Singing karaoke keeps porn star industry humming

BURBANK, Calif. (AP) - Even the most ardent fans of porn star Julie Meadows are unlikely, it seems safe to say, to have ever seen her like this.

But there she is, the star of "Alice in Fetishland" and more than 200 other hardcore sex films, standing on a stage, dressed demurely in jeans, matching vest and white top, her blonde hair piled up under a fetching white watchman's cap, belting out an enthusiastic but entirely PG-rated version of that old garage-band rock classic "Wild Thing."

"Wild Thing I think I love you - BUT I WANT TO KNOW FOR SURE!" Meadows growls, as fellow porn star Nicki Hunter, in a white mini-dress, leaps on stage to harmonize. A moment later, when Meadows breaks into some impressive air-guitar moves, the crowd howls its approval.

Don't get the wrong idea. This isn't the opening scene for a porn video. It's simply Porn Star Karaoke Night at Sardo's Grill & Lounge, a friendly little hole-in-the-wall place that six nights out of the week is just another karaoke pub.

The club, in fact, offers Family Fridays when parents can bring their children. On Mondays, people play Rock Band 2 while they sing. On Wednesdays there are trivia games.

But on Tuesday nights, when just about everybody else is getting ready for bed in this quiet suburb on the edge of Los Angeles, Sardo's becomes the place to be for anyone who has ever been, or who wants to be, connected with the porn business.

Between beery versions of popular songs, this is where the deals that lead to films like "Video Voyeur" often get made.

"Anytime you come to L.A. you've got to spend Tuesday night at Sardo's. That's where you meet the directors and the producers," says Tony Batman, who travels the country putting on Miss Nude contests, strip shows and exotic showcases for would-be stars.

Sonny Malone, one of the busiest film editors in the business, holds court most every week at a table reserved for her near the stage, where she hands out business cards and talks shop.

"I've made a hundred deals here," says Malone, a friendly, talkative woman of 45 who on a recent night is surrounded by two young women friends who have come to see what all the hoopla is about.

"They're not in the industry! Don't hit on them!" she warns any director or producer who approaches.

And there's also the usual amount of water-cooler talk.

Magdalene St. Michaels, the 52-year-old star recently nominated for a MILF/Cougar award (the industry's top honor for older actresses), is getting opinions on the recent full-page ad promoting herself in Adult Video News.

"Very impressive," veteran porn writer Tod Hunter tells her as he checks out the photo.

Just outside the front door, Robert Billman (Captain Bob to those who saw him in films such as "Nurse Sadie" and "Pleasureville") is lobbying people to sign his petitions to put measures on the California ballot legalizing marijuana, preventing gerrymandering of legislative districts and giving consumers a break on car insurance.

As the porn stars schmooze, a 52-year-old former librarian who goes by the name Seymour Satin helps keep things under control from behind the curtain.

Satin, the bar's owner, tells Captain Bob sharply, "We don't allow that in here" when he agrees to autograph a female fan's bare backside.

Satin was the corporate librarian for ARCO in 2000 when the oil company was taken over by BP. The new owner offered him a job in its Naperville, Ill., office, but he decided to stay in California and buy a bar instead. Soon he had turned it into a karaoke club.

Porn Star Tuesdays began accidentally in 2003 when a handful of entertainers, after a long day on the set, dropped by to unwind. They had so much fun they came back the next week and brought their friends. Six years later, they are still coming back, and attracting a following of fans that usually has the bar filled to capacity.

But what about the all important question? Can porn stars really sing?

In most cases it becomes clear within just a few off-key notes that these people are lucky they have sex films to fall back on. But every now and then someone who really can sing gets up in front of the microphone. Nicki Hunter, for example, has a surprisingly sweet soprano voice.

"I actually did do some recordings when I was younger but everyone told me in music you've got to be willing to starve for your art. So I said, 'No, I'll go into porn instead and make some money,'" says the married mother of two sons.

Meadows, who is as shy and reserved offstage as Hunter is outgoing, is one of the few in the business to have actually appeared in a musical. It was an X-rated version of George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion."

St. Michaels, whose husband works in the music business, also can sing, although she'll usually hold back until later in the evening, after she's worked up the nerve to do her best Peggy Lee impression.

"You would think it would be easy for me to sing, but my perfectionism kicks in and I get scared that I won't be good," she explains. "The first time I got up to sing I was more nervous than the first time I took my clothes off and had sex in front of people."

© 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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