If you are old enough, you may remember the Traci Lords story first-hand. In 1986, at the height of her popularity as one of the most famous and prolific porn stars in the world, it was revealed that Traci Lords had, in fact, just turned eighteen, and in the midst of the anti-porn crusades of the Meese Commission, all but one of the dozens of films in which she starred when she was underaged became contraband overnight.
Traci Lords told her story in her memoir. Many in the porn industry have told a different side of that story over the years. Now a podcast series is telling all the versions of the story that they can find and is trying to sort out the truth from the fiction in what comes across as a podcast-noir tale of he-said, she-said, they said where nothing seems to line up straight, but it’s a wild ride anyway.
C13Originals, the Peabody Award-nominated documentary studio division of leading premium podcast company Cadence13 and part of Entercom’s podcast network, announced Once Upon a Time…in the Valley, the real-life mystery and porno-noir podcast series created and written by Vanity Fair’s Lili Anolik, featuring Ashley West. The podcast debuted last month, and to date, seven chapters have been released. I’ve been recommending The Rialto Report, West’s excellent blog/podcast devoted to the golden age of porn chic for a few months. Here he plays the foil and fills in the blanks, providing a keen insider’s view of the history of the porn industry.
Let’s go to the press release.
Before there were sex tapes, there were sex tapes. Before there was Paris or Kim, there was Traci. The first, the best, the O.G. Hardcore since ’84.
In the roaring 80’s porn world, Traci Lords reigned supreme. No one questioned her right to sovereignty. Only, it turned out, the biggest star in adult films was, legally speaking, just a child. As America would discover in July 1986, when the FBI busted down her door. Traci Lords was really Nora Kuzma, who’d entered the industry as a 15-year-old high school sophomore. Traci, the victim, was saved. And the industry, the villain, was very nearly destroyed. But what if the victim here was also the villain; the villain, also the victim?
As Anolik cautions, “Put your condoms on, get that safe word ready” because she and Ashley are going in hard and deep. It’s the San Fernando Valley. It’s the mid-1980s, the moment the industry is exploding: moving from New York to L.A., from film to video, from the shadows to the spotlight. Traci may be the series’ focus, but its setting and supporting players—Ginger Lynn, Christy Canyon, Tom Byron, to name but a few—are so dynamic, they’re constantly threatening to upstage her. (Not that she’ll let them.)
Once Upon a Time…in the Valley launched with the first three episodes on July 14, 2020, via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, RADIO.COM and everywhere podcasts are available. New episodes will drop every Tuesday throughout the series. You can liisten to the trailer and subscribe to the series for free HERE. Note that this podcast contains adult language and storylines. It’s not suitable for anyone under the age of 18, and certainly not safe for work.
“It’s the story I’ve wanted to tell more than any other,” says Lili Anolik. “Just imagine Boogie Nights, if Boogie Nights had a three-way with Gone Girl and A Star Is Born—and it let Gone Girl be on top.”
Once Upon a Time…in the Valley was created and written by Lili Anolik in collaboration with, and produced by Peabody-Award nominated C13Originals, a division of Cadence13. The series is Executive Produced by Corcoran and Anolik; produced by West; directed by Zak Levitt; edited and mastered by Chris Basil, Bill Shultz, Perry Crowell, and Ian Mandt; with theme music and original score by Joel Goodman.
Lili Anolik is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. Her work has also appeared in Harper’s, Esquire and The Paris Review, among other publications. Her latest book, the Los Angeles Times bestseller Hollywood’s Eve: Eve Babitz and the Secret History of L.A., was named one of Esquire’s Best Books of 2019.
Ashley West is the creator of The Rialto Report, a web and podcast channel that documents the Golden Age of Porn (1969-1984). He’s worked as a consultant on HBO’s The Deuce, and has published numerous pieces on the adult industry in The Daily Beast, several of which have been optioned for film and television.
Seven episodes in, Once Upon A Time… In The Valley is engrossing. It will make you want to binge-listen. Each episode runs between 35 and 55 minutes, and aside from the sensational subject matter, it’s a compelling Rashamon-like story of one of the most shocking scandals of the Reagan era. It’s also an in-depth look at the death of the porn industry as a major force in pop culture. Between Traci Lords, The Meese Commission, AIDS and the rise of Home Video, it’s no shock that the nature of the business changed dramatically years before the internet came along and took most of the glamour and profit away.
It’s a seedy, sexy and fascinating look at the time just before video killed the porno star.
The production on the podcast is top-notch with original music, loads of interviews with people who were there, and a good rapport between Anolik and West. The dialogue is frank and uncensored, but almost everybody interviewed comes across in a good light. We are presented with many perspectives, some directly from the people involved themselves, and some via passages read from interviews, essays or memoirs. Aside from the subject matter, which may be off-putting to some, this series is practically a textbook for how to create an entertaining and enlightening documentary podcast.
I’ve been downloading Once Upon A Time… In The Valley from Radio.com, but you should be able to find it where ever you normally listen to podcasts. It’s free, with brief commercials, and it’s a great listen.