November 20, 2018
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Stormy Daniels, hailed as ‘hero,’ cashes in on Trump scandal in Portland

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Adult film star Stormy Daniels poses for pictures following her first performance of the night at PT's Showclub in Portland on Wednesday night in Portland. Patrons paid $20 to snap a selfie with her and $20 more for an autograph.

Stormy Daniels took the stage at 10 p.m. sharp, unceremoniously whipped off her red, white and blue-sequined bustier and then spent an hour signing autographs and taking photos for $20 a pop.

The Wednesday performance in Portland by the porn star, who claims to have had a one-night sexual encounter with Donald Trump in 2006, was loosely choreographed, tightly controlled and run as a fine-tuned money-maker.

Daniels took the stage to The Guess Who’s “American Woman” flanked by bodyguards. They escorted her back off 22 minutes later to Tom Petty’s “American Girl.”

During the performance, she tossed her discarded clothing to a bearded man waiting with a white plastic laundry basket. After Daniels finished, another man used a rake to gather dollar bills into a chrome pail as an announcer advertised an upcoming “midget wrestling” show.

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
A sign outside PT's Showclub on Riverside Street in Portland Wednesday night advertises an appearance by adult film star Stormy Daniels. In January, Daniels' became well known when the Wall Street Journal reported that soon before the 2016 election President Trump’s lawyer paid her to keep quiet about an alleged 2006 fling.

Daniels came to Maine after a vacation that took her abroad and out of a national spotlight that’s grown brighter but also hotter in recent weeks. The Portland show seems to be among her first few performances since a former personal lawyer for President Trump pleaded guilty in August to breaking campaign finance laws by paying Daniels to keep quiet about the alleged affair during the run up to the 2016 election.

Inside PT’s Showclub on Riverside Street, it looked like more than 150 people turned out for the first performance of her two-night stint here — though the flashing lights, mirrors and smoke machines made it hard to tell.

Daniels has come to the only strip club in the Maine’s largest city before, but things have changed since she last performed in Portland. PT’s manager said they’d sold more than 140 $20 pre-sale tickets and were expecting as many as 300 people to have passed through the club by the time Daniels’ 1 a.m. dance was done.

“There was obviously a big demand this year,” manager Mike Collins said.

Although some might have pretended not to know of her, Daniels has been prominent for years as a successful pornographic actress, director and producer.

But in January, her name jumped from furtive Google searches to the lips to newscasters across the country when the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump’s longtime legal “fixer,” Michael Cohen, had paid her $130,000 to hush up about the alleged fling in waning days of the 2016 election.

Stephanie Clifford’s tempestuous stage name aptly describes what’s followed.

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
David Clarke of Westbrook talks to a reporter outside PT's Showclub in Portland on Wednesday night before a performance by Stormy Daniels. In January, Daniels' became well known when the Wall Street Journal reported that soon before the 2016 election President Trump’s lawyer paid her to keep quiet about an alleged 2006 fling.

Trump — who was married to his third wife, Melania, in 2006 — has said the sexual encounter didn’t happen. But even as the president and his associates have offered shifting denials of the payment to Daniels, she’s been booking strip clubs across the country for the “Make America Horny Again” tour.

She’s also given detailed accounts on national television of having sex with Trump. And in April, she sued the president and Cohen for defamation, enlisting the help of lawyer and political pugilist Michael Avenatti.

Daniels calls herself a Republican and has flirted with running for office as such. But in liberal cities like Portland, she tends to fill clubs with self-described members of the “#Resistance.”

For some of these new fans, Daniels is less an object of sexual desire than a political weapon against a president who’s seemed invulnerable to controversy.

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Victoria Hugo-Vidal of Buxton (left) points to Jessica Corbett of Portland outside PT's Showclub in Portland on Wednesday night before a performance by Stormy Daniels. Corbett called Daniels “the hero America needs, but nobody expected."

“I think she is an unlikely American hero,” said Jessica Corbett, who arrived at the venue Wednesday wearing a pink “Resist” T-shirt. “We’re not seeing a lot of patriotism in Congress, so it’s good to see someone stand up and be a hero.”

Corbett of Portland has been in embroiled in her own political scandal. She’s the ex-wife of David Sorensen, a former Trump speechwriter and adviser to Republican Gov. Paul LePage. Sorensen resigned from his job in the White House after Corbett publicly accused him of abuse, but he has vehemently denied the allegations and sued her for defamation.

David Clarke, of Westbrook, said he believes Daniels’ account of sleeping with Trump, but noted that covering up affairs is a bipartisan move.

“I think it happened exactly as it’s been portrayed,” Clarke said, “but Bill Clinton denied it from the beginning too.”

On Wednesday, however, it seemed that most people had come for the show not the politics.

Ryan, a Windham resident who declined to give his last name, called Daniels’ appearance in Maine “sweet,” adding an expletive. He seemed unperturbed by the idea that Trump had paid her hush money but spoke admiringing of how Daniels has capitalized on the publicity.

“She came out and she said her thing and people cared for about 15 seconds,” Ryan said, leaning on his Harley Davidson in the PT’s parking lot. “Now she’s got a little enterprise, going around the country to clubs.”

In parts of the country where people are more likely to have voted for Trump, Daniels’ crowds have thinned, according to a profile in Vogue magazine. And she’s reportedly received enough hate mail and death threats to require bodyguards travel with her.

Like the country, Maine is spilt on Trump. In 2016, the state divided its congressional delegates between him and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

But several people said Wednesday that they’d come down from the more conservative 2nd Congressional District to see Daniels perform. Her only haters, it seemed, were some of PT’s regular performers.

In a competitive, tip-based industry, one stripper said that Daniels had attracted a “weird crowd” that wasn’t paying much mind or money to the local talent.
Soon after Daniels took off her top, another woman walked up to a reporter and lifted her own shirt.

“She [had sex with] the president,” the woman said, “but I have better [breasts].”

BDN editor Seth Koenig contributed to this report.

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