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Artist Zak Smith, aka porn guy Zak Sabbath, talks with Reviewer TV

[Verbatim]

The Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas (AEE 2018)

Author, painter, and some-time adult performer, Zak Smith talks shop in Las Vegas.

video interview by Reviewer Rob

[I think this is an accurate transcript. Our data-entry girl practically went cross-eyed typing this 40-minute video’s dialog so if she missed anything or entered it wrong please let us know. For the video click the pic below or scroll to the bottom of the post.]

Zak Smith at the Hard Rock Hotel, January, 2018.

Zak Smith at the Hard Rock Hotel, January, 2018.

[Late January, 2018, second night of AEE. As the video begins we’re seated at a table in the hotel cafe, midway in conversation.]

Zak: Everybody’s wearing fake eyelashes, and Everybody’s wearing tons of makeup. Everybody like, takes a long time to get ready, and then at night everybody just gets fuuucked up.
Rob: (laughs) Do they?
Zak: Well, not everybody, but it’s like, it’s kind of a battle between like, trying to be good and get up on top.
Rob: Yeah.
Zak: And do everything right, And then on the other hand try and be like, you’re in Vegas and people keep asking you to come out and be like, “Hang out!” and “Go to the club!” And so, the battle to stay beautiful is kind of like (unintelligible)
Rob: Is a pressure to also like, live the lifestyle? A lot of people have to be edgy and they have to go out and get drunk, and you know?
Zak: I think it’s less abstract than that, it’s just like, people do wanna have fun and they also, people always like, wanna hang out, and so, they wanna hang out with their friends, so, you know. It’s very edgy by default, rather than uh–
Rob: (Laughs) Edgy by default. (Unintelligible)
Zak: (to an approaching man) Steve!
Rob: (to Steve) Hey how’s it going?
Zak: (to Rob) This is Steve.
Rob: Hi Steve, I’m Rob, nice to meet you.
Zak: (to Steve) I’m just doing an interview. (to Rob) Steve’s a photographer, freelance. He came here for Hustler and Inked.
Rob: Very cool.
Zak: And like, he’ll do whatever.
(Unintelligible conversation)

[Setting changes now we’re upstairs in the pressroom for AEE.]

Rob: I like the lighting. We’re here, we’re here with Zak Sabbath, and this is our Reviewer Magazine at the A.E.E. expo 2018, this is January 2018, and um, Stormy Daniels is a big, uh, issue right now in the press because of her uh, (Unintelligible) So yeah, um, Stormy Daniels, I mean the porn has gotten so mainstream, Stormy Daniels, um was like head or tails, is she going to affect the 2016 election or not? What’s your take on the whole Stormy Daniels, um, issue right now, Zak?
Zak: I mean I don’t think it, it doesn’t do much for the president, I mean he could really, like, he could fuck a goat on the white house lawn and no one would care. Um, but I think it does, It does affect how you think about porn because, it basically, I mean for anybody who looks at internet traffic knows that most internet traffic is porn, so for a while it’s become obvious that like, porn is sort of the thing that’s always there and not talked about, you know? That a lot of people are participating in, they’re watching, and they’re not talking about it, um, at least they’re not talking about it as like a normal thing, as like a healthy thing. (unintelligible) And I think that Trump fucking porn stars is one of those things were it’s just one more brick in the wall, you know, or out of the wall I guess, where it just, it’s not just the mainstreaming of porn, it’s the mainstreaming of like, even people who are supposed to be conservative or republican have to eventually admit that they’re okay with it, and that, they are bringing it into other peoples lives, into the news, they’re making a thing of it, ya know?
Rob: I think it’s like, because everybody who runs, every man or woman now, who runs for the presidency has to get the approval of the religious right, it’s more of a commentary on them and American society because, Billy Grahams son was validating what happened and saying, “Hey, that was years ago, and it was a alleged!” And he was totally, like, this guys an evangelical preacher! And he was excusing the president for the whole thing.
Zak: Yeah.
Rob: I have no problem with it, you have no problem with it. Everybody in this hotel has no problem with it. Some married guy, married billionaire fucking a porn star, it’s like, good for him, right?
Zak: I mean I do have a problem with it because Stormy should not be fucking Donald Trump.
Rob: Ohh, really?
Zak: I mean I’m not– I don’t think that Donald Trump shouldn’t be fucking Stormy, I think that she shouldn’t be fucking him! Like, if you fuck a republican you should go to jail. Ya know?
Rob: (laughs)
Okay!
Zak: I mean, you don’t let them have any, under any circumstances.
Rob: Oh really, that’s good. It’s a moral thing.
Zak: Like it’s really more embarrassment to her than to anybody else.
Rob: Ahhh.
So you’re basis for, you’re not shaming her, but your basis for criticizing her is because of–
Zak: Nah, I mean, I’m not knocking her hustle I’m just saying that it’s more embarrassing for her than him.
Rob: Do you think she got paid at the time of the act?
Zak: I have no idea. But I do think that like, it’s more embarrassing for her than him.
Rob: Can we, like, walk outside in the hall or something, there’s way too much noise here.
(Rob and Zak walk through rooms to find a place to chat, they find a secluded hotel bedroom)
(Zak sits down on the bed)

Rob: Alright! Interviewing a porn star on a bed. (laughs) In the Hard Rock!
Um, so Zak, yeah, um, anyways like we were saying, if they were going to like, sledgehammer her because she was fucking Donald Trump, but it’s like, I personally, I–
Zak: I just think it has nothing to do with being a slut, it’s just don’t fuck republicans if you can avoid it. Ya know? And if it comes out that you did, that’s embarrassing.
Rob: Alright.
Zak: Ya know but– (unintelligible)
Rob: Huh. Um, yeah I mean she, she, was like mainstream for a minute there, she started out as a stripper, she got into–
Zak: Operation Desert Stormy.
Rob: she what?
Zak: Operation Desert Stormy! That’s when she was (unintelligible)
Rob: Okay, with Pornocopia.
About the time she was doing the– in 2006?
Zak: It was about that time, 2006 or 2007, it must have been.

Rob: She might not have mentioned that I interviewed her in the office of a De Ja Vu in I think 2008, and she talked about Pornocopia at the time, and uh, she was very, she was a really good interview and everything but um, let’s go out in the hallway.. can we?
Zak: What?
Rob: Can we go out in the hallway?
Zak: Absolutely!
(Rob and Zak walk down the hallway looking for a spot to continue the interview)
Rob: Alright, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Um, so anyway, yeah this is actually better. This is better.
But, oh, yea, this is perfect actually the light is perfect here, thanks, god there was a lot to talk about but uh I just wanted a little bit better level of privacy because if you said something over there in front of everybody in the media nerve center it might get out somehow (laughs) Ya know, that’s my paranoia, it might get out before I can release it on Vimeo, or whatever. Um, yeah but you were saying some good stuff about the uh how the uh kind of office politics of the industry when it came to um big famous uh James Dean, and you had kind of a running battle with him because you’ve written about him after the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
Zak: I mean we only ran into each other a few times but um we never liked each other uh, we never got along, and then, and I was friendly with a lot of people who had gotten a lot of shit from him over the years, people who had ya know, he had, somebody, which who wishes to remain anonymous, he broke her nose during a scene, ya know like?
Rob: Really? He punched her in the face?
Zak: No it was just, Pushed her into a wall I think.
Rob: Oh, wow.
Zak: And ya know, I had just heard so many stories from people after the fact, and we did not get along, and we had gotten into like a physical altercation one AVN.
Rob: And you had told me about that in the elevator, he was editing a video–
Zak: He was editing a Burning Angel video and I hadn’t done the scene the way– it was a shitty day on set and he was just mad, he was like, “You, you could be big but you’re not doing the right shit.” And he wanted to like, tell me a bunch of shit, and I was just like leave me alone.
Rob: Like control freak stuff?
Zak: That’s, I mean that’s the impression that everyone has, that like, when he started working at Burning Angel, or started dating Joanna, he sort of took over, um, and he would boss people around and was like people who didn’t think that they were– They had come over to be in a movie directed by Joanna and then James would sort of take over. Um, and he had, ya know so I had– when all this shit came out which was when I finally accused him, I was asked to write an article for a big magazine because most poor people don’t want to talk to the mainstream press so I was like, Okay, I can do that. Um, and I talked to just, mostly started with people I know, who had already had stories and I worked out from there, um, and everybody said basically the same thing, and then I found out like extra weird stuff like everybody’s story involved food.
Rob: Yeah, you said he had a food trigger.
Zak: Yeah, like I mean, it was that or just like– he would ask this girl for like a burrito and she would get the wrong burrito and he would throw sandwiches across the room, and he wanted a very specific yogurt and he would throw a fit if he didn’t get it. And girls came over to shoot a scene and it was like a stoner scene, and he was like, “You can eat anything in the kitchen but don’t eat these girl scout cookies.” And then he fucking ate the girl scout cookies, or someone else, one of the girls–
Rob: She did, she ate the last one, don’t ever eat the last thing of anything–
Zak: somebody ate the last of the girl scout cookies– and he just threw an insane fit and was yelling at everyone, but like consistently that, like um, and so ya know, so I wrote that article and it got a lot of play at the time because even though the mainstream outlet was like, “Well this is — It’s got too much legal stuff in it for us to handle.” Um, and he’s not– “Neither the victims nor him are enough of–” Ya know, the mainstream press don’t give that much of a shit about what happens to porn people–
Rob: It’s newsworthy, but it’s not that big.
Zak: Yeah, and so I did it, and I got a kill fee from them which was a fine kill fee, and ya know big magazines like that kill half their stories ya know right before– they have an editor–
Rob: Legal department.
Zak: Legal but also like, you have sub-editors and they commission a bunch of stuff and they have enough money that they then curate out of that, ya know, the next editor up, and so they killed that story but then uh, I just put it up on Medium, because I had enough, I mean there was just so much stuff. And then it, ya know it got boing-boinged and then filtered I think and all that, ya know like people were like oh, shit, this is what happened. And nobody has contradicted anything like nobody has said any– nobody has taken back anything, ya know like I have the old texts–
Rob: So you haven’t heard from him?
Zak: Of course not, like we don’t talk, um–
Rob: Right.
So he didn’t try to refute it, he didn’t try to tell you, “Hey, you shouldn’t do that.”
Zak: That isn’t how you– I mean no matter whether you did it or not that’s not how you deal with these things, you just say “It’s all bullshit.” and stay quiet.
Rob: Let it go away.
Zak: and show up and ya know, check–
Rob: Because I noticed when it came out in December of 2015, the two stories that I read about at first, did not in any way include James Dean, there was never any attempt– it looked like at least to me, to include his side of story and I thought it was a little odd, but then I don’t know maybe you do things a little differently in the adult industry.
Zak: No, it’s just that you don’t talk to the press period. I mean I think that if you’re an accused person, like, whether he did anything bad or not, it makes sense that you wouldn’t talk to the press, you know?
Rob: But you know how often there’s that part in the story where you know, we tried to contact blah blah blah, so and so, or his office and we haven’t heard back from them at press time.
(Zak adjusts himself in the frame)
Rob: It’s a wide angle, so you don’t have to worry about it (laughs)
(unintelligible)
Zak: Yeah that’s cool, that’s cool.
Rob: But anyway it seemed like they just– it kind of– and don’t get me wrong, it kind of seemed like a hatchet job at the time, Like they were just– they were gonna get this guy with this article. And he was being called the Bill Cosby of porn, ya know? At the same time Bill Cosby was in the news for–
Zak: Well that was the last story, but I mean, for– my feeling is that that is strange because most of those (unintelligible) that you would say would be doing a hatchet job were the ones who kind of had (unintelligible) to help in the first place. So I don’t think that– a lot of them were not incentivized to write a mean story about him because they were the ones who had written the first few big stories about him, uh, that’s pretty counterintuitive. Like, Joanna Angel was saying in the story like after they broke up, and they would be doing a story on James, like some big magazine, like Rolling Stone or something would call her up and be like “Hey, can you tell us about James?” and she’s like, “I don’t wanna talk about it, it was horrible.” And they would say, “Well, ya know James says nice things about you, and we’re working on a story–” They just didn’t wanna hear it. So, it doesn’t make sense to me to suggest that all these news were– Because basically the story that I wrote about is the media was wrong like on a big scale, like they had– do what they periodically do where they choose one or two porn people, and now it’s going to be Stormy’s turn, to represent the whole industry, and what goes on in the industry. And they had chosen James, and what they had chosen James to say was to pin all of their sex-positive stories around James, and to pin their stories about how women do really like to watch porn, these young women, on James. And so instead of like reporting the whole story and the variety of like the different ways that women interact with porn, they just wrote a story about James. And so, it’s embarrassing to then have to reverse that, like there isn’t there were not people who were incentivized to write a hatchet job about him, um, it so– I think that that’s not how it seemed to be. It seemed to me that everything I had been hearing for years finally came out.
Rob: Makes sense.
Zak: I mean the people that I quoted in that article– none of them will say anything different than what they said in there, everything’s triple sourced.
Rob: Yeah– no, no it all seemed valid. Especially the way– the origin of it, with uh, Stoya making that one line or two tweet comment on Twitter, I mean it just seemed like a valid thing that a girl would say who had been screwed over by a really popular guy, it could be anybody, it could be the high school quarterback, ya know, back in high school. Just, some really popular dude, and she just doesn’t like– she was having a hard time seeing people treat him with popularity when she knew a different side of him, and then she went public with him and it kind of snowballed into a huge story, just like that, because there was a lot of other people that backed it up.
Zak: Because a lot of people backed it up and also because ya know she’s as popular as him.
Rob: Oh, yeah! No, she’s amazing. Let’s talk about her a little bit. You’ve worked with her before and then um, and she’s like a really artistic really high intellect kinda broad, huh? I mean she’s like, she’s kinda special. She’s like uh, she’s pretty unique, ya know? When it comes to like–
Zak: Yeah I mean but you’re asking me to say nice things about my friend, which I can do all day. And we’re friends.
Rob: Yeah (laughs) I know.
Well, I’m kind of a fan, I’ve been reading her, I’ve been reading her stories.

Zak: We worked together– like I did– she’s been a subject in paintings and ya know drawings I’ve done, like, you know–
Rob: Oh really?!

Zak: Yeah.
Rob: Oh wow.
Zak: I did (unintelligible) drawings–
Rob: Did you really?
Zak: Yeah like it’s one drawing of–
Rob: Oh wow.
Zak: Yeah, also she is– she has her reservations about the mainstream industry and the attention that she got about that, and I don’t want to make that worse in any way, or kind of like you know–
Rob: She’s kind of doing her own thing now?
Zak: Yeah, she wants to do her own thing, and I think she, I mean, I don’t want to speak too much for her but I feel like, you know, I support what she’s doing and I feel like she’s a person who– she’s smart and at this point successful enough that she can say what’s really on her mind, you know? She doesn’t have to say certain things in order for the industry to accept her. She’s like– you know like there are people who are smart but they’re in a position where if they are critical it could get them in trouble. And she’s past that, and so, she’s uh–like, basically when she says something you know it’s trustworthy. And she’s branching out and doing other things– she was just in a play.
Rob: Mhmm– in New York.
Zak: Ya know– she’s doing stuff, so– I mean I feel like, I guess I would say, I don’t wanna be (unintelligible) interview for her–
Rob: Sure.
Zak: But I do think that like she’s kind of like along with someone like Nina Hartley. These are like best case scenarios, these are like if you were making a documentary about like the range of experiences in porn like these are people who kept their shit together, you know? And were, they were like smart people.
Rob: Yeah.
Zak: You know like, me and Ella Darling were in the press room and somebody was trying to get their press credentials and talking about the Tech Center, and he was like, “Errr I need to talk to somebody about VR porn.” And I was like, “You wanna talk about VR? Go talk to Ella!” And Ella just like gave this guy like you know, crypto, and block chains and he was just asking these super technical questions and she just knew it all. And it’s like there are a few people in porn that are just like, they’re everything that you’re supposed to be, you know what I mean, their– and Stoya is like one of those people, she’s like– an impressive person all around.
Rob: Absolutely. You touched on two things just now, because when I met you it was in the line to get our press credentials the other night here, and you surprised me (unintelligible) you were the guy that was in that one video that Bob Guccione uh building a (unintelligible) in Croatia– With Stoya. So, I’d like to hear about that, but I’d also like to hear about um, I mean you can do either one first, about your career as a painter or your work as a painter, because you’re not just a full-time porn dude. (laughs)
Zak: No, no I’m not a full-time porn dude by any means, uh, I’ve done relatively few movies compared to most people, um–
Rob: How old were you when you sold your first painting?
Zak: When I sold– I sold when I was in college so– probably–
Rob: What was it of?
Zak: It was a girl.
Rob: Okay, Nude?
Zak: Yeah, um it was to the woman who worked across the street at the financial desk at the college, uh, but yeah I don’t know I was in college I was like 19 or 20.
Rob: Which college?
Zak: Cooper Union, at the time.
Rob: Okay.
Zak: Um, but yeah so Stoya calls me up and she’s like “Well, how do you feel about going to Croatia?” and I’m like “I feel good.” And she’s like, “How do you feel about trespassing?” And I’m like, “I love trespassing.”
Um, so Bob Guccione had built in the 70’s, late 70’s, this place called the Haludovo hotel, and if you google it it’s this gorgeous modernist building, crazy architecture, it’s a big casino hotel. It was Yugoslavia at the time. And his idea was he was going to sort of end communist– he was going to bring down the Berlin wall somehow by having this great fabulous casino hotel, and all of the communist leaders would come and all of the girls working there would be Penthouse pets, and they would see that capitalism is wonderful and that west and east can work together. And it kind of worked in that Tito and Sadam Husein and other communist leaders did actually come to the Haludovo and hang out for a few years, but the labor laws were pretty intense, um, so it was hard to make a lot of money out of there because of the taxes. And another rule apparently that was every single business decision had to be ratified by the entire staff. So, the penthouse pets kept having to fly back to Yugoslavia to vote on whether they should change the janitor or whatever. Um, and so eventually someone else bought it, and then during the break-up of Yugoslavia, it got turned into a refugee camp basically. So people would flee ya know the fighting and they would go into this hotel and it was like this giant complex, and they would just rip the copper out of the walls, rip the plumbing out, and they were just like trying to live– you know, basically just like in the forest– so like you know?
Rob: So it went from like being a glamour spot to a total dystopian example of like the decline of civilization.
Zak: Exactly! and then you know of course that’s a perfect tumblr bait. Ya know, it became this beautiful piece of ruin porn. You just see this tumbled down building.
Rob: So it was tumbled down porn?
Zak: Yeah, you know, it was a ruined– it was sort of a picturesque ruin.
Rob: What was the name of it again?
Zak: The Haludovo hotel.
Rob: Haludovo.
Zak: H-A-L-U-D-O-V-O.
Rob: And that’s in Belgrade?
Zak: No, it’s outside of Belgrade in this sort of resort town called Krk. Um, and– so we got in there, but of course it’s not on the map, because it’s not an active business, it’s a ruin, and so– and Stoya was really sick that day and we only had one day to shoot, so I put her up in the hotel and I’m like, “Okay, I’ll go find this place, and you stay here and get well, hopefully, we’ll be able to shoot in the morning.”
So, I go out, and I’m looking and I’m looking and I’m looking, and I find a building that like kind of looks like the tumblr pictures I’ve seen, um, and I’m looking for ways in–I’m like–
“Okay, so this parts boarded up if I get this screwdriver I can get in here– I might be able to climb up this tree and get on the roof and maybe shoot a scene on the roof.”
And I was like, “Is this really the place?”
Because it looks smaller in the pictures. I assume that they had just knocked down the stuff around it after you know people found out about it on the internet, you know? And so I was looking through the windows, and it said– Like there was a big 70’s office and there and like an old typewritten binder and it said: “Haludovo Hotel” like pressed right up against the glass. So I was like, “Okay, this is the place.”
I get back to the hotel, and you know, she’s sick. And then like, I’m looking in the middle of the night, I’m still looking on the internet, and I’m like, “This place is like fifteen building complex, there must be more to it than this.”
So in the middle of the night, I’m like, “Stoya, I think I missed something.”
And she’s like, “Yeah?”
And I’m like, “Yeah. Like, let’s go back out, and there may be more to it than this further into the woods.”
So we got back out in the middle of the night and we’re using our like, cell phone as flashlights. And we’re looking around, as soon as I see a little like ya know, concrete cabana, like a little modern building–
She’s like, “I think that’s it.”
And I’m like, “Okay.”
So this is like a part of the beach complex.
and she’s like, “We’ll come back later.”
And I’m like, “No! Let’s, see more!”
And she’s like, “I’m scared!”
You know like the whole– it was very X-Files.
Rob: (Laughs)
Zak: So we’re going through there, and we’re going up the path and we start seeing like more and more ruined buildings, and then like– makes glass cracking sound effect We’re just like stepping on glass, and you look up and there’s this like huge canopy over this swimming pool, you can look up this swimming pool online, it’s just this massive pool with this huge glass thing over it–
And I’m like, “There it is!”
And we sneak in and then we see this like amazing lobby, like with these huge– you can’t tell what they are now but they are like these big circular shapes that look like this alien spaceship, but it was the bar in the middle, and then all of these like booths around it. And then– it was this like totally crazy place. So we’re like, “Okay, we’ll come back in the morning.”
Um, hopefully before dawn– no cops, ya know? We’re hoping. You could hear dogs barking and —
So we come back in the morning, get ready, and we shoot the scene, and like, we’re having sex and she’s like– “I hear something, it sounds like footsteps.”
It’s coming from the direction that we came. So we like, get dressed, and like move– we couldn’t go back out the way we came because that’s where the footsteps are coming from, so we go deeper into the complex, and it’s huge! Like if you imagine, like, a whole hotel, like this hotel we’re in– every single room, everything is torn apart. Not one chair left, not one faucet left.
Rob: The refugees were complete.
Zak: Yeah! I mean like it has just been sitting there and they were ya know, trying to live. So, like, just like, it’s hard to imagine like, every single room trashed to this degree like it’s like way more than Silent Hill or anything like that it was like every room, nothing left. So we’re going in on this like old ruined carpet and after like 20 minutes I’m just like trying to get away from the footsteps. I’m like, “Okay, we have to get out of here.”
Like we can’t just go deeper and deeper in. And she’s like, “Alright.”
So we peek out, and it’s a fucking deer. (laughs)
Rob: Wow. Like a female deer, a doe?
Zak: Yeah a doe, a deer, a female deer. (Laughs)
Rob: Wow, that’s crazy.
Zak: yeah.
Rob: And so you guys were all scared for nothing, did you like laugh about it and have more sex afterward?
Zak: Yeah! Well I mean, yes. But–
Rob: In the place, or later? (Laughs)
Zak: I mean if I remember correctly we had sex there again.
Rob: Nice, nice, so that was for her website?
Zak: Yeah, because she was doing this series about having sex in different places, Like, Stoya around the world. So she was going to different places.
Rob: Around the world in 80 ways? I think it’s called.
Zak: Something like that.
Rob: It’s a good idea.
Zak: Yeah, I mean she wanted to do things on her own terms. You know, she’s done with doing like regular scenes. She was like, “I want things to be real.” You know, like her own thing.
Rob: Like an adventure.
Zak: Yeah, exactly, I mean it was.
Rob: Reality adventure.
Zak: We did a bunch of stuff like that, you know, we went to Athens, um, and you know we shot one in the presidential suite in the Palace Hotel over there.
Rob: Oh, you did two then? Okay.
Zak: I mean we did a bunch, the main one was the Haludovo because that was going to be the hard one. But the other ones were just like, you know we went to places that were going to be easy to get to from there, like (unintelligible)
Rob: Did she, don’t mean to sidetrack here, but did she get, uh, discovered in Philadelphia?
Zak: I don’t know exactly, and if she was on the east coast, I know she had bounced around different cities there but I’m not sure like which one was her–
Rob: Alright. So right now you’re based in L.A. and you’re painting out there– or you do some painting every now and then.
Zak: Yeah.
Rob: Um, do you have a studio in the Hollywood area, or down at the beach, where are you?
Zak: Downtown, I mean I–
Rob: Downtown? Oh, the warehouse district?
Zak: Yeah, yeah. The arts district, yeah.
Rob: Big place, small place?
Zak: Yeah, I mean it’s like– a lot of artists– like I’ve never had a separate studio because I like to wake up and get reminded that my painting looks bad.
Rob: That’s what I figured, yeah, you have a live-work space, right?
Zak: Yeah. But a lot of people like to have a separate place, and but they’re always like– when I talk to them they’re always like, “Oh, I need to get into the studio more.” And I’m like, “I’m always in the studio.”
You know?
Rob: Uh-huh.
Zak: And also like, it’s good for shooting because it’s a big open loft. So it’s like it’s a big multi-space essentially you know if you want to take photos you know or–
Rob: I do, thanks! Is that an invitation?
Zak: I mean, I–
Rob: That would be awesome.
Zak: I mean I don’t turn down press I suppose.
Rob: Alright.
Zak: You know like when people come over it’s a good place to have a party, it’s good to you know– when my ex was camming, it’s a good place to cam. You know, it’s a big– we’re artists so–
Rob: I’ve shot there before, this one porn star when she was married to this one guy who was a fashion designer guy they had an upstairs, it was a really dingy place but it was like really cool, and it was like–
Zak: That’s downtown L.A.
Rob: It was like the old downtown warehouse district and I guess upstairs there was lofts and stuff and you’d go up this rickety old staircase and they had a corridor that goes in that looks like it was built in the 1920’s.
Zak: It’s not half as rickety as New York, but it’s the closest that L.A. gets, ya know?
Rob: Okay, so you started in New York, in Brooklyn–
Zak: Yeah.
Rob: And uh, nice.
Zak: But yeah I was doing paintings then, I got out of grad school and then started– you know, I was back in New York, and uh, I guess, I kinda moved from like girls who I knew in art school who were like pro doms and like, nude models, then moved from there to like girls who were strippers, and then the strippers knew the porn girls and so I started painting the porn girls. And then eventually, you know, I did a couple movies and then you meet more porn people and you know?
Rob: You mean with like your subjects for painting?
Zak: Yeah.
Rob: Awesome painting subjects, yeah.
Zak: yeah, but also it’s been interesting–
Rob: Working well?
Zak: yeah well the thing is– if you look at– I had my first show in 2002, and just the way that being naked on the internet, uh, was viewed then, and versus now. Like, how much it’s changed.
Rob: is there less stigma now?
Zak: I mean, yeah. But it’s also– less stigma, but just in terms of like the series, in the beginning, it was like, it was hard to find people, and they were very like– we both wanted to talk a lot first about what it was like, and it was kind of like a mystery. it was like a thing that was hidden, and there was less community, and uh, and less resources, and it was just like–
the series of paintings, of portraits and what they were about kind of changed because the world changed around them during that time. You know like– and now–
Rob: what year was that?
Zak: 2002 was my first show. So, like– nowadays it’s like not weird to have a– you know if you had said you were doing a painting series of porn stars, they’d be like, get in line, like who isn’t you know?
Rob: So funny. it’s true.
Zak: The first time I came to Suicide Girls. Uh, I was talking to the people at Suicide Girls. You know, Sean was like there’s a lot of people doing this but you’re good at it, you know? Like he liked me and he was kind of like, “Yeah, if you want to paint some of the girls, cool.”
And I eventually got a suicide girl in the MOMA, so that was kind of a — Suicide Girl painting, in their collection. So that was kind of a big deal for them. But it has been strange watching something like something that I was doing as a project for me turn into something that like everyone has fan art, they have 300 pictures of themselves.
Rob: Oh, right, it’s a whole fan art thing.
Zak: Now I’m a Disney Princess. Now I’m a frog. Now I’m a mermaid, you know? Like, it’s normal. And so when you write to somebody that you don’t know and you’re like, “Hey, I want to do a painting of you.” They’re like, “Phfff, go ahead.”
Rob: You know, you’re right the whole Stormy Daniels thing would have been such a scandal like 20 years ago, and now it’s not really a scandal.
Zak: Or, I mean it might not– part of it is that and part of it is just that like, there is nothing about Donald Trump that is not a scandal.
Rob: Right! I mean it’s like, his wife was an ex-nude model, you know and it’s like– everything has gotten so mainstream and porn is EVERYWHERE. And the youtube is having to make that AV law, age verification law, to make it impossible to access online content that is not behind a paywall, without– the way I understand it the law reads– they’re going to make it, even like the samples, you have to do a 3 step verification, you have to send in an I.D., you have to give them a credit card, which is to I.D. your name, and you have to– I don’t know, swear on a holy bible that you’re over 18 or something. But it’s like–
Zak: England doesn’t need more blue laws. I mean it’s already such a messed up place. laughs
Rob: But they’re doing that! So that will affect the big tube sites and then it will carry on down to everyone else, so hopefully, maybe they are saying that the smaller sites will be able to make more money now because of– anyways getting back to what we were saying about your subject matter, um– great! I’m not familiar with your movies, I haven’t seen your paintings yet, but I would like to, and uh, maybe we could do like a profile on you in Reviewer Magazine, an artist profile. An erotic art profile.
Zak: Cool.
Rob: Um, I didn’t mean to cut you off when you were talking about Stoya, is there anything you would like to add about your friend Stoya and what she’s doing now with her projects?
Zak: Nah I mean, She can speak for herself if you have any specific questions.
Rob: Absolutely. Of course.
But you’re here at the Hard Rock Casino doing a story for a magazine on art, do you want to talk a little bit about that, or about porn?
Zak: Yeah, I mean I write for– I write a column for an art magazine that is like the big art magazine in L.A. and so they– I was talking to them about doing something about the AVN’s because I’ve already done AVN like as AVN, like I wrote a book about (unintelligible) porn.
Rob: You did?
Zak: Yeah, so I’m thinking about like–
Rob: What’s it called?
Zak: We did porn. Um–
Rob: Under your stage name or your real name?
Zak: I think it says “Zak Smith” and then in parenthesis, Zak Sabbath.
Rob: Ok. I’ll look it up.
Zak: It’s like one of those books that a lot of girls that are just like first getting into the industry– they are like, “Oh, I liked your book! It was–” You know?
Rob: Mhm.
Zak: So that’s nice, because it’s people who have– who are actually in porn, like it and get it, and that was important to me. Because I haven’t had a normal experience in porn, you know, like I had–
Rob: How so?
Zak: Well I mean I was never a full time dude, ya know like I never– I didn’t come out of school and not know what to do with my life and go do porn– like I was a well-known painter making rent just fine when I did my first movie so– I had an atyipcal experience, but you’re represnting other people– so I didn’t want to– even things like this make me a little nervous because I don’t want to act like I’m an expert but on the other hand I feel like– compared to a lot of people who have been in the industry like ten years, I don’t know shit, but at the same time like I feel like I have a perspective of what it’s like to not be in the industry– and be able to explain to people in a way that people find helpful, like– a year or two ago when there was the whole condoms in porn law and everbody in porn basically– 60 people or whatever, went up to Osha in Oakland and was explang how the condom law wasn’t actually that helpful to us and it wasn’t really great for performers, and it wasn’t really about the condoms it was about like the way their law was written which was really sloppy. So performer after performer got up and talked about it, but I got up there was like, “Listen, like my girlfriend at the time, like, every pre-existing condition she has is tattooed on my arm. Like nobody is more– like she’s chronically ill, ya know? Nobody is more worried about safety on set than she is. like she is somebody who like does less scenes and makes less money because of how she was worried about getting sick. And this law and the way that it’s written doesn’t help. The way the law was written it’s so sloppy that like– if you’re shooting in Hollywood, and you’re shooting a movie where anywhere in the movie it’s implied that Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan have sex– like even if it’s not explicit. If that happens, and then like Meg Ryan puts a cigarette in Tom Hanks mouth of feeds him some cake, then that’s technically– there’s sex in the movie or simulated sex and there’s penetration of an orifice with an object. That means that Tom Hanks has to wear a dental dam and goggles and all that.
Rob: I heard that they call that the mainstream movie exclusion clause or something like that.
Zak: well there was no clause! At least at the time when we were–, there was nothing like that, it was so sloppily written.
Rob: Oh, okay.
Zak: And I went to fucking Yale, I read the law. I read the text, I read the fucking, you know– I read the legal– I read the legal– the documents that the other documents were based on.
Rob: You went to Yale to read the law?
Zak: No, I went to– that’s where I–
Rob: You attended Yale?
Zak: Yeah, I was a grad student. Um, and so I got up there , and even though a lot of performers who were veterans like had said shit, I was like I looked at the (law making person?) and explained it like, “Here is the law that you wrote, here are the rules, here is like, the situation that we are in.”
Like, it says producer, “Do you know what a porn producer is? No one in this room knows what a porn producer is.”
A guy who says, “I want a video of you eating a chicken and masturbating, I’ll give you 75 bucks for that.”
Technically that guy is a porn producer. ya know like some random fan. A porn producer has to have your medical records for 50 years? So that means if somebody wanted to hire you to do a one-off video that you send to them only for them, a custom video, you have to give them your medical records complete and they have to hold them for 50 years. Like, the law was just not written– (unintelligible)
Rob: It’s not realistic.
Zak: Yeah, and I was up there like, I–
Rob: Was that intentional? Were they trying to be overly (unintelligible) to kill the porn industry? Or were they just being dumb dicks?
Zak: Um, it was a combination of both because the AIDS organization, the AIDS healthcare foundation– even within the HIV positive community, is not a well-respected organization. They’re kind of a– they’re opportunists, lke they’ve widely been kind of, uh, you know they’re in it for the grant money, they’re in it for the people who run it to sort of get status as you know important non-profit people and they don’t really seem to give a shit about the actual spread of aids, for example, the PrEP drug which is like very effective at preventing AIDS, and you like pop it and like you know– They wanna kill PrEP because that’s like a bold headline-grabbing stand that they can take, like, “It’s not condoms! Shouldn’t worry about!”
And it’s like, why not do both? Ya know like, we’re all making porn why isn’t PrEP necessary? Why isn’t PrEP a rule in porn? Like, we’rea ll having sex without condoms like we’re all getting tested once a month or– every few weeks, so why not take PrEP? because the AIDS healthcare foundation doesn’t give a shit, and so they and their lawyers wrote the law. Part of it was to become burdensome on porn and then they could grab headlines like, “AIDS healthcare foundation has kicked porn out of California! Now it’s only in Nevada.”
And part of it was because they weren’t really paying that much attention, and they didn’t think that we would take it on. And so, on the one hand, yeah I haven’t done as many films as a lot of people walking around this hotel. But on the other hand, I feel like because I have been spending so much time talking to the academic world, talking to fine art people, like just having a normal-er life in some ways, like, I can translate a little bit? And that kind of comes up.
Rob: And how did you get pulled into this (Tawdry business, what was your “entree”?
Zak: Like, the weirdest thing ever– I had done– Thomas Pynchon wrote a novel called Gravity’s Rainbow, and I did a picture for every single page of that novel because it was one of my favorite books, um, So I drew a picture for every page of Gravity’s Rainbow, and then a little bit after, because I was also doing these portraits of porn people– I was interviewing some porn people and talking about it, and then a year later- this guy I never met, I just did a phone interview, um, he said you know, “It would be mean a lot to me if I could use those pictures in a movie because I love that book, and I want to make an autobiography porn movie.”
This was like the early 2000’s when there was like a lot of sort of arty porn before the big internet crash killed everything ya know? But the big companies like Larry Flynt and VIvid and VCA were just throwing away– out money on weird movies, ya know during the early 2002-3-4-5. And So this guy was like, “Yeah, I want to make an arty autobiographical porn, and I want to include those pictures.”
And I was like, “Sure.”

And I said, “And it would mean a lot to me if I could fuck all of the girls in the movie.”
And he was like, “Ha-ha!”
“Well I mean send me pictures, ya know, like I kinda need a punk for the thing, because ya know, I don’t wanna use this other dude”
-Who’s the only other guy in the industry who had that weird hair.”
So I sent him pictures and he was like, “Yeah, your hired.”
And so, I did that first movie called Barbwire Kiss and then, you know, at that point some of the girls were like. “Oh, Zak is talent now.”
and so I got hired on some more stuff. Guys always fall into porn ass-backward, it’s always some kind of joke.
Rob: Oh really, how so?
Zak: yeah, it always starts with somebody being like, “Hey! What if I did that?”
And then somebody’s like, “Sure?”
Ya know?
Rob: Hmm. Well, um, I appreciate the uh, the fact that you have been so open with Reviewer magazine, thank you Zak, and uh looking forward to seeing more of your work, when I’m in L.A. I’ like to check out your paintings and stuff and um–
Zak: If you want to see the originals most of them are in New York in my gallery, so if you get to New York then there ya go.
Rob: In your gallery?!
Zak: the gallery that represents me. I don’t own it.
Rob: One day, one day.
Nice. Nice, nice, nice. Good. Thank you, thank you very much.
Zak: No problem.
Rob: And yeah, we’ll talk again soon.
Zak: alright, sweet.
Zak: Everybody’s wearing fake eyelashes, and Everybody’s wearing tons of makeup. Everybody like, takes a long time to get ready, and then at night everybody just gets fucked up.
Rob: (laughs)
Do they?
Zak: Well, not everybody, but it’s like, it’s kind of a battle between like, trying to be good and get up on top.
Rob: Yeah.
Zak: And do everything right, And then on the other hand try and be like, you’re in Vegas and people keep asking you to come out and be like, “Hang out!” and “Go to the club!” And so, the battle to stay beautiful is kind of like (unintelligible)
Rob: Is a pressure to also like, live the lifestyle? A lot of people have to be edgy and they have to go out and get drunk, and you know?
Zak: I think it’s less abstract than that, it’s just like, people do wanna have fun and they also, people always like, wanna hang out, and so, they wanna hang out with their friends, so, you know. It’s very edgy by default, rather than uh–
Rob: (Laughs)
Edgy by default. (Unintelligible)
Zak: (to an approaching man) Steve!
Rob: (to Steve) Hey how’s it going?
Zak: (to Rob) This is Steve.
Rob: Hi Steve, I’m Rob, nice to meet you.
Zak: I’m just doing an interview. With a photographer. Freelance. He came here for Hustler and Inked.
Rob: Very cool.
Zak: And like, he’ll do whatever.
(Unintelligible conversation)
Rob: I like the lighting. We’re here, we’re here with Zak Sabbath, and this is our Reviewer Magazine at the A.E.E. expo 2018, this is January 2018, and um, Stormy Daniels is a big, uh, issue right now in the press because of her uh, (Unintelligible) So yeah, um, Stormy Daniels, I mean the porn has gotten so mainstream, Stormy Daniels, um was like head or tails, is she going to affect the 2016 election or not? What’s your take on the whole Stormy Daniels, um, issue right now, Zak?
Zak: I mean I don’t think it, it doesn’t do much for the president, I mean he could really, like, he could fuck a goat on the white house lawn and no one would care. Um, but I think it does, It does affect how you think about porn because, it basically, I mean for anybody who looks at internet traffic knows that most internet traffic is porn, so for a while it’s become obvious that like, porn is sort of the thing that’s always there and not talked about, you know? That a lot of people are participating in, they’re watching, and they’re not talking about it, um, at least they’re not talking about it as like a normal thing, as like a healthy thing. (unintelligible) And I think that Trump fucking porn stars is one of those things were it’s just one more brick in the wall, you know, or out of the wall I guess, where it just, it’s not just the mainstreaming of porn, it’s the mainstreaming of like, even people who are supposed to be conservative or republican have to eventually admit that they’re okay with it, and that, they are bringing it into other peoples lives, into the news, they’re making a thing of it, ya know?
Rob: I think it’s like, because everybody who runs, every man or woman now, who runs for the presidency has to get the approval of the religious right, it’s more of a commentary on them and American society because, Billy Grahams son was validating what happened and saying, “Hey, that was years ago, and it was a alleged!” And he was totally, like, this guys an evangelical preacher! And he was excusing the president for the whole thing.
Zak: Yeah.
Rob: I have no problem with it, you have no problem with it. Everybody in this hotel has no problem with it. Some married guy, married billionaire fucking a porn star, it’s like, good for him, right?
Zak: I mean I do have a problem with it because Stormy should not be fucking Donald Trump.
Rob: Ohh, really?
Zak: I mean I’m not– I don’t think that Donald Trump shouldn’t be fucking Stormy, I think that she shouldn’t be fucking him! Like, if you fuck a republican you should go to jail. Ya know?
Rob: (laughs)
Okay!
Zak: I mean, you don’t let them have any, under any circumstances.
Rob: Oh really, that’s good. It’s a moral thing.
Zak: Like it’s really more embarrassment to her than to anybody else.
Rob: Ahhh.
So you’re basis for, you’re not shaming her, but your basis for criticizing her is because of–
Zak: Nah, I mean, I’m not knocking her hustle I’m just saying that it’s more embarrassing for her than him.
Rob: Do you think she got paid at the time of the act?
Zak: I have no idea. But I do think that like, it’s more embarrassing for her than him.
Rob: Can we, like, walk outside in the hall or something, there’s way too much noise here.
(Rob and Zak walk through rooms to find a place to chat, they find a secluded hotel bedroom)
(Zak sits down on the bed)

Rob: Alright! Interviewing a porn star on a bed. (laughs) In the Hard Rock!
Um, so Zak, yeah, um, anyways like we were saying, if they were going to like, sledgehammer her because she was fucking Donald Trump, but it’s like, I personally, I–
Zak: I just think it has nothing to do with being a slut, it’s just don’t fuck republicans if you can avoid it. Ya know? And if it comes out that you did, that’s embarrassing.
Rob: Alright.
Zak: Ya know but– (unintelligible)
Rob: Huh. Um, yeah I mean she, she, was like mainstream for a minute there, she started out as a stripper, she got into–
Zak: Operation Desert Stormy.
Rob: she what?
Zak: Operation Desert Stormy! That’s when she was (unintelligible)
Rob: Okay, with Pornocopia.
About the time she was doing the– in 2006?
Zak: It was about that time, 2006 or 2007, it must have been.

Rob: She might not have mentioned that I interviewed her in the office of a De Ja Vu in I think 2008, and she talked about Pornocopia at the time, and uh, she was very, she was a really good interview and everything but um, let’s go out in the hallway.. can we?
Zak: What?
Rob: Can we go out in the hallway?
Zak: Absolutely!
(Rob and Zak walk down the hallway looking for a spot to continue the interview)
Rob: Alright, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Um, so anyway, yeah this is actually better. This is better.
But, oh, yea, this is perfect actually the light is perfect here, thanks, god there was a lot to talk about but uh I just wanted a little bit better level of privacy because if you said something over there in front of everybody in the media nerve center it might get out somehow (laughs) Ya know, that’s my paranoia, it might get out before I can release it on Vimeo, or whatever. Um, yeah but you were saying some good stuff about the uh how the uh kind of office politics of the industry when it came to um big famous uh James Dean, and you had kind of a running battle with him because you’ve written about him after the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
Zak: I mean we only ran into each other a few times but um we never liked each other uh, we never got along, and then, and I was friendly with a lot of people who had gotten a lot of shit from him over the years, people who had ya know, he had, somebody, which who wishes to remain anonymous, he broke her nose during a scene, ya know like?
Rob: Really? He punched her in the face?
Zak: No it was just, Pushed her into a wall I think.
Rob: Oh, wow.
Zak: And ya know, I had just heard so many stories from people after the fact, and we did not get along, and we had gotten into like a physical altercation one AVN.
Rob: And you had told me about that in the elevator, he was editing a video–
Zak: He was editing a Burning Angel video and I hadn’t done the scene the way– it was a shitty day on set and he was just mad, he was like, “You, you could be big but you’re not doing the right shit.” And he wanted to like, tell me a bunch of shit, and I was just like leave me alone.
Rob: Like control freak stuff?
Zak: That’s, I mean that’s the impression that everyone has, that like, when he started working at Burning Angel, or started dating Joanna, he sort of took over, um, and he would boss people around and was like people who didn’t think that they were– They had come over to be in a movie directed by Joanna and then James would sort of take over. Um, and he had, ya know so I had– when all this shit came out which was when I finally accused him, I was asked to write an article for a big magazine because most poor people don’t want to talk to the mainstream press so I was like, Okay, I can do that. Um, and I talked to just, mostly started with people I know, who had already had stories and I worked out from there, um, and everybody said basically the same thing, and then I found out like extra weird stuff like everybody’s story involved food.
Rob: Yeah, you said he had a food trigger.
Zak: Yeah, like I mean, it was that or just like– he would ask this girl for like a burrito and she would get the wrong burrito and he would throw sandwiches across the room, and he wanted a very specific yogurt and he would throw a fit if he didn’t get it. And girls came over to shoot a scene and it was like a stoner scene, and he was like, “You can eat anything in the kitchen but don’t eat these girl scout cookies.” And then he fucking ate the girl scout cookies, or someone else, one of the girls–
Rob: She did, she ate the last one, don’t ever eat the last thing of anything–
Zak: somebody ate the last of the girl scout cookies– and he just threw an insane fit and was yelling at everyone, but like consistently that, like um, and so ya know, so I wrote that article and it got a lot of play at the time because even though the mainstream outlet was like, “Well this is — It’s got too much legal stuff in it for us to handle.” Um, and he’s not– “Neither the victims nor him are enough of–” Ya know, the mainstream press don’t give that much of a shit about what happens to porn people–
Rob: It’s newsworthy, but it’s not that big.
Zak: Yeah, and so I did it, and I got a kill fee from them which was a fine kill fee, and ya know big magazines like that kill half their stories ya know right before– they have an editor–
Rob: Legal department.
Zak: Legal but also like, you have sub-editors and they commission a bunch of stuff and they have enough money that they then curate out of that, ya know, the next editor up, and so they killed that story but then uh, I just put it up on Medium, because I had enough, I mean there was just so much stuff. And then it, ya know it got boing-boinged and then filtered I think and all that, ya know like people were like oh, shit, this is what happened. And nobody has contradicted anything like nobody has said any– nobody has taken back anything, ya know like I have the old texts–
Rob: So you haven’t heard from him?
Zak: Of course not, like we don’t talk, um–
Rob: Right.
So he didn’t try to refute it, he didn’t try to tell you, “Hey, you shouldn’t do that.”
Zak: That isn’t how you– I mean no matter whether you did it or not that’s not how you deal with these things, you just say “It’s all bullshit.” and stay quiet.
Rob: Let it go away.
Zak: and show up and ya know, check–
Rob: Because I noticed when it came out in December of 2015, the two stories that I read about at first, did not in any way include James Dean, there was never any attempt– it looked like at least to me, to include his side of story and I thought it was a little odd, but then I don’t know maybe you do things a little differently in the adult industry.
Zak: No, it’s just that you don’t talk to the press period. I mean I think that if you’re an accused person, like, whether he did anything bad or not, it makes sense that you wouldn’t talk to the press, you know?
Rob: But you know how often there’s that part in the story where you know, we tried to contact blah blah blah, so and so, or his office and we haven’t heard back from them at press time.
(Zak adjusts himself in the frame)
Rob: It’s a wide angle, so you don’t have to worry about it (laughs)
(unintelligible)
Zak: Yeah that’s cool, that’s cool.
Rob: But anyway it seemed like they just– it kind of– and don’t get me wrong, it kind of seemed like a hatchet job at the time, Like they were just– they were gonna get this guy with this article. And he was being called the Bill Cosby of porn, ya know? At the same time Bill Cosby was in the news for–
Zak: Well that was the last story, but I mean, for– my feeling is that that is strange because most of those (unintelligible) that you would say would be doing a hatchet job were the ones who kind of had (unintelligible) to help in the first place. So I don’t think that– a lot of them were not incentivized to write a mean story about him because they were the ones who had written the first few big stories about him, uh, that’s pretty counterintuitive. Like, Joanna Angel was saying in the story like after they broke up, and they would be doing a story on James, like some big magazine, like Rolling Stone or something would call her up and be like “Hey, can you tell us about James?” and she’s like, “I don’t wanna talk about it, it was horrible.” And they would say, “Well, ya know James says nice things about you, and we’re working on a story–” They just didn’t wanna hear it. So, it doesn’t make sense to me to suggest that all these news were– Because basically the story that I wrote about is the media was wrong like on a big scale, like they had– do what they periodically do where they choose one or two porn people, and now it’s going to be Stormy’s turn, to represent the whole industry, and what goes on in the industry. And they had chosen James, and what they had chosen James to say was to pin all of their sex-positive stories around James, and to pin their stories about how women do really like to watch porn, these young women, on James. And so instead of like reporting the whole story and the variety of like the different ways that women interact with porn, they just wrote a story about James. And so, it’s embarrassing to then have to reverse that, like there isn’t there were not people who were incentivized to write a hatchet job about him, um, it so– I think that that’s not how it seemed to be. It seemed to me that everything I had been hearing for years finally came out.
Rob: Makes sense.
Zak: I mean the people that I quoted in that article– none of them will say anything different than what they said in there, everything’s triple sourced.
Rob: Yeah– no, no it all seemed valid. Especially the way– the origin of it, with uh, Stoya making that one line or two tweet comment on Twitter, I mean it just seemed like a valid thing that a girl would say who had been screwed over by a really popular guy, it could be anybody, it could be the high school quarterback, ya know, back in high school. Just, some really popular dude, and she just doesn’t like– she was having a hard time seeing people treat him with popularity when she knew a different side of him, and then she went public with him and it kind of snowballed into a huge story, just like that, because there was a lot of other people that backed it up.
Zak: Because a lot of people backed it up and also because ya know she’s as popular as him.
Rob: Oh, yeah! No, she’s amazing. Let’s talk about her a little bit. You’ve worked with her before and then um, and she’s like a really artistic really high intellect kinda broad, huh? I mean she’s like, she’s kinda special. She’s like uh, she’s pretty unique, ya know? When it comes to like–
Zak: Yeah I mean but you’re asking me to say nice things about my friend, which I can do all day. And we’re friends.
Rob: Yeah (laughs) I know.
Well, I’m kind of a fan, I’ve been reading her, I’ve been reading her stories.

Zak: We worked together– like I did– she’s been a subject in paintings and ya know drawings I’ve done, like, you know–
Rob: Oh really?!

Zak: Yeah.
Rob: Oh wow.
Zak: I did (unintelligible) drawings–
Rob: Did you really?
Zak: Yeah like it’s one drawing of–
Rob: Oh wow.
Zak: Yeah, also she is– she has her reservations about the mainstream industry and the attention that she got about that, and I don’t want to make that worse in any way, or kind of like you know–
Rob: She’s kind of doing her own thing now?
Zak: Yeah, she wants to do her own thing, and I think she, I mean, I don’t want to speak too much for her but I feel like, you know, I support what she’s doing and I feel like she’s a person who– she’s smart and at this point successful enough that she can say what’s really on her mind, you know? She doesn’t have to say certain things in order for the industry to accept her. She’s like– you know like there are people who are smart but they’re in a position where if they are critical it could get them in trouble. And she’s past that, and so, she’s uh–like, basically when she says something you know it’s trustworthy. And she’s branching out and doing other things– she was just in a play.
Rob: Mhmm– in New York.
Zak: Ya know– she’s doing stuff, so– I mean I feel like, I guess I would say, I don’t wanna be (unintelligible) interview for her–
Rob: Sure.
Zak: But I do think that like she’s kind of like along with someone like Nina Hartley. These are like best case scenarios, these are like if you were making a documentary about like the range of experiences in porn like these are people who kept their shit together, you know? And were, they were like smart people.
Rob: Yeah.
Zak: You know like, me and Ella Darling were in the press room and somebody was trying to get their press credentials and talking about the Tech Center, and he was like, “Errr I need to talk to somebody about VR porn.” And I was like, “You wanna talk about VR? Go talk to Ella!” And Ella just like gave this guy like you know, crypto, and block chains and he was just asking these super technical questions and she just knew it all. And it’s like there are a few people in porn that are just like, they’re everything that you’re supposed to be, you know what I mean, their– and Stoya is like one of those people, she’s like– an impressive person all around.
Rob: Absolutely. You touched on two things just now, because when I met you it was in the line to get our press credentials the other night here, and you surprised me (unintelligible) you were the guy that was in that one video that Bob Guccione uh building a (unintelligible) in Croatia– With Stoya. So, I’d like to hear about that, but I’d also like to hear about um, I mean you can do either one first, about your career as a painter or your work as a painter, because you’re not just a full-time porn dude. (laughs)
Zak: No, no I’m not a full-time porn dude by any means, uh, I’ve done relatively few movies compared to most people, um–
Rob: How old were you when you sold your first painting?
Zak: When I sold– I sold when I was in college so– probably–
Rob: What was it of?
Zak: It was a girl.
Rob: Okay, Nude?
Zak: Yeah, um it was to the woman who worked across the street at the financial desk at the college, uh, but yeah I don’t know I was in college I was like 19 or 20.
Rob: Which college?
Zak: Cooper Union, at the time.
Rob: Okay.
Zak: Um, but yeah so Stoya calls me up and she’s like “Well, how do you feel about going to Croatia?” and I’m like “I feel good.” And she’s like, “How do you feel about trespassing?” And I’m like, “I love trespassing.”
Um, so Bob Guccione had built in the 70’s, late 70’s, this place called the Haludovo hotel, and if you google it it’s this gorgeous modernist building, crazy architecture, it’s a big casino hotel. It was Yugoslavia at the time. And his idea was he was going to sort of end communist– he was going to bring down the Berlin wall somehow by having this great fabulous casino hotel, and all of the communist leaders would come and all of the girls working there would be Penthouse pets, and they would see that capitalism is wonderful and that west and east can work together. And it kind of worked in that Tito and Sadam Husein and other communist leaders did actually come to the Haludovo and hang out for a few years, but the labor laws were pretty intense, um, so it was hard to make a lot of money out of there because of the taxes. And another rule apparently that was every single business decision had to be ratified by the entire staff. So, the penthouse pets kept having to fly back to Yugoslavia to vote on whether they should change the janitor or whatever. Um, and so eventually someone else bought it, and then during the break-up of Yugoslavia, it got turned into a refugee camp basically. So people would flee ya know the fighting and they would go into this hotel and it was like this giant complex, and they would just rip the copper out of the walls, rip the plumbing out, and they were just like trying to live– you know, basically just like in the forest– so like you know?
Rob: So it went from like being a glamour spot to a total dystopian example of like the decline of civilization.
Zak: Exactly! and then you know of course that’s a perfect tumblr bait. Ya know, it became this beautiful piece of ruin porn. You just see this tumbled down building.
Rob: So it was tumbled down porn?
Zak: Yeah, you know, it was a ruined– it was sort of a picturesque ruin.
Rob: What was the name of it again?
Zak: The Haludovo hotel.
Rob: Haludovo.
Zak: H-A-L-U-D-O-V-O.
Rob: And that’s in Belgrade?
Zak: No, it’s outside of Belgrade in this sort of resort town called Krk. Um, and– so we got in there, but of course it’s not on the map, because it’s not an active business, it’s a ruin, and so– and Stoya was really sick that day and we only had one day to shoot, so I put her up in the hotel and I’m like, “Okay, I’ll go find this place, and you stay here and get well, hopefully, we’ll be able to shoot in the morning.”
So, I go out, and I’m looking and I’m looking and I’m looking, and I find a building that like kind of looks like the tumblr pictures I’ve seen, um, and I’m looking for ways in–I’m like–
“Okay, so this parts boarded up if I get this screwdriver I can get in here– I might be able to climb up this tree and get on the roof and maybe shoot a scene on the roof.”
And I was like, “Is this really the place?”
Because it looks smaller in the pictures. I assume that they had just knocked down the stuff around it after you know people found out about it on the internet, you know? And so I was looking through the windows, and it said– Like there was a big 70’s office and there and like an old typewritten binder and it said: “Haludovo Hotel” like pressed right up against the glass. So I was like, “Okay, this is the place.”
I get back to the hotel, and you know, she’s sick. And then like, I’m looking in the middle of the night, I’m still looking on the internet, and I’m like, “This place is like fifteen building complex, there must be more to it than this.”
So in the middle of the night, I’m like, “Stoya, I think I missed something.”
And she’s like, “Yeah?”
And I’m like, “Yeah. Like, let’s go back out, and there may be more to it than this further into the woods.”
So we got back out in the middle of the night and we’re using our like, cell phone as flashlights. And we’re looking around, as soon as I see a little like ya know, concrete cabana, like a little modern building–
She’s like, “I think that’s it.”
And I’m like, “Okay.”
So this is like a part of the beach complex.
and she’s like, “We’ll come back later.”
And I’m like, “No! Let’s, see more!”
And she’s like, “I’m scared!”
You know like the whole– it was very X-Files.
Rob: (Laughs)
Zak: So we’re going through there, and we’re going up the path and we start seeing like more and more ruined buildings, and then like– makes glass cracking sound effect We’re just like stepping on glass, and you look up and there’s this like huge canopy over this swimming pool, you can look up this swimming pool online, it’s just this massive pool with this huge glass thing over it–
And I’m like, “There it is!”
And we sneak in and then we see this like amazing lobby, like with these huge– you can’t tell what they are now but they are like these big circular shapes that look like this alien spaceship, but it was the bar in the middle, and then all of these like booths around it. And then– it was this like totally crazy place. So we’re like, “Okay, we’ll come back in the morning.”
Um, hopefully before dawn– no cops, ya know? We’re hoping. You could hear dogs barking and —
So we come back in the morning, get ready, and we shoot the scene, and like, we’re having sex and she’s like– “I hear something, it sounds like footsteps.”
It’s coming from the direction that we came. So we like, get dressed, and like move– we couldn’t go back out the way we came because that’s where the footsteps are coming from, so we go deeper into the complex, and it’s huge! Like if you imagine, like, a whole hotel, like this hotel we’re in– every single room, everything is torn apart. Not one chair left, not one faucet left.
Rob: The refugees were complete.
Zak: Yeah! I mean like it has just been sitting there and they were ya know, trying to live. So, like, just like, it’s hard to imagine like, every single room trashed to this degree like it’s like way more than Silent Hill or anything like that it was like every room, nothing left. So we’re going in on this like old ruined carpet and after like 20 minutes I’m just like trying to get away from the footsteps. I’m like, “Okay, we have to get out of here.”
Like we can’t just go deeper and deeper in. And she’s like, “Alright.”
So we peek out, and it’s a fucking deer. (laughs)
Rob: Wow. Like a female deer, a doe?
Zak: Yeah a doe, a deer, a female deer. (Laughs)
Rob: Wow, that’s crazy.
Zak: yeah.
Rob: And so you guys were all scared for nothing, did you like laugh about it and have more sex afterward?
Zak: Yeah! Well I mean, yes. But–
Rob: In the place, or later? (Laughs)
Zak: I mean if I remember correctly we had sex there again.
Rob: Nice, nice, so that was for her website?
Zak: Yeah, because she was doing this series about having sex in different places, Like, Stoya around the world. So she was going to different places.
Rob: Around the world in 80 ways? I think it’s called.
Zak: Something like that.
Rob: It’s a good idea.
Zak: Yeah, I mean she wanted to do things on her own terms. You know, she’s done with doing like regular scenes. She was like, “I want things to be real.” You know, like her own thing.
Rob: Like an adventure.
Zak: Yeah, exactly, I mean it was.
Rob: Reality adventure.
Zak: We did a bunch of stuff like that, you know, we went to Athens, um, and you know we shot one in the presidential suite in the Palace Hotel over there.
Rob: Oh, you did two then? Okay.
Zak: I mean we did a bunch, the main one was the Haludovo because that was going to be the hard one. But the other ones were just like, you know we went to places that were going to be easy to get to from there, like (unintelligible)
Rob: Did she, don’t mean to sidetrack here, but did she get, uh, discovered in Philadelphia?
Zak: I don’t know exactly, and if she was on the east coast, I know she had bounced around different cities there but I’m not sure like which one was her–
Rob: Alright. So right now you’re based in L.A. and you’re painting out there– or you do some painting every now and then.
Zak: Yeah.
Rob: Um, do you have a studio in the Hollywood area, or down at the beach, where are you?
Zak: Downtown, I mean I–
Rob: Downtown? Oh, the warehouse district?
Zak: Yeah, yeah. The arts district, yeah.
Rob: Big place, small place?
Zak: Yeah, I mean it’s like– a lot of artists– like I’ve never had a separate studio because I like to wake up and get reminded that my painting looks bad.
Rob: That’s what I figured, yeah, you have a live-work space, right?
Zak: Yeah. But a lot of people like to have a separate place, and but they’re always like– when I talk to them they’re always like, “Oh, I need to get into the studio more.” And I’m like, “I’m always in the studio.”
You know?
Rob: Uh-huh.
Zak: And also like, it’s good for shooting because it’s a big open loft. So it’s like it’s a big multi-space essentially you know if you want to take photos you know or–
Rob: I do, thanks! Is that an invitation?
Zak: I mean, I–
Rob: That would be awesome.
Zak: I mean I don’t turn down press I suppose.
Rob: Alright.
Zak: You know like when people come over it’s a good place to have a party, it’s good to you know– when my ex was camming, it’s a good place to cam. You know, it’s a big– we’re artists so–
Rob: I’ve shot there before, this one porn star when she was married to this one guy who was a fashion designer guy they had an upstairs, it was a really dingy place but it was like really cool, and it was like–
Zak: That’s downtown L.A.
Rob: It was like the old downtown warehouse district and I guess upstairs there was lofts and stuff and you’d go up this rickety old staircase and they had a corridor that goes in that looks like it was built in the 1920’s.
Zak: It’s not half as rickety as New York, but it’s the closest that L.A. gets, ya know?
Rob: Okay, so you started in New York, in Brooklyn–
Zak: Yeah.
Rob: And uh, nice.
Zak: But yeah I was doing paintings then, I got out of grad school and then started– you know, I was back in New York, and uh, I guess, I kinda moved from like girls who I knew in art school who were like pro doms and like, nude models, then moved from there to like girls who were strippers, and then the strippers knew the porn girls and so I started painting the porn girls. And then eventually, you know, I did a couple movies and then you meet more porn people and you know?
Rob: You mean with like your subjects for painting?
Zak: Yeah.
Rob: Awesome painting subjects, yeah.
Zak: yeah, but also it’s been interesting–
Rob: Working well?
Zak: yeah well the thing is– if you look at– I had my first show in 2002, and just the way that being naked on the internet, uh, was viewed then, and versus now. Like, how much it’s changed.
Rob: is there less stigma now?
Zak: I mean, yeah. But it’s also– less stigma, but just in terms of like the series, in the beginning, it was like, it was hard to find people, and they were very like– we both wanted to talk a lot first about what it was like, and it was kind of like a mystery. it was like a thing that was hidden, and there was less community, and uh, and less resources, and it was just like–
the series of paintings, of portraits and what they were about kind of changed because the world changed around them during that time. You know like– and now–
Rob: what year was that?
Zak: 2002 was my first show. So, like– nowadays it’s like not weird to have a– you know if you had said you were doing a painting series of porn stars, they’d be like, get in line, like who isn’t you know?
Rob: So funny. it’s true.
Zak: The first time I came to Suicide Girls. Uh, I was talking to the people at Suicide Girls. You know, Sean was like there’s a lot of people doing this but you’re good at it, you know? Like he liked me and he was kind of like, “Yeah, if you want to paint some of the girls, cool.”
And I eventually got a suicide girl in the MOMA, so that was kind of a — Suicide Girl painting, in their collection. So that was kind of a big deal for them. But it has been strange watching something like something that I was doing as a project for me turn into something that like everyone has fan art, they have 300 pictures of themselves.
Rob: Oh, right, it’s a whole fan art thing.
Zak: Now I’m a Disney Princess. Now I’m a frog. Now I’m a mermaid, you know? Like, it’s normal. And so when you write to somebody that you don’t know and you’re like, “Hey, I want to do a painting of you.” They’re like, “Phfff, go ahead.”
Rob: You know, you’re right the whole Stormy Daniels thing would have been such a scandal like 20 years ago, and now it’s not really a scandal.
Zak: Or, I mean it might not– part of it is that and part of it is just that like, there is nothing about Donald Trump that is not a scandal.
Rob: Right! I mean it’s like, his wife was an ex-nude model, you know and it’s like– everything has gotten so mainstream and porn is EVERYWHERE. And the youtube is having to make that AV law, age verification law, to make it impossible to access online content that is not behind a paywall, without– the way I understand it the law reads– they’re going to make it, even like the samples, you have to do a 3 step verification, you have to send in an I.D., you have to give them a credit card, which is to I.D. your name, and you have to– I don’t know, swear on a holy bible that you’re over 18 or something. But it’s like–
Zak: England doesn’t need more blue laws. I mean it’s already such a messed up place. laughs
Rob: But they’re doing that! So that will affect the big tube sites and then it will carry on down to everyone else, so hopefully, maybe they are saying that the smaller sites will be able to make more money now because of– anyways getting back to what we were saying about your subject matter, um– great! I’m not familiar with your movies, I haven’t seen your paintings yet, but I would like to, and uh, maybe we could do like a profile on you in Reviewer Magazine, an artist profile. An erotic art profile.
Zak: Cool.
Rob: Um, I didn’t mean to cut you off when you were talking about Stoya, is there anything you would like to add about your friend Stoya and what she’s doing now with her projects?
Zak: Nah I mean, She can speak for herself if you have any specific questions.
Rob: Absolutely. Of course.
But you’re here at the Hard Rock Casino doing a story for a magazine on art, do you want to talk a little bit about that, or about porn?
Zak: Yeah, I mean I write for– I write a column for an art magazine that is like the big art magazine in L.A. and so they– I was talking to them about doing something about the AVN’s because I’ve already done AVN like as AVN, like I wrote a book about (unintelligible) porn.
Rob: You did?
Zak: Yeah, so I’m thinking about like–
Rob: What’s it called?
Zak: We did porn. Um–
Rob: Under your stage name or your real name?
Zak: I think it says “Zak Smith” and then in parenthesis, Zak Sabbath.
Rob: Ok. I’ll look it up.
Zak: It’s like one of those books that a lot of girls that are just like first getting into the industry– they are like, “Oh, I liked your book! It was–” You know?
Rob: Mhm.
Zak: So that’s nice, because it’s people who have– who are actually in porn, like it and get it, and that was important to me. Because I haven’t had a normal experience in porn, you know, like I had–
Rob: How so?
Zak: Well I mean I was never a full time dude, ya know like I never– I didn’t come out of school and not know what to do with my life and go do porn– like I was a well-known painter making rent just fine when I did my first movie so– I had an atyipcal experience, but you’re represnting other people– so I didn’t want to– even things like this make me a little nervous because I don’t want to act like I’m an expert but on the other hand I feel like– compared to a lot of people who have been in the industry like ten years, I don’t know shit, but at the same time like I feel like I have a perspective of what it’s like to not be in the industry– and be able to explain to people in a way that people find helpful, like– a year or two ago when there was the whole condoms in porn law and everbody in porn basically– 60 people or whatever, went up to Osha in Oakland and was explang how the condom law wasn’t actually that helpful to us and it wasn’t really great for performers, and it wasn’t really about the condoms it was about like the way their law was written which was really sloppy. So performer after performer got up and talked about it, but I got up there was like, “Listen, like my girlfriend at the time, like, every pre-existing condition she has is tattooed on my arm. Like nobody is more– like she’s chronically ill, ya know? Nobody is more worried about safety on set than she is. like she is somebody who like does less scenes and makes less money because of how she was worried about getting sick. And this law and the way that it’s written doesn’t help. The way the law was written it’s so sloppy that like– if you’re shooting in Hollywood, and you’re shooting a movie where anywhere in the movie it’s implied that Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan have sex– like even if it’s not explicit. If that happens, and then like Meg Ryan puts a cigarette in Tom Hanks mouth of feeds him some cake, then that’s technically– there’s sex in the movie or simulated sex and there’s penetration of an orifice with an object. That means that Tom Hanks has to wear a dental dam and goggles and all that.
Rob: I heard that they call that the mainstream movie exclusion clause or something like that.
Zak: well there was no clause! At least at the time when we were–, there was nothing like that, it was so sloppily written.
Rob: Oh, okay.
Zak: And I went to fucking Yale, I read the law. I read the text, I read the fucking, you know– I read the legal– I read the legal– the documents that the other documents were based on.
Rob: You went to Yale to read the law?
Zak: No, I went to– that’s where I–
Rob: You attended Yale?
Zak: Yeah, I was a grad student. Um, and so I got up there , and even though a lot of performers who were veterans like had said shit, I was like I looked at the (law making person?) and explained it like, “Here is the law that you wrote, here are the rules, here is like, the situation that we are in.”
Like, it says producer, “Do you know what a porn producer is? No one in this room knows what a porn producer is.”
A guy who says, “I want a video of you eating a chicken and masturbating, I’ll give you 75 bucks for that.”
Technically that guy is a porn producer. ya know like some random fan. A porn producer has to have your medical records for 50 years? So that means if somebody wanted to hire you to do a one-off video that you send to them only for them, a custom video, you have to give them your medical records complete and they have to hold them for 50 years. Like, the law was just not written– (unintelligible)
Rob: It’s not realistic.
Zak: Yeah, and I was up there like, I–
Rob: Was that intentional? Were they trying to be overly (unintelligible) to kill the porn industry? Or were they just being dumb dicks?
Zak: Um, it was a combination of both because the AIDS organization, the AIDS healthcare foundation– even within the HIV positive community, is not a well-respected organization. They’re kind of a– they’re opportunists, lke they’ve widely been kind of, uh, you know they’re in it for the grant money, they’re in it for the people who run it to sort of get status as you know important non-profit people and they don’t really seem to give a shit about the actual spread of aids, for example, the PrEP drug which is like very effective at preventing AIDS, and you like pop it and like you know– They wanna kill PrEP because that’s like a bold headline-grabbing stand that they can take, like, “It’s not condoms! Shouldn’t worry about!”
And it’s like, why not do both? Ya know like, we’re all making porn why isn’t PrEP necessary? Why isn’t PrEP a rule in porn? Like, we’rea ll having sex without condoms like we’re all getting tested once a month or– every few weeks, so why not take PrEP? because the AIDS healthcare foundation doesn’t give a shit, and so they and their lawyers wrote the law. Part of it was to become burdensome on porn and then they could grab headlines like, “AIDS healthcare foundation has kicked porn out of California! Now it’s only in Nevada.”
And part of it was because they weren’t really paying that much attention, and they didn’t think that we would take it on. And so, on the one hand, yeah I haven’t done as many films as a lot of people walking around this hotel. But on the other hand, I feel like because I have been spending so much time talking to the academic world, talking to fine art people, like just having a normal-er life in some ways, like, I can translate a little bit? And that kind of comes up.
Rob: And how did you get pulled into this tawdry business, what was your “entree”?
Zak: Like, the weirdest thing ever– I had done– Thomas Pynchon wrote a novel called Gravity’s Rainbow, and I did a picture for every single page of that novel because it was one of my favorite books, um, So I drew a picture for every page of Gravity’s Rainbow, and then a little bit after, because I was also doing these portraits of porn people– I was interviewing some porn people and talking about it, and then a year later- this guy I never met, I just did a phone interview, um, he said you know, “It would be mean a lot to me if I could use those pictures in a movie because I love that book, and I want to make an autobiography porn movie.”
This was like the early 2000’s when there was like a lot of sort of arty porn before the big internet crash killed everything ya know? But the big companies like Larry Flynt and VIvid and VCA were just throwing away– out money on weird movies, ya know during the early 2002-3-4-5. And So this guy was like, “Yeah, I want to make an arty autobiographical porn, and I want to include those pictures.”
And I was like, “Sure.”

And I said, “And it would mean a lot to me if I could fuck all of the girls in the movie.”
And he was like, “Ha-ha!”
“Well I mean send me pictures, ya know, like I kinda need a punk for the thing, because ya know, I don’t wanna use this other dude”
-Who’s the only other guy in the industry who had that weird hair.”
So I sent him pictures and he was like, “Yeah, your hired.”
And so, I did that first movie called Barbwire Kiss and then, you know, at that point some of the girls were like. “Oh, Zak is talent now.”
and so I got hired on some more stuff. Guys always fall into porn ass-backward, it’s always some kind of joke.
Rob: Oh really, how so?
Zak: yeah, it always starts with somebody being like, “Hey! What if I did that?”
And then somebody’s like, “Sure?”
Ya know?
Rob: Hmm. Well, um, I appreciate the uh, the fact that you have been so open with Reviewer magazine, thank you Zak, and uh looking forward to seeing more of your work, when I’m in L.A. I’ like to check out your paintings and stuff and um–
Zak: If you want to see the originals most of them are in New York in my gallery, so if you get to New York then there ya go.
Rob: In your gallery?!
Zak: the gallery that represents me. I don’t own it.
Rob: One day, one day.
Nice. Nice, nice, nice. Good. Thank you, thank you very much.
Zak: No problem.
Rob: And yeah, we’ll talk again soon.
Zak: alright, sweet.

Zak Smith from Reviewer on Vimeo.

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