I was waiting in line to pay handsomely for a Make America Horny Again t-shirt when I noticed a man at the merch table leaning over, hands on his knees. He was asking Stephanie Clifford (who had just performed under her best-known moniker, Stormy Daniels) to sign his wrinkled, business-casual button-down “as low as possible.” Clifford mustered a weak laugh as she signed her name a few inches above his ass.
Jocelyn, a woman I’d just met, was next in line. After the mini-spectacle was over, she leaned over and whispered in my ear, “All I have to say about that is: Fuck the patriarchy.”
This, friends, just about sums up the tenor of the evening.
Clifford arrived at the Men’s Club of Raleigh this Wednesday around 11:00 p.m.—or, in context, about two hours late. She is currently on her cross-country Make America Horny Again tour, making the absolute most of her (alleged) dalliance with the man who is now president of the United States, and was presumably running a bit behind schedule. (Of course, she didn’t take the stage until after eleven the second night of her two-night engagement, either.) Her tardiness was understandable. She had literally filed a (new) lawsuit against Michael Cohen, President Trump’s lawyer and fixer, earlier that day.
My fiancé and I were sitting in my car, sipping La Croix, when her tour bus finally rolled through the parking lot. We’d already sat—sober as a pair of nuns on a Sunday—through a few of the regularly scheduled local sets and decided to take a break.
We re-entered the club, ordered another round of cranberry and sodas, and sat waiting with bated breath. Before Stormy’s set started, a Wrestlemania-style voice came over the PA to announce a few of her, well, sexier accomplishments—Pornhub stats, adult-film accolades, etc.—and perhaps this is par for the course when famous, award-winning adult film stars who come to town as exotic dancers. Clifford’s final listed accomplishment, “Her appearance on 60 Minutes
was the most watched television interview in ten years,” is decidedly less common.
I want to tell you all about her set—the bedazzled, sequin stars-and-bars outfit; the not-quite-fit-for-print antics involving a blue blanket and a ketchup bottle of, well, something; and the music (oh my god, the music
), which included both Lenny Kravitz’s version of “American Woman” (to which she entered) and Tom Petty’s “American Girl” (to which she exited, a seemingly backward progression), with “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” somewhere in between—but unfortunately, thanks to Rudy Giuliani, we’re going to have to talk about something else for a minute.
Only a few hours before Clifford walked into the Men’s Club Wednesday to perform for a crowd of about one hundred, Giuliani addressed an audience at the Globes Capital Market Conference in Tel Aviv.
“I have to respect, you know, criminals,” he said of Clifford. “But I'm sorry I don't respect a porn star the way I respect a career woman or a woman of substance or a woman who has great respect for herself as a woman and as a person and isn’t going to sell her body for sexual exploitation.”
If this backward rhetoric doesn’t immediately suck all the air out of the room wherever you are reading this, perhaps this isn’t the Make America Horny Again tour coverage you should be reading.
First, Giuliani's “sex work” versus “legitimate work” dichotomy is false and dangerous. Sex work is
legitimate work. And, to get technical, let me remind you that Stephanie Clifford paid taxes on the dollar bills she picked up off the Men’s Club stage (not to say that people working in the underground sex industry are not doing legitimate work, but rather, the U.S. government recognizes Clifford's work as both legal and taxable).
Pornography is a multibillion-dollar industry known for its leading ladies on one side of the camera but not necessarily the other. Clifford was famous before she put the Cheeto in Chief in the legal pickle of the century. She’s a star in her own right as an actress, and she started writing and directing her own adult films within a few years of her acting debut. And speaking of acting, she has credited roles in The 40-Year-Old Virgin
and Knocked Up
. In a Conan O'Brien interview, Judd Apatow (who directed both films) said of Clifford, “She's very nice and super smart and great to work with, so we kept asking her to be in all of our movies.”
Giuliani's “woman of substance” versus “woman who ‘sells her body’” dichotomy is false as well. It is so grossly, shockingly misogynistic it barely merits mention, aside from the fact that it is a great segue into something I learned about Clifford at the Men’s Club. Turns out, according to one attendee, Clifford is a “woman of substance” too!
Allie is the former executive director of a national nonprofit that helps retiring racehorses transition into new “careers” that aren’t the glue factory. She was sitting with a friend in the very front row, clearly savoring every minute of Stormy’s wild, raunchy, hilariously patriotic routine. Allie is more than just a fan of Clifford; she considers her a friend. The feeling is clearly mutual; during the autograph-signing portion of the evening, Clifford kept making references to a weird, turkey-related inside joke. Allie was definitely the only one who got it.
If you follow Clifford’s Instagram
, you know she rides horses. If you talk to a self-professed horse nerd in the audience of a Make America Horny Again event, you’ll find out she’s actually an incredibly talented rider. According to Allie, Clifford has “huge loyalty in the horse world.” And this isn’t just because she’s a great competitor (she rides under the name Stormy Crain). Behind the scenes, she’s doing powerful advocacy work on behalf of the animals she loves. Last July, Allie found Clifford through an equestrian forum. Long story short, Clifford helped her track down and rescue a horse after it had ended up in the hands of a questionable trainer.
“Right in the middle of this shit with Trump, Stormy was trying to save a horse,” said Allie. “She has nothing to hide and no fear. She’s not afraid of anything. That’s why I had to come out here to support her.”
It had been a big day for Clifford. She’d filed a lawsuit against one of the most powerful men in the United States, and another one of the most powerful men in the United States unblinkingly questioned her humanity on an international stage. And then she spent a few minutes in Raleigh motorboating middle-aged women and making turkey jokes (god, I wish I’d understood that joke).
Because at the end of the day, Stormy had a job to do.
Of the experience, Clifford had just one thing to say: “I wish there’d been a bigger turnout. But I guess it is