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Postscript: The Teenager & The Porn Star

Senior Editor Dave Gardetta on how he met Sasha Grey, the teenage porn star he profiled in 2006 who is now starring in Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience 

Three years ago I went looking for a young woman with certain aspirations and credentials. She had to be new to L.A., 18 years old, and have the desire to build a film career in pornography. The national attention awarded to X-rated stars like Jenna Jameson, I believed, had caused a shift in the porn industry, which is mostly located in the San Fernando Valley. Where would-be starlets once arrived in Hollywood during the ‘40s and ‘50s with dreams of studio contracts stuffed under their pillbox hats, today their counterparts were showing up in Encino and Northridge looking for similar contracts, albeit with a different kind of studio. Careers, fame, even crossover success were all now possible for young women – teenagers, really – who were willing and able to maintain a particularly grueling work schedule.

How grueling? More than 100 X-rated films a year was not an uncommon goal for an 18-year-old actress’s first year in the other Industry. A number that large quickly presented problems to a reporter looking for a beginner. I attended dinners with agents who swore they represented actresses just right for my story, women new to the business. In the Valley, however, this could mean someone who had 25–or even 75–films already streaming on the Internet.

By luck, one day I phoned an agent named Mark Spiegler at about the same time a Sacramento transplant named Sasha Grey also called him. Sasha had just turned 18, arrived in the Valley, and was looking for representation. She said she wanted to be a star, maybe a director. She was smart, well-read, and carried herself like someone much older than her age during our first meeting. What really intrigued me, however, was our second meeting. Sasha had somehow changed already—grown up a bit—within a week’s time, seeming somehow savvier and even more poised than before. She was one of those oddly gifted individuals who adapt and thrive in an alien soil—and she’d picked the strangest of environments to do so.

It was June, and Sasha agreed to let me spend the summer following her initial season in porn, and then write a profile. She had completed just one film when I met her, and by the time the story appeared in the November 2006, issue of Los Angeles magazine, she was closing in on number 100. In a year’s time she would show up on The Tyra Banks Show and win two AVN awards, the porn industry’s equivalent of the Oscars. Since then she’s appeared on a Smashing Pumpkins CD cover and modeled for American Apparel. This month she stars in Steven Soderbergh’s new film, The Girlfriend Experience. Set in the week leading up to the 2008 presidential election, the film chronicles the life of a fictitious Manhattan call girl whose clients are looking for companionship more than sex.

ALSO: Read The Teenager & The Porn Star