NEW YORK – Vanessa Del Rio is a legend, no doubt. It's little wonder that art book publishing house Taschen Books has put together Vanessa Del Rio: 50 Years of Slightly Slutty Behavior.
Available in two versions, a collector's edition and an art edition, the book is a sprawling tribute to one of the legends of old-school pornography. The collector's edition, which is going for $400 to $700, has a limited run of 1300 copies and the art edition, which is selling for $1,000 to $1,500 is limited to 200 copies. Both copies contain over 500 film stills, professional photos and intimate personal snapshots of the star and offer what Taschen calls a "no-expenses spared…love offering" to a genuine porn superstar.
AVN.com had the chance to speak to the legendary smut queen and she was forthcoming about her life in the trenches and the book.
"The book idea came about 6 years ago," said Del Rio. "Dian Hanson, who was then the editor of Leg Show and now is the sex book editor for Taschen, told me that Benedikt Taschen wanted to make a book on me. We met for dinner in an elegant restaurant in NYC’s Soho. I brought along a few very nasty pix and when he saw them he said, 'Oh, we must make a big book!'
Del Rio is ecstatic about the finished product. "The book is gorgeous!" she gushed. "I am extremely flattered that he made this book that is a work of art in itself. And I can now say my blowjobs are art!"
Often credited with being an innovator who not only opened the door for Latina women and raised the bar for extreme acts such double-penetration, Del Rio is modest about her influence. "I’m not sure about inventing the DP, but I’ll take credit for it! I have to assume it had been done before. Making use of an extra orifice is a no-brainer, but, like I said, I’ll take it!"
As far as being an inspiration to her fellow Latinas, Del Rio exhibits some pride. "I have run into lots of ethnic women who’ve told me I’m an inspiration to them in satisfying their hubbies," she said. "That feels good. And there have been a few porn stars that have taken my name in various forms, which I suppose is flattering."
In the Taschen book, Del Rio notes there is a difference between ethnic women and their WASP-y counterparts. Covering herself, Del Rio said, "I’m only speaking from my own experience here, but it’s been documented that women of color are more comfortable in their bodies and that’s the first step to enjoying sex. When you speak of Latinas, you have to take Catholicism into account. A Catholic upbringing makes the dirtiest minds, instilling all that guilt and shame—that can be taken away by just going to confession. Just the act of confession is dirty, telling all those sins to a man who’s not supposed to have any sex!"
Del Rio also noted that while there have been intimations that porn is going mainstream, she remains cautious about that. "I think it’s more upfront and accepted but still has a stigma attached," she said. "It can be empowering if used in moderation to enhance your sexuality as stimulation, to learn about pleasure in different forms, and to learn different ways to pleasure your self or your partner. We are visual creatures and watching people have sex is exciting. If it is used excessively and as the only form of stimulation then it will lead to problems."
Del Rio was open about her own experiences viewing porn, including her own movies. "Yes, I have watched my films. I used to go to the theatre when I first started—they would let me in for free—and yes, I eventually started to get recognized, but even before that the rain-coaters would just look up at me and jerk off, as I was the only woman in there!"
Of her first on-screen experience in Shaun Costello's China Doll, Del Rio recalled, "I had a glass of wine because I was afraid I couldn't say my lines. The nudity and sex part came easy, as I was already a go-go dancer and had sexual experience, sort of…I actually had so much fun that on lunch break I blew the cameraman, a sexy long-haired hippie! Shaun was known as the naked director because he would always wind up naked during the course of filming and join in the final obligatory orgy scene."
Del Rio went on to describe a typical day's work in that era. "Let’s see, you’d arrive early in the morning," she said. "I was always makeup ready—they didn't have makeup artists in the early days—and I’d just sit and wait for my scene, which could have been the first or the last. You were just there all day waiting and sometimes you'd have sex off-set just because it was a sexual environment and everyone was horny. You were paid a single rate for the day no matter how many scenes you were in! Hey, it was fun back in the day. We were sexual rebels and enjoyed just doing whatever. It wasn't a business like it is today, it was more underground and the people in it were on the fringes of society and daring to do as they pleased."
The Latina bombshell also appeared in some of the most severe hardcore-S&M hybrids for Avon Films. Titles like Domination Blue, Dominatrix Without Mercy and Night of Submission are legendary. Did these pictures reflect Del Rio's own kinky outlook, or were they just another flavor to explore? She answered without hesitation, "They were fun to do and a flavor to explore! Being in the business opened up my sexuality and exposed me to things I would have otherwise not have been exposed to. I liked having my limits tested and would challenge my self to explore my sexuality, I’ve always been very curious about life so doing these types of film gave me a real adrenaline rush!"
In addition to her on-camera work, Del Rio was also a main draw at the famed 42nd Street sex-show theaters like Show World and the Melody. She remembers those bygone days with fondness. "The vibe was alive," she said. "After all, it was the underbelly of New York and everything went on there…the sights…the sounds…the smells! You know, you could buy a loose joint in the street or even in the theater just before—or during—a movie! Pimps, prostitutes…life on the Deuce was always stimulating. You had to be there; too bad its gone. AIDS killed it really; the sex vibe in New York was never the same after AIDS came. Sure, you can find all sorts of sex activity now, but it’s private and in smaller parties and clubs. Still exciting, but you have to be careful and know where to go."
Del Rio's final hardcore titles were shot in California and she noticed one difference in particular: "The biggest difference I noticed is there are a lot more outdoor pool scenes in LA." As far as working with the legendary Dark Brothers, Del Rio remembered, "The Dark Brothers were a nasty pair. They would talk really dirty to keep the sex vibe going on the set all day! At the same time they were pure camp."
However, things weren't always rosy for Del Rio in the '80s. She was busted in 1987 on obscenity charges and served jail time. When asked about this, she said, "Let’s keep some things for those who buy the book!"
One thing Del Rio isn't coy about is the work she did with pint-sized performer Louie De Jesus of Blood Sucking Freaks infamy.
"I always get asked about him," said Del Rio. "Sometimes I get this look like, 'How could you?' which pisses me off! He was just shorter than most of us…and a person! He was pretty hot. His dick was in proportion to his body and on the thickish side for his size. I did print work with him and a loop ["The Anal Dwarf"] and in Play Me Again, Vanessa, I picked him up and sat him on a piano to give him a blowjob.”
Asked for her take on today's porn industry, Del Rio was candid: "Well, the movies in my day seem visually almost ‘romantically soft focus’ because they were shot on film. We weren’t happy when video came along, and I hear some of the ladies today are not too happy about hi-def, either, as it shows all the flaws! Dr. 90210, where are you? Some recent movies are really good visually because they’ve put some thought and budget into making them, VCA has done some visually and sexually interesting stuff with good plot but on the other side of the spectrum I’ve seen pictures of a women with smeared makeup and a toilet seat over her head or really violent, degrading rape scenes. I think it has gotten to shock more than titillate and arouse, which is sad…I understand the need to outdo the competition and shock and I fully support freedom of expression, but how about some responsibility? That’s why my book is called 'Fifty Years of Slightly Slutty Behavior,' because by today’s standards my stuff was only slightly slutty.”
Del Rio has arguably managed to remain more popular with 21st century audiences than most of her "Golden Age" co-stars with her name being dropped by rappers, and playing herself on TV's "NYPD Blue." To what does she attribute her longevity? Del Rio answered, "I’ve been asked this many times and the only thing I can figure out is the total abandon that I brought to my work. I just gave myself to what I was doing and had fun doing it. I never believed you should separate yourself from the sex act, enjoy what you are doing…you choose to do it!"
One thing Del Rio is adamant about is who will play her if there's ever a Vanessa Del Rio biopic. Without hesitation, Del Rio answered, "Rosario Dawson…and I like to see it directed by either Quentin Tarantino or John Waters. Or both!"
Interested parties can purchase the book from Del Rio at http://shop.vanessadelrio.com/ and, in doing so, get 3 free DVDs of their choice with the purchase. Del Rio's main website is http://www.vanessadelrio.com/.