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May 19, 2001
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Sex does sell at Cannes
Look behind serious films for festival's dark underbelly
By BRUCE KIRKLAND


CANNES -- Sex sells, even at the Cannes Film Festival, the most prestigious such event in the world.

Beneath the theatres where serious socio-political films screen before black-tie audiences, deep in the dark underbelly of Cannes, is another world where sex is everything.

Just ask softcore porno princess Danni Ashe, an enterprising American who is here promoting her naked Web sites, her forthcoming DVDs and her unusual autobiography.

Ashe, who claims to be the Internet's "most downloaded woman" with more than one billion registered hits, is using Cannes as a marketing bonanza.

'Create buzz'

"This is a little out of the ordinary here, I'm sure," she tells The Sun. "There is international press from all over the world here. We wanted to create a buzz. That's what Cannes is all about."

Ashe, a 30-something nude model who refuses to do hardcore and has 4,400 provocative photos of herself posted on her Danni's Hard Drive Web site, is married to American businessman Bert Manzari, who is involved with the Lankmark Cinema chain in the U.S.

His work brings him to Cannes every year. Ashe decided to use that access to her advantage this year. The former stripper -- she started at 17 with fake ID -- is now CEO of her own company and determined to push the softcore sex trade.

"I think it's about honesty," she says. "I think it's something that everyone is genuinely interested in. I think sex is universal. We're all basically sexual people once we reach adulthood, as much as we want to deny it. It's human nature."

The Danni's Hard Drive site that she is promoting here, along with the new DVD line and forthcoming autobiography, reflects her own taste, she says.

Ashe, an articulate woman who refuses to be ashamed of her trade, says she knows she is harshly judged by some: "Part of the stigma is that people want to believe that strippers are victims because no one would choose such a horrible thing, so there must be some reason she did that.

Exhibitionist

"But I'm not sure I can explain it (in her own case). I guess I'm an exhibitionist. But that's not quite true. Part of the reason is that I developed huge breasts at an early age and breasts are a very sexualized thing. At an early age I was getting a lot of sexualized attention. Eventually, I just felt that stripping kind of put all that stuff out on the table."

She was discriminated against, she claims, because of her chosen profession. "Now, in a certain way, I'm sort of on a mission to prove them wrong and to empower myself, to not have people look at me as if I'm making a mistake with my life or I'm a loser or that somehow what I'm doing is bad."

So here she is at Cannes trying to prove the point.


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