Hyapatia Lee was born Vicky Lynch on 11 November 1962, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Although she is three quarters white and only one-quarter Cherokee Indian, she identified with her Native American ancestry. Hyapatia’s mother, Mary, was only 15 and still in high school when she became pregnant. Although she married the father, her classmate Randy, the marriage didn’t last and both mother and daughter soon moved in with Hyapatia’s maternal grandmother. “My mother went back to school to get a GED and my grandmother took care of me. I didn’t see my mother very much while she was trying to pull her life together and grow up… Life with my grandmother had its ups and downs, but for the most part, it was a great way to grow up.”
When she was nine, Hyapatia’s mother married an architect named Don, who moved both mother and daughter into the city. “Don and I did not hit it off right away… He was the arrogant, pushy, sometimes out-and-out rude, type… He was always right, and his word was absolute and final. He enforced his rule with his fists. My weak, small-framed mother had no confidence in herself at all and even though she thought his manner was becoming more and more abusive, she could not protest… She didn’t want to rock the boat.”
“I remember one rainy night I couldn’t sleep. I was afraid of the thunder and lightening. I was scared and asked my mom if I could sleep with her and Don. She agreed… When I awoke, she was gone and Don was on top of me with my legs spread. His hands were between my legs, and something else, too, although I wasn’t quite sure at the time what it was. My mother was nowhere to be found… At first I thought he was asleep and mistook me for my mother. I guessed that this was what ‘having sex’ was all about, and that he was trying to do it to her. When I yelled he did not appear to ‘wake up’. My mother did come back though, and she calmed me down, thinking it was fear of the storm that had made me call out… I did not tell my mother what had happened. I was very afraid of this strange man and knew from the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that this was wrong. It felt dirty, and that made me feel dirty. I also was never quite sure if he knew it was I and not my mom.”
When she was twelve the family moved to Florida, where, according to Hyapatia “Don got progressively worse. He now felt he could create a total dictatorship… I was not allowed to ever close the door to my bedroom, not even when I was changing clothes. The master bedroom was across from mine and he had a perfect view of my body every time. I was not allowed to close the bathroom door when taking a shower or bath, and he would always come in and stand there, pretending to do something at the sink, whenever I bathed.”
The situation was made worse because Hyapatia’s mother was training to be a surgical nurse, and was therefore often away at school. “Whenever my mother wasn’t home, Don would come up from behind me, grab my breasts and comment on how big they were getting. He’d ask me what size bra I wore now and far had I gone with the boys. Was I a slut yet? Did I let any of my boyfriends touch me there, and he would touch me there as an example. It went on almost daily. There were several times when I would wake up with him in my bed, on top of me. He would force me to have sex with him. The pain was excruciating but I was too scared to scream… I was afraid to tell anyone… I finally told my mother. She was angry at me for messing around with her husband!”
Over the next year sexual and physical abuse became routine, with Don often hitting both Hyapatia and her mother. One night Hyapatia returned home to find her mother “worse than I had ever seen her. Her face was bruised and her eyes were almost swollen shut. I could hardly recognise her.” This proved to be he turning point. Her mother took the children and left home, moving into a beach house with a friend of hers named Charlene. Charlene had four children and also just left an abusive marriage. Although Mary and Don divorced, Hyapatia did not find family life any easier. “My mom was still trying to ‘find herself’ and it appeared she thought she had gotten lost in the bedroom because that was where she and Charlene kept locking themselves… I knew what they were doing in the bedroom all the time. Even if my mother didn’t want to admit it to me. I had seen them in bed together. It didn’t upset me that she was having sex with another woman. I was only angry that it took her away from having a relationship with me because she was always too busy.” At the age of 14, after running away from home a couple of times, Hyapatia decided to save up enough money to return to Indianapolis, eventually moving in with her grandmother again.
As a teenager in Indianapolis, Hyapatia was sexually active but emotionally frail, drifting from one partner to the next. At 15 she fell in love with an older man with whom she had a two-year relationship. "I worried about keeping his affection, so I figured, I better do this [give him a blowjob]… This guy and I did dinner together. I was 15 and he was about 28. We had been having sex regularly, and one of the times I just went down on him and surprised him. I was anxious at first, and too quick. He helped me. I expected a bad taste but it was clean and nice. The guys I'd been with before hadn't explained how they liked their cocks sucked, but he told me the specifics.”
When the relationship ended Hyapatia became infatuated with older men. "When I was 16, I was running around with an older crowd, and I played a game with myself to see how old a guy I could fuck. I thought older guys could teach me more about sex – and I still feel that way. I hope I always keep learning! There's an old Indian philosophy that when you know it all, you're ready to die. I'm not ready… Older guys aren't so excited about having pussy that they explode instantaneously. I like the slower, laid-back thing – taking time and having fun with oral sex, positions, acting out different roles."
By the age of 17 Hyapatia had finished high school and become involved with local theatre groups. She also moved into her own apartment. One morning “I awoke with a pair of orange-handled scissors at my throat… A black man was standing with the scissors in his hand… He told me to take my clothes off.” Hyapatia immediately reported the rape to the police, but traumatised by the event she began to see a therapist and take anti-depressants.
“I always wanted to be an actress. I planned to go to New York and try to make it on Broadway.” Once she got there though, she came face-to-face with the ‘casting couch’ and decided to return to Indianapolis. “I really had to find a way to make money”, so following the advice of a friend that already worked as a stripper, she decided to audition at the same club. “I had totally given up on the idea of my ever becoming a successful actress… It was time I made some money off of the enjoyment men got from my body… Why not take off my clothes and get paid $400 a week for what men had been taking from me all my life? It was good money.” Having just turned 18 she got the job and began working as a stripper at The Red Garter.
As a stripper she adopted the stage-name Hyapatia, which means ‘Similar to a cat’ in Cherokee. “There was something strangely ironic about the whole thing. I was terrified to go out in public, drive, talk to strangers, look people in the eye, and yet, Hyapatia felt in control and powerful when she snuck out onto a stage… The consistency of me stirring up lust and exercising my right not to have my body touched gave me a power and control over my life I had never known… They actually thought I was sexy! I couldn’t believe it.”
“I moved back in with my grandmother again and continued to dance. She did not like my job, but she understood and even helped me sew my dance costumes.” While working as a stripper she decided to enter the Miss Nude America contest that was taking place in Indiana. “With all the other beautiful girls there I didn’t think they’d waste their time on me. You can imagine my surprise when I won the contest. I thought it was rigged, and later on someone confirmed my suspicions. The club I worked for bought me the title.” A few weeks later the 18-year old Hyapatia also entered the Miss Nude Galaxy contest. “This place was far bigger and more legitimate… There were over 70 contestants and the audience was three times as big… I was surprised that I won again.”
Bud Bennett was a friend of her therapist and helped in her recovery. “For three months he took me out, came with me to work and dropped me off at home without even holding hands. This was so strange… Was Bud gay? By now, I was falling in love with him… I actually wanted him to kiss me, hold me, and perhaps even make love to me. Before I had met Bud, I was beginning to think I’d never feel that way about a man.” She would later claim: “I was like a rose bud that had opened too early. I had to shut down for a while. Then with Bud, I opened up again." A year later the two of them decided to get married, and in accordance to Cherokee tradition, he took her surname.
“For a while I continued to dance at The Red Garter but it became more and more obvious that Bud considered my work to be a threat. Somehow he thought I liked turning guys on for an ulterior motive other than my ego. So I agreed to quit. Bud quit his job too, and got a better one with a finance company.” Financial problems, however, soon led her back to The Red Garter, and touring the lucrative US strip club circuit. She persuaded Bud to join her on the road, promising to support him herself. “I did not feel safe anywhere in the world except onstage. I felt I needed him and to me it was a fair trade at the time.”
Bud reluctantly agreed, later claiming: “My mom thought I was acting stupidly. She said I was just facilitating my then wife’s selfish agenda and should care more about myself than I was… I met Hyapatia Lee, fell in love, got married and helped her pursue a career in adult entertainment. My educational background proved useful… and I seemed to have a knack for people management.”
In 1981 Hyapatia entered the Miss Nude Galaxy contest for a second time. “It was fabulous for my career when I won again! I made my first appearance in Playboy’s February 1982 issue in ‘The Year In Sex’ review and on the Playboy channel in America Uncovered. I even got offered a part in an adult film, but I did not take the offer seriously.”
Things began to change for Hyapatia and Bud in 1982. “Porn stars like Kandi Barbour, Lee Carol and Desiree Cousteau were touring movie theatres and doing their rendition of a strip act. Marilyn Chambers and Seka were doing it too… After one of these ladies had gone through a particular circuit, it would take months before customers would venture back into the theatre… We had reached an impasse. The money we were spending on the road was not worth the profit… [Bud] suggested that we might be in the wrong end of the business, that maybe we should consider making a few movies. Then we could demand the same kind of money these stars were making.”
They moved to California, and in October 1982, one month before her twentieth birthday, Hyapatia’s first soft core photo layout appeared in the adult magazine Swank. Over the next few weeks Hyapatia modelled for numerous other magazines, including Penthouse, before finally signing an exclusive contract with adult company Caribbean Films, and agreeing to appear in her first porn movie, ‘The Young Like It Hot’ (1982). Although this was her first release, the first sex scene she ever did in front of the camera was with Randy West in ‘Naughty Girls Need Love Too’ (1983). According to Hyapatia, Caribbean “was to let me shoot this movie provided they would not release it until after ‘The Young Like It Hot’ came out.”
“I had a fairly small part and was only to work for two days. Bud’s mom also lived in the city [San Francisco] and she came down to say hello. She was a very understanding mother who knew exactly what was going on… I was worried about the sex scene now only because of Bud. I was afraid he’d flip and get angry or jealous… It started with a slow, seductive strip while Randy lay eagerly in bed. Things were going very smoothly. I looked over at Bud who smiled approvingly. Then came time for the actual sex. I followed Ed’s directions as Randy spread my legs and began to go down on me. I looked for Bud, but he was nowhere to be seen… I was riding on top of Randy now, trying to hurry the scene along so I could find out why Bud wasn’t on the set like he was supposed to be… When the scene was over, I searched for Bud and found him looking for me. It seems he was forcefully taken aside by two apes that explained that it would be better if he stepped off set as a precaution. They said the director thought he would lose it and ruin the scene. We were livid!”
Hyapatia’s next two films were ‘The Young Like It Hot’ and ‘Sweet Young Things’. In the former she worked alongside Kay Parker, who “took me under her wing and gave me some advice about how I should not be afraid to stand up for myself and let no one push me beyond my boundaries.” Hyapatia would later state: “I never did any anal, or DP's or S&M. I never did anything that made me feel uncomfortable.” In both these films the only man she had sex with was Bud. “I thought it was quite a hoot that I got paid for having sex with my husband. I was totally relaxed and found it exciting.”
Once the films were being released, people started to recognise Hyapatia in public. “I was in shock… Bud gave me a lecture on anonymity. He said that I should’ve known I would have no more private life when I started making these movies. I really didn’t think that many people watched them… People started to recognise me in restaurants and on the streets… At first it was nice, but then it got to be a scary invasion of privacy.”
“The editor for Oui magazine, Peter Wolf, had a friend named Alexis X… One night, Peter, Alexis, Ron Jeremy and his girlfriend and I all went to [the swingers club] Plato’s Retreat… Alexis asked me to dance with her because she didn’t want to get hit on and I agreed… some guy came up and asked her if she was Alexis X. He had seen her movies… She started to feel a need to live up to her reputation and before I knew it, she was stripping on the dancefloor right in front of me. That’s when the guy recognised me. Before I could say much, Alexis was kissing and groping my body. Soon I was naked… It was very exciting to be the centre of attention.”
Hyapatia and Bud soon became renowned for their swinging and drug-taking lifestyle. She would later claim that the swinging stories were simply untrue rumours, "I have been monogamous most of my life outside of my movie work. I never participated in the lifestyle. It was just a job." Bud himself contradicts this: "After Hyapatia and I had been in the business three years, we became monogamous. Hyapatia had sex with other guys when we were married because it was her job. The roles required it.” In other words, it was not until Hyapatia retired in 1986 that her swinging lifestyle ended.
People that knew them in the early 1980’s confirm this. Porn actor Jerry Butler recalls in his autobiography how he “met Hyapatia a few years ago in Chicago at the Consumer Electronics Show. She and her husband Bud invited me up to their hotel room. We talked as she sat there crocheting. I knew they were swingers and was getting tense because Bud kept suggesting that I fuck his wife – with him watching… Lying on the bed, Bud finally told me very bluntly, ‘Maybe you’d like to screw my wife. But I normally like to eat the guy’s ass out while he fucks her.’ My sneakers practically tied themselves, and I ran back to my hotel!”
Another porn actor, Tim Connolly, had a similar experience: “Kelly Nichols and I met Bud Lee with Hyapatia Lee… Bud was just a porn star husband. He was trying to push us into swinging with him. At that point Kelly and I had done some swinging and weren’t that interested. I don’t know why because boy, in retrospect, the whole concept of me fucking Hyapatia Lee and Kelly Nichols sounds pretty good. But at the time I think I was turned off by Bud’s suitcase pimp attitude. Kelly obviously didn’t want to sleep with him. And that’s a big part of it, you know? No matter how much you want to get involved, if your partner doesn’t want to fuck the guy, then…”
According to Bud: “For a long time I struggled with whether I was a loser or not. Hyapatia told me, ‘Don't get a job. I need you or I can't do this job.’ It was excruciating to me to be what some producers call a ‘suitcase pimp’ – a guy who's willing to accept that his wife or girlfriend fucks other men because it makes a lot of dough, but they don't like it, so they put her down for it. But they won't call her a slut unless they're really mad at her.”
During the early 1980’s, the US porn industry was awash with cocaine; Hyapatia and Bud were no exception, and it was not until 1985 that they finally quit the habit. She later said: "It was taking over our lives... One day we looked at each other and said 'this is stupid. We are spending money on something that, by weight, is more expensive than gold. ' And we quit.”
Hyapatia was very selective with films, so unlike her peers Ginger Lynn, Amber Lynn, or Traci Lords, she did not make that many movies. The ones she did make though, were usually good. During her first three years in the porn industry, Hyapatia only made seven films: ‘Naughty Girls Need Love Too’, ‘The Young Like It Hot’, ‘Sweet Young Things’, Hyapatia Lee’s Body Girls’, ‘Hyapatia Lee’s Let’s Get Physical’, ‘Hyapatia Lee’s Tasty’ and ‘The Ribald Tales Of Canterbury’. After each film was released she would tour the country’s strip club circuit as an established porn star. As is usually the case she would make much more money stripping than by actually making the films. Nevertheless, the arrangement was putting a strain on their marriage. “I was rather fed up with Bud treating me like a workhorse. He wanted me working as often as possible, regardless of my mental or physical health… I never cheated on Bud behind his back, but I sure did dream about it. There was never a chance, even if I had wanted to follow through. He was always there, constantly by my side.”
According to Bud, “I think I felt as though I was not doing the best thing for me during the first couple of years. Then I found a place in this career she [Hyapatia] had chosen, I became more and more comfortable with what was happening in my life… I was able to fulfil a young man’s fantasy and become a director of adult movies.” One of the films he directed was ‘The Ribald Tales Of Canterbury’ (1985), one of the most expensive and successful porn movies ever made. In this well-made costume piece Bud films one of his wife’s best scenes as she has a torrid threesome with Mike Horner and Jon Martin.
By this point Hyapatia had become one of the biggest porn stars in the States. “I simply became the character I was portraying and when that character really wanted to have sex with someone, so did I. I was a blank slate to put a persona on and when I wasn’t acting, Hyapatia Lee was happy being whatever they expected of her. I felt like people liked me… I was interviewed, either in person or long distance over the phone, almost daily… I felt important and loved.” “I was fulfilling my fantasies, and not just my sexual ones, and getting paid for it. People were asking for my autograph and joining my fan club. It was hard for me to see how this business could be anything other than good.” Then in 1985 Caribbean closed down, and Hyapatia’s exclusive contract was terminated.
As a free agent she decided to sign with Essex. “We were to do 6 films in one year and get a total of $100,000. The offer seemed too good to be true and it took us about a month to decide to say yes. It might’ve been one of the worst moves we could have made.” After only three films, and feeling cheated financially by Essex, Hyapatia agreed to her contracts termination. “I was not happy taking $35,000 of what was originally a $100,000 contract, but there was no choice.”
By 1987 her marriage with Bud was beginning to fall apart. “It became apparent that this marriage was not going to last much longer. I didn’t think I would ever get married again if I left Bud, after all, who would want to be married to a Porno Star? I decided I was not going to leave this relationship empty handed. I wanted a baby first, and then I would divorce him. If things smoothed out by the time that happened, perhaps I would stay.” After three miscarriages she eventually gave birth to a baby boy. "When my first child was born, it took about nine months to adjust. The hardest part was to adjust to what other people's views of mothers and motherhood is, because it's a sacred space, as compared to other people's stereotypical views of what a porno star is."
In late 1988, she decided to return to the porn industry. “People were starting to forget about me… I needed to get something redent on the shelves in order to increase my demand on the dancing circuit.” According to Hyapatia, however, the script of her come-back movie, ‘Saddletramp’ “had been haphazardly butchered and the amount of money that was in the budget somehow never found it’s way to the set. The movie was thrown together and my only real sex scene shot uncommercially short. The total effect was devastating. It sucked!”
A few months later she signed an exclusive contract with Vivid. Although her figure and breasts had filled out as a result of childbirth, she was still stunningly attractive. “My first movie for Vivid was ‘Sleeping Beauty Aroused’ (1989) and I was very surprised how thrown together it was. The business had gone through quite a change in the last year.” “I was aware that I was, at the time, the only Native American working in the business. I was finding myself being put in more and more situations that exploited this and reinforced stereotypes… All this prompted me to get a new hairstyle. I cut and permed my hair. It was not a very popular decision, but I did not look as Indian.” Over the next two years she proceeded to star in some of her best films to date, such as ‘True Confessions Of Hyapatia Lee’ (1989) and ‘I Do’ (1989). Just as she was re-establishing herself as one of the top porn stars in the industry, Hyapatia became pregnant again. Once more she retired to give birth to her second son in 1990, only to return in 1991 just as insatiable as ever.
“Now that we had two children, I did not feel the need to be involved in the adult entertainment business anymore. In fact, I frankly wanted out. I felt it was now Bud’s turn to finally get a job and support his family… I was still under contract with Vivid to do a few more movies. Paul Thomas always directed the Vivid movie. At first he was fun to work with… With the passing of the years, his interest had waned. Each movie I made with him was worse than the one before.”
Although Bud directed one of her last great films, ‘Centerfold’, in 1993, their marriage had started to fall apart again. Their relationship had always been complex, with Hyapatia later saying: "Survivors of incest and rape need to feel in control. For our violations were not primarily sexual, but matters of power." According to Bud: "Hyapatia and I frequently reversed the roles. She'd roll on top of me, wrap a hand around my throat, slap me, and say: ‘Eat my pussy, and you better make me feel good. Understand?’ Coming on a woman's face is debasing to her, but if that's what she wants, it's ok. I'd rather have a woman swallow my cum because then I feel that she's experiencing me in every way. She's saying, 'I accept you Bud. I accept you fully.' Pissing inside someone after you come is interesting." He would also recall how she always called him ‘Daddy’ when they had sex, implying that she was searching for something missing during her turbulent childhood.
The power politics of the marriage also moved beyond the bedroom into the world of finance. “Bud felt anger and embarrassment at what we had done. He felt like the whole world was laughing at him. Everywhere we went people would ask questions like: ‘How can you let your wife do that?’ and ‘Don’t you fulfil her needs alone?’ He was also painfully aware that I earned every penny.” "When I met him, he was a secretary-treasurer for a finance group. Then we got into the business. He adjusted to my schedule. This business glamorises women, and pays them more than men. Our society is sexist. It expects men to be the major wage earner. And when he realizes that she makes more, it damages his self-esteem… He feels looked down upon... emasculated. The natural response is to get angry. He cannot beat up society, he can only get out his frustrations on something physical within his reach."
Hyapatia would later say that Bud first beat her in 1987. “We had both been drinking and the stress was at a peak… He was going on and on about how I was using him and everyone was laughing at him and how he had no respect or job of his own and therefore no money of his own. He grabbed my purse and struggled with me. After throwing me to the ground, he took the keys and got in the truck to leave. I went after him and he tried to run me over with the truck!” According to Hyapatia he repeated this half-a-dozen times over the next few years. Once in a hotel room in Canada, she claims Bud attempted to strangle her after another drunken argument. “I found Bud standing over mein my room with his hands around my throat. I pretended to pass out so he would think I was dead and finally let go, which he did.”
The final straw came in 1992 when Bud was talking on a public telephone as she waited beside the car for him to finish. A stranger recognised her, and came over asking for an autograph. “I talked to the man, was as polite as could be, signed his autograph and expected him to leave. Bud was still ignoring me. The man headed for his car and I thought I should get back in ours as quickly as possible. When I reached the door, I realised the man was right behind me… He stood by the door with me and I couldn’t believe it when he unzipped his pants and started to masturbate! It was dark and all, but we were on a pretty busy street, with lights and traffic going by. It didn’t seem to bother him. Eventually the guy came on my shoe and finally left. Bud was still talking on the phone… It was apparent that Bud would no longer protect me at all.” They finally divorced in 1993.
Hyapatia Lee continued making porn films throughout 1993, before eventually retiring later that year for the third and final time. Fear of AIDS and falling budgets were the main reason for her departure. "I thought people in the business would be more responsible [about AIDS]… Budgets plunged in the late '80s. Producers no longer sought to make movies... I remember one night we were working overtime... While lying on the bed, I looked up and saw lights exploding. I dove away just in time. I could've been badly burned... Everything became wall-to-wall... double anal... circus acts.” In 1993 she was inducted into the X-Rated Critics Organisation Hall Of Fame for porn stars, but by this point she had turned her back on the industry, describing it as “scummy... It's changed for the worst since the Golden Age."
According to Hyapatia she has no regrets about her past: “[Porn] did help me become more at ease with my own sexuality and in control. I learned so much about the human sexual condition and its deviations… When I started doing this work, it made me feel good about myself. I did not feel abused or used.” “The business gave me self-esteem and self-confidence. It allowed me to explore my own sexuality… Through my movies, I was trying to better society by creating a more open view of human sexuality." Nevertheless, she admits she has since moved on: "It was in the past... If someone wants to hate me, they can always find something, but few people give me any trouble over my films. It does not affect my kids.”
In a 1993 interview she said: "Our sons will grow up with an un-neurotic attitude toward sex and nudity. There is nothing to be ashamed of in what I do. I'm more concerned with other influences, such as society's moral judgements and violence on TV, which is the true pornography. I'm concerned about their friends from school, teachers… Kids can be vicious to each other. What path my sons decide to take in their adult lives is entirely their business. I wouldn't recommend nor disallow porn involvement. If they decided that is what they want to do, I would sit them down and give them some advice. Who better, right? I would tell them not to do anything they don't want to do, which is true for any profession."
In 1997 she married for the second time, and in March 1998 gave birth to her third son. She was now living back in Indianapolis and running a website through which she sold her old films and memorabilia. Around May 1998, however, it was announced on the internet that she had relapsed into a childhood illness, diabetes, and passed away. Her website broadcast the message: “Please set up a fund raising sale on my behalf for my medical and burial expenses. I have no medical insurance and my family can’t even afford the doctor’s bills, not to mention the cost of a burial.” It was later revealed that the entire affair was a scam designed to make money. Bud would later claim that she was alive and well living in rural Indiana.
Regardless of her later actions, Hyapatia Lee remains one of the most important figures in 1980’s US porn. Although never as popular or prolific as her original peers, Ginger Lynn, Amber Lynn, or Traci Lords, she maintained her status as a top porn star until her final retirement in 1993. In her early films she appeared petite and delicate; after 1988 she came across as more mature, confident and curvaceous. She was always extremely sexual though and enjoyed her work until the end. When she no longer enjoyed herself, she quit.
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