Shay Thomas - Former Big Beautiful Porn Star
I interview ex-porn star Shay by phone Monday evening, March 21, 2005. She did about 50 scenes between the end of 1991 and the middle of 1995. During that time, Shay weighed between 145-250 pounds.
I met her at karaoke the other night. I left at 11pm but she didn't leave until 2:30am.
Duke: "When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?"
Shay: "A singer."
Duke: "Did other people encourage you down that path?"
Shay: "Absolutely not. Not then."
Duke: "What were you expected to become?"
Shay: "My mother wanted me to become a lawyer or writer. I didn't have a dad around. He [was killed] when I was young."
Duke: "Why didn't you pursue writing?"
Shay: "I was always a smart kid. Lots of reasons. Things took a dramatic turn when I was a teenager and I ended up on my own. Career at that point wasn't as important as exercising my freedom and trying to find out who I was."
Duke: "When did you go out on your own?"
Shay: "At 16."
Duke: "How did that come about?"
Shay: "I got pregnant. I ended up having to marry the guy. He was considerably older. I married at 16. I had a baby at 17. I divorced at 18."
Duke: "What kind of student were you before you got married?"
Shay: "Let me put it this way: I've been a member of MENSA for the past 21 years. I was a straight-A student [in a good private school], which also translates into 'copiously bored.'
"Highschool was the complete turning point for me. Before highschool, I was a complete geek. Chess Club. Library Club. By the time I hit highschool, I didn't fit in with that crowd. I wasn't sure what crowd I did fit in with. I ended up in the 'burnout.' That's what we called the people in the smoking area. That's where you had to go if you wanted to listen to Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin."
Duke: "How did you get into porn?"
Shay: "I had been married again. I was with him for ten years. I left him in 1992.
"He always knew I was interested in women. Things were not going well in the relationship. He said, why don't you go find a girl and bring her home? That sounded like a good idea. The girl I brought home was an editor in the business (who also performs under the name Kira). I ended up having more in common with her than I did with him. I did the threesome thing for a while. I ended up leaving him and lived with her for three years.
"I was interested in [porn] but I didn't know much about it. There was the intriguing part and the whole big scary part. She was due to do a scene with Ron Jeremy. I'd heard wonderful things and horrible things about him. He scared me. I decided that I was going to go on set and be bodyguard.
"I walked out on the set and saw them working. I was enthralled. I went into the dressing room and tried on costumes and played with make-up. I walked out on the set. The director looked at me and said, 'Do you want to join in?' I said sure.
"At the end [of Shay's porn career], I had started losing the weight [down to 145 at bottom] and I had started doing bondage things.
"There's a movie (Big Bad Biker Bitches) with about five scenes of me. All the scenes were done at different times with different directors. In each scene I'm a different size."
At her peak, Shay had a 40D bust. Now she's a 32B.
Shay now weighs 130 pounds and works in mainstream entertainment. "I feel better now than I ever have."
Duke: "What did you love and what did you hate about your time in the industry?"
Shay: "I hated being in positions on the set where you didn't feel you had control over what you were going to be doing. They presented you with a scene you weren't prepared for, such as a DP. That's not something I would ever do in my private life. My rule is that I would not do something in front of millions of people that I would not do in my own bedroom.
"One thing that was cool was that back then when you were an actress, you could pretty much choose who you wanted to work with. As long as that actor didn't mind working with a BBW (Big Beautiful Woman) or whatever they call it now, a healthy girl... There were a lot who didn't like it but there were a lot who didn't mind."
Duke: "Did you work with Dave Hardman?"
Shay: "Many times."
Duke: "Ron Jeremy?"
Shay: "I'll probably get beat-up for saying this, but he really was good in bed."
Duke: "Were you a chubby kid?"
Shay: "Oh yeah."
Duke: "How old were you when you lost your virginity?"
Shay: "That I don't really want to get into."
Duke: "How do you look back on your time in the porn industry? With pride? With shame?"
Shay: "With neither. It's a slice of my life. With any experience, positive or negative, you take what you can use with you. What I got from it was a healthy sexual appetite and attitude. I don't think I need to be public about it anymore. That part of my life is over. I still go to swinger parties and I am still active in my own way, just not on camera."
Duke: "Are you primarily attracted to men or women?"
Shay: "Yeah. Why choose?
"I can't say that I get sex as often as I'd like it but I definitely have the appetite."
Duke: "Are you a nymphomaniac?"
Shay: "That's an interesting question. I don't think there's a real answer to that. I'd say that a nymphomaniac is somebody who can't be satisfied. I can be satisfied. I am not insatiable. I am easy to sate. I have too many things going on in my life to be that focused on sex. I have more difficult than the average person in being monogamous because I am truly bisexual."
Duke: "How did you and how do you feel about the porn industry?"
Shay: "I felt better about it then than now. Now there are so many people in it..."
Duke: "Do you think it exploits women?"
Shay: "Oh yeah. It always did. Back then there were fewer people in it [in front of the camera], so if attention was your thing, you got that. If money was your thing, you got that. Now there are so many people, the money is divided and the attention is divided. Nobody is getting exactly what they want. So they are going into it and becoming unsatisfied with their decision. Something that big that will follow you for the rest of your life, you need to be sure about why you are doing it. I don't think the girls now are as clear on the decision as I think I was back then. Plus, a lot of the stuff they do now, I think they call it gonzo porn, we didn't have a name for it back then, we just called it kinky crap... The huge gangbangs and triple penetrations... They don't exist in nature. There's a lot of gross stuff out there now."
Duke: "You've worked in many different industries. Is the porn industry the filthiest?"
Shay: "Oh yeah. Well, I take that back. Yes, on the surface it is. To me, the business that I am in now is right up there, only because it is more devious."
Duke: "Were you ever raped on set?"
Shay: "No. It was always my decision. I could've walked away but it was a high pressure environment."
Duke: "You were pressured into doing things you didn't want to do?"
Shay: "Yeah. I was a lot younger then and I wasn't as confident."
Duke: "So what do you think about all those 18-year old girls who get caught up in that meatgrinder?"
Shay: "It's a choice. Yes, they're young and I'd like to see them not in it. I've got kids that age and older. I'd like it if they would raise the age [to 21]. At the same token, if I were to watch a movie, I'd get turned on, so I'd be a hypocrite to say that I wish nobody was in it."
Duke: "How would you feel if a family member were to get involved as talent?"
Shay: "I would beat their ass. That would not happen."
Duke: "So does that say you have more regard for them than you did for yourself?"
Shay: "No. I was in a different place. I don't think they need to touch the stove to find out that it is hot if I am there to tell them that it is."
Duke: "I've noticed a common theme among the women who did [porn] -- they didn't have good relationships with their fathers."
Shay: "I didn't have one."
Duke: "Did you notice that theme among the women you got to know in the industry?"
Shay: "When I was in the industry, we didn't really talk about things like that. We didn't talk about anything that personal. They were my circle of friends as well as my work but we didn't talk about family things. Maybe that's your answer. Porn was an escape from everything. It didn't matter what you were running from. We all ended up in the same place."
Duke: "Did your time in porn constrict your world or make it broader?"
Shay: "Both. It constricted me in the sense that it was an illusion that people were paying money to see me, they must really like it. It was a false confidence. One of the reasons I was doing it was because I was very self-conscious about how I looked. I started off practically frigid and found out it was the one thing open to me sexually. At the same time, you're still being judged. There were reviews in AVN by Gene about how gross it was to watch something like us. That hurts your feelings. Then you'd get fan mail from people."
Duke: "Has it come back to haunt you?"
Shay: "Not haunt me. I've been careful about keeping it private. I do share the story with people I get to know. I usually don't tell them the stage name. Once in a while, I'll get recognized. But I look so different now it doesn't happen very often."
Duke: "Do the people you get close to ever use it against you?"
Shay: "I had one relationship with someone a lot younger than me and he couldn't get past it. That always prevented us from having a closer relationship. He's probably the only person who held it against me. Even my family knew about it and they got over it."
Duke: "How did you react to having fans?"
Shay: "It was great. How would you react to having a fan?"
[It would depended on what I did to get the fan.]
Shay: "That's a silly question."
Duke: "No, it isn't. It can be really creepy."
Shay: "To be a porn person, you have to be an exhibitionist."
Duke: "Did you ever work as an escort?"
Shay: "No. Well, I take that back. Yes, but not on purpose. Another thing about our friend Ron Jeremy. He likes to bend the rules. He told me that we were doing a BJ scene for a director friend of his [in porn]. It was supposed to be on this cable network back East. I did the BJ scene. Afterwards, we were starting to leave. I said, wait a minute. I haven't filled out any paperwork. I haven't signed a release. He hasn't asked me for my ID or my test results.
"Ron was like, oh, don't worry about it. We don't need it.
"It occurred to me later that that was what it was -- he pimped me out to his friend.
"They filmed the whole thing. I figured it out later that it was for his own use. He didn't just want a blowjob then. He wanted to be able to watch it over and over again.
"Ron is a brilliant guy. If a release is the only difference between prostitution and movies, a piece of paper, there really isn't any difference. That's not the way I viewed it.
"It makes me sad when people cross the line [between porn and prostitution].
"It was more than just entertainment for me. I enjoyed what I was doing 98% of the time."
Duke: "Were drugs prevalent during [your time in porn]?"
Duke: "What were the popular drugs then?"
Shay: "Probably the same as now. Coke and speed and things that keep you energized and skinny."
Duke: "Did you ever have a problem with those?"
Shay: "I did for about a year. After the [January 1994 earthquake in Northridge, when Shay lost her home]... At the end [of Shay's porn career], when I lost all that weight."
Duke: "Did you have to throw off a lot of bad habits when you left the industry and entered the straight world?"
Shay: "Yes. I cut myself off from everything and everybody in it and went back to real life."
Duke: "What was it like having a MENSA IQ in an un-MENSA industry?"
Shay: "You'd be surprised at how many people are brilliant -- Ron Jeremy, Rebecca Wilde, Buck Adams, Asia Carrera."