EDITOR’S NOTE: Today, I’ve been feeling under the weather. So in lieu of content, here’s an interview I conducted back in 1999 with porn star Stacy Valentine, back in the days when I was allowed to write more or less full-time.
She talks with the remnants of an Oklahoman drawl, relaying conversational anecdotes in that curious Californian way (“he goes, she’s like”). She’s candid about her former life as a porn star, a career she has recently departed from to form her own clothing line, but she still questions her future.
She is Stacy Valentine or Stacy Baker, depending upon your point of view, and the subject of a new documentary entitled The Girl Next Door from filmmaker Christine Fugate (The Tobacco Wars).
Fugate followed Valentine for two years, chronicling her ascent from housewife to porn star. Ushered into the adult film business by an abusive husband, the documentary portrays how Valentine got there. Valentine is seen sweeping up ants that have populated the area that she’s expected to perform in, finding solace in her three cats, and, in one particularly gruesome moment, under the liposuction knife to maintain the rigid physical demands of the job.
I caught up with Valentine while she was doing publicity for the film in San Francisco.
CHAMPION: How are the cats doing?
VALENTINE: Oh, they’re great. George, Gracie, and Beavis are doing fine. My petsitter comes in and plays with them twice a day.
CHAMPION: I actually learned this morning that you had left the adult film industry in February and that you’ve just started a clothing line. How did you come at that decision?
VALENTINE: I’d been in the business for four years. I’m 29. I’ll be 30 in August. And it’s a young girl’s game. And I’ve done everything. I climbed that ladder and I got to the top. And when you’re at the top of that platform, you look around and there’s nowhere else to step but down. And I wasn’t interested in doing that. So I thought, “I think I’ll pull a Seinfield and say thank you and good night,” and go out on time. Because I was fortunate enough to get a contract and receive an award and the recognition and all that. And it was an amazing feeling being on top. So I just felt that it was time to step aside and let someone else take that spot. Because it’s amazing that I had it. And there’s no need to be greedy. And I want someone else to feel that way. Because it’s a great feeling.
CHAMPION: Did your involvement with The Girl Next Door have anything to do with your decision?
VALENTINE: It had a little to do with my decision and learning a lot about myself. And becoming happy with who I am, and realizing that there’s more to life — I mean, I always knew that there was more to life than just porn. But I just got really comfortable. I started to like myself. Because I watched the documentary and I’m like, “Oh! I guess I am a nice person with the competition and everything.” My makeup artist is one of my really good friends and she would always tell me, “Oh, I heard this about you today. I heard that. I heard someone saying it.” God, you know, I’m not. People say that I’m difficult and that I’m a prima donna and that I’m this and I’m that. I mean, I don’t even know who these people are. They’ve never been on the set with me. And I just thought, “You know what? Screw that.”
CHAMPION: How did you feel about having cameras on you for two years?
VALENTINE: Actually, I was already trained to ignore the camera. So that wasn’t much of a problem. And with Christine, the filmmaker, I felt such a bond and a closeness to her. When she would come over, she’d set the tripod up and set the camera on it and hit record. And she’d sit down and she’d go, “So what did you do this weekend?” And it was just like I was talking to your friend. I’d be like, “Well, you’ll never believe what happened to me on Saturday.”
CHAMPION: Sort of like a journal.
VALENTINE: Yeah. And I would just start gossiping with a girlfriend. And she was very — you know, she wasn’t like always in my face with the camera. She would stay in her spot and just observe and let everything happen. And she was able to get the footage that she did because it was just her and her camera. She didn’t really have lighting and sound and a crew with her. And so people forgot about it and just kind of dismissed it. And Christine refers to herself. People just thought that she was just a chick with a camera. And didn’t pay any attention and didn’t think when we’d say, “We’re doing a documentary,” they’d be like, “Oh. Okay. Whatever.” Because that’s how I accepted when my manager at the time, Jack Gallagher, introduced me to Christine, she started telling me what she was going to do and I was kind of like, “Uh huh. Uh huh.” She said, “If I end up following you for a year, I’ll be in every aspect of your life,” I was like, “Oh. Okay.” She just kind of looked at me like, “You know, I’ll be with you for a whole year. Always in your life.” I said, “Oh. Okay. Whatever.” And she kept giving me this insane look. But on an adult set, there are always camera crews on a set saying, “I’m doing a documentary for Europe.”
CHAMPION: Oh really?
VALENTINE: There’s always a camera crew there doing a documentary. So people after a while…
CHAMPION: Everyone’s doing a documentary.
VALENTINE: Yeah. So I thought, “Okay, this chick — this woman’s going to try to follow me around for about a month, lose interest, and that will be it.” And it ended up being way more than a year. Things just kept going. My career just kept going. And she’s like, “Ah! I can’t stop shooting now.” So it was over two years. And finally it was like, “I can’t stop shooting now, but I have to. I have to stop. Because I just keep filming.” And there are still so many times when she’s like, “Oh God. I wish I had a camera. I wish I was still filming this.” Because there’s still so many things that have happened since then.
CHAMPION: There could always be a Girl Next Door 2.
VALENTINE: That’s true. We’re meeting with HBO in a couple of weeks.
CHAMPION: Oh really? You’re still in touch with Christine?
VALENTINE: Oh, we talk daily. I’m so trained that anytime anything happens, I’m like picking up the phone, jotting her number. “You won’t believe what happened to me.” And she’s like, “Oh really?” (laughs) So that’s how it all came about. And when I was saying, “Okay!” she’s like, “Okay. Before you actually accept, I would like you to come and see a documentary that I’ve already done.”
CHAMPION: The Tobacco Wars?
VALENTINE: No, mothers and daughters. It was about mothers and daughters. It was called Mother Love. And it followed four different groups of mothers and daughters. Have you seen the documentary — my documentary — yet?
CHAMPION: Yeah, I have.
VALENTINE: Oh, okay. Well, I’m a mommy’s girl. And so I’m watching this and it brought out so many emotions. And I went on such a roller coaster ride. And I felt that it brought about so many emotions. And when the documentary was over, I was like crying and I called my mom, telling her I missed her and I loved her. And she was like, “Okay, is something wrong?” And I was like, “No. I just saw a documentary that was on mothers and daughters.” And she was like, “Oh. Well, I love you too. Are you sure you’re not drunk?” I’m like, “No!” (laughs) And I got off the phone with my mom and I turned to Christine and I said, “Let’s do this.” Because I immediately — I took it. I just dismissed it in the beginning as, “Oh, whatever,” to, once I saw it, realizing that she was for real. There was really a documentary. She really did want to. Because the other people, who knows? They could just be walking around with a camera. Any old schmoe can do that. But it was for real and the way she was able to capture all that, I was like, “Oh my God!” This is going to happen. And it’s real. I was like, “Whoa!” I was like, “Let’s go!” And she’s like, “Right on.” So off we went.
CHAMPION: There’s that moment in the movie where your mother’s talking to you at the table. And she says, “What kind of person are you going to have when I’m gone?” I’m wondering if you’ve managed to find, not necessarily a significant other, but possibly a greater sense of yourself now that you’ve started the clothing line?
VALENTINE: My mom and I, we go back and forth. That dialogue takes place all the time. We go back and forth on that all the time. She’s never said, “What if I’m not around?” I was like, “I don’t know.” And it’s still, you know, anytime I think of my mom. But — I lost my train of thought. Sorry. (Her eyes begin to water.) Yeah, we’re always babbling with that. She wants me — you know, she’s a dependent person and I’m very obviously independent. And it just frightens me to think if I did get married and have someone take care of me. And it has a lot to do with my trust issue. What if he leaves me? What if he decides, “I’m sick of you and I’m going to get this little twenty year old”? Or just whatever. Leave me. Where am I going to be? What am I going to do? I’d have to pick up the pieces and start over from the beginning. And I don’t want to do that. And I’m scared. I’m scared to. As much as I would love to have someone that loves me and that would take care of me. Because I think it would be really great. ‘Cause I do have that in me to take care of someone and to be like a good wife. I would love to do that. But I’m just too scared. I don’t know.
CHAMPION: You have to believe in yourself before you commit to someone else.
VALENTINE: Exactly. And hopefully some day I’ll meet — I know he’s out there somewhere. I’m just — I just have to wait until — I feel that people come in and out of your life for a reason that they’re kind of, in a way, keeping you busy until you find that right person. That’s why all these relationships don’t work out. Because they’re not meant to. Even though that hurts. And it doesn’t at the time doesn’t make any sense. Why is this happening to me? and all that. But there is a reason. And so I just have to, with all the toads I keep kissing, I know that there’s a reason why I’m kissing those toads. (laughs, sniffles)
CHAMPION: It started perhaps from how you got involved in the business at a certain time in your life. And in an environment. There’s the fan in that movie who puts his hand on your breast.
VALENTINE: Well, the thing that’s funny about that is that has nothing to do with the adult industry. That was at the red carpet at the Cannes film festival while we were walking around in the mainstream section.
CHAMPION: I’m talking about the fan element. Of just people actually viewing you not as a person, but…
VALENTINE: Right, as an object. Like this chair. (Valentine slams her hand down on a chair.) They’re like, “Oh. This is made of wood. Let me feel it.” You know? (laughs) I’m not an object to be fondled. So, yeah, I really have a problem with that. But it’s something that I’ve always just dealt with just because I knew what I was getting into when I got into this. I mean, not that. That’s not fair. They don’t have the right to be touching me, but to a degree you have to give them a little leeway. Because otherwise, people are like, “Well, what did you expect? What did you think that people would think of you?” Even though that’s not fair. I mean, just because I have sex on film doesn’t mean, “Hey. Anybody. Fondle me whenever you want.” You know, that’s not the way it goes. But to a degree I just kind of have to roll with it. Because otherwise I could just flip out and get all pissy. And it’s not really good.
CHAMPION: Do you still get recognized on the streets?
VALENTINE: Now I am getting recognized. For this movie more than anything else. Actually, in New York is where I got the most recognized. Because in L.A., they’re so many celebrities that it’s not like people are all, “Oh my God! Did you see that?” So people always see you out of the corner of their eye because everybody’s so into their own thing. Their whole L.A. thing. They don’t want to drop their guard to look and gawk at some celebrity because they’re pretending that they’re one. That they’re an important person too.
CHAMPION: “Oh, Antonio Banderas. Saw him last week.”
VALENTINE: (laughs) But in New York, we were walking on the streets. And I don’t dress provocatively. Especially when I’m out in New York. I was totally covered. I had jeans on. And I went walking down the street minding my own business. And there were people, guys driving by. One screamed out, “I just saw you on Spice last night! I saw you in Playboy!” And screaming that out their window. And I’m like, “Oh my God! Don’t say that!” Because it seemed like everything — all the traffic noise stopped. Everybody stopped like a slow-motion thing. Everyone turned around to look. “Who? What?” You know, and I’m like (Valentine completes the sentence by applying a bashful expression to her face.). Because it’s very obvious that they’re probably talking about me.
CHAMPION: Suddenly the world stops.
VALENTINE: And I’m like, “Dude. Don’t scream that at me on the streets of New York.” So that’s the most recognized that I’ve gotten in New York. Pretty much. I live in San Diego and people just really don’t pay that much attention to me. Because I don’t wear makeup and I put my hair up in a ponytail and a baseball hat. I smash my boobs down with a sports bra and a T-shirt and shorts and tennis shoes. You know, just kind of try to ho-hum it around. But I just don’t really know if they’re staring at me because I look like I’m someone famous or they recognize me or they stare at me a little bit longer because they’re like, “I know I’ve seen you somewhere. I can’t quite place it.” So unlike celebrities, they know why people are staring at them. Me? I don’t know. I’m not quite sure if they’re recognizing me or what. In L.A., what always seems to be really funny is that people come up to me and ask me the dumbest questions to try and find out who I am. One guy, the other day, when my designer and I we were out shopping getting shoes downtown at the garment district for a fashion show. And the guy’s like, “Oh. Are you getting wardrobe for your next project?” And we just kind of looked at him. We were like, “No.” It was like, “Oh. Well, uh, you…” and he’s sitting there just trying to think of something and I’m like sitting there thinking, “You know what? Just ask. Just say are you Stacy Valentine?” Just say it. Because I know he knows. And so we kind of like just dismissed him. And as he started walking off, he goes, “I love your movies.” I’m like, “What a jackass!” Just come up and say, “Are you Stacy Valentine?” And I’ll say, “Yes I am.” Don’t beat around the bush. Just say it. ‘Cause don’t be embarrassed that you watch them. Because I’m doing it so you will watch them. I want you to watch them.
CHAMPION: Why did you go through the surgery?
VALENTINE: That was because of the business. Because I always felt like I was fat. I always had this battle going on in me. And now that I can look back, I see that I was always sabotaging myself. Because I would be really good on my diet until about two weeks before I would shoot a movie. And I would start by eating and eating. And I would have that fight going on. I’m like eating but I’m feeling guilty. It’s like really good food. But I feel guilty. Because I’m not enjoying the food that I’m eating. And that was just the most miserable part.
CHAMPION: The broccoli part in the movie.
VALENTINE: Oooh. And I still hate broccoli. I can’t eat broccoli.
CHAMPION: (laughs) Now that you’ve left the business, have you been finally enjoying some pizza these days?
VALENTINE: Yeah, as soon as I quit, I probably put on at least five pounds. And a happy five pounds! I’m fine with it. Because I don’t have to be naked anymore. So I’m going to heal because I’m a very extreme person. So I try to be extreme on the diet side. But when I’m not on the diet thing, I’m way off on this side.
CHAMPION: But how extreme is five pounds?
VALENTINE: Well, yeah. In the industry, it is. But now it’s not that big of a deal. And I needed to do that. To just eat as much as I want and not have that guilt feeling. And I know so many people can relate to that. Because you feel so bad. You’re like, “Oh man, I really shouldn’t be eating like that.” But you’re still eating it.
CHAMPION: And not just people in the industry, but women in general.
VALENTINE: No, women in general.
CHAMPION: That’s one thing I champion. I’d like to see more normal-looking women on film. Everyone’s constantly thin and perfect-looking. The people that I know aren’t like that.
VALENTINE: Exactly. Yeah, people are real people. But in the industry, they’re real people, but they are, but they aren’t. They’re into this perfection mode and it was really difficult for me. And I couldn’t think of it as, you know, you’ve got a lot of fans. You’ve got a big following. You’ve got people offering you contracts. So something must be working with your weight and all that. But I just couldn’t see it. Because all these people I was around were thin and then the biggest criticism comes from editors. People who review movies in the business. You know, if someone has gained weight, they write about it. “Oh, this person’s packing on the pounds in the hips.” Just comments like that. And you know what? You look at these guys who are writing the reviews and things, and they’re fat, ugly losers — well, not all of them of course. But a lot of them are and like you have no room to talk but they’re defense is, “Well, I’m not naked.” And I’m like, “Thank God for that.”
CHAMPION: That’s unbelievable. Weightism to such an extreme.
VALENTINE: That was something that I was always just trying to battle with. So I tried the plastic surgery and that didn’t work. And one of the reasons that I’m glad that that’s in there is that a woman that feels. And that’s what I think is so great about this movie is that women can actually relate to me, even though you wouldn’t think that you had anything in common with me, you see that I go through the same things that all women do. What woman hasn’t done the thing with fat? Or, Oh if I could have liposuction, life would be so much better. You know what? It’s not. It doesn’t make it that much better. And so with the plastic surgery, if I could not change someone’s mind, if I don’t want to do that, if they will at least think about how serious, see that, and go whoa. That’s pretty brutal. That’s a pretty violent operation. And that’s the way that I went into my surgery. I was like walk in fat and walk out skinny. Don’t tell me anything else. It’ll be fine.
CHAMPION: There was pain and the wheelchair.
VALENTINE: Blood and cutting and all that. So if I can affect one person by just making her go, “Wow, that’s pretty major.” And she could go ahead and do it anyway. But at least for her to think, “Ooh. That’s going to happen to me. I had no idea until I watched the film.”
CHAMPION: The great thing about that scene is that it shows the mechanical element of the process, that a body is not flesh. The body is suddenly mechanical and it doesn’t have any kind of soul.
CHAMPION: Why was recognition so important to you?
VALENTINE: The recognition at the time. I think that at that time I thought that that was the way to get some kind of acceptance. Because I think that just human nature, I think what everyone deep down craves is acceptance. And what we fear most is rejection. And I wanted that acceptance. And I worked really hard to get — I didn’t have things handed to me. I had very generous people. But no one just said, “Oh, Stacy Valentine, just give it a shot.” You know , I earned all that. And the industry places so much importance on the AVN [Adult Video News] Awards show. And I was up for five awards. And the ones that I always get nominated for, they’re for starlet of the year, best actress, performer of the year, things like that.
CHAMPION: I noticed that they didn’t mention all of the categories in the documentary.
VALENTINE: Well, it wasn’t Best Anal. Because I don’t want people to come over and go, “Hey, come over to my mantel. Look, I won Best Anal scene.” No, it was like best actress, video, performer, video. Now I can’t remember. But getting passed over, I think that that was a great thing to go. I mean, that was — not so much a sympathy thing. Because you see on the Academy Awards, you know don’t you wonder about the people who lose, what they’re thinking.
CHAMPION: Well, you do see that in the five windows before they zoom into the window. You see their mouths form the words, “Oh shit!”
VALENTINE: And then the people have to go, “Oh, yes.” (mock clapping) You know I heard that a lot of people, when their category’s up and they don’t win, they leave. As soon as they don’t win, they leave. And I was a trooper. I stuck it out and sat there after listening all five times and my heart started racing really fast. And then not getting called, it was like, “Oh, well, maybe the next one.” And I think that that was important to show that you really do go, “God damn.” I guess that there were a lot of people that weren’t in the same position that I was in at the time, and it seemed to be so important and now I realize that it’s really not that important. I didn’t even go to the awards show this year. But I am leaving tomorrow for France for the Hot d’Or show. I’m up for best actress. DMJ6 [Devil in Miss Jones 6]. I won best actress in Barcelona for DMJ6.
CHAMPION: The DMJ series?
VALENTINE: Yeah, Devil in Miss Jones. It’s a pretty good series. They kept it going and they just bring in like the top directors of that era. The Gregory Dark and all that. And then it built up Antonio Pasolini, who did DMJ6. So I guess at the AVN show, it was the number one renting tape of last year. So I totally attribute that to The Girl Next Door. Because at the end of the documentary, it said the flash that it said at that time. They’ve changed it since then. But they announced, “Stacy’s working on DMJ6.” And so many thousands of people saw that documentary that had never seen porn, that had never seen an adult movie. And that raises a curiosity. “Hmm, so I’ll get DMJ6.” So they went out and rented DMJ6. So I think that’s why that DMJ6 won best renting tape of the year.
CHAMPION: Are you nervous about going to France again after already winning the Hot d’Or before and going to an element of your past that you’ve turned your back to?
VALENTINE: Oh no, I would never turn my back to the adult film industry.
VALENTINE: No, I’ll always be Stacy Valentine. I’ll always be a porn star. And I think a big mistake that people make is when they decide, “Oh, I hate the business. I’m getting out and it’s just so bad.” I mean, sure, there are elements that are bad. But there are elements that are good too. I wouldn’t be here without it. So I need to always be thankful of where you came from. And I think it’s a big mistake to try and put it into the past. Because you’ll always be a porn star. You spread your legs for a camera. These videotapes are going to be around for years and years and years. It’ll always be there. So if you treat it as a bad thing, it will be a bad thing. But if you just go, “Well, yeah, I did it. Yeah, Stacy Valentine, that’s me,” what are they going to do? That’s when someone can pick out a weakness if you’re trying to deny something or cover it up. And that’s when people really give you a hard time, it’s when they know that you’ve got that soft spot and they’re going to dig. So, yeah, no soft spots around there.
CHAMPION: Here’s the history, no problem.
VALENTINE: Yeah, you want to know what kind of a video to watch? Well, I’ve got sixty-nine of them, I’ll tell you all of them.
CHAMPION: (laughs) That’s ironic. Sixty-nine.
VALENTINE: Yeah, I had to go out on a good number.
CHAMPION: Why was this documentary banned in Oklahoma?
VALENTINE: Because it had to do with themes of an adult nature.
CHAMPION: Just that?
VALENTINE: Yeah. But who has the right to tell me what I can or cannot see? I certainly don’t have the right to tell you what you can or cannot see. I’m not going to walk up while you’re watching something and grab the remote control and turn it off and go, “No no. You’re not watching that. That is an offensive thing. I don’t care if you like watching it, but you can’t watch it because it offends me. Therefore, you can’t see it.” Who are you to tell me what you can or cannot see?
CHAMPION: How did your parents feel about your decision to leave the business?
VALENTINE: Oh, my mom was just like, “Well, now what are you going to do now.” I’m like, “Well, I’m starting a clothing line.” She’s like, “Oh, Nicole.”
CHAMPION: (laughs) The straightforward Oklahoman.
VALENTINE: (laughs) She’s like, “Well, now that’s a tough job.” I’m like, “So what are you saying?” She’s like, “Haven’t you met a nice boy yet?” I’m like, “Oh no, here we go again. No I haven’t and I’m starting another career.” She’s like, “Well, now you can always move back here and move in with me.” I’m like, “Oh thanks. I’ll think about that.” She’s like, “Now Nicole…” — my middle name’s Nicole, she always calls me Nicole — “…now Nicole, I think it would be much better for you to come home.” I’m like, “Oh, okay.” I just go, “Oh, okay,” and she goes, “You’re not coming home, are you?” “No, I’m not.” “Well, I just thought I’d ask.” I’m like, “Oh okay. Well you just keep on asking.” “Well, I will.”
So she’s happy. And when I got into the business, when I told her, she’s like, “Well, I guess I can’t ground you, can I?” And I’m like, “No, you can’t.” She’s like, “Well, okay. Is it safe? Are you happy?” And I’m like, “Yes, I’m safe. Yes, I’m happy. And I’m making my own money and I’m able to support myself.” But she’s like, “You just need to find a nice boy.” “No, I don’t! I don’t! I don’t!”
So she’s still hoping that Prince Charming’s out there and he’s going to sweep me off my feet. But the problem with those fairy tales is that they always end at people going off in the sunset. They don’t show what happens the next day. The reality of the next day. There’s plenty of men who I’m sure would have no problem sweeping me off my feet and riding off into the sunset. But it’s that next day. Are they going to be around? And am I going to want them to be around? We’ll just have to wait until that happens.