ARTICLE CREDIT: lomalinda.patch.com/Gina Tenorio
Chyna, formerly known as Joanie Laurer, is working to reclaim her life. She talked to Patch about her adult films, wrestling and life.
Right before Joanie Laurer stepped onto the stage at Déjà Vu Erotic Ultra Lounge, I had to look away.
That’s not like me. After 20 years in the reporting business, I’ve been to a few gentlemen’s clubs to do stories.
But on Thursday, I watched Laurer -- someone I have long admired -- step onto a strip club stage. And for me it was tough. In a split second, the warm-hearted woman transformed into Chyna, the sexy adult film actress and vamp.
And yes, I mean that Chyna, the former female wrestler who broke down barriers for women in wrestling.
On Thursday night, as I watched from inside the packed club, tears welled in my eyes.
“How long Joe?” I asked the Déjà Vu club manager, Joe Juarez.
“Three more songs,” he answered calmly. “Maybe 10 minutes.”
If it isn’t already clear, on this subject, color me partial. I am a fan not just of Chyna the wrestler, but of a woman who did what all women are told we could not or should not do.
Women don’t wrestle men. She did. Women weren’t supposed to win championship titles. In an odd twist of fate, she did. Women in wrestling had to conform to a certain form of femininity. Chyna – now her legal name - stepped right over those boundaries.
It seemed what she got in return was criticism and ridicule. And she was used and then left behind. The media and the Internet have not always been kind to Chyna, documenting her addictions, the domestic abuse and critiquing her appearance.
On Thursday night, I cautiously walked into the small dressing room in the Redlands club and was greeted with the same warm smile and a look of vulnerability.
“Are you going to hate on me?” she asked.
“No,” I said. “I’m a fan.”
We had only 20 minutes to talk. We spoke about her new video, “Back Door to Chyna.” The title sounds suggestive because it is an adult film. She’s proud of the film and proud of her work.
Making the film was her choice, she said. Not so with a prior sex video.
“Something really violent happened to me,” Chyna said. “I had an ex who did a sex tape video of me.”
“I’m embarrassed to say it, but you can see the scars from it,” she said extending her long arms to reveal scars, a result of self-cutting. “I was really traumatized about it. It was someone making millions of dollars off of me. I tried to hide my head in the sand. I didn’t know what to do.”
Five years later, she said Steven Hirsch, president of Vivid Entertainment, called her.
“He asked ‘Chyna do you want to do a celebrity video?’ ” she said. “I said ‘no, no.’ But I was dating this guy. And that guy called Steven back and said, ‘Yeah, she does want to do one.’ ”
She explained she was kind of comatose at the time, though we did not have time for her to elaborate the point. Shortly after the initial contact with Hirsch, she ended her relationship, but still got a call from Hirsch, she said.
She’d already done Playboy, the first appearance becoming one of the magazine’s best selling issues of all time. She saw Vivid as a legitimate adult media company.
“Having sex on camera for me,” she said with a slight pause, “I thought it would be safe and sexy environment where I would be taken care of. I’d be paid well and taken care of. So why wouldn’t I do it?”
Intimacy in her personal life had pretty much stopped because, “I was much too traumatized,” she said.
As I listened, I realized that, while money was a motivator for going into porn, she was also looking for love and respect. She told me that while she was a part of the WWF (now known as the WWE) she achieved a great deal.
Now that she is entering the world of adult film, she wants to be the biggest star since Jenna Jameson.
She said she watched the respect she had earned as a wrestler dissipate. She was hurt by Vince McMahon, who she said yanked the name Chyna away from her. It took her years and a lot of money to reclaim it, she said. It’s been difficult to watch a stream of former wrestlers, from Bret Hart to Hulk Hogan, come walking back into the ring, she said.
“But you don’t want me back? Really?” she said. “It hurt me, you know. Because we all want to be a part of this family for life.”
She said she was not sure where she would be right now if Hirsch had not rescued her.
As we wound down our conversation, her chaperone came in to let her know it was almost time to take the stage. In typical Chyna fashion, she offered to take a photo with me, an offer I readily accepted.
I wished her well and took my place in the packed room. As the announcer built up the suspense of Chyna’s arrival on stage, I felt the tears. I had such a death grip on my messenger bag that I hurt two of my fingers.
All I could think is, please God, just let them all accept her tonight. And that’s when I turned to Joe.
She did great. Did she dance like the others? No. But she did great. In typical Chyna fashion, she cavorted, gave ladies and men alike memorable hugs. She spent as much time as she could with every fan.
And they loved her for it.