Lisa Trego was born on 3 July 1959 in Moline, Illinois. She had an unremarkable childhood, describing herself as a "Midwestern farm-girl." "I was a tomboy as a kid, played with the boys. Still do, only it's different now. I think it was good for me growing up there. You had to develop your imagination, because there was nothing really to do." She eventually lost her virginity just before her 16th birthday. "I was mad at my boyfriend at the time I lost my virginity, but his two best friends were available. They did me in the back seat of a Firebird for about three hours. They'd take turns driving and fucking me over the country roads, bumping and humping."
Lisa admits she was not attractive as a teenager. "I was overweight and wore my hair like my mothers… when I dropped 40 pounds the whole picture changed… Before I lost the weight, all I had was enormous breasts, they were the only really attractive thing about me. Guys would stare at them, and when they got my top off they'd dive right onto my tits. It made me wish they weren't so big." By the time she was 17 Lisa had also experimented with women, but admits, "It was only one time".
After finishing high school she began working for a used car dealer, while her boyfriend worked in the local adult movie theatre. It was through him that she first became introduced to pornography, but later remembered finding it un-arousing: "I wondered in one day to see what a porn film looked like and practically fell asleep in five minutes." Her life soon changed though as "I got fired because I wouldn't give backseat test drives."
Lisa and her boyfriend decided to move to Los Angeles and start a new life. "I decided that I liked California and I wanted to stay here. It was a lot more expensive than living in Illinois, so I figured that I had to make big bucks quick and modelling sounded like a way to do it… I was eighteen at the time and I just turned nineteen when I started modelling… I started doing girlie modelling in August of 1978." "I didn't know it was going to be nude modelling, but my tits were so big they didn't mind if I was still a little overweight. I was working everyday for a month; then there were so many sets of me at the magazines that I had to look elsewhere. Someone told me I could make good money in porno, so I did a loop… It was the first and only time that a partner had an accident and came inside me too soon. We had to wait a while and do it again… It made me feel good in a way, because the guy was experienced, and he came with me right away."
According to Lisa, she and her boyfriend Doug "had talked about it before, and he said 'Movies are fun, but I don't want you to cheapen yourself by doing something sleazy in the backroom of some dingy hotel'". Under the pseudonym Lisa De Leeuw, she began appearing in numerous hardcore Swedish Erotica loops. She later admitted: "I did come out [to California] with the intention of acting, but not in X-rated films. I'm sure nobody plans on that when they first come out here. It's not one of those life long dreams - 'Oh boy, I want to be a porno star'. I just hit LA, it was there, and I happened to fall into it."
Although Lisa didn't mind having sex in front of the camera, she remembered being quite inexperienced at the time. "I'd only started giving head a year before, so how was I to know that lip service was required when they would bark, "Get the guy up!' Learning how to use garter belts was also a treat. I know even experienced performers who still occasionally will put the panties on under the garter belt, which makes for a good deal of unintentional comedy when you're trying to remove them on camera."
The following year Lisa starred in her first full-length movie, when film director Svetlana offered her a role in '800 Fantasy Lane' (1979). Before filming began, however, she was told to lose weight, "Svetlana put me on a strict diet, no food, just vitamins." This fight to keep her weight down was to continue throughout her career as a porn star. However, according to Lisa, the atmosphere on the set was terrible. "She's [Svetlana] a tyrant… we worked twenty hour days. We were fed cold hot dogs and drank cold coffee… I worked with her in my third film, which was 'Ultra Flesh' with Seka. I thought for sure that Svetlana would have changed her ways because '800 Fantasy Lane' was her first feature also. I made excuses for her, I thought, well, she just didn't know what she was doing… So by the time 'Ultra Flesh' came around, I thought she would have straightened up her act, but she really hadn't." Despite the unpleasant surroundings of her first porn film, Lisa De Leeuw never considered quitting the business. "I really don't know why I continued. I think it was probably because the money was good and I enjoyed the acting aspects of it."
According to Lisa, her boyfriend Doug enjoyed watching her have sex with other men on screen, but her family back in Moline had no idea what their daughter was doing for a living. In 1980 she admitted: "I don't think they know about it. Well, they might. I talked to them about a month ago, and they asked questions, but in a kind of a roundabout way, about what I was doing. But they wouldn't ask me outright. And if it ever comes down to it, I'll tell them. But right now, well, they're so redneck farmer, you know, you don't dare shock them, especially when they are older people. Because my parents are in their fifties. And they've been raised with one standard, and you don't come out and say, 'Mom, I'm doing this!' I wouldn't want them to keel over."
The first film she actually enjoyed making was 'Pro-Ball Cheerleaders' (1979), although she caught pneumonia during the filming after having sex for three hours in a rain-soaked field. "After that everyone decided that they liked me wet. They kept putting me in these water scenes." One such scene was in 'Garage Girls' (1980), where she had sex with John Leslie in a shower. It was not only the best sex scene of the film, but also one of the best of her career. The highpoint, however, came with her appearance in 'Amanda By Night' (1981), when, after numerous previous nominations she finally won the Award for Best Supporting Actress. Lisa was cynical about the awards though, claiming: "it was a lot like the Academy Awards - a lot of it was political… After that, I received two Erotica’s which was nice, but I wasn't even invited to the awards those years. I thought that was kind of funny! I didn't even know I was nominated. I read about it later."
By late 1980 Lisa had made about 18 porn films in which she had sex with about 35 different men and perhaps 20 women. In her private life, however, she had only had sex with 15 partners. "A lot of people think that when you're in porno films that you're very loose, that you'll screw anybody, photographers, directors, that you go to swing parties every night, and I don't! I've had several photographers come into the business and they think automatically that if they're shooting a girl they're going to get her into bed. And it's not true. Most girls that I know and respect in this business come in, they do their job, they get paid, they leave… If they wanted to be hookers, they'd stand down on Sunset Boulevard, or something."
Although never as popular as other porn stars of her time, such as Seka or Veronica Hart, Lisa De Leeuw was, by this point, one of the most successful actresses in the industry. Furthermore, despite sometimes clashing with her on a personal level, her co-stars enjoyed working with her. In his autobiography Jerry Butler recalls: "Lisa De Leeuw is an abundant, extreme personality… For some reason I also found her to be sexy. No matter how much of a primadonna she was, no matter how demanding she was, Lisa transformed from a big, bold, untouchable landmark into a flesh and blood woman when my dick was going in and out of her."
By this time Lisa had also married her boyfriend. "He did a few films… He really didn't get too many roles though. He encouraged me because I was young and everybody wanted me and he could sit home and collect the money and then harass me to find him parts in films! So we just had a parting of the ways because of that." Following the divorce she took a year out in 1984 and later married a musician. "I had been doing so much I was getting emotionally exhausted. It was right when everybody was wanting to do kinky sex. If you wouldn't do it, they wouldn't hire you… I was very close to a nervous breakdown." However, the fact is that by 1984 Lisa De Leeuw had put on an enormous amount of weight. Her beautiful full-breasted figure of 1980, when she made 'Ultra Flesh', 'Upstairs Downstairs' and 'Garage Girls', was transformed into an overweight mass by the time 'Bodies In Heat' (1983) and 'Ten Little Maidens' (1984) were released. Quite often she would not even have sex in these films.
After her hiatus, Lisa slowly began to return to the porn industry in the mid-1980's. "I got back into films and personal appearances and things. I co-produced a few films with Ginger Lynn and found that that was more bother than it was worth, plus I wasn't getting laid." By the late 1980's, however, the US porn industry was in a quagmire. Budgets had dropped, and as a result so had standards. The elaborate settings and scripts that had existed when Lisa first entered porn was a thing of the past. She was overweight, and as acting was no longer a necessity, she could not hope to compete with new younger porn stars of the era such as Kascha or April West. Lisa De Leeuw began to slowly fade from public view.
Although by her own admission she entered porn in order to make money, Lisa never condemned the industry. "I will never look down on it… there's so many people like Linda Lovelace who now makes her money by degrading the business and I don't think I would ever do that because it has been very good for me. It's given me more self-esteem, more confidence. I've gotten to see a lot of the world. I've made a lot of money. I've made a lot of great friends. Vanessa Del Rio, Samantha Fox… There are just a lot of really good people in the industry. Most people on the outside look at it and go 'Oh yeah, they're all tramps and sluts - instead of having dinner they're having orgies' - and we're really not like that… I'm not saying I don't like sex, but my all time fantasy has been to do it in a bed without high heels and a nylon garter belt… without having to yell, 'Oooh, I'm coming, I'm coming'. And in the missionary position too, which they never do!"
Lisa never understood the public's negative attitude towards porn. "I confess that I'm baffled by the ratings system. Dragonslayer depicted baby eating, and it was rated PG. Rape, maiming, killing are only rated R, but sex... I saw all these previews for the reissue of 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' on primetime TV. Usually followed by the news with a big headline: Porno Bust! They can't decide which is more obscene - death or sex?" Lisa also admits that she has no time for anti-porn feminists: "I'm proud of my body; I got my weight down from 165 to 120 [pounds], and I should have the right to put my best foot forward. If a club owner hires a singer, he's giving her an 'opportunity', but if he hires a topless dancer, it's called 'exploitation'. In both cases the performer is combining her natural beauty with the craft and artistry she has developed."
In 1988 she said in an interview: "Ten years from now, I can't see myself actively involved in acting or stripping or anything like that. It's just that it comes to a point in your life where you gotta say, 'This is what I want to do and I don't want to keep nickel and diming in the business.'" Unfortunately Lisa De Leeuw became heavily involved with drugs, through which she became infected with the HIV virus. Various sources claim that she eventually died of AIDS on 11 November 1993, thereby becoming the only renowned female porn star from the Golden Age to ever to die of the disease. According to former porn director David Jennings, however, she was still alive in 2000. The case remains open. Regardless, she remains one of the best-loved stars of the early 1980's, and has since been inducted into the 'X Rated Critics Hall OF Fame'.
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