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
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
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.