Karen Lancaume was born on 19 January 1973, in Lyon, France, and is "German from my father's side and Austro-Moroccan from my mother". She had a conservative and uneventful middle class upbringing, growing up with her older brother in the country, about forty kilometres outside Lyon. Karen later described herself as being a quiet country-girl at heart.
Things began to change when she went on a family holiday at the age of 17 and lost her virginity to a 24 year-old man she met. By her own admission this was a turning point in her life as she fell in love with sex! Things were kept under control though, as she finished high school and decided to go to university where she studied marketing. To help pay her tuition fees Karen worked as a barmaid in a nightclub where her looks soon attracted a number of men. Although she experimented during her time at university, Karen was still quite restrained as she awaited her prince charming.
In 1994 Karen met a DJ at the club named Franck. The two fell in love and she decided to drop out of college in order to get married. Apart from the odd part time job, her main ambition at the time was simply to be a good wife and eventually become a mother. Nevertheless, despite leading unremarkable lives on the surface, both Karen and her husband were actively involved in the local swinging scene, as Franck enjoyed watching her have sex with other women.
At the time Karen and Franck ran into serious financial problems, and decided to contact Laetitia, the French queen of amateur video. Unfortunately they were unable to contact her company, and instead turned to Marc Dorcel. Although nervous about taking the final step, Karen later recalled: "I used to frequent swinger clubs with my husband. In a club in Paris we met a couple that did hard-core photography. We also decided to try it and that eventually led to my first porn film." Re-assured by these acquaintances, Karen and Franck sent a letter and photographs to the casting office of Marc Dorcel's company VMD. Karen, however, insisted that she would only work with her husband, and neither saw porn as a long-term solution. "In the beginning my husband and I thought it would be an easy way to make lots of money quickly. That's still partly true. I love my body and sex. So taken together porno isn't a bad option." Two days later they were contacted by VMD and cast in 'L'Indecente Aux Enfers' (1996).
During the first on-screen movie shoot, however, Karen's husband had problems performing, and was forced to retire from the business. Karen decided to continue with the movie regardless, much to her husband's displeasure. The film's success soon led to other offers, although companies weren't really interested in Franck. As a result Karen and her husband decided that she should continue alone in the industry. At the time she claimed: "My husband isn't jealous, but he doesn't want to be there on the set. He prefers to stay at home. It's bad for the relationship. I prefer him being on the set when I'm having sex as his presence reassures me and turns me on."
Karen was soon cast in another Dorcel film, 'Le Journal D'Une Infermiere' (1996), as well as movies by Ian Nichols, Patrice Cabanel and Henri G. Within a few months she had established herself as a major star in the industry, something that led to friction with her husband. In late 1996 she said in an interview: "We're not swingers anymore. That means both partners have sex with other people. We don't do that. Sometimes we have a threesome with a beautiful woman, but we don't watch each other have sex with other couples. We only have threesomes with other women. It really turns me on. Two women in a threesome is the perfect combination. The man doesn't have to be involved all the time. Sometimes he can just watch. I consider myself bi-sensual rather than bisexual. I enjoy the sensuality of having sex with a woman. It's tenderer than it is with a man. When I go to bed with a woman it's not just about sex. It's a lot richer, stronger and fulfilling than that. And my husband enjoys watching me with another woman." Nevertheless, Franck could never really accept the idea of Karen fucking other men in front of the camera and this eventually led to their divorce in 1997.
Eight months after her first porn film, and now released from any constraints Franck imposed on her roles, Karen starred in the excellent 'Carpe Diem' (1997), directed by the Italian genius Alex Perry. Alex Perry is one of the few directors involved in the industry today that is constantly able to create interesting yet exciting hard-core porn films. They are always tied together with a coherent plot, the cinematography is top form and the sex is nasty. Furthermore, his releases are few and far between for porn standards. He only directs four or five films a year.
'Carpe Diem' is one of his best. Karen co-starred with Czech porn legend Lea Martini and Canadian Tanya Lariviere, and proved she was a natural in front of the camera. She played the role of the butler's younger sister, who is found a job by her brother working with him in a French mansion. Karen's first scene is with the master of the house, who proceeds to have anal sex with her before coming on her face. The story is typically kinky, and revolves around the butler who finally dominates all the women of the house. He begins by sharing and humiliating his own girlfriend, Tanya Lariviere, who enjoys sucking off both the butler and his friends while being spanked with a riding crop. He then dominates the lady of the house, Lea Martini, who eventually has sex with the butler and his friend, while her husband watches and is sucked off by Karen. In between these scenes the butler also fucks his little sister, Karen Lancaume, as well.
'Carpe Diem' set the standard for Karen in porn films, as she became known as the starlet who would happily do almost anything in front of the camera. Anal sex and DP's became the norm for her, although due to her strict Catholic upbringing and fearing overexposure, she refused to take part in gangbangs or golden showers. Karen's popularity and standing within the European industry was reinforced by her nomination for 'Best Supporting European Actress' at the Hot D'Or Awards that same year.
Over the next two years Karen appeared in a number of big-budget European films starring alongside Laure Sainclair, Anita Blond, Lea Martini, Maria De Sanchez and Anita Dark. Unlike most of her contemporaries though, she did not attempt to break into the US market, but instead preferred to remain in Europe. Between 1998-1999 she seemed to work almost exclusively with established directors such as Mario Salieri, Luca Damiano and Andrew Blake. With Laure Sainclair retiring from the industry in 1999, Karen became the top French porn star in the business. Although she appeared on numerous box-covers though, many of her films, especially those directed by Salieri, would only show her in single scenes. She rarely made quality productions such as 'Carpe Diem' again, but her enthusiasm for on-screen sex is always a pleasure to watch.
In 2000 Karen temporarily retired from the adult movie industry. She appeared in an X-rated version of the computer game 'Tomb Raider', entitled 'Nude Raider' where she played the imaginary character Laura Croft, sucking and fucking her way across the computer screen. She also appeared in the French cult film 'Baise Moi' (Fuck Me). It was directed by former French porn star Coralie and caused an uproar with its Quentin Tarantino depiction of violence and explicit sex scenes, despite the fact that it was not an adult film. The film portrays two girls (one of whom is played by Karen Lancaume named Nadine) as they indulge in an orgy of sex and violence, killing everyone and anyone that crosses their path. Reviews were mixed, but the media attention meant Karen became the most talked about French porn star for doing something outside of the adult industry.
“It was clear in my mind that I’d stopped doing porn for good. When you make that kind of decision, the way we made it, it’s final. It was a big dilemma, it was hard to go back, hard to do. But because it was an interesting character, and all the people involved, the production team, Virginie and Coralie, it didn’t take me long to decide to do it… For me it was like doing porn in an interesting way. It was justified. It was justified to do it then, because of all the stuff around it… For me, it was just a natural progression and a real gift of a project, and I took it as that, just as a chance to try film acting. I’d always dreamed of playing a strong character and this character was just a great gift. So yeah, I just went for it… I wasn’t doing porn. I was doing a film with sex in it… Nadine does loads of other things before getting fucked. But the concept was good and it was very close to the way I see things. I don’t see why we should have scruples filming sex. We’re not forcing anyone to see the film. It’s not bad to show a bit of sex in a film. Plenty of people like it.”
After having taken a year off, Karen planned a return to French porn again in 2001, but her comeback never materialised. Instead she began working in marketing, while also planning to record her first album. She then virtually disappeared from public view as she failed to follow-up ‘Baise Moi’ with any other mainstream or adult films, and her album never materialised. She began writing an autobiography, but in late 2004 gave up.
According to some that knew her, she was content and happy with her new life outside of porn and the limelight; others, however, were worried. According to her friend Virginie Despentes, author and director of ‘Baise Moi’, Karen stopped communicating with people halfway through January 2005. On 28 January, one week after turning 32, Karen took an overdose of sleeping pills while staying at a friend’s apartment just south of Paris. She was found dead the next morning, along with a note to her parents. There appeared to be no explanation for her suicide, although fellow porn star and friend Beatrice Valle had her own theory: “She was married very young, she was in love and naïve, and she wanted to please her man. That’s how she entered porn. Then she divorced, and ever since she has felt that her life was a failure… she left porn and her decent into hell began. Drugs, alcohol and medications… depression.”
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