Arts & Entertainment, Last Word

Thunder and Lightning

Thunder and Lightning


Miriam R. Kramer

Winter is coming, or at least the midterms and Thanksgiving soon after. No wonder everyone is stressed, angry, and barking furiously at the TV like Buzz, my pug. (Thank God he can’t see the news alerts on my phone.) In the immortal words of Rupert Hines in “The Piña Colada” song, “we’ll plan our escape.” One recent book, Stormy Daniels’ Full Disclosure, is an enjoyable and unexpected vacation destination.

We don’t know yet if Stormy Daniels’ life has a happy ending, but we have recently gotten to know her and her non-publicity-shy lawyer Michael Avenatti through multiple appearances on venues ranging from 60 Minutes to The View. Her new tell-all book is both a serious and playful romp through a life we pre-judge and probably shouldn’t.

Daniels’ book details much more than her relatively tiny, limp affair with the 45th President. It begins with the city of West Hollywood giving her the key to the city as she gathers with the two gay dads she adopted and her bodyguards, to whom she has given the task of picking out a bandage dress for her in a size small with a top that will accommodate a 36DDD chest. This detail sets the tone for her memoir-so-far.

Daniels takes us from her hardscrabble upbringings to the surreal level of international scrutiny she has received in the past two years, after President Donald Trump, along with his federally indicted personal attorney, Michael Cohen, tried to get her to lie about her sexual encounter with him.

Stephanie Clifford renamed herself Stormy Daniels as a young adult, disliking the original name that was a legacy from her parents. Her well-kept working class neighborhood in Baton Rouge, Louisiana soon devolved into a nest of crack dens. When her parents split up she was a child, with her father leaving for cleaner pastures with a new wife.

Stormy was left with a negligent mother and a filthy house where she was left alone to bring herself up most of the time amidst cockroaches and the occasional rat. As she notes, “I should be living in a trailer back in Louisiana, with six kids and no teeth.”

After a childhood in which a neighbor sexually abused her, she was left to figure out life on her own. Stormy bootstrapped her way up through adolescence, attending Scotfield Magnet School in Baton Rouge, LA, where she studied ballet and graduated with straight A’s as the editor of the school paper. In her AP English and creative writing classes, she discovered a love for writing and storytelling that carried over to her conventionally improbable career as a screenwriter and actor in the adult film industry.

Daniels counts her love for horses, working at a stable to pay for her horse, and staying away from alcohol and early pregnancy as several ways she helped herself avoid a predictable future. After her mother’s partner shot a hole in the wall of the house, the seventeen-year-old decided to move in with her boyfriend on LSU’s campus.

When they stopped by a strip bar where he knew a dancer, the club offered an opportunity for her to do a guest set. A star was born. After making $89.00 in nine minutes, she knew that her life was about to change.

As she grew in showmanship, she decided to put off her plans of going to college and becoming a veterinarian for a year to sock away some cash and dance at more upscale gentlemen’s clubs to her favorite bands such as Mötley Crue, Ratt, Poison, and other hair metal favorites. There she could become a featured dancer who could travel from club to club with a following.

Daniels then took a brief hiatus to travel with the band Pantera. In one of her favorite memories, the band members sang “Tiny Dancer” to her on the bus like the fictional band Stillwater in the movie Almost Famous.

Other than the not-so-private parts concerning our president and a few descriptions of porn scenes, Daniels does not spend much time on titillating material, although she details her breast implant surgery and makes many jokes along the way. As she says, “I also named my breasts because I loved them so much. Thunder and Lightning. I’ve had the same implants since 1999—they’re almost old enough to drink.”

In truth, Daniels mostly discusses her life so far: how she developed as an exotic dancer, got into acting, started writing screenplays, and directed porn as one of the biggest, most reliable stars in the business. She only took time off with her husband to have the daughter she loves.

Her career and marriage were mostly upended when the news of her short-lived encounter with the president leaked and changed her life. In 2016 she received a payoff from the president through his fixer, lawyer Michael Cohen, for the National Enquirer to kill the story, along with increased threats to her and her daughter’s safety and debt from paying for security staff. It eventually leaked again, propelling her to a new level of fame.

Her following at her clubs changed demographically after her news, since her following had generally been middle-aged white men who love Donald Trump. She now has many groups of gay men who feel bullied and disenfranchised by this administration, people of color, and angry straight women, who see her as someone else who has been pushed around by men.

“It’s these women who gut me, never the Twitter troll who calls me a slut or the guy in the crowd yelling ‘whore.’ They leave me to save the world,” she reports. “Nothing in my life prepared me for the confidences and hopes of people who come to see me. It’s great, but you feel sick when you get back to your room. In my case, it’s absorbing it all until it hits some limit I didn’t see coming, and I am suddenly on the floor of my hotel room, sobbing when no one can see me. I call it wringing the sponge.”

Stormy Daniels is not out to impress you or look down on you, so she’s refreshingly different from ladder-climbers in Washington, DC and elsewhere. She’s sharp, tough, and no one’s fool, stating that she loathes hypocrites. Daniels’ clear-eyed story proceeds with minimal self-pity and a good sense of humor.

In this book her voice seems thoroughly her own, one earned through hard work, a healthy ego, and a flair for notoriety. This is her no-holds-barred account of her life, flaws and all, and she’s not too concerned about what you think of her. She’d like to tell her story and make money while she does it. Surprisingly enough, considering her recent tangles with the president, she calls herself a Republican with libertarian leanings.

Celebrity memoirs can be fun, and this tale is fun in more ways than one. It might go missing around the house if you put it down for too long; you never know which friend or relative is a new or long-time Stormy fan. You and they could do worse than to laugh, read through her story, and gain some respect for an independent woman working hard to maintain her life and see it clearly despite the unnatural blaze of the national spotlight.

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