Friday, May 7, 2004

Rick Westhead
Staff Reporter

'Do it, or we'll find another girl who will'

Lara Roxx followed orders

Novice porn star now HIV positive

MONTREAL — Lara Roxx's gateway to the adult film industry is a nondescript three-storey home that sits kitty-corner from an elementary school and directly across the street from an ice cream parlour.

In early January, the 21-year-old arrived at the unlikely headquarters of the Eromodel Group, an agency that promises admission to the $11-billion (U.S.) pornography business.

Roxx carried a blue-and-white bikini and a desire to appear in enough adult films to set aside $30,000, money she planned to use to open an escort or modelling agency.

Four months later, her quest is in shambles.

On April 15, Roxx, who agreed to be interviewed if her real name was not used, became the second of five adult film stars to test positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Yesterday, an actress who uses the name Miss Arroyo became the latest performer to test positive.

The news, which marked the first HIV outbreak in the industry in at least five years, prompted more than 30 companies to agree to a 60-day moratorium to give hundreds of other actors time to get their own test results. (The pornography industry, based in California's San Fernando Valley, churns out about 4,000 films and videos a year, generating almost as much revenue as mainstream North American studios.)

Roxx, however, wasn't supposed to leave for Los Angeles as soon as she did.

Her agent, Daniel Perreault of Eromodel, advised her to wait. He told her she was too young and na´ve to withstand pressure from producers who'd demand she have anal sex with several men to collect her $1,000-$1,500 paycheque. Perreault suggested she remain in Montreal for at least another year, performing straight sex scenes for Internet sites.

"She was like a young puppy with her nose everywhere," says Perreault, who represents about 60 women. "She just didn't want to take any advice. She wanted to figure things out on her own."

But Roxx — who dabbled in drugs at 14, moved into her own apartment at 16 when her parents divorced and spent three years dancing in Montreal strip clubs — says she felt ready for mainstream porn.

"I knew how the stripping business worked and I thought the porn business worked the same way," she says. "I guess I was wrong on that one."

On March 24, Roxx agreed to do an unprotected scene with Darren James — from whom she believes she contracted the virus — and an actor named Marc Anthony, even though she initially told the film's director she didn't want to do it.

His response, Roxx says, was: "That's what we need. Either do it or we'll find another girl who will.'"

Roxx shot five sex scenes with four men that day. "I didn't want to disappoint my agent," she says.

The next morning, Roxx woke up with a painful bacterial infection that forced her to cancel that day's shoot. Her health soon worsened. On April 10, Roxx visited a medical centre because of a sore throat and was diagnosed with viral pharyngitis.

Three days later she learned that James, who'd shot a movie in Brazil days before he filmed the scene with Roxx, had tested positive for HIV. On April 15, Roxx's test results confirmed she, too, was HIV positive.

The news came in a meeting with Sharon Mitchell, a former adult film star who runs the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation, which monitors the industry.

"I remember shaking and crying," Roxx says. "I asked if there was anything we could do to get rid of it since we caught it so fast."

Now living in a Montreal-area shelter, Roxx says she has turned her attention to a foundation she's trying to start that would financially support HIV-positive patients. She says she wants to break into the music industry, and has started writing hip-hop lyrics.

"My mother thinks I should bury myself under the floor and cry until I'm dead," Roxx says. "That's not how I want to react to this."

She raises the prospect of a lawsuit. "Someone did something wrong or I wouldn't have HIV," she says.

Daniel Lighter, Roxx's lawyer, says "there's no question" there will be legal action in the U.S. "What makes it difficult is determining who was behind the shoots and whether those people have the funds to make … a suit worthwhile," he said.

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Created: May 7, 2004
Last modified: May 7, 2004
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