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Traci Lords: Underneath It All Hardcover – July 8, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Nora Kuzma was a troubled teenager from Steubenville, Ohio; Traci Lords was the underage skin mag/porn queen who became the centerpiece of the adult video industry's greatest scandal. In reality, they were one and the same, the subject of this slick, if thin autobiography. But what's striking here is not the familiar storyline--confused, sexually abused teen falls in with drugs and the wrong Southern California crowd, forges fake IDs to become Penthouse Pet of the Month at 16 and the '80s hottest adult star, then arrested as focus of the Reagan administration's crackdown on porn, only to become reborn as cleaned-up, psychoanalyzed/rehabed purveyor of legitimate film, TV, and music career. Rather, what's striking is Lords's capacity for denial, compartmentalization, and myopia when it serves her ends.

Her scandalous tenure in the skin trade--undeniably the sole basis for her infamy and subsequent legitimate career--is glossed over here in a few score pages, with more attention paid to the heavy-metal musicians that dotted her life than the motivations and machinations of the Feds who literally changed her life; Slash's snake gets more ink here than Attorney General Ed Meese. Quick to ladle generous sympathy on her own plight, she heaps little but scorn upon those from the seedy past of her porn-star alter-ego, yet seems to have had few qualms about formally adopting that moniker as her legal name. --Jerry McCulley

From Publishers Weekly

Mention the author of this notable memoir to a group of men and many will grin; mention her to a group of women and many will look blank. Both responses should change during the media frenzy over this book, because readers of both sexes will learn that the story of Lords, the most notorious graduate of the porn industry, is one deserving of compassion, admiration and attention. Lords is notorious because when she ruled porn, in the mid-1980s, she was under the age of 18. Born Nora Kuzma in 1968 in Ohio, she writes, she was raised in poverty and abused emotionally by an alcoholic father and raped at age 10 by a 16-year-old. By her early teens, Lords was hanging out with the wild crowd at school and was preyed upon by her mother's boyfriend, who arranged for her first modeling sessions, which led to her posing as a Penthouse centerfold at age 15 (she had false ID) and then to her meteoric career in porn, which crashed when the FBI stepped in and turned her into a poster child for sex abuse. Lords's career didn't end in 1986; she's gone on to star and costar in several films and TV shows, including John Waters's Cry Baby and Married with Children, and has enjoyed serious success as a singer. She has an amazing story to tell, and she tells it well here, without a coauthor, in prose that's bumpy at times, smooth at others, but always seemingly honest and courageous. Frank, opinionated, intelligent, drenched in emotion, this is the rare celebrity memoir that doubles as a cautionary tale, and will have readers cheering Lords on as they speed through its gritty, big-souled pages.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: It Books; 1 edition (July 8, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060508205
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060508203
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (134 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #219,049 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Brian Markowski on March 5, 2007
Format: Paperback
Traci Lords became famous or infamous, it depends how you see her situation, after she and the adult film industry were caught with their pants down. Which's isn't a bad thing in porn unless your under 18 which Traci was for most of her triple X career. So 20 years later it's not surprising that Ms. Lords revisits that dark time in her life.

The first half of the book is compelling. In it she details her young life in Ohio working class towns. It's probably no surprise that she had father issues. Her Dad was abusive and her Mom, making a series of bad decisions, dropped that deadbeat for an even sleazier deadbeat. Traci was also developing at an early age found that her sex not only brought unwanted attention, but often unwanted advances. A move to California and the drug culture combined to make the perfect storm for young Traci. By 15 she was posing as a model and by 17 she was an established porn star. After a late night FBI raid Traci and the adult industry was busted. Traci would leave the triple X fare behind and strike out as a "legitimate" actress with moderate success.

This is where the rest of the book, which chronicles her mainstream career, falters. It reads more like a resume then an autobiography. No real insights are offered after her porn career and to be honest few insights are shared before and during her porn career. Because Lords avoids many details and offers little insight into her self, we're left with a pretty non-descript depiction of her life. The first half of the books works better because the story is so compelling, but Traci makes few attempts to look inside herself and the result is stunting.

The book is also very non-sexual. This is neither good nor bad, but those looking for an erotic read will be disappointed.
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72 of 87 people found the following review helpful By Paul Hickey on August 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Imagination is more important than intelligence," as Albert Einstein used to say and Traci Lords has now proved in her new autobiography "Underneath It All."
Not that Ms. Lords is dumb. Far from it. Throughout her book she displays a keen mind to match her accomplishments as the only former adult movie actress ever to achieve mainstream success. Although this does not mean much in global terms of important world news, her life story is interesting enough in its own right, and in its own way even has a moral of redemption.
Born Nora Kuzma in Steubenville, Ohio, in 1968, Ms. Lords' childhood was marred by a traumatic rape that occurred when she was only 10 years old. After her mother moved the family to California, the young Miss Kuzma found herself a stranger in a strange land just when she most needed guidance. Instead, left largely neglected, with little parental supervision for long periods of time, she became a heavy drug abuser in high school. Then her mother's ex-boyfriend introduced her to nude modeling and got her started performing in XXX-rated movies when she was just 15.
This is the most delicate and difficult part of "Underneath It All." On the one hand, Ms. Lords must answer legitimate questions about her role in what was the biggest porn scandal of the 1980s. On the other hand, there is a fine line between addressing those questions and describing details of her erotic exploits that appeal more to the reader's prurient interests than to advance her main story.
Generally speaking, Ms. Lords does an admirable job in covering this ground with grace and honesty. For legal reasons, she does not provide the real name of the producer who hired her as an underage actress (but the pseudonym she uses identifies him for anyone remotely familiar with the case).
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40 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh VINE VOICE on October 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I so much wanted to like this book better than I did. Clearly, Ms. Lords has led a tragic life of neglect and abuse and, more importantly, has managed to triumph over it. She seems to have reached a place in her life and career where happiness is coming to her. And she deserves it. And I wanted to cheer for her.
The problem is, her writing is just not very good. At times overwrought and flowery and at others vague to the point where I wasn't sure what was happening, her prose just wasn't equal to her own story. Her writing didn't allow me to feel the things I wanted to feel--I couldn't share her rage at the people who had done her wrong or her joys at her successes. At times, I couldn't even feel sympathy for her or interest in what was happening.
Normally, I believe strongly in people telling their own story. In this case, however, Ms. Lords might have been better served by a ghostwriter. She at least deserved a better editor who could have helped her control some of her poorer tendencies as a writer. The book does improve as it goes on but I'm afraid most people won't make it that far. That's too bad because there is a life here worth reading about.
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38 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you are looking for a sexually graphic depiction of Traci's life or sexually graphic details of the porn industry this book is not for you. While Traci inadvertantly propelled the porn industry into mainstream bringing the industry a financial windfall, she did not prosper. A product of rape and child molestation Traci Lords finds herself in an adult world of porn, sex, drugs, and manipulation. While this heartbreaking book goes into great detail about this aspect of her life, it is only the beginning. She is able to excape the porn industry and drugs and eventually marries and becomes a successful TV actress, movie actress, singer, model and now author. While the porn industry has no love for her and many porn fans only have lust for her, I think anyone who reads this book will get to know a very intimate side of this person and see a great strength in someone who has been able to over come a great adversity when the odds were against her. As I read this book, I found myself drawn into her world and was left wanting to reach in and pull this poor girl from an awful fate. Fortunately she was able to do this for herself but only after just about everyone she came into contact with her, used her and tossed her aside. Today she is a child advocate and works to save those like herself. This is a great book and would recommend this to anyone.
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