A fond farewell to Aunt Peg

Photographer David Steinberg writes on www.sfgate.com: Juliet Carr, better known by her screen name — Juliet Anderson — and adored by fans as her adult film persona, Aunt Peg, died peacefully in her sleep Monday night, January 11, at her home in Berkeley. She was 71.

Juliet was discovered by her friend, Kevin Fong, Tuesday morning, when he came to take her to a doctor’s appointment.

“I found her in her bed,” Fong told Mark Kernes of Adult Video News. “She looked like she was just asleep. There were no empty pill bottles, nothing out of the ordinary.”

Indeed, Juliet had left a phone message for her good friend, fine art sex photographer Michael Rosen, Monday night, and she was very much in good spirits, mentally and physically, at the time.

“I still have the message on my answering machine,” Michael says. “She sounds cheerful. She ends by saying ‘Bye for now.’ I’m thinking that leaving this message may have been the last contact she had with anyone else before she died.”

I’ve been friends with Juliet for years, and to know that she is gone brings both a sense of shock and a profound sadness — shock that someone so brilliantly alive can disappear so suddenly, and sadness to know that Juliet’s unique spirit and energy will no longer be part of my life and no longer be working its magic in the world at large.

We all knew she was suffering from Crohn’s Disease and was often in great pain, but Crohn’s Disease is not life-threatening, and Juliet was otherwise in good health and meticulous about being good to her body. There’s no word yet on how she died, but I’m guessing she had a heart attack in her sleep. As good a way to die as any, I guess, but it’s still shock to have such a gloriously vibrant life spirit disappear in the blink of an eye.

The last time I saw Juliet was the day after Thanksgiving, at a small dinner gathering hosted by Michael Rosen and his wife, Lucile. Juliet was in great form, full of life and wit. It was good to see her free from pain and enjoying herself so thoroughly. We went around the table before dinner, and each person spoke about something we were thankful for in 2009. Juliet talked emotionally about being thankful for the circle of friends — many of whom were seated around the table — who understood her, loved her, supported her through her trials, and on the unusual path she had chosen for her life.

Juliet’s life was always an eclectic one. She lived in Japan, where she studied Asian art history and Japanese literature, in Mexico City and Athens, where she taught English, in Finland where she was a program produced for the Finnish Broadcasting Company.

She entered the adult film industry in 1978 at the unheard-of age of 39, when adult film director Alex De Renzy cast her in his film Pretty Peaches. She went on to make over 80 adult films in the next ten years, developing the character of Aunt Peg, a Hollywood agent with a zest for life and a great sexual appetite. Aficionados of adult films loved her spirit, her unashamed sexuality, her sparkle, and her creative wit.

She was a true sexual enthusiast — both in her films and in her life — at a time when most people in the porn industry were more interested in money than sex. She was intelligent, responsible, and creative in a subculture that favored mindless excess and the endless repetition of tired, repetitive formulas. She projected life and joy where many offered little more than lifeless, boring cliches.

Juliet took her sexual creativity beyond the world of adult films, producing erotic stage shows that combined sex and comedy in a unique mix. She launched the adult film career of porn icon Nina Hartley in 1984 when she cast Nina in Educating Nina, Juliet’s first attempt at directing an adult film herself.

“It was a huge undertaking,” Juliet explains on her website, www.auntpeg.com, “with a strong story, talented actors, and superb production values.” Sadly, the film that started as an expression of so much of Juliet’s sense of hope and possibility turned into one of Juliet’s greatest disappointments. “As the first woman producer of X-rated films,” she says, “the men who ran [the adult film] industry were intimidated by me and retaliated by never releasing Educating Nina.” Devastated, Juliet quit the adult entertainment industry entirely.

Gone but not forgotten, Juliet received the “Hall of Fame Award” from Adult Video News in 1994, a Hall of Fame Award from the X-Rated Critics Organization in 1999, and, in 2001, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Free Speech Coalition, the political action and lobbying arm of the adult industry. In 2007, Juliet received an honorary Doctor of Arts degree from San Francisco’s graduate Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality.

Juliet had a profound intuition about the body, and a unique ability to pay attention to touch in an intensely focused and concentrated way. When she touched you, whether it was casually, sensually, or sexually, you immediately felt connected to her (and to yourself) in a deep and powerful way. Starting in 1991, she developed her own form of erotic body work, Tender Loving Touch, a testament to the possibility of combining sex work with spirituality, personal growth, and genuine emotional interaction between practitioner and client.

“I will show you how to use your whole body, not just your hands for sensual touching,” she says in her description of Tender Loving Touch. “Our skin is our largest sexual organ and I will teach you how to give and receive full-body, non-genital orgasms, thus increasing physical intimacy. You’ll discover ways to make Tender Loving Touch the play, not just foreplay.”

Her essays in two books about spiritual sexuality, Women of the Light: The New Sexual Healers and The Red Thread of Passion, gave further voice to her commitment to merging sex and sex work with spiritual growth and the possibility of deep intimacy between sexual partners.

I was fortunate to photograph Juliet with one of her lovers ten years ago — one of the first of over 150 couples I have photographed being sexual since that time. I was delighted that Juliet wanted to be photographed by me, even though I was relatively inexperienced as a photographer at the time. I wanted to photograph as broad a spectrum of people as possible and I was delighted to include Juliet, who was 61 at the time, and her lover, who was 64, among my subjects.

I knew that Juliet would take control of every aspect of the shoot, and I was delighted to let her do so, certain that she would choreograph a sexual encounter full of joy, spontaneity, and completely honest sexual passion. That’s precisely what she did, and the photos from that shoot are still some of my most precious images, in part because they demonstrate unmistakably the potential that older people have for being fully sexual, fully passionate people — people who enjoy and value sex as powerfully as anyone else.

When I was editing my book of fine art sexual images, Photo Sex: Fine Art Sexual Photography Comes of Age, I chose a photo of Juliet and Victor for the final image of the book because it so eloquently summed up the book’s content and spirit — a celebration of the joy, power, and wonder of human sexuality in all its forms. This was the core of Juliet’s spirit and the core of her life — this desire and ability to center herself in the heart of what it means to be a fully sexual, fully alive, human being — to find in the heart of sexual experience true meaning and true connectedness with other beings. By her example she was a light and an inspiration to friends, lovers, compatriots, and thousands of fans who remain devoted to her to this day. We will all miss her, even as we carry the best of her energetic legacy in our hearts and and in our bodies.

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