Local actress: 'Norma Rae' of porn industry?
Tim Whyte · November 16, 1997
Poor, misunderstood Dalny Marga Valdes.
She's an actress, you see, but that big, bad Screen Actors Guild won't let her in. It
seems SAG -- which represents 90,000 actors and performing artists nationwide -- has
something against the types of movies in which Valdes performs.
Specifically, she's a porn star.
And, specifically, SAG decided way back in 1974 not to unionize the porn industry. Fair
Valdes doesn't think so.
So, in the grand American tradition of the '90s, Valdes has filed a discrimination
complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. Can't you just see the lawsuit coming a mile away?
Valdes says she "works too hard not to be protected" by the residuals and pay
scale that would be guaranteed by SAG membership. She says she has starred in some fifty
movies over the past three years -- including some obvious gems with titles like,
"Hustler's Letters," "Max 18" and "Spazm" -- yet she has nothing
to show for it. She is generally paid $300 to $600 per movie, and since the porn industry
isn't regulated by a SAG collective bargaining agreement, she gets no residuals.
Heck, I don't know what she expected when she got into the adult film business. It's
not like a lot of actors make the leap from porn to mainstream stardom, and the industry
isn't exactly known for its broadly practiced ethics. If you go into porn, you probably
should plan on keeping a day job, too.
But Valdes, 29, wants to be taken seriously as a thespian.
"It's very physically and mentally demanding," the Canyon Country reisdent
told Michael Baker, one of our ace reporters. "My whole body is utilized in the art
form of movement."
I don't know. I appreciate the "art form of movement" as exemplified by
nudie flicks as much as the next guy, but I find it hard to take someone seriously as an actor
when their most challenging line is, "Mmmmm."
Should porn stars fight for better pay, medical coverage and a cut of the cable action?
Yeah, sure. Should they unionize to better their situation? OK. No reason not to be
organized. It might lend a little more legitimacy to the porn industry in general, which I'm
sure would leave our readers tickled pink.
And is Valdes just the sort of Norma Rae who could make that happen? I don't see why
not. (Sally Field, eat your heart out.)
But that doesn't mean SAG should have to be the union to do it. If SAG
doesn't want to unionize porn flicks, that ought to be SAG's prerogative.
I mean, imagine if SAG were required to admit porn stars. Next thing you
know, there'd be a whole new category at the Academy Awards. And there, at the podium,
would be Valdes, fighting back a tear: "You like me! You really like me!"
I suspect, though, that Valdes' expectations are unrealistic. Her former agent says Valdes
thinks she should get the star treatment -- limos and such -- and she wants $10,000 per
movie. He also says Valdes, in her effort to demonstrate her star quality to him, went so far
as to have one of her porn movies delivered to his office, so he could see for himself.
OK. Tell you what. My gut feeling is, these are probably your garden-variety skin flicks
that aren't exactly going to make a big splash at Cannes and won't win awards for
cinematogaphy and complex scripts. And, here's a news flash, guys at bachelor parties don't
spill their beer and shout, "Man, that Christy Canyon can really emote."
But hey, I'm willing to sacrifice one for the team, in the interest of spreading the word
to the public, so we can all be better informed. With that in mind, Ms. Valdes, I hereby
authorize you to drop off one of your films at my office, so we can see for
I'll do my best to convince my wife that I have to watch it because, you
know, it's a work thing.
I know, I know. It's a tremendous sacrifice on my part, being willing to sit through
what is most likely a less-than-stellar piece of filmmaking. But hey, what can I say?
I'm a giver.
- 30 -
Tim Whyte is the magaging editor of The Signal. His commentary appears on Sundays.
© 1997, THE SIGNAL -- ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
for more Signal commentaries