Afterward, she says, she couldn't stop crying. She packed her bags and went home to her family in Utah.
Glimpse of the Big Time
But within a year, she was back, even agreeing to promote the prison movie that had so upset her.
She began to feel that her career was picking up. She got a small part in a movie for VCA, one of the "high end" companies that produce big-budget films, and hoped it might lead to a contract. On the shoot, she met porn legend Ron Jeremy, who was making a cameo, and began to feel like she was fitting in. "The first second I walk in, this girl grabs my breast, and I'm like, Wow, you know, that's like the best welcome ... 'cause then you feel like, Oh, someone likes me, you know?"
Another company considered giving her a contract, but at a meeting, the owner, veteran porn star Ona Zee, sensed that Michelle was not emotionally ready to become an adult star. "There's a part of me that wants to say to you, 'Run for the hills, girl, do something else, because you can be something better,'" she told her.
At the high-end companies — which produce a small proportion of the thousands of adult titles released each year — performers often have contracts and can make six figures by shooting just eight to 10 movies a year. They can pick their own partners and condoms are generally required. Shot on film with elaborate, sets, costumes and plots, the movies can have budgets up to $250,000.
But Michelle did not get a studio contract, and ended up taking a job with a company known for "gonzo" porn — sex-only, amateur-looking productions shot on video. The company, Elegant Angel, was making a film in Prague and offered her a starring role, which she hoped would show the big studios that she could carry a film.
Love Blossoms in Prague
She was thrilled at the attention Vidal gave her during the week in Prague — but wary. "It's weird to have a guy love you that much. That almost scares me because I have a hard time trusting men," she told Primetime, explaining that her first boyfriend cheated on her repeatedly and ultimately left her for a stripper. Privately, Vidal had told Primetime he could never be with just one woman, and would be happy if Michelle's attraction did not lead anywhere.
She came back to Los Angeles by herself, so sore from the week's filming that she says she could hardly walk. But then she flew to Spain to visit Vidal, and their relationship seemed to be going places. She said he could keep having sex with other women, as long as he agreed to be "honest to me, loyal, and just respect me and tell me that I'm number one every day."
She even began hearing wedding bells, telling Primetime, "The second I get married, I won't having sex with men in this business any more."
By December 2001, Michelle and Vidal were engaged. As she proudly showed off her diamond ring, saying how pretty it was, Vidal joked in his Spanish accent, "I need to f—k so many girls for that ring."
The couple was in love, Michelle says, but they were fighting regularly. Vidal would sometimes get what he calls "Latino jealous" when he saw her talking to other men at clubs. Michelle told Primetime, "It's hard to be in a relationship with someone in porn."