Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Traci Lords

XXX Talent King

Nora Kuzma did not have much of a life before porn. She was a girl one day, a porn star the next.

She was born May 7, 1968, and grew up in Steubenville, Ohio — "a dirty little steel town," as she described it in her autobiography, Traci Lords: Underneath It All.

Underneath It All, by Traci Lords
Underneath It All, by Traci Lords

Her father, Ukrainian immigrant Louis Kuzma, was an abusive, hard-drinking steelworker. After many tempestuous years with him, Patricia Kuzma loaded her four daughters on a Greyhound bus in 1980 and fled to California.

But the woman failed to find domestic bliss in the Golden State. Her new boyfriend, Roger, turned out to be a cocaine dealer. Worse, he began molesting young Nora.

Nora attended junior high school, but she was overwhelmed by the sexual abuse and lack of stability at home.

She became sexually active early. In her book, Lords claimed she lost her virginity at age ten, even before moving to California. She had an abortion at age 15 and ran away from home before her 16th birthday, eventually moving in with Roger, by then her mother's ex-boyfriend.

Roger showed little initiative in finding work for himself, but he saw income potential in the busty Nora. Posing as the girl's stepfather, he shepherded her in replying to a number of classified newspaper ads seeking models.

One such ad read, "Wanted: Figure Models for Immediate Placement." It gave a phone number and an address on Van Nuys Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley community of Sherman Oaks. Nora and Roger paid a visit to the firm that had placed the ad, Jim South's World Modeling Talent Agency. The proprietor, whose real name was James M. Souter, Jr., had founded a legitimate fashion modeling firm after moving from his native Dallas.

But South turned to managing porn talent in the late 1970s, as the California porn industry was scrambling to ramp up production to meet the new VCR-driven demand.

South's office was visited daily by a steady stream of attractive young women. By the time Nora Kuzma walked through the door in 1983, he was one of the big dogs of the porno talent racket. His classifieds ran in 15 newspapers throughout the Los Angeles area, and thousands of women answered the ads each year.

South still had a lot of Texas in him, from his drawl to his black pompadour to a belt buckle the size of a salad plate.

After curt greetings, South asked Nora to get naked for a Polaroid picture. She balked.

Nora was a naif, to be sure — so young that she'd been turned away when applying at a job at a Big Boy restaurant. But she was savvy enough to understand nudity. As she told Salon.com, "I never really heard of porno before I became involved in it."

After years of photographing potential porn starlets, Jim South was accustomed to a touch of camera shyness. He used a line he had burnished over years of use. He told Nora, "You know, Marilyn Monroe started out doing nudes, and you're as beautiful as she was."

It worked again.

Nora took off her clothes.

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