No Calm In This Stormy

The first scenes of the newly released documentary film STORMY features shots of a rather mundane home life of Stephanie Clifford and her young daughter in a tony home in the Dallas-area suburb of Forney, Texas.  The daughter is helping her mom apply lip gloss, a dog is lying adoringly on a sofa, and we see shots of the pool in the backyard.  It could easily have been shot at the home of any one of thousands of forty-something Texas women, churchgoers and Mama Bears included.

Except Ms. Clifford is far better known by her celebrity name, Stormy Daniels, which more often that has been accompanied in screaming headlines with the adjective “Porn Star”.  Porn Star Stormy Daniels, much as a good deal of the press that derisively writes about her references one of her onetime acquaitances as Former President Donald J. Trump, and references the current president as just Joe.

She has arguably been in the public eye for more than a decade, more often than not with that adjective and frequently an inflamer of emotions and/or libido.  She has unapologetically taken advantage of her association with said Former President to her economic benefit, earning record rates for feature dancing tours, authoring a book, FULL DISCLOSURE, which earned her a chance to appear in a memorable show-opening SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE sketch where she and Alec Baldwin’s cartoonish portrayal of Trump had them sharing the honor of saying “Live, From New York!”.  She has even appeared in a couple of “mainstream” movies, THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN and KNOCKED UP, playing off her award-winning popularity in the adult film industry for her acting chops in the likes of POWERTOOL MASSACRE and her directing prowess in 3 WISHES.  Say what you will, they had better ROIs than MADAME WEB.

Now, in an optimally timed release (Mr. Trump will be appearing in a New York courtroom later this morning attempting yet again to delay or discredit evidence obtained from his former lawyer Michael Cohen regarding “hush money” payments he made to Daniels days before he was elected president by a minority of Americans) on the ironically named platform Peacock (look up some of the accusations of the NSFW videos Mr. Trump reportedly appears in that are in the possession of people close to Vladimir Putin), Daniels gets the chance to tell her side of these stories, to the sympathetic lens of director Sarah Gibson and via the same executive producer behind Daniels’ mainstream efforts, Judd Apatow.   And Daniels maintains that this time around, it’s more than just money that is her motivation.  Per USA TODAY’s Erin Jensen and Marley Malenfant in an article dropped last week:

 In “Stormy,” the nearly two-hour documentary that premiered during Austin’s SXSW festival and is streaming now on Peacock, Daniels reveals the challenges she’s faced since her encounter former president Donald Trump became public.  “I am here today to tell my story, and even if I just change a few people’s minds, that’s fine,” she says in the documentary. “If not, at least my daughter can look back on this and know the truth.”

We learn a lot about the close relationship between Daniels and her daughter, one that has been strained by the 2018 divorce from her daughter’s father, Glendon Crain, but we don’t see her daughter’s face (carefully pixilated out by Gibson).  We do see the downtrodden Baton Rouge neighborhood where Daniels grew up, which has weathered the years in far worse condition than she has.  We learn she has had three other husbands, including her current partner, her former adult film co-star Barrett Blade.  We learn she took her nom de porn from her love of the band Motley Crue whose bassist, Nikki Sixx, named his daughter Storm. (And BTW, Sixx’s bandmade, Vince Neil, has indeed married someone with a background similar to Daniels).

And speaking of daughters…in the documentary, where Daniels describes in detail her one-off physical confrontation with Trump, she offers the titillating insight that he casually mentioned in their many conversations her physical resemblance to his daughter Ivanka.  Anyone who saw their cringe-worthy 2016 with Dr. Phil might understand why despite the fact she insists there were no further dalliances beyond the one night in Lake Tahoe Trump continued to dangle a potential guest appearance on THE CELEBRITY APPRENTICE in front of her, and continued to frequently call her.  Here, you be the judge…but if you’re a Freudian, you probably have formed a similar opinion to mine. 

It may also explain why the once and (gasp) future leader of the free world resorts to referencing Daniels by the nickname “Horseface”, and may be why Daniels fires back by calling said leader “Tiny”.

But that’s nothing compared to the kind of language said leader’s minions have conveyed directly to her and her family,  Per Jensen and Malenfant:

Daniels talked about the harassment and threats she received after speaking out about her alleged affair with Trump. In one scene in the documentary, she reads hateful social media comments.

“Trying to set an example for your daughter? Yeah, right. Try closing your legs first,” she reads aloud.

“You are pure scum,” she continues.

“Even if you (were) raped, you should’ve kept your mouth quiet for the greater good,” she adds. 

“You’re nothing but a fat hillbilly. Trump would never touch you. Stop lying before I’m forced to shut you up myself.”

But even that pales in comparison to the hurt inflicted by Daniels’ own mother, Shiela Gregory, in a Vanity Fair article which the film recounts, or the betrayal of her lawyer, Michael Avennati, now serving a prison sentence for embezzling millions of dollars from many of his former clients.  Any adjectives applied to Daniels are far more appropriate for Avennati, the actual embodiment of a “whore”.

Perhaps I may come off as more than a bit empathetic to Daniels.   And you’d be correct.  Because if I’ve learned anything in my own recent travels, is that “porn stars” are real people, with real issues, who fought their way out of abusive homes and substandard economic backgrounds to become successful and who are simply looking for the same things that most of us are–someone to respect their minds as well as their breasts, people who see them as whole human beings, and can help some of us learn we have a lot more in common than first blush.  And we’ve arguably done far worse things “prostituting” what in hindsight were far more questionable beliefs and potentially damaging content than anything dismissed as mere pornography.

I know I feel that way.  And while I haven’t personally met Stormy, I know people who have.   And they corroborate my insights one thousand percent.  And thank their higher power every day that they have made slightly better choices than did Daniels, and that the “famous” people they may have met have yet to rise to a position of world power.

So I’d urge you to open at least your minds to giving this a viewing.  You may not necessarily like what you see, either on the screen or within yourselves.  But at least you’ll be able to better understand what a real fighter and truth-teller looks like.

Unlike, say, Tiny?

Until next time…

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