Former porn star, reality TV personality, and blogger Jennie Ketcham presents a strikingly honest, disarming memoir about her descent into the emotionally numbing world of pornography and addiction and her path toward recovery.
Drunk and high, holed up in a hotel room with a beautiful blonde she barely knew, Jennie Ketcham was thirty-six hours away from entering rehab. Her on-camera alter ego, Penny Flame, was a rising star. Her personal life, however, had been getting worse for years and finally hit an all-time low.
Guys are gonna want one thing from you. To Jennie’s young ears, her father’s advice meant one thing: You can use your sexuality to control men. Life was imploding around her: her parents’ divorce, their spiraling addictions, her deteriorating relationships with them. She lost her virginity at thirteen and began a game of initiating boys her age into manhood. For the fleeting moments she spent in bed with them, she got to be the center of attention.
Eventually, Jennie found porn—that enticing world of immediate gratification, endless drugs, and seemingly endless money—and became Penny Flame. Divorced from her feelings, tempted into a lifestyle she couldn’t afford, financially or emotionally, she entered Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew to boost her career. But when Dr. Drew and his staff insisted she go by her real name, the once indestructible walls she had built around herself began to burn down.
Two stories make up this direct and disarming memoir: that of a troubled girl desperately fleeing intimacy and herself, and that of a woman courageously breaking down emotional barriers to build a new life. Many will recognize Jennie’s struggles: confusing sex with self-worth, addiction with love, detachment with strength. Ultimately, I Am Jennie is a tale of a woman who considers herself a work in progress but who finally understands that the only person she can truly afford to be is herself.
I had never allowed myself to wonder why i ran from people, from connection, from what Dr. Drew was labeling as intimacy. I had never questioned why I habitually hurt the men I dated, or the people in my family. I had never thought: Jennie, why are you doing this?
In the past, I had simply acted, and then moved forward. If I felt like crying, I shut the emotions down. This quality made me a good porn star. But it suddenly didn’t seem like a great way to live.
“It’s a wall,” I whispered.
“What do you think is behind that wall?” Dr. Drew said.
He looked directly in my eyes. The thought of something existing behind this impenetrable wall was horrifying, exhausting. I grabbed a Kleenex, thinking if I could make the perfect triangle, I could dab my inner eyes without disrupting the glue that held my fake eyelashes in place.
“Hopefully, a caring, sensitive person who can have meaningful relationships,” I said.
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Jennie Ketcham is a reality TV star, blogger, and former pornographic actress and film director who worked under the name “Penny Flame.”Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
“I HOPE THE MONEY FILLS THE HOLES ’CAUSE, SEE, THE ROOF IS CAVING IN.”
—THE HORRIBLE CROWES, “BLACK BETTY & THE MOON”
I flew into Phoenix on a Thursday to work an Internet porn convention. I was trying to promote my webcam studio, a new webcam company that I couldn’t seem to get off the ground, even though I’d been running it for nearly four months. My boss, Del, wanted me to hang out, drink with affiliate managers, accompany him to dinners and parties, and be the arm candy he thought would help generate traffic to the site.
By Sunday, I had been awake for two, possibly three days. After the first twenty-four hours without sleep, days bled into weeks, which condensed into minutes that could have been years. Time did not matter, because I had a singular purpose in life, and it was to find more cocaine. I had called various random numbers from the Craigslist hooker sections—the sections listed under “Adult Services” or “Casual Encounters”—until, on the other end of one particular number, I recognized my girlfriend Camilla Bangs’s voice saying, “Leave a message and I’ll call you right back.”
So I did. I knew that, if I could get her on the phone, she could probably get some blow. I wasn’t concerned that it was 4:00 a.m. or that she might recognize my number and decide to press the IGNORE button. She knew I abhorred her hooking, let alone selling herself on Craigslist. I didn’t feel like I had a choice.
Del had started pacing. He walked fifteen feet to one wall and then fifteen feet to the opposite wall, shooting nervous glances from me to Kagney, a superhot blond chick I was in the process of seducing. I either had to find more blow, or leave the hotel room so he could find something else.
Del was hunting for something other than cocaine. Just like the last time I worked for him in Vegas, he wanted to watch girls fuck themselves until he fell asleep, usually with a tired and hopeless look in his eye. It was the same tired and hopeless look that visited a drug addict at 7:00 in the morning when he realized that the day would proceed and he had yet to sleep a wink.
In his hotel room in Phoenix, as Del continued scanning the personal ads, I tried to read his face. I also tried to read Kagney’s, to figure out how much time I had to appease his bossly desires before she got sick of the hunt and went to bed. I had been trying to get into her bikini bottom since I saw her at the pool earlier that morning. She was fairly new to the business and didn’t have the stamina of us old pros, so I wanted to take her to bed before she was too blasted to be of any good.
I might have offered up her services to Del, but I didn’t think Kagney was hooking. While many porn stars end up “escorting,” which is just fancy talk for prostitution, she was still new enough in front of the camera that she was being booked for plenty of scenes, and so she didn’t need the extra money.
It amazed me how quickly a girl would be “shot up” simply because she’d been booked solid for three months and ended up flooding the market with images or videos of herself. Then nobody in the biz could shoot her because she’d been “shot out.” Some girls were cleverer than others and only took two or three bookings a week, understanding full well that $3,000 a week was a ton of money, and if they put too much product out at once, their porno shelf life would be nil.
Kagney seemed fairly clever. She was savvy enough to sense the discomfort in Del’s hotel room that morning and to understand it was time to go. She gave me a searching look as Del called yet another Craigslist phone number.
“Bedtime?” I asked her quietly.
I didn’t do the escort thing for a wide variety of reasons. For one, I understood the laws of supply and demand. With the insane amount of porn stars, Playmates, and career girls who supplied pussy to the market of lonely, vagina-hungry men, I would never be able to charge an amount of money that I thought would make prostitution a rewarding experience. Additionally, I enjoyed the formality of going to work, filling out a W-2, signing waivers, getting tested, and having sex with tested people. I felt like I was a step higher than a regular old hooker. I managed to rationalize my way out of any suggestion that pornography equaled prostitution. Being an escort simply felt shadier than being a porn star, perhaps because there weren’t any Internet conventions for prostitutes.
Kagney reached her hand out and touched my thigh, meeting my eyes with her big blues, a nonverbal yes.
Del held his hand over the mouthpiece of the phone as if he were trying to hide something from the empty ring on the other end.
“Wait one moment, girls,” he said, his posh accent making him sound much more refined than the pornographer he was. “Will you try your friend again?”
“She probably recognizes my number, but I’ll give it another shot,” I said.
Kagney let out a little “Harrumph” and settled down into the chair as I called Camilla again on my cell.
“Hey, dude, it’s me again,” I said. “Listen, sorry to keep bugging you but I’ve got a little business proposition, one or the other if you know what I mean. Just, uh, give the hotel a call for room, uh, 307. Okay? Love you.”
I hung up the phone, feeling a bit traitorous hooking her up with a hooking gig.
“She’ll come over, yes?” Del asked, hope dying in his eyes with each passing second.
“I mean, she might, but it’s, like, 4:15 in the morning, man,” I said. “She’s probably on a call or too messed up to drive.”
I saw his desperation and tried to reassure him.
“I gave her your room number, so she might call back,” I said.
He sat forward and lit his fiftieth Marlboro Red.
“Did you tell her I only want the masturbation?” he asked, sounding way more proper requesting masturbation than any American ever would.
“No, but she’ll do whatever you want,” I said. “If it’s only masturbation, she’ll be pumped.”
I took one of his cigarettes.
Camilla had been in and out of the business for quite some time, struggling with a cocaine problem and then a weight problem, and felt uncomfortable in front of the camera and contrived in the bedroom. She hated hooking but did it anyway, because she needed the money. Rolling Stone magazine had even named her one of America’s worst hookers, although it was phrased a bit more eloquently. And while I was always interested in making more money, I was uninterested in becoming an unhappy hooker like Camilla, and so her example was enough to keep me out of the game.
“I think you’re more likely to get her to bring blow,” I said.
There was nothing more telling than the lost, forlorn look in Del’s eyes. I grasped Kagney’s hand, the soft, perfectly manicured hand that had been resting on my knee. We both stood to make it apparent that we were going to leave. I prepped the final few lines of coke on the table.
“So I’ll see you tomorrow at the show, right?” I asked. “Around one?”
“I doubt I’ll be sleeping until then,” he chuckled. And then the manic desperation returned. “Do you think she’ll be able to get in?”
He dropped his cigarette into a very full ashtray. He knew damn well that the entire hotel had been reserved and closed down for this convention and that unless his special guest had a pass, she would be left out front with her tiny purse and plastic heels.
“I kind of don’t think so,” I said. “I mean, you can try, but security is no joke. I guess be ready to get another room at a different hotel?”
I patted Kagney’s ass. She took her rail as I held her long blond hair off the cigarette-ash-and-coke-dusted table.
“Leave your pass, mate,” he said.
He was simultaneously asking me and telling me, knowing that the next day was my final day of the show and that I wouldn’t be needing it to get back into the hotel. I bent over, snorted the final rail, then lit my cigarette.
“Be careful, man,” I said, handing over the small plastic badge that allowed conventioneers onto the grounds. “Arizona isn’t down with drugs.”
I HAD A secret gram of blow stashed in my bra. Where the drugs in my bra had originally come from, and whether or not they’d been bought, borrowed, or taken were mysteries to me, and questions I didn’t bother asking two hours before dawn. The weekend had become a disjointed mess—a blurry, choppy jumble of memories.
I led Kagney out of Del’s room and down the hall to my own, which I unlocked with my small key card. Once inside, we tossed our purses, clothes, bras, and underwear to the ground. Then we were naked, with our heads at the foot of the bed and a magazine for cutting the secret cocaine into rails. With each line I tried to account for my whereabouts over the weekend, and with each line the weekend memories continued to slip and blend.
The previous morning I had hosted a beer pong tournament, where teams of grown men battled one another over flimsy pool-side Ping-Pong tables. Before the game I had done blow with Porno Dan, a producer, director, performer, and my favorite drinking companion, and when I felt too gacked out to be a proper beer pong host, Porno Dan had personally escorted me to the bar for successive shots of Jack Daniel’s and Jäger. I finally went back to the tournament and evened out: the high was not so high and the drunk was not so drunk.
“Don’t you all do anything besides throw tiny balls into gaping, dirty, wet orifices?” I cried over the loudspeaker.
And then I led the girls at the pool in an arousing version of the Little Chicken Dance.
When my hosting duties were done, I happened upon Aaron Carpello, an ex-fling with easy, seductive eyes and the smug grin of a twenty-something-year-old guy who had already amassed a cool mil for his bank account. I had momentary imaginary heart palpitations when I remembered that we’d met at that same pool the year before. I still cared about him. But in lieu of saying hello, I pretended he was invisible and returned to the bar to meet Porno Dan, the drinking love of my life, who was totally visible. Carpello and I hadn’t seen each other in months, and the last time we’d hung out, we’d been out of our minds on E, and I was in no shape to do the “catching up” thing with cocaine and Jack running through my blood.
BACK IN THE hotel room with Kagney, another fat line brought me out of my memories, and I wondered how long I’d been spacing out.
“Okay, sexy Penny?” she asked.
She ran her fingers down my naked back, opened her body to me, and slid the cocaine-covered magazine to the side of the bed.
“Yeah, just trying to remember where I left my shoes,” I said.
This wasn’t a total lie because I had lost my shoes at some point during the day, and during my poolside Carpello memories it had crossed my mind to wonder where they were.
“Here, baby, let me fix you,” she cooed.
She kissed my ear ever so gently, flicking her tongue to the soft skin along my hairline, her fingers still tracing my tattooed back down to the curve of my ass.
But I still couldn’t shake thoughts of Carpello. I had been warned about him before we met through a feminist, sex-positive sex education director friend of mine named Tristan Taormino, who had offered me a gig directing my own line of sex-ed videos for Vivid. Tristan had run up against Aaron in the past, and thought he was an arrogant pig. I took that as a challenge and decided to fuck him.
Kagney swept my hair back to the left side of my body while she pressed her naked skin against my right side. “Do you want me to lick your pussy?” she whispered delicately. “I’ll make you come all over my pretty face.”
I doubted she could make me come after a three-day cocaine binge, but I wasn’t against her trying. I wasn’t against the idea at all.
“You sexy little whore,” I said.
With my left hand, I moved the magazine to the floor. With my right, I grabbed her crotch.
“I’ve wanted to taste your wet little cunt since I saw you this morning,” I said.
She squealed with delight.
“No, no, no, me first,” she said.
I rolled over to my back while she dove between my legs. As I looked down at the mess of blond curls, I thought of the thousands of other blondes who had been down there and wondered if she would surprise me and do something extraordinary with her mouth.
Lexi Belle, Love, Tyler, and Marie had all been between my legs with their beautiful, bouncing blond curls. I’d had an Elexis, an Alexis, a few Torys, Eves, and two Tiffanys, one redhead and one brunette. There had been so many of them that they all blended into one moving mass of pleasurable curls, small ringlets, big waving tendrils, highlights, lowlights. While Kagney worked her sweet tongue over my clit, I thought of the first night I’d fucked Carpello in one of these hotel rooms. It was even on the same floor we were on now.
We had been lying next to each other in bed, smoking a joint, when we started kissing. Because kissing is the gateway drug to fucking, I knew I had to bring up a very important matter before things got messy.
“I’m bleeding right now, but I’ll still suck your dick.”
I was breathless and ready, my hands already searching his pants.
“I’m good with that,” he said with a smile.
I performed for him with one hand attached to my mouth, the best that I could do while using the other hand to tuck the tampon string away so I could show him my pussy. When I was sure everything looked perfect, I maneuvered my body so that he could watch me masturbate while I continued to suck his cock. I played my clit like turntables and he threw his head back, pleased he’d ended the evening in my mouth. When he came, it was warm and thick. I swallowed it without tasting his essence and casually excused myself to the restroom to clean the spit from my face.
After washing my cheeks in the sink, I sat on the toilet and started to pee with the door to his room wide open. “How long do you normally fuck a bitch before she pisses in front of you?” I called out to him through the darkness, smiling, because I was sure very few women in his life called other women “bitches” or talked about their own pissing.
“What?” he said.
The silhouette of his naked body came into focus in the doorway, lit only by the dim table lamp by the bed.
“I asked: How many times do you have to fuck a bitch before she pisses in front of you?”
Without a word, he walked to where I sat on the toilet and shoved his cock again into my mouth and down my throat.
While I thought about Carpello, Kagney was still between my legs.
“Do you like this, Penny?” she asked.
I shifted my hips into her face, grabbing the back of her head and holding it firmly but gently.
“Yes, I most certainly do, my little beauty,” I said. “You like the way my pussy tastes?”
I was only with her for a moment, though, before I quickly faded out again to the night with Carpello the year before. As much as I tried to remain present, I’d done too much blow to keep my sexual escapades straight.
“Are you really bleeding?” he ...
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