By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
Their $7,500 in food, lodging and transportation expenses have been covered by the Sundown because all have agreed to appear at an all-nude Houston club to help register voters and raise money for Ray Hill, the gay-rights advocate and First Amendment obsessive who's one of 18 people vying in the upcoming special election to replace departing at-large Councilman John Peavy Jr.
Hill's candidacy is being backed by Adults for Legal Freedom, an association of bookstores, theaters and clubs who are rallying around their collective pocketbook to fight the toughened SOB ordinance proposed by Huey and Boney's committee.
No doubt about it, Tera Hart is lovely.
She hides her nearly makeup-free face behind tiny round sunglasses and a Veronica Lake fall of long, dark blond hair, but the light that streams through the bus windows flatters her. She reclines on her bus seat in sweats, tennis shoes and a T-shirt.
Tera is the 28-year-old -- "Oops, I mean 23" -- star of more than 150 adult films released from 1990 to 1995. She describes herself as 'a very honest girl," which she offers as one reason for her decade-long estrangement from her Chicago family.
"I've only been dancing since December of last year," Hart says. "I dropped out of the film industry because of an AIDS scare. I'm writing a book about it."
For a woman who wants money for her story, Tera Hart is remarkably forthcoming with details. Last year, she says she performed a girl-girl scene with a certain porn actress. Shortly afterward, that actress got the results of her latest HIV test.
The woman had tested positive. Those who'd recently worked with her, including Hart, were alerted. Hart was reassured by her colleagues that woman-to-woman transmission of the AIDS virus is extremely rare.
Hart took it in stride, but went ballistic when she discovered that her fellow actress had worked on other movies during the interval between her positive test and a follow-up, even though the second test proved to be negative.
"The fact that the first test was wrong is beside the point," she says. "I thought about trying to charge her with manslaughter, or just suing her. Everybody in the industry tried to talk me out of it. Nobody was bothered that this woman continued to work when she doubted her HIV status."
Tera shrugs. "I've got a five-year-old son who depends on me, you know? I can't put up with that kind of bullshit."
Hart continues to make a handsome living through featured appearances at adult clubs around the country, always billed as "Adult Film Star Tera Hart."
"I make enough so I don't have to work all the time," she says. "And so I can keep my son in toys."
After a four-hour journey, speeded along by our pilot's hell-on-wheels driving, we pull up at the Sumner Suites hotel near Hobby Airport.
It is here that I meet the legendary Christi Lake. I'm strolling down the hallway toward the hotel elevator when I come across a tall, angular woman in an electric blue one-piece micro-mini with knee-length boots and crystals sewn around the border of everything. Lake is hanging halfway out of her room, smoking a cigarette and tapping the ashes hither and yon. She is pretty the way I remember every popular girl in high school was, with a minimum of individuality and a maximum of mascara and hair spray.
"Hi there," she says, with a perfunctory wink.
Lake would later explain that she has a compelling personal reason for appearing in support of Adults for Legal Freedom and Ray Hill. She'd recently been released from a Corpus Christi jail after being arrested and charged with promoting obscene material at an adult video store called -- appropriately enough -- the Adult Video Store. The raid followed a predictable law-enforcement formula when it comes to vice cases.
"I was signing my tapes and photos," Lake says, "when an undercover cop comes in and buys a copy of my latest movie. Less than an hour later, seven or eight uniformed cops barge in, telling everyone to stay put and pull out their IDs."
Only Christi Lake and the clerk ended up in jail. Lake claims police seized more than $1,362 in cash, some of which was hers. Since she's a national celebrity and constant traveler, her attorney asked if he could appear in her stead on the designated court date. Lake hopes her case will be dismissed, since so many obscenity cases are designed to scare the business owners, not incarcerate the accused. At worst, she figures, she'll have to pay a fine.
She is clearly bitter about the incident, mostly because the plainclothes cop who purchased the offending videocassette evidently was interested in more than just upholding the law.
"I was selling two different kinds of photos -- all-nude photos I made before the store opened, and topless Polaroids with me," Lake remembers. "The cop who purchased the 'obscene' tape also bought three naked pictures of me. Somehow, I don't think that was part of the investigation."
It's just before seven on Friday morning, and we've arrived at the studios of KLOL-FM in Montrose, where three of Sundown's caravan of stars are about to appear on the Stevens & Pruett Show -- Kayla Kleevage, Sofia Staks and Vanity, a 24-year-old dancer who won Sundown's 1995 Adult Entertainer of the Year award.