(Salon)

The porn identity

From Lisa Ann to Dale Dabone, performers choose their names for a reason. We spoke to the experts about why


Hannah Tepper
February 28, 2012 9:59AM (UTC)

What makes a good porn star name? As the childhood game goes, you can combine your first pet with the street you grew up on to find yours. (In my case, it's Max Harvard.) But the truth is, some names just sound porn-y: For women, it's names like Amber, Tiffany and Britney. For guys, it's Lance, Brock and Butch. But what makes these names pornier than, say, Edith and Barnaby? What makes a porn name work?

While pornographic film has ostensibly been in existence since the birth of the moving image, the porn star name did not take hold until the 1970s, when the rise of adult theaters and the emergence of full-lenth mainstream porn films such as "Deep Throat" (1972), "The Boys in the Sand" (1971) and "The Devil in Miss Jones" (1973) created a new space for pornographic actors and actresses to become popular icons. Some argue "Deep Throat’s" Linda Lovelace was America’s first household “porn name.” Other porn stars like Bambi Woods, Seka and Johnny Wadd followed suit.

Porn icon Annie Sprinkle, who has been in the industry for the past 38 years and has worked in films big and small with costars such as Sharon Miller, Harry Reems and Vanessa Del Rio, remembers the process of shedding her old name for a new porn one and a new persona in 1973. “I didn’t want to use my real name, Ellen Steinberg. That was not sexy,” Sprinkle recalled. “I was lying in bed, I needed new name, and I heard a voice that said, ‘Sprinkle.’ I liked that word because I’ve always liked swimming and I fancied myself a mermaid,” Sprinkle remembers. This porn-name-as-rebirth story is common among the stars who choose to leave their old identities behind and rechristen themselves. The most practical reason for the porn name, however, is to keep family and friends unaware of the porn star’s new line of work, one that would be an unwelcome surprise to ma...

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