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A past she finds hard to shake

Times Staff Writer

She did it for only three years, but her entire life has been tainted by the experience. Now Traci Lords, the underage star of several dozen hard-core sex films, is telling the tale in her memoir, “Underneath It All.”

It’s been 20 years since Lords began taking it all off for the camera, but “people still think of me as the chick that did porn as if it was five years ago,” said Lords, now 35. “I just wanted to say, ‘You’re right. I did do this, but there’s a lot more to the story than you know.’ ”

The book is a luridly fascinating, if horrifying, tell-all, from her birth in an eastern Ohio steel town to her present-day life as an actress and recording artist who is happily married in L.A.

Born Nora Kuzma, she adopted the name Traci Lords at age 15, when she answered a newspaper ad and began nude modeling. It wasn’t long before the pouty blond landed the centerfold in Penthouse magazine and made the leap to triple-X porn, where her star rose quickly. That lasted until she was 18, when the FBI took her into custody, and Traci Lords became a household name.

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That legacy remains. Although Lords has moved on -- starring in numerous movies and television shows -- the public hasn’t.

“I just got really tired of seeing things getting in print about myself that were not true,” she said. “Early on, when I started working in Hollywood and trying to build my resume, I was misquoted so often and in such cruel ways that I chose silence as a defense.”

In writing that is direct and honest, she recounts the path that paved her way to pornography, from sexual abuse to drug abuse to running away. That’s the back story to her famed career -- and one that is little known.

“She’s one of the most misunderstood women in America,” said Lois Lee, president of Children of the Night, a nonprofit shelter and hotline for children involved in prostitution, which will receive part of the memoir’s proceeds.

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Lords hopes her name will raise awareness of an ongoing issue. Otherwise, being the notorious Traci Lords has been neither a help nor a hindrance.

“More than anything,” she said, “it’s been a reality.”

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Traci Lords signing

What: “Underneath It All” book signing and after-party

Where: Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd.; Key Club, 9039 Sunset Blvd., both in West Hollywood

When: Friday, 7 p.m., signing; 9:30, after-party

Cost: signing free; admittance to after-party with book purchase

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Info: Book Soup, (310) 659-3684; Key Club,

(310) 274-5800


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