I just received this email from the producer of Nightline:
Due to breaking news. It’s tentatively scheduled to air next Thursday 2/28/08. I hope you guys understand and thanks.
I just received this email from the producer of Nightline:
Due to breaking news. It’s tentatively scheduled to air next Thursday 2/28/08. I hope you guys understand and thanks.
I just received an email from Nightline’s producer. The air date has moved to THURSDAY instead of Friday. So this THURSDAY the 21st is the air date.
I’ve got lots of people to inform. Please spread the word.
Also, ABCNews has updated the story I linked to earlier to include new information from after the filming of the debate, including feedback from Yale students. Click here to re-read that article.
And finally, I’ve posted some snapshots of Yale University. What a gorgeous place! Click here for photos of the campus.
I’m sitting in Starbucks in downtown Chico listening to a live version of Damien Rice singing The Blower’s Daughter. I love that song. I wanted to purchase Damien’s version of it several months ago, but iTunes didn’t have it available at the time. A few days ago I checked again, and the live version was for sale. YES! It’s actually quite good live. A video of Damien singing the song is available on YouTube here, free of charge.
I mention that song because it has a subduing power over me. When I listen to it, I’m taken to a place of sadness. I am pretty sure that’s because I first heard the song on the movie Closer, which was one of the most heart wrenching human drama stories I’ve ever seen… a story of love and loss, and humans being hurtful to each other. I watched that movie once, in 2004 when it came out, yet it still sticks with me.
Why would I want to take myself to that state of mind, you ask? I don’t know if I can really explain the answer to that question, but I will tell you this: yesterday morning, the morning after the debate, I woke up in a mood very similar to the one The Blower’s Daughter takes me to: sadness… a sense of loss… a feeling of love that almost seems useless to have.
Don’t get me wrong, the debate was a blast. The experience was one I will remember for the rest of my life. But I was also reminded of the slave I used to be as I spoke with two people still in that same bondage: Ron Jeremy and Monique Alexander.
Ron… I can’t help but love that guy to pieces. There is just something about him in person that just makes you want to squeeze him like a Teddy Bear. He can be a bit vulgar at times, and still I can’t help wanting to put my arm around his shoulder. Monique Alexander is a beautiful 25 year old porn star that has been in the business for 7 years. She, too, is very likable. My heart breaks for both of them because I know what it feels like to be in their shoes when the lights go off and the crowds go away.
I don’t want to go too deep, because I think you’ll do better to wait until the debate airs and experience for yourself what I’m talking about. But I do want to warn you: DO NOT, DO NOT, DO NOT watch it with children. I’m sure Nightline will bleep out certain words, but very frank porn terms will no doubt make their way into the finished product. Porn realities were discussed with no holds barred. Some adults may even want to consider whether or not they REALLY want to know what they’ll hear from that debate. Personally, I think the story needs to be heard, but if I tell you all this you can’t come to me later and say I didn’t warn you.
I prayed before the debate that God would guide what I said and let His words be heard. I prayed the same for Craig Gross as well. I sure hope that’s what happened.
The debate airs this coming Thursday night (February 21st) at 11:35 pm on Nightline ABC. The time should be the same no matter where you live. An hour and a half of discussion will be edited to about 20 minutes, but I’m told the Nightline ABC website will have the full debate beginning on Wednesday and concluding Thursday.
It will be a… learning experience… should you choose to watch.
Last night’s debate went great! I’ll tell you all more about it later. Last night I didn’t get back to my room until after 1am and was too tired to write. This morning I’ve gotta back and head back to New York City to catch my flight home. Here are the 4 “Great Debators” along with Martin Bashir from Nightline ABC, who was our moderator. That’ll have to hold ya over until I can tell ya more about it.
I’ve got a lot of photos to share, both of the debate and of Yale University. The campus is breathtakingly beautiful!
Caught with my eyes closed and a good dose of “double chin”, here we are on stage during the debate itself. The camera crew was changing tapes, and we had to pause discussion for a moment.
Added 12 Feb, 2008: ABCNews Coverage of this event has begun. Click here.
On February 15th, the day after Valentine’s Day, Craig Gross and I will be debating Ron Jeremy and Monique Alexander at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut (click here and scroll down to Feb 15th). This debate caps off “Sex Week at Yale” (if you’re wondering exactly what “Sex Week” is, click that link).
Martin Bashir from ABC’s Nightline will be the host of this debate. This debate was originally scheduled to have been filmed back in November at Ohio State University (click here and here for blog entries I made about it previously), but Nightline was called off at the last minute on another story. The debate went on, just without ABC’s camera crew or Martin Bashir as the moderator.
To be honest, I’m more excited about speaking at an Ivy League University than I am about being on Nightline debating Ron Jeremy.
Since Nightline pulled out last time I wanted to be sure this event is indeed moving forward before telling you about it. My contact at ABC called today to finalize travel and hotel arrangements.
Craig and I love to rib each other about our fashion sense. Craig wears ugly watches and pink shoes (or other bright colors). He likes to tease me about the fact that I enjoy shopping at JC Penney and Sears (“Donny, don’t you know there are stores in the middle of the mall? You need to stop shopping on the ends of the mall!”). Because of that, I once showed up for a Porn & Pancakes event wearing a shirt I purchased at Walmart.
At the moment Craig is in Ireland speaking on behalf of XXXChurch. Check out the video he just posted:
I’m sitting in Starbucks and people are looking at me funny, because I just can’t help but laugh out loud when I watch this! Good times!
I’ve begun writing a book. I’d like to share the first 3 pages with you. Please let me know what you think.
Chapter 1: I’m Out
It’s early September of 2006 and I’m sitting in the office of Playboy Vice President Joe Lackey. Joe calls in Mark Navarro, one of his managers. The two of them have an offer to present to me.
“We want to start a new site and we think you and Belinda are perfect to produce the content for it,” Joe tells me.
Mark lays out the details. The models we specialize in recruiting would indeed be perfect for this project. The offer of an additional $4,000 per day on top of what we’re already shooting for Playboy is fantastic. I leave the office in high spirits.
On the drive back to Redding I decide to speak with God. This isn’t something new: I’ve been doing a bit of praying from time to time, especially since the XXXChurch team started getting inside my head starting almost 2 years past, slowly changing my perception of Christianity.
“God, it seems to me that Christians have it all wrong,” I begin, “because it doesn’t seem to matter what I do, you want to bless me.”
The immediate jolt that goes through my body feels like electricity. An audible sound escapes my lips, as if all the air is going out of my lungs. The feeling passes quickly, but my hands are still shaking. I pull my car to the side of the road because there is no way I’m going to be able to drive for the next few minutes. It is no mystery what has just happened: God just reached out and touched me. The thing is, this zap didn’t seem in any way malicious. I’m not being punished. I’m not being warned. The intended message flashes into my mind: “This is so petty. I have much more for you than this. You wanted me to prove myself to be real, right? I just granted your wish.”
I’ve instantly lost all desire to produce porn. I can’t explain why, but in that brief moment, that literally shocking experience, my life has been changed. I don’t understand it, but that’s just the way it is, baby.
Once I’m on the road again, I pick up my cell to call Belinda, my fiancée and “partner in crime”. “I have good news and bad news,” I tell her. “The good news is, Playboy offered us another 4 grand a day to produce a lesbian series for them.” Her squeals of excitement fill my ear. She’s not gonna like the bad news.
“The bad news is, I’m not doing this anymore.
Belinda’s response indicates she doesn’t believe me. “We’ll talk about this when you get home,” she says. But what she doesn’t realize is that I’m dead serious. I’m never going to pick up a camera to shoot porn again. I have no idea how I’ll pay the bills, but porn production isn’t going to be part of my life anymore.
As I drive home I make a promise to God. “God, if you answer the questions I have about the Bible and Christianity I’ll surrender my life to you,” I bargain.
Two weeks go by and God isn’t answering. He isn’t miraculously telling me why, because of the rebellion of a group of people, unborn babies were ripped out of their mother’s wombs in Hosea 13:16. He isn’t explaining why millions of people have been killed in His name since the beginning of time. He isn’t shedding any light on the reasons for the behavior of those board members from my father’s churches who were so cruel, so mean, so… NOT like Christ.
Instead, he is silent. And I am miserable. I no longer want to produce porn, yet God is not taking up the other end of the bargain I’ve offered to Him. Doesn’t he realize I’m eagerly waiting for a reason to believe? Doesn’t he know that if he can just answer a few simple questions I’ll dedicate the rest of my life to Him?
It is now September 25th, 2006 and I’m once again returning from Sacramento, California, this time on personal business completely unrelated to Playboy. I’m contemplating God and Christianity, as I’ve been doing nearly nonstop for the past 14 days. The floodlights come on and I suddenly realize the truth: God wants me to want HIM. He wants me to choose Him without conditions. He wants me to trust Him.
“God”, I begin. “You know I have a hard time believing the sacrifice on the cross was ever really made. You know I have a hard time believing some of the things I’ve read in the Bible. But I feel like I’m supposed to surrender my life to you and trust you to help me through those issues. By faith and by choice I am accepting Jesus’ sacrifice and am surrendering my life to you. God, it feels so good to say that.”
A weight has been lifted off my heart. It seems to beat easier. I feel at peace, and excited about the future. I pick up the phone and call Craig Gross, co-founding Pastor of XXXChurch.com.
“Craig, I just surrendered my life to God.”
Our conversation goes on for a few minutes as Craig tells me he’ll be sending JR Mahon to my house the very next day to spend some time with me. I assure him I’ll pick JR up at the airport and as I end the call I’m blown away that XXXChurch would spend the money to send one of their Pastors out to California just to see me, especially on such short notice. There they go again, behaving as if they represent the Jesus I’ve read about in the Bible. There they go again, further demonstrating the stereotypes I’ve had about Christians for so many years are totally wrong. There they go again, giving me hope.
There is no doubt God’s presence has filled my car. He’s all over me. I’m covered in goosebumps. For some reason I feel compelled to turn on KLOVE, a station I detest. A song is ending, a song whose name I’ll never be able to recall. But as that song ends I know I’ll never forget the song that starts next.
The great “I AM”.
Commanding King of Kings.
And the only time… the ONLY time I ever saw Him RUN…
Was when He ran to me, took me in His arms,
Held my head to His chest, and said “My son’s come home again!”
Lifted my face, wiped the tears from my eyes,
With forgiveness in His voice He said,
“Son do you know I still love you?”
He caught me by surprise when God ran.
Oh, my God! You are running to me? You’re welcoming me home? After producing nearly 2 million pornographic photographs and hours of video, you are still running to welcome me home?
The visual in my mind is overwhelming. I begin to weep.
XXXChurch calls Mars Hill in Grand Rapids, Michigan home. In case you don’t know, Mars Hill is the church founded by Rob Bell. So when Craig Gross told me he’d been speaking with Jon Bell (Rob’s brother), that he had tickets for me to Rob’s The God’s Aren’t Angry tour, and that Jon and Rob wanted to meet afterward… well, to say “I was very excited” would be an understatement.
In October of 2006 I asked for book suggestions. Rob’s book Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith is one of the first Christian books I read after surrendering my life to God, and it blew me away. I loved it. I’ve read it once and listened to it on audio twice. I highly suggest reading it. I also highly suggest viewing as many of Rob’s Nooma videos as possible. But I digress.
Wendy and Caden took the trip with me. We spent the early afternoon on Pier 39, checking out the Aquarium of the Bay while we had the chance. After a long, brutal battle, my son charmed his way into a samurai sword (he really had to fight hard for it: showed it to mom and dad, smiled, made cute “Shrek Cat” face… sword acquired).
And so it happened that Rob Bell was later photographed with the world’s newest, deadliest samurai:
(Rob’s talk was great, by the way)
The Debate went great. Craig Gross and Ron Jeremy were introduced by the moderator. Craig gave an opening statement of 10-15 minutes, followed by Ron rebutting what he’d said. Both men made the crowd laugh a lot. Craig then introduced me, and Ron introduced Nina Hartley. After the introductions it was my turn to speak.
I told the crowd right up front that I firmly believe in the free will and freedom of speech of all people and that as such I’m opposed to legislation against pornography. Education, not legislation, is the key to changing hearts. I spoke about some of the realities of porn, sharing behind the scenes information as well as the personal costs of porn in the lives of some of the models who worked for me. I challenged them to make a decision to consider all costs before choosing to participate in the “supply and demand circle” of porn, because all of us in that circle have made our contribution to the broken lives I’d discussed. Perhaps at some point I’ll share more of what I said.
After my speech, Porn star Nina Hartley was then given an opportunity to rebut what I’d said. Since we’ve never debated each other before, she could only assume that since I’m a Christian I’d be the type who wanted to tell her “what she should do with her body and what she should do in her sex life” (my fellow Christians, now is the time I’d like to ask: why do so many of us try to take away the God given free will of others by attempting to pass legislation that denies them just that?). Although I’d taken away that argument by asserting my belief in free will, Nina already had her speech prepared and rolled with it anyway.
Following Nina’s speech, the crowd was given a chance to ask any question they wished to ask. I loved that part. Someone would ask a question, and those of us on stage would debate each other on our thoughts and opinions on the topic raised. I’d love to share some of the discussions that resulted but I think I’ll save that for a future blog entry, because what I think you’ll find most interesting had more to do with Ron and Nina than with the debate.
Ron Jeremy, my friends, is a really soft hearted man. He loves people. I can tell he has a big heart. Despite being told that security would whisk him away from the autograph table 30 minutes after the debate so that he’d have a chance to get something to eat, Ron wanted to make sure every last person had the chance to talk to him. Craig says it’s always that way. And throughout the night, I didn’t hear a negative word towards anyone escape Ron’s lips. If you ask me, I really think there is a call on Ron’s life to help people. To love people. To be used by God to do a lot of good in the world. I believe Ron is in the process of changing his life dramatically, and he may not even realize it yet.
Not much is open after 11pm, so after the debate the 4 of us had a very late dinner at a place called Moe’s, one of the few eating establishments still open near the campus. The food was pretty good. Ron patiently spoke with anyone walking by who happened to recognize him, including a homeless man on the sidewalk asking for spare change.
One of the event’s organizers drove Nina Hartley and I back to our hotels. Along the way I was able to listen to Nina share her thoughts on Jesus. It’s very apparent she firmly believes in what a great man he was. She told the driver all about him. She was right-on in everything she said. Had I not just heard her speaking about her thoughts on porn and polyamorous bi-sexual relationships I’d have sworn she was a very non-judgmental Christian. She understands grace. She understands Jesus’ sacrifice for mankind. She spoke fondly about the wonderful things he did for people, and she never once questioned his existence. I have no idea whether or not she believes he is God’s son, but I know she is well aware of what he did for mankind.
Does that surprise you?
The point I’d like to make with this blog article is that people we call “lost” are really not too far removed from any of us. Like many of those I know from the world of pornography, Ron and Nina are very transparent with their lives. They don’t feel a need to hide their “dark side”. I’m not sure about Ron, but from the conversations we had I know Nina is very much put off by judgmental, hypocritical people who have given her a hard time over the years. Whether it should be this way or not, I firmly believe her own relationship with God has been negatively influenced by the people who claim to know him best: Christians. She commented frequently on the attitudes towards people Craig and I both share: that we love everyone because Jesus loves everyone. There is nothing any human could ever do to make God love him or her any less. Nothing. Nina found that non-judgmental outlook refreshing.
During the debate, a question was raised to Ron asking him when he was going to start a “ministry” to show Christians the error and ignorance of their ways. Ron responded that he would never wish to take away a person’s religious beliefs. Comments on that question were opened up to the rest of us, and I told the audience that while I agreed with the person posing the question that church sucks, I hoped he’d separate God from those who claim to represent Him, because God, my friend, doesn’t suck. The crowd applauded. I also told them that as I’ve been traveling and speaking with Christians at churches all across the country, I’ve been very encouraged to see that many people are also working to put away judgmental attitudes and behave more like Jesus. I know that trend is going to continue. For anyone who is serious about doing what Jesus asked each of us to do, there is no other option.
Because God doesn‘t suck.
Written yesterday while on a jet flying to Ohio. Gotta love Journler.
I’m on an airplane bound for Columbus, Ohio. Tomorrow morning Jason Harper and I will be speaking at a Porn and Pancakes event in Dayton. Jason will then fly home to celebrate his son’s birthday. I’ll stay in Ohio for an event I’ve been looking forward to for several weeks. It’s been tough to keep quiet about it, but now that the airing of the event on Nightline has been postponed I guess I’ll tell you about it before it happens:
Live in front of 3,500 students at Ohio State University, porn stars Ron Jeremy and Nina Hartley will be debating Craig Gross and yours truly on the topic of Pornography. Craig and Ron normally debate each other. This time it’s two on two at the request of the crew from Nightline. Martin Bashir from Nightline was supposed to have been the moderator. Unfortunately, filming has been postponed, as Martin was called off just yesterday to a story he’s been following for quite awhile. I’ve been assured the planned filming will happen in the near future, but for now we’ll debate in front of those in attendance. I’m very excited about it. When he first found out the tv crew wasn’t going to be there, Ron’s agent wasn’t sure if he’d be okay with Nina and I appearing at the debate… and at first he wasn’t. But this morning I received word from Craig that Ron had changed his mind and is welcoming us.
To be honest, I’m not all that disappointed at the lack of TV cameras. When the new date is scheduled I’ll have had one “practice” debate, so to speak. Wait, that kinda sounds bad. Please don’t take it that way. This debate is just as important without the cameras as it will be with them. It’s just that I’ve been feeling a bit nervous, not knowing what to expect. After this weekend I’ll have a better idea of the keypoints Ron and Nina use for their “pro porn” arguments. I like that idea.
I’m flattered Craig invited me to be at his side (thanks, Craig). The debate begins Sunday night at 8pm eastern time/5pm Pacific Time. If you’re of the praying persuasion, please talk to God for us.
Amusing (to me anyway) side note: I have my iTunes playing songs at random. Guess what just started playing? Yep. Turn The Page by Metallica. That song was sent to me through iTunes several months ago by a friend who was giving me a hard time as I told her I was on my way to a speaking engagement. She was warning me against getting a “big head”. I really find it funny that it started playing as I wrote about yet another speaking engagement. The lyrics go something like this:
Here I am,
On the road again.
There I am,
Up on the stage.
Here I go,
Playin’ star again.
There I go…
Turn the page.
That may be amusing, but God, I never want to feel like I’m a “star”. I never want that to happen. There have been a handful of people in my life who have asked me if I ever start feeling that way, and I want you to keep putting them in my life to keep me accountable. But I do thank you for giving me a battle to fight. Every man needs one because it makes us feel like our life means something. Thank you for using me in this one.