When a slowly unfolding tragedy strikes the young and energetic, fate seems especially cruel, a notion I haven't been able to shake since learning that my friend Hollie Stevens, a 30-year-old porn star, died this week after a year-long bout with cancer that had spread from her breasts to her brain.
Hollie moved here from the Midwest in her early 20s for a career in porn that included more than 170 films, and she had an infectious zest for life and a strong and expansive sense of her community. She was proudly living her dream, parlaying her film career into an entertaining column on porn life in Girls and Corpses magazine, art projects, and speaking gigs.
I met Hollie in 2008 when working on “Cue the clowns,” a Guardian cover story on the burgeoning local indie circus scene, a memorable meeting that I even included in the article. Dressed as a clown at a Bohemian Carnival event, I asked this statuesque blond if she liked clowns, and she responded that she was a clown and had starred in a film called Clown Porn, a cult classic in this admittedly narrow porn genre.
Hollie combined a fun-loving free spirit with a down-to-earth confidence that made her easy to befriend, as other friends of mine at the time also found. While doing often-extreme BDSM porn shoots at the Armory for Kink.com and live shows at Lusty Lady, she also became a regular in the tight crew that gathers on the north side of Baker Beach and a volunteer with How Weird Street Faire and other community events.
We'd lost touch when I heard last year that she was diagnosed with stage three metastatic breast cancer, which first claimed those beautiful breasts and then her luscious life. But our mutual friends said she was a fighter who maintained her spirit and sense of humor throughout, an inspiration to friends and admirers who held a series of fundraisers around San Francisco to help pay her medical expenses. Just last month, she married her love, artist and comedian Eric Cash, while in the hospital.
Hollie was one of those classic San Francisco transplants, who made a real home and family of her adopted city and lived an unconventional life to its fullest potential. She will be greatly missed by many admirers and kindred spirits.
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