Viper, Margold’s Muse, Passes

CHATSWORTH, Calif.—Viper, an adult performer who appeared in less than a hundred scenes during a five-year span that started in 1986, died Dec. 24 at the age of 52 from lung cancer, according to an obituary posted to .

Viper, whose real name was Stephanie Patricia Green, left the business abruptly in 1991 after having achieved a notable reputation as an intense performer, but her most enduring mark on the business may be the indelible influence she had, and still has, on one of the industry’s most iconic figures, Bill Margold, who, from the instant he met her was “thunderstruck.”

“Stephanie was born Sept. 12, 1959, in Tennessee,” read the obit, which made no specific mention of her time in adult. “She attended Oyster River schools in Durham. She studied ballet in Durham, Portsmouth and New York. She enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and during that time, married a fellow Marine. Stephanie resided for many years in Los Angeles. Returning to Portsmouth, she worked as a hair stylist at Patrix and most recently as a phlebotomist at Portsmouth Regional Hospital.”

Margold replied to a query from AVN Thursday, saying that he had heard about Viper’s death in early January, but did not think the industry needed to know about it right away. His intent was and remains to celebrate her life during the upcoming XRCO Awards, verbally as well as in writing.

“There was no one like her,” Margold said, during a long-ranging conversation in which he recounted a number of anecdotes about the performer he said brought an “extraordinary amount of intensity to the screen.”

It was he who guided the “tall, thin and titless redhead” to Jim South for work after her first encounter with an agency did not pan out, he said, and it also was he who gave her the name “Viper.”

Despite not having spoken with her since she left the industry, Margold’s memory of their time together is as vivid as if it were yesterday. He even remembered that her first scene was with Tom Byron, and that when she returned from the set that day, and he asked her how it went, she replied that Byron was a “strange little boy,” and added, “He kept calling me mommy.”

Another time, said Margold, trying to explain the affect that Viper had on those with whom she performed, she did a scene with TTBoy and Sharon Mitchell, who now runs AIM Medical Associates (formerly Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation). When she returned home, Margold asked her how it went with Mitchell. This time, Viper replied with a one-word answer: “Wow.” Fifteen years later, long after Viper had left the industry, Margold said he happened to be speaking with Mitchell when he took the opportunity to ask her what it had been like to perform with Viper. Mitchell, he said, also replied with one word: “Wow.”

“I think that ‘wow’ is what sums up Viper,” said Margold, adding quietly, “There are so many instances of this stuff.” Viper’s exceptional skill as a performer, he said, is proven by the fact that she won the AVN Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Video in 1990, only the second performer to win that award. “There are scenes with her that are legendary,” he said, starting to list them faster than this reporter could note them down.

Indeed, for Margold, whose mind is a living history of the industry, with a decided emphasis on the people who have populated it, Viper embodied (and embodies) something essential and eternal. Her influence on him, he is very aware, is permanent.

“Everything I do for the rest of my life is dedicated to her,” he said. At one point in the conversation he started to choke up, but it was not in response to the memories of Viper that were storming back, but when he started talking about the fact that his dear friend, Joanne Cachapero, had called him earlier that day to see if he knew about Viper’s passing. It was the thoughtfulness of the call that got to him, but also, and perhaps more poignantly, the emotional connection he makes between the woman he loved and lived with 20 years ago and the people who matter so deeply to him today.

In a very real way, as Margold himself made clear, his current sensitivity as a person, to the extent that he shares it, exists only because of Viper. “You think I’m an asshole now,” he said, “You should have seen me before I met her. I didn’t know I had a heart until she broke it.” For those who know Margold, those statements are typical of a man who always says what’s on his mind.

Margold told one last story about the time he took Viper to see a psychoanalyst, Dr. Robert Stoller, who also wrote Porn: Myths for the Twentieth Century. Stoller, said Margold, was a great therapist especially adept with issues that performers typically dealt with. After Viper’s first appointment, Margold asked her how it went. “I’m not going back,” she said. “He’s too good.” And she did not.

Much later, in a conversation with Stoller, the topic of Viper came up, and the doctor said to Margold, “You saved her life. But more importantly, she saved yours.”

If that is true, and who is to say it is not, then it makes every bit of sense that the intervening 20 years since Viper disappeared from porn are like a droplet in the sea to Margold, who maintains the belief that the breast implants (“enormous tits, which were ridiculous”) she finally insisted on getting made her go mad with what he calls “implant schizophrenia,” a malady he believes affects actresses as little as a year after their surgeries. Viper was also a smoker, he said, a fact that no doubt led to her eventual lung cancer.

Margold, perhaps realizing that some of his memories of Viper may not quite square with the record, quoted from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. "When the legend becomes fact," he said, "print the legend."

Whatever the ultimate cause of Viper’s abrupt departure from the business 1991, though, for Margold it is not insignificant that 2011 marks not only the 25th anniversary of her entrance into porn, but also the 20th anniversary of the creation of what he says remains the most iconic image of the industry ever created—the photo of six porn stars, including Viper, raising the American flag a la the famous Iwo Jima photograph. Four days after that picture was taken, Viper split, for good.

“I was relieved,” Margold admitted. “She was so unhappy.”