Warning: The following Silly Little Show-Biz Book Club entry contains highly graphic language and adult situations. Due to its EXPLICIT SEXUAL revelations about ALL YOUR FAVORITE RAPPERS, WORLD-FAMOUS ATHLETES, and MAJOR MOVIE STARS, it should not be read by anyone under the age of 17. It also contains a reference to FRED DURST'S PIERCED, THROBBING, ERECT COCK that may cause sensitive readers to voluntarily undergo a self-administered ice-pick lobotomy to purge that image from their psyches permanently. Anyone not interested in the TAWDRY SEXUAL SHENANIGANS of HUGELY FAMOUS, ATTRACTIVE CELEBRITIES and their INCREDIBLY KINKY, DRUG-AND-BOOZE-FUELED SEX LIVES is strongly advised to look elsewhere.
If Julia Phillips' You'll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again is the ultimate Hollywood tell-all, then Karrine "Super-Head" Steffans' Confessions Of A Video Vixen is the ultimate hip-hop tell-all. If Steffans were more irreverent or self-aware, she could have named her torrid tome You'll Never Suck Cock In This Industry Again. But that would be downright dishonest. For while the pagan gods of Hollywood effectively banished Phillips from their incestuous fiefdom, not even Jah himself can keep champion sword-swallower Steffans from guzzling the man-seed of hip-hop's moneyed elite.
Vixen transformed its retiring wallflower of an author into hip-hop's most notorious harlot. Steffans ducked into a phone book called Harper Collins and made a startling transformation from mild-mannered single mother to Super-Head, the world's most legendary Super-Ho. She was, to borrow the tawdry terminology of today, a one-woman brand synonymous with all the glamour, excitement, and romance of sucking a whole lot of famous cock. Vixen enjoyed a healthy run on the New York Times bestseller list even as its author was demonized and vilified. Haters accused her of being a money-grubbing whore just because she writes extensively about having sex with people in exchange for money and gifts.
So is Steffans a shameless, gold-digging hussy out to convert her history of sordid sexual indiscretions into warehouses of cold, hard cash, or an innocent victim of sexual double standards and hip-hop's deeply ingrained sexism? Is Steffans sincere in trying to help impressionable young women learn from her mistakes, or is she disingenuously trying to pass off a sleazy pornographic soap opera as a timely cautionary tale? For the first hundred pages or so, I was all too willing to give Steffans the benefit of the doubt.
Steffans won't win any awards for her prose, but her early account of growing up in an abusive household, getting brutally raped as a 13-year-old, and enduring a nightmarish relationship with gangsta-rap pioneer Kool G Rap boast a blunt primal power. In its grim early chapters, Steffans captures the poignant powerlessness of being a rudderless child tossed by the rough tides of fate. Who can't relate to feeling ashamed and powerless as a child, to wanting to reinvent yourself in the image of the fantasies that fill television and movie screens?
Reading the early chapters of Vixen, I wound up empathizing with Steffans. Then come passages like the following, from her time as a stripper:
Your worth as a dancer is measured by how well you are able to hang upside down and spin from atop the ten-foot pole. It was equally important to know how to work the floor, gyrating and pulsating to the music in front of the customers who lined the stage. I was a champion in both areas. I racked up back-to-back table dances, where I could cuddle and caress the upper bodies of the patrons. Some were strangers, but many were regulars. I had mastered a table dance trick, which was to turn the usual position into an unexpected handstand while wrapping my legs around the man's torso. It became my signature move. I was good at what I did and was paid accordingly.
During passages like this, I started thinking, "Eh, maybe Steffans and I aren't so similar after all."
Steffans' account of her hellish relationship with Kool G Rap provides the first in a series of embarrassing revelations about famous rappers. Here, we learn that Rap liked to be called "Daddy" in bed, and refused to let Steffans listen to other rappers and R&B; artists out of jealousy. Sadly, these emerge as two of the rap legend's more admirable qualities.
Finally, Steffans musters up the courage to leave Kool G Rap and pursue her life's dream of fucking a bunch of famous people. In quick succession, she hooks up with Ice-T, Method Man, Ja Rule, and Fred Durst. Here's her riveting account of being seduced, or seducing, the world's most jack-assy backward-baseball-cap enthusiast:
We casually introduced ourselves and he blurted, "Don't you know who I am?"
I responded "Um no, should I?" I already loved his cockiness.
"I'm Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit! I'm the senior vice president of this company! Who are you going up there to see?"
I was caught for a moment in the sea that was his eyes. Crystal blue, piercing through me and making me want him. I could smell the power oozing from his pores, and I was so turned on, I knew I'd need a shower after this encounter.
But wait, there's more! Later, the deeply spiritual twosome meet up at P.F. Chang's, where Steffans continues her education in the inexplicable ways of the famous and unbelievably douchey. Here's Steffans on Durst's eccentric eating habits:
Fred ordered five different entrées, just for himself. I was confused but I didn't want to seem young and inexperienced, so I just watched his movements He was grand, taking tiny forkfuls from each dish and repeating that move a few times. Then, just that fast, he was done, leaving the majority of the food behind. I was in awe. I had never really wasted food before, and right then I knew that one day I would be able to eat whatever I wanted, however much I wanted, and summon someone to take the plates away With all of his tattoos, body piercing and worn way of dress Fred had an air of prestige. I silently hoped for him to want me.
Oh, Durst wants her all right. For he is that rarest breed of man: the kind that will gladly accept a no-strings-attached blowjob from an attractive stranger. Here's Steffans with the play-by-play:
I grabbed on to his flesh and heaved myself across his lap, straddling this wild man. Before I could begin to own this intensity, I was on my knees. I looked at his pierced penis with a sick admiration. He was what I wanted, and to actually hold him in my hand at that time felt like a privilege "Make me cum and I'll marry you" were the only words I remember Fred saying to me.
I was so caught up that for a hot minute I might even have believed him. But before I knew it, my power trip was over. Few words were spoken and I was basically dismissed. Leaving was awkward and just plain awful.
There is so much I love about these passages: the way Steffans acts as though she wisely intuited that Durst was a powerful individual from his essence, aura, and smell, when his pickup line is basically "Hey, I'm Fred Durst, famous rock star and powerful executive. If you give me a blowjob, I might be able to help your career." That's a little like getting hit on by Bill Clinton and writing "I somehow sensed that he was a powerful man. There was something about his aura and the way he carried himself that was almost presidential."
I similarly love how impressed Steffans is by Durst's flaming douchebaggery. I just hope there was a malnourished orphan staring wistfully at Durst as he sent away plate after plate of food, more or less uneaten. He could have followed this performance by wiping his ass with a towel full of highly concentrated AIDS vaccine, then topped it off by urinating lustily into the water supply of an impoverished Indian village.
From there, Steffans barrels through a veritable who's who of hip-hop and R&B; stars. When she's writing about a conquest she likes, her purple prose devolves into romance-novel hyperbole. Here's Steffans on Ja Rule:
I just wanted to run to him and tear him apart. I wanted to suck his mouth and taste the liquor, to lick his neck and chest. I wanted the salt of his sweat to help me chase the heat of his kiss. Before I finished that thought, I had him there in my mouth and in those moments I was a beast. He squirmed and twisted his body in ways that almost frightened me As I sucked and licked, he screamed, and suddenly grabbed both of his ankles as he threw them into the air. I was powerful at that moment. I'd discovered something new–I had the power here.
Empowered with an almost preternatural ability to give really, really good blowjobs, Steffans fucks her way through Hollywood. Vixen posits her as nothing less than the Zelig of high-profile hip-hop knob-gobblers. Her sexual conquests are vast and impressive: If you've got a rapper rocking your iPod, odds are good that Steffans has serviced him orally. It'd almost be easier to rattle off the three or four prominent rappers she hasn't had sex with than list all the dudes whose love juice she's sampled. Here's a quick rundown:
— Shaquille O'Neal–sweats profusely, very generous, doesn't have a giant cock.
— Vin Diesel–deemed plain and unworldly by Steffans because he doesn't listen to R. Kelly or Ja Rule. Has a giant cock.
— Ja Rule–loves Ecstasy-fueled threesomes.
— Ray J–enjoys incongruously puppy-dog romance with Steffans. Notoriously giant cock, roughly the size of a baby elephant, goes curiously unremarked upon.
— Ice-T–loving mentor, doesn't have sex so much as he feeds Steffans' soul with his engorged love-muscle.
— Method Man–Referred to only as "Papa." The love of Steffans' life.
— Jay-Z–A consummate gentleman, in the sense that he featured Steffans in his "Hey Papi" video, then took her for a ride, whipped out his cock, slapped a condom on it, and lovingly placed a hand on the back of Steffans' head. You can probably figure out for yourself what happened next. That might seem cold or overly cautious, but considering the places she's been and the things she's put in her mouth, I'd probably strap on four or five condoms just to do a phone interview with her. As Vixen indelibly conveys, the woman has been banged more times than Antonin Scalia's gavel.
— Usher–kind of a jerk.
— DMX–reckless driver, makes dog noises during sex.
— Xzibit–Good dude, warned by Diddy that Steffans will "have you on video with fingers in your booty." Like Dignan and Mao, has five-year-plan for his career and life.
— P. Diddy–Average lover; nurses strong, unsupported conviction that Steffans will get her lovers on video with fingers in their booties. Takes Steffans and Xzibit to a gay club. Looks good in dress clothes.
— Bobby Brown–Nurses strong convictions that he is a member of al-Qaeda, and that President Bush is looking for him. May be on drugs.
Steffans depicts herself as a sexual adventurer empowered rather than diminished by her sexual history, but there are times throughout when it's impossible to view her exploits as anything other than a soul-crushing exercise in self-abuse. Here's Steffans on a particularly dispiriting romp with Dr. Dre:
It was very awkward, and it wasn't as if he drove me mad like Ja or Papa or even Fred. I felt nothing. I just knew this was an important man, one of the highest-paid, biggest-selling artist-producers in the world. As he got on top of me I was empty and cold. I stared at his face, his eyes, and it was only when I ran his resume and status through my head that my insides began to feel warmer.
Those are the kinds of creepy, nakedly mercenary thoughts I'd be ashamed to admit even to myself, let alone jot down for posterity in a bestselling book. Steffans bottoms out, personally and professionally, when she hooks up with Murder Inc. head honcho Irv Gotti, who more or less uses Steffans as a sexual party favor/thank-you card to be doled out indiscriminately to co-workers, employees, peers, and even the odd helpful valet. For Gotti, offering Steffans' sexual services was just another way of saying thanks, as in "Hey, good job with my dry cleaning. You got those stains out like a motherfucker. How 'bout a blowjob from Super-Head over here?"
Too many nights of Cristal, Ecstasy, and group sex takes its toll on Steffans, however, and she and her son eventually wind up homeless. She learns the hard way that the famous folk who gladly open the door to "Hey, wanna have a booze-soaked ménage a trois with me and my hot friend?" coldly shut that door when a sister is bedraggled, broke, and looking for a warm meal and a place to spend the night.
After bottoming out as Gotti's main ho, Steffans gives up Ecstasy and gets her life in order by developing a website and writing a trashy tell-all about her sexual exploits. Vixen consequently becomes a story of sin and salvation, decadence and rehabilitation, but an overwhelming aura of sleaze and exploitation remains.
As guilty pleasures go, Vixen is pretty damned irresistible. It doesn't hurt that even with tacked-on interviews with Steffans (sample softball question: "You have a very nonchalant attitude towards sex; it's almost European. What accounts for that?" That's one way of putting it, I guess) and her grandmother, the book runs a brisk 210 pages. Vixen lacks wit, but it certainly has brevity. And sleaze. Like many 13-year-olds, I used to trawl through used bookstores looking for naughty passages in harmless-looking paperbacks. On that level, Fear Of Flying was a fierce disappointment, as was Looking For Mr. Goodbar. But if my 13-year old self had stumbled upon Vixen, it would have rocked my world. Steffans promises all the dirt. That's exactly what she delivers. Nothing more, nothing less. Does that make her honorable or shameless?
While researching Steffans online, I stumbled across an interview where she talks about how her relationship with Bill Maher (a former fiancé) has exposed her to an exhilarating new circle of truly smart people, like Al Franken and Gore Vidal. Is this a strange and beautiful world, or what? The promise of a Vidal/Super-Head meeting was enough to make me pull the trigger and buy her second book, The Vixen Diaries, as a potential future entry in the Silly Little Show-Biz Book Club.
All right, this is officially the filthiest, dirtiest, most perverted, and least edifying thing I've ever written for The A.V. Club. That includes my Russ Meyer interview and "A Parent's Guide To Pornography." (Does anyone remember that joint from the pre-historic days of The A.V. Club?) Like Steffans after her encounter with Durst, I am going to need a long, hot, purifying shower to get this book and this book-club entry out of my system once and for all.
Up Next on Silly Little Show-Biz Book Club:
June: What Just Happened?, Art Linson
July: Hello, He Lied, Lynda Obst
Possible subsequent entries
Yes, I Can! Sammy Davis Jr.
The Studio, John Gregory Dunne
Backstage Passes, Angela Bowie
W.C. Fields And Me, Carlotta Monti and Cy Rice
Playing The Field, Mamie Van Doren