Q&A: No Butts About It

Everyone knows the old joke about how you get your porn star name. Take your first pet's name and add the street on which you grew up. But how did Adam Glasser get his nom de porn?

"I was looking for something that was memorable and that had a little humor to it," he says. "As a kid, you used to hear about books and their authors, you know, 'Yellow Snow' by I. P. Freely? There was also 'Under the Bleachers' by Seymore Butts." And thus, a porn star was born. Back in 1991, Glasser began producing and starring in adult movies under that pseudonym, and since then he's made over 70 "gonzo-style" pornographic films. A couple of years back, Showtime contacted him with the idea of creating a late-night reality show around his life as a porn entrepreneur. "Family Business," broadcast Friday nights, stars not only Glasser but also his mother, Lila, who does the company's accounting, and his cousin Stevie, who runs the distribution side of his business. Glasser spoke with NEWSWEEK's B. J. Sigesmund about the show. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: When did you decide you wanted to be in front of the camera, in addition to producing adult movies?

ADAM GLASSER: That was from day one. That was my way of being unique in a sense. I participated and held the camera, it was my point of view all the way.

Talk about the tone of your films. You call it gonzo-style adult entertainment.

Gonzo refers to two things. First, it's nonscripted. There's no beginning, middle or end. Secondly, the filmmaker or cameraman has a direct role in the filming, whether sexually or just by engaging in an interview with the performer. There are no plots. It's really comparable to reality television that way.

You see your films as empowering for women.

I like the women to somewhat dictate the action. I don't like men to be calling women names. It's made them easy for couples to watch them together. In my experience, it's not that women mind hardcore action. It's that they don't like action where they're degraded. I have a lot of women that correspond with me.

Have your mother, Lila, and cousin Stevie, worked with you the whole time?

My mom came to work for me following a divorce from my father after 30 years. I didn't want her to have to go out there and get a job. My mom joined probably in 1996. Steve joined in 1999. You can't trust anyone better than family. I've always had trouble with accounting issues in the industry.

You also have a young son. Are you in touch with his mother?

He's the son of [porn star] Taylor Hayes. She's retired.

How did "Family Business" come about?

I was involved in a somewhat high-profile obscenity case in 2000, and I was interviewed on PBS as part of a documentary on adult entertainment in the United Stages. The show's producers saw the interview, saw my mom was interviewed and was part of my company, and decided they wanted to talk to us.

How did you feel about the opportunity?

I had mixed feelings, considering the exposure my family would receive and considering my son was going to be involved. I've had to deal with certain stigmas being in the industry that I wouldn't wish on them. But then I looked at the big picture of it. I thought about the limited times I've ever dealt with anything uncomfortable. I thought of it as a way to give the public a view into this world that is often maligned and misrepresented. This series is an opportunity to show people that the industry is filled with normal people.

Talk about the reunion episode. You took cameras back to your 20th high-school reunion. Any negative reaction from your classmates?

Word spread fast because there was a camera there. The reaction was positive from 99 percent of the people I spoke with. The only negative reaction was from the person who was my best friend in high school, who found God and who was very bothered by what I do. That was awkward.

Porn's become a lot more mainstream in the years you've been in the business.

The fact that it's so easily accessed now has helped its acceptance. Or maybe more it's just demonstrated its acceptance. The material wouldn't be so readily available unless people wanted it. A lot of people are spending a lot of money to get it, too.

So much of "Family Business" is about how hard it is for you to find romance while also pursuing your life as a porn producer and performer. Has that always been the case?

I was in a series of longterm relationships until two and a half years ago. From 16 to 36, I was in a relationship with one person or another. Maybe five in total. Of the girls I had relationships with when I was in the industry, two out of three of them weren't involved in the industry directly, and one was. The other two had been dancers, but never made movies.

How much did the business affect those relationships?

A lot. In a perfect world, it shouldn't have, because the girls were involved in the business, as well. But after love entered the air, there always seemed to be jealousy problems on their end. It was a weird, one-way street. I had to be OK with what they were doing, but had to have a fine line with what I was doing.

You're involved politically in the free-speech movement.

I've been arrested four times, twice not in this country. People in this country are very confused about sexuality. Sex wouldn't have been made so potentially pleasurable if it were wrong. There are unfortunately so many people mixed up about it. Any opportunity I can take to make people's lives better sexually, I'm going to take it. When people start dictating what you can watch, you start getting into problems.

Talk about an incident where your videos helped someone.

A friend of mine was dancing in Toronto. She calls out of the blue, because a couple came up to her who'd seen her in one of my movies. She called on her cell. The women got on the phone with me, and she burst into tears. She thanked me for saving her marriage. She discovered a tape hidden in her husband's stuff. She put it in and watched it while he was at work. She was upset with him for keeping it from her. He said, "Anytime I'd ever bought anything home before you didn't like it." From that point on, she said they've had a different relationship. And I just got an e-mail from another woman, saying that after 27 years, her husband had finally got it right.

One last question about the show. Why don't you have any furniture?

I moved in a month after we started filming and it was a much bigger house that I had had before. I've got some art on the walls now. It takes me time. I'm still trying to find a dining-room table. If I can buy the whole room, I'm great. But piece by piece, it's time-consuming. I'm very picky. It drives me crazy.