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Life After Porn: The Retirement Challenge

From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, there was no bigger porn star than Christy Canyon. Energetic, unenhanced and with an air of approachability, she was the perfect fantasy girl.

When she ended her career in 1997, though, she had no idea what her next move would be.

It’s a common problem in the world of adult entertainment. Porn stars, you see, don’t get 401k plans. They don’t have pension plans. And when their careers end, they really aren’t able to carry their most notable skill to another job. It can be a daunting thing to face – especially for those who have broken through and found longevity in the industry.

Canyon was lucky. Beyond the fixed amount per film she earned for performing with Vivid

Christy Canyon
Source: Playboy
Christy Canyon

Entertainment, she also negotiated a $1 royalty for each copy of the film that was sold. And in the heyday of porn, that was a substantial number.

She saved the money – investing it in the market and prospered. (The first stock she bought, she says, was Wal-Mart).

“When I retired, I knew I could survive another 20 years without earning a dime,” she says. “That was my security blanket.”

Rather than curling up in that blanket, she bounced around, trying new things after leaving the set. In the early days of eBay, she sold memorabilia directly to fans. An encouraging teacher at a writing class led to a book (which she self-published, since she didn’t like the one-time payment deal publishers were offering her).

For the better part of the last five years, she has been the host of Playboy Radio’s “Night Calls”.

“I couldn’t imagine doing something unrelated to porn,” she says. “I always knew that whatever I did, it would be associated with ‘Christy Canyon’.”

That’s not an uncommon philosophy. A career in porn typically overshadows an actress’s other achievements, no matter what successes they have. But the industry tends to protect its own – and many of the true superstars, who are its ambassadors to the mainstream world, keep their toes in the water even after they retire.

Tera Patrick, whose reign atop porn lasted most of the last decade, recently retired, but is on

Tera Patrick
Getty Images
Tera Patrick

a book tour for her just-released memoir. She also continues to operate an adult video production company. At the same time, she’s also trying her hand as a club DJ as she attempts to branch into new fields.

Others get degrees and move on with their life. (Nursing is a popular choice, for some reason). Some chase a dream of becoming a mainstream actress – never managing to get more than an occasional role.

A larger number move into the behind-the-scenes side of porn. Some start talent agencies or their own production company. Others - typically the ones who reach a modicum of success, but not real stardom - become on-set photographers or make-up artists.

Talk with today’s porn stars, though, about life after their film career and the same name comes up over and over: Jenna Jameson.

The actress, who translated her porn fame to the pop culture world, is a model of what many stars strive for. The problem is: The porn world has changed dramatically from Jameson’s days. Competition is fiercer. Salaries are lower. And competition from the Internet makes stardom on that level considerably less likely.

Jesse Jane
Joe Kohen | Getty Images
Jesse Jane

A few seem to get that – and are paying much closer attention to the business side of porn as they perform. Jesse Jane, one of today’s reigning queens, has spent seven years carefully building her brand. She recently renegotiated her contract and is about to launch a line of signature premium sex toys.

"I figure I'm going to do [porn] for four or five more years and then quit," she says. "I've been pretty good with my money. … My focus is save, save, save. After this, I'd like to maybe open my own business - and have enough saved that even if that didn't go right, I'd be ok."

She hasn't decided yet whether that business will be tied with the adult entertainment industry, but says it’s a definite possibility.

"When I retire [from acting], I will have spent 11 or 12 years of my life doing this,” she says. “I go to all the business shows with [Digital Playground] so I can learn. … I think you can never leave."

And what about men? Typically, true male porn "stars" have a longer shelf life than women. Performers like Ron Jeremey and Evan Stone are still actively performing after 15-20 years, something the audience won't let women do.

Once they leave film, they generally move to the Web, where they operate their own site, doing the same gig.

The more generic male performers are often the boyfriends of female performers. Their career spans in the industry are much, much shorter than women's.

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