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Archive Story
Transcript: Porn in the USA
May 11, 2003
DIANE SAWYER: Every week they come to Los Angeles by the dozens, so many of them just teenagers taking the buses from Texas or Minnesota or Alabama. Somebody's sister, somebody's daughter, on one of those highways of dreams. They just want to become stars, but how do you get there?

This is Jim South, who runs the World Modelling Agency, recruiting girls from photo shoots. Nearly every girl we meet says she's prepared to show a little skin in a photo. In this day and age, they say it's kind of glamorous and might lead to that big break.

This is Jennifer from New Jersey, a teacher of emotionally disturbed children who says she really needs some extra cash. Samantha wants to be a fashion model, but the effort has beat her down. A photographer saw Samantha and suggested she go to see Jim South. South, smooth, casual, direct, he introduces a new thought. How would Samantha feel if instead of nude photographs, she's in a film? It seems like a small distinction, but, in fact, it's a giant fork in the road.

Right away, Jennifer starts pulling out all together. She says no. But so many girls tell us they imagine it will be something erotic, like some of the scenes in feature films. And Samantha says, after all, she's sure famous people have done work like that. So the same day Samantha meets Jim South she agrees to get an AIDS test. And the next day she's in front of a camera, having sex. And then the regret. She says afterwards, she took a long, hot shower, thinking about what she'd done. What about this girl � 18-year-old Michelle Sinclair. Michelle is a former cheerleader, field hockey star � anyone's kid next door growing up in a family of eight kids in Morman Utah.


MICHELLE SINCLAIR: Happy. Very happy. I wanted to be a gymnast in the Olympics. I wanted people to love me and love me. I don't know why.

DIANE SAWYER: For months, she says she refused to try sex on film. Then one day, with no money and no prospects, she agreed.

And that night when you're lying awake that night and thinking about it?

MICHELLE SINCLAIR: I think I was just so, like, "Wow I'm going to be famous", and, you know, "People are gonna want my autograph one day" and I had all this money. I could go shopping and, you know, get whatever I wanted.

DIANE SAWYER: She dyed her hair coal black not long after the first time.

Do you think anything fundamental has been lost? Have you given something important up?

MICHELLE SINCLAIR: Of course, and my sexual privacy is the most private. It was. But I'll get over that.

DIANE SAWYER: But will she really get over that first day? She said she showed up expecting one regular sex scene. But the director said he needed more. A different kind of sex.

MICHELLE SINCLAIR: And I'm, like, well, I've never done anal sex in my entire life, never, haven't even thought of it. It was painful, you know.

DIANE SAWYER: She says afterwards she was shattered, but she just didn't know how to refuse.

MICHELLE SINCLAIR: Because I didn't know any better, you know, I didn't know that I couldn't get work if I didn't do that.

ONA ZEE: They lie to you all the time.

DIANE SAWYER: Ona Zee, who has been a performer for 15 years, is an advocate for reform.

ONA ZEE: You show up expecting to do one thing and then you do something else and you're in a trap.

MICHELLE SINCLAIR: Michelle's agent tells her he has another job that can bring her some extra money and sends her to what turns out to be a real prison but with actors in prison outfits 12 men.

MICHELLE SINCLAIR: At first I said, "No, no way! There's no way I'd ever do that, that's sick!" you know.

DIANE SAWYER: She says she tried to back out with a variety of excuses, but the director was insistent. She was paid $4000.

MICHELLE SINCLAIR: It was really hard because I felt really, really felt like a piece of meat. You know, the guy who shot it saw me and just didn't even say anything, like didn't even, "Are you okay?" you know, nothing. He got his movie and he got his box cover, so he was happy. But I wasn't very happy.

DIANE SAWYER: She says afterwards she couldn't stop crying and so Michelle Sinclair packed up her bags and went back home to her Morman family in Utah. But at Jim South's agency, Samantha discovers that, after her first time, she's suddenly a big property. She tells us she's never had this much attention or money in her life, so she suppress her regret, saying, "I'll just try to close my eyes and imagine I'm somewhere else".

In higher-end companies like VCA and Wicked and Digital Playground, the girls are put under contract. Then they usually get to pick their sex partners and condoms are required. And they can sound like cheerleaders about the profession, insisting no drinking, no drugs.

WOMAN 1: I've been very happy, it's been a very wonderful adventure.

WOMAN 2: A lot of females, they look at me kind of as a role model. I've had nothing but positive attention.

WOMAN 3: I love reading, I'm a big Harry Potter fan. I mean, I'm just a normal person.

WOMAN 4: I haven't changed as a person. I just have a very bizarre career. I don't think someone who thinks of themselves as priceless would be a sex performer.

WOMAN: I see it every day. I mean, I see girls come to the set drunk, not in their bodies.

DIANE SAWYER: Ona Zee, who is still in the business, says it is rife with drugs. And it is probably not a surprise that many of these actors came from troubled homes or a history of abuse, though it did surprise us how many of the performers said they came from intense religious backgrounds. Like Michelle, from a Mormon home so strict she couldn't play with Barbie dolls because of their voluptuous bodies.

MICHELLE SINCLAIR: I was raised in a very strict family where we weren't allowed to do anything. I wasn't allowed to watch Roger Rabbit, or Simpsons or Dirty Dancing. I wasn't allowed to watch that.

DIANE SAWYER: Growing up, Michelle had a learning disability, trouble in school, and she says a boyfriend left her for a stripper. She says, too, there wasn't much money in the family until her journey into porn.

MICHELLE SINCLAIR: I'm like the one that they thought would never have the money and I'm the only one that has money in that whole family. My sister, I paid for her college, my older sister.

DIANE SAWYER: Michelle's older sister, Alicia.

ALICIA: I can remember the day, like, my mum called me and told me she moved out here and that's what she was doing and I remember crying on the phone thinking what has her life become, you know, and being really upset about it. Because it's not, like, you exactly expect her to become a lawyer or anything. So I mean � but it's not exactly like you expect her to become a porn star either.

DIANE SAWYER: So just one year after she left the business, the lure of the money brings Michelle Sinclair back.

MICHELLE SINCLAIR: I'm like, wow, this is going to be cool.

DIANE SAWYER: She tries to get a contract with one of the high-end companies.

MICHELLE SINCLAIR: I think that I will be a superstar one day. We'll see.

DIANE SAWYER: But she gets bad news. She doesn't get her contract.

MICHELLE SINCLAIR: We're gonna rock the world.

DIANE SAWYER: So she takes another offer.

DIANE SAWYER: A trip to Prague to shoot her first starring role in a feature film for a company called Elegant Angel. Her screen name, Bella Donna, poison flower.

DIANA HAMILTON: When she first left for LA she told me she was going to model negligees.

DIANE SAWYER: This is Michelle's mother, Diana Hamilton.

DIANA HAMILTON � And then I ran into a couple of people who actually were fans of hers. And people I work with and that was a little strange.

DIANE SAWYER: Michelle's father is in fact a retired air force captain and a former bishop in the Mormon Church.

What does her father really think about this, do you know?

DIANA HAMILTON: I think he's totally disgusted by it and embarrassed and very, very sad.

DIANE SAWYER: And slowly, as we talk, Michelle's mother reveals that like so many others in the business, when Michelle was 14 she was molested by an older boy. Afterwards, she had a breakdown, attempting suicide.

DIANA HAMILTON: She was, you know, 14, I could lock her away, I could protect her, I could go visit her and take care of her. I can't do that now.

DIANE SAWYER: Two flights and 15 hours later, Bella Donna looks less the porn star and more the kid next door. In Prague, when Michelle is introduced to one of her leading men a few days later, she falls for him in a childish infatuation. Her new love, Nacho Vidal, a porn star from Spain who has been paired with just about every starlet in the business. But Michelle believes this is it for her.

MICHELLE SINCLAIR: The day we met he said, "You're going to be the mother of my children, I love you." Like I mean I never had that before, never had a guy be so in love with me.

DIANE SAWYER: He is less sentimental about commitment �

NACHO: I see already the way she feel. I cannot be with one girl, you know.

DIANE SAWYER: Another girl considered disposable by a business feeding a giant appetite.

KEN BANEISH: Their careers are pretty short.

DIANE SAWYER: Ken Baneish is president of the Erotic Network whose parent company, New Frontier, feeds cable companies like Time Warner and Come Cast.

KEN BANEISH: I don't think that we can take responsibility for what we're doing to society. I think society is taking the entertainment community where it wants to go.

DIANE SAWYER: In just three years, Baneish says his Erotic Network has grown from about 1.5 million households.

KEN BANEISH: To last count, over 35 million.

DIANE SAWYER: Baneish used to sell country, western and educational programs. The CEO of New Frontier, Mark Kreloff, used to be banker.

MARK KRELOFF: It's a very inexpensive form of entertainment for a lot of Americans and they're willing to pay a big premium to get it discreetly, to get it in the privacy of their own home.

DIANE SAWYER By now, Michelle Sinclair is no longer the new girl in the business. She's made 200 to 300 movies with scores of sex partners and she has to do ever-riskier things to earn her money. Again, we warn you this information is not pleasant to hear, but it is true.

MICHELLE SINCLAIR: For like DPs, which is, like, double penetration, $1500. And you know, if you do, like, they even do double anal, which is like $1500, $1600 also.

DIANE SAWYER: One person in the industry called it sexual Olympics.

MICHELLE SINCLAIR: It definitely is. You have to really prepare physically and mentally for it. I mean I go through a process from the night before, I stop eating at five o'clock. I do, you know, like two enemas and then the next morning I don't eat anything. It's so draining on your body.

MICHELLE SINCLAIR: At every stage, the medical risk increases always the fear of AIDS. That's something I always think about. Pray.

DIANE SAWYER: Michelle has already contracted chlamydia, a venereal disease which can make you sterile.

So why won't you protect yourself?

MICHELLE SINCLAIR: The fans don't like to see condoms. If I were to say I want to use condoms every time, I really wouldn't get any work.

DIANE SAWYER: Are you shocked it's not against the law?

MICHELLE SINCLAIR: Yeah, because you're talking about your life, you know.

DIANE SAWYER: Michelle's mother Diana Hamilton told us she had not watched her daughter's tapes but she did listen as Michelle told me the graphic details.

I can hear lots of parents out there saying I would be on the next train, plane, automobile, if I had to take handcuffs I would get them home and get them out of it.

DIANA HAMILTON: I don't know. I mean, maybe if I had really felt the truth of what was happening at the time, if I had really felt or knew, you know what I mean? But she's an adult, I can't chain her down. I can't tie her down. She has to find out for herself.

MICHELLE SINCLAIR: People have tried to tell me, you know, this is how it's going to turn out and I've never listened to anyone, never.

DIANE SAWYER: But the longer we talk to Michelle, the more unnerved I became by something. No matter how ghastly the stories of what she had done, no matter the pain she described, Michelle always smiled.

When you're telling me about things that really made you suffer, you're still smiling.

MICHELLE SINCLAIR: Because I like to hide. Everything, you know.

DIANE SAWYER: And what's real, what's not hidden?

MICHELLE SINCLAIR: Now I'm gonna cry.


MICHELLE SINCLAIR: I don't know. I just � I like to hide my real emotions because I want everyone to see how happy I am. But inside really, I'm not happy. I don't like myself at all.

DIANE SAWYER: We've noticed since we first met her, Michelle Sinclair has changed dramatically. When we first met her, she told us she wouldn't use drugs. Now we learn like so many others, she's been using drugs during some of the scenes. And we aren't the only ones who were stunned by the changes in her. One of her old friends from home came to visit.

FRIEND: When I got off train I went straight to one of her scenes. I'd never seen anything like that before. I was shocked.

DIANE SAWYER: Michelle says at times it has driven her to despair.

Recently did you have a breakdown?


DIANE SAWYER: What was it?

MICHELLE SINCLAIR: I just � I didn't want to be here anymore at all. I wanted to leave, you know, this world.


MICHELLE SINCLAIR: Of course, I mean, I don't want to do this anymore at all and � but there's that part of me that's like, you'll have all that money again.

DIANE SAWYER: And who's going to win?

MICHELLE SINCLAIR: Me this time, I really hope.

DIANE SAWYER: Do you hate the big businesses that make so much money?

DIANA HAMILTON: I hate them. I hate them that their kids get to go to college and live in a big beautiful home and go on wonderful vacations and my daughter had to � and will suffer for that.

DIANE SAWYER: If you could talk to the head of one of these corporations, making countless millions, what would you say to them?

DIANA HAMILTON: I think my first question would be: would you allow your daughter to work in this industry?

DIANE SAWYER: Who are these companies? None other than General Motors, which owns direct TV. Direct TV delivers soft and hardcore porn via satellite into homes, bringing in millions. Comcast, the giant communication company which supplies porn, including hardcore to homes via pay per view.

And how about Time Warner? It owns a cable company which offers erotic programming from Playboy and other outlets, including hardcore. So how many millions and millions of dollars do these Fortune 500 companies make from porn? Well, we can't tell you because they don't publicise it anywhere at all. We went through their financial statements and there's not one mention of money made from the sex movie market. But one industry analyst we spoke with estimated that the combination of cable and satellite outlets makes about $1 billion a year from the adult movie market.

The average career in hardcore pornography is brief, reportedly just 18 months. So we thought we'd tell you what happened to some of the people you met here tonight. We checked back in with Samantha, who became much sought-after. Her first porn scene you'll remember had been the day after she walked in the agency. She told us after a few months she'd had enough. She didn't feel it was for her. But after two years, Michelle has become a major name. Bella Donna, famous, celebrated for the kind of sex that once horrified and hurt her.

MICHELLE SINCLAIR: Oh my God, I didn't know I had that many fans.

DIANE SAWYER: She told us she's made more than $100,000 a year. At Michelle's first Las Vegas adult video award show, a kind of porn Oscars, her movie, the one she shot in Prague, is nominated. And Bella's now former boyfriend Nacho, up for five awards ... loses out each time. But Bella Donna ... She is now 21 and there have been other changes in her life. Her friend from Utah who was once so shocked by the business, decided the money was good so she decided to try it too.

FRIEND: My first time was horrible, it was horrible. I was almost like in tears, I hated it so bad.

DIANE SAWYER: She says it was Bella who convinced her to stick with it. And what about Bella Donna's mother, who was so worried about her daughter in the porn industry? Her mother decided to become her personal assistant on a new series Bella Donna was going to direct and star in. But that deal fell through. Her mother went back to Utah.


Previous Stories
 Jul 2003 | Jun 2003 | May 2003Apr 2003 | Mar 2003 | Feb 2003 |

Click Index Click Headline
  Date   Story
 May 25, 2003 The spider web
  Trouble in paradise
  By George
 May 18, 2003 Transcript: new faces
  New faces
  A grave mistake
  King of the road
 May 11, 2003 Russian roulette
  Porn in the USA
  The Governor-General
 May 4, 2003 All about sex
  Posh and Becks
  Invasion of the cane toads
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