Those of us who unashamedly enjoy pornographic entertainment are, if asked, certain to have a number of entertainers in that field that we consider our favorites. In my case, I discovered X-rated material in earnest at the tail end of the 1970’s, a glorious time for adult entertainment that yielded sweaty, fleshy, carefree smut with a smile, and my tastes in such stuff were molded by what I encountered during those formative years. Consequently, I can’t stand fake tits, “landing strip” or totally shaved pubic areas don’t appeal to me — too little girl-like — and skinny/under-nourished chicks just put me off (Sharon Mitchell being the lone exception to this rule; god how I love her cute face and Jewish schnozz).
I fell in love with the curvy figure as a small child of the late 1960’s/early 1970’s and that aesthetic has stuck with me ever since those heady days, bolstered by a heavy dose of the lush beauties illustrated by Frank Frazetta, so it should come as no surprise that my list of favorite porn stars includes such luminaries as redheaded dynamo Dorothy LeMay, zaftig Jewess Annie Sprinkle (nee Ellen Steinberg), pornographic Pocahontas Hyapatia Lee (who was admittedly not as curvy as I usually prefer, but she was simply beautiful), Candida Royale, pixyish Ginger Lynn (simply because she looked like a particularly naughty faerie princess), and of course Traci Lords. But none of those video sirens have the place in my heart and erotic imagination occupied by that awesome force of utterly female nature known as Vanessa del Rio.
Looking like what would have happened if Wally Wood had a hand in the casting of Maria for WEST SIDE STORY, del Rio (born Ana Maria Sanchez in Harlem) was a mouth-wateringly well-drawn cartoon Hispanic sex goddess brought to vivid life and her exuberance in her performances drew viewers into the action like no porn player before or since. Her Amazonian, larger-than-life persona (aided and abetted by that voluptuous body) was not only alluring, it was downright fun, and the mark she made upon the genre remains indelible well after her retirement. I have been fascinated by all aspects of her for nearly thirty years, and while there have been a number of histories of the American porn industry and a smattering of biographies and auto-biographies of some of its stars, there has never been such a tome devoted to the mighty Vanessa del Rio.
Or so I thought.
In 2007, Germany’s Taschen Books released VANESSA del RIO: FIFTY YEARS OF SLIGHTLY SLUTTY BEHAVIOR by Dian Hanson, and with the release of this 396-page, sixteen-pound (!!!), ultra-deluxe signed hardcover edition — which also comes with a 140-minute DVD documentary — this fan’s prayers were answered. Originally selling for $1500 in a limited edition and a $400 version on del Rio's website , the book just came out in a version that goes for a mere $59.99. It's a huge — and I do mean HUGE — coffee table tome that's loaded with pictures spanning del Rio's career and is a funny, candid recounting of her adventures from her wasted days in Catholic school (where she gained a vehement hatred of nuns and says the church taught her "cruelty"), to her days as a hooker during the bygone glory days of the Deuce (that's Manhattan's once-fabled 42nd Street for those not in the know), and on through her reign as porn's premier wild-woman of color, and there's not a boring second in it. Cheerful, sweet and funny as hell, del Rio is the most fun of feminists whose candor may be shocking to some, but I love her for it and wish that she'd get into straight-up comedy because she's one of the rare porn stars who can actually act, especially in a humorous capacity. (The other porn star who comes to mind in this respect is John Leslie; I would kill to see him as the star of a sitcom!) The DVD interview/documentary that comes with the book is also a stone-cold riot in which del Rio regales us with stories from her life and career, much of which is side-splitting and all of it compelling (her story about her cat Tarzan's balls is priceless).
So I very highly recommend VANESSA del RIO: FIFTY YEARS OF SLIGHTLY SLUTTY BEHAVIOR, especially to her fans but also to anyone curious to read a very positive and fun look into the head of an ebullient ethnic porn icon whose earthy charm is just plain impossible not to warm to. HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.