Nadine’s journey into pornography

Compared to all the professional types who were on the program at the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation 2014 Summit in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, Nadine was relatively obsequious. She just sat in a chair along with a couple of other women for a late-morning panel last Friday, one of several presentations that day.

But Nadine’s story was truly compelling. Compared to the other women who spoke with their professional research about pornography and its effects, Nadine’s story was personal. She had actually been in pornographic movies.

Nadine — she didn’t use her last name during her remarks — looked to be in her 70s. See appeared to be quite unassuming, but that could be because she was conditioned to be that way.

“My mom was a product of the 1940s, when you went to college to get your ‘MRS’ degree,” Nadine said. But then Nadine came along. “I was the stone in her puddle. She couldn’t be who she wanted to be now that she had me.”

It left the little girl emotionally starved -– “no conversation, no touching, no nothing at all,” Nadine said. It got to the point that her mother would develop a list of offenses she had committed each day to tell her father, who would then spank her when he came home from work. “I remember my dad really being angry when I stopped crying” after being hit, she added.

Nadine went to a Catholic school, where she was regularly bullied, including what she called mental torment and abuse. “The nuns turned a blind eye” to it, she said, adding that her father told her, “If you cooperate with the boys, it won’t hurt so bad.” She did cooperate, but it still hurt.

“By the time I got to high school, I was an emotional wreck,” she recalled. “I graduated high school, I don’t know how.” After graduating, Nadine moved to another town to get away from her family.

“I went to a dance, and the man came down from the bandstand and asked me for a date,” Nadine said. On that first date, she remembers, “I got into a Porsche. We went back to the big city, dinner, dancing. He asked me to marry him on the first date.” She declined.

As they continued dating, though, she was told, “You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to that man.” “I hate when you get referred to as a ‘thing,’” she said. However, “he was taking care of me. He wasn’t hurting me,” but now she understands that this new boyfriend of hers was grooming her to appear in porn movies. “He spotted me, he groomed me, and he married me.”

CNS image created using tagcrowd.com

CNS image created using tagcrowd.com

One day, not long after she turned 21, Nadine’s husband told her they were going to go to a friend’s house for dinner and drinks. “The man who was to film me for the next three years and three months showed me” the things he had in his basement, which would double as his studio. “I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach, but this man was a friend of my husband,” so she figured he couldn’t harm her, she said.

But then “I got a shot in my arm. He drugged me,” she recounted. “The first time (she was filmed)I remember almost everything,” Nadine said. But they kept returning to the house. “I was filmed every two or three months, several sessions at one time.” Nadine never put up any protest to her husband. But to cope, she added, “I was drinking water glasses full of liquor.” Because of the harshness of the sexual activity, Nadine noted, “it took me two or three weeks before I could be intimate with my husband.”

Her husband never said anything about Nadine’s prolonged absences from the dinner parties. They went on summertime yacht trips. He also fathered three children with her. But when the porn business beckoned, according to Nadine, “he would drop in on me and say, ‘You can go shopping with’ — the pornographer’s wife. It was just an excuse to get me over there.”

What happened to Nadine, she told her attentive audience, “was a lot of violence, being in a bedroom and being raped and locked in — a lot of bad stuff. … I learned to cooperate. If I saw it happening to someone else, I just” — here she clicked her tongue -– “checked out.”

“(The pornographer) told me I was a star. So I guess you could say I was a porn star,” Nadine said, pausing before she gave a cheerless, quiet “Yay.”

She admitted, “I compromised. But I was young and wanted to live.” Even so, Nadine noted, “I had a suicide plan.”

At one point she decided she had had enough. “I left a note, took a bag and my hair dryer, and I left,” Nadine said. “I went to work. I got a sleeping bag and a pillow and rented an apartment.” But the day after she got her apartment, “my husband found me, strangled and beat me.”

She got a divorce — and got nothing in the settlement, suspecting that her lawyer had been bought off by her husband’s attorney — “but the threats and the stalking continued,” Nadine said.

At one point in her hard-won freedom, the pornographer’s wife offered to meet her one last time. She, too, had been sickened over what had gone on in her house, and over the course of a weekend she filled in a lot of blanks for Nadine. One of the revelations: “My husband did know what was going on. He was the (film) editor.” Another revelation: “One of the girls from the pornographer’s house was in my house four days after I left.”

What’s it like for Nadine now, decades after all this? “It’s really bad,” she said. “I have PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder. Panic attacks. I hate when I have to throw up” because it reminds her of some of the scenes she had to act in in the porn movies. And “don’t ask me to make a decision about anything,” she advised. “It’s just a horrendous experience.”

She remarried. “On the honeymoon I knew something was wrong. He was gay, and he only wanted children,” Nadine said.

The pornography also had a negative effect on her now-grown children. All three have chronic health conditions, brought on by the drugs she was injected with while pregnant so she would act in porn movies.

“I’m in isolation. It’s self-imposed,” Nadine said. “The last several years, the Lord my God, the king of the universe, he sent good people to be with me.

Nadine considers herself lucky in that she never caught a sexually transmitted disease during her brief but all-too-long career.

What disgusts Nadine is the apparently true prophecy of the pornographer. “The main filming me said, ‘You are setting precedent. Someday what you are doing now will be normal.’ And then I look at music and TV and video games …” Her voice trailed off, a tacit acknowledgment of how on the mark he had been.

Springtime for faith-based films?

If you hear actor Stephen Baldwin tell it, this is a blossoming time for movies with themes of faith.

Easy for him to say, of course. Baldwin, one of the four acting Baldwin brothers, was an invitee to the March 26 red-carpet preview in New York of “Noah,” one of those films.

"Noah" director and co-writer Darren Aronofsky. (Photo by Niko Tavernise/Paramount Pictures)

“Noah” director and co-writer Darren Aronofsky. (Photo by Niko Tavernise/Paramount Pictures)

“That’s the biggest reason why I’m here. I am very curious to see Darren and Russell’s interpretation,” Baldwin said, referencing Russell Crowe, who plays Noah, and Darren Aronofsky, who directed the film as well as serving as co-writer and co-producer.

Baldwin had gotten some “intel” from friends who had already seen “Noah,” and “I am willing to bet that this is going to be an amazing piece of entertainment,” he said. “So long as the film does not depict anything that goes completely against the Bible, I think it’s a great opportunity” to show that movies with faith themes can be successful, he added.

Baldwin, a Long Island native who was baptized a Catholic but who became a born-again Christian shortly after the 9/11 terror attacks, acknowledged that there’s “room for interpretation” by filmmakers. Depending on viewers’ familiarity with the Bible or other pictures, they might see action in “Noah” that reminds them of Abraham and Isaac, or Jesus and Judas — or even Disney’s treatment of “Swiss Family Robinson.”

“That’s a powerful issue right now: Christians and their interpretation of society and culture and this and that,” Baldwin said. “I think Christians ought to support it,” he added of the movie. Darren Aronofsky’s brilliant, Russell Crowe is great, it’s the story of Noah from the Bible, and whenever you get into these types of conversations, I think it’s interesting.” For instance, he noted, the only name in “Noah” used for God is “The Creator.” “Hey, maybe it’s the Lord’s will, brother, that this can be used for some special reason.”

And not just “Noah.” Baldwin saw the Jesus biopic “Son of God,” which was released a month earlier. “I think ‘Son of God’ was amazing. Really, really special,” he said. Reality-show kingpin Mark Burnett, who co-produced “Son of God” with his actress wife, Roma Downey, “is a buddy of mine. I’ve done ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ with him twice.”

Nor is Baldwin’s praise restricted to wide-release films. “‘God’s Not Dead,’ I think we gotta see that one,” he added. “That just came out. It did very well in limited screens. So right now, Christian content and Christian movies are doing very well.”

Baldwin said about 80 percent of his own acting work is in faith-themed films. Due out soon is “I’m in Love With a Church Girl,” starring and produced by rapper Ja Rule, aka Jeff Atkins. He’s wrapped filming on Long Island on another film, “Tapestry,” which co-stars Tina Louise (“Gilligan’s Island”) and Burt Young (the “Rocky” films). In April, he’ll be Instanbul, Turkey, acting in what he called “a psychological thriller … with a Christian theme.”

Will ‘Noah’ float your boat?

I can’t remember the last time I was behind a velvet rope to cover a star-studded event like the March 26 preview screening of “Noah” in midtown Manhattan with virtually all of the stars and other important personages in the Hollywood firmament.

(Photo courtesy of Grace Hill Media)

(Photo courtesy of Grace Hill Media)

I certainly can’t remember standing behind a rope line like that described above for two-and-a-half hours in bone-chilling cold. Sure, I wore a topcoat over my suit and had my cotton driving gloves on, and there was a tent to shield the stars and their red carpet, but there weren’t any heaters on my side of the tent, that’s for sure.

With aluminum police-style barricades mere inches from the rope stanchions, and with the spot for each journalist’s news outlet taped onto the carpeting (so you literally knew exactly where you stood in the reportorial food chain), we reporters were more like puppies at the pound hoping for attention from someone. Anyone. And we might’ve gotten some, too, if our spots weren’t so close to the theater entrance. I pity the journalist who did several takes of his opening lines, including about the stars he was expecting to interview. I don’t remember seeing a single one of them approach him.

There was the occasional uptick in the decibel level when a stretch limo slowed in front of the theater, or an actor entered the tent from the side opposite from where I was standing. But most my time was spent rehearsing in my mind the questions I hoped I would ask but never got the chance to.

When not rehearsing, I chatted with other frozen-out reporters, and remembered Bill Cosby’s terrific take on the Noah story in his very first comedy album, “Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow … Right!” In the bit, now 50 years old, Cosby not only played God (speaking in a lower register and moving the microphone closer to your mouth will do the trick), but also the put-upon Noah.

Cosby’s Noah said “… Right!” every time he thought God (or somebody) was trying to put one over on him. After one instruction from God, Cosby responds, “… Right! … Am I on ‘Candid Camera’?” In another, after God delivers precise instructions for building the ark, Cosby answers, ” … Right! … What’s a cubit?”

The noise increased as the big stars get closer but never within reach. Some actors have developed relationships with such journalistic outlets as Teen Vogue and would rather answer questions about the do’s and don’ts of throwing parties, or who made their gown for the evening. On the other hand, trying to conduct a civilized conversation in these conditions can be a stretch even if both parties were so inclined.

Inside the theater, “Noah” director, co-writer and co-producer Darren Aronofsky tells the full house the story of his seventh-grade teacher, Mrs. Vera Fried, and her assignment to her entire class at Mark Twain Middle School on Coney Island to write something about peace. Aronofsky wrote a poem, “The Dove,” that Mrs. Fried liked so much that she entered it into a contest. And it won! Aronofsky’s prize, such as it was, was to recite the poem over the PA system at the school.

Noah was a central character in “The Dove,” he said, and “Noah” the film in a way represented his coming full circle with that episode in his life. The circle got more complete when he summoned Mrs. Fried from her seat and made her recite his poem before the movie began.

Now it’s your turn to grab some popcorn and determine for yourself how well Aronofsky did in transforming two pages from the Book of Genesis into a two-hour and 16-minute film.

The best Christmas movies

A scene from the movie "Joyeux Noel." (CNS photo/Sony Picture Classics)

A scene from the movie “Joyeux Noel.” (CNS photo/Sony Picture Classics)

John Mulderig, the assistant director for media reviews at CNS, was asked to come up with a top-10 list of Christmas movies. Try as he might, John couldn’t whittle it down to just 10. Instead, he delivered a crop of 19 Christmas-themed films that viewers of all ages can enjoy.

Take a look at the list; films are listed alphabetically. How many have you seen?

”The Bells of St. Mary’s” (1945)
“The Bishop’s Wife” (1947)
“A Christmas Carol” (1951)
“A Christmas Carol” (2009)
“A Christmas Story” (1983)
“Christmas With the Kranks” (2004)
“Come to the Stable” (1949)
“The Fourth Wise Man” (1985)
“Fred Claus” (2007)
“It’s A Wonderful Life” (1946)
“Joyeux Noel” (2006)
“Miracle on 34th Street” (1947)
“The Muppet Christmas Carol” (1992)
“The Nativity Story” (2006)
“The Polar Express” (2004)
“Prancer” (1989)
“The Shop Around the Corner” (1940)
“Three Godfathers” (1948)
“White Christmas” (1954)

Scene from the animated movie "The Polar Express." (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Scene from the animated movie “The Polar Express.” (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

When all is said and done, you may want to revisit some old favorites, or you may want to look at some movies you haven’t seen (or can’t remember having seen). When it comes to viewing, there’s the current fashion of “binge viewing,” such as watching every episode of a TV series’ season one after the other until they’re all seen. That would be pretty easy to do if you have video on demand or an online streaming service available to you. Or, you might be the kind of person who believes that every day should be like Christmas. So if you’re watching “The Polar Express” and the calendar says Jan. 19, I’m not going to tattle on you.

Calligraphy teaching priest portrayed in new movie

Father Robert Palladino, an 80-year old priest of the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., might want to get out to the movies — at least to see how he is portrayed on the big screen.

Father Palladino  (CNS photos)

Father Palladino (CNS photo)

The priest  is credited with teaching Apple Computers co-founder Steve Jobs calligraphy that influenced the typeface of Mac computers.

His role as calligraphy professor at Portland’s Reed College with his famous student gets a scene in the biographical movie ” Jobs.”  In the movie, the priest is portrayed by 48-year-old actor and screenwriter William Mapother, best known for playing Ethan Rom on the TV series “Lost.”

Mapother, a native of Louisville, Ky.,  attended St. Xavier High School there and then the University of Notre Dame.

He told the Catholic Sentinel that he intended to portray Father Palladino as “someone deeply committed to calligraphy, and by extension, to life. Someone who cared about beauty, expression, and communication. Someone serious.”

He said he received some background about the priest before the scene was filmed, and would like to have met him but didn’t get time.

About 10 minutes into the movie,  Jobs is wandering around his college campus when he sees a girl under a tree sketching. She says she is taking a calligraphy class taught by a monk. The movie then jumps to Jobs in the classroom, working on calligraphy.

In a later scene, Jobs explodes at an engineer who did not include a button for multiple fonts on a computer toolbar. He fires the man, complaining that obviously he lacked passion for the project.

During a 2005 commencement address at Stanford University, Jobs said that Reed College in the 1970s offered what he thought was the best calligraphy instruction in the country. “Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed,” Jobs said.

According to the Catholic Sentinel, Father Palladino taught Jobs serif and sans serif type faces and about varying spaces between combinations of letters, and everything that makes typography excellent.

A CNS story on the priest two years ago points out that Father Palladino was a Trappist monk for 18 years. In 1968 he left the order and was dispensed from monastic vows and celibacy by Pope Paul VI. He married and had a son with his wife Catherine.

His wife died in 1987 and five years later he asked Portland’s archbishop,  then-Archbishop William J. Levada, if he could become a  priest. In 1995, with papal approval, the former monk and husband became a parish priest.

He said his role in the movie came as a surprise because he was not consulted about it. He is just now getting around to reading the 2011 book on which the movie is based.

But he was  glad the producers chose “a handsome, athletic, 6-foot-1 actor to portray him. “
“Of course, Hollywood does have a way of getting unhinged from reality, ” he quipped.

Marquette’s ‘Tolkieniana’ collection includes manuscripts, drawings

Marquette archivist William Fliss looks over material related to Tolkien collection. (Catholic Herald photo by Juan C. Medina)

Marquette archivist William Fliss looks over materials related to Tolkien collection held by university. (Catholic Herald photo by Juan C. Medina)

The buzz about “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” preceded the film’s release by months and since the movie opened Dec. 14, it has grossed more than $600 million in box office receipts around the world — and still counting. But as Tom Jozwik writes in a story for the Catholic Herald in Milwaukee, the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien on which the film is based and his other works and papers have been “hot topics around Marquette University for some time.”

The Jesuit-run university has a Tolkien collection — “Tolkienana” — that contains 10,000 pages of the author’s book manuscripts, typescripts and drawings.

As the Catholic News Service review of “The Hobbit” notes, that Tolkien novel was first published in 1937 and “has proved so popular in the decades since that it has never gone out of print.” Almost two decades later, Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy was published. His work has been described as Catholic in both the general sense of “universal” and in the Catholic sense of a deeply sacramental understanding of reality. Tolkien also was a good friend of C.S. Lewis, whose work is finding renewed popularity and whose exploration of Christian faith is inspiring a new generation as we reported earlier this month.

Behold: the children’s movie made for children

SCENE FROM MOVIE 'RISE OF THE GUARDIANS'

Scene from the animated film ‘Rise of the Guardians.’ (CNS/DreamWorks Animation)

As someone who has to take his daughter to the movies every once in a while, I found it refreshing to see the movie “Rise of the Guardians.” It is a family-friendly movie in every sense of the word.

When I interviewed its director, Peter Ramsey, Nov. 29, I knew I had to ask him to comment on having such characters as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, who are stand-ins for the real reasons behind those seasons, in the film — besides being two of the central characters in the William Joyce books on which the movie is based.

“We knew we were dealing with these characters, and we knew we embraced these characters” from our own childhood, Ramsey replied. “These are real, and they have a real presence for these people. You can’t deny that there’s something real emotional and real special about these characters.”

He added, “We wanted to make a movie that kids would be able to see and completely enjoy. We didn’t want to pander to one group or another. We didn’t want to load it down with stuff for adults: ‘Yeah, this is corny and syrupy sweet. We’re in on the joke.’ We wanted to tell a straightforward adventure story for kids that anyone could enjoy.”

To that end, Ramsey and crew succeeded. John Mulderig, CNS’ associate director for media reviews, gave “Rise of the Guardians” a classification of A-I — general patronage. He called the film “a tenderhearted and touching family movie — one, moreover, that’s entirely free of objectionable content.” Privately (well, not so privately, if I’m spilling the beans here), he told me it was “as ‘A-I’ a movie as I’ve seen this year.”

I, for one, found it quite free of those manipulative moments that tug at the heartstrings of grown-ups, and was glad of it. Not so, apparently for movie watchers at previews Ramsey’s attended. “I can’t tell you how many grown men come up to me afterward: ‘I don’t know why I felt this way but I cried three times during the movie,'” he told Catholic News Service, adding there have been “at least three with every screening.”

Ramsey said some viewers have told him, “It really did make me feel like a kid again.” And it can, he notes, “if you are really open to that side of yourself.” Well, when you’ve got the Tooth Fairy, Jack Frost and the Sandman on the same side as Santa and the Easter Bunny doing battle against the Bogeyman, how can you lose?

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