Biography of Traci Elizabeth Lords (a.k.a.: Tracy Lords)
Nora Louise Kuzma was born in Steubenville, Ohio to Louis and Patricia Kuzma (née
Briceland). Her stage name is said to be in tribute to Katharine Hepburn's character
Tracy Lord from The Philadelphia Story (the same character played by Grace Kelly
in High Society), or from the first name of her high school best friend Traci
and the last name of her favorite actor from Hawaii Five-O, Jack Lord. At twelve,
she fled from her abusive alcoholic father to Lawndale, California, with her mother
and three sisters. In 1983, she began attending Redondo Union High School. She
eventually had an abortion, which she paid for herself; went through a nervous
breakdown, and ran away from home. On October 7, 2007, Lords gave birth to a son,
Joseph Gunnar, her first child with husband of five years, Jeff Lee.
At age 15, she was living with her mother's ex-boyfriend, Roger. Posing as her
stepfather, he helped her respond to classified ads requesting models. Using
a fake ID provided by Roger that stated she was 20 rather than 15, she started
in the porn industry with Jim South at the World Modeling Agency in Sherman
Oaks, under the name Kristie Elizabeth Nussman.
Shortly after, she was modeling for widely distributed adult magazines, most
notably Penthouse, in the same September 1984 issue that exposed Miss America
1984, Vanessa Williams. She quickly ventured into adult movies. Her first movie
was What Gets Me Hot!, followed by Those Young Girls and Talk Dirty To Me Part
III, all made in the first half of 1984. Lords' youthful appearance and enthusiastic
sexual performances propelled her to stardom. By the time she was 18, she had
appeared in 100 adult films; however, Lords argued in her autobiography that
about 80 of those films were composed from leftover and re-edited footage from
the original 20 films that were shot.
In May 1986, authorities discovered she had been underage while making pornographic
movies and arrested her, as well as the owners of her movie agency and X-Citement
Video, Inc. (See United States v. X-Citement Video.) The ensuing prosecution
against the agencies cost the pornographic film and distribution industry millions
of dollars, as they were obliged by law to remove hundreds of thousands of her
videotapes, films and magazines from store shelves to avoid the risk of prosecution
for trafficking in child pornography (the legality varies with countries: while
it is illegal in France to produce a pornographic film involving an actor under
18, the film remains legal). In her book, Lords suggested hypocrisy on the part
of the movie producers and the news media, arguing that the porn industry actually
got richer from the publicity of the scandal, even as they complained of losing
money after destroying her illegal movies. Lords felt she was also exploited
by the reporters, who used censored stills from her unlawful films. Lords herself
was never charged with a crime, since as a minor she was unable to give informed
consent to perform sex acts on film for money. Instead, the agents and producers
who accepted her fake IDs were charged and people affiliated with the films
in question experienced legal troubles for years.
Like most starlets of the time, Lords received a salary for her appearances
in X-rated movies and didn't own the rights of those films. According to her
autobiography, she made $35,000 as total salary for all of those movies, including
the $5,000 she received for her appearance in Penthouse. Most of this money
was spent on rent and drugs. It also paid for a black Corvette that her boyfriend
For her last few films, she and another much older boyfriend formed the Traci
Lords Company, where he co-produced and directed the movies. Lords received
a smaller salary, but also received part of the rights of these movies.
Only one of these films, Traci, I Love You, was produced after her eighteenth
birthday, making it the only one legally available in the United States. (However,
in non-US jurisdictions where the age of consent is lower, as well as over the
Internet, her earlier films continue to be distributed).
After her arrest, Lords sold her rights to this film for $100,000. This action
led to claims that Lords herself had tipped off the authorities to gain immunity
from prosecution, while profiting from the movie. No proof has ever surfaced
to substantiate this claim. Lords denies this notion in her autobiography, and
claims that she was reluctant to sell the rights, since at that time she was
trying to become a mainstream actress and didn't want any older movies still
available. Also, she wrote she knew nothing of people's real names or who produced
which film, and did not provide such information to the FBI. The FBI agents,
"appeared annoyed" when she could not provide the information they
wanted. She said that the agents claimed to have monitored her for three years.
Government prosecutors declared that Lords was a victim of a manipulative industry,
maintaining she was drugged and made to do non-consensual acts. But industry
insiders, like Ron Jeremy, Ginger Lynn and Tom Byron, say they never saw her
use drugs, and that she was fully aware of her actions, even if, as a minor,
she could not legally consent. One of her co-workers from that time, Christy
Canyon, has gone so far as to say about Lords' autobiography: "I think
her book could have been fabulous, except that she was lying throughout the
While Lords decries the pornographic film industry, she continues to use the
stage name she gave herself as a minor, and ultimately made it her legal name.
She wrote, "I chose to stop running from it. Instead, I won it, legally
changing my name to Traci Elizabeth Lords. That's who I was, and that's who
I was going to be." Lords stated that she is not trying to deny her past,
telling Oprah Winfrey: "I found you can run but you cannot hide".
Post porn career
Lords moved into mainstream films, and has appeared in a number of movies. At
18, Lords began studying at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, and soon after,
starred in a remake of Roger Corman's film Not of This Earth. Then in 1990,
she appeared in John Waters' Cry-Baby, playing the role of Wanda Woodward. Other
movies on her resume include Blade, Tommyknockers, Black Mask 2: City of Masks,
and Chump Change. The latter won her a Best Actress Award at the U.S. Comedy
Arts Festival. She has also made cameo appearances in Serial Mom, Nowhere and
In addition to movies, Lords has also made many appearances in TV shows, including
Married... with Children, MacGyver, Highlander: The Series, Tales from the Crypt,
Hercules, Gilmore Girls, and Will & Grace among others, along with recurring
roles in Profiler, Roseanne, and Melrose Place. From late in 2000 to 2001, Lords
appeared in the Francis Ford Coppola produced sci-fi series First Wave, playing
Jordan Radcliffe, the newest member of a group called Raven Nation that combats
In the 1990s, Lords began developing a career as a singer, performing vocals
on the Manic Street Preachers U.K. Top 40 hit, "Little Baby Nothing",
and also appearing in the music videos of other performers and groups. In 1995,
Lords made her solo debut, in collaboration with Juno Reactor and Jesus Jones'
Mike Edwards, called 1000 Fires. The Juno Reactor-produced first single "Control"
reached #2 on the Billboard Dance Charts. The song "Control" was featured
in the 1995 movie adaptation of the game Mortal Kombat, which played as an instrumental.
Lords returned to the music scene in 2004 with a new, independently produced
recording, the double A-side "Sunshine".
In 2003 she published her autobiography, Traci Lords: Underneath It All (ISBN
0-06-050820-5), which made the New York Times bestseller list. In December 2003,
Lords wrote and directed a short film with Fox Searchlab entitled Sweet Pea,
released and shown at film festivals in 2005. The film is loosely inspired by
an experience recounted in her autobiography; a teenage girl finds herself overcome
with doubt after being raped by her boyfriend.
Lords' most recent film appearance is in Zack and Miri Make a Porno, where
she plays a strap-on wielding bubble gum chewing porn star.
Full name: Traci Elizabeth Lords
Birthdate: May 7, 1968
Father: Louis Kuzma
Mother: Patricia Briceland
Birthplace: Steubenville, Ohio, USA