The Rumpus Oral History Project— Lorelei Lee

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(This is an oral history of Lorelei Lee in her own words, transcribed and edited by Stephen Elliott. If you came here searching for adult content featuring Lorelei Lee, click here. The links in this article are not safe for work.)

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I was born in a convent in Buffalo. It was a home for wayward girls, though my mother was 23 at the time, so she was a little bit older. She was unmarried and pregnant and dropped out of college. Early on she told me I was a product of immaculate conception, which is probably what every single Catholic girl says.

My mother met my brother’s father and got pregnant and they got married. He was going to go to school. We moved three times and then we lived in Western Massachusetts in this little hippy town for a couple of years.

The story of my father is that he didn’t want to have a kid. He told my mother he didn’t think it was responsible to bring kids into the world. Growing up I had one letter and one picture of him and it’s out of focus and he’s got this seventies haircut and big glasses. My mother told me he was a genius and a painter and he painted a fish that was exhibited in some museum in Berkeley. She told me she picked him for his genes and she knew I was going to be perfect. I met him much later, when I was fourteen.

My mother told me she didn’t know where to find my father. When I was five we looked in the phone book and she found a guy named M. in Berkeley, CA. We called and got an answering machine. She held the phone up and I said, “Hi. I’m your daughter and just thought that maybe we could get to know each other.” Years later I found out it wasn’t his answering machine.

My mother never married my father. She married my brother’s dad, then we moved with another guy. And she had another husband before I was born and a few people she dated in between. It’s complicated. It’s really complicated.

My mother and I moved 18 times when I was a kid. I had this very strong attachment to her. She was my ship. I had friends sometimes but not many because we were moving every year. My mother had all these relationships and she would come home and talk to me about them when she was upset and crying. She would come into my room and say, “I think we might have to move.” And I would say, “OK mommy. I’m ready.”

When I was thirteen my mother was not doing well, had not been doing well for a few years. She’d had a mental breakdown; she was in the hospital; she was dating a drug dealer. Then she starts dating this guy she knew from twenty years ago who lived in San Diego. We lived in Tucson in this shitty apartment in this lower class neighborhood and she wants to move into his house by the ocean and have this perfect surreal world. She wanted to get married in a white wedding dress and have a little family again.

We were visiting him and my mother came into the kitchen and said, “Guess who’s on the phone? Your father.” I felt my stomach drop. I felt like she wanted to ditch me. She asked if I wanted to talk to him and I said no. My father asked if he could write me a letter. I remember feeling like I had very little say in the matter. He wrote and my mother came into the room and said, “Now you have your father, what are you doing to do with him?”

He sent me a series of letters about his job and his life and I sent him a couple of letters. He was a really good penpal. My mother always told me my hands looked like his. He sent me this letter with his hands photocopied. He sent me paintings, photos of him in front of his house in Cape Cod.

When I was fourteen my father came to San Diego. We had just moved there, I had no friends, and I was totally miserable.  I was all dressed in black.This guy just walks in and is like, “Hi, I’m your father.”

I went to visit him in Provincetown, Massachusetts. He got me a summer job working for a theater company. My father’s gay and Provincetown is 50% gay in the summer. The streets are filled with men in leather and I worked at the theater with two other teenage girls. I loved the job but I was really bitter and angry about staying with him and him introducing me to his friends and saying, “This is my daughter.”

My mother is right about my father. He’s a totally brilliant, talented artist. Everyone loves him. He’s friends with people like Michael Cunningham and Nick Flynn. He’s a really good person. He wanted me to be his daughter. He wanted to open up to me. I wasn’t sad about missing him when I was a child. I didn’t even know what that meant to miss him. But a lot of shitty things happened to me. I didn’t even know how shitty they were until I became an adult and realized that I had to go out in the world and be a person with all these other people and I could not even manage it. I didn’t know how to take care of myself; I only knew how to take care of other people. And I met my father and he has this idyllic existence. He’s an artist, all his friends are artists. He lives in this gorgeous little town. He has enough money. He has fancy dinner parties. He took me to restaurants where the food cost fifty dollars. I can’t even explain the vast difference between his life and my mother’s life. I didn’t want him to know how different it was. That’s what was really painful, to see that contrast, and then for him to to say, “I want you to be part of my life.” I just felt fucked up, like this weird fucked up person. Things happened when I was a kid that maybe wouldn’t have happened if he was around. I stopped talking to him.

The first sex work I ever did I was 19. It was mostly photos of me stripping and fake masturbating. Then I made this recording pretending that I was talking about about the first time that I gave a blow job or something. The guy who did that shoot now owns Naughty America. It’s a huge porn company and they have like twelve websites. I was 19 and he was 18 and just starting. Now he has a million dollars and I don’t.

Then I moved to San Francisco. I worked in a coffee shop for two years, quit, and started posing naked for anyone who would hire me.

Kink is the next thing.They were advertising on this website, offering $400 for a four hour shoot, more money than I had ever made. I called and it was Marty, who now runs Sex and Submission and Whipped Ass. I told him I didn’t have any pictures, because I didn’t like the pictures I had. He said to just come down to the studio. I knocked on the door of this unmarked warehouse building. Somebody let me in and introduced me to Marty. I took my clothes off and did a little spin. He took Polaroids and said, “Yeah. We’ll call you.”

Soon after that I did my first shoot with Peter for Hogtied. I curled my hair and wore false eyelashes and I thought I looked ridiculous. I didn’t really know how to put on makeup. It was an abduction scene and he grabbed me on 8th Street with a cloth over my face and I screamed really loud.  People were staring and he pulled me into the building. When we got inside he said, “Thank God we had the camera. We would have been arrested.” Then he tied me up, tore my clothes off, flogged my tits. I don’t remember everything. I remember being really excited about it, feeling really in my body in a way I hadn’t felt before. I went home afterward. I was exhausted and had bruises all over me. My roommates were a little freaked out and they were like, OK, that’s what she’s doing now.

Two months after that Kink took me to Bondcon in Las Vegas. All of a sudden I felt like a movie star. We would hang out at the booth and pose for pictures and these guys would come through and say, “Oh yeah. I saw you on the Internet.” I knew I was making these movies but it didn’t occur to me that there was an audience. At Bondcon I met Adrianna Nicole. She helped me learn how to dress and  wear makeup. Women like Adrianna were a powerful aspect for me. I felt we were kind of in it together.

Porn was an incredibly therapuetic thing for me. (continue reading)


Stephen Elliott is the author of seven books, including the memoir The Adderall Diaries and the novel Happy Baby. He is the founding editor of The Rumpus. His feature film debut, About Cherry, was distributed by IFC. His second movie, based on his novel Happy Baby, is forthcoming. More from this author →