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Jenna Very Catholic

Porn Valley- The first thing you see is a flash of blond. Then Jenna Jameson’s bodyguard — all in black, down to his pitch-dark sunglasses — moves aside. There she is: the porn superstar.

Jameson stands, in a low-cut pink sweater, posing.

“I like that — with the leg up,” says an older photographer who looks straight off Celebrities Uncensored.

Jameson lifts her black-booted limb — her blue jeans are cuffed up to her knees — and gives him another, ahem, professional look.

No, we’re not at an erotica convention. We’re at a bookstore. Jameson is at a signing for her recently released memoir, How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale, at the Sunset Strip’s Book Soup (The book is No. 7 on this week’s New York Times best-seller list), and here at the bookstore employees are more than on board. “Got Jenna?” publicity and events director Christine Louise Berry’s T-shirt asks, and another organizer — making his way through the hundreds of fans outside — sports an equally novel tee. “Enjoy Jenna Jameson,” it reads in white calligraphy on a red background, likening the star to Coca-Cola.

Although Jameson, 30, may not be as all-American as soda pop, it’s no big news that she’s gone mainstream. In the last year alone, she’s appeared on the cover of New York and Paper magazines. She is the subject of a current VH1 News profile (“Jenna Jameson’s Confessions”). In initial “straight world” breakouts, she appeared in the 1997 Howard Stern film Private Parts and in the 2002 Eminem video “Without Me.”

But a further switch seems to be taking place. Conventional wisdom says Jameson’s crossover reflects that of the sex industry itself. Yet throughout the week-and-a-half-long book tour, Jameson and her assistant Linda Johnson say, they’ve been surprised by a new breed of female fans. “The people are so different with this book, because people that have never seen an adult movie [are here],” says Johnson. “There are women standing in line with tears in their eyes, going, ‘I related. That’s my story, that’s how I feel.’ ”

Clad in a tank that reads “Train Him to Obey,” Jameson says: “It’s a totally different crowd than I’m used to. I love seeing all the girls that are like, ‘I loved your book, it touched me.’ It’s amazing just to feel the acceptance.”

What’s the appeal? In some ways, Jameson’s is a classic American Dream story — the XXX version. Growing up in Las Vegas the daughter of a policeman father and showgirl mother — who died when she was 2 — Jameson first approached a strip-club manager at 17. Taking one look at her mouthful of braces, the salt-and-pepper-haired man told her, ‘Come back when you’ve got those off.’ That night, she had an epiphany: Taking a pair of pliers and wire-cutters, she ripped the metal off her teeth. Returning to the club the next day, the manager fell for her moxie.

It wouldn’t be the last time. Though she was a smash as a stripper, Jameson soon set her sights higher. In 1995, she walked into the office of Steve Orenstein, founder of the adult-production company Wicked Pictures, and told him: “The most important thing to me right now is to become the biggest star the industry has ever seen.”

Jameson says she never felt victimized by the sex industry. “The only reason why is because I wouldn’t allow it. When it ever came close to anything like that happening . . . I steered the bus this way,” she says, gesturing. “Uh uh. Ain’t gonna happen. ‘I will walk off this set, I will walk out of my contract, I will not take it’ . . . Because society looks at you as a second-class citizen [when you’re a porn star], so I demand respect from my peers.”

What she was hit hard by was life. Jameson endured a psychologically absent father, an abusive stepmother, rapes and addiction to crystal meth.

But then “the little tugboat that could,” as she refers to herself at one point, began to turn around. After finding love in the mid-1990s with Jay Grdina, an adult-film studio owner and business entrepreneur, they started ClubJenna Inc., a Web-hosting, film production and marketing company. Its first title, Briana Loves Jenna, became the best-selling adult film of the year, and Jameson has now become perhaps the most successful adult star to own her own brand — the Oprah, if you will, of the adult-film industry.

Judith Regan, the publisher of How to Make Love, says Jameson’s tale resonates with American women. “You take a young, impressionable, bright girl who was given no guidance, who at an early age comes to believe that the way to succeed in this culture is through sex and her body,” she says, “[and that] is what has happened to the female in America.”

Of course, Jameson has also turned her tragedy to triumph, and part of it is due to an anger Regan sees echoed in her sometimes sexually aggressive movies. “In this fantasy world, she’s on top — metaphorically and literally. Her rage about the things that have happened to her comes out in her porn.”

Jameson and Grdina live in Phoenix, in a big house filled with Virgin Marys.

“They’re actually very Catholic,” Regan says with a smile. The couple are trying for their first child.

Cultural resonance or not, however, Jameson is surprised by and has deep reservations about her changing status. “It does make an impact on me that 13-year-old girls are coming up saying that I’m their role model,” she says.

“That’s a little weird to me. Now, if they only knew me as Jenna Massoli (her real name) then I would understand that, because I am a good, caring, loving person. But the fact that they’re seeing porn star, that bothers me.”

Her flouting of convention is what Neil Strauss, Jameson’s co-writer on her memoir, thinks is at the core of her appeal. “Society has so many rules for everybody, but especially for women. All the do’s and don’ts, the rights and wrongs, and what’s a bad girl, what’s a good girl. The fact that Jenna can break all of society’s rules for women and still have the respect of the mainstream to some degree,” he says, makes her someone that women look up to.

The night at Book Soup makes Strauss’ point. A group of 18-year-olds from Manhattan Beach are among her new fans, and they giggle when asked about their attendance. Sarah Balagia, who has seen only part of one Jameson movie, says, “I just like her because I want to be like . . .”

“A porn star!” interjects her friend Bridgette Bayley, in a jeweled brooch and purple sweater.

“No. Sexy and confident,” Balagia continues. “Just, like, a cool woman.” Later, she adds, “Throughout the book, there’s different instances when she knows what she wants, and she goes after it. I’m not like that and I wish I was. I’m more passive, and I want to be like Jenna — powerful.”



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