She’s proud because, in all honesty, being hated has been good for business. Without hatred, Marsh wouldn’t be half the Internet celebrity she is today. Her feverishly pro-Hillary
All this spewed venom, of course, has earned her quite a bit of attention, much of it negative. Her site includes a catalogue of the hate mail she receives. “CACKLE FOR ME NOW BITCH!” read one from an Obama supporter after the results of the
“She has been pegged as the Hillary supporter, and yet she’s not,” says her longtime friend Judy Proffer, a former publisher of LA Weekly. “I’m sure there’s some spiritual and emotional alignment between Hillary and Taylor because they are both underdogs in a man’s world, though that’s not the whole thing.”
The “whole thing” is more complicated. In this campaign, Marsh seems to be giving an extended performance, perhaps her best yet, in a long, strange life of performances as a dancer, a Miss America contestant, a Broadway performer, a Los Angeles TV actress, a relationship columnist, a freelance sex researcher, a porn web site editor, and even a phone sex operator (for about three days). Taylor Marsh has always wanted to be a star.
Michelle D. Marshall (still her legal name, according to
“If nothing else, because of the fact that she lived with a single mother who worked, she understood certain things,” says Larry, who, at 71, still practices law in
Seeing nothing anti-feminist about it, she entered and won the Miss Missouri pageant in 1974 and competed to be Miss
In 1975, she graduated from
In 1994, a temp job took her to the LA Weekly, the city’s alternative paper. She eventually authored a column, “What Do You Want?” that touched on sex, relationships and even some politics. She also started the paper’s alternative personal ad section, devising language (bondage became “knotty fun”) that could get past the editors.
From there, she took a job as managing editor of Danni’s Hard Drive, the web business of porn star Danni Ashe. Marsh’s 2000 book focuses on her year at the company, on her sex research, and on Ashe, who marketed herself as the only woman alive to have been featured on the cover of JUGGS and The Wall Street Journal. “Don’t laugh at this,” Marsh told me, “but I really wanted to be the Hugh Hefner of politics.”
In the book, in which Marsh compares herself not only to Hefner, but also to Alfred Kinsey and Larry Flynt, she tells the story of a “strong and sassy authority bucking female writer (me) who, while accomplishing a lot for her boss, would ultimately become the sequin studded g-string that cut just a little too tight up Danni’s derriere.” Mixing the political with the prurient, she tried to make the website an outlet for those, like her, who believed that porn should be feminist or at least socially conscious. But when Marsh couldn’t convince Ashe to kill a pictorial of a naked stripper on a school playground (“It was like holding up a welcome sign for pedophile fantasies”), she quit the same day.
In our interview, she describes the decision to leave as a crucial one: a statement of principle, that there are some lines you can’t cross. The message still resonates with her. “When I come at Reverend Wright and I come at Barack Obama about sitting in that church, I just don’t understand it. … There comes a point in time when you have to say: This is wrong. And you walk out.” Just as she walked out of Danni’s Hard Drive, she says, Obama should have quit Trinity United Church of Christ well before he finally did.
The recording studio she maintains on the second floor of her
On the day I watch her tape her radio show, as is normally the case, Marsh’s on-air persona is very calm and reasonable. She speaks without notes, able to move skillfully from a detailed analysis of campaign polling to the war in Iraq to the day’s Maureen Dowd column on Obama--and her delivery is smooth: She pauses dramatically for effect, and she doesn’t scream. In these quieter moments, she is often at her most effective, offering clear-eyed analysis that is as smart as anything on CNN. There is little of the bombast that’s so evident on her website.
She picks up steam as she moves away from pure politics into a discussion of media and sexism. “We are seeing more different looking faces on cable,” she says. “We are already seeing more women. The only reason I am getting the attention I’m getting--even though I damn well earned it--is because of Hillary Clinton.”
Not that the attention has done her much financial good. She earns only a little bit more than she spends on her business, and it’s simply not enough to live on, she says. The salary of her husband Mark, a technician for the gas company, pays the bills. (The two met when he turned on the gas at her first Vegas apartment). Right now, Marsh is hoping to parlay her newfound notoriety into a show on Air
“I’m working that very hard,” she says of her attempts to get a paid radio job. She’s been scrambling to set up meetings with radio execs, and her listeners have been sending letters in her support. “I don’t understand why they don’t give me a shot. I’ve been marooned in the desert for far too long.”
With that, Marsh offers a big laugh, and talks about the places she’d love to base a radio show: LA again would be nice, maybe the Bay Area, or perhaps she could relocate to DC and live near the woman who put her on the map. These days--with Hillary Clinton back in the Senate--the improbable, comeback victory Marsh most hopes for is her own.
Joe Mathews, an Irvine senior fellow at the New America Foundation, blogs on direct democracy at www.newamerica.net/blog/blockbuster_democracy.
By Joe Mathews