January 24, 2000 08:59am
AINews Exclusive: An InnerView of Danni Ashe
Source: Adult Industry News
by: Company Press Release
at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas I was talking with Bill Margold
at the Free Speech Coalition booth. I happened to mention I was off to do an interview
and Bill said, "Why don't you interview Danni Ashe? She INVENTED the Internet
and she's right next door!"
Danni was signing in the next booth with
Anna Malle and Christi Lake. I spoke with her briefly and arranged to meet back
in L.A. when the convention was over.
Monday January 24, 2000:
I found myself in a beautiful lobby on the second floor of a building in Culver
City, CA. The elegant décor and the professional atmosphere were impressive.
I was greeted by Danni's assistant Janice who said Danni was in a meeting and
would be right with me.
In a few minutes Danni came out and gave me a tour of her facility. In spite
of her being dressed casually and wearing no makeup, she was petite, voluptuous
and strikingly beautiful! I also found her to be articulate with obvious business
She took me through the office area, the studios where the live feeds are
shot, told me about the [then] upcoming Boob Bowl [related
story linked here] and other ventures, ending the tour in a conference room with pictures,
articles and framed memorabilia on the walls. When Danni went out to get us
something to drink I had a chance to look around and found there were articles
about her from the Wall Street Journal, magazine covers, and artwork around
AINews: That is cool. [Pointing to a framed manual.] You have an HTML
manual autographed and framed.
Danni: Yes! I mentioned
it in a couple of interviews and the author of the book apparently started
getting calls from people saying Danni's talking about you're book, so
he wrote to me and said how excited he was to hear [I was using it] and
sent me an autographed copy.
AINews: That's fantastic!
Danni: Yes, he was
very nice about it.
AINews: How did you
get the idea for "Danni's Hard Drive"?
Danni: It sort of
came about when I got onto the Internet in early 1995. I had several bad
experiences as a feature dancer and it was time to make a change. I was
planning on taking a computer programming class at the Computer Learning
Center, and fortunately for me I had some time to kill. I kept hearing
about the about the Internet and I didn't understand what it was. I had
some time to kill it so I went out and bought software and some books,
and got online with Netcom Net Cruiser. I had also been hearing my pictures
were all over the newsgroups, so I wanted to check that out as well.
When I got online
I straight away went to the newsgroups because at the time in early '95
the newsgroups were a dynamic place to be. It just made sense. I really
got sucked in talking to people and interacting with people on alt.sex.breast
and alt.sex.movies. And I remember the first time clicked on that little
icon to go to the Web the link didn't go anywhere. My modem was just too
slow so it really didn't work. So to me the Internet really was Usenet.
The Web really didn't compute at that time.
It wasn't until I
had been on Usenet for a few months that people started saying, "Gee
Danni, you should have a Web Site! It would be really cool if you had
a website" and I'm going "Nah", You know? "The Web
doesn't work and I don't like it." Then one day my husband came home
and installed a faster modem and loaded up his company's new website and
said, "Come over here, you've got to look at this." All of a
sudden I saw how worked, what hypertext really meant, and the proverbial
light bulb goes off and I said, "Oh my God! I've gotta have one of
these!" It was instant! I could see the structure in my mind. I knew
exactly what my website was gonna be and what it would mean and didn't
know how I was gonna do it but I knew what I wanted.
AINews: Wow! You saw
that all at once?
Danni: Yes, it was,
"Wow!" All of a sudden it all really made sense and I thought
I know what I can do with this! So I hired the programmers that had built
my husband's company's website. I remember telling them, "Listen,
if you do the programming I'll put together all the content and everything,
and we will do a 50-50 [split]" and they looked at me and they went,
"You know we'd rather be paid." (Laughs!) I know they're kicking
themselves for that now! But they charged me $900 to build the website.
So I paid the $900 and after a few weeks I realized I really wasn't
getting what I wanted.
AINews: What year
Danni: This was still
early '95, the spring of 95. I had such a clear vision in my head of how
it was supposed to flow and how it was supposed to work. Where the links
should be and the structure was just 3-D floating around my head! I knew
what it had to be and I couldn't communicate it to these programmers.
So I fired them and I hired another guy. He was a little bit better, but
it still just wasn't getting where I wanted to go. In the meantime I'm
still on the Usenet just talking to people like crazy building this huge
network of friends online and they're saying, "Danni you can do it!
So I was about to
go on vacation in the Bahamas and I thought, "Well, I'll just do
this myself, I'm fed up!" So I bought the "HTML Manual of Style"
to learn form and function, and I bought [Nicholas] Negroponte's "Being
Digital" for inspiration. I went to the Bahamas and read the books
and when I got back I finished the site in a couple of weeks and that's
when it was launched. Actually I did all the programming myself for the
first year. I didn't hire a Webmaster until July of '96.
AINews: Is that when
it got too busy for you?
Danni: Yes, in the
beginning I literally did everything. I did the Web design and graphics.
They were terrible but I did them. I built all my own accounting systems,
I built my own databases, and I literally had my fingers on everything.
And as the business started to grow and I just couldn't keep a handle
on all that, I just had to start learning how to delegate, which was the
hardest thing that I ever had to do because I'm a real control freak.
I like to know where all the pieces are and to give up something and trust
in someone to do it right was really, really hard.
AINews: What did you
write your databases in?
Danni: Q&A. It's
a really easy database program.
AINews: I read somewhere
that you were arrested while you were on the road [touring].
Danni: I was arrested
in Jacksonville FL. That was the real catalyst. That's when I knew that
road dancing was not my future. I had a lot of bad experience on the road
in my brief time out, but Jacksonville was the worst. When I took the
booking I was on the phone with the owner and he said, "Here's what
I want you to do. I want you to wear bikinis under your costumes and I
want you to fall out of your bikini but you've got to keep the bikini
on, but we want you to fall out of it."
I'm thinking, "Okay,
I got all these elaborate costumes. How am I gonna do this?" So I
spend days to try and find bikinis that will work underneath all of these
elaborate costumes. Couldn't find anything. So I got to the club and I
said to the manager, "Look, you guys have a choice. I can either
wear my costumes like I normally do and strip down to a G-string and top,
and fall out of those, or I can go out in a bikini, what do you want?"
and he said, "What?" Then he said "Just go nude, don't
worry about it. Just go do your show like you always do them."
AINews: This was not
a nude club, though.
Danni: No. I was naive
and trusting in what these guys were telling me. He said just go nude!
So on one hand I had been told I need to wear a bikini but I can fall
out of it, and the other guy was saying that it was okay to go nude. So in
retrospect large bells should have been going off in my head and I should
have been concerned, but I wasn't. And another thing, I brought this softcore
striptease video of myself and I said, "Can I sell these?" And
he said, "Oh, yeah! Our guys LOVE videos! You'll sell all of them!"
And he was right; I sold all of them. All my videos were gone within two
I was doing really
well selling a lot of Polaroid's and having a great week. A lot of fans
were coming in from Georgia and other places, and on the last night I'm
on my third show or something. All of a sudden this guy jumps up and takes
a picture of me. I had just taken my top off. Actually I wasn't going
nude, I was going topless, I remember, because I was a little nervous
about what they were doing, you know? I wasn't sure. So I was only going
I took my top off,
this guy takes a picture of me, and I'm all, "Gosh, why didn't he
wait until after my show? Why did he do that?" All of a sudden all
the lights go on, and the same guy stands up and with his camera and it's
like, "Click! Click! Click! Click! Click!" He takes all these
pictures! And I'm standing there with my top off on-stage and there's
13 police officers from three different jurisdictions and they all have
cameras in their hats and had been staking out the place for days. And
the first thing the arresting officer said was, "Are you aware of
the fact that your videos are illegal in this county?" And I thought,
"Oh my God!"
So I got arrested
for selling "bad" videos. And these were striptease tapes, they
were really softcore stuff, and for baring my breasts in public, and
my ass - you're supposed to wear full bottoms - supposed to have your
entire ass covered, nobody told me that.
AINews: So the club
owner lied to you?
Danni: Yes, the club
owner lied to me. So I went to jail and I spent the night in jail. No
one ever made any attempt to bail me out. Not the club owner, not my agent,
my husband was in L. A. and desperately trying to get to Jacksonville
so that he could bail me out. And it was just this horrible, horrible
situation! And they actually took my clothes and made me put this little
prison jumper on and I had to fight really hard to keep my bra! They wanted
to take my bra because it had an under wire and I could use it as a weapon.
I said, "I'm not a violent person and I need my bra! I'll be so uncomfortable
without my bra!" They did have mercy and let me keep my bra.
So I spent the night
in jail, and in jail the world changes. In jail all of a sudden you're
not a person anymore, you have no rights, they keep moving you deeper
and deeper in, and you start thinking, "I'm never gonna get out!"
and you think, "Why am I here?" So by the time they put me in
front of the judge I was ready to plead guilty to anything just to get
out. So I plead guilty to prohibited conduct, time served and a $50 fine,
and I was released. So at five o'clock the next day I'm waiting for my
property to get my clothes back and someone had stolen my clothes.
AINews: Someone STOLE
Danni: All the guards
were asking me to sign magazines, they all knew who I was, so one of them
stole my clothes. And so I had to leave the jail in borrowed clothes.
Ratty stuff that they had lying around that hadn't been claimed and then
that's when I lost it! I had a complete breakdown! I had been through
the most humiliating experience of my life and I was in BORROWED CLOTHES.
No one from the club came to pick me when I was released from jail and
I had to find my way back to get my car, and get back to the hotel, to
pack up my stuff.
Then I go back to
the club and asked to see the owner so I could get paid to get out of
town. They made me wait there for an hour and the club owner finally
came in and he looked at me and said, "Well, we both lost money last
night! So I'm not going to be able to pay you for the shows that you missed
while you were in jail." And I remember just being so disoriented
after being up all night, and being through this whole experience, so
I said, Well, will you please call my agent because I just don't know
how to deal with this." So he calls up the agent and the agent says,
"Oh, okay that's fine." I remember asking her a couple months
later, "Why did you DO that to me? Why didn't anyone ever stand up
for me during this whole thing?" And she said, "Oh, honey we
just wanted to get you out of there."
It was after that
I realized I care too much for myself to be treated that way. I'm not
about the keep throwing myself out into these situations. I'm not going
to be a road dancer. I talk to so many girls who've been dancing on the
road for years they'd say, Oh yeah; you just gotta get tougher! They'll
fuck with you wherever they can." "You just have to get tougher",
and I thought I don't WANT to be tougher! I'm not a tough girl! That's
not what I'm about...
AINews: Did your husband
make it in time?
Danni: Actually I
was able to get out of jail before he was able to get there.
AINews: What was the
most difficult thing about building this business?
Danni: Learning how
to be an employer. I've been a dancer and a men's magazine model my whole
adult life and been self-employed my whole life. I had never been an employee,
let alone an employer. I had nothing to draw on about how you motivate
your employees, how to keep them happy, how you get the most out of an
employee, so I think I made a lot of mistakes with some of the early people
that I hired. That's always been the toughest part. Also because I have
a powerful vision about what it is that I want. It's not easy to instill
that vision into someone else in a positive productive way. I'm getting
better at it, but that was the hardest thing.
AINews: How do girls
go about featuring on your site for photo shoots and the live cam stuff?
Danni: A number of
different ways. In the beginning it was all just my friends. Girls I knew
in the business. I said, "I'll put you up on my Web Site and you'll
get a lot more guys coming to your shows, you'll get a lot more people
writings to your fan club, and it was TRUE! I had girls calling me up who
were saying, "You wouldn't believe it! I had some guys fly in 800
miles to see my show tonight because they saw me on your Web Site! So it
was a real positive experience for them, and was good for me to add more
depth to the Web Site. So I kept adding girls that I knew. And then as
I started buying more content and getting more photographs, if I found
a set of photographs I really, really liked but I didn't have a model
page on the model I tried to contact the model and try to build a page
for her. And then in more recent years a lot of then come to us. We have
people come to us all the time who want to be on the Site.
AINews: Do they call
you or e-mail...
Danni: Yes, they contact
us and we generally direct them to our talent coordinator. [email@example.com
- Johnathan Austin, DHD Talent Coordinator, handles all talent.] And really
I'm pretty willing to have any model on the Site as long as she can lead
us in the right direction with the content. Either she can provide us
with photos or buy photos somewhere or if she's willing to come in and
do some work for us.
Are you still doing magazine work?
Danni: I haven't shot
any magazine layouts since September of 98.
AINews: I remember
when that October 92 Juggs came out. [Pointing to a framed magazine cover
on the wall.]
Danni: The Juggs?
Oh, my God! You remember that? Holy cow! Is that the ugliest picture you've
ever seen in your life?
AINews: (Pause) No...
Danni: I keep that
there just because... I don't know. I liked it the back then. It's just
such a hideous picture.
AINews: And that other
magazine up there is that "Shift"? [Pointing at a magazine where
she has long straight hair on the cover] Your hair there, that is dynamite!
Danni: Thank you.
AINews: But yeah,
I remember that Juggs.
Danni: That was a
very bad wig.
AINews: It was a WIG?!
I just thought it was a hairstyle.
Danni: No, I just
had really short hair and nobody liked it.
AINews: Well, I remember,
in '94 you started growing your hair longer.
Danni: Yeah, in '93
or '94, I can't remember. But I wasn't getting any work and the work that
I WAS getting was getting pigeonholed as either a big bust model or an
older woman and I was 24 at the time. It was just the hair that made everyone
think that I was old! So to save my ego I started to grow my hair out.
AINews: Do you have
other ventures that you're working on?
Danni: I think this
business has grown in such a way that it affords a lot of opportunity,
and so there are a lot of different directions that I can go in. We're
always trying to figure out which is the best way to go, and were very,
very focused on video production and getting ready for convergence. I
see that as the future of the Internet. The day that your television and
the Internet become the same thing. There will really be only one source
of entertainment. The Internet will become video and television will become
So we're really focused
on video production, which is why we built that studio over there. And
there's also a great deal of technology that we've developed just to serve
this business. It's now clear that the technology is so good that we can
sell the technology as a service, like our credit card processing and
AINews: So these are
packages that you've developed?
Danni: Well, again
my control freak tendency is to always want to control something and build
it the way I want rather than accept someone else's technology, someone
else's limitations. So whenever I have the opportunity I will always develop
it myself. The credit card technology is definitely one where we talk
to company after company after company, and we all have to control our
data. And there was some question as to whether we GET our data if we
stop doing business with them, and that was unacceptable to me. I didn't
want a stranger having my customer's credit card numbers. So that was
one thing that I just couldn't give to anyone else.
AINews: Do you get
a lot of charge backs?
Danni: No, our charge
back ratio is very, very low. We have developed some really very high-tech
and low-tech solutions that have helped us keep fraud under control.
We have a 24-hour support staff here and a lot of very elaborate systems
to screen things for fraud. And then we have people that manually look
through the data every half-hour and they'll void anything that looks
suspect. So right now when a lot of people are losing their merchant accounts,
and don't know where to go we're in great shape.
AINews: And do you
sell this service like a package?
Danni: Well we're
looking into selling it as a package. There are few people we do offer the
service to. Friends of ours. But we haven't actually come out and offered it
as a service.
AINews: Are you politically
Danni: I'm not politically
active, I like to consider myself socially active. I think that I try very
hard to encourage the women who come through here to control their names
and build their own businesses, to use the industry as a stepping stone.
It's a great industry that you can learn a lot from, but getting stuck
anywhere is not a good thing. Just getting the girls to learn that, "This
is where I am now," and, "I'm going to use this experience to
grow and move up and advance myself" is a message I think a lot of
the girls need to hear.
AINews: Didn't you
help put on something for charity a few years ago?
Danni: Yes, we did
a benefit for "Children of the Night". I'm a big believer in
Lois Lee's organization. I think she's doing really cool work and I want
to support it, and fortunately she's open minded enough to not be afraid
to take charity from an adult company.
AINews: Yes, a lot
of people are afraid of that, I was surprised to find out.
Danni: She took a
lot of flack for it.
AINews: What advice
do you have for new talent as far as a career direction?
Danni: I think it's
always important to stay true to your own vision and stay within your
own comfort levels. We all have our own boundaries of places where
we feel comfortable, and when we perform within those boundaries we feel
sexy and we're having a good time. The minute someone starts pushing you
a little further than you want to go it all of a sudden is not fun and
sexy anymore. And with me that line is hard-core penetration. With other
girls it might be anal or whatever. We all have different boundaries.
I think respecting your own boundaries whatever they may be. Don't let
someone talk you into something you're uncomfortable with.
AINews: You shouldn't
have to do something you don't want to do.
Danni: Yeah! Because
if you're not going to have fun, then what's the point? There's just no
point in it. And that's the only way you can maintain respect for yourself,
and have a positive growing experience. If you start to do things you
don't respect yourself for then you're going to get stuck!
AINews: What do you enjoy
most about what you're doing now?
Danni: Probably the
fact that I have so much freedom to build and to create and do things
that I wanted to do. And that in some ways I can be a role model for other
women in the industry and hopefully be a positive influence on women.
AINews: There are
quite a few more women entrepreneurs now.
Danni: Yeah! Hey,
when I started my Web Site I was the first one and now every model out
there has her own Web Site, and there are many, many of them that are
making a really healthy living. Which means if they don't like dancing
on the road they don't have to do it anymore.
AINews: That's great!
And how has this business change you?
I think it's definitely made me a lot more patient. I have learned to
be patient and a lot more structured. I get up at the same time every
day, I have a certain time that I come into the office, I have a much
more structured life.
AINews: Do you enjoy
Danni: Yes, I think
it keeps me more level, more on an even keel, sure.
AINews: That's the
meaning of life, to be happy, right?
Danni: YEAH! (Laughs!)
What else is there?!
Not much else! Not much else that's important, anyway.
AINews: This has been
great! Thank you so much for your time and the interview Danni, and thank
you for showing me around.
Danni: You're welcome.