Video shops and adult movie stores and theaters nationwide were pulling products featuring sex film star Traci Lords from their shelves Thursday because of an investigation by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office into allegations that she was underage when she made most of her movies.
Los Angeles police say that Lords, considered one of the top adult film actresses in the country, made about 75 sexually explicit movies and videos before she turned 18 last May, and adult film industry officials are being advised to stop selling and showing her movies to avoid criminal prosecution.
John Weston, attorney for the Adult Film and Video Assn. of America, said distributors should pull any film made before May, 1986, featuring Lords "in sexual conduct, no matter how briefly."
Failure to do so, Weston said, would violate the "consenting adult" ethic of the adult film and video association and subject its members to "very punitive state and federal laws."
People who knowingly use a minor in sexually explicit films or publications or who distribute or sell such materials can be prosecuted under state and federal laws on either felony or misdemeanor charges.
District attorney's spokesman Al Albergate said the investigation involves "Miss Lords and anybody who employed her." But there are no plans to widen the probe to include the entire adult film industry, he said.
District attorney's investigators last Friday searched Lords' Los Angeles area home, the Sun Valley offices of Vantage International Productions, a major producer of adult films, and the Sherman Oaks offices of modeling agent Jim Southe, who is credited with discovering the actress in 1984.
Southe and other industry officials interviewed Thursday said that Lords, on seeking employment, provided a California driver's license, a U.S. passport and a birth certificate, which stated that her name was Kristie Nussman and gave a birth date of Nov. 17, 1962.
Los Angeles Police Vice Sgt. Don Smith said, "I know for a fact the ID used by this young lady is not hers."
Police Capt. Jim Docherty said Lords was a 15 1/2-year-old runaway from Steubenville, Ohio, when she came here in 1984 and began her adult film career.
"Now she's the hottest thing going," he said.
Lords, who until recently lived in Redondo Beach, is secluded at an undisclosed location and could not be reached for comment Thursday, her attorney, Leslie H. Abramson, said. The lawyer said her client is "very confused and very scared and very upset and embarrassed about the whole thing. . . . My client did nothing illegal."
The attorney declined to comment on allegations that Lords made sexually explicit films before she turned 18. She also declined to divulge Lords' age or confirm whether her real name is Kristie Nussman.
"I will say she's indisputably over 18 now and therefore is free to do whatever she chooses," Abramson said.
The lawyer also said she was curious as to why the district attorney's office is investigating Lords. She said it is a far more serious crime for adult film producers and agents to use underage people in sex films and suggested that her client is being used "in somebody else's paddle game."
Smith said it would be difficult to attempt to prosecute an agent, producer or distributor who uses a minor in a sexually explicit film if they were given documents indicating that the person was over 18.
The adult film association's board chairman, Jimmie Johnson, said the withdrawal of Lords' films from the market would cost the industry millions of dollars.
"There are a lot of people who have a tremendous amount of money invested in her," Johnson said. "They are the ones being defrauded. Hopefully, the authorities are looking at it from that angle."
Smith said Lords has made at least 75 films and videos, "55 of which are very big sellers."
Lords also appeared in the September, 1984, issue of Penthouse Magazine. Leslie Jay, spokeswoman for Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione, said Lords showed identification indicating that she was over 18 before the photos were taken.