independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Miss Perfect and the porn star

She makes films called The Proposal and Miss Congeniality, her nemesis has starred in classy numbers such as Women In & Out Of Uniform and Dyke Diner. America's sweetheart Sandra Bullock and porn star Janine Lindemulder couldn't be more different -- now they find themselves sharing equal billing in a bitter psychological drama over legal custody of the five-year-old daughter Lindemulder had with Bullock's husband, Jesse James. Donal Lynch reports from New York.

THE blonde woman reclines on the sheepskin rug and smiles over her own naked buttocks at the camera. Her heavily tattooed arm is raised to her face and her little finger is coquettishly clenched between her glossed lips. A link below the picture leads to "tons of photos with me and my nasty friends". There is a video entitled Pure Purgatory in which the viewer is promised "a dark, lush, sexual dreamscape, where any desire can produce both bittersweet pain and unimaginable ecstasy" and given a further visual taster -- a writhing tangle of naked female bodies. All major credit cards accepted.

If we were to try to summon an image of femininity as far as possible from this murky pornographic phantasm, it would be difficult to do better than the doe-eyed beauty of Sandra Bullock. Prim, wholesome and buttoned-up with a girl-next-door charm, she commands some $15m a picture and is frequently described as "America's Sweetheart". Her films have titles such as The Proposal and Miss Congeniality -- not Women In & Out Of Uniform and Dyke Diner. Suffice it to say that explicit lesbian group sex has never been part of her oeuvre.

How surprised, then, both of these women must be at their casting together in 2009's most eagerly anticipated production. In the past few weeks Bullock and her porn star nemesis Janine Lindemulder have been embroiled in a girl-on-girl feud that has shocked at least as much as anything on Lindemulder's adults-only website. At stake is legal custody of the five-year-old daughter that Lindemulder had with Bullock's husband Jesse James. According to James' attorney, Marilyn Slifman, Bullock is not a party to the proceedings, but with accusation and counter-accusation publicly flying between the actress and her pornographic nemesis, the two women have found themselves sharing equal billing in a bitter psychological drama.

The development of this unlikely script began almost 10 years ago, when Lindemulder met Jesse James, the owner of a company that sold motorbikes. At that point, she was one of the most famous porn actresses in the world but scaling the greasy stripper pole of the industry had not been easy. She had grown up in a liberal blue-collar family in southern California and after failing to finish school had begun moving from low-paid odd jobs to more lucrative work as a stripper. She would tour the state, dancing at different strip clubs, and in 1987 was successfully chosen to model for Penthouse magazine. She was one of the magazine's most popular centrefolds and was subsequently featured in a video the magazine released called Penthouse Satin and Lace. The fame this brought gave her the impetus to move to Hollywood -- "every little girl wants to be a star," she would later say of the move.

Once ensconced in Tinseltown she briefly flirted with mainstream film work -- she had once appeared in a low-budget movie opposite Exorcist star Linda Blair -- but she soon segued into a career in the "adult entertainment industry". She would later say that her father disapproved of the move but eventually came round and that her mother and the rest of her family were supportive and were "proud" of her.

Her trademark was lesbian scenes, and there was reportedly a clause in her contract which stipulated that she would only have sex with other women. In a milieu populated by pneumatic, production-line beauties, Janine, with her heavily tattooed body, stood out and was wildly popular. Her fame eventually extended beyond the porn world when she won a role in Howard Stern's movie, Private Parts, and as a cover model in the artwork for the Blink 182 album, Enema of the State.

Lindemulder had met and married a former construction worker in 1988 and they had a son, Tyler, in 1991. She divorced from her husband in 1996 and dated one of the hosts of the MTV show Headbanger's Ball, Riki Rachtman, and also Vince Neil, the lead singer with the band Motley Crue. Janine was one of the first celebrities (albeit minor) to have a leaked sex tape -- a video of her having sex with Neil and a former Penthouse model Brandy Ledford was eventually released.

And so by the time Janine met Jesse James, she enjoyed a sort of low-grade notoriety and occasionally popped her blonde head above the porn parapet with forays into mainstream culture. She claimed to have been offered roles in the movies Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Mask but turned them down because she was unsure of her acting abilities.

James, too, had a sort of faint renown -- he had for years worked as a bodyguard for bands such as Slayer and Soundgarden and in 2000 had starred in his own Discovery Channel show, Motorcycle Mania. The couple were seen as a sort of B-version of Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson. By that point, reality programmes were beginning to jostle scripted programming and music videos from the TV schedules and astute producers realised that the soap opera of Janine and Jesse's life would make perfect reality TV fodder. Their marriage and tempestuous relationship were documented on Jesse's Discovery Channel show, and in one episode Janine was shown hurling a vase at him during an argument. The couple soon divorced but shared custody of their daughter, Sunny, who was born in 2004.

It seems from that point their fortunes moved in different directions. In an interview in the early Nineties, Janine had denied ever using any kinds of drugs, saying that marijuana would make her "lazy and fat". She would later admit, however, that she had taken drugs and made some "horrific choices". Last year, she pleaded guilty to wilfully failing to pay taxes. According to reports, she had purchased a house worth $647,000 and a couple of new cars even though she knew she owed over $200,000 in back taxes. At the time, she faced a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

James, meanwhile, had become involved with Sandra Bullock whom he met when she asked if her godson could take a tour of the set of Monster Garage -- a Discovery Channel show that was produced and presented by James. They hit it off immediately and were married in 2005.

From the start, there were tensions between Bullock, who regarded her husband's ex-wife as irresponsible, and Janine, who saw the Hollywood star as trying to usurp her role as a mother. When Janine was sentenced to six months in prison on the tax-evasion charges, both Bullock and James wrote letters to the court urging that she not be shown any leniency.

James wrote that his marriage to Janine had been "not a great experience" and had been "filled with violence". He stated that before his marriage a special pre-nuptial agreement had to be crafted by his lawyers to prevent liens from Janine's tax debt attaching to his property. He also wrote that he had written a cheque for $182,000 for Janine so that she could pay her back taxes but that she had used the money for something else, and that she had done nothing about his pleas that she become gainfully employed. He added that even though she knew a prison sentence was possible she had done nothing to prepare Sunny for her absence.

Bullock, who has described herself as "controlling", also appeared to pave the way for the future custody claim by writing a damning letter to the court about her husband's former partner. In the missive, she claimed that Sunny had been left alone during the day while her mother was "asleep from drug use". The star wrote that she had stopped working as much as she used to because she and Jesse had to remain on "high alert" because of the stress of worrying about Janine. She claimed that Janine had told her and Jesse that she was getting a bartending job but instead continued her "professional dancing". Bullock claimed she had agonised about becoming involved in the custody issues between Jesse and Janine, writing "I know the term 'stepmother' carries many connotations, one of them being 'glorified babysitter'. My commitment to Sunny ... goes beyond that."

It's not clear if the letters had any effect on the judge's attitude to Janine but she was sentenced to six months at a Federal Correctional Institute in California and James was granted custody of his daughter. From prison, Janine launched a website, FreeJanine.com, which promised "hardcore sex at its most daring", including accounts of sex with prisoners and photos of Janine from her younger days. Comment posters on the site wrote things like "maybe she will have a three-way with Sandra Bullock and the hubby".

This seemed highly unlikely, however, as Janine had clearly had plenty of time to stew about what Bullock and James had written about her. She was reportedly extremely resentful of what she saw as the star's interference in her family, and felt that James and Bullock had used what was essentially a misdemeanour offence (as opposed to a felony) as leverage to win a bigger battle for custody. Relations soured further when James went to court while Janine was in prison and asked for a court declaration that his ex-wife had to provide a safe environment for their child during visitations. He portrayed her as erratic and showed text messages in which she claimed, "I won't be around. You guys win."

JANINE hit back and in Bullock's account the porn star would repeatedly accuse the Hollywood actress of trying to take Sunny because she was unable to have kids of her own. The interesting thing here is that Bullock's attitude to children does seem to have changed somewhat over the years. She never expressed an interest in becoming a mother, and in 2005 she told People magazine, "If I did have children my entire life would shift. I could no longer act or be in magazines."

But now Bullock is 45 and perhaps even Hollywood stars hear the clock ticking. Speaking to InStyle magazine in March of this year, the actress alluded to the fact that she may regret not having had children of her own and that she would be prepared to adopt. "If I waited too long it's because we were supposed to do other things," she said. "If I have waited too long there are millions of children on this planet that I would be honoured to call my own."

Since Janine's release from prison she has been campaigning for greater access and parental rights. Three weeks ago, she wrote to the judge presiding over the custody case asking that she wanted to see her daughter every Saturday and that she wanted to be better informed of the child's travel schedule. "My daughter and I are both very eager to get back to a normal healthy, loving life," she wrote. Janine now has a new husband -- a convicted criminal named Jeremy Aiken -- and has been granted visitation rights for her daughter as long as she keeps the girl away from Aiken and does not consume drugs or alcohol herself. James has stated that Janine kept her marriage a secret from him.

On October 29, he went back to court, claiming that by allowing Sunny contact with her new husband Janine had violated the previous court order. With her latest flurry of interviews Janine now appears determined to take her case outside of the legal system, to the court of public opinion. In an interview with Good Morning America she came across as open, honest and contrite, admitting she had "made some horrible decisions" in the past. But was somewhat more defiant about Bullock, saying she doesn't understand how the star feels in a position to comment on her parenting abilities since "Sandy doesn't know what goes on in my house".

She went on: "It hurts tremendously, especially the accusations from Sandra ... because we've never sat down and talked. That's the one thing that I wish for more than anything, for a remedy for what has happened here, is just communication." In something of an olive branch she added that she felt sure that Bullock was a good mother who cared deeply about her daughter.

Lindemulder has spent the months since her release at a "halfway house" and reportedly claims she can now only afford a "low-end, three-bedroom home in an undesirable neighbourhood of Hollywood" because of her "poor credit" and an "order stating that I can't work in the adult (entertainment) industry, which is all I've done for the last 23 years". In a letter to the court she also hinted that this may also be about money, reportedly suggesting that James could "possibly ... sign for a proper home for (Sunny) and I".

Bullock has hit back at Janine's claims that the reason she wants the porn star out of the picture is because she can't have children of her own. "To share the joy with Jesse of bringing another child into the world is something I desire very much," she wrote. "But we realised that with the instability in Sunny's life, bringing another child into the world wouldn't be in Sunny's best interest."

So far, Janine's charm offensive seems to have worked, with many commentators in America sympathising with a fallen woman who has made many mistakes but now finds herself pitted against a Miss Perfect film star. It seems only natural to root for the underdog, and it perhaps doesn't help that Bullock's image, while perfectly upstanding, can sometimes be less than warm (she has generally declined to comment on what was happening other than the letters to the judge in the case).

As things stand, there are no more dates in court scheduled, but the increasingly public war for custody of Sunny doesn't appear to be coming to an end any time soon. Bullock for one seems to have resigned herself to the long haul. "The universe put this in our lap," she told Parade magazine. "I seemed to have stepped in right when I needed to be there. I know that anything that is sweet, really sweet, that I have, is nothing that was planned."

She also claimed that her love of Jesse James, a man who Donald Trump speculated must be good in bed, would help her cope. "We are here and we know we have a tough road ahead but we have built a solid foundation which makes us ready for anything," she wrote. That message, along with her pointed silence last week, seems to be an indication that she will fight as long as it takes. It may yet be a while before the porn star and the film star sit down at the same table.

Sunday Independent

Also in this Section

Classifieds

CarsIreland

Findajob

Apps

Now available on

Top Stories

Most Read

Independent Gallery

Your photos

Send us your weather photos promo

Celebrity News