(Link to Part One here.)
Where did we leave off again? Oh yes, girlfriends.
“OK, I have to ask, because women need to know – do you have a girlfriend? Married?”
“Yes, I was married to someone in the industry, Dana Vespoli. Amazing woman, very, very good friend. She directs movies now.” He proceeds to give her major props.
“And are you seeing someone?”
“Yes, I’m seeing someone now.” Damn it all to hell. Sorry ladies.
“Good,” I mumble. Good?!? As in, good for you Manny, we were concerned that you wouldn’t meet anyone? DUH. Probably more like, good, now you can let go of the fantasy that you were remotely in the running, Ariel.
I ask him is it difficult or easier, dating within the industry?
“Staying in the industry doesn’t necessarily make it easier. People don’t necessarily understand, or they think they will; and then, you’re on set with people who work with your boyfriend, or your girlfriend and people are gonna say things…people are weird like that, they like to know that they are hurting your feelings. So, a girl is going to say to the makeup artist in front of your girlfriend, ‘I worked with Manuel the other day, and he did this and he said that’…you know,” he gives a dismissive wave of his hand.
I’m blown away – every workplace, including the porn industry, is just like high school.
“It doesn’t always go well. I think sometimes it might be easier to be with someone outside of the industry—”
I feel my kegel muscles tightening in anticipation.
“—that actually has no contact with anyone but…I don’t know…it depends on the person, if it’s your nature to be jealous or not.”
Yeah, I’m out. I’d be threatened by some woman doing your taxes, much less the woman doing…you. Porn star or not, I could relate.
“So that’s interesting – so it doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily going to be more understanding, or more able to detach.”
“That could either make it easier, or it could make it worse. Not being in the industry, can make it easier because you don’t know anything, you don’t hear anything. It can make it worse, because then, what’s worse than imagination? You can create so much of something that doesn’t happen in porn at all. A lot of the people outside of porn, they think so differently of what porn really is, and then I bring someone on set, they’re like, “wow, that’s it?”
“I would imagine it would be difficult to date—OK, say it was me. Say I was dating you.” I burst into a fit of nervous giggles. Manuel raises a quizzical eyebrow. Cowed, I attempt to continue. “I would have a hard time, because you connect so incredibly with women. At least with a guy that’s like, ‘wham, bam’, I can be like, oh whatever, he’s just fucking, but with me he’s making love, but when your work consists of very similar…acts…”
He jumps in. “I had that problem not that long ago, where I was dating this girl, and she knew me, and was attracted to me because of who I was, and she was in the industry. But what [initially] attracted her, she started to hate it, because that’s how I was with everyone.”
“She didn’t feel special.”
“Yeah. Although, she was. She was very special to me. But like I said before, the way I have sex in my private life is very similar to the way I have sex on camera. I mean, on camera, I have to open for the camera, but at home, you know.” He shrugs.
I ask if he is desensitized. He looks genuinely confused. “Desensitized? I don’t understand.”
I go into another diatribe about American repression and its ultimate binge on porn, and how it has to keep upping the ante, getting more depraved, going more to extremes. He cuts me off, shaking his head.
“For me? Having sex with a different woman, every day – that keeps it going for me; it keeps it new, every day.”
The conversation turns to the proliferation of porn, for better or worse:
“What kills our industry right now is all the tube sites. Nothing beats free, right? Very few people are going to pay for something they can get for free. But at the same time, it’s what makes us popular. The exposure – people have never recognized me as much as since the tube sites. Now a lot more women fans are open about it and talk about it, on Facebook or Twitter. I find in America people are more open to porn. But it’s crazy, I get messages from people in India, ‘I can’t wait until your movie comes out’ — hey, is that the guy from Heroes?” Manuel suddenly points behind me.
I turn around and squint. It is – it’s Greg Grunberg. Nice celeb sighting, in the valley no less!
“So anyway, the tube sites are helping to mainstreaming, is that a word? Mainstreaming porn.”
I ask Manuel if he knows about Fifty Shades of Gray. He rolls his eyes. “I refuse. I will never read it.”
I give him a summary of my book report and make him laugh. “That’s funny.” His laugh is awesome, a low, sexy chuckle. Damn. I think all the ice in my drink just melted.
We discuss his new toys, and he shows me the commercial on his iPhone. (Fun fact: his iPhone cover is Nutella.) It’s adorable, not the type of word I would use to describe a sex toy commercial. But it is. He’s also designing a line of t-shirts with Wicked One. I immediately demand one, like a petulant child. “Sure, sure,” he indulges me with a smile.
“Do you have any desire to go into mainstream film?” I ask. Come on. Throw Manuel in a movie with Jason Statham, those Hemsworth brothers and maybe a dose of Tanning-Chatum-or-whatever? Magic Mike 2.0!!!
“You know, for the longest time, I was like, nah, I’m happy in porn – because, at the end of the day, it’s important to me to have fun in what I do. Back then, it didn’t seem like something that would be fun for me. Now, I see things differently. Yeah, why not? I don’t pursue it; I get offers, but [so far] it’s never interesting enough for me to do it.”
Steven Soderbergh, you’ve been notified. We await your call.
“What’s your take on female porn stars and how they’re treated, in the industry?”
“21st century – if you’re a woman in porn, you’re—“ he makes a negative motion with his hand. “If you’re a man, you’re super-macho. That doesn’t change, in people’s mentality. That’s not the way I think. I’ve called girls ‘sluts’ before, but I never mean it in a bad way, I mean it as a compliment. I consider myself a slut. I don’t think we’re meant to be with one person.”
He takes a bite of sushi (gracefully, of course) and continues. “ A lot of women now, they have the star status, and are represented by good agencies that take care of them. If you’re a woman, in America, you’re treated well. The good and bad thing about this industry is, anyone can do it.”
I give him a look like, you’re kidding, right? “Not everyone.”
“I’m talking about the woman – any woman who wants to do porn, can do porn. There’s a niche for everyone. A guy? It doesn’t matter. He can be most incredible, good-looking guy. And if he can’t get it up, that’s it.”
He describes how sudden fame and fortune can overwhelm some who choose this industry – just like the other one. And there are plenty of Lindsay Lohans and Gary Buseys as well (though he’s far too polite and professional to name names. Damn it.)
I ask him where he sees himself five, ten years from now. He pauses. “Oh wow. Hmmm…” He takes his time to answer. “You know, I’ve come to terms that I won’t be performing forever. As long as I feel good, as long as girls aren’t repulsed by me—“
I laugh at his modesty and quickly assure him he has a long shelf life. Like, George Clooney shelf life.
“I hope so. As long as I like it. I also want to do other things that challenge me. You know, doing what I do for fifteen years – it’s not a routine or anything, I give it 100%. But, it’s easy for me. But I want to also do things that aren’t that easy. Yeah, a challenge.”
I turn the recorder off, a suitable end to the interview. But it’s not the end of the story.
The end of the story is, poor Manuel becomes my ad-hoc therapist. I whine about boys, my Catholic upbringing, about getting over-emotional when it comes to sex. He nods, he smiles kindly, murmurs gently, “well, I understand – sex is an emotional thing.” I think my heart has melted into my big toe. Buzzed and emboldened, I babble about how it’s so difficult finding someone who is sexually compatible.
“OK, tell me: what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?”
Gah. What do you do, when Michael Jordan asks you about your favorite lay-up or (attempted) 3-pointer? I’m at a loss. My almost-threesome? Sex on a pool table? Please. My mind goes blank; I just sort of gape at him. “I’m not really…that experienced.”
He just smiles that smile, saying nothing. The check arrives. I quickly grab it.
“No, no no – let me.” Manuel tries to reach for it.
I pull back, aghast. “No! I interviewed you, remember? That’s so not right! You agreed to meet me…”
We have a playful argument when he stops suddenly, nods and waves at someone behind me. Is it a co-star? That guy from Heroes again? James Deen? I quickly turn around.
Manuel has expertly snatched the receipt from my hand. He holds up his hand firmly in response to my feigned outrage and quickly gives his credit card to the passing server.
I thank him profusely and then launch into the tale of my first possible orgasm in fourth grade when I notice his ever-so-slight glance at his watch. It’s been over two hours. It’s time to go.
He gives me a hug outside, makes sure I don’t get hit by the Ferrari waiting to valet, and sends me on my way with a smile and a wave.
As I’m walking to my car, I remember this anecdote he shared: “My friends in France, they always make fun of me – because there’s so many nominations, so many categories at the AVN awards, they always ask if I won for best barcode, on the DVD.”
Manuel, you win best barcode, hands down.