A little over two weeks ago, Marland Anderson aka Sledgehammer, died after being tased by the LAPD, who were responding to a report of an apparent suicide attempt. This was another tragic incident in a long string of events that the media and political interests love to sensationalize, publicize and use for their own agendas as it pertains to the adult industry and the performers who meet an untimely death, either through drug overdoses or self inflicted bodily harm. While the details of what led up to the incident are still being sorted out, what has become clear are the indifferent comments left by the public when they read the story and hear of the connection to the adult industry.
I have known several male and female performers who have died from suicide or drug overdoses. Cal Jammer, Lance Heywood, Jon Dough, Alex Jordan and others have unfortunately ended their lives at their own hands. It truly is sad to think that they were in so much pain, that they thought suicide was their only choice. I spoke with Cal Jammer the evening before his death and sensed he was not in a good place. I tried to get him to talk about what was bothering him but I don’t think he felt like he knew me well enough to divulge his personal issues. For a while after, I even felt like I hadn’t tried hard enough to get through to him, to maybe help him see another way of looking at his situation. I liked him and he was a sweet guy to be around.
But, what I find interesting, is that people automatically correlate that suicides amongst adult performers is a given; they think to themselves ‘of course they committed suicide, they’re in the porn business‘. That reasoning is absolutely wrong. It would be the same as stating that global warming is caused by Somalian pirates.
Drawing unwarranted cause-and-effect conclusions like ‘the porn industry causes suicides’ ignores too many variables. Suicides happen all over the world and across many different socioeconomic groups; from Wall Street executives to rock stars to high school students to soldiers returning from their military tours. While the professional arena that one does finally find themselves in can be a factor in suicides, what I believe is a more potent observation is that, in this day and age, chemical imbalances in the brain, powerful drugs being used to treat psychological conditions (sometimes through misdiagnosis), a growing sense of hopelessness (through technology that is expanding our awareness of the myriad of problems around the world) and ironically, our rising isolation from each other (despite these same forms of technology supposedly bringing us closer together) and economic hardship from the ongoing recession are the real underlying contributors to suicide, regardless of occupation. The CDC and The New York Times have even reported suicide rates being higher during recessions. (CDC, NYT )
In the adult business, many who have been in the business for more than five or six years, struggle with the fact they are not the young, beautiful or handsome person they were when they originally came into the business and jobs were easy to book as the talent pool was around 100 people give or take. Everyone wanted to shoot the new girl or the new tried-and-true stud. I knew Sledgehammer from my earliest days in the business. He and I have seen many changes happen since then. Today, the talent pool is larger than it has ever been,with new people coming in all the time and the shelf life of performers becoming shorter and shorter. As the business, in recent years, has shifted from a being a small circle of independent companies to a corporately owned environment where features are now referred to only as ‘content’, this is a difficult transition for many performers (who derived their sole income from adult feature work) and also to truly understand the complexity of this new platform that the web has become now for the various forms of entertainment media. The business takes so much of your attention, that when new trends are starting to form and old trends are becoming obsolete, most don’t even see what is happening and get a chance to act accordingly. The global recession since 2008 has hit every industry on every level (the middle class and the rich) and the adult industry has not been immune.
Economic uncertainty has always been a constant source of stress in this business for performers. Losing bookings, either through sickness or just not being a compelling performer for a director; creates a fear in performers that is further magnified when the performer is focusing on why he or she is not working as much anymore as opposed to just focusing on how they can be a better performer and to take better care of themselves. When you are making more money than you ever had before and everything is fun, thats when it’s easy to run off the rails. Drug and alcohol use doesn’t make an already muddy picture any clearer. Add to that the particular issues of background, upbringing, past & present relationships (parents, siblings and lovers) and how one sees themselves fitting in the world today (and what their options later in life are), you can see how this can make a toxic cocktail for someone giving in to the thought of ending their own life.
I don’t think many like to talk, address or acknowledge the fact that we ALL sometimes have these battles with our black hooded demons who will fight us to the death for its own power and dominance. And yet, it still is very much real for many people.
I can go on about what else is between the cracks of our lives in this industry but I can assure you, it is not much different than what others are going through regardless of status. Warrior or monk, king or slave, clever or simple minded; we all deal with mental paralysis, insecurity, fear of loss, fear of getting older, fear of losing the significance to others that we may once have had.
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Talk to someone. Seek help. There are people who want and CAN help you.