August 1, 2007
My Christian evangelist friend Heather Veitch is divorcing.
I call her Wednesday afternoon.
The last time we spoke was the week when ABC Primetime ran its March 13 special on porn stars Sunny Lane and Sophia Lynn. Heather was shown counseling Sophia.
I tell Heather that Sophia is back in porn.
Heather: "She never said it was never a possibility for her to return to it. She said it was her desire to leave it but she said that if she like she had to, she would go back."
"I haven't talked to her in a while."
"I always hope the girls are gonna be happy but I'm never going to shun them for any choices they make."
"I'm getting a divorce. You know my husband has brain cancer. It causes a lot of problems. It just got too much for me. I've pretty much lost all my friends. I still have a church here in Vegas that still supports me. They know the whole story."
"I barely have any real friends now."
"I've laid low for six months. We're selling our house. We've been separated for six months."
Heather has custody of the two kids. "Everything is civil. We're still good friends. We have the documentary coming out. We had professional Christian counselors come in from Alaska. They said, 'You guys have to separate.'"
Luke: "I thought he was terminally ill?"
Heather: "He is. It's weird. His last brain scan was showing good but he's had five brain surgeries. His cancer is considered very terminal but for some reason he's doing really well.
"He's with his parents. They're taking care of him. He has a girlfriend. He's really happy with his girlfriend. She's really nice."
Luke: "Is she a hairdresser too?"
Heather: "No. She's deaf. I think it works out because he's disabled and she's disabled. He can't think well and her being deaf, she doesn't pick up on it. He can't sign but she can read lips."
"Our home wasn't a happy home. It wasn't a healthy home. When you have mental health stuff going on, it makes life unstable 24/7. Now everything's stable. We're on a schedule."
"I love him like a caretaker loves a child. It's really hard that I can't take care of him anymore because that's the kind of love that I have for him. It hasn't been a husband-wife love in six years. It's really hard having him out there on his own. I really prayed that God would send someone to take care of him the way he deserves."
They were together ten years and had one child together. Five years in, he got a recurrence of his brain cancer.
Heather: "We had a rollercoaster relationship. I'll never regret it."
"I'm proud of myself for sticking by him and fighting for proton therapy and giving my all for so long to keep him alive."
"I took a huge break from the ministry to get my family in order."
"Any Christian that finds out [about the divorce] says, 'Quit your ministry, go do hair, and don't do this anymore.'"
"All of them are like, 'You're evil.' I've had pastors I was close to make me feel like I have a guaranteed ticket to hell now. Even though I go around preaching about God's grace and forgiveness.
"It's been tough. All these people I respect calling me out like I was Satan."
"I wouldn't say I've been kicked out of my ministry but I'm now on the outs."
"My husband and I haven't been man-and-wife for six years. I've been really struggling for two years. Like drowning. I kept thinking that if I changed my environment [they moved to Las Vegas last September] it might get better, but you can't heal something that's missing. A huge amount of his brain is missing. It's changed his personality."
"The [Riverside] church (Sandals) wanted me just to separate and never date again and never have a male friend and never remarry. And if I did, they would let everybody know that they were no longer supporting me.
"Because I'm not a liar, I said, 'I'm sorry. I'm gonna date. I'm want to remarry.' That to me is what's important in life -- sharing my life with somebody.
"A lot of Christians would've just lied, because how would they know what I'm doing out here in Vegas?"
"Do you know who knew and kept it on the downlow? JimmyD. See, you can trust a pornographer before you can trust a pastor. I've learned this. I've had pastors lie about me."
"Stephen Baldwin is still behind me. VH1 didn't pick up his reality show."
Luke: "How do your boyfriend's [he's three years younger than Heather] Jewish family relate to you?"
Heather: "At first, he just tried to make it like I just help other women. Then he slowly breaks it to them that I'm helping women in pornography. That I go to porn conventions. At first, they were like, 'No way you can be with her.' When they met me in person, they were so sweet. 'You need to marry her and have babies.'
"I can't imagine being like him. Being bar mitzvahed and all this stuff and now... You can imagine how he would feel telling his Jewish parents that he's got a Christian evangelist to the sex industry who used to be in the sex industry. Not what most Jewish parents would like to hear. But they love me."
Luke: "Have you lost any friends at your new church?"
Heather: "No, but I'm afraid to make them because I came into the church going through this. I'm afraid to make them because I see how conditional my friends can be according to my lifestyle.
"It's one more lesson. That's why if you call me and tell me Sophia Lynn is in porn, I will never turn my back on Sophia Lynn. Say I got back with my husband and I got back on track in their eyes, I still would know that they are not my friends. I would never do that to those girls. That's now what life's about. It's not what God's about. God doesn't say to shun people when they're at their worst...because now they're just going to spiral down."
"I can't imagine what it would be like if I had nobody who was Christian behind me. That would create a real spiral. I did go through a time of questioning God. With my marriage and the way that my husband's brain rotted in front of my face, and that I couldn't do anything about it and no prayers fixed it and the problems we were going through were unfixable, I questioned God over and over. Why would you allow this to happen in my marriage?
"When the solution was separate and never marry and never date, don't have any boyfriends, live by yourself until he passes away, that shook my face up. My spiritual advisors were telling me this is how I was to live forever.
"Then I felt that God was there for me by putting [certain Christians] there. They told me that you live in a fallen world where disease and things can happen that are unfair. You don't live in a Garden of Eden. Because of sin, things happen but I don't have to be shamed forever."
"My mentor went through a divorce and the same thing happened to her where everybody said, 'You're going to hell. That's it. We're done with you.' And she's a pastor now."
"God provided people to guide me."
"I would walk into my meetings crying, saying, 'Please everybody, pray for me that I don't get a divorce. I can't take it.' Everybody would pray and try to say something nice and shut me up so everything would look good. But Annie [an ex-hooker now turned on by Christ] acknowledged that things were not OK. She stuck by me."
"I know God is not done with me. I'm just hanging in there."
Heather Veitch Of JC's Girls
We speak on the phone Sunday night, August 14, 2005.
Heather: "We go to strip clubs and witness to strippers. So I started thinking about girls in the porn industry. My main goal of the ministry is that there's nothing they've done in their life that God won't forgive them for. I had a girlfriend die two years ago from alcohol. She was a dancer. She was angry. She was bitter. She never had a chance to know that what she's done in her life can be forgiven.
"After she died, I realized I had created this perfect Christian world for myself. I only had Christian friends. I only did Christian things. People are out there and they're dying. If I hadn't been in my bubble, I might've been able to help her.
"It's so hard for people with a past to go to church without the church judging them and being mean to them. I thought, wow, what would it be like for girls who have been in porn. I know the judgment that comes against me when I saw I was a stripper.
"The ministry is about teaching churches not to be judgmental. Our church has made a commitment to not judge people who come through the door -- not on the way they dress, not on how they look, and not on their past. There are people who would like to go to church and would like to talk to God, but feel like they've done too much. My main goal is to let them know that they have not done too much. That our God is a forgiving God. We're just supposed to be messengers to let them know that God loves them.
"We want to have porn stars and strippers come to our church. How do you do an ad for that?
"Now, how are you involved in all this?"
Luke: "I'm a journalist. I've written a couple of books on the industry."
Heather: "What got you interested in this?"
Luke: "The typical reasons that you would expect from a man. Also, I thought I could blaze journalistic new ground. And that's how it turned out."
Heather: "Do you think they need a ministry like this for them?"
Luke: "Yes. But I'm not an advocate. I'm just a journalist."
Heather: "I'm hoping to develop relationships with people like you and with people who are more imbedded in the industry and to help them if they want help.
"I went to this porn convention, Erotica LA, and everybody thinks that I'm a porn star. Primarily our outreach is towards women in the industry. But because I get so much attention from the men, I'm definitely going to address them.
"I was dressed like a normal girl, but everywhere I went, I had lines of guys behind me to take pictures with me. I took pictures with everybody who wanted one. Over 100 in an hour. I also told them why I was there. They'd come up to me and say, 'You're my favorite girl here.' You don't know what you just walked into. I was the queen buzz killer of the day.
"We had guys taking pictures of our feet. We had guys who wanted us to put stuff on our feet. No.
"I had porn directors talking to me, wanting to get me into the industry, until they found out why I was there. This one porn guy was like, 'Did you know that Jesus hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes?' I go, 'Yeah. You know why I'm here.'
"I was scared going in there. I thought everyone was going to hate me. It was the exact opposite. I thought, 'Man, I'm a star.'
"A lot of them were polite. When they asked for my picture, they were polite. They weren't inappropriate. They didn't try to grope me. I anticipate that people are going to mess with me. That's why I was shocked when it didn't happen. I'm a thick-skinned girl. Say somebody grabs me, I'm not going to want that, but I'm not going to run off crying."
Luke: "Strippers know how to handle themselves. Customers aren't allowed to touch them."
Heather: "That is so true. As a stripper, I know how to move and grab their hands. You know how not to get touched. All of the past has helped me to reach out better. I do know that there were parts of dancing that were exciting, but there were hours and hours that were not good. Having people say things to you that hurt your feelings, having people judge you on the way you look every day... A girl would go on stage and then another girl would get up and everybody would stand up and move away. That would hurt.
"I know that New Year's Eve was horrible. Everybody [the strippers] were crying and suicidal. Because we were spending one more year there.
"We've gotten a lot of criticism about the way the website looks. I want [sex workers] to look at it and see that you can still look pretty. I know that one of my biggest fears about becoming a Christian was that I would need to go put on a mumu (a big dress down to the ankles) and some berets in my hair and rub the make-up off. That scared me. Until then, I had only judged myself on looks."
Heather works as a hairdresser.
Luke: "XBiz did a good article on you."
Heather: "Everyone has been honest about what I say and not manipulative."
Heather got Bill Day to go to church with her, but not by choice. He came to film her. "I tried to talk Jimmy into going to church with me but he kept coming up with these crazy scenarios. That I wear a Bad Girls t-shirt with no bra, and a collar and leash. I said no. I said I'd wear a Bad Girls t-shirt and he could wear his Bad Girls trainer t-shirt. That's just lettering. Yeah, people would look at me, but that would be practice for the church in being non-judgmental."
Heather: "So how do Jews get forgiven now that there are no longer sacrifices?"
Luke: "If it is a sin between man and God, then the same as you. You go to God for forgiveness. If it is a sin between me and someone else, I have to go to that person for forgiveness and then to God."
Heather: "What about repentance? What are you doing about that, Luke? That's your hard point. Repentance is stopping, turning around, and going in the other direction."
Heather: "Can you find another profession? Or is this something you feel like you couldn't give up."
Luke: "It's something I could give up."
Heather: "You believe in the same God that I believe in. I know that you don't believe that Jesus came and he's the Son of God. I didn't know at what point you are in your life. If you are at a stage where you are going to make a change.
"I believe in keeping your friends, particularly if you make a life change, because then you can help them make a life change. It's important that you don't leave them as I did."
Luke: "It's so humiliating socially."
Heather: "That's my goal for these girls. Just like you feel humiliated to tell your [community]. These girls feel too humiliated to go to church. My goal is to take that humiliation. So that they know there's a group waiting for them who knows that they have this in their life, currently in their life, and wants to help you. I want girls not to be embarrassed to come to us because I believe in a God who created the universe. I know that God can help them right where they're at and He can help you too.
"God wants to use this experience you've had. He's not thinking, Luke, I want you to hide this past. He wants you to use what you know and turn things around.
"I'm hoping you can reach a point where you can turn things around and let people know that this is a serious problem so that the next guy who comes in isn't ashamed like you are.
"I'm just happy that you know God. He's going to be working on you. He'll keep your life in conflict until you go His way. Then things will get better. You are going to have to surrender, come clean, and go from there.
"When I was feeling humiliated at church, I thought, this is wrong. Why should I be judged differently from others? You might think that this is wrong, and you might start making a change in your [community]. You might let people see that you're a sinner the same as anybody else, and you could work towards making changes. Look at how our culture is going. And if our churches don't realize... I'm on MySpace. This is a nasty little place.
"I told my son, I have some disappointing news for you because your friends must think I'm hot. Look at all these kids emailing me. My son is so disgusted at men looking at me in the car and stuff. I say, I can't help it. I'm hot.
"That's what I say just to mess with him because boys don't want to hear that about their moms. My son is the biggest prude in the world.
"My four-year-old daughter is erotic dancing all over the room. It's so embarrassing. She's crazy. She has unbelievable confidence. It look so bad to have this out of control daughter. It's like I gave birth to myself.
"I have some amazing plans for the convention. Maybe by then you'll be fully converted. You can help out at our booth."
Luke: "I'm more a guy who stands back and observes."
Heather: "Come on Luke. Maybe you can be our male bodyguard. Our church will not send in men. They think it is too much temptation. Maybe you can protect us. You'll be working for the Lord. Since you've seen enough of it, you're not going to be enticed. I've found your calling."
Donny tells Heather: "No kidding around. It's been years since I've been to a strip club but like many men in this country, I've been there. I was always interested, no joke, in talking to the girls. Who are you? What do you do? How did you get here? It was fascinating. You met these bright girls who were obviously beautiful. Almost without exception, they all felt very empowered. They felt great about what they were doing. They were in the power position vs. the man. They were all doing it as a means to the end. They were either building a business... They all said, 'I'm doing this for four years and I'm going to sock away $100,000.' You'd meet girls on a path...and felt very in charge."
Heather: "It sounds like you got conned like every other girl in there. I was a [stripper]. Realistically, I blew my money every day. If I were to get your money, I would have you convinced that I was in college and I was trying my best... I was trying to get out of this. That's the story that every girl in the industry tells everybody. Nobody is going to say, 'I work here night after night and give my money to my boyfriend who sits at home playing videogames.' Or, 'I have a shopping addiction and I have nothing to show for what I've been doing tonight.'
"A small percentage of [strippers] are saving and doing something..."
Heather's assistant Lori, who was never a stripper: "We get hundreds of emails from these girls. They all start out feeling empowered, that this is a cool thing. But five years into it, they're all hating it."
Heather: "What's empowering about sitting on a disgusting man's lap while he degrades you and gives you a $20 bill?"
Heather calls me Wednesday morning. "I was going to do this show with Taylor Wane and Seymore Butts. They did not tell Seymore I was going to be on the show. He comes in the green room. I'm like, 'Hi, I'm Heather Veitch.' And he says, 'I know who you are.'
"He says, 'I've read a lot about you.'
"Immediately he goes outside and has a big long talk with [the producers]. He didn't want to do the show with me because of the religion. They were trying to tell him that she's not going to bash you.
"It wasn't necessarily Seymore's fault. The show didn't tell him I was coming. That's the worst. That happens on shows. They try to trick you. You think you are going to be talking about this but it's something else. Seymore was like, no way, I'm not going to be talking about religion.
"So I was bumped off the show.
"I told them I'd rather not do the show and not offend him. My priority isn't doing television shows. In fact, I'm so sick of media. I started turning down a lot of things, even Christian shows. It takes up so much of my time, I can't do the real ministry."
Heather says she's moving to Vegas.
Seymore Butts On Big-Breasted Evangelists
Kendra Jade, Heather Veitch On 20/20