From Porn Star to Painter

girl

I had just turned 18 so of course I went to a video store and asked for an X-rated movie. I was old enough. I’m an adult. But…I told the guy…”it had to be something with a good story”. There’s a shame factor. A story somehow was an antibiotic that would cleanse the stigma of porn of all its bad and dirty bacteria.

The porn industry is bigger than traditional Hollywood for a reason. Because we are basic animals at heart. We enjoy sex. We enjoy thinking about it (supposedly a man thinks about it every 1.2 seconds on average. Not sure what magician of science came up with that statistic.). We objectify, and we then fantasize across the entire spectrum over what is considered “normal” and what only stays in the realm of fantasy.

(there's a reason for this image. wait for it).

What the heck am I writing about here?

I wake up the other day and got a nice first email to start the day:

Ben wrote:
I like your recent posts. You seem like a smart guy. Keep at it.
Website: http://benbanksart.com

I wrote back, “thanks, it’s nice to start the day with an email like this.”

Then, like I almost always do, I checked out his website. I don’t make the assumption that everyone who is smart enough to reach out to me has a great website but I’m always curious. It takes a lot to send an email to a random person on the web whose material you like. I think it shows good character.

So it makes me curious what they do, how they exhibit their character on the web. And perhaps I can return the favor of the compliment.

So I went to benbanksart.com and I really liked a lot of the paintings. I have no eye for anything. I barely have an eye. But I’ve written about art before:  (See, “Is Burton Silverman Dead Yet”) or photographs (See “The Tooth”) or even more cartoonish stuff (See “The Ugliest Painting in my House”) and Ben’s paintings appealed to me as well and I wanted to find out more.

I wrote him that I liked the paintings and asked if he painted them (having some experience with forgery).

He wrote back:

“Ex-porn star, Steven St. Croix. 18 years. From Connectictu, started painting in 2006 on a whim and quit porn. Moved to France, met a girl, fell in love and stayed.
I sell mostly to people who I meet here in the Cannes and Monaco area. I have a atelier/gallery in Grasse. 3 expos so far, one coming up in London during Frieze Week in October, trying to get into the corporate art market.”

WHOAH!

Back it up a second!

(all of these paintings are by Ben Banks. If you can't see the images then go to jamesaltucher.com)

“Ex porn star”…. “started painting in 2006 on a whim”….”quit porn..Moved to France.”

I looked him up on IMDB. He’s been in over 792 movies. Probably 790 of them were porn movies with titles like “Eight is Never Enough” and “Deep Throat 6”. He was also in the mainstream movie “The Girl Next Door” (starring Elisha Cuthbert, see image above) which is ABOUT a porn star.

Now I was beginning to be envious. A theme of this blog since last October is “transformation” –  how we survive as humans through the travesties that wreck our ships and barely take us to shore. Life squashes us. It mashes our faces. It makes us do things that only the lowest prisoners would do. How do we survive that? Move on? Transform?

So, of course I had to know more, using my typical hard-edged interview style:

“I have to ask: was it fun being a porn star? Did you ever get performance anxiety?
What made you even think you could paint? How did you start trying?”

He wrote back:

“It was fun! Lots of woman, getting recognized, drugs, easy life, travel. Eventually though, I grew out of it and wanted more in my life.
I did get performance anxiety. Will this chick OD during the scene? Will my mother find out what I do? Is my dick big enough? Can they smell the scotch on my breath? Will there be meatloaf for lunch today? That sort of thing….

I knew a guy who was an artist who knew Pollock, Picasso, Clavé, and some other big painters.I sketched some things on a placemat in a restaurant in Nice, he looked at them,looked at me in the eye and said “You need to paint. You have a good eye.” A year later I picked up a canvas and paint and started on my living room floor. I just did it. I didn’t have the fear of not being good. My early work was cool , but I’m much better now I think.

It’s very nice here but I’d like to expand to larger markets like Berlin NY and London. I’ve sold 18 of my latest series of 35 paintings. They average around €1600 for I meter square size. Now I’m doing 2 meter x 1.5 meter paintings. I like large paintings and I think there is a market there for me and a chance to get recognized in a few years.”

So, of course, this really did not answer nearly enough questions. So I went back for more. Below is the Q&A presented in interview format.

Sorry for the questions but I’m fascinated.

How did you first getinto the porn industry? Were you nervous on the first film? Were you excited with that very first actress the very first time?

I was a production assistant on a movie where an actor didn’t show up. I volunteered to do the scene as we had yet to finish the film. My next role was 3 days later and the lead role in “The Sex Connection”. I did a pretty good impression of Chuck Woolery.

How did you meet your wife? Did she mind that you were in the porn industry? Does she ever get jealous you might want to go back to it? Do you tell people you meet at cocktail parties that you used to be in that industry?

I met her thru some people I had met while vacationing in Cannes. She isn’t jealous but sometimes worries that someone might throw it in her face. But I’ve had no problems. People here don’t gawk. And the fact I have salt and pepper hair now throws people off….”Where do I know you from?”

Had you had prior training in painting or art? I think a lot of people would be inspired at such a drastic change in careers.

None whatsoever. I think art schools are for the unimaginative.
Why were you tired of the states?

I was tired of being pigeonholed where ever I went. I was trying to transition to serious non porn acting roles but nobody wanted to cast me for fear of networks and studios nixing it. My last role was in The Girl Next Door….as a porn star. I was done.

Why do you have confidence there is a market for you? What separates out your paintings?

As in publishing, the art isn’t what sells. It’s the story behind it ( or the artist). I don’t I’m any better or worse than artists making a lot of money. They just have the right people buying their art.
What are you going to do today? What’s daily life like?

A far cry from waking at 10am to go to the set and fuck 2 eighteen year old girls in the ass for a thousand bucks. But I’m happier because I’m doing what I like and no one can tell me I can’t.

;)

After years of routine, when we start to realize the horror that is happened to us, the gaps that were once filled with reverie get filled first with melancholy, then depression, then worse. In those moments, a person has to gather his life up, his years, and make sure he can keep going further, because the life gathered up seems too heavy to go further with the little vitality he has left…the lousy bit of poetry that once filled his soul that has now diminished. The challenge is to take that poetry and make a poem. Ben Banks has done that. I hope I can do it.

P.S. If you have any questions for Banks / St. Croix, ask them in the comments and I bet he’ll answer.

 

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  • Scott Solomon

    I’m a little confused . . . in a prior blog post, you talked about how a very good friend of yours committed suicide and looking back you hadn’t responded to his last emails, but here you’re talking about how you very quickly responded to an email from a total stranger.  That’s kinda weird.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      That’s a good question. Sometimes it’s easier to respond to people you don’t know than to cross the bridge of history and meet on the other side.

  • http://twitter.com/bclund bclund

    Steven was definitely one of the major male porn stars.

    Uh…I mean I heard that from a friend of mine!

  • http://www.goldenstateliberty.com GSL

    This is very interesting. I especially enjoyed the wrap-up to this post. My question to Ben: was your switch from porn to painting a whim (i.e., “hey, this is cool . . . time to do something new!”), or was there a point in your old life where the money/fame/fun wasn’t worth it anymore?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

      Not so much a whim but a choice in order to reset my mind and spirit in a way that would further facilitate a second chapter in my life.

      • http://www.goldenstateliberty.com GSL

        Very cool. And glad you made the choice. Thanks for the reply.

  • http://736hundred.tumblr.com/ 736hundred

    “…..because the life gathered up seems too heavy to go further….” I certainly have felt that on more than one occasion.

    I love the entire last paragraph.  “Seems” is the important word for me…..because “seems’ is a perspective or an interpretation, and with effort that can change….. and what actually ” is” can be totally different. 
    _______
    Ben, How did you find James’s blog?  I am curious.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

      Actually someone recommended it in a comment left on another blog…some woman who survived the 9/11 tower attacks and now writes a blog..I can’t remember her name but I remember she HATES Tim Ferris. 

      • Lucas Reis

        It’s Penelope Trunk! ;)

        http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/

      • Nonya

        Penelope Trunk hates Tim Ferriss?  That’s rich.  Would that be because he’s as flagrant an opportunist as she is? LOL  Not everyone likes looking in the mirror I guess.

  • xico007

    Mr. Altucher:

    All your posts are interesting, but this one is peculiarly interesting.  Perhaps because of the porn angle.  Your overall message of transformation is well taken, but Mr. Banks last paragraph of his typical screwing of two 18 year old girls (who I gather must be hot if they are in porn) is what resonated the most.  Is that the reason for the first image?

    Mr. Banks:

    I can’t see your work because of my company’s firewall.  Apparently it thinks your site might be harmful, but I think the real reason is they abhor their employees indulging in anything even remotely creative or fun in nature.  This might be the day I take James’ advice and piss on my boss’ desk and become an artist, or better yet, a porn star.  Ok I might be better suited for an artist.  My questions to you are these:

    What is your motivation behind your paintings?

    Is your experience in the porn industry reflected in your art?

    Thank you both for a refreshing glimpse into an otherwise mundane day at the office.   

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

      To be fair, that comment was a flippant reflection of the type of mindset one develops after years in that industry when it comes to how one views what they do.
      And my site isn’t harmful, but maybe your company discourages creativity(kidding).
      My motivation in painting is to be creative and have sole ownership of my creative output (till it sells). I could go on a diatribe of my philosophy or this or that….boring! I just like to paint and I like how people react to the work.
      Some could say they may see some correlation between that past industry and the work now. Frankly, I don’t see it but I’m not a psychotherapist.
      You can view a short doc film here that may illustrate better what and why I came to be where I’m at now.
      http://vimeo.com/28070310

  • http://waqasaday.wordpress.com Waqas Ali

    This is such an awesome story! Here are my questions for Ben.

    1.When first time you thought to volunteer for that role, and again signing up for the first movie, did you think you were risking something?
    2.You had nothing else to make money, was this the reason to become a porn star?
    3.You read James blog, primary for what, have you learned anything from here? What?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

      1. At the time, I wasn’t thinking about what I wanted to do with my life in terms of a career. My attitude was ‘live for today’.
      2. Sadly, I sucked at sales and education was high school only.
      3. I share his viewpoints on several issues, so it’s enjoyable for me to read. And what I’ve learned is most of the crap we worry about ends up meaning nothing in the end. If we put as much energy into the things we really want to do that we put in worrying about the status quo, we’d be much further ahead in our lives, better at our relationships and closer maybe to what makes us happy. 

  • Mansal

    Looking at the dates on IMDB for Mr. St. Croix tells me he is still pretty into it!!!

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

      Ha! Thanks to the wonderful world of reappropriating content, it appears that would be the case. But alas, no.

  • V.C.

    Wow, what a great story! Ben, my husband is in art school right now, and has slowly taken steps towards marketing and selling his art. None of his family ever dared to live in an unconventional way, and I think his biggest worry is that he won’t be able to support a wife and child by just being a fine artist. Do you have any advice for him on how to take the plunge? Any tips would be much appreciated. 

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

      It will be very hard. I would suggest he do it in addition to whatever job he has to bring in money for the family. Expose, expose, expose. Talk to everyone. Go to exhibits and meet the people putting on the exhibits. It’s the hardest thing in the world to try and  earn money with BUT if he keeps at it and is doing work that is distinct, the success will come.
      Good luck.

      • Whatalamecomment

        “…BUT if he keeps at it and is doing work that is distinct, the success will come…”

        That’s such bullshit…do you have any idea how many “artists” there are out there to whom success will never come?  There aren’t enough people in the world to buy all the paintings, sculptures, songs, etc. that are created by those who think that if they are unique and work hard enough they will be successful…total cobblers…

        • Ben Banks

          That would depend on what someone’s idea of success is. Making 500k a year just from art? Very few. But if you are selling consistently, albeit 10 pieces a year or 50, if your earning something from it and more importantly people really feel happy to own their very own original art work, I think thats success, wouldn’t you?
          I agree, there is a lot out there passing for ‘art’. But I believe there is always someone who will like something.

      • V.C.

        Thanks, Ben! I showed this story and your artwork to my husband. I hope he was a bit inspired by them, if nothing else. As for the “in addition”, I think in this day and age, it is a necessity for most artists. I will be following your blog. All the best to you!

  • Sooz

    Ben,
    After looking at your bio I’m very curious which was harder to sell,Craftmatic beds or  Life Alert systems?
    :))

     

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

      Both. 

      • Tinymjs

        You worked for Issac and Mark in LA?

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

          Don’t know the names. I was there for a check :)

  • http://www.parmcharm.com karen parmelee

    Hey James – fun post and love your curiosity surging forth! Mr. Banks: I enjoyed reading your response indicating that people recognize you but they are unclear as to from where they know you! Is there a fun story when one person puts it together and then… ?  Congratulations on your artwork, and James – thanks for threading this great needle of possibility!

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

      Yes, actually one time I was on a flight and this guy looked at me and smiled as if he knew and chatted me up. I recognized him as Alex Van Halen. About a half hour later he brought his son up to introduce him to me and said “Son, this guy has the best job in the world.” Apparently he thought I was a fellow drummer in some band he couldn’t place immediately but then he realized where he knew me from.

      • http://www.parmcharm.com karen parmelee

        That is pure awesomeness! Thanks for sharing the bit of fun!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1152790393 Zee Que

    AWesome! Thank you Jamses for introducing Ben!

    Hello Ben!! BEAUTIFUL paintings…Inspirational story! I wish you much success!! 

    Forgive me if I missed this in the write up…do you work in acrylics…hmmm…I’m thinking they are oil…the colors are so wonderfully textured and vivid.

    *now I’ll dream a bit* Big HUGE HUGZ to all!

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

      Hi Zee, Yes they’re acrylics. It allows me to work faster than with oils and through various application techniques, I cultivated a texture with layers of paint and mixed mediums and by applying different tints.

      • Cluelessartist

        mixed media, not mixed mediums…you would have learned that in art school…

        • Ben Banks

          Touché!
          But I actually take medium (says it on the bottle) and mix in other elements ;)

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

      And thank you for the kind words!

  • http://www.vwvagabonds.com VW Vagabonds

    The Horror of the Routine

    Beautifully put. 

    The world is driving toward specialization.  Job skills, qualifications and experiences pigeon hole us into a cage of our own making. 

    Banks proves that we are as free as a bird.  

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

    Thanks to everyone for the comments and I hope I answered your questions. This was a surprise to me that this would be published. This was in no way some way to get attention. I have been working diligently at letting my work speak for itself…if people like it cool, if not that’s ok too.
    But as James said, this post (for him) is about transformation. I don’t regret my choices per say; I regret the opportunities I was blind to in my early life because I was too wrapped up in whatever it was I was involved in. But in my heart I knew I needed to change and drastically. If I listened to everyone, I wouldn’t have made the shift. 
    If people discourage you, it’s because they don’t want your movement forward to show they themselves are not moving forward. This scares them. They will coddle you and say you’re fine. But if you know it in your heart something has got to change, do it. Just do it. Damn everyone (and it may include your very close friends and family) But I guarantee you will hold your head up higher and you will sleep better knowing you made a shift.
    Best of luck to everyone out there. Thanks for being cool.

    • Ace

      Ben,
      heck of a story, and I love the first painting James linked-to / displayed up in his post. I don’t know much about art, but I know I like it.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

        Ace, thanks for the words. That piece is entitled ‘Black Butterflies’ and it was selected for an exhibition in London next month.

    • http://helpmyseo.com/ David Amerland

      Great communication throughout – typos totally ignored and paintings which stop the eye and engage the mind. Nice work Ben – best of luck!

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

        Thanks David. 

    • Sooz

      A very sweet doc(post below).
      If you ever expand, “Berlin NY and London”as you wish, be sure to keep Confidential posted.
      Thanks for sharing your story, via James A.,and very best to you.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

        Thank you and I am sure James and I will be in touch.

    • Anonymous

      the genius of your work was you always let the girl have the spotlight- very smart- good luck with your art!

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

        Yeah, I think that was the prerequisite in any adult film! Thanks

    • Anonymous

      I love this story and I hope you get more recognition from this post. I am always motivated by people who make a living doing what they love (art is a hard one to make it in).
      I wonder if you aren’t being a little harsh on people who have chosen to go to art school. I would hardly call them unimaginative. When you call names like that it does not (in my humble opinion) flatter you. It makes you seem like a hack who didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t do art school.
      Good luck and a happy life to you and your wife.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

        I may have mispoke. I wasn’t saying the students were unimaginative, but instead I meant to imply that a curriculum may not be the most effective way to explore what your art could be. Large classes, a time constraint, listening to someone speak about a subject that should be felt and experienced first hand can quickly dull one’s senses and lead to an unimaginative mind. I say that because my art suffered a bit in Los Angeles (the capital it seems of unimaginative ideas) when I was searching to stretch myself. I did take classes in drawing as a teen but again the forward motion of the collective group goes as fast as it’s slowest student. No offense meant to art students.

        • Anonymous

          Thanks for clarificatio. I’m not an art student, but your original comment just didn’t seem to fit you! Thank you for taking the time to answer.

        • Youareacluelessidiot

          “…listening to someone speak about a subject that should be felt and experienced first hand…”  Honestly, you are clueless.  As if one excludes the other.  But this is expected from someone whose art is as amateurish as yours.  Don’t hold out much hope for actually making real money for your paintings (wow, 1600 euros for one square meter) – it’s obvious that your work is one dimension and lacking any real substance – your colors are childish, your compositions support your comment that you “took drawing classes” (or should i say composition – you really have just one); but you have nice titles…you remind me of the shit musicians who proudly claim they are self-taught.  Clueless what is out there if you have a complete experience of learning AND doing (using the experience of others to enhance one’s own experience)…good luck; you’ll need luck.

        • Youareacluelessidiot

          “…listening to someone speak about a subject that should be felt and experienced first hand…”  Honestly, you are clueless.  As if one excludes the other.  But this is expected from someone whose art is as amateurish as yours.  Don’t hold out much hope for actually making real money for your paintings (wow, 1600 euros for one square meter) – it’s obvious that your work is one dimension and lacking any real substance – your colors are childish, your compositions support your comment that you “took drawing classes” (or should i say composition – you really have just one); but you have nice titles…you remind me of the shit musicians who proudly claim they are self-taught.  Clueless what is out there if you have a complete experience of learning AND doing (using the experience of others to enhance one’s own experience)…good luck; you’ll need luck.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

            Wow…sounds like a scene I watched on 30 Rock…are you a writer on that show?

    • Chris

      “If people discourage you, it’s because they don’t want your movement forward to show they themselves are not moving forward. This scares them. They will coddle you and say you’re fine. But if you know it in your heart something has got to change, do it. Just do it. Damn everyone (and it may include your very close friends and family) But I guarantee you will hold your head up higher and you will sleep better knowing you made a shift.”
      That is the best thing I’ve read in a while and rings so true to me. I just left a desk job where I was miserable and am pursuing another career that I can take pleasure in. Could not have said that better myself and makes me happier I made the change. Thanks Ben!

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

        Awesome Chris! I don’t know what you were doing before or what it is you’re doing now, but I would even say this to you; imagine a Behind the Story Hollywood piece 15 years in the future on what you are doing now. Try to imagine the entire story and what would be said about you, what you achieved, HOW you achieved it, WHAT brilliant ideas/startups/mergers you came up with that changed your business/an industry/the world, how you were to others and what impact you had on peoples lives (friends of family). 
        Imagine it word for word. Imagine the images that you would see on the screen or the images you would LIKE to represent your life on the screen. Imagine all of this and more. See your end of the story; the summary ; the wrapup. See what you accomplished as if it already has happened, See the entire arc in your journey. See al the beats/highlights/points in the story.
        Now you have YOUR story. NOW you can see exactly what you need to do today to get on the track to make your own ‘movie’ true! Starting at the end to see the beginning.
        Best of luck!

    • Edie

      Ben, merely wanted to say that you do, indeed, have a good eye. Your art is lovely. 

      • Ben Banks

        Thank you Edie, it’s very nice to hear that.

      • Ben Banks

        Thank you Edie, it’s very nice to hear that.

  • Beyondbeige

    Hi James- An interesting post I must say. I have been in the art biz for years and am always fascinated by people who think that they have a shot at being  the next best thing. Mr. Banks is way savvier than most of the people  I have met who have harbored the dream of being a working artist. He is absolutely spot on when he says it is  not whether your any good but how you spin your story. So true. I owned a gallery for years and couldn’t believe all the bad art I was selling. People will buy anything if the story is right. Paid the bills and then some for sure.

     Sadly good art is difficult to produce and even harder to find. I find it is rather cyclical too. Now abstract art that matches the sofa and decor seems to be what’s selling. As long as Mr. Banks continues to keep his eye on what is current he will probably do very well. The art world is very hungry for the next good looking thing. Just know that if you make it to mid level you might have twenty years tops to make a living. 

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

      Raymond Loewy is credited with saying ‘Bad taste is the easiest thing to sell.’ And he may be very right.
      My intention was not to be famous or infamous but to make art I like. I will paint till the day I die. And I too am amazed at what passes for art (in my humble opinion) It is rare that I find something compelling but when I do I make sure I tell the artist that I dig it and keep doing it. 
      Thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts.

      • North

        Speaking of selling, there seems to be no practical method of selecting a painting and placing it in the shopping cart. 

        This does not seem to be an uncommon feature of artists exhibiting their pieces for purposes of generating sales.  Lindsay DeArmond (lindsaydearmond.com) also does not feature prices or the ability for prospective buyers to purchase.  It requires an intentional email campaign and negotiation effort which may discourage impulse buyers.  Ethan Long (ethan5.com), on the other hand, seems to take less an artist’s approach to business but a business approach to art clearly establishing the prices and available inventory.  Setting aside, of course, the difficulty maneuvering through the dated site and the argument of whether photography is art.

        I love your creativity —

        North

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

          Well, the theme is geared towards photography but I used it for the paintings. One would just make note of the title of the piece, the size (there are only three sizes) and the price and select the corresponding check boxes to advance through. I’m working with Photocrati to come up with a better template as regards the shopping cart.
          Most just shoot an email to me. I personally don’t believe someone would buy a painting at the expense without a little communication with the artist. But I tried to make it as easy as possible.
          Thanks for the comment!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=572545922 Claudia Azula Altucher

    Fantastic story. James, loved your last paragraph. Ben you have inspired me in a whole new way, thank you

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

      Claudia, Happy to inspire!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_U2G6L6LFHAZOSWWTIDOX2DCOP4 Russell Taylor

    Ben do you and your wife ever watch any of your movies together? Has she ever watched any of them? What was the reaction?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

      We have sometimes for laughs and she is not a prude by any means. Porn can be good if viewed as a supplement to one’s sex life as opposed to being the major focus (as many guys will sheepishly agree…or deny)

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_U2G6L6LFHAZOSWWTIDOX2DCOP4 Russell Taylor

        I guess we are all different in that aspect. I dont even like thinking about my girlfriend kissing another guy or having intimate nonsexual moments but with anyone but me in her past much less watching her enjoy intercourse with someone. To each his own tho. Thanks for the reply

  • Alan

    Ben, (if you’re still taking questions)

    I watched the Vimeo video and I am very curious about moving to another country and not knowing the language.  This is something I have thought about doing for years.  

    How did you do it?  What were the biggest surprises (good and bad)?  What would you tell somebody if they were planning on doing something similar?  How crazy were the logistics involved?

    Really I’m just very curious about this (if that wasn’t already clear).  Anything you want to say about it would be very interesting to me.  Thanks.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

      The biggest surprise was the unwillingness by many French to communicate in English. We as American’s assume everyone knows a bit of English, and it is widely become the language of the world (especially in the business world). But, if you make the effort to speak in French, most will help you out and then you hear them speak English (after they said they don’t)
      The difficulties for me come when I’m trying to explain my process or my intentions with a particular piece. 
      And when I’m trying to find a toilet.
      But it encourages you to be resourceful, humble, take yourself less seriously and people seem to be very surprised about one choosing to come to their country to pursue their art. The French take pride in that. And in the fact they make everything difficult.
      It’s the French way.

    • http://wagefreedom.com Tom

      James– I’m punch drunk from the quality of your articles and this is another classic. You hit a true high in your last paragraph James.

      Ben thanks for sharing your story. Really loved ‘An Abstract Path’. You have to have the hope.

      Everyone’s path is unique but maybe the expat’s tangent has more varied surface elements than most. Stories like yours detail what often is a solo trip even in the age of Skype video chat, but it lays out exactly the kind of liberation so many people need to encounter, one way or the other.

      It’s healthy for people to hear about the the kind of life toward which an attitude like yours can lead someone, the places it can take us even if we never leave home.

      So thanks for the inspiration– all the best to you.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

        Tom, Thanks!

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

        http://www.nickdavidscott.com... very talented guy, check out his short film Big Society

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

        http://www.nickdavidscott.com... very talented guy, check out his short film Big Society

        • http://wagefreedom.com Tom

           Thanks for the pointer– Big Society, what a wild ride

    • http://wagefreedom.com Tom

      James– I’m punch drunk from the quality of your articles and this is another classic. You hit a true high in your last paragraph James.

      Ben thanks for sharing your story. Really loved ‘An Abstract Path’. You have to have the hope.

      Everyone’s path is unique but maybe the expat’s tangent has more varied surface elements than most. Stories like yours detail what often is a solo trip even in the age of Skype video chat, but it lays out exactly the kind of liberation so many people need to encounter, one way or the other.

      It’s healthy for people to hear about the the kind of life toward which an attitude like yours can lead someone, the places it can take us even if we never leave home.

      So thanks for the inspiration– all the best to you.

  • http://kiddynamitesworld.com Kid Dynamite

    “Will this chick OD during the scene?” – great insight – I wouldn’t have thought this would be a primary worry!ps – seeing how many “titles” in a porn star IMDB resume you can read before you laugh out loud is a good time killer.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

      It sounds funny in a way and I probably wrote that to make a little impact. But the truth is/was that many girls were using drugs to get over their own innate shyness or just to let themselves go during the scene. Guys mostly smoked pot but the woman tended to use a lot of ‘uppers’. (sounds like a high school drug prevention word I heard 25 years ago!)

  • Ctrap

    Nice partial guest post.  Only time I’ve ever read through all the comments.  I especially liked the video Ben linked to below.  I’d be interested in reading more of this. 

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

      Wel, after years of struggling with how I wanted to write about my experiences and how best to go about getting it published, I am pleased to say that I should be wrapping up my book on my experiences and I am shooting for an Xmas release. I will keep Confidential updated on the progress.

  • LEONARDO PAVESE

    I think good art is a form of research, because the product of the artist work represents reality filtered through the artist mind; but I think it’s very difficult to find a new approach that produces new results. It’s even more difficult trying while one’s also trying to maintain financial viability. I think you do a good job Mr. Banks. Thanks James for showing us Ben’s work.
    L.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

      I would agree with that statement. And the truth is art can be subjective. It’s all been done before but what makes it interesting is the artist’s ‘take’ on what he or she is putting out. The filter is a good analogy.
      Check out what famous artists had to say about their peers work..http://muddycolors.blogspot.com/2011/09/artistic-insults-from-famous-artists.html

      • L. Pavese

        Thanks for the link. Funny stuff. 
        Keep searching. Maybe not everything has been done before. We don’t want to be like the head of the U.S. Patent Office who said, in the 1880’s, that the office could be closed, because everything had been invented already. 
        Best of luck in your search. I might pay you a visit. I grew up not from where you are, I think.
        planetoplano.blogspot.com
        L.

  • Moshkosh

    I don’t know what it is, but there is something monumental happening here on this blog.  It is something and it is happening and it is real.  I can feel it.

  • http://mickeyhobart.wordpress.com/ Mickey Hobart

    To be honest I find this… perhaps the right word is intimidating. Hmm.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

      Interesting…how so?

  • http://www.howardlindzon.com howardlindzon

    :)

  • http://templates.motocms.com/ Nick

    Thanks for sharing such useful information. I think this is really a very nice post. Thanks for the great content!

  • Gavin Griffiths

    Cracking story (and good post as usual James).  I used to sell art many moons ago and was always amazed what people purchased. the back story *does* have so much to do with the perceived value.  Whilst this is great if you are a good marketer who understands this (like Ben, or Damien Hirst or Jeff Koons) it does beg the question what muppets the art buying public are.  they’re like sheep, only buying it because it’s a brand, a name that they can impress their friends with or has some kind of popular affirmation. Great if you can plug into that and make a living on your terms like Ben and you have my admiration. The one artist who gets this totally is Banksy and his contempt for the art buying public is highlighted in one of his best selling prints entitled “I Can’t Believe You Morons Actually Buy This Shit!”. And people really do buy it!

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

      Sure Banksy exhibits his ‘contempt’ for the art buying public, but if he’s not careful it could harm him in the end. Richard Hambleton is the original street artist that Banksy emulated but there is the notion that Banksy comes from money anyway, so maybe he doesn’t need it But it hasn’t stopped him from banking the money. 
      No one like a pretentious person who has contempt for the people that pay attention to their work.

  • Anonymous

    I think he got it out of his system and unleashed the artistic creative side 

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

      It’s a very hard business to leave. It feeds all the negative things that can hold one back from moving on..ego, quick money, infamy (or attention), being a big fish in a small pond.
      I had left in 1997 to study improv comedy and Meisner and ended up going back to it after a couple years when I couldn’t pay the bills only from bartending. L.A. is an expensive town when you’re making little money.

  • http://twitter.com/txchick57 txchick57

    No question for Mr. Banks but I love your paintings!

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

      Thank you!

  • Dicky_howard

    Ben…two words…”Dog Walker”…Classic!!

    You’re the best!

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

      Yes indeed! That film was instrumental in my career. I am in the final stages of writing my memoir and that film gets a special chapter. Stay tuned.

      • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

        Hmmm, I might have to get this movie now. I hope its on itunes.

        • Dicky_howard

          ha…James I don’t think you’ll find it there!  It’s great though and like you said above..it has a story

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

            it’s on ohhh!tunes…sorry…too easy.

          • Anthony Lenora

            James, get a free account on Cheggit.net  DogWalker is probably up there.

      • Dicky_howard

        I will stay tuned indeed.  I always wondered what John Leslie was like.  Seemed like such a cool dude and was by far my favorite director.  Sad to hear he passed away last year..

  • Tom the occasional drinker

    Cheers to you Mr. Banks, this is a great story, and I think your paintings are pretty cool! 

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

      Thanks and cheers back!

  • Cash Vegas

    I say that Ben Banks was ALREADY an artist, who merely changed canvases. :-)

    – Cash Vegas – http://moneyandsex.wordpress.com
     

  • Anthony Lenora

    Ben  You still keep in touch with Dyanna?  I met you years ago at AVN. Told you I was from Worcester and you commented that you recalled taking the ride up I395 for concerts at the Centrum.  Glad you’re happy doing what you want to do.  

    • Ben Banks

      I don’t stay in touch. 
      Thanks!

  • http://anembarassinglife.wordpress.com/ anembarassinglife

    I just have one thing to say about male porn stars.  NO FAIR!!!!

  • Sam

    James – Thank you so much for this post.  For me, this is by far one of the most inspiring (not that the others haven’t been!).

    Ben – A truly amazing story.  I loved the short doc.  I love your art work.  A few questions, if you don’t mind:

    1. Did you make the switch with any backup plan in mind?  Did you ever think, “if this doesn’t work out, I will try XYZ”? Or, was it the fact that there was no plan B that allowed you to dive in fully to pursue your passion?

    2.  Did you ever fear the change you were making in your life and, if so, how were you able to conquer it?

    3.  Lastly, now that you live in France, has your perspective of the US changed any?…how we live, what our priorities are, etc.

    Thank you, Ben and James, for sharing this story.  And thanks, Ben, for taking the time to reply to all these comments!

    Btw, someone REALLY needs to update your wiki page to include your current status!

    • Sam

      Oops.  Disregard my last comment about updating the wiki page.  I was looking at the Steven St Croix one.  Not sure if you prefer to keep that separate…

      • Ben Banks

        Each has it’s own purpose.

    • Ben Banks

      Thanks. In response to your questions;
      1. No. I have produced some art house short films, which I really enjoyed doing but I didn’t really have a plan. (Not really a good trait to have)
      2. There is always the fear ‘What if I suck? What if I can’t sell anything? What if I have to go back to films as the ‘old guy #1?
      In the end it forces you to be resourceful I guess.
      3. In some ways it has and in some ways I see that it doesn’t matter where you are. 
      The truths can be universal….we think we need more than we really do, we love to be comfortable i.e. job, home, relationships, geography, etc, and we all have the same worries and problems. The thing is that the media really shapes the world’s view of Americans as being directly reflective of whatever administration is in office. But I’ve had no ill experiences here. 
      And if I do, I’ll just say I’m Canadian….

      • Sam

        Ben,
        Thanks so much for your reply.  Sometimes I think that not having a plan B can work to one’s benefit, as it appears to have been the case for you, since it can force one to go in full steam ahead.  For me, I find myself thinking things out too much.  “Paralysis by analysis”.  I’m realizing this is just an excuse for me to prolong a change…

        For question # 2, you’ve clearly illustrated the thoughts that swim through my head constantly. “What if I fail at what I set out to do?…”  I appreciate your emphasis that this can push you to be more resourceful.

        For question #3, you’ve hit a point that I’ve heard other people who are immersed in their field say…that you don’t need to make as much as you think you need to be happy.

        Thanks again for the quick reply and I look forward to your memoir!

        Cheers.

  • http://piranout.ps.cm Paul Smith

    Ben, I love your work! I noticed that about 8 pieces are available as prints at saatchionline; is there an outlet aimed at US buyers with a larger collection of your work available? Or if not, do you plan on adding more items on Saatchi?

    • Ben Banks

      Thanks Paul!
       I have work on redbubble.com and I will add more to saatchi soon. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/joehenriod Joe Henriod

    On the purchase portion of Ben’s website, it has “Large, Medium, and
    Small”  but doesn’t have the dimensions.  Does anyone know what these
    are?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

      Joe, When you click on either of the three, the images will come up on a slideshow and you can see the name of the piece along with it’s dimensions at the footer of the image.

      • Ben Banks

        Joe I recently changed the site, experimenting with a new theme. The shopping cart now no longer is on the site. Any interest in purchasing a piece would just require an email to me thru the contact me tab on the site.

      • Ben Banks

        Joe I recently changed the site, experimenting with a new theme. The shopping cart now no longer is on the site. Any interest in purchasing a piece would just require an email to me thru the contact me tab on the site.

  • clark

    “…go to the set and fuck 2 eighteen year old girls in the ass for a thousand bucks.”Thought about this post a lot.(More than just the line above, all of it.) Some People have everything others want while not wanting it or valuing it…. that’s a common thing, I think.Many People would pay (give everything) to do what others are paid to do.Life is strange. … and it’s Not fair.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Géza-Horháth/100002295331364 Géza Horháth

    Sasha Grey the best!

  • http://www.brookefarmer.com Brooke Farmer

    I love, love, love this story. All of it. The pornography (you know how fascinated I am with sex workers). The art. The transformation. The cross continental love story. 

    Amazing. 

    • Ben Banks

      Brooke, Love your comment!

    • Ben Banks

      Brooke, Love your comment!

  • joanie

    one of your best!

  • EllEmmen

    Wow I’m just catching up on my blog reading and came across this post.  This is totally random.  Ben – we hung out one New Years Eve around 2003-2004 in Tempe, AZ.  I remember all the people staring and pointing wherever we went and totally understand why you had enough.  Cool artwork and glad to see that everything is working out for you.

  • Vladimir Bedolla

    I really f****** like your final paragraph. As always it’s a pleasure read about how you see the world James. Fe y amor!

  • Warren Jason Street

    Even though I’m a bit late to the discussion, I think that there’s a stigma that gets attached to people who work in the adult film industry, and it’s certainly not a fair one. Plenty of people with fantastic abilities and talents and things they can do that are talented and inspired end up working in situations that aren’t by design or choice. We definitely have to look past what someone did to pay the bills and look at what they’re doing now and not pass judgement.