Zane Michaels was somewhere in the wilds of Ohio when GayDemon talked to him last weekend. The online porn superstar has been blowing up on blogs and porn outlets since he made a dramatic exit from his once-popular AustinZane.com Web site. Now, he's returned to his family and is taking some time to "get back to being myself." Throughout our hour-long conversation, the 27-year-old blond stud sounds thoughtful, introspective and somewhat raw from all the upheaval that has recently transpired in his world. But he's on the road to healing. And one avenue he's using is a new tell-all book that he's written. Yes, porn stars can write (and read!) books. In fact, Michaels has been working on the long story (387 pages!) of his (brief) life for the three past years.
"Once I started doing gay porn, life got really crazy," he recalls. "I thought, I better start writing this shit down!" And write and write, he did. Now Shame and Fortune (MERC Books) is hitting stands, and it tells the uncensored tale of a hardworking overachiever from a broken home who goes from plowing fields in the Midwest to living the high life in Las Vegas. Or as the book's tagline says, "from small-town country boy to Sin City porn star". In between, we learn that this country-music fan has got an identical twin (!), was molested by his babysitter, was voted senior class vice president and managed a Subway sandwich shop while still a teenager. There's also sexual harassment on the job, a painful breakup with his first girlfriend and the accidental death of his childhood friend. "You know, the usual sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll," Zane laughs.
It's all in the book--the highs (partying with Kanye West and Paris Hilton) and the lows (more squabbling than a New Jersey Housewives reunion). And the names have been changed to protect the guilty (and to avoid pesky lawsuits). But once the early years and family issues are resolved, fans will be most interested to read about Michaels' experience in this kooky biz we call gay porn. "The industry was consuming me," he says. "I worked so long and hard on the site. And things were obviously doing downhill with the business and with my partner. I knew it was time to make some changes."
So why exactly did he leave? Michaels says that things were "getting really bad this summer. Lots of stuff was going on there. Mental stuff. Physical fights. I knew I had to get out." So he packed up his car and drove back to Ohio. In fact, he reveals that the award-winning site he co-founded with Austin Andrews has been sold. He thinks Austin will continue to film for the new owners, but his own porn career is indefinitely on hold (despite this recent scene for Men.com, which he says he did for some quick cash). "I love the entertainment business," Zane says, "but I always kinda hated being on camera. I see myself as more of a behind-the-scenes type now."
And as for his relationship with best bud Andrews? "People would probably be surprised to know that we haven't been friends for the past year," Zane reveals. "I have so much love for that kid, but I stopped trying to figure him out. He was not a very good friend or business partner." Without going into too much detail (he wants you to read the book!), an emotional Michaels relates the disappointments and pitfalls of dealing with his former close friend (and sex partner, though he dismisses that as "just work"). "There were outside pressures, and I knew that he was never gonna be what I or the company needed." It's no secret that gay-for-pay performer Andrews became a baby daddy last year and has a girlfriend. "I take my share of the blame, and it's sad, but we will probably never talk ever again," Zane adds.
While he says his own future is "unknown" (he hopes to work on a TV show with friend and Scream creator Kevin Williamson, and there's a "special girl" with whom he'd like to patch things up), Michaels says that regret is something he's learned to live with. "I write in the book that it's okay to regret things in life," he says. "It wasn't always easy, but through working in porn, I met amazing people and I learned so much about myself. Some people, like those in my hometown, might not understand, but to me, the sex was never that big of a deal. My story is one of redemption. I lost who I was, and now I am on the path back to me. I have time to work on my cars and go fishing. I'm getting back to basics."
For more information, visit shameandfortunebook.com. To order Shame and Fortune, go to amazon.com. The book is also available for download at iTunes.