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1980s / Traci Lords Scandal 1986
One of the more salacious scandals of the 1980s involved pornographic movie star Nora Louise Kuzma, better known to skin-flick aficionados as Traci Lords. In July 1986, during a comprehensive federal investigation into the pornography industry, authorities received an anonymous tip: Traci Lords, the hugely popular actress, had just turned 18 years old--meaning her meteoric two-year porn career had begun at the illegal and tender age of 16, perhaps even 15. It was true. Her mother's ex-boyfriend had provided Traci with a fake ID that added more than five years to Lords' age, giving her a November 1962 birthdate instead of May 1968. (Her physical attributes so belied her true age that Lords was also able to illegally obtain a California driver's license and a passport.) Mom's ex arranged some nude modelling gigs for Lords, including photos for Penthouse. Within a short time, Lords was Penthouse's Pet of the Month--an issue that outsold all others in the publication's history. She quickly graduated to hard-core films at a time when the home video market was exploding. Lords appeared in about 80 porn flicks and became enormously popular for her enthusiastic performances. 'I get paid for doing things I like,' Lords told an interviewer. Lords claims she only made 21 films (and earned about $35,000 for her services), but dozens of other movies were created from outtakes and reused footage. According to porn industry insiders, however, Lords was making six movies a month, demanding and getting $1,000 per day from producers (about twice the going rate for hard-core porn actresses at the time). Some sources claim Lords made over $1 million from her XXX-rated movies--and even had video companies give her $10,000 a month and provide her with a furnished apartment and a Mercedes. Before the scandal broke, her movies were outselling her nearest rival's by a 10:1 ratio. One film, 'Traci, I Love You,' was made in Europe a few days after her eighteenth birthday by her own newly formed production company, and is thus the only porno movie of hers that can be legally obtained or viewed in North America. Some of her 'banned' films are still available in Europe where laws and the age of sexual consent vary. (In France, for example, it is illegal for someone under the age of 18 to appear in a pornographic movie, but the film itself is not illegal.) The huge scandal resulted in more stringent age verification for porn participants that still exist today. Because of accusations that producers had lured Lords into the business knowing she was a minor, the entire adult film industry verged on collapse. However, Lords had also fooled the federal government with the same fake I.D. to get a U.S. passport, so prosecution efforts were halted. Suspicion lingers that it was Lords herself who tipped off authorities to her true age in order to increase her fame and eliminate her old films from the marketplace once she began her own production company. Lords, shown here in a 2008 photo, has pursued a career as a 'serious actress' since 1986. She has appeared in various films and TV sitcoms, usually typecast as 'the bad girl.'