Top 10 Most Famous Adult Film Stars
Whether you’re a fan of adult film stars or an objector, there’s no denying the popularity of this form of entertainment. It’s estimated to garner about $10 billion in revenues each year, although with many porn companies privately held, it is difficult to estimate. Its influence is so great in the entertainment industry that the battles between Beta and VHS, and Blu Ray or HD were decided by the demands and trends set by porn. On the Internet, porn sites make up about 12% of all sites, taking in approximately $2.4 billion a year. A whopping 30% of all search engine requests are for adult material, and 35% of all downloads are adult material. Porn actually was instrumental in developing key technologies for the internet, including credit card sales and web video.
Okay, so now that we have established the influence of pornographic materials, what about the people that make them? Here’s a list of those fine “actors” and “actresses” who have made it “big” in the business. All of these people got their start in hardcore, some have crossed over to become mainstream stars, some have become household names for other more notorious reasons, and some are just really, really good at what they do.
It’s probably impossible to star in over 200 films and stay anonymous, even if those films are hardcore. Seka was one of the best-known and prolific porn actresses in the late 70s through mid-80s. Her look was pure 80s excess, with a new wave, platinum blond hairstyle, heavy make-up, and cheesy Flashdance clothing. She “retired” in the mid-80s in part due to the AIDS epidemic but returned to make several more films in the 90s. Following her porn career, Seka hosted a sex talk radio show in Chicago and was the focus of a documentary called Desperately Seeking Seka in 2002. In 2005, she moved from Chicago to Kansas City, operating her fan club through her own website. In February 2007, she stated she had just shot her first hardcore scene in nearly 15 years, available as online pay-per-view. She published her autobiography, Inside Seka in 2015.
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This Italian actor/director/producer journeyman of Euro porn is one of the most well-known male adult film stars in Europe. Starring in over 400 films, he is sometimes called “The Italian Stallion.” The married father of two boys has done several mainstream projects, including movies, TV, and a commercial for snack chips that was pulled off the air due to its supposed controversial nature. A 2016 documentary titled Rocco offered a behind-the-scenes account of the porn industry.
As a young model, Marilyn Chambers was the face of Ivory Snow, featured on the detergent box holding a baby with the tagline: “99 & 44/100% Pure.” Later, out of work, she accepted a role in a porn film called Behind The Green Door, which made her a household name, in part due to the Ivory Snow connection. She said that the film would help sell a lot more soap, but the ad industry was scandalized, and Proctor & Gamble dropped her from the boxes. The 1972 film features Chambers having sex with an African American actor—a first for feature-length hardcore in the U.S. Both the porn industry and the public were shocked by the then-taboo image of a white woman having sex with a black man. She made a couple of dozen adult films through the 70s and into the 80s. (The infamous Ivory Snow box is often strategically placed in her films). After bowing out of porn, Chambers tried to make a comeback with small mainstream roles and also mounted a very unsuccessful bid for vice-president of the U.S. on the Personal Choice Party ticket in 2004. She died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 2009 at the age of 57. See the infamous Ivory Snow box here.
Shortly after her 18th birthday in 2006, California native Marina Ann Hantzis started a career in porn as Sasha Grey. Her popularity rose quickly, thanks to her good looks and on-screen, shall we say, enthusiasm. In her first year, she won several adult film awards and was being called the next Jenna Jameson. A new breed of “adult entertainer,” Sasha also found success as a mainstream model, posing for renowned photographers and brands such as American Apparel. Steven Soderbergh (director of Traffic, Erin Brockovich, Ocean’s Eleven, and others) read an article about Sasha and cast her as the lead in his 2009 film, The Girlfriend Experience. She received decent reviews for her role as a high-priced call girl (not much of a stretch, I guess). She also appears in the seventh season of the popular HBO series Entourage, where she plays herself and girlfriend to character Vincent Chase. In 2013, she published her first novel, the internationally successful The Juliette Society, in 25 countries.
Peter North is a Canadian-born adult film star with a career spanning well over two decades, beginning in the early 80s. North has appeared in more than 1,000 adult films. He has also directed and produced numerous films, including some in the North Pole and Deep Throat This series. In 1983, he appeared in his first movie, Cousins, under the name Matt Ramsey. North has performed on camera with nearly every notable porn actress from the 1980s through the 2000s, including a few women also on this list. He is known for his forceful, copious ejaculations and large penis, as confirmed by a few female co-stars. This led to his nickname, “The North Pole.”
He wrote a dating guide in 1994, titled Penetrating Insights, and is a member of the Adult Video News (AVN) Hall of Fame. Compilations of some of his film scenes are still being produced, and he is now credited with more than 1600 adult film and compilation videos.
After a childhood of sexual abuse at the hands of her father and stepfather, adult film star Patricia Kuzma (aka Traci Lords) began adult modeling at age 15 by using a fake ID, provided to her by her mother’s ex-boyfriend (with whom she was living). By the time she was 18, she had appeared in over 100 adult films, almost all of which were made when she was underage. Once discovered in 1986, the fallout was huge, costing the porn industry millions. Distributors and video stores were obliged to pull hundreds of thousands of her videos off shelves to avoid child pornography charges. Lords was arrested, but with all the media coverage, she became a household name. (Peter North, mentioned above, was also drawn into the investigation as they appeared together in several films).
Traci was able to parlay the publicity in a move to the mainstream, appearing in numerous films, most notably, John Waters’s fun Cry Baby, starring Johnny Depp and more recently, Kevin Smith’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno. She has made countless appearances in dozens of TV shows, as well as having recurring roles in Roseanne and others. Her autobiography was a New York Times bestseller. Today, Lords continues to make mainstream movies, mostly low budget, straight to DVD films.
As the star of one of the most famous hardcore films of all time, Deep Throat, Linda Boreman, nee Lovelace, lived a confused and sad life. She had a strict religious upbringing and was involved in an accident, contracting Hepatitis from a blood transfusion. While healing, she became involved with Chuck Traynor, whom she later married, then accused of brutal beatings and forcing her to make porn at gunpoint and with threats and drugs. Before Deep Throat, she made a number of short hardcore “loops” for peep shows, including one featuring bestiality with a dog (which she at first denied, then claimed Traynor forced her to do it). Deep Throat, which achieved unprecedented popularity among mainstream audiences in 1972, believe it or not, was her only feature-length hardcore film. After that, she starred in two softcore R-rated films, including Deep Throat 2. She later denounced her porn career, wrote her autobiography, and became a voice for the feminist anti-pornography movement.
In 2002, Linda was in another major accident and never recovered. She died at the age of 53. She left behind two children from a second marriage. Lovelace and the film were the subjects of a fascinating 2005 documentary, Inside Deep Throat. Her life story in porn and after porn was made into a movie titled Lovelace in 2013.
Ron Jeremy Hyatt, born to a middle-class Jewish family in Queens, NY, earned a degree in education and worked as a special education teacher before entering the adult entertainment industry in the late 70s. He earned the nickname “Hedgehog” from fellow porn stars due to his hairiness. Ron is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for most appearances in adult films (numbering over 2,000) and is ranked as the number one male porn star by AVN (Adult Video News). A couple of lowbrow claims to fame were his ability to perform self-fellatio and his lack of need for any stimulants (Viagra is apparently very popular among male adult film stars).
Ron Jeremy has been one of the more successful crossover stars, appearing in several mainstream films, including Boondock Saints, Boogie Nights, and several B-movies from Troma Films (creators of The Toxic Avenger), and is the subject of a documentary called Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy. His likability and self-effacing nature have led to his many appearances on TV shows as well, most notably VH-1’s The Surreal Life. He still appears in and directs hardcore films, despite his age and obvious weight gain.
One of the most prolific male porn stars of all time, John Holmes, starred in approximately 2,500 films, from loops to features, in the 70s and 80s. He is estimated to have had sex with about 3,000 women (and several men). Known mostly for his large penis, Holmes later gained notoriety for his involvement in a drug-related shooting in LA. Born in Ohio in 1944, Holmes kicked around most of his teenage life due to problems at home. He joined the army and later married. He was “discovered” by a photographer, who saw Holmes’s impressive member at a urinal and encouraged him to get into porn. Holmes quickly became the King of Porn and starred in a series of hardcore films as detective “Johnny Wadd.” During this time, he made dozens of films, making lots of money and taking part in the excesses of fame, such as drugs and partying.
By the early 80s, a severe cocaine addiction had taken its toll. He wasn’t able to “perform” as well as he used to. Desperate for money and drugs, Holmes began prostituting himself and his new young girlfriend to men and women. He became involved in drug trafficking with various gangs and was arrested for his alleged involvement in the murder of four drug dealers on Wonderland Avenue in Laurel Canyon. He was later released due to a lack of evidence. Holmes was diagnosed with AIDS in 1986, probably from having sex with an HIV-positive man on film in the early 80s. (Holmes never used needles for drugs). He died from complications of the disease in 1988.
His life was the subject of two movies, Boogie Nights (which was a loosely based account) and Wonderland. A documentary, Wadd-The Life and Times of John C. Holmes, has attained some cult status.
Possibly the world’s most famous and popular adult film stars, Jenna Jameson (real name, Jenna Marie Massoli) has become an industry on her own. Allegedly raped several times in high school, she left home to live with her boyfriend and, after a failed attempt to become a Vegas showgirl, Jameson started stripping and nude modeling. In 1995, she starred in her first hardcore film after beating a drug addiction that left her weighing only 76 pounds. Her career took off quickly. By 2001, Jameson earned $60,000 a day to shoot hardcore and over $8,000 a night to make appearances at strip clubs.
Howard Stern, a fan of Jameson, cast her in a small role in his film Private Parts and invited her for regular appearances on his radio show. Jameson’s popularity grew. Her mainstream appearances expanded to shows on the E! network and other small film cameos. Taking advantage of her huge fanbase, she started an adult company called ClubJenna that grew from one website to be a major force in the industry, with revenues estimated at over $30 million. Her autobiography How to Make Love Like A Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale, spent six weeks on the New York Times bestseller list in 2004. She continues to manage ClubJenna and other businesses while having retired from making porn films. In 2008, she had the lead role in the comedy-horror film Zombie Strippers. Interesting side note: She is the first and only pornographic film star to be immortalized in wax by Madame Tussaud’s Museum–in where else…Las Vegas.