I first became a fan of Lisa Ann after listening to her appearance on “The Morning After…” podcast (Episode #33 with Damien Fahey – 02/01/11 – it’s on iTunes), a program that featured conversations with comedians and porn stars. Many times the porn starlets came off as quite ditzy and vapid, and then there was Lisa Ann; she was articulate, funny, engaging – the perfect girl to hang out with who just happened to also do porn. The episode ran longer than usual as it seemed everyone was having such a good time (she gave a terrific rundown of the kits she would assemble to use once on shoots and then dispose of that showed her true professionalism and intelligence); that was when I made a point of listening to her podcasts and following her on Twitter (@TheRealLisaAnn). While I can’t claim that her filmography interests me, I liked hearing what she had to say with her sly sense of humor and unique perspective on life and her career. I leapt at the chance to meet her during a featured dancing engagement at Vanities in September 2014 in Columbus, Ohio, and she couldn’t have been sweeter or more approachable. It was one of the few times I’d ever been to a “gentlemen’s club,” and I made sure to stock up on singles and fives (and a few twenties); somehow I left with no cash (I guess the “make it rain!” rant got the best of me), but boy did I have a great time!
Lisa Ann retired from the porn industry in December 2014 in a handwritten letter that she posted on social media. “It felt so personal to me,” she shyly admits. “The idea of sharing my handwriting with the world was a new level of intimacy.” For someone who had shared every intimate part of her body for the world to see for over twenty years, sharing her handwriting was what made her nervous? But I get it – it was a transitional time going from a faux intimacy (porn) to sharing something from truly behind the wall of armor she had built to protect herself. Now she has put more pen to paper (so to speak) and written The Life: Playin’ Palin, My Love of Sports, and Living to the Fullest On My Own Terms, chronologically covering her first forty-three years, going from being a child from a broken home to a rebellious teen, stripper, porn star, married woman, business owner, talent agent, and now Fantasy Football radio host? If it were a movie you’d never believe it, but Lisa Ann lays it all out there with good humor peppered with raunchy (yet not trashy) stories of her unusual life and career in a most entertaining tome.
I admit that I wanted to read Lisa Ann’s book for all of the outrageous stories I was sure it would contain, and on this count she doesn’t disappoint. From vengeful strippers peeing on the costumes of rivals to playing den mother in a house of unruly porn starlets (they track mud into the house when they are barefoot and drunk, FYI) to negotiating sex acts for a performer with her parents presiding as her managers, Lisa Ann has seen it all even if she hasn’t done it all. She doesn’t claim to be immune to drugs, but she is very clear at pointing out that she was not and never was a prostitute, outlining the difference very clearly between an adult performer and a paid escort. She confirms that many girls did both, but that was not the path she chose. She never calls herself an actress, which is fair; but she leaves little doubt that she was a true performance artist, enjoying the attention and response from the crowd just like any other performer. She refers to herself and other porn performers as “talent,” which again is accurate; it takes talent to be able to perform in such scenes and not get burned out or appear stale on camera. Lisa Ann doesn’t glamorize the work so much as lay the truth out there, sharing the “very empty, very lonely void all porn stars feel and can’t deny.” At the same time she admits to enjoying performing sex acts on camera, only a few times feeling ashamed or regretful over the content of a shoot.
She shares several cautionary tales in which she trusted the wrong people and, at various times, was drugged, attacked, and robbed, but she learned from each experience. “Trust NO ONE, especially the girls,” she was advised by a kind bouncer who looked after her after some dancers laced her joint with Angel Dust and she blacked out. “Work, go home, and mind your own business. Save your money and make a plan to get out. The money is addicting and it will change your life – whether it’s for the better or the worse is on you.” It’s one of many close calls she describes, each aiding in their way of developing her character and resilience. She never plays the victim card or wallows in any depression for long; there’s too much out there for her to do to allow self pity to come a-knockin’.
“I started to really look at my body as a business,” Lisa Ann states, explaining how while still a teenager she made time to exercise, eat well, and maintain a beauty routine, sometimes investing thousands of dollars a month! It isn’t cheap or easy to be the living embodiment of fantasy, but, as she concedes, “This is a business investment.” While she doesn’t mention any cosmetic surgery that she had done specifically for her career, she does relate that one of the first things she wanted to do after retiring was to get her breasts reduced. “I was starting to feel self-conscious about them,” she confesses as she assimilated into working for Sirius on the radio. Lisa Ann went from her body being her business in movies and dancing in clubs to using her voice and mind on the radio, where what she looked like didn’t matter at all! Her brain was what made her some enemies in porn (she had no problem whistle-blowing on safety regulations being ignored or negotiating for more money or control), and now it was exactly what another industry would value in her.
“Money was the key to my independence,” she writes, explaining how much money she could make as a stripper when she started out as merely a high school grad. Her drive to be financially independent and successful propelled her not to rest on her laurels but to keep trying harder within her industry to succeed. “I was constantly fighting for my rights in a business that wanted the girls to believe they had none,” she says about being in adult entertainment, but doesn’t that statement apply to so many other industries as well? This is where Lisa Ann’s story is one that anyone – male or female – can possibly relate: haven’t we all been in jobs where we feel undervalued, underutilized, and replaceable? “Porn went from loving and celebrating women to treating them as disposable things,” she states, reflecting on the change in the industry from the ’90s to today. To me, I see a similar change in other industries as well, one where seniority and relationships no longer matter – everything and everyone is a number. When faced with this, Lisa Ann went forth to cut a new path, venturing into producing and directing her own films and even managing other models for a time. There is a lesson there for all of us, no matter our career.
Her ascent to mega stardom playing the porn parody version of former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin in 2008’s Who’s Nailin’ Paylin? was a perfect example of opportunity meeting up with preparation; Lisa Ann had returned to porn a few years prior as one of the most in demand MILFs around (Google it if you don’t know the acronym), and in retrospect it seems like it was all leading up to this one chance that could be a real game changer – and boy was it! Though she was grateful for the opportunity at playing Palin, she’s firm that her personal beliefs are the polar opposite. “I would never in a million years support Sarah Palin’s politics,” Lisa Ann confirms, adding, “Palin’s message had no place in the world I lived in – a world of free sex, sexual preference, and a shared desire for marriage equality.” Still, demand for feature dancing gigs as Palin in tailored suits skyrocketed, and Lisa Ann picked up the gauntlet and ran with it.
Her popularity brought about mainstream recognition as well as opportunities for more revenue streams, something that made many others in the industry quite jealous. “Porn is like high school with drugs and money – and all the wrong people have both,” she candidly states. “Porn is the perfect home for those with addictions and a variety of social issues. It is competitive and spiteful, filled with gossip, haters, and unhappy people. Over the course of my career, I learned that the more people didn’t like me, the better I felt.”
For a book so comprehensive, it’s interesting that Lisa Ann doesn’t tell her “coming out” story, the one where she tells her mom and dad about her career in the adult industry. “My parents will never forgive me for doing porn,” she clearly states, and other sections describe her estrangement from her dad and her on-again, off-again relationship with her mom; clearly they weren’t thrilled with her career of choice, but I was curious to read how she broke the news to them, how they reacted, and how it changed her relationships with them (which were strained anyway). I also wonder if her relationship with her older brother ever improved; there is a cute picture of the two of them from her late teens where it shows that she wasn’t the only looker in the family. Sibling relationships fascinate me; I have no relationship with my brothers at all, but I know of other people who are thick as thieves with their brothers and sisters. This is one area in which Lisa Ann is holding some cards close, which is understandable considering that her family didn’t sign up for any of this.
You don’t need to be into porn to get something out of Lisa Ann’s story, though it would help not to be squeamish about some of the more explicit details she is incredibly open about divulging (her sex preparation regimen, opinions on lubricant, “money shot” feelings, etc.). The behind-the-scenes info on what it is like to perform such private things in front of a camera is all there to read (and it’s incredibly entertaining and humorous), but there is a deeper story around it about a small town girl from Pennsylvania determined to get out and do big things. They may not be the kinds of things most of us would ever consider doing, but Lisa Ann emerges as someone who is her own best invention, delightfully unrepentant for her porn past while heading into a new career. I don’t know that she wrote the book to be so empowering, but that’s just what it is.
**** out of ****