Juris (Not So) Prudence
Movie producer Mike Dodsworth, with a voice full of native New York, talks at the speakerphone in his Pompano Beach film company headquarters, proudly telling his new starlet about a recent media blitz.
"Esquire magazine called, and they want to do a story, so we'll have to set that up. Then August 21 you'll be on CBS, but that will just be a 40- or 50-second clip, and then you're going to be on the E! show, and you should get more time on that."
The star, Susan Selles, listens by phone in Virginia, where she's vacationing.
"I wanted to ask you about the pictures," she says.
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"I know, we're going to take new pictures," Dodsworth replies.
"Because that doesn't even look like me."
"I know. We're going to take care of that."
Dodsworth sits in a rundown, hole-in-the-wall office, smiles, and says with confidence, "Things are really taking off."
And all Selles had to do to make it happen was take off her clothes and have sex in a motel room while a couple of handy cams recorded it for porn fans. Now her writhing body can be seen on the Web, on television, and in adult-business trade magazines and may soon wind up in a few mainstream national magazines. Dodsworth, who was behind the cameras with his partner, Lou Druck, says the fledgling company, Atlantic Worldwide, is doing so well now that it's about to move into nicer digs.
Dodsworth, a retired Navy man and former stockbroker, and Druck, who has been an airline pilot and suntan-lotion salesman, didn't know a lick about making movies when they started the company last year. Watching their videos, you wouldn't think they'd know Kubrick's films from Rubik's cubes. Cinematic gaffes abound as one cameraman accidentally videos the other; there are the numerous blurry shots and dizzying pans, and one videographer catches a shot of his own black shoe while climbing onto a bed to shoot Selles. The shoe made the final cut.
Druck and Dodsworth are amateurs, not auteurs, and that's the way they market the videos. In fact they are such amateurs that they misspelled that very word on the back of a video jacket. It would seem unlikely that such an "amature" effort would land nationwide plugs -- but the two middle-aged opportunists know a killer gimmick when they see one. And with Selles, they saw a doozy: The first practicing attorney ever to star in a hard-core video. Title: Jurist Erotic or Jurist Erectous, depending on whether you're looking at the jacket or the actual video.
Susan Selles, Esq., is a member in good standing of the Florida Bar who represents hotels in South Beach and also occasionally handles criminal defense cases. Gimmick or not, she is the anti-bimbo -- educated, articulate, and as she'll tell you up front, highly demanding in both the courtroom and the bedroom.
With short jet black hair and a full, cosmetically enhanced figure, Selles gives a game performance on the cheap set, going at it with both her personal-trainer boyfriend and a woman she'd never met. She did most everything, except for an act named for a doomed town in the Bible, a book she grew up reading in her conservative Miami home.
"It was wonderful," she says of the filmmaking. "I'm not intimidated easily, and I'm not shy. I'm not embarrassed about my body. It was great."
Selles went to strict Catholic schools and then to Florida International University, where she was an honors student before getting her law degree at St. Thomas University in Miami. She says all the schools "tried to drill in [her] how bad an act sex was." She didn't listen -- but despite her rebellion, she's still worried about her parents. Selles still hasn't told them about the video. "I was a lot more fearful about what they would think than I was about the Bar," she says. "Because the Bar is full of hypocrisy, left and right."
The attorney says she feels more like a piece of meat in male-dominated courtrooms than she did shooting the video. Apparently it's not easy being a beautiful lawyer. "I've never been treated so badly as I have in the courtroom," she says of sexual harassment in the legal profession. "The judges seem so taken with me. But they are so taken by Susan Selles the woman instead of Susan Selles the counselor." During a documentary-style interview included in the video, Selles purports to have had sex with one Miami judge in his chambers. "Obviously I accepted his advances," she says.
Selles didn't do the movie for the money ($1000 fee and a dollar for every tape sold) but rather for more grandiose reasons: She plans to spread her liberal views on sexuality across the country and help curb sexual repression wherever she finds it. A legally trained, porn-defending superhero of sorts. But career also figured into her decision -- she wants to become a sex-industry attorney, representing porn providers, sex clubs, and any other titillating business that the Christian Right deems devilish.
So far her chances of breaking into that area of law look promising. Daniel Aaronson, one of the top sex-industry lawyers in Fort Lauderdale, is already interested. In her legal acumen. "We are quite impressed that she would have the courage to do a video while also being a lawyer, and we would be happy to talk to her," says Aaronson, adding that Selles will have to prove herself as an attorney before she could work at his firm.
It's just another door opening for Selles -- and for Atlantic Worldwide. The biggest door belonged to radio-and-television talker Howard Stern, as Dodsworth stuck his foot into what he reverently calls the "Power of Stern." He sent a press release to Stern -- who is fixated on strippers and porn stars -- and Stern bit on the lawyer-in-a-porno bait. On July 15 Selles found herself doing Stern's live radio show and this Saturday night the videotaped version of her visit will be shown on Stern's network TV show on CBS. And in September it'll be played on Stern's cable show on E! Entertainment Television. Throw in some interest by Esquire magazine and national sex rags, and you have an incredible marketing success for a video that was made on a shoestring. (The entire cost to shoot and make the tapes was about $25,000.)
Dodsworth says they've sold all 2000 original copies and are waiting for another shipment to come in. The company's goal, Druck says, is simple: "Playboy is the girl next door, right? We're trying to take video of the girl next door, except it's all hard-core." In Selles' case, she just happens to be the lawyer next door. "Finally the public gets to see a lawyer getting screwed instead of the other way around," Druck says. What Druck didn't want publicized is the fact that Selles is also an aspiring dominatrix, which explains the tattoo over her not-so-private-anymore area (which is also pierced with a ring) that proclaims "MASTER'S." "The dominatrix-next-door" just doesn't quite have the same ring to it, apparently. In the video's documentary-style interview (which is partially scripted), Selles makes the claim that she'd had sex with only three men and no women during her entire life.
Atlantic Worldwide started with some cheap equipment (the only prop seems to be a recurring straw hat with a plastic daisy in it) and a classified ad in New Times. Most of the women who answer the ad are reluctant at first and need to be coaxed into it, says Druck. While Selles seems to be the master of her own destiny, others aren't quite so self-assured. Not surprisingly there's a dark side to the business. "Half of them you'll never hear from again, and half of them are sorry that they ever did it," says Druck. "It's a one-shot deal. They do it for only one reason -- they need the money that day."
The company, which despite all the hubbub hasn't yet turned a profit, is about to expand its horizons. In addition to its Website, www.atlanticworldwide.com, and new flicks in the works, Druck and Dodsworth are planning a trip to Russia in the winter. It's their latest sure-fire gimmick: They think they have a good chance to score a beautiful doctor in tundra country to star in one of their videos. The lure: cold, hard American cash.
Selles, meanwhile, might not be done with XXX-rated videos, either.
"It's nothing I would shy away from," she says. "It's just me being me."
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