Traci Lords (born Nora Louise Kuzma; May 7, 1968), also known as Traci Elizabeth Lords and Tracy Lords, is an American film actress, producer, film director, writer and singer. She first achieved notoriety for her underage appearances in pornographic films and Penthouse magazine (she was 15 years old in her first film), later becoming a television and B-movie actress.
Shortly after, she was modeling for widely distributed adult magazines, most notably Penthouse, in the same September 1984 issue that exposed Miss America 1984, Vanessa Williams. She quickly ventured into adult movies. Her first movie was What Gets Me Hot!, followed by Those Young Girls and Talk Dirty To Me Part III, all made in the first half of 1984. Lords' youthful appearance and enthusiastic sexual performances propelled her to stardom. By the time she was 18, she had appeared in 100 adult films; however, Lords argued in her autobiography about 80 of those films were composed from leftover and re-edited footage from the original 20 films which were shot.
In May 1986, authorities discovered she had been underage while making pornographic movies and arrested her, as well as the owners of her movie agency and X-Citement Video, Inc. (See United States v. X-Citement Video.) The ensuing prosecution against the agencies cost the pornographic film and distribution industry millions of dollars, as they were obliged by law to remove hundreds of thousands of her videotapes, films and magazines from store shelves to avoid the risk of prosecution for trafficking in child pornography (the legality varies with countries: while it is illegal in France to produce a pornographic film involving an actor under 18, the film remains legal). In her book, Lords suggested hypocrisy on the part of the movie producers and the news media, arguing the porn industry actually got richer from the publicity of the scandal, even as they complained of losing money after destroying her illegal movies. Lords felt she was also exploited by the reporters, who used censored stills from her unlawful films. Lords herself was never charged with a crime, since as a minor she was unable to give informed consent to perform sex acts on film for money. Instead, the agents and producers who accepted her fake IDs were charged and people affiliated with the films in question experienced legal troubles for years.
Like most starlets of the time, Lords received a salary for her appearances in X-rated movies and didn't own the rights of those films. According to her autobiography, she made $35,000 as total salary for all of those movies, including the $5,000 she received for her appearance in Penthouse. Most of this money was spent on rent and drugs. It also paid for a black Corvette her boyfriend later wrecked.
For her last few films, she and another much older boyfriend formed the Traci Lords Company, where he co-produced and directed the movies. Lords received a smaller salary, but also received part of the rights of these movies.
Only one of these films, Traci, I Love You, was produced after her eighteenth birthday, making it the only one legally available in the United States. (However, in non-US jurisdictions where the age of consent is lower, as well as over the Internet, her earlier films continue to be distributed).
After her arrest, Lords sold her rights to this film for $100,000. This action led to claims that Lords herself had tipped off the authorities to gain immunity from prosecution, while profiting from the movie. No proof has ever surfaced to substantiate this claim. Lords denies this notion in her autobiography, and claims she was reluctant to sell the rights, since at that time she was trying to become a mainstream actress and didn't want any older movies still available. Also, she wrote she knew nothing of people's real names or who produced which film, and did not provide such information to the FBI. The FBI agents, "appeared annoyed" when she could not provide the information they wanted. She said the agents claimed to have monitored her for three years.
Government prosecutors declared Lords was a victim of a manipulative industry, maintaining she was drugged and made to do non-consensual acts. But industry insiders, like Ron Jeremy, Ginger Lynn and Tom Byron, say they never saw her use drugs, and she was fully aware of her actions, even if, as a minor, she could not legally consent. One of her co-workers from that time, Christy Canyon, has gone so far as to say about Lords' autobiography: "I think her book could have been fabulous, except that she was lying throughout the whole thing."
While Lords decries the pornographic film industry, she continues to use the stage name she gave herself as a minor, and ultimately made it her legal name. She wrote, "I chose to stop running from it. Instead, I won it, legally changing my name to Traci Elizabeth Lords. That's who I was, and that's who I was going to be." Lords stated she is not trying to deny her past, telling Oprah Winfrey: "I found you can run but you cannot hide".[
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