ensure moral standards in our nation's children! C'mon Sarah.... pilot in Gresham?
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
April 26, 2008 – Shelved
April 26, 2008 – Shelved as: california-über-alles
July 4, 2008 – Shelved as: here-is-new-york
July 4, 2008 – Shelved as: groups-of-people
July 4, 2008 – Shelved as: crazy-ladies
July 4, 2008 – Shelved as: love-and-other-indoor-sports
July 4, 2008 – Shelved as: wish-i-owned
July 5, 2008 – Shelved as: kind-of-depressing
July 5, 2008 – Shelved as: chicklits
February 27, 2009 – Shelved as: substance-related-disorders

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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Jessica Dawn Schiller: After they arrested John, they drove me back to Louise's house -- the stripper -- and I stayed there until I heard from my father. He called after he opened the paper and read, "John Holmes was arrested in Miami Beach."

He called and asked, "Where are you?"

I told him where I was, and he came and picked me up and took me back to his place -- he had a nice house in Pompano with a pool.

My dad just cracked open a beer, and we sat down, and I told him my long, emotional story. He would just sit there and nod, and every once in a while he'd reach into his pocket and break a Quaalude in half, and just hand me one, and open me another beer.

WHen I was done with the story, I got the spins, and I'm like, "Dad, I have to puke."

He says, "It's all right, babe." He walked me down the hall to the bathroom, and he held my hair while I just heaved my guts up.

It was like the nicest thing my dad ever did for me -- holding my hair while I puked.

message 2: by Dan (new)

Dan I want a name like Legs McNeil

message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Maybe someday I'll have the courage to discuss my past in the porn industry. (I had to lint-roll all the microsuede surfaces after Ron Jeremy did a sex scene.)

By the way, I just remembered a childhood grudge... against Cinemax, which never showed any yoohoos in their "late night" features. My father wasn't paying good money so that I could watch two people mime sex like a soft-core Shields and Yarnell. I was twenty-six before I learned that female naughty bits looked a little like the mouth of the Space Guild Navigator in Lynch's Dune. Thanks for nothing, Cinemax!

(Oh, yeah. Outstanding review, DFJ.)

message 4: by Jason (new)

Jason No wonder I found Dune so damned intriguing. I thought it was the delightfully-grotesque clan Harkonnen, but--good ol' reliably-attentive unconscious!--it was female naughty bits. (I used to randomly shout "I will kill him!" at parties, so maybe Sting was at least partly to blame.) And a Shields & Yarnell reference to boot! Damn, David, nice. Could you squeeze in Pink Lady & Jeff?

But you were prompted to such dizzying commentary heights by yet another great Jessica review. Annie Sprinkle is amazing. I had the great good fortune to see her give a talk at USC, for a "panel" of sorts on sexuality, representation, and feminism. The first presenter was an advisor/friend of mine--as this friend put it, the most unsexy pairing she'd ever suffered. And the evening got off to a great start when Annie hugged my friend, flustering him, subsequent to which he dropped his talk which was of course on unnumbered pages. His talk was surely smart, but when Annie stood she casually but sweetly undercut him ("That sure sounded smart!") then launched into an explicit anecdote about this huge cock she once had to deal with, and she closed her talk--my friend hung his head in shame--by pulling her top down and getting her breasts to rotate in different directions. Her performance has informed my pedagogy ever since.

Her talk was, by the by, smart and funny--she made an excellent case against misogyny and racism in mainstream porn which nonetheless celebrated a more open, feminist porn which could do even more to break down such misogyny and racism. And she generously and enthusiastically answered questions for, it seemed, hours.

I gotta read this.

RandomAnthony I really liked "Please Kill Me"...didn't know there was another one out there like it...good tip, thanks.

Lesley Um, I believe that's Dr. Sharon Mitchell to you.

Charlie I think you mean Dr. Annie Sprinkle.

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