Guest Shot column

Vanessa Del Rio -- The Satin Latin

By Larry Tritten

During the past decade porn stars have proliferated at such a rate that keeping track of them is a feat to tax even the attention of a porn archivist like Jim Holliday. One might draw an analogy between trying to recognize all of the girls in one's senior high school yearbook if the school was in a major metropolis and the class the size of a military battalion. But before the ascendency of video, back in the seventies, new performers appeared at a rate approximately equal to the number of initiates entering a secret and somewhat exclusive club.

In retrospect, the stars of those times rank as pioneers on a new frontier and the most memorable of them have acquired a special mystique that grows with nostalgia. None of them blazed a brighter path through the wilds of that frontier than Vanessa Del Rio. She was and remains the quintessential porn star, legendary and incomparable.

Vanessa Del Rio in 1974
Whenever Vanessa Del Rio leered, she reminded me of one of the shark-toothed Flying Tigers flown by Chennault's pilots during World War II. With her raggedy cascade of coal-black hair, copper-colored skin, gleaming ebony eyes, scarlet talons, and opulent body, she was the definitive sex goddess, a creature whose natural habitat could only be the deepest jungle of the male libido. And her name was the perfect porn star name, a mouthful of prurient candy, full of serpentine sibilance and Latin radiance.

The reasons for her popularity were always obvious. She was never less than overwhelmingly salacious -- she fulfilled our dreams of a breathtakingly voluptuous and exotic siren who was also raunchy, aggressive, wild, and inexhaustible. If Annette Haven was porn's resident uptown lady whose face would never be seen besmirched with semen and Seka was an icy queen who even at her wickedest somehow seemed to be a hallucination of our wishes, Vanessa was a super-sexed vampire Who slaked a demon thirst on our fantasies by giving absolutely all of herself in the process. Her face veiled with semen, cocks sunk into every juicy orifice, sweat glittering like diamonds on her body, tangled in orgiastic combinations, yet always smiling, laughing, glowing with a look of bliss and abandonment she always created an image of total and sincere carnality.

Look at her in some of her earliest films from 1976. In them Vanessa still had a girlish sweetness to her features, a look that would soon give way to a seasoned and sultry womanliness as she began to marinate in the heat of her special brine. It was Vanessa Del Rio who brought the meaning of the word bice (which I'd heard from time to time) home to me. Webster's describes it as "a grayish blue, duller than azure." It's a subtle color concept I'd always thought of in terms of a certain kind of somber sky, but I discovered its very essence expressed in one of the varied hues of Vanessa Del Rio's labia majora. Where the unsprawled labia yielded into the vivid shell pink of the vestibule of her vagina I saw that their inner linings and outer surfaces displayed a range of lividity from lilac through plum to oyster to an unmistakable and exquisite bice. A grayish blue with the soul of lavender in it! In those wonderful close ups on film on a full-sized movie screen one could marvel at the mulberry, mauve, and indigo play of colors in Vanessa's beautiful cunt.

Even when the movie was so bad that one cringed, the force of Vanessa's sensuality and the quality of her acting transcended the context to insulate her appeal from that badness. Here was a sex goddess whose every move was compelling, and she made the sweetie-pie and teeny-tart types seem slight by comparison. Beauty and sex appeal are, of course, commonplace in X-rated movies, but it takes something very special to distinguish a woman from so much tantalizing competition This was a personal style that filtered beauty and sex appeal through layers of cool self awareness and erotic authority. And what a fabulous package the beauty was -- the shark's mouth, anthracite tresses, and a body that in a languorous sprawl was like a lush terrain of hills, vales, and arroyos, the hills and vales having the glow of dark rum illuminated by sunlilght, the cunt with its vivid play of candy colors.

Where did Vanessa Del Rio come from? Was she hatched from a satin pod in some sexual paradise? Was she left on Earth by extraterrestrial researchers conducting an experiment in interplanetary biology? Is she one of Medusa's daughters, committed to bedazzling mankind?

I have a photograph of Vanessa that was taken during a Hustler photo session in 1980. In it she wears a blue jumpsuit and is smoking a cigarette; her hair looks like it was combed with a Roman candle. Yet she is completely beautiful. Her lips are flared back in her customary sensual grimace; the jumpsuit is open to tie navel, revealing just the inner curves of her large breasts.

Vanessa Del Rio in 2001
What was she like? I asked my friend, who interviewed her. Her sexual fantasies, she told him, were to fuck Orson Welles and Marlon Brando. Vanessa is a native New Yorker of Cuban descent. I've always thought of her as the Satin Latin, indeed the very satin-est of Latins. She had a Catholic upbringing, which may help explain her fantastic sensuality. It has been my experience that Catholicism creates some incredibly sexual women through inversion when its sexually repressive philosophy backfires.

Let us offer a toast to the Satin Latin. May her movies endure and outlast the last vestiges of Puritanism. May she continue to educate, inspire, excite, and enliven generations. May her legend always burn with the hot light of her sexuality. Here's to you, Vanessa, wherever you are.

Note: The irrepressible Vanessa Del Rio is alive and well and living in cyberspace at