By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
We've been hurtling down the highway toward Houston for two hours now, and it's time for a potty break.MMOur driver turns her plush, 50-seat bus into the Conoco Travel Plaza somewhere south of Dallas, and a bevy of nationally known celebrities pours out. Most of them are young women, dressed casually in sweats and T-shirts.
They've been recruited this month from across the country for an urgent mission: to rescue Houston from a small, vocal minority who would attempt to infringe on the First Amendment rights of tax-paying adults. The ramifications of this adventure are immense, the legal and moral issues complex and intertwined.
A fellow passenger, sitting in the seat in front of me, cuts to the heart of the matter.
"OK," she says. "Let's talk about my tits."
Sofia Staks, star of Boobwatch and Attack of the Killer Dildo, pops the last bite of a pecan pie slice into her high-cheekboned, cheerful face and grips the headrest of the cushy seat as we wait for the other passengers to return. It's a Thursday in December, and night has fallen on the first day of our Dallas-to-Houston journey.
"For a long time as a teenager, I felt insecure and shy," she confesses, chalking it up to being a mere 32-A in a padded bra. "Then, when I was 21, I had my first surgery. The implants contained 185 cc's of silicone. I went to a large B or C. Now, three surgeries later, I'm a 44-H."
I hadn't known that bra sizes went that far into the alphabet. But Sofia Staks clearly is not exaggerating--her massive breasts, each about the size of a medicine ball, are covered in a dark green hooded jacket. Her arms, her waist, her bottom, and her legs are all very twiglike. I ask the most obvious question:
"Haven't you had back problems?"
"Oh, I would have, if I didn't work out so much," she says in a chirpy voice. She raises her tiny arms above her head, fists clenched like a preening bodybuilder, and reveals small but well-defined biceps.
"I work out to strengthen my back," she says, then after a brief pause inquires, "Wanna see a trick?"
With a sly grin, and with arms still upraised, she proceeds to move her gigantic breasts up and down inside her cotton jacket. The rest of her body never moves a millimeter. She can move them one at a time, too, each breast bouncing like some animatronic creation in a Spielberg film.
Sofia Staks is just one of the adult film stars traveling on this bus. There are also photographers from national adult magazines, high-paid club dancers, and various staff members from Metroplex Sundown, the Dallas-based weekly that has expanded circulation into Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Abilene, and several other Texas cities. The paper consists mostly of ads for gentlemen's clubs, escort services, private models, adult book and video stores, and nude modeling studios.
Founded in April 1994, the Sundown advertises itself as "the fastest-growing adult newspaper in America," and for this, its first overtly political event, the Sundown has called in heavy artillery from the national porn biz. The stars, mostly from Los Angeles, have come out in force.
Sofia and friends are bouncing to the aid of Houston, a city whose sexually oriented businesses face the threat of new restrictions from a city council committee determined to clean up the peddlers of prurience. One man, local free-speech activist Ray Hill, has stood up in opposition to the Carrie Nations of the Houston city council and pledges--should he become a councilman as a result of a special election to be held January 18, 1997--to fight what he sees as bald infringements of First Amendment rights.
Chances are, you will never see so many strippers and porn actresses gathered in one place to talk about constitutional law.
Self-described "publishing goddess" Amy Jo Crowell is dressed flirtatiously in a red leather jacket, plunging-neckline black blouse, black tights, and knee-length black boots on the trek to Houston, but she is far from stripper material.
Crowell, 33, has an explosive laugh and a red-cheeked smile that suggests Tracey Ullman hosting her own holiday special. Crowell, who holds an MBA from Southwest Texas State University, owned two clothing businesses in Deep Ellum before she hooked up with her partner and co-publisher Jerry--he won't give his last name--to create Metroplex Sundown. It took a surprisingly small investment, she admits; business owners and individuals were lined up, ready and waiting to advertise. The paper turned a profit in its first fiscal year. Then it hired sales reps in other major Texas cities and began to publish regional editions.
"I'm not out to get in anyone's face with this newspaper," Crowell says. "As long as I'm here, the Sundown will only be distributed at adult-oriented businesses, because I don't want some 13-year-old flipping through it. The closest we come to a wider audience is tattoo parlors, and those places are supposed to be checking IDs."
Crowell's discretion extends to the content of the Metroplex Sundown, where she allows no crotch shots in the model ads and insists, "If you ever see a nipple without a star covering it, I was asleep on the job."