’It’s been a controversial move, but ultimately I think the right one. We looked at the success of shows like Girls gone Wild, Family Business, and Girls of Playboy Mansion, and thought, you know, why not?’
Adult film sets are often bleak places, populated by coked out former state beauty queens, with stretch marks and loan repayments. Not so here. The cast of ’Special Stephanie’ are all smiles, goofing off between takes. ’Suzie Suze’, another emerging star, runs by me giggling, her mouth caked with peanut butter and crusty jam. She’s chased by a boom operator wielding a Super Soaker. There’s a real family atmosphere on set. I ask Pim Champagne, CEO of ShortBus Video, and the genius behind the award winning series ’Young, Dumb, and Full of Plum’, about this difference.
’You know, that’s one of the benefits of the frankly very special cast we have here. Everybody’s just up for having fun, learning what works and what doesn’t, and just exploring their bodies. These guys are great, no hangups and no prima donnas.
Indeed not, it’s telling that many of ShortBus’s movies, films like ’Gifted Gulpers’ and ’Special Poleympics’, are graphic, even by the lenient standards of contemporary adult entertainment. However, the extreme nature of their content hasn’t stopped the company from picking up a host of AVN’s, from ’Best Newcumer’ to ’Classiest Anal’, at this years Adult Video Awards.
I ask ’Gwennie’, one of ShortBus’s most popular actresses, how success has changed things for her.
’Pimmy’s nice’, she tells me, unselfconsciously bunching up her school skirt to reveal the assets which have sold a thousand online downloads.
’He gives me sweets, and dresses, and he takes my picture’.
The path to adult impresario was an unusual one for Champagne, who started his career as a special needs educator in cash strapped Cook County, Illinois.
’It just seemed a natural fit’, he told me, between takes of Gwennie’s latest DP scene, a Western themed roll in the hay with co-stars ’Chud’ and ’Bubbie’.
’The school was short of funds, and the kids were just these natural performers. Even from the first, they loved the camera.’
Champagne is honest about his own motivations in launching the company.
’Hey, I mean, I’m my own biggest fan. When we started it was just a great way to get the kids to focus in class. Most of these lovable goofs couldn’t keep their hands out of the till, if you know what I mean. So I figured you know, why not use it?’
Unorthodox pedagogic strategies aside Champagne, who with his dapper top hat and handle bar mustache resembles nothing more than a real life Snidely Whiplash, is traditional when it comes to his management techniques.
’I’m pretty strict with the kids’, he tells me.
’I keep a collection of biscuits on hand at all times. They’re rigidly rationed. It’s old fashioned, but it works’.
I stay on set a while longer, as the crew, wholly staffed by the less photogenic members of St Bewildered’s student body, prepare a kiddie pool full of jellybeans for a bukake scene featuring ’Lil Doozy’. As I watch, I can’t help asking myself if, despite the performers obvious pleasure, ShortBus’s critics might not have a point. Is the company exploiting it’s young performers? Champagne is dismissive.
’Look around you. These kids, they’re in the sun day in day out, getting lots of exercise. They’re making money and they’re having fun. It’s basically just good clean family entertainment. Anyone who thinks otherwise, well..’, Champagne cracks a wry smile.
’They’re just fucking retards’.