As a principle, I don’t particularly enjoy revisiting my old articles and interviews. It’s much more interesting to me to look forward than back, Still, I get asked, “What was your favorite story?” or “Who was your most memorable interview?”
Oh, that’s easy. It was Vanessa Del Rio. That wasn’t just informative. It was flat-out fun. Here’s a woman who got naked on film and had sex with many men, women and categories in between and has never expressed a single regret or recrimination about any of it. It wasn’t like I was going to ask her anything that would shock or embarrass her.
I conducted that one way back in 1999 for a website called Generator 21 that went on extended hiatus after its creative vision and editor passed away in 2010. Some writers enjoy what we’ve written more than the writing. That’s not me. I go back and revisit my “greatest hits” and all I see are the misses, the mistakes and the questions I should have asked but didn’t. There are certainly parts that are dated, but hell it is 14 flipping’ years old. So to those who asked me to repost this on my blog it turns out Mick Jagger was wrong. Sometimes you can get what you want. .
Jeff Winbush: Hi Vanessa. You sound out of breath.
Vanessa Del Rio: (slight panting) I just got back in the house and remembered I was doing this interview. I’ve been out spending money. Shopping does wonders for a girl (laughs).
JW: Well let’s get to it. When you retired from adult movies in 1986 one of the things you said you were going to do is write your biography. It’s 1999‹where’s the book?
Vanessa: Still writing it.
No, actually I’m waiting for the person I want to collaborate with to become available. She worked with LL Cool J and Queen Latifah on their books, so I’m waiting my turn.
JW: Thought of a title for it yet?
Vanessa: I had a couple that weren’t printable, but I’m thinking about “The Complete, Uncensored, Biography of Vanessa Del Rio: Porn Queen.”
JW: That about covers it I think.
Speaking of rappers, you’ve become a popular name for rappers to drop. Ice Cube, Chubb Rock are among the rappers who’ve turned your name into a verb. “She Vanessa Del Rio’ed me.”
Vanessa: Right. I’ve been in some rap videos though I don’t really listen to much rap. “Get Money” by Junior M..A.F.I.A. crossed over to MTV. That was fun. Clicking the channels and there I am on “Yo MTV Raps.”
JW: You’ve definitely been rediscovered. I read the article that VIBE did on you generated two thousand letters! Then, of course, you played yourself on “NYPD Blue.”
Vanessa: That was fun. I was nervous as hell! I played a legendary porn star who gets harassed by a fan and Nicholas Turturro‘s character (Detective Martinez) comes to the rescue. I had one scene with Jimmy Smits. My one line was, “Excuse me.” (loud laughter).
JW: Why do you think you’ve become so popular again?
Vanessa: I don’t have any idea. Whenever I meet people they tell me how much they love me and my movies. The men are usually really shy and don’t know what to say, but the women are always nice and supportive. Especially Black women. They’re the first one to say, “You go, girl!”
JW: You were one of the few women of color to make it big in porn. Did you ever experience any sort of discrimination in terms of roles you didn’t get or being paid as much as the White women in the business?
Vanessa: Hmmm, I really can’t say I remember any racism. My audience is across the board and I have a huge Black following. I won a lifetime achievement award at the Black Adult Entertainment Awards from De’Unique magazine. I don’t consider myself a pioneer. I was just someone in the business.
JW: You say men don’t know how to approach you. They’ve seen you in films and on stage when you were dancing. Why are they afraid to approach you?
Vanessa: They’re intimidated by my reputation. Men always seemed to want to impress Vanessa Del Rio, the image instead of the person. Does that make sense? It’s tough being in the sex business and meeting someone. They often have their own agenda of what to expect, so it’s not a pure connection.
JW: Are men put off by your past in porn movies?
Vanessa: For some it’s an attraction. They think that all it’s gonna be is sex, sex, sex. If I meet someone who doesn’t know who I am they’re going to find out. It’s part of the deal and some men can’t deal with it.
JW: I’m certain there are some people who want to condemn you for your past.
Vanessa: I went to Catholic school for eight years. We had a priest try to explain the birds and bees to a classroom of little girls. We learned that if you kissed with a table between you it was a venal sin. If you kiss and there’s no table and your bodies touched it was a mortal sin. Who knows what would happen if you crawled on top of the table and got busy. The point is the more hold something as a taboo the more human nature makes you curious.
JW: I see your point.
Vanessa: This society and country is so much like that and they want to tell you what to do. From that stems fetishes and perversions. Personally, I like the word “perverse.” It means I’m not going straight the way you want me to go. Does sex mean procreation and that’s it?
Then I might as well be a plant.
The human mind is so vast in its thinking and its quirks that just being human is perverse. Society wants to keep a lid on it. That’s when it comes out sideways and that’s where you get the real perversion‚the harmful type.
JW: What’s your take on all the drama about the President and Monica Lewinsky?
Vanessa: It’s so amusing. Why is this the most important story in the world? Why don’t they just write, “The president gets a blow job.”
It all comes down to the media and money.
Don’t treat us like we’re stupid. We know there’s more important things to do than worry about Clinton’s sex life.
JW: Speaking of sex lives, how did you become a columnist on sex advice?
Vanessa: I write a column for Belle magazine on love and sex advice. It’s fun. I did an interview for the magazine and the response they got from women was very open and supportive. They came back and asked me if I would do a column. I call myself an “intellectual feminist bimbo” (laughs), not necessarily in that order.
Being a sexual woman and not afraid to exploit my sexuality is what feminism is really all about. It’s not about hating men and hating sex.
JW: How did the website come about? If you go to a search engine and put in “Vanessa Del Rio” you’re going to be there for a while. Wasn’t there an earlier web site?
Vanessa: Yeah, but that one was where I was just lending my name to it. I decided that I wanted to do my own web site where I could sell movies and tell stories or whatever else I thought would be interesting. I taught myself how to set up a web page, reading about HTML and Java and all.
I just decided: fuck it, I’m diving in.
JW: Well, I’m impressed.
But I have to admit that I’m bothered by something on your site: You call yourself a “slut” over and over.
Okay, you had sex on film, but as I talk to you I hear a woman who’s intelligent, who has opinions.
Calling yourself a slut seems like a put-down.
There certainly is no shortage of people who will pass judgment on how you’ve lived your life. Why do it yourself?
Vanessa: My boyfriend had the same problem. I did do things that people consider what a slut would do.
“You were Catholic. You did things against society. You had sex with all those men. You’re doing all these nasty things.”
It’s true. I did do all those things.
But meanwhile while people are telling me that they’re titillated in some way.
You can’t tell me that by looking at a picture of a genital, a pussy, a dick, a tit, that it does not in someway titillate.
If you somehow feel there’s something wrong with that then you feel something’s wrong with you.
I like to use the term “slut.”
If you notice I use the dictionary definition of the word on my site. If slut means a “wanton, horny, nasty woman” then how can I deny that? Every piece of mail I get tells me that they love me for it. That’s why I call myself a “slut goddess.”
JW: I can understand that. It’s the same philosophy that rappers apply when they take a negative word like “nigger” and change it to “nigga” and use it as a term of endearment.
I have to deal with what I’ve done because I was raised Catholic. I have the stigma on myself because society has instilled in me what I did was slutty or I was a whore.
There’s a part of me that says, “Oh my God” and a part of me that says, “You go girl, I like it.”
Because I did it. And I can’t deny it and I will not deny it. I will not try to repent for something I found pleasurable and still do.
JW: What’s the biggest misconception about Vanessa Del Rio?
Vanessa: That I swing from the rafters having sex 24 hours a day. I’m still looking to roll in some dough and still have fun. I’m a businesswoman and I love every aspect of it.
It would exaggerating to claim Vanessa and I are BFF’s or anything, but we both had a lot of fun with this interview and on the tenth year anniversary we discussed about doing another but it never came together. Her biography never got written, but what did was Vanessa Del Rio: 50 Years of Slightly Slutty Behavior, an oversized (and expensive as the $1000 limited edition of the book comes with an original Robert Crumb cover illustration and signed by Del Rio) coffee table book for , that goes deep into the legendary icon’s life and times.
Retired from skin flicks, the 61-year-old Del Rio maintains her website and occasionally shows up in movies like 2008’s “Soul Men” as the “Full-Figured Neighbor” who humps the late Bernie Mac’s brains out. At least he probably died happy. Next up Del Rio is a feature biopic in the way of the upcoming Linda Lovelace film.
When it comes to being a sexual superstar, Vanessa Del Rio blows Linda Lovelace and unlike Lovelace, the Latin from Manhattan has no regrets about it.