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California Dream

A nice Jewish boy with an Ivy League degree tells his parents that he has moved to L.A. to make porn. An excerpt from the memoir American Gangbang.

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My parents and I had a little thing going where we spoke on the phone every Sunday. A couple of weeks after I’d gotten settled in L.A., I decided to come clean to my old man. It had been a long time coming.

“Dad? You know how you’re always talking about how you want to know what I’m doing with my life, but I never tell you anything?”

“Yes. You guard your privacy jealously. Like a jackal. You haven’t told us a single thing about Los Angeles since you moved there.”

“Well, I decided you were right. It’s not good, and I owe you an apology.”

“Accepted,” he said. “Thank you for saying that.”

“Would you like to know what I’m doing with my life?”

“Please, mystery man.”

“I’m producing porn.”

There was a moment of silence on the other end of the line.

“Excuse me?”

“I said, I’m producing porn.”

“And what do you mean by that?”

“Exactly what I said. You wanted to know what I’m doing with my life. Well, against all odds, I’ve managed to insinuate myself into the porn industry. Pretty cool, huh?”

He cleared his throat. “Ellen, get on the line.” He waited until my mom clicked on. “How long have you been doing this?”

“To be honest, I’ve sort of been in the business for about half a year now. Hi, Mom.”

“Hi, Sam,” she said. “What’s this nonsense?”

“Oh, I make porn,” I explained.

“But what about the juice bar?” snapped my father.

“I worked there. Part-time. But now I make porn.”

My father’s temper had held remarkably well to this point, but now he exploded. “But this is nonsense! Ellen, say something, please! What has our son gotten himself into this time?”

“Dad,” I said calmly, “there’s no need to get all riled up. I’m part of a very well-established, historically sound industry. Stood the test of time. In fact, you could sort of say it’s the second-oldest profession.”

“That thousand dollars I lent you,” he mumbled, remembering. “This was your business plan?”

My mother spoke up. “This is some kind of elaborate joke, right?”

“Look,” I continued, “I can understand your reaction. Heck, if I had a son who went to work in the porn business, I might be a tad bit disturbed, too. But what you don’t get yet is that I’m out to produce a different kind of porn. A progressive kind.”

“What does that mean?” he snapped. “Porn is porn. Our son, the pornographer.”

“Sam, you’re not ‘acting,’ are you?” pleaded my mom. “I don’t care what you do, just tell me you’re not ‘acting.’ ”

“Our son, the pornographer?” repeated my father. “Holy God. I can’t believe I’m saying this out loud.”

“But don’t you see? All porn isn’t cut from the same cloth,” I proclaimed proudly. “My mission is to change the game. From the inside out. I am going to make porn that’s art.”

“Ellen, did you know about this? Have you two been keeping this from me?”

“Have you lost your mind?” said my mom. “What are you implying?”

“Jesus,” I said, annoyed. “Will you two listen? I’m making movies that are actually movies. I’m trying to make videos that help you know the people inside the bodies. You know, their personalities and stuff. Their motivations.” I paused, then took a small chance. “It’s very Freudian.”

“Don’t you dare try to hook me!” yelled my dad.

“Seriously, Dad?” I said. “You might like them. Listen, I have an idea. I’m going to send you one of my movies. Would that be all right with you? Would you watch it? It’s about domination. And urination.”

“Oh, wonderful,” he said, exasperated. “We’ll screen that very soon. Then we’ll both wheel ourselves over to the hospital and have brain aneurysms.”

“You guys,” I said, “I have to go now. I have to go make porn. For the record, I think you were right: I haven’t let you in on my life enough recently. From here on out, it’s all about truth, openness, and honesty. Talk to you later.”


Though my parents and I weren’t exactly on the same page when it came to porno, I nevertheless felt the urge to apprise them of my newfound success. I knew I wouldn’t be able to turn them around on the whole issue, but with so much money coming in, I figured maybe we could find some common ground.


“Son of mine. So nice to hear your voice. How are you?”

“Great, Dad, but how are you? How’s the head-shrinking business?”

“Fine, just fine. I’ve found something that keeps me out of trouble. Not to mention my job assists me in staying up-to-date with the world around me. Did you know, for instance, that more and more people are using coffee shops as places to find life partners?”

“Is one of your clients a coffee shop owner?”

“I can’t tell you that, of course. You see, my boy, there’s a little thing called a confidentiality agreement that I enter into. You may have heard about it?”


“It would be inappropriate for me to say.”

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I visualize Tablet’s commenters as they, like Sam’s parents, wheel themselves over to the hospital and have brain aneurysms.

Verificationist says:

Sam, how boorish to make us read all this dialogue without once mentioning an actual title, so we, the faithful readers of Tablet, can judge for ourselves whether your time was well spent.

Of all the parental conversation topics you could dream, this has to be near the top of the “most hilariously awkward.” My folks had it easy, by comparison.

Must be nice to “produce” porn. Instead of having parentals fork over $$$ for tuition for those expensive fun degrees, you should be out /starring directing porn and making $$$ to pay them back!

Hopefully this story is his first step on the road to Teshuva. I hope he learns and grows from it all. Good luck, Sam.

Kathryn Hanley says:

If I may posit an alternate title – Lazy Man’s Research Project.

My concern is not so much for the pornographers but for the so-called actors who must think that they are making a noble gift, that, on some level, they are saving others from having to go through the same exploration and very kinesthetic search for a soulmate (or to give up the hope for one). Imagine having people have access to your O face but having no idea when they were seeing you?! At least if you run into an ex-husband or ex-girlfriend you know they have something on you, if they’re the type that’s into combat not manners.

I admire your piece of work, regards for all the good articles .

Sheldon says:

I just finished reading American Gangbang, and unless I missed something, nowhere does the author mention in it that he is Jewish (he only mentions that Luke Ford is a convert to Orthodox Judaism).

In addition, Benjamin’s view of porn is quite ahistorical – there has been lots of porn films that embody progressive values, but he acts like he’s the first to think of that.


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California Dream

A nice Jewish boy with an Ivy League degree tells his parents that he has moved to L.A. to make porn. An excerpt from the memoir American Gangbang.