What's a nice girl from Gateshead doing in a dump like this? Making it big in the States, that's what. EDWARD HELMORE reports on a Geordie exile whose body is her temple. Photographs by ELLEN VON UNWERTH
Gentlemen!" screams the MC. "Gold Fingers is proud to announce a special appearance by one of the most popular adult film stars in the industry today! She's appeared in over 200 triple-X films and videos! She's been in every famous men's magazine! She's the only well-known porn star to have won the title of Penthouse Pet and Covergirl! She's revved up and raring to go! Gentlemen! Please join me in a wild welcome for...Taylor Wane! At a professionally prompt 9pm, the strobes flash, a pair of black curtains part and Taylor Wane, the hottest table dancer in the US of A, makes her entrance. 37-23-35 and dressed in an equestrian-themed top hat and red satin tails, red patent boots and fishnet stockings, she strikes a dramatic pose against the smoky mirrors,raises her riding crop and runs headlong down the runway. Halfway down, she drops to her knees and slides, stopping precariously short of a table of drunk Japanese businessmen. Crouching cat-like to show her spectacular cleavage to best effect, she flicks her hair back, rises up on her haunches, pulls a man up against the side of the stage, places his head between her thighs and whacks him with the crop. The man, 28-year-old Steve Lobmeier, a juke box salesman from Long Island, falls back into his chair, grins and rubs his nose as if he has hay fever. "If you're talking 'bout sweet cheeks, they don't come sweeter than that," the MC bawls above the deafening music.

Under the flight path to JFK airport, between a drive-in Burger King and the Long Island Expressway overpass, smack dab in the middle of Queens, Gold Fingers is the most popular of the booming strip joints that litter the tri-state area. Most nights, it's loud, dark and teeming with girls who pay the club $35 to come and table dance ``up-close and in person'' for tips. Side attractions include "sexy boxing" and hot- oil wrestling, but this week Taylor Wane is the big draw, the platinum-haired recipient of $2,000 a night, plus tips and the proceeds of personal merchandising, for displaying her consummately professional skills five times a night.

But the dressing room is drab and Taylor is far from happy. "Gold Fingers is a very low notch on the totem pole," she complains. "But it's not as bad as Show World on 42nd Street, is it?" she asks Laurien, her husband and manager. "Now that was just a gutter."

"A stain on the floor?" he suggests.

"Not even that," she replies. "It's a stain that has seeped through the floor and it's rotten... It's just the mildew. It's so low it's the lowest." She broods a moment, twisting her waist-length hair extensions around her blood red nails. And then she brightens, her clear green eyes sparkle, and she pouts her bee-stung lips. "Funny how time does heal," she says. "Because all I remember was making money hand over fist."

When Taylor Wane came to the States five years ago, she was Joanna Ferry, a 20-year- old former sports and swimwear model from Gateshead, Tyne and Wear - she's still got her Geordie lilt. One of five children, she grew up in a terraced house with a dad who used to make pease pudding ("I made it for an ex-boyfriend - he loved it, but it's way too much work to make all the time"). At school, she wanted to be a primary school teacher and got distinctions in her RSAs for human biology, English and art: "I was at school early every day. I was always yakking but it wasn't because I was asking what the answer was, it was people asking me!" At the age of 16, she was stocking supermarket shelves and doing two paper rounds a day when her mum entered her in a competition at a Newcastle nightclub. "It's so cheesy, really. Back then I would never have considered showing my breasts. People would look and talk about them so much it was totally embarrassing. But out of 2,000 entrants, I got through to the semi-finals, won the competition and got a lot of jobs modelling T-shirts and bikinis." She moved from Newcastle to London and did Page 3 for the Mirror. "I never stripped, and, until I came to the States, I never showed my pussy - ever."

She does now. "I came here on vacation," she told Penthouse magazine, "and met some very nice people who invited me to their house. We became friends, and I ended up staying." And ended up at the top of an industry that eats its young and is worth $10billion a year in US video sales alone. In her Geordie way, Taylor's very clear-headed: "I'm an exhibitionist and very sexual. I'll take my titties out and show everybody. The movies are a side of me that wants to say to people: `Oh look at you, you're so fucking stuck-up and pompous, look at me.'"

Like a rock band going on the road to sell albums, Taylor Wane takes her show around the country to promote her films. "New York," she says, and shudders. "New York and Philadelphia are the worst, they always have been. The guys tend to be miserable, rude and hard. They don't want to tip and they won't clap, no matter how artistic or choreographed the show is. It just goes over these guys' heads." Colorado and Texas are reliably the best places in America to dance: "Denver has a lot of retirees who are relaxed and willing to have a good time, and in Texas those good ol' boys still appreciate women and naked titties." Her antics have made her the stuff of industry legend. In a Denver club, where she broke an attendance record of 30 years standing, she dragged a 22-stone man on stage, pulled his shirt above his head and took a running dive on to him: "I just kinda wobbled on top of him, and he lay there like a big whale. It was hilarious." She's famous, too, for her dramatic slide, "the Roger Daltrey - I really try to put some energy out".

After the show, for a further $15, punters like Steve Lobmeier and his truck-driving buddy, Larry Schumacher, will pose for autographed Polaroids with Wane, and buy the merchandise: lingerie, a line of personalised T-shirts and caps emblazoned with i survived the whip of taylor wane or jurassis mine, copies of Secret Diary, her first film in two years, and Laurien's soft-focus 8x10 colour prints - Steve gets a particularly provocative pose, across which she scrawls "I'm hot for you. Taylor XXX".

Laurien is proud of his wife: "She's such a professional," he says, as he watches her gyrating a customer's head between her enormous breasts. "Her ability to turn on her sexuality and sensuality repeatedly and consistently is remarkable." Laurien first spotted Taylor on the Playboy cable channel, and they met soon after on the set of Another Dirty Western. He was the cameraman and she the star.

"It was an old Western ghost town, and I swear to god she rode on a white horse," he recalls. "My mouth hit the floor." She was won over by his persistence. "It was about 120 degrees," she recalls, "and he was chasing me round with a camera. There was a big hose for the horses in the stable, and all I've got on is a little pair of red boots so I start hosing myself down." Laurien's face is dewy with reminiscence. "Water was splashing off her and the sunlight was coming in. It was just beautiful."

The happy couple live in California, in a white, stucco house in the hills above the San Fernando Valley, the porn capital of the world. (Like a good daughter, she flew her parents out to Los Angeles last year for her white wedding. Not wanting to disturb them through the thin walls of the house, the blushing bride and her groom decamped for the night to a limousine with two bottles of whipped cream.) They've got a cat called Flick, flowery sofas, stained-glass windows, a jacuzzi and a pool surrounded by redwood decking. They get up late, she drives to the supermarket in their station wagon once a week, cooks pasta, makes sushi, oversees the decorators and answers her fan mail personally. He books the shows, cuts the deals, takes the photographs, cherishes and protects. They have great sex, and are on time with the mortgage.

And to be like that they work hard, from 5pm to 5am, slapping on make-up, costume, and the show five times a night, two weeks a month. So here they are in Queens, with a clothes rail of saucy outfits and two suitcases of accessories to match the proclivities of any audience. "Usually I can feel a crowd out," says Taylor. "If they're like a bachelor party, kinda drunken rowdy guys, you figure on something like the nurse with stocking tops, because guys love to be examined. And a French maid always goes down well because I dance to Led Zeppelin's `Livin, Lovin Maid' - you can't help but love Led Zeppelin - and I dust their crotches with my little feather duster... And they love the schoolgirl because I spank them."

All of Taylor's outfits are self-designed one-offs. "This is the sailor suit, this is the vampire, this is just a bondage kink thing with a whip, this is a Southern belle with a parasol, and this is a fireman with a red hat and long boots." She pauses. "The fireman's touch-and-go because it's not a big fantasy of anyone's. If there are any lesbians in the crowd then I might wear it."

The trickiest number is the policeman: "It's a tight, sexy outfit, but in some places they won't even look at me. After the Rodney King incident, I went out and started beating people across the head with my truncheon - suddenly it was too close to reality and nobody fantasises about being beaten by a cop."

Taylor is prone to provoking misapprehensions: "I offered my brother a Taylor Wane doll with vibrating attributes and he was very insulted." Still, what most upset her family was the discovery that she did sex scenes with women in her films. "It's funny," she reflects, in her bizarrely refined manner, "because in the industry, it's regarded as the easy way out, like you're not really doing anything at all. Unless they are some bull dyke bitch from hell, it's really just a visual thing." She does set limits for herself. "As a rule, I'm not into gang-bangs or anal. I'll leave that to others and I never do anything that I don't think other people would do."

Well, up to a point, Lord Copper. Watch the first two minutes of Secret Diary, a film "from the intimate pages of Taylor's mind" and a first from Taylor Wane Productions, and the viewer will discover more about anatomy than he or she bargained for. The video cover, designed by Laurien, promises "five action-packed scenes involving double penetration, spanking, inter-racial anal, female-to-male strap-on and more!"

WASP [White Anglo-Saxon Prostitute], one of the films of which she is proudest, is a parody of Heaven Can Wait; in it she plays a nun who is reborn as a prostitute. She makes the most of her opportunities in the pulpit. "I am in the fuddy-duddy outfit with a black wig on and my breasts all strapped down and I'm preaching against masturbation, fornication, deviation. Well, of course, men and women are always thinking about sex -even in church - so I get struck down by lightning and come back with all my blonde hair and what have you." This, Taylor felt, was her chance to put to use the acting classes she'd taken in Burbank to make herself something more than a porn star: "It was very difficult to be two different people because you don't want to trip over yourself being yourself when you're trying to be somebody else. Everybody was like, Wow!"

Wow, indeed. Unfortunately, there are a trillion silicone-implanted hopefuls in Hollywood. Can Taylor Wane really go legit? Well, she's been putting together an album with a producer in an LA recording studio; early next year she will appear in an episode of Married with Children, a Fox network sitcom that is currently holding top ratings in the USA; and she's going to play a demonic angel in a film for Glen Danzig, the platinum-selling dark star of metal rock. But she's also, and more typically, the model used for the first virtual reality sex machine, an artistic breakthrough that goes on sale next year. It's not easy to break from the world of porn, and its casualties are in plain view.

"I had a very good friend kill herself recently," she says. "She was trapped in a world she got into and enjoyed, and made a lot of money out of, but when it comes to wanting to change direction this is not like being a rock star - it's hard to get any openings and you can feel lost." One of Taylor's favourite songs is Annie Lennox's plaintive "Little Bird". "That's how I feel most of the time," she says. "I've been fed up and pissed off. Sometimes I feel trapped. I love attention, but I've never been aperson that wanted to get up and perform the way I do here."

Performing the way she does here, of course, is what keeps Flick in milk, and Laurien and Taylor in their white-stucco dream home. Taylor Wane Productions and a role as producer/director are, she hopes, her way forward. "I get to make money more artistically," she enthuses. "In fact, I'm thinking of doing a lot more of them that I don't star in." For the moment, she can only dream, and slip into the jungle outfit she's chosen for her third show tonight at Gold Fingers - a lacerated suede affair completewith a bow and arrow she'll use to flagellate the customers. For the moment, respectability revolves around the hope that she might be Bob Guccione's Penthouse Pet of the Year.

"I can't even think about it," she says, as anxious and excited as a child desperate to find what might lie beneath the Christmas tree. "My heart is in front of a still camera - it's when I feel most alive, happy and sexy."

Sexy has made her rich and a star, of sorts. Doesn't she want to show off to her old Geordie friends? Will she ever return to England, the local girl who made good by being bad? "I never appreciated how safe it felt in Gateshead," she says. "The worst that can happen is that you get snowed in, and my mother has one of those massive refrigerators that you could live out of for months."

She sighs, pulls up her tiny pink outfit, and checks the vastness of her cleavage. "But the thing is, unless it's about money, sex or fashion, my attention span is really very short."