FEATURE RED LIGHT ZONE
Viva Tabatha! is a 30—minute documentary about Europe’s biggest porn star that will feature in Channel 4’s Red Light Zone. Lila Rawlings proﬁles 21—year-old TABATHA CASH and wonders how far to go for
fame and fortune?
y name is Tabatha Cash and I take no cheques.‘ Given that she‘s spent the last four years of her life making hard core skinllicks up to her elbows in seediness. this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. After all. who knows where those cheques might have been.
By the age of twenty. Tabatha Cash (aka Celine Barbe) had made 150 porn movies and was widely considered to be Europe’s ‘hottest’ porn star. At Cannes last year she won the porn world’s equivalent of the Palme d’Or. the Hot d’Or. which has led to her meteoric rise to media starlet and talks‘how host on Skyrock. one of France‘s biggest and most popular radio stations. Now 2] and retired from her salubrious career in blue movies. Tabatha has a new image that sits uneasily alongside her much publicised past. Porn queen/media star/hard-talking sex guru meets wife of middle-aged manager and porn-magnet Frank Vardon. with aspirations for a life of domestic bliss taking care of hubby, lots
10 The List 24 Feb-9 Mar 1995
of babies and walking the dogs somewhere in the Parisian suburbs.
The daughter of a Japanese father and an Italian mother. Tabatha grew up in Messy. on the outskirts of Paris. an area inhabited mostly by Arabs and North Africans. At fourteen. she regularly banked off school and took the metro into the city where she hung around the Eiffel Tower. relieving unsuspecting tourists of their wallets. Hustling a life on the streets led to her posing for her first pornographic photographs at the age of sixteen. and from there. her rise to skinflick stardom was fast. ‘When you start out as an unknown porn actress. you can make between 2-3()()()FF a day. Most girls from my background who go to work in shops or offices will earn 6()()()FF a month. For me there was no comparison.‘
Life in the typing pool may not be a bundle of
laughs it’s true. but then again. the hardcore cameras will not roll for anything less than full- on unprotected penetration. ‘Actors’. are required to perform with multiple ‘partners‘
during a day's work and many are likely to be supporting serious drug habits. In terms of the potential for sexually transmitted disease the stakes don’t come much higher. let alone the potential for total emotional and psychological burn out. Perhaps this is why Tabatha retired from her life in blue movies after only four years and is now settling for a less demanding career as one of France‘s most contrmersial media stars.
Tabatha Cash has to be admired as a canny operator who has the French media eating obediently out of her hand. After creating a buzz at Cannes in May. she was offered her first ‘straight‘ job by Canal Plus. the private pay TV station hosting a raunchy version of Candid Camera. In one programme she propositioned men in the street to see how quickly they agreed to go to bed with her. In most cases — surprise, surprise — it didn’t take very long. She would then tell them they’d been had. at which point most of them threatened to sue her. The programme makers thought this quite a funky way of exposing the hypocrisy behind most men‘s attitudes to love. sex and fidelity. Nice idea for a TV show. but isn’t there a difference between having sex offered to you on a plate and actually seeking it out?
Since then. Tabatha’s gained more notoriety for her nightly sex-chat phone-in radio show on Skyrock. Her programme has been a big hit, especially with teenagers who want straight answers to complicated questions. mostly about sex. She may not always offer the most sensitive of advice — one young woman asked what she could do to help her boyfriend with his premature ejaculation problems. Tabatha suggested dumping him — but her no-nonsense approach leaves little room for confusion. The presence of a doctor in the radio station who is also on-hand to offer less inﬂammatory advice. adds credibility and assuages the more cynical opinion that it‘sjust a ruse by the radio station to attract more listeners. Whichever way you look at it. the kids seem to lap it up. If the guardians of France’s moral majority have a problem with an ex-porn star turned sex counsellor offering advice to the nation’s youth. all they need do is listen to her sound safe-sex advice: ‘Si tu . . . sans capote. t‘es mort‘ (without a condom. you‘re dead). Most teenagers will know her better for her catch phrase ‘l-e SlDA. ca me cassc les couilles' (AIDS is breaking my balls) than for her colourful performance in her hottest selling porn video Les Visitousr’s. Retailing (illegally in the UK since it’s hard core) at around £30 a pop. Tabatha anticipates the royalties from this. her last porn ﬁlm. will keep her and Frank comfortable for some years to come.
On meeting Tabatha Cash. one is struck by her delicate stature. her exotic beauty but most of all by her girlishness. Surprising in someone who must have by—passcd the embarrassing fumblings that constitute such an important part of our teenage years and substituted them with something altogether more terrifying. Perhaps her rosy. slightly naive aura is a kind of self- protective mechanism she has constructed to deflect her past. When asked if her career in pornography has changed her. she answers with a characteristic tip—front confidence that‘s hard to contest but equally hard to swallow. ‘Making porno didn’t change me. I’m only older but still the same.‘ D Viva Tabatha! is broadcast on 22 April [1.05pm on Channel 4.