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A reality show starring me and a porn star? Help me decide

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Unlike this blog’s author, Aurora Snow is quite comfortable in the spotlight.
Photo: Sarah Gerke

I was covering a red carpet on New Year’s Eve at LAX at the Luxor when I was first asked if I was interested in participating in a reality show by a producer for a cable network. It was in fact an offer to both my date and to me. But since only I heard the inquiry, I said, “No,” at once for both of us; if you were me you would see little reason to toss a camera into your life, too.

Take for example my behavior that night, which had us covering that red carpet. As at many events, I had a date with me less for romance and more to hold things and help me out and make sure we were where I needed to be. It was all about my work, and she was fine with all of this, a good sport, really. But at the end of it all, on New Year’s Eve, she did not expect to be waiting for the Hilton sisters outside LAX.

She had come from Los Angeles to spend a few days with me while I worked, yes, but just as much to see her favorite band, the Goo Goo Dolls perform at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay to ring in the New Year. Instead, at the last minute, I made an impulsive decision that the better story was to cover the Hilton sisters at LAX.

In my friendships and relationships work has always come first. Maybe, that is why I have been single since 1999. I have rarely written about my private life, because there is such paucity to how I live outside of work. A reality show on my life? There would be precious little for the camera to show beyond my covering events in Vegas for items, then sitting home and writing those items. That makes for boring “reality.” But then I wasn’t the only one that the cable producer was thinking about for the reality show: There was also my date. The producer recognized her. A lot of people recognize her. Aurora Snow has her own Wikipedia entry and won an AVN Award (a porn Oscar) as Performer of the Year.

Like most people I have been attracted to in relationships, reading is one of Aurora’s favorite hobbies and part of what connects us. We trade books. We talk books. We both are interested in ethics, philosophy and enjoy spending time sparring with ideas for the purpose of learning.

Anyway, as people, we bond. But to the eyes, we make an odd couple. Very odd. I am more than a decade older than her, and look older. I need to go to the gym more. But even in my prime, I was never handsome. Aurora is genetically among the blessed and she is a health nut who loves to look good and to be in a spotlight showing off the hours she puts in the gym. I hate how I look slouched in photos. In every sense, in public I prefer the shadows and she likes to be seen. And, I don’t just mean red carpets. (That night a photographer covering LAX recognized her and put her on the carpet for photos. I declined to be in the picture. The same thing happened earlier in the weekend at the opening of 40/40 at Palazzo.) Aurora is a social animal. When we were in an elevator once, she mortified me by speaking to everyone on the journey with us. Whereas I enter an elevator and draw a magic invisibility circle around me unless a polite “excuse me” is required.

We have a lot of differences, and I do not know how they will work out in a close-quarter relationship. The second-most frequent question I am asked about Aurora is, what she sees in me? I am as baffled as everyone else why she likes me. All the advantages are on her side from being better at handling people to earning more than I do. It is easier for me to say what I like about her, despite the fact that no one has bothered to ask that question. I guess people think they already know.

I do not watch porn. But since 1999, when I moved to Vegas, I’ve met a number of porn people through my work. The AVN convention is held here, and every year I cover the convention and the awards show. Most adult personalities are dull interviews. I am forgetting them as soon as the story is finished. As a group they are as vacuous as any other entertainers. Some are as drugged-out as rock stars I’ve interviewed. And, many are just boring, very boring. The queen of dull was a young porn star who spent 15 taped minutes of an interview describing the proper way to boil pasta. Older ones may be just as dull, but they confine themselves to answers that might get used by a publication, But the truth is that, while I ignore most of them and all of what they create, a few of the porn people are playing an important role in my private life. Indeed, two form a core of those closest to me now. My best friend, Caroline Pierce, also does adult.

Here is how that works. Work is how I met Aurora. Actually, our first conversation was a phone interview. And, when our relationship crossed a certain line, I stopped writing about her by name because of the conflict of interest. Writing about her in mainstream publications was, on some level, press for her. She has been a hostess on Playboy television and appeared in Judd Apatow films. Her career is hardcore pornography, but more than most she plays footsie with the mainstream.

The last time I wrote about her was when I wrote for Weekly a previously scheduled story with her presence acknowledged and part of the narrative (along with our friendship). That was the night she came to Pure with me. I had to work there that night and she had work in town. It was the only time for us to meet and we were simply friends in a bland way. Her presence that night added a lot to the story of the evening.

Yet, while we were sharing a hotel room New Year’s weekend, there is not a word in my coverage about her from that weekend that mentions her being with me. In some ways that feels dishonest to readers, too, as I was blogging about the weekend. No one you are living with is invisible. But her fame, and the value press brings her, causes a conflict that would not exist if she was a glazer. And, in a complex world I made the best choice I could make. Aurora had clever thoughts and conversations with me that helped me iron out a lot of what I wrote that weekend, yet she received no credit.

I should say that I never expected to be in a friendship or a relationship with porn stars. I have not gone native in Vegas. I am not a porn groupie. I never met anyone in the industry before moving to Vegas, and continue to have no interest in adult entertainment outside of the importance of covering the Las Vegas aspects of the business.

If anything, knowing people in adult has made thinking about those films even more disturbing to me. The one scene I watched was one of John Stagliano’s films. He did a show at Planet Hollywood’s Krave. At his insistence, I watched the opening scene of his final Fashionistas film; the violence of the events shocked me. There was strangling and slapping, and degrading acts done to the actress too graphic to describe. That does not mean I am not disgusted that the government is trying to prosecute Stagliano now for selling films with consenting adults performing to consenting adults who are buying. But there is a difference in thinking a movie is not a criminal act, and being fine with how the movie treats women. I have to engage in considerable "negative capability" when it comes to my thought and feelings about the adult films I have even seen. Aurora is worried if I will be able to take her work in a relationship as a civilian, which is how she refers to people not in the adult industry. I do not know the answer. I never filled my fantasy hours figuring out how to handle a relationship with a porn star; I have spent more time on answers for my imaginary Paris Review Interview.

So, why are my best friend and the woman I am in a relationship with both doing porn? Be honest with yourself, Richard, what are the chances of that being the case? But the best answer, through careful self-scrutiny, reveals to me is that I like free thinkers, and my friends in porn are the closest I can find in my Vegas world to the open-mindedness, wild individuality and intellectual curiosity that I so treasure in people. I don’t mean that porn people are smarter or less judgmental than other Las Vegans, but Aurora and Caroline and even Stagliano come closest among people I know here to having the sort of personalities that remind me of the academic Bohemians of the East Coast I grew up around: a tolerant yet questioning group. Both sides would be surprised by that comparison. This probably doesn’t play to any stereotypes, and that is one reason I am considering a reality show now when I dismissed the idea in January.

Anyway, Aurora Snow is considering the show as well. For her, it would mean moving to Nevada. That is something she was considering already. This would give her a chance to finish her college degree, and to be where there is no state income tax. We also will be able to see if we have a future together, and if so, what kind it will be.

So, once again we (this time both of us) have been considering reality cameras entering to document what happens when we try living together. I have also been discussing the reality show possibility with my writer friends for months. I am uncomfortable with cameras. That was my main concern. But some of my friends kept coming back to me that they thought I should be warned that doing a reality show with a porn star would be the end of my career as a serious writer. That chance I dismiss. The sound of that worry was familiar despite their good intentions. I heard those same warnings in 1999 when I moved to Las Vegas deciding this city would be my subject as a writer. No, one believed writing on Vegas could have literary aspirations. I may fail but I have been allowed to aspire.

The challenge to writing is always to write well and nothing else matters. If I were able to write “A Tale of Two Cities,” do you think anyone would care who I was dating? Anyone know anything about Dickens’ love life? Anyone care that he met his mistress a couple years before the publication of that book? My problem is, I have not written anything approaching the realm of “A Tale of Two Cities.”

On the other hand, I want to keep trying and failing to write that well. Television attracts readers, and I am not adverse to that. Dickens did public readings of his work. That was shameful to mention. He needed the money, and I admit reality television is a far more degrading form of luring an audience than public readings. But who is going to watch me looking into a camera and reading from my collected essays? I am not proud. As flawed as it often can be, I am proud of my writing. If I wish to continue the archaic career pursuit of being a man-of–letters (a term so obsolete there has been no need to update to an acceptable nonsexist word choice), then I must be willing to try extreme things to reach new potential readers.

My main concern is how having cameras around to record reality will impact and create “reality.” Yet, even that strikes me as a topic worth blogging about. I guess I should worry more about how cameras will change things with Aurora. But, as always with me, work comes first. One of the things I like about Aurora is she values my writing and respects that very difficult to handle aspect of me. Or, at least, she has so far. That might change living together. I also think Aurora and I are close enough to be friends on the other side no matter what happens on the show.

I am not decided yet. I mean, I am decided that Aurora has a place with me if she wants to move to Nevada. But I am not sure about the reality show or about the cameras. More than ever, I would love the advice of you readers. What would you do in my shoes? Would you watch such a show? Will it impact if you read my work and how you take what you read by me to see into my life so much? These are the questions I sit up at night wondering when I ponder reality television. Again, this is the sort of issue you enter the writing life never expecting to have to confront. I am sure Edmund Wilson never thought about this sort of thing, and I doubt it even confronted Gore Vidal, who I think is the person who said never miss a chance to have sex or to be on television. But Gore Vidal could be wrong, and most often I find him wrong when he is at his most quotable.

I should add: I do not watch reality television, and the last time I did that, the stuff was still called documentaries.

Khloe Kardashian's reality: She loves her show.

Khloe Kardashian's reality: She loves her show.

If I should or should not do a reality show has been so much on my mind of late that on the red carpet for the opening of Palms Place this weekend I spoke to someone who had faced this issue, Khloe Kardashian. I asked her if being on the show had altered how she interacted with people, especially her family

“No, not at all,” she said. “Personally, if anything it has brought us closer together because it makes us be with each other more every single day in a different way. I think we are much closer. Every reality show is different. I never wanted to be in a reality show. But I am happy I am and I love it.”

She sure seemed to. She kept doing more interviews after spending plenty of time eating up the red carpet. Aurora would be great doing that. But what would I do?

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