Speaking to John Wayne Bobbitt offers a curious insight into what it must be like to be a certain type of man – the type who talks to a woman’s chest rather than to her face. But the focal point is considerably further down. Bobbitt is the man who had fame thrust on him three years ago when his wife Lorena slashed off his penis with a kitchen knife, and, fleeing by car, tossed it from the window. Police retrieved the missing organ from a field, and it was successfully re-attached in an operation that lasted over nine hours, though for some days the future efficiency of the Bobbitt plumbing wavered in the balance.
The furore that surrounded Lorena Bobbitt’s subsequent trial made the OJ Simpson case look like small potatoes, as supporters of each side mobbed the courtroom in small-town Manassas, Virginia. Lorena, who claimed in court that Bobbitt had abused her for years, was eventually acquitted on the grounds of temporary insanity, and quite understandably fled into obscurity. Bobbitt, however, who was acquitted of the charges she brought against him, had developed a considerable taste for attention. He milked the talk-show celebrity circuit for all it was worth, and when he was given the chance to make an “adult movie” he jumped at it. The resulting John Wayne Bobbitt Uncut, a soft-porn dramatisation of the notorious case, is the biggest-selling adult video in the US, and will be on sale in Britain tomorrow (though to cater for more delicate British tastes, John Wayne Bobbitt Uncut has been lopped once again, to secure an 18 certificate).
It would not be exactly fair to say that the video is wooden, because so many of the characters rely so heavily on silicone. It’s easy to forget to keep an eye out for the starring member of the cast, among the crowds of impossibly buxom women who look as though they need a hoist and scaffolding to get out of bed in the morning. Even John Wayne himself claims to have tired of their silicone valleys. “The British have a lot of beautiful, natural women. Where I come from, Vegas, it’s a different world, and a lot of the women there are fake. I’m the type of man who likes a real woman.” Way to go, John Wayne.
In the flesh, as it were, he looks rather different to the Bobbitt on the tape. Without a studio tan, he looks jet-lagged and pasty, and somehow shorter, chubbier and less toned, though under his Calvin Klein T-shirt his chest muscles twitch alarmingly when he’s thinking hard. He refers to his life in Las Vegas a lot, but somehow he doesn’t reflect the glitz of his new home town. He looks like a product of the sticks. With his long-lashed grey eyes, a still oddly limpid country-boy gaze, uneven teeth and cropped hair, Bobbitt, now 29, could easily pass for yet another Walton brother, though long-lost and long-disowned.
His speech is slow, and he is painfully literal. He was born in Niagara, New York. What kind of a place is Niagara? “Well, there’s a big waterfall.” Yes, indeed, and quite a famous one. But what was it like to live there? “It was my playground when I was a kid. I love it. Mother Nature at her best. But I grew up in a very poor family. We were the only white family living in a really rough neighbourhood. My mother was raped twice, our house was vandalised, a lot of stuff was stolen, I got beaten up. And that was all in pre-school. My mother, she had a mental breakdown. That’s why I chose to be in the Marines, to work hard and be strong.”
Although military cutbacks forced him to leave the navy, he believes that on the fateful night when he was given the chop by “the devil’s daughter”, as he now likes to call his ex-wife, he owed his life to his training in the Marines. “I have a very high tolerance of pain. It hurt for a split second. It was very frightening. But I was very confident of surviving, because I was trained in dealing with war, where you can get hurt really badly.” All the same, presumably penile amputation came as something of a jolt? “I was shocked,” he says seriously. “It was like being attacked by a predator.”
In the video, the operation is presented as a procedure of much the same calibre as having a broken nail repaired, and a mere two days later he is much comforted by the ministrations of two nubile nurses whose uniforms conveniently drop off at the undoing of a belt. The real timescale for getting back to something approaching normal, he admits, was somewhat different. “But it still took only three months. That’s all. I’m a strong guy, very fit, good genetics.”