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Originally published by Westword Mar 12, 1998
2002 New Times, Inc. All rights reserved.

 

A Denver woman gives peeping Toms a reason to stay home at night.

 

Sometimes she describes her single-bedroom apartment in a Capitol Hill high-rise as a "virtual ant farm." Other times she calls it a "virtual Habitrail," with her as the hamster running around in it. But that's okay by this 33-year-old Internet novice known to her growing legion of online visitors simply as "Candi." By casting herself as the star of her own real-life--and real-time--soap opera, Candi is paying the rent.
"I never have to punch another time clock and never have to work for anyone again," she says. "It's a good feeling. It's empowering." Later she asks, "If you were getting money to stay home and masturbate, wouldn't you?"
Along with twenty other women around the country, Candi is part of the Louisville-based AmateurCam network (http://www.amateurcam.com/). The women of AmateurCam agree to set up digital cameras in their homes and Netcast their daily activities to a worldwide audience of armchair peeping Toms. They share a percentage of their income with AmateurCam's founder, a 41-year-old software developer who wants to remain anonymous in order to protect the women from stalkers. He takes care of the hardware; the women handle the software. For a mere $10 a month ("That's just 30 cents a day!" Candi emphasizes), 2,400 men have paid for the privilege of watching Candi go about the daily business of living via still photos, which are updated every ninety seconds on the site.
With an eighteen-foot cable connecting a camera to her computer, Candi can drag the cam from room to room in her modest bachelorette pad. It provides snapshots of Candi watching television, Candi snuggling with Bonnie (her cat!), Candi sleeping, Candi vacuuming--sometimes in the nude. And she certainly doesn't mind if people watch as she showers or masturbates. "I get a kick out it," she claims.
"I've always been an exhibitionist--and a narcissist," explains Candi, a Philadelphia native who holds a biology degree from Northern Arizona University. She moved to Denver in 1992 after she graduated and took it as "a real slap in the face" when she was unable to find decent work in her chosen field. One gets the feeling, however, that she would never have been satisfied feeding lab rats. So instead of polishing test tubes, she waitressed in local strip clubs--something she had done to work her way through school. She also did freelance marketing and research. Last summer Candi answered an AmateurCam advertisement seeking models and became the first to go online. Just seven months later she considers herself one of the "grandmoms" of this particular variety of Net voyeurism (the original for-profit amateur-camera site, Jennicam, had a several-month jump on her). "I figured it would just be gas money," she says. Today she earns enough from AmateurCam to consider it a major source of income.
"Men are going to stare at me anyway," says Candi as she strides barefoot across her apartment, her long legs disappearing (eventually) into super-short denim cutoffs. "I like mooning people, flashing a nipple. I like to have sex in public places."
Digital cameras are nothing new to the Net, nor is online porn. This particular variety, however, differs from typical porn sites, which charge by the minute and guarantee the kind of "hot, hardcore action" as seen on videotapes. Candi, who has average looks but possesses a lithe, sensual body that's not been enhanced by surgery, thinks it's her genuine, everyday appeal that's the real turn-on. Like the lurker who sneaks around a coed dorm window, a visitor to Candi's Web site may wait hours, even days, before something even mildly lurid occurs. But she tries not to let them wait too long.
She's already gained a devoted international audience, culminating with a story in the British magazine Arena, and she says Penthouse is interested in doing a story on her. Last September she did an on-air interview with the morning DJs at a Detroit radio station, but her real goal is to talk to Denver DJs Lewis and Floorwax.
Such glory, however, does not come without a price. Recently she ended an on-again, off-again relationship with a boyfriend because of the site. "He didn't like the fact that I was showing parts that were exclusively his," she explains. "It's not like I was a virgin before he met me. And I got a quarter of a million hits the first month. Hel-lo!" Her ex, she adds, wasn't so averse to her occupation when he donned a Bill Clinton mask and played commander-in-chief to Candi's Monica Lewinsky for the online audience.
But don't get the wrong idea, says Candi. This site isn't about pornography--at least not entirely. She contends that there's a real community created through the members-only chat room she's set up on the site. She's on a first-name basis with the men--and women--who visit her regularly. Visitors send in photos of themselves, some of them nude (she keeps a special file of the numerous penis pics fans have e-mailed to her). She even has the telephone numbers of a few of her "little friends." But when they're "guests" in her home, she expects a certain level of decorum.
"This is not a sex site," she insists. "I am not a puppet, although I do have puppets." She brings out a Punch-and-Judy-style puppet that she once used as a sex toy to the delight of viewers.
Candi says that her cam pals include a lot of doctors and professors, but a quick scan of the book titles in the background of the pictures sent to the members' gallery reveals that a high number of viewers are likely just computer nerds. "Then you get the guys," she says, "that are 'pussy, pussy, pussy.'"
Putting these horndogs in their place doesn't seem to be a problem for her. "I've got a tongue like a flamethrower," says Candi. "A lot of guys come in and say, 'Show me your pussy.' And I'm like, 'How about a hello?' And then they get the flamethrower."
Or worse. While talking to some guests in her chat room, Candi encounters someone who crosses the line: a visitor with the gall to enter the room using the screen name "Candi." "Hey, who wants to see me suck this guy's cock?" inquires the imposter, referring to the male reporter sitting next to Candi (and visible on camera). While Candi approves of "sexual, sarcastic banter" during chat sessions, this is just too much. Within seconds, Candi cross-references the ID numbers and passwords of her members in order to find the vulgarian and boot him from the chat. "Poof!" she says, proud of her ability to show who's boss on her site. "He's gone."
It's not over yet, however. Candi wants to track down the e-mail address of the offender. She turns to the folks in the chat room to trace the electronic trail he left behind. "These are like my doormen," she says, referring to the other guests in the chat. "If someone fucks with me, he'll never do it again."
Soon after that disturbing experience, Candi is on the phone with T.K., a Hawaii-based regular visitor who just witnessed the brouhaha. T.K., a self-employed professional, apologizes to the reporter for the incident. "I'm sorry you had to see that," he says. Then he explains his own interest in Candi's site, saying it isn't her joyous self-abuse or explicit sex talk that keeps him coming back. T.K., who's been visiting for the past three or four months, says Candi's site is "just a lot of fun," and he keeps her Web page running in the background of his computer while he goes about his daily work, checking in periodically to see what she's up to.
But despite Candi's concern about ensuring her personal safety by keeping her true identity secret from stalkers and weirdos, she doesn't mind letting T.K. have her personal phone number. "He can't screw me from Hawaii, that's for sure," she says.
For more Candi, visit www.westword.com.