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      Porn Star Karaoke Is a Thing and It's Awesome

      May 6, 2013

      By Daniel Mehrian

      Photos by Alison Stevenson

      I grew up where all the porn is made. Not all of it, but most. I knew that growing up, then I left and found out other people knew it, too.

      “The Valley. That’s where all the porn is.”

      “Yeah,” I’d say, taking an apologetic sip of beer, shame, whatever.

      Not that I was ashamed of the place, or that one should be ashamed of such an association. On the contrary—I was ashamed because I had absolutely nothing to show for my pornographic origins. I had no stories to corroborate the Boogie Nights fantasy of the Valley as the campus town for the co-ed fraternity Sigma Phi Big Porn. Growing up here, porn was just as distant to me as it was to anyone else—through a laptop with my mouse hovering over the X. And I was fine with that. You want to be fine with things like that.

      But you also want places to deliver. You go to New York, you want a stranger to tell you to go fuck yourself. You go to London, you want a stranger to tell you to go fuck yourself while it’s raining. You go to the Valley, you want to see someone you've watched fucking. And so, finding myself here as an adult, I decided to do just that, in a minimall in Burbank, at Sardo’s Bar and Grill, the home of Porn Star Karaoke.

      Every Tuesday night, performers, producers, crew, and regulars turn out for what has now become an almost decade-long tradition in an industry where careers rarely span half that time. As bar owner Seymour Satin explained, the event was born out of a lack of industry-centered events available to the public, and soon became a staple for performers and fans alike. “When people come to Hollywood and want to see movie stars," Seymour told me, "they go to Jerry’s Deli. When they want to see porn stars, they know to come here on Tuesday nights.”

      The evening began slowly, like any karaoke night, with mostly older white males singing Creedence, Alice in Chains, and the Clash, each taking his song as seriously as a book report. By the end of the first hour, the only visible porn presence in the room was event host Tessa Lane, but by hour two, more performers began to show, and suddenly it was packed. Yes, there were popped collars. Yes, there were men with too many buttons open. Yes, there were visors. But it was also a good time, and the beer was cheap.

      Siri was the first porn star to sing, and her choice was CeeLo’s “Fuck You,” perhaps the greatest karaoke song of the last five years. As the piano intro played, Tessa Lane asked the crowd, “Can everyone just stare at those fucking tits for a second?” We complied. Siri, seeming at once unsure and absolutely sure of what to do, pressed them together and shook them, just in time for the refrain.

      After Siri’s crowd-pleasing performance, it was time for the first porn giveaway of the night. The game is simple—you hold your drink up and yell really loud while the host reads off porn titles. If you yell loud enough, they give you free porn. A collective roar broke out as each name was read: “Big Black & Fat,” [deafening unisex roar] “Cinderella Sex Connection,” [deafening male-heavy roar], and “Gangbang Virgins” [a lesser, exclusively male roar].

      Kurt Lockwood was the next star to perform. When introduced, he took the mic and said, “I’m so lucky to work with these fabulous ladies. And you can tell they love their work because once they’re done, you can see it all over their faces.” Then, in a tonal shift unlike any I’ve seen before, he said, “This one’s for Boston,” and did a deeply moving version of Bob Marley’s civil rights anthem, “Get Up. Stand Up.”

      I stepped out and decided it was a good time for an interview with the star of the show, the great Tessa Lane.

      VICE: How did you get involved with Porn Star Karaoke?
      Tessa Lane: My agent, actually. He came here all the time, and he knew that I’m a singer. I was a singer before I got into the industry, and he was like, “Oh, it’s called Porn Star Karaoke.” And I was like, “No way!” I got all excited, so I came, and I’ve been coming ever since. That was like two years ago.
       
      I hear Ron Jeremy’s a regular.
      He is a regular. I’m very surprised he’s not here tonight. He’s usually here. He may come through in a bit. He tends to show up sorta late.
       
      Are there more things like this, adult industry public pow-wows?
      There’s not. That’s why we all love coming here, because, you know, this is where we can all get together and laugh and not be… I mean in LA it’s not… you’re not really attacked—attacked is the wrong word—but you know, overwhelmed by fans. So here it’s kind of like they can approach you and be like, “Hey, do you want a drink?” and that makes them…
       
      Yeah…
      [Beat of silence.]
       
      You’re killing it, by the way.
      Thank you!
       
      And you knew all the choreography to 'N Sync's "Bye Bye Bye." That was very impressive.
      Oh you should’ve seen—one time Joey Fatone was here, and I was profusely sweating and shaking. Seymour, the owner, he knew I was here to meet Joey, and he was like “Oh, you wanna go meet him?” and I was like, “I’m not ready yet. I’m not ready yet.” So I was talking to a girl and Seymour taps my shoulder, you know, “Tessa, meet Joey,” and I just go “OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD.” He was really cool, though. He’s from New York too, so we kind of bonded over that. I did the dance to “Pop” for him.
       
      That’s great. Do you think there’s any crossover between the traits that make a good porn star and the traits that make a good karaoke performer?
      With me, I can get naked on camera and have sex, but I used to be terrified to go up and sing. I feel like I’m being judged more when I’m singing, and on my own, whereas when I’m having sex I don’t care because I’m enjoying that too. And I know a lot of people, like my friend Mia—she has those bright teal pants on—she was terrified to go up there, but put her on a porn set and she’s all over the place.
       
      Why do you think that is? That someone can be so comfortable with having sex for people yet anxious when singing for them?
      For us, it’s kind of the other way around. We’re very open with our sexuality and we love sex, so we’re ready to share it. But singing’s very intimate. I feel like people are very judgmental about it—more than with sex. It can be more hurtful if someone says, “Hey, you suck at singing," but when they’re like, “Hey, you’re fat,” I’m like, “Cool, because 20,000 other people love it.” Here, I’m watching someone watch me. It’s a little nerve-wracking.
       
      What are some of the more memorable moments you’ve had here?
      To be honest, there may be too many to name. I mean, we can’t get naked or have sex inside, but I’ve gone home with my share of people who I met through here. Two weeks ago I was with a guy who was a regular, I was like “Hey, let’s go!” and I went home with him, because people don’t care here. We don’t do nudity inside because it’s not allowed, but you can do it a little away from here, or you can do it in a car. So there’s lots of stories like that.
       
      So when guys come here it’s definitely in the back of their minds, like maybe…
      Absolutely, because I mean, people going out expect that anyway. If they’re going to a club, they’re thinking “OK, maybe I can get laid tonight," but now, this is with porn stars who are open about it and don’t care so it’s… you know… it’s… it’s definitely an option.
       
      ***

      The rest of the night was divided into two narratives: enjoying the karaoke and praying for Ron Jeremy to show up. Seymour was giving me half an hour updates, leaving Ron voice messages. Ron said he wasn't sure if he was coming out. "Call back in another half hour." By 1:30 AM, it was clear that Ron was not showing up. I was disappointed and ready to leave when the second porn giveaway started. I picked up the rest of my whiskey and screamed bloody murder. Siri walked a copy of Hairy Ass Cherries over and handed it to me. I took it home and unwrapped it, and that's where this story ends and another began.

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