Traci Elizabeth Lords (born May 7, 1968) is an American actress, singer, model, writer, producer and director.
Born Nora Louise Kuzma in Steubenville, Ohio, she was first known for her underage appearances in pornographic films. Initially landing a job as a nude model at the age of 15, she then ventured into adult films. After being featured in the September 1984 issue of Penthouse magazine, Lords appeared in dozens of illegal videos between 1984 and 1986, and became one of the most sought-after pornstars of the era. In May 1986, when authorities discovered she had been underage while making all but one of her pornographic films, distributors were ordered to remove all her material to avoid the risk of prosecution for trafficking in child pornography. The withdrawal of her films cost millions of dollars and her case became the biggest scandal to affect the adult film industry.
After her departure from pornography, Lords focused on her career as a mainstream actress and enrolled at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute where she studied method acting. She made her mainstream film debut in 1988, when she was offered the leading role in the remake of Roger Corman's classic Not of This Earth. Lords followed with the role of Wanda Woodward in John Waters' teen comedy, Cry-Baby (1990), which established her as a legitimate actress. Her other acting credits include the television series MacGyver, Married... with Children, Tales from the Crypt, Roseanne, Melrose Place, Profiler, First Wave, Gilmore Girls and Will & Grace. She also appeared in films such as Virtuosity (1995), Blade (1998), Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008) and most recently Excision (2012) and Devil May Call (2013).
In the mid 1990s, Lords pursued her musical career. After her song "Love Never Dies" was featured on the soundtrack to the film Pet Sematary Two (1992), she was signed to Radioactive Records. Lords was featured on the songs "Little Baby Nothing" by Manic Street Preachers and "Somebody to Love" by the Ramones. Her debut studio album, 1000 Fires, was released in 1995 to a critical acclaim but was a commercial failure. However, the lead single "Control" noted a moderate success, peaking at number two on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs. It appeared on the soundtrack to the film Mortal Kombat (1995) and was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The album's second single, "Fallen Angel", was also successful in charts. Lords briefly returned to music in 2004 and again in 2011 with the release of her single "Last Drag".
In 2003, Lords published her autobiography, Traci Lords: Underneath It All. The book received positive reviews from the critics and made The New York Times Best Seller list.
Life and career
1968â"83: Early life
Lords was born Nora Louise Kuzma on May 7, 1968, in Steubenville, Ohio to Louis and Patricia Kuzma (nÃ©e Briceland). Her mother has Irish ancestry and her father has Ukrainian-Russian ancestry. She has one elder sister, Lorraine and two younger sisters, Rachel and Grace. Her parents divorced when she was 7 years old due to her father's abusive behavior and she moved with her mother and sisters to her great-grandmother's house. Despite that, her father got a partial custody. During that time, her mother worked and went back to college part-time. Lords was raped at the age of 10 by her 16-year-old friend. When she was 12, she moved with her mother and sisters to Lawndale, California, along with her mother's new boyfriend, Roger Hayes, who was a cocaine dealer and later molested Lords. In September 1983, she began attending Redondo Union High School in Redondo Beach, California.
1984â"86: Pornography career
At the age of 14, Lords became pregnant by her high school boyfriend. Afraid of her mother's reaction, she went to Hayes for help. He arranged for her to have an abortion without her mother's knowledge. Searching for a job to get money for the abortion, she was introduced to Hayes' friend Lynn for whom she started working as a babysitter. Lynn offered her help to solve her job problems by getting her a false driverâs license. Her new ID with the name Kristie Elizabeth Nussman stated she was 22 rather than 15. In February 1984, she answered a newspaper advertisement for Jim South's World Modeling Talent Agency. Posing as her stepfather, Hayes drove her to the agency. After signing a contract, she began working as a nude model and appeared in magazines such as Velvet, Juggs, or Club. In August, when she was hired to model for Penthouse magazine, Lords was asked to choose a stage name. She chose Traci, one of the popular names she had longed for growing up and Lords, after the actor Jack Lord since she was a fan of the television series Hawaii Five-O, in which he portrayed the character of Steve McGarrett. After some of her schoolmates recognized her in the Velvet magazine pictorial, she left high school at age 15 and never went back. The September 1984 issue, for which centerfold she was paid $5,000, became the best-selling issue in the history of Penthouse, partly because it also featured a nude pictorial on Vanessa Williams, who had won the Miss America Pageant the previous year.
Lords made her first film in October 1984, when she appeared in What Gets Me Hot! alongside Tom Byron, who later became her boyfriend off-screen. She first appeared only in a non-sex role, but was later replaced with a hardcore scene. In her next film, Those Young Girls, she appeared alongside another female pornstar Ginger Lynn. After appearing with John Leslie in the porn parody of the film Splash, Talk Dirty to Me Part III, which won the AVN Award for the best film, Lords was hailed as the "Princess of Porn". She became one of the highest-paid pornstars of that time, earning over $1,000 a day. Besides her work in porn, she also appeared in the music video for "Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'" by the heavy metal band Helix. Lords continued making more films until the fall of 1985, when she decided to leave the industry. Afterwards, she met Stuart Dell, who became her boyfriend, manager, and business partner. In January 1986, she announced her return to porn with the formation of TLC (the Traci Lords Company). Dell and Lords made a distribution deal with Sy Adler, an industry veteran who ran Vantage International, that they would produce three films for the company. In March, the first TLC feature, Traci Takes Tokyo, was released. The second, Beverly Hills Copulator, was released afterwards, and the third film, Screamer, was shelved.
In late May 1986, around three weeks after Lords' 18th birthday, authorities discovered she had been underage after having appeared in about 75 pornographic films. The owners of her movie agency and X-Citement Video, Inc. were arrested. (See United States v. X-Citement Video) She was taken into a protective custody and hired a high-profile lawyer, Leslie Abramson. On July 10, district attorney's investigators searched Lords' Redondo Beach home, the Sun Valley offices of Vantage International Productions, a major producer of adult films, and the Sherman Oaks offices of modeling agent Jim South. South and other industry officials said that Lords, on seeking employment, provided a California driver's license, a U.S. passport, and a birth certificate, which stated that her name was Kristie Nussman and gave a birth date of November 17, 1962. Leslie Jay, spokeswoman for Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione, also said Lords showed identification indicating that she was over 18 before the photos for the September 1984 issue were taken. When investigators, using her birth certificate and state identification cards, located the real Kristie Nussman, she said her birth certificate had been stolen a few years earlier and that an imposter had apparently forged her name on official forms. Two adults who knew Lords, but who requested anonymity, said they saw her picture in the adult magazine Velvet in July 1984, and called the district attorney's office to inform authorities that she was underage, but that an investigator told them, "There isn't anything we can do about it."
On July 17, 1986, video rental shops and adult movie theaters in the US were ordered to withdraw all material featuring Lords from their shelves. John Weston, attorney of the Adult Film Association of America, said distributors should withdraw any film made before May 1986, featuring Lords "in sexual conduct, no matter how briefly". The withdrawal of Lords' films from the market cost the industry millions of dollars. Government prosecutors declared Lords was a victim of a manipulative industry, maintaining she was drugged and made to do non-consensual acts. Industry insiders, including Ron Jeremy, Tom Byron, Peter North, and Ginger Lynn, said they never saw her use drugs and that she was always fully aware of her actions. While most of her films were removed permanently from distribution in the United States, several were re-edited to remove Lords' scenes entirely (such as Kinky Business and New Wave Hookers), or in a few cases, had new footage shot with a different actress playing her part (as in Talk Dirty to Me Part III). The only film legally available in the United States was Traci, I Love You, shot in Paris only two days after her 18th birthday. She sold her rights to Traci, I Love You in early 1987 for $100,000. This action led to claims that she herself had tipped off the authorities to gain immunity from prosecution, while being the only one to profit from the movie. Lords denies this notion in her autobiography and says she was reluctant to sell the rights, since at that time she was trying to become a mainstream actress, and wanted no older movies still available.
1987â"90: Transition to mainstream, Not of This Earth and Cry-Baby
In the early 1987, after spending several months in therapy, Lords decided to focus on acting. She auditioned and was accepted into the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute, where she spent three months. After leaving the school, Lords placed an advertisement in The Hollywood Reporter seeking representation. She was contacted by Fred Westheimer and although the agency refused to represent her, he decided to send her out on a few auditions. As a result, she landed a small role in an episode of the television series, Wiseguy. Later, she met the director Jim Wynorski at Roger Cormanâs office in Brentwood, California. Corman was producing a remake of his 1957 film Not of This Earth and they were auditioning for the leading role of Nadine Story. Lords won the part and Not of This Earth (1988) became her first mainstream film since her departure from the adult film industry. Although, the film failed at the box office, it did well in video sales. Based on the success, Corman offered her another film on the condition that she appeared nude again. Lords turned down the offer trying to establish herself as a serious actress.
Around that same time, Lords became a spokesperson for Children of the Night, an organization for runaways and abused children, and was planning to release a book entitled Out of the Blue: The Traci Lords Story. She also signed with a modeling agency and appeared on two covers of the Muscle & Fitness magazine, of which the first cover she shot under her real name Nora Kuzma. Unable to get rid off the "former porn star" label, Lords decided to stop running from it and legally changed her name to Traci Elizabeth Lords. In November 1988, Lords enrolled in another acting class and started looking for a theatrical agent. In December, she mass-mailed her resume to various agents and arranged meeting with Don Gerler. In the spring of 1989, John Waters auditioned her for the role of Wanda Woodward for his comedy Cry-Baby. Lords won the part and appeared in the film alongside Johnny Depp. She also auditioned for the part of Breathless Mahoney in the film Dick Tracy (1990), but the role went to Madonna. In June 1990, an exercise video, Warm Up with Traci Lords, was released. Directed and produced by her boyfriend and business partner Stewart Dell, the video was shot in 1988. As described in her autobiography, Lords was unsatisfied with the final version of the video. An extended version was later reissued in 1993 under the title Traci Lords: Advanced Jazzthetics. Lords continued appearing mostly in B movies, such as Shock 'Em Dead, Murder In High Places, Raw Nerve and A Time to Die, and small parts in television series, including Married... with Children and MacGyver. In September 1990, Lords married Brook Yeaton, whom she had met on the set of Cry-Baby, in Baltimore, Maryland.
1991â"96: Musical career, 1000 Fires and Melrose Place
By 1991, Lords pursued her modeling career. She moved to London and began modeling for many fashion designers including Thierry Mugler. In 1992, Lords decided to focus on her career as a recording artist. She first got signed to a development deal with Capitol Records, but was later dropped due to disagreements between her and the label. After meeting with Rodney Bingenheimer at a birthday party, she was recommended to Jeff Jacklin, who hired her to record the song "Love Never Dies" for the film Pet Sematary Two (1992). The producer of the soundtrack, Gary Kurfirst, signed Lords to his label Radioactive Records. She was later featured on the songs "Little Baby Nothing" by Manic Street Preachers and "Somebody to Love" by Ramones. In 1993, Lords was cast in the television adaptation of Stephen King's novel The Tommyknockers.
In the spring of 1994, Lords began working on her debut album. The label arranged her to fly to London and meet with producer Tom Bailey. After finishing her recording with Bailey, Lords was introduced to producer Ben Watkins of Juno Reactor with whom she recorded more techno influenced songs. She later met Mike Edwards, the lead singer of the band Jesus Jones. Around the same time, Lords was cast in the television series, Roseanne, appearing in three episodes. In January 1995, Lords appeared in four episodes of the television series Melrose Place, where she played the part of Rikki Abbott. Her debut studio album, 1000 Fires, was released on February 28, 1995. It received generally positive reviews and the lead single "Control" peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs. An instrumental version of "Control" was remixed and released on the soundtrack to Mortal Kombat (1995), which was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The album's second single, "Fallen Angel", was also successful in charts, peaking at number eleven on Hot Dance Club Songs. The Paul Oakenfold remix of the song was included on the soundtrack to the film Virtuosity (1995), in which Lords had a cameo. Following the release of the album, Lords embarked on a small tour performing as a DJ, mostly in the Miami club scene. On August 12, 1995, she was the opening act of the Lollapalooza after party, Enit Festival, alongside Moby, Sven VÃ¤th, DJ Keoki and Single Cell Orchestra.
By the end of 1995, Lords divorced her husband of five years, Brook Yeaton. In 1996, she appeared in a commercial for GUESS with Juliette Lewis.
1997â"02: Profiler, Blade and First Wave
In 1997, Lords appeared in small parts in television series Nash Bridges and Viper, and in the Gregg Araki film Nowhere. By the end of the year, she became a recurring cast on the second season of the crime television series, Profiler, where she played the part of Sharon Lesher, who later becomes the serial killer Jill of All Trades. In 1998, she was casted in the vampire action film Blade. She was eventually offered to appear in the sequel, Blade II (2002), but refused. Around that time, Lords was also planning to release her sophomore album on Radioactive Records, but it was later put aside after she left the label.
In 2000, Lords was cast in the third season of the Sci-fi channel television series, First Wave, becoming the first recurring female character to be featured on the series. In 2002, Lords appeared in the Hong Kong action film Black Mask 2: City of Masks and television thriller They Shoot Divas, Don't They?.
2003â"06: Underneath It All
Her autobiography, Traci Lords: Underneath It All was published in July 2003 by HarperCollins. In the book, Lords chronicles her childhood, career and mostly her past in the adult film industry. The book received positive reviews from critics and was a commercial success making The New York Times Best Seller list. It met with criticism from adult film industry insiders. In the book, Lords reveals that she only received $35,000 as total salary for all her adult films, including the $5,000 for her appearance in Penthouse. Lords continues to use the stage name she gave herself as a minor, and ultimately made it her legal name. She explained, "I chose to stop running from it. Instead, I won it, legally changing my name to Traci Elizabeth Lords. That's who I was, and that's who I was going to be." In her interview with Oprah Winfrey she stated: "I found you can run, but you cannot hide."
In the mid 2003, it was announced that Lords was working on new music and had recorded a cover version of Missing Persons' song "Walking In L.A.". Directed by Mike Ruiz, the music video was premiered during her interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show. On December 28, 2004, she independently released two songs, "Sunshine" and "You Burn Inside of Me", via online music store CD Baby. Both of the songs along with "What Cha Gonna Do" were featured in the television series Joan of Arcadia. "You Burn Inside of Me" was also used in the commercial for Duprey Cosmetics, in which Lords appeared in.
2007â"09: Motherhood and Zack and Miri Make a Porno
By the beginning of 2007, Lords became unexpectedly pregnant. She first announced her pregnancy in June: "I kind of thought the children thing was off the table. Now Iâm expecting a boy! We're stunned and thrilled. I just want you to know, these 36-D's are mine. I havenât had a boob job. I am 5 1/2 months pregnant! But now Iâm starting to show. And my husband is happy with the changes in my figure." On October 7, 2007, at the age of 39, she gave birth to a son, Joseph Gunnar Lee, her first child with her husband of five years, Jeff Lee. Before that, Lords appeared in the television film, Point of Entry (2007), starring Holly Marie Combs.
In January 2008, it was announced that Lords had been cast in Kevin Smith's comedy Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008). At first, she wanted to refuse but changed her mind after reading the script. "It was really great that in taking the movie, because I didn't plan on going back to work right away, but I was dying to work with Kevin. I never thought it would be on something called Zack and Miri Make a Porno. What? So I went and I read the script at his house and I was prepared to say no. I thought I have the perfect out. I just had a kid. No one is going to blame me if I say I just can't do this right now. But it made me laugh out loud and it made me just literally cry. It was just funny." Initially, Lords had a topless scene in the film, but refused since she would breastfeed in between the takes. Katie Morgan, another former pornographic actress, also appeared in the film.
In 2009, Lords appeared in the direct-to-DVD science fiction film, Princess of Mars, alongside Antonio SabÃ to, Jr. She later regreted making the film saying: "Somewhere in my heart of hearts I was worried that I might be doing something wrong but I believed the voices of those around me who said 'No, it'll be artistic, no it'll be creative. You'll look beautiful. We have a very limited budget but honest, you'll be proud.' And it was bad, very bad. At least that was what I was told. After watching the first two minutes I had to turn it off and hide under the covers."
2010â"present: Excision and return to music
Lords first mentioned her return to music in October 2009 and confirmed a track called "Pretty", co-written by the photographer Mike Ruiz. In 2010, she signed to Sea To Sun Recordings and "Pretty" was released as a promotional single for DJs. In June 2011, the drama comedy, Au Pair, Kansas, which Lords shot in 2009, was released. In August 2011, Lords officially announced her return to music. Her single "Last Drag" was released on October 25, 2011 and peaked at number 35 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart. Three other songs, "I'll Be Your Alibi", "Watching You Watching Me" and "Catch Me In the Pose", were featured on the television series Sons of Anarchy, but were not commercially released.
On May 20, 2015, Lords appeared in an episode of the reality television series, Celebrity Wife Swap.
- 1000 Fires (1995)
- Traci Lords: Underneath It All (2003)
- Golden Age of Porn
- Official website
- Traci Lords at the Internet Movie Database
- Traci Lords at AllMovie
- Traci Lords at the Internet Adult Film Database
Traci Lords at the Adult Film Database