From "Neither Adult Nor Entertainment (It Turns Out)," Willem R. deGroot and Matt Rundlet, Premiere magazine, September 1998 issue:
To be fair, some of the nominees' titles really are confusing. Triple Penetration Debutante Sluts 4 is up for Most Outrageous Sex Scene—along with Wild Bananas on Butt Row and 87 and Still Bangin'—but loses out to a scene the program entitles "Anal Food Express" [...] from something called My Girlfriend's Girlfriend. Paul Thomas's Bad Wives wins Best Film. Evil Angel's Buda wins Best Shot-on-Video Feature. Bad Wives also wins Best Actress (Film) for Dyanna Lauren, Best Supporting Actress (Film) for Melissa Hill, and Best Anal Sex Scene (Film) for Lauren and Steven St. Croix. Ms. Stephanie Swift wins Best Actress (Video) and tells the crowd: "Thanks, everybody. My gang bang was a blast."36
36. Though Ms. Swift won for Miscreants, she is here alluding to her and director Rob Black's real breakthrough video in 1987, Gangbang Angels, which is essentially a one-woman show and features the years' most infamous scene: twelve woodmen line up and do an about-face, and S. Swift performs analingus on each one in turn; she then adopts a prayerful/compliant posture as the twelve do a right-face and form a patient line and take turns hawking and spitting in her face.
In addition to Best Actress (Video), Swift took home an award for Female Performer of the Year, perhaps in at least partial recognition of her game, shall one say, participation in the above described film. Well do I, and several other veterans of Premiere magazine, recall the fact-checking sessions for that piece; sitting in the section of our offices that we called "the pod," legal pads in our laps, counting one, two, three, four, yes, all the way up to twelve gobs.
That was several months after the actual awards—we had to wait some time before we had sufficient room to publish the piece—so let me flash back a moment to the actual AVN Awards of late January 1998. The actual author of the piece was, of course, David Foster Wallace, who would publish a somewhat different version of the piece under his original title "Big Red Son" in the collection 'Consider The Lobster' and Other Essays. (One indication of how different is that footnote number 36 in the Premiere version is footnote number 51 in the book version.) On the evening of the awards themselves, our photographer Nathaniel Welch mostly stood in the hallway outside the ballroom of Caesar's Palace, taking portraits of the various award winners; hence, the portrait of Swift with her two statuettes. We had devised a little game, Dave, Nat, our fourth musketeer Evan Wright (future author of Generation Kill and Hella Nation, at the time very unhappily ensconced at Hustler), and myself: throughout the weekend, at the various parties and receptions that surrounded the awards, at least two of us (and I always had to be one of the two) would approach a porn star and begin chatting him or her up. We would drink in their complete indifference and annoyance for a bit (for in addition to being "civilians" and probable "mooks," Dave and myself in particular were pretty poorly dressed), and then at a strategic point I would present the porn person with my business card, which of course had the Premiere logo very prominently placed therein, and have a good interior chortle as the individual's demeanor and approach changed. "Oh, you really should interview me," I recall Jill Kelly saying rather breathlessly, "because this is a very important weekend for me, it's the weekend I'm going to decide if I'm going to stay in the adult industry or not." Indeed.
Now I myself had a little bit of a "thing" for none other than Ms. Swift—considered her "my type," or what you will—so it was a peculiar moment for me when Dave and I chanced to encounter her, along with the aforementioned Ms. Melissa Hill, on the steps of Caesar's after the ceremony had wrapped. How peculiar? Allow me to quote again from the essay: "Because porn films' worlds are so sexualized, with everybody teetering right on the edge of coitus all the time and it taking only the slightest nudge or excuse—a stalled elevator, an unlocked door, a cocked eyebrow, a firm handshake—to send everyone tumbling into a tangled mass of limbs and orifices, there's a bizarre unconscious expectation/dread/hope that this is what might happen right here in Max Hardcore's hotel room. Here your correspondents find it impossible to overestimate that this is a delusion." I remember after the piece came out that some clod or other argued that the whole "expectation/dread/hope" trope was an indication of immaturity on Dave's part. Must be nice to be so advanced; it almost goes without saying, though, that the "grow up, it's just a fantasy" stance tends to ignore the reason the fantasy exists in the first place. In any event. When we spied the object of my whatever the hell it was, Dave and I were saying our good nights; he was suffering from a flu, and really needed to get back to his room and rest; in the meantime, Evan, Nat and I would work reconnaissance by crashing a party thrown by porn star Vince Voyeur. For some reason we had gotten on the subject of music, and he was asking me to outline the differences between Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett edition and Pink Floyd, post-Syd Barrrett edition. And then we saw Swift and Hill—like Swift, Hill was known for being a porn star that didn't look quite like a porn star, and no doubt at least partially due to this affinity, the two, aside from performing with each other on occasion, were known to be personally tight—and Dave was all like, well, here's your big chance. Dryly, that is. He didn't really MEAN it, in case the person who scolded the "expectation/dread/hope" thing is reading this.
So we made our approach, and rather than play any games I had my business card at the ready. For all of their not-looking-like-conventional-porn-stars, the male escorts of Hill and Swift were pretty, well, conventionally mooky—brightly colored satin shirts over tanned and buff physiques, overly moussed post-New-Wave pompadours, the works. One of them grabbed my business card out of my hand as I tremblingly offered it to Ms. Swift, gave it a thorough going over, and announced, "I think this guy's legit. His card is embossed."
And that was pretty much that. Swift went on to work as a "contract girl" for the adult entertainment concern Wicked, which put out far milder products than Gangbang Angels; when that agreement ran out in 2004, she spent a couple of years at a distance from the industry, but made a comeback a few years back doing material that tended to capitalize on the "Cougar" or "MILF" vogue that was sometimes credited with keeping the "legit" adult video business afloat.
"In June of 2009," Swift recounts in a video that was recently posted on the XXX Church website, "I was diagnosed with breast cancer. And I really feel that cancer saved my life." And, yes, as you might have inferred, Swift is now not only a cancer survivor, but a born-again Christian. The story she tells in the brief video will not necessarily be an unfamiliar one; there was, it happens, sexual abuse in her childhood. She is very calm and clear as she discusses how she felt during the creation of what she terms "over 300 movies:" "There was this always...not really nagging, but just like a...uncomfortableness in my stomach." "I always wondered the real reason why I was in the business, and why did I win the awards, and why did I get the recognition...because in the industry...it's not a real accomplishment, I mean it's just a false sense of accomplishment, it just covers up..." And so on.
It is odd, remembering all that, and reading Dave's words, and then watching Swift's largely calm but entirely...rueful recounting of what was her career. I post all this not to be, well, a prig, nor to get all hypocritically "You see! Porn is bad!" buzz-killish, or what have you. I do, on the other hand, believe Swift's words are worth a listen, and that while it is a coincidence that this news is coming out at around the same time as a rather squirm-inducingly-large portion of the pop-culture-consuming populace is having a not-so-good laugh over Charlie Sheen's porn-star "goddesses," it is perhaps a potentially not uninstructive coincidence. If you know what I'm saying. And of course I do, as is often the case, have to wonder what Dave might have made of this.