August 12, 2001 11:00pm
Porn Stripped of Gossip Maven
Source: Wired News
by: Noah Shachtman
(LOS ANGELES, CA) -- The battle for the soul of Luke Ford is over. Ford - the Web-based gossip columnist universally reviled and universally read by the porn industry he covered - [allegedly] left the smut business behind last week.
But unlike so many retiring dot-commers, Ford's reasons for bowing have nothing to do with slumping ad revenues or fed-up investors.
Instead, Ford is calling it quits because of his religious beliefs.
Ford's triple-X connections had long been in simmering conflict with his involvement in Los Angeles' Orthodox Jewish community.
For years, the gossip lived "constantly on the knife's edge," knowing that he'd be tossed out of Young Israel of Century City, his strictly-observant synagogue -- where he studied Talmud every morning -- if the leadership found out about his website -- where he dished out equal portions of news and half-truths every night.
In late June, the tension reached its boiling point.
"I should've known something was wrong when I walked into shul (Yiddish for synagogue) this morning," Ford wrote. "I'd forgotten my yarmulke (skullcap) and had to scrounge around the children's toys cupboard to find one. It was painted with ghosts."
After prayers, Young Israel's Rabbi, Elazar Mushkin, informed his congregant that he had discovered the truth about Ford's "double life."
"You can imagine how humiliated we feel now," Mushkin told Ford. "I brought you into my own house for Passover and introduced you to my family."
Ford left Young Israel. Six weeks later, he had sold his trash-talking LukeFord.com site to online smut center Netvideogirls.com for $25,000 and began making plans to move to Jerusalem.
This wasn't the first time he'd been booted from a congregation. In December, 1997 -- months after constructing his site from the material gathered for his book, A History of X -- Ford's then-Rabbi asked him to end his adult industry involvement. When Ford failed to do so by April of 1998, he was told to get out.
This spiritual nadir came as his career began to peak. In the same month, Ford landed his biggest scoop: that veteran money-shooter Marc Wallace had HIV. The revelation injected him into the mainstream's consciousness and cemented his infamous reputation in the adult community.
Summing up the porn business' feelings about Ford, Mark Kernes, an editor at Adult Video News (AVN), the porn industry trade magazine, said "Luke Ford is a scumbag. And you can print that."
The abuse only seemed to encourage Ford to outrageous heights, with salacious stories about porn tarts turning tricks, movie moguls dealing with the mob, and down-on-their luck actresses doing it with dogs.
"I'll put up anything someone's willing to put their name on," Ford once boasted. "If someone tells me (AVN founder) Paul Fishbein sticks bananas up his anus in an on-the-record interview, I'll happily publish it."
Strangely enough, Ford -- the converted son of an Australian evangelist -- was also happy to couple this less-than-holy material with lengthy debates of Jewish law and melancholic, angst-filled ruminations on living in the conflicting realms of smut and Sinai.
In response to his free-wheeling posting policies, Ford was sued -- and threatened with lawsuits -- on several occasions.
And he was threatened with worse when he began questioning the financial stability of RJB Telecom, one of the most prominent porno pay site operators.
"Hey Luke if I ever see you in public...I hope you bring that BIG gun...your gonna [sic] need it," posted one angry reader.
But despite such hostility, Ford attracted enough of an income from adult advertisers -- around $45,000 annually -- to keep himself fed and the site afloat. And he got plenty of attention from adult industry insiders, with many of the people who trashed Ford in public perfectly happy to supply him dirt in private.
"A couple of years ago, I would have been jumping up and down for joy to see Luke Ford 'eliminated,'" writes well-known porn performer Asia Carrera. "Then I figured out how to use him to my advantage (having Luke around to disseminate scurrilous 'anonymous scoops' on one's enemies was almost TOO convenient!)"
It's this interest from blue-movie bigwigs that made LukeFord.com an attractive buy for Michael Keene, the Netvideogirls.com chieftain.
"We (made the purchase) to introduce ourselves to the players," he said. "Already from the people we've met, we have our money's worth."
Few in the adult community believe Ford will actually leave the industry behind.
"He'll be back. He can't stand to be away from this business," said AVN's Kernes.
So Ford has bet over $7,000 with skeptics, like online madam "Nici," that he'll still be out of porn by Oct. 1.
By then, Ford contends, he'll be ready to move to Jerusalem.
"I really think we're going to have a war (in Israel), and I want to be there to cover it," Ford said. He'll upload such material -- along with his religious musings -- to his new LukeFord.net site. "I never covered a war before. But I've certainly dealt with a lot of dangerous people."
He jokes, "I plan to do for the Middle East what I've done for the pornography industry."
Meanwhile, Netvideogirls.com's Keene says LukeFord.com will continue its rowdy ways.
"We're not going to be toned down. We're not going to check every story," he said. "We're going to be true to the character of Luke."