Sinner Takes All – a review

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This will be the only memoir review so far that is, regrettably, unfavorable. I really wanted to like it, but Tera Patrick’s Sinner Takes All is full of distractions and confusion.

I should start by saying that I read Sinner Takes All before I read Jenna Jameson’s How to Make Love Like a Porn Star. Probably the most unfortunate aspect about this book is how closely it mirrors Jenna’s, yet doesn’t offer an explanation as to why it so closely mirrors it, and what it seeks to resolve by doing so.

Tera’s story begins talking about her early life and a modeling career in Japan, which is really interesting and exciting! Also, I did not know Patrick was a nurse for a time, so that was also very interesting. But it quickly devolves into a kind of grandiose and congratulatory piece that reads like she’s showing off for one or two people (maybe just friends and fans?) rather than pulling in any and every reader with the core of her personality beyond the young, still-learning female and the eventual porn-powerhouse persona.

One unexplained issue is the back and forth between pride and ‘Glad I didn’t do that,‘ regret.

Rumor: I’ve had gangbangs with a S.W.A.T. team, Navy SEALs, and an entire firehouse. Truth: No gangbangs. Sure, I fucked in front  of some firemen but only did the one. I did once confess that I fantasized about filming a gangbang, but I never did it and I think if I did, I would’ve regretted that big-time!”

Why? In other areas of the book she boasts about how accepting she is of other’s sexual tastes, and expresses pride over her sexual kinks and prowess: secretly enjoying rough sex; allowing ex-husband, Evan Seinfeld, to pee on her; showing up at neighbor’s apartment doors (pre-porn career) to have instant anonymous sex with strangers. Without clarification, how is a non-porn person supposed to process what’s not okay from what she considers okay? It appears to me she’s saying she would have regretted performing in a gang bang from a career standpoint, but that should ultimately be clarified for the non-fan reader.

The details themselves are not significant in an itemized way, but it is significant in a sum-up memoir about one person’s life in relation to a hyper-judged industry. Adult star, Houston, was famous because she performed in a gang bang. Without intimate explanations that focus more on personal story rather than comparisons, it reads like one long press release for her porn career, and overall, competitive and insulting towards other sex worker’s choices. Yes, she had an illustrious career, but who is she really? Many relayed experiences don’t go into that kind of depth.

For instance, Tera (Linda Hopkins) talks about being interrupted by a friend while “making out” with an older man.

“My friend Danielle walked in on us and said, “You might want to close the blinds.” We stopped the make-out session, pulled apart from each other, and I said my good-byes. When I look back on it now, I’m glad Danielle caught us. I think it spooked Mark. I don’t know if we would’ve tried to make it further than kissing, but if Danielle didn’t interrupt us, maybe he would’ve. I don’t think I was prepared to handle what could’ve happened on that couch that day. I’m glad we kissed, but I wasn’t ready for anything more. However, in that moment, in that twelve-year-old brain, I probably wouldn’t have had the maturity to know that it would’ve been a bad thing. I think Danielle’s interruption might just have saved me from doing something that would’ve left me with some severe emotional repercussions and a lot of regret down the road.”

It’s a premature declaration relative to the entire story because she experiences other more jarring sexual situations, while still underage. And it’s an excessive amount of ‘would’ves’ from someone who’s supposed to be making these moments more cohesive for us, the reader, not the other way around. In a memoir, one gets the feeling that the person is compelled to write because they have the overwhelming need to offer revelations about their life experiences; an unquestionable inner monologue, if you will. ‘This happened to me for that reason’. Yet many moments like this are offered with awkward armchair psychology, as if she hasn’t actually given any of it much thought. It leaves lots of questions hanging in the air.

Several youthful statements are made without the encouragement of a talented ghost author pushing her to flesh out the now-matured, later-in-life perspective that would give the story balance. It literally reads like she recorded her spoken answers for journalist, Carrie Borzillo; the answers were transcribed; and only a few drafts later, it was sent to print.

“I always thought I’d lose my virginity to someone like Joe Elliott, the lead singer of Def Leppard, in a field of flowers. This was not that.”

“I instantly thought to myself, ‘That dark figure who’s running across the screen with a big wiener is going to be my husband someday.’”

“…I was also a little worried about some of the things I’d heard about him from my friends. The words “pig,” “womanizer,” and “cock puppet” kept coming up. “Cock puppet” I liked. But what worried me was whether he was really a womanizing pig.”

“He had me at that fuck.”

I put off writing this review for several months because there’s no graceful way of saying that this book straddles the fence between Tera Patrick–too much pride angled at friends and fans; and Linda Hopkins–not enough explanation about the sensitive woman underneath. Don’t get me wrong, there are many good personal moments, but they’re passed over really quickly in favor of the… not even ‘porn star’ story, but ‘porn super star’ story. It creates a kind of disproportionate polar narrative between her youth and her adult career. Bluntly put, it’s not a thoughtful piece of work. Thoughtfulness would be the glue that melds hers into one full-life experience, but the glue is completely missing. It doesn’t tie her childhood to her adult self in any real way. They exist in static juxtaposition from a story about Linda Hopkins on the one hand, to Tera Patrick on the other, with no warning or segue that you’re about to jump from ‘I don’t want to dwell on this because it’s murky,’ to ‘Yeah, man, rock-n-roll!’. You’re either reading her bragging and using misplaced, vulgar language, or still stuck and somewhat confused in a moment that happened long ago.

The epitome of this is evidenced in the statement, “Unlike so many porn stars, I was never sexually abused or raped.” Yet, she talks about feeling raped by a photographer who took advantage of his power position as her employer and as an adult in order to have sex with her during a non-porn photoshoot; taking her virginity while she was underage. The boastful part of the narrative gets kicked around by these tender revelations, when they could easily coexist and mingle on the page with the slightest consideration.

I also get the distinct feeling that on the tail of Jenna’s success with How to Make Love Like a Porn Star, the prospect of penning another porn star memoir from an almost equally famous star like Tera found the publisher with dollar signs in their eyes. It’s unfortunate. 1) Because Tera is a fascinating person with an interesting story, and 2) a good memoir is a careful and wonderful photograph of one person’s life. When done well, it says everything there is to say about you. I do not believe for a second that this book is an honest depiction of the woman who embodies both Tera Patrick and Linda Ann Hopkins.

Typos and run-on sentences abound here. Also, there is obvious and uncomfortable animosity towards Jenna Jameson in the form of really rude comments that went completely unexplained, while simultaneously borrowing from Jenna’s book: a dual narrative about how Tera and ex-husband, Evan Seinfeld, met; a “Ten Commandments” section listing reasons for not doing this or that. The reader should never walk away from a book wondering what just happened. I did. Between the unrefined language, pot shots at Jenna and contradictory statements, I kept wondering if there was text I’d overlooked that explained what I was definitely not getting from the story. If anything, it made me want to read Jenna’s book when I had intended to read so many other bios and memoirs first.

Pluses: The cover art is stylish, there are a tasteful number of photos, Margaret Cho sings Tera’s praises in the Foreword, and the title is catchy and fun. But all is not lost from the content.

By the end of the book, Tera and Evan have split up, and Tera is given the opportunity to rewrite her story to reflect that, but she chooses to leave the text intact. This text is a brave and touching admission on her part. She explains that she feels used by him, but that he did help her through a near-impossible mental and emotional ordeal over the breakup with Digital Playground. Her pain and the closeness of the breakup comes through in a way that demonstrates the kind of thoughtfulness and maturity she is capable of expressing. I would have really enjoyed seeing more of that perspective throughout the rest of the book.


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Author: Julie Meadows

Francophile, oenophile, French Scrabble advocate and future zombie apocalypse survivor.

12 Comments

  1. Yeah, I read this a few years ago myself. I was all site to review it in conjunction with an interview with her but I never did get that interview back. Anyway, I agree that the narrative is all over the place but I found it overall an interesting read. It was a bit on the short side though.

  2. Good review; and I would rather read your review than the book itself. I’ve read a few like these and I always come away feeling cheated–in the sense that I don’t believe the person is being real, honest. The reason being is that I feel these people feel trapped in their character–embodied by their stage name–so much so that being honest becomes impossible.

  3. does it always need to be a tell all bio of a girl (or boy) gone wrong, with all the awkward details of their youth and every foolish move they ever made? why can’t we have a collection of stories that are relevant and have a point? (blame the publishers and the public.) bio can be very boring

  4. I found the part about being a model in Japan at age 14 very interesting. That was cool. I definitely blame the publisher and ghost writer for not helping her shape the story. It’s hard to read. There are way too many typos for a finished product. It reads like it was rushed.

    Village Snark–You would love Ashley Blue’s book. That one is very, very honest.

    Alex–It doesn’t have to be a tell-all, just an honest story. Dee Snider’s is good. Lemmy’s, so far, is good. I’ve been moving and unable to get past the first few chapters, but I can say that reading about his seeing Buddy Holly in concert as a kid is super cool! It doesn’t have to be a ‘laying on the couch venting’ read. I felt like Tera’s could have been in the middle between actual events in her life and how she sees herself instead of the extreme shifts that happen without rhyme or reason. A guy tried to trap me in his apartment when I was fourteen and I conned my way out. Was I afraid? Yes. But I was more fascinated by the situation than afraid. I was amused at the lengths this guy would go to for sex. I let my brain work like a tumbler figuring out the code for unlocking what could have been a nightmare. It doesn’t have to be a sad story, but it should at least be honest. We get so ingrained in our roles as men and women–even though we may live an alternative lifestyle–that when certain things come out we feel we have to apologize for it or boast about it in the retelling.

    There is a blog that posts about female teachers who have sex with their underage male students, always characterizing these scenarios as if these boys are the luckiest kids in the world, yet not all young men feel blessed by being seduced by an older woman. I think when men and women are completely honest about their experiences they find that there is a complicated mix of things going on in even somewhat typical situations. To be honest means not playing up the victim side or the boastful side, and I think this story got caught uncomfortably between the two.

  5. Trapped? Wow. How old was the guy? I think you should have been more scared.

  6. sure, prove me wrong… thanks. :) I’ve been reading Dee’s book on the train; he’s awesome. Bio is very predictable and gets lost is a sea of ‘also ran’ life stories. I would never read this book or Jenna’s book… Girlvert sounds very good.

    I hate moving.

  7. VS–Well, he lured me into his apartment and then locked the door and barred my path by cornering me. I am a cop’s daughter so I took a half-scared/half-inquisitive approach to it. My brain spins constantly anyway, and I love puzzles, so I found a psychological way of getting out the door. Hell, he walked me home. I was cared–believe me–but I’m also extremely sympathetic to people with problems, so I tend to see more than just ‘someone after me’. People take a different approach to situations like that, and I have gotten flack for not being more of a physical fighter. I know my limitations, though, and at the time I felt I was no physical match for the guy. It was a spur-of-the-moment judgement call.

    Alex–Haha! Girlvert is good, but if you want to laugh out loud, Christy Canyon’s is hysterical! I laughed so hard, so many times.

  8. @Lydia: And this is kind of stuff you need to put on your book. Agreed. Best not to fight. Think your way out.

  9. Great review. I’ve actually wanted to read this book for a while; the part that fascinated me the most about it was the story surrounding her departure from Digital Playground. I had no idea the split was so volatile until I heard about this autobiography and thought it sounded interesting.

    I agree that it is the duty of a bio’s ghostwriter to assist the subject when it comes to providing more information about themselves or a certain part of the book. It’s a shame that seemingly wasn’t done here, as Tera Patrick likely could have put out a great autobio.

    That is quite a story about talking your way out of a dangerous situation in your teens. I’m not sure how many people at that age would have been capable of doing so. I’m glad the incident turned out the way it did and much respect to you for having the intelligence and ability to think on your feet in order to get out of such a predicament.

    I hope the move is going well. I’ve been there many times myself and it certainly never gets any easier.

  10. Yes, the split with Digital sounds like it really traumatized her. The same person who claimed to instigate her finding out how screwy they were treating her money-wise is the same person whose advice swayed me from working for them. I lasted three days and quit for fear it would steal my soul.

    Thank you, Adam. It is coming together. Every year it costs more to hire movers and they f**k up more of my sh*t! :o

  11. I agree with most of what you said, and I felt also that it was all over the place (kinda like listening to my wife tell a story; she starts in the middle and works her way to both ends. ;) )
    Lydia, what did you think about what she said about her trusted manager screwing her over? Does that happen a lot in the adult business or was she just naive
    Also one part really bothered me; When she was working with Erik Everhard and he just “snapped” and started pounding her “so hard that he tore” her and she was “hurting and bleeding so bad that the director stopped the scene and helped her off”. She seemed really hurt that “no one apologized”. Lydia, in your experience do things like that happen much?

  12. The manager in question–if memory serves–was one of Digital Playground’s employees, right? The “manager” was the person who got her to sign the contract?

    It’s not so different at times from the music industry. The company puts up the money to promote the performer and make them a star, basically. It’s up to the performer to not get screwed by negotiating their brand wisely. Sonny Leono, for instance, went to Vivid’s Steve Hirsch with a detailed plan. They negotiated this and that and arrived at a workable business relationship. Tera was naive and, I was told in private, was offered the contract after a few drinks. I don’t know if that’s true.

    I had a similar thing happen where I showed up for a $400 “photoshoot” for a toy company, was handed a “model release” that looked like a contract; asked the woman who hired me, “Is this a contract? It doesn’t look like a model release..”; she responded, “No, that’s a standard model release,”; I succumbed to pressure to get on the set to shoot and so signed the several papers and unknowingly signed a five-year contract for no residual income–just the $400 for the “photoshoot”. I found out a year later and had a meeting with the company owner asking to be released from the contract, which he did. Companies the world over do this and it’s unfortunate, but it’s not a regular occurrence in porn–that I’m aware of. I have heard about Hustler doing similar things, so maybe it has become a regular occurrence.

    The Erik Everhard situation, I have heard, has happened more than once. He has a reputation for being too roug. Great performers can adapt to each scene partner and he only has one speed. Tanner Mayes talked about that in our interview in 2009.

    Things like that are also not a regular occurrence in porn, but it does seem almost every performer has at least one experience like that. Several scenes into my career I worked with Bobby Vitale for the first time–someone I think Tera also mentions by an alias in her book–and he was so rough he was fired from finishing the scene. I think Tera maybe felt insecure about stopping the scene, but she should have. Had she stopped and expressed her discomfort, it wouldn’t have gotten that far.

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