The carpet of the Los Angeles Convention Center is a sickly shade of hot pink on day two of the ExxxoticaLA porn convention, a dubious runway for three women whose main claim to fame is nothing more than they slept with someone famous. Joslyn James, Melissa Smith, and January Ryan sit perched at a large white table, with photographs of themselves partially naked or all nude, ready to be sold for $10, and signed with a smile.
In another era, the mistresses would have seemed incongruous at a porn convention—but today, they fit in comfortably in the midst of legitimate sex stars, including the infamous Belladonna, who strikes glamorous poses in a room designed to look like the filthiest bathroom in America, and Jessica Bangkok who gamely signs autographs for an eager crowd of unremarkable men, smiling tightly as one of them grabs onto her bolted-on boobs.
It used to be being "the other woman" was a shameful thing. Certainly, you didn't brag about it.
"Some of these girls they sleep with like one person, not publicly, and they are trying to make a living off a one-night stand and one person."
Today, things are different. Apparently, you not only brag about it, but you write a letter—as Melissa Smith did to Sandra Bullock—informing the spurned wife of the affair. "I just wanted to make sure that Michelle (McGee) didn't get counted as a psycho chick. I wanted to make sure Sandra knew that there was more than just her going on," she says and shakes her sizable assets in the direction of an admirer.
And, if you are a celebrity mistress in 2010, you milk the ill-begotten fame for as much and as long as you can. If reports are to be believed, the “original” Tiger Woods mistress, Rachel Uchitel nabbed a cool 10 million before the parade of floozies followed her. She's also reportedly doing a Playboy shoot.
If you're January Ryan (also known as January Gessert), you parlay what she says is a misunderstanding—allegations that she hooked up with football star Reggie Bush, ending his relationship with Kim Kardashian, which she denies—into a way to get attention for a burgeoning music career.
For Ryan, this means sitting in a booth at the convention and proffering sexy photos of herself to male passersby. She looks more rock star than porn star, but with her platinum blond hair, and flashy sunglasses, the men are drawn to her. "I'm not a porn star!" She laughed. "People are gonna come up and be like 'I've seen you in a video,' and I'm like, 'No, you haven't.' I'm pretty sure you haven't."
Still, even though she denied that she was the other woman, she clearly relished the spotlight. Like other women of scandal, Ryan tore a page from the Gloria Allred playbook—hiring the lawyer and holding a tear-and-denial-filled press conference. Pure theater.
But, she explains, "It started overshadowing me wanting to be an artist. I had to take a hold of it." She is currently filming a reality TV show with the other mistresses.
It is apparently enough to drive a real porn star crazy. "Those girls only slept with those guys so they could be famous," says Joanna Angel, an “alt porn” star, flipping her dark brown hair which is highlighted with bright fuchsia streaks.
"It makes us look bad, because we sleep with people as a job and we take it very seriously," Angel adds. "Some of these girls they sleep with like one person, not publicly, and they are trying to make a living off a one-night stand and one person."
This celebration of the other woman seems to augur a meeting in the middle of legal porn and tawdry entertainment. "With MySpace, and Twitter, and Facebook—nothing's secret anymore," says Angel. "There are famous people now that started just by having some kind of video on YouTube. There are people who are famous now, who just had a MySpace page. Fame is a little different than it used to be."
As January Ryan points out about her nemesis: "Regular girls like Kim Kardashian are getting famous off of a sex tape, and they get a reality show and everyone forgets about the sex tape.
"To be realistic, she was a porn star. That's how she got famous."
Joslyn James is perfectly poised to cash in using both sides of the coin—she'd already starred in 16 triple X films before famously coming out as a Woods mistress (she was No. 11, and for the record, she says, she was his girlfriend). "He just happened to be married and he seemed to have forgotten he was married," she says, curtly.
"There's been girls involved with athletes for years,” she adds, her enormous boobs squished into a relatively tasteful black dress, “but they didn't have the avenues of the Internet and all the other gossip avenues that they have right now."
At the other end of the room, Nina Hartley was holding court at the Legends of Porn booth. She sat next to two blasts from porn's past, Peter North and Ginger Lynn. As a line of fans started to form, Hartley, weighed in on the phenomenon. She was working the sexy librarian look—black framed glasses and a blond bob and looked like she'd give a lecture and a spanking at the same time. With glee.
"Pornography has crawled out of the muck and has joined trash culture," she says. "Wrestling and reality TV—which I personally find to be low-class television entertainment—and then adult entertainment is trying very hard to make it up to trash-level TV."