24 FEBRUARY 2001, Page 56

Growth industry

Petronella Wyatt

While I was in LA recently, I visited a porn set. For work, you in the back row, for work. But the first thing they did when I arrived was to try to send me into make-up and tell me that my first scene was in half an hour.

The set was in a huge house that looked like the backdrop for Carry, On Cleo; there were a lot of sofas shaped like phalluses. 'It's good clean American fun,' said the director. Yeah. right

There are two types of porn: gonzo and features. Features has a storyline. Boy meets girl in a clinic for people with inhibitions and they both help each other overcome their neuroses. Gonzo is different. Gonzo is just continuous sex. In features actors are paid by the hour, in gonzo by the position. Girl-girl is $700 plus $100 for a sex toy. Boy-girl is $900.

I happened to be attending the birth of a feature. The storyline, naturally enough, concerned people with inhibitions who managed to get over them. Porn has an argot all of its own. Occasionally someone calls out, 'He's got wood.' Apparently this means the actor has achieved an erection. In the old days, an actor not achieving an erection was the porn director's biggest nightmare. But Viagra has changed all that. Nick Orleans, who was producing this particular film, said, 'Thank God for Viagra. The only trouble now is that it makes the actors flush and sweat.' Along comes a little woman with a powder-puff just when things are becoming interesting.

There are more jokes on a porn set than in Rory Bremner. I suppose they need something to laugh at. Porn sets are cold and the filming starts hideously early, at eight in the morning. Tor once,' said Nick Orleans, 'the only thing here that's stiff is the acting.' Orleans was a wit. No, genuinely. He made me laugh more than any man I've met in the last 12 months. It was hard to reconcile that with his being a porn director.

All the girls I spoke to described their work as 'exhausting'. Gwen said she did a lot of the less conventional work because she had small breasts. Women with big breasts did the straight boy-girl stuff. Gwen was sweet but a bit pathetic, like a Parisian urchin who had spent much of her life in pissoirs. She was only 22 and was beginning to acquire the papyrus complexion of a 40year-old. These girls don't hold their 'crowns' for long. The porn industry is saturated. There are 100 times more applicants than there are jobs. Gwen is always fighting off competition from Tiffany Minx and Allycia Allure. Where did they find these names? At the AVN Porn Awards Gwen lost out to a girl called Chloe in Anal. Chloe's mother walked out of the auditorium brandishing her daughter's trophies in triumph.

Funnily enough, porn is a big growth industry for the British. I say funnily because English men are supposed to be so bad at sex. But there are now more male porn stars from England than from any other country except the United States. Our hottest export to California is Mark 'the Dong' Davis. Mr Davis is the highestpaid star in the porn industry. When I mentioned his name, Nick Orleans's assistant practically genuflected. 'Jesus, I wish we had him with us today.' Later the head cameraman drew me aside. 'Hey,' he said. 'Do you want his number?' Thanks,' I said politely. He winked, 'Have fun.'

I telephoned Mr Davis to ask him why the English were doing so well in porn. Is it because they needed an audience? Was this another variation on le vice Anglaise? 'Speak for yourself,' he said. 'The men from my background never had any problems.' I think the point here was that Mark is not 'public-school'. The working classes never had any vice except booze. The public school system, in fact, is probably more responsible for failed sex lives than anything in modern history. Never mind. Remember the year when Chariots of Fire picked up the all those Oscars? Mark 'the Dong. Davis gives a whole new meaning to 'The British are coming'.