Interview with Arnold M. Herr, author of Skinflick: A Deep Dive into the World of 3-D Sex Films
1. I suppose the first question lobbed at me about Skinflick: a Deep Dive into the World of 3-D Sex Films is “what’s up with the turtle?” Although broadly speaking, he is a turtle, technically speaking, he’s a desert tortoise, belonging to the order Testudines. When I was illustrating the book, he looked through my manuscript and complained about the absence of creatures other than mammals in the book. He told me he should appear as someone who was present on the various sets I worked on back in the 1970s even though I don’t remember him being there. Had he been there he claimed, he would have worked for very little money if only to build up his resume and snarf down sandwiches with the crew. As it turned out, he proved he could earn his keep. At first we had him sweeping the floor, washing and then torching the skuzzy sheets and providing towels to the on-camera talent when the sex scenes were completed. Later, he learned to record sound, take light readings and follow focus, helping the camera operator. He even directed a scene in The Playmates in DeepVision 3-D, but didn’t receive screen credit for it. That angered him enough to seek work elsewhere for a period of time. Rumor had it that he worked as a bouncer for a couple of Hollywood nightclubs and on occasion, as arm candy for lonely, wealthy widows. He calls himself Hammertone, but I think that’s only a professional name. He’s the one asking the impertinent questions that follow.
2. What was the motivating force behind writing this book? Oh, that’s easy; I was looking for something to supplement my Social Security checks. Sometimes my side hustle of selling old books slows to a crawl and I have to look elsewhere for additional income. Writing this book seemed to make sense. Can you wait for another year or so for a more definitive answer?
3. How factual are the stories in the book? Are they true or are they made-up? They’re true up to a point. Bear in mind the events in it occurred from forty-five to fifty-five years ago, and my memory is not infallible. Happily, I had three shoeboxes filled with scraps of paper containing hastily scribbled notes from the late 1960s to the early 1980s offering details of many of the occurrences; they proved to be very helpful. The names of the actors and actress and various ancillary people are as accurate as my notes and memory were able to provide. None were changed to protect the innocent. None of us after all, was innocent.
4. I’m often asked why we chose to film in 3-D given how troublesome the process could be. It was a business decision; making sexy movies in three dimensions seemed an innovative, unique and profitable path to success. While large-scale profitability turned out to be elusive, each of the movies we did enabled us to go on and make another.
5. If you’re curious to know if I had been able to support myself solely by making movies, I have to say, not entirely. Most of the time I worked in the used-book trade, riding herd over tens of thousands of old volumes. It was a very indulgent way of earning a livelihood, especially if you’re a bit of a scavenger as I was and still am.
6. Tell us about your relations with the girls you filmed. Did you “bonk” any of them? Now wait a minute; don’t you think a question like that is kinda rude? The only proper response to that is “no comment.”
7. What about your background? I grew up on the East Coast – New York City and assorted towns in New Jersey – and after graduating from high school, worked as a cutter in the garment industry for about a year and a half. I enlisted in the U. S. Navy and served for four years as a journalist aboard two aircraft carriers and also at the Pearl Harbor Naval Base on Oahu. After my discharge I returned to New York and worked at a few low-paying jobs and found myself longing for California and its milder climate. I drove cross-country, returning to L. A. in a beat-up ’59 Lincoln Premiere in May 1967, and after arriving, quickly found work running an offset printing press for a government agency. During that time I attended classes at Los Angeles City College and later, a couple of semesters at Cal State University, also in L. A. After leaving my classes, I found work buying and selling used books and at about the same time picked up odd jobs working behind the camera in the skinflick business. After the early 1980s, film work dwindled for me and I focused more and more on my work in the field of antiquarian books. To this day, I still wrangle musty old tomes.
8. Have you any advice for someone intending to write his or her memoirs? Yes, keep lots of notes and write them in a legible hand. I can’t say enough about good penmanship and old shoeboxes.
9. You’re an old guy - you have a full head of white hair and a bushy beard; you wear Hawaiian shirts and shorts with old sneakers. What are you trying to prove? The beard should be a tip-off: I’m not just a pile of dirty laundry.
10. Did any enduring, illuminating truth make itself apparent to you while writing this book? Yeah, avoid the Oxford comma at all costs.