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Sydnee Steele: “I Didn’t Get Hammered on a Shoot”

[From the LA Times] I LOVE Halls of Fame. I love the Agricultural Hall of Fame (George Washington Carver! John Deere! Squanto!), the Robot Hall of Fame (Mars Pathfinder! The Haley Joel Osment character in “A.I.”!) and the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame (shut up; there’s plenty).

For Halls of Fame lovers, this is our big week. Today, baseball writers will probably vote to not induct Mark McGwire because of allegations of steroid use. Monday, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame turned down the Dave Clark Five for allegations of totally sucking. Even the sluttiest ’60s groupie didn’t want Dave Clark getting glad all over her.

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The rock inductees (R.E.M., Grandmaster Flash, Patti Smith, the Ronettes and Van Halen) didn’t get nearly as much attention as McGwire. That’s because the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a really stupid idea.

You don’t join a band so some geeky journalists will validate you. You join because rock ripped a hole in the space-time continuum, somehow making wussy love poetry sound totally badass. Also, because you’re not good at sports.

Rock stars don’t look cool when seeking approval. Or when they’re all old and crammed on a stage jamming to “We Shall Overcome.” In a building designed by I.M. Pei. In Cleveland.

The only worse idea would be a Hall of Fame ceremony for porn stars. Like the one happening Saturday in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Hotel.

To find out why anyone would want to be in the Adult Video News Hall of Fame, I called Sydnee Steele, who is entering with the 2007 class. “It’s about being recognized for excellence,” she explained. “I showed up on time. I read my script. I didn’t do drugs. I didn’t get hammered before a shoot.” The bar for excellence in porn is not set too high.

Sydnee, who has playing cards and an action figure in her likeness, was initially freaked out by the honor. It made her feel old. “I remember sitting in the chair at [a previous] awards show and thinking, ‘I don’t want that.’ I was in that whirlwind of shopping and doing my nails and not reading books.”

But now that she’s 38 and writing books, Sydnee is happy to reflect on her achievements and watch AVN’s Academy Awards-style montage of her work. Which will actually be better than the Oscars not just for the nudity but because those horrible violins will be replaced by wacka-wacka guitars.

Sydnee’s new Hall of Fame status, she says, in no way contradicts her outsider cred. “It makes me more badass,” she insisted. “It’s etched in stone. I can’t run from my character.” It’s also etched onto a lot of DVDs, but I didn’t want to creep her out.

Maybe she’s right. Maybe there’s something rebellious about embracing your complicated past, standing in front of your peers and proudly saying, “Yes, I did slide around on my knees wearing nothing but Spandex pants for the entire Diver Down Tour.”

Maybe the problem is that we mortals created Halls of Fame to freeze people: Hank Aaron has to spend the rest of his public life talking about home runs. Once they retire, we can be relatively sure — barring the occasional double murder — that they’ll never do anything significant again. That’s why McGwire can’t go into Cooperstown. By refusing to deny using steroids in front of Congress, baseball’s savior in 1998 has changed from what we all once agreed he was.

Rock bands that keep putting out albums don’t freeze well. Neither do porn actresses who have the nerve to age. Maybe the trick is to appreciate people for what they’ve done, and not expect them to stay put. Or, as Sydnee put it: “R.E.M. is pretty sweet. I don’t know how their career has been since the ’80s, but I liked them a lot then.”

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