Known for playing Sarah Palin in a Hustler parody, Ann retired in 2014 and now hosts a radio show sharing her expertise on a surging industry
In the brightly lit, hyper-modern lobby of the Ritz-Carlton hotel in downtown Los Angeles, adult film star Lisa Ann and I try to order coffee while avoiding the curious gaze of customers bound to recognise one of the most famous porn actors in the world.
On the day of our interview, Ann is late. She has been stuck in traffic, but greets me with a striking cheery demeanor. Her 5ft2in frame and athletic build are covered up by a leather jacket and a turtleneck. She could easily be mistaken for a real estate agent or a high-end jewellery salesperson. When I turn around to pour cream in my coffee, I lose track of her. When I finally pick her out of the crowd, a middle-aged black man has shuffled over to introduce himself to her. She offers him a brief, cordial encounter and a handshake.
Does that happen a lot? I ask. More often than youd think, she replies. No matter what she does to keep from getting recognized, she says, black men tend to be able to spot her in a crowd the best, even when inconspicuously dressed. Brothers appreciate what I do for them, she says, referring to her campaign to destigmatize interracial porn films.
Ann rose to prominence through her role as former Alaska governor Sarah Palin in the Hustler porn parody titled Whos Nailin Paylin?. The film, released on election day in 2008, features Ann having sex with parody versions of Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice and Bill OReilly. The film turned her into a pop culture phenomenon that just wont quit: although she retired in 2014, she remains the most popular adult performer on PornHub, the porn equivalent of YouTube.
These days, however, her free time is entirely devoted to her new career: fantasy football expert.
Her transition from sex to sports is detailed in her new memoir, The Life, which describes her journey from a complicated childhood as Lisa Ann Corpora in Easton, Pennsylvania, to her status as an object of desire and her current career as a fantasy football guru.
Fantasy football, a game in which fans draft players to populate imaginary teams and compete against family, friends and complete strangers in a variety of statistical categories, has claimed the free time and brainpower of millions of people around the country. It is big business, with both pro leagues and media companies investing serious dollars in gaming platforms and mobile apps. In 2013, Forbes estimated that fantasy sports generated up to $70bn worth of activity; earlier this month, ESPN reported that fantasy sports companies FanDuel and DraftKings earned a hotly contested $3bn in profit from players invested in daily contests to win cash prizes.
With so much money being thrown around, its only a matter of time before fantasy football becomes highly regulated but for now, it remains a lawless frontier which Ann hopes to conquer.
As the host of the Lisa Ann Does Fantasy biweekly show on Sirius XM Satellite Radio, she explains player values and statistical quirks while offering tips to average fans who may not have the time to spend their day researching Tom Bradys all-time road record against the Broncos. She does it with humor and an approachable girl-next-door vibe.
She focuses on football and basketball but is slowly getting involved with fantasy baseball, which predates all other fantasy sports genres and is usually considered the most tedious and esoteric of the fantasy disciplines. People that play fantasy baseball are serious. They were doing this before fax machines. There was a commissioner who was doing it by hand. They wrote down your stats and mailed them to you, she says.
That sort of commitment might come off as excessive to Ann, but that doesnt mean shes not a dedicated connoisseur: she says she has blown off dates because of her intense need to keep up with the weekly slate of football games in a quiet, immersive environment. The guests she favors trend toward stats nerds and hardcore sports enthusiasts like Zack Hample, the man who caught New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguezs 3,000th hit. Ill ask [Hample], Help me set this lineup. And hell say, In this park, with that weather, and the density of the ball … its all the way down to knowing they keep the balls in a humidor in Colorado.
In many ways, Lisa Ann personifies the perfect guys girl trope so common in American culture. Shes beautiful, loves sports, and isnt ashamed to have a great sex life. It is an image she has cultivated over the years, but theres no doubt that her passion is rooted in a genuine love for athletics. In my living room, I have a Michael Jordan jersey mounted over my fireplace, she tells me. She also flaunts her sizeable knowledge of the game through prognostication: just last week, she picked the winners of the two most recent NFL playoff games correctly, despite neither game feeling like a sure thing before kickoff.
Ann also carries the torch for the burgeoning female market for fantasy sports. In late 2014, the New York Times reported that 20% of fantasy sports players were women, and dispelling the misconception that sports are a particularly masculine pursuit is one of Anns many projects. She tells me about how she first fell in love with basketball as a kid growing up in her small town:
My mom was a basketball mom at Lafayette College in Easton. She would bring us to every home game. All the moms would cook so the away teams would have a hot meal. This is something that colleges used to do. It was such an activity for us. We got to be at the arena before anything started. We got to watch shootaround. We got to know everybody really well. Wed eat with them after the game. It became our fiber. Sundays, we saw my dad and we watched football every day. But theres just something when you hear the sneakers squeaking in basketball. Theres something so electric about it.
Athletics also served as a security blanket during her years in the porn industry. I feel like sports kept me out of drugs. Out of drinking on the road. And it also gave me a comfortable something to talk about with men when I was travelling. I would find out what the local teams were doing. People are so impressed when you come to their city and learn something about it. It would deter the conversation moving to can I have sex with you when they realize this girl wants to talk about sports.
These days, Anns hobbies belie a certain Martha Stewart quality thats become more apparent since her retirement. Every morning, shortly after waking up, she adds notes to her gratitude book a diary filled with aphorisms and positive energy. She also spins a tale of herself as something of a clean living, modest person: she tells me she doesnt drink in public, spends most of her time watching television or cooking for friends, and saves her money like an elderly pensioner.
Shes eager to share her tips for good living with all manner of other people, be it athletes or fans. In 2014, she reached out to an Oklahoma State University football fan named Matt McGann who gained a modicum of internet infamy for a sign that appeared in the background of an episode of ESPNs College Gameday that read: Baylors [defense] has more holes to fill than Lisa Ann.
Despite the crudeness of the sign, Ann made a concerted effort to become friends with McGann, and now considers him something of a brother. He was like, Im floored that you want to be a part of my life and meet my friends. [Now] hell come to me with something and ask How should I take this, how should I feel about this, what should I do? Whether its a date, whether its a girl, whether its an issue at school. Im just older and have more experiences, so maybe I can make you be calmer about it.
Ann also fancies herself a confidante and mentor for athletes. She has no children and has no plans to have them in the future, and see athletes as her kids and chastises them as such. She mentions Indiana Pacers basketball player Paul George as someone she counselled after he lost most of last year to a gruesome broken leg suffered during an offseason scrimmage.
Its a trust thing. Its a kinship. Its a reminder to them: I know when youre out in New York City its a playground for you, but when you go out on the road, you need to catch up on sleep. You looked slackish in that game last night. Ive been doing this since the early 1990s. I tell some of these athletes: Ive been doing this since before you were born, she says.
That Ann would transition between two industries which value remarkable physicality is perhaps no coincidence. After all, both athletes and porn stars can do things that most of us consider to be superhuman: for most men, dunking a basketball and keeping an erection for over an hour are equally flabbergasting and unattainable.
Her recognition of the athletes plight is another element that draws her to sports. When [an athlete is] injured, it breaks my heart when I turn on the TV and they ask, Oh, is his career over? Can you imagine being that player and every time you turn on the TV, people are selling out your demise?
Ann is one of the few performers to have worked at the highest level of the porn business well into her 40s. By her own admission, she wasnt particularly popular in the 1990s, but her breakthrough role and the increased interest in so-called Milf porn created new avenues for her to make money in, which gave her enough financial security to retire.
That trajectory isnt the norm for female performers. Unlike their male counterparts, women cycle out much faster, and Ann paints a dark picture of the average performers post-industry life. She blames drugs and the pressures of extreme porn for the struggles performers face after retirement.
There were times on set with people where I was like, This is not a good situation. This is not safe. This girl is out of her mind and were not sure what shes going to say when she leaves here. Everyones a ticking time bomb, and a lot of it is linked to the drugs. A lot of this new pain comes from these new girls who have to do these abusive scenes, because that does break you down as a woman. (The abusive scenes she refers to are scenarios that simulate violence against the female performer a bleak world captured in Rashida Joness controversial documentary Hot Girls Wanted.)
Shes also spoken out numerous times about the lack of work for black actors, and the peculiar way in which black performers are treated in the business. Interracial sex is like anal sex, group sex or BDSM something for which women can be paid extra for a scene. By implying that plain old sex with a black man is somehow equally as exotic as attaching a car battery to your privates, the practice also borders on racism. Porn films with exclusively black casts are considered fetish material, and have their own category on aggregator sites.
Not stopping here, Ann also wants to help transform the porn industry by giving performers the same protections enjoyed by her wealthy friends in professional sports: pensions, health insurance, and career guidance.
She sees herself as a porno Yoda figure, in spite of some of her former peers who find her too preachy. My ultimate goal is to be a very good hall monitor. Im the hall monitor in every aspect of everyones life. If I see a tweet go out from somebody, Ill text them immediately and say, You need to delete that tweet. It could be an athlete, a friend of mine, a former porn star. Im always checking on people.
As a closing sentiment, its yet another incongruous statement from someone whos lived such an open life for so long, but the feelings on her face seem genuine.
When they ask you what you want on your tombstone, she muses, I just want people to remember I cared.