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I Was Young and Needed the Money

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"Good God, this is like that desperate porno a celebrity does before he becomes famous!"

The classic stock excuse for the discovering of Old Shame, usually if it's either loaded with Fanservice or is so lame that it may ruin someone who thinks what they were involved in is beneath them. Usually given for a lot of mainstream performers once their past in "glamour photography" or softcore pornography is discovered.

This doesn't necessarily have to involve porn — it's just as likely to be a cheesy-as-all-hell children's show, low-budget sci-fi movie, etc — just something the performer, who might have been a Starving Artist, saw as a humiliating but necessary stepping-stone to their current career. In these situations, they might outright state that they wish it had been some kind of pornography because that would have been a much less embarrassing and degrading experience.

Compare Money, Dear Boy, which is when the performer's current choice of work is so bad that he or she is only in on it to get money from it. Often overlaps Porn Creator Going Mainstream, where a creator or actor tries to make more respectable works after starting out with erotica/porn/hentai.

See also Waiting for a Break and Paying Their Dues, for the non-glamorous gigs most artists are reduced to working before their careers take off.


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    Comic Books 
  • In Before Watchmen: Minutemen, it's implied that Sally Jupiter did some racy photo shoots before she became the Silk Spectre.
  • Touch (2004): Allison was a cowgirl-themed showgirl before going to Law school.

    Fan Works 
  • DC Nation: Hotshot's teammates discover that he "starred" in a film called "Bi The Shore" while in college. The females on the team rent it out and have a screening, throwing every bit of snark they can in the process.
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged: Yamcha once sang a song in an old cat food commercial, as his friends eventually discover. When they question him about this, he responds, "I was desperate and needed the money. And no, it was not worth it."
  • Jara from Kara of Rokyn starred in porno videos before becoming a wrestler. They were relatively softcore -and she really needed the income-, but she isn't pleased to hear they might hurt her chances of making the leap into legitimate acting.
  • In multifandom parody vid "L is sick of walking" by GoDevilDante, Jin posed for "ukelicious" nude photos because he needed the monies.
  • In Pictopia II, as in the Alan Moore comic it's based on, Red Bumsteer needed to bring in some money to support their kids and dogs when her husband was locked in a mental hospital, so she became a prostitute.
  • In the Black Lagoon fic, Über Cool, Sawyer and Shenhua finds an old magazine featuring a raunchy picture of Rotton. When asked about it, he claims that he was desperate and needed the money, as he hasn't managed to make a living as a Bounty Hunter.
  • In violet-quill's Harry Potter fic, Wolf Masterson in The Naughty Professor IV: Prefect's Revenge, Remus Lupin once made films. Naughty, naughty films.
  • In Superwomen of Eva 2: The Magic Touch, this is literally the reason why Maya Ibuki created the "Zatanna" identity (no nudity, other than the leotard exposing her legs): she wanted to be a computer programmer, her magician dad wanted her to follow his steps, she had to do magician acts at night clubs to pay for her college (and didn't talked to dear old dad for years until the events of the show and him being on his death bed).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Naked Gun, during their dine-in date, Lt. Frank Drebin tells Jane Spencer, at the time a secretary to Big Bad Vincent Ludwig, that he has found some interesting pictures. She immediately replies with this phrase verbatim.

  • The Cemeteries of Amalo: The second book features a murder suspect who posed for a pornographer when she was "desperate and destitute" after her father died and is willing to do anything to keep her potential employers from knowing this.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Erin in Blue Bloods worked as a cocktail waitress at Roxy's (a famous NYC nightclub). She told her parents she worked at a roller skate rink. The part about wearing roller skates was true...
  • Bomb Girls has Kate who, having recently gotten a job at the factory after escaping her abusive father, needs fake documents to keep her job since she has assumed a false identity. She poses for racy pictures that are to be sold to World War II Soldiers overseas.
  • Cam of Bones was strapped for cash starting at med school and so agreed to play a role in the low-budget The Invasion of the Mother Suckers. It's hard to tell whether the film was more embarrassing or the fact that it featured her in 70's clothing with an afro.
  • One episode of Borgen has a hyped-up political scandal when lingerie modeling shots of a (fairly young and attractive) female minister are rediscovered by the press. She brazens it out with almost literally this response.
  • Castle: Detective Kate Beckett worked as a teenage model once. Her shoot is more cheesy than sexy: she's shown modeling tennis clothes while jumping into the air
  • Rebecca's sister in Cheers is okay with the low-budget slasher movies she currently stars in, but there's at least one she isn't proud of.
  • This is what was behind Catherine Willows being a stripper in her younger years on CSI. Something of a subversion, in that she's pretty open and sometimes rather proud of it.
  • Played lightly in Downton Abbey where Carson is blackmailed over an apparently scandalous secret from his past. It turns out that he used to be an end-of-the-pier entertainer, which is amusing to the rest of the household but cringemaking for him.
  • The killer in the Elementary episode "The Long Fuse" turns out to be the female CEO of a PR firm, who was being blackmailed by one of her employees with the secret video of them having sex many years ago, while she was in college and worked as a prostitute on the side. Sherlock Holmes admits that he sees nothing wrong with prostitution, as sex is just a commodity. However, he's fully aware that most people don't see it that way.
  • Friends:
    • Joey was once in a porn movie because he was 'young, and needed some money'. When he couldn't go through with it, they let him play a guy who walks in during a sex scene to watch the couple have sex on the photocopier. At least he had a speaking bit, "You know, that's bad for the paper tray." But, being Joey, he seems genuinely proud of his role and quite happily sits down to watch it with the gang and point out his appearance.
    • In another episode, Joey tells his agent that he's frustrated that she hasn't been getting him any good jobs lately. She replies, "Well you're just going to say no again, but gay porn?"
  • Goodness Gracious Me parodied this trope in a sketch where Bollywood superstar Chunky Lafanga is exposed as having starred in "a hardcore porn film" (using the exact phrase "I was young and needed the money" to justify his actions.) We then see a clip from the film in question, the joke being that because this was Indian cinema, the scene is more like saucy Carry On-style innuendo than explicit porn.
  • Another example, in Grey's Anatomy, Izzie gets humiliated when Alex discovers pictures of her as a lingerie model. However, it turns out that those photoshoots paid for med school - so she comes out on top.
  • Apparently Wilson, from House, was in a porno back in college. He swears that it wasn't a porno when they were shooting it, and he was doing it as a favor to a friend that he had no idea would become an actual director, and said friend added some scenes in afterward so he could release it as a porno... The fact that Wilson is entirely absent from all the sex scenes does lend credence to his story. House just wanted to see him squirm.
  • In How I Met Your Mother, Robin uses this line to define her past career. Of course, Barney slap-bets Marshall that it was porn. This results in Robin revealing the whole truth, saying "Porn? I wish. It would be less embarrassing." Turns out she was a teenage pseudo-'80s Canadian pop star.
  • Parodied on In Living Color!, during the "Anton at the Recruiter" sketch.
    Recruiting Corporal: I am in the business of signing up real-life soldiers, maggot!
    Anton: Maggot? I ain't no maggot! Hey, I ain't never been with another man before! Who told you that? Clarence? He's lying! He's lying! I'm telling you—alright once, I was desperate, I needed the money, I was drunk and dying out! Don't hold it against me...
  • Played for Drama in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, where a female college student makes rape fantasy porn videos to pay for college. She ends up being raped for real, with video proof, but the rapist's defense attorney uses her porn career to cast doubt on her accusations, saying "the only difference between this video and the rest is you weren't being paid". The judge ends up throwing out the rapist's guilty verdict based on this, which causes her to vault headlong over the Despair Event Horizon, becoming a porn star full time with the sobering remark "at least here, when I say stop, they stop".
  • Less Than Perfect: In one episode, Will gives Claude a videotape with instructions to destroy it, explaining it by quoting the trope title verbatim. Curiosity gets the better of her, however, and she and Ramona watch the tape... which turns out to be a Canadian soap opera he once starred in.
  • Monk: Played for Drama on an episode. Sharona posed for nude pictures when she was in her late teens because she needed money to support herself and her son Benjy. When the photos are unearthed by a suspected murderer in an attempt to blackmail her and Monk into not pursuing his case, she is forced to explain to Benjy about the photos and why she did what she did. She then says that she and Monk are planning to pursue the investigation anyway, which will result in the photos being sent to newspapers and Benjy probably getting made fun of at school for it. Benjy's response? Not to let a bad guy get away just because he might have a bad day at school.
  • Melanie from Queer as Folk (US) appeared nude in a magazine to get money for college after her parents cut her off for being gay. They apparently changed their minds after about three weeks, but by then she had already paid that year's tuition and the next.
  • From Scrubs, "My Best Friend's Baby's Baby":
    Jordan: Nice job, Perry. Your son just asked me if my vagina's ever been on television.
    Perry: And, did you tell him not since the '80s when you were trying to make it as an "actress"?
  • Played with in Stark Raving Mad: an episode focused on Ian's refusal to discuss what he was doing during a particular year and a half of his life, going so far as making up a cover story about having spent it in a mental institution. After insistent prodding by Henry, he finally snaps and starts closing all his blinds, orders Henry to lock the door, warns him that what he's about to see "will disgust [him]" and produces a tape that he's "deeply ashamed" of and that he only keeps as a "reminder of how far [he] can fall". And when the tape starts playing we see that it's... a cheesy musical.
    Ian: The Grinning Americans. I was living in Florida. Flat broke. No direction. I saw an ad in the newspaper. They were holding auditions, it was fast money. You get sucked into the life, Henry. Now you know.
    Henry: So wait a minute, you would rather have people think you were in a mental institution than...
    [Cut to more musical scenes]
    Henry: ...I understand.
  • In an episode of Steptoe and Son, Harold finds an old What the Butler Saw machine. The nude couple in the film are Albert and his sister-in-law.
  • Unsurprisingly, Karen on Will & Grace once starred in an adult film called Next to Godliness in which she plays a neat-freak dominatrix. Grace eventually tracks down every copy and gives all but one (which Grace keeps to show to Will) to Karen to destroy.
    Karen: Well, I was just out of college. I was broke. It's the oldest story in the world. Boy meets girl, boy wants girl to do dominatrix film, girl says, "naked?" Boy says, "yeah." Girl says, "forget it." Boy says, "ok, then just wear this rubber dress and beat the old guy with a scrub brush." Girl says, "how hard?"

  • Used in the Steve Taylor song "Cash Cow" as a line setting up the following:
    I was young and I needed the money
    I had money, but I needed more money
    I was filthy rich; all I needed was love!
    ...and a little more money!

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Bill Hicks claimed that this was the only valid reason anyone other than Willie Nelson could have for doing a commercial. Willie was excused for his $24 million tax bill.

    Video Games 
  • Fallout:
    • Fallout 2: The player character can act in porn at one point, and excuse it with needing money.
    • In Fallout: New Vegas, your companion Veronica will say this when you talk to her sometimes. Used as a joke, because she always cuts off whatever you were going to ask.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines: Damsel has some nude modeling photos floating around from back when she was alive and in college. Gary will give them to you as a reward for finding one of his old films, with the added comment that she won't be happy to know you have them.

    Web Comics 
  • Ray from Achewood paid major hush money to cover up his past as... a hip-hop dancer.
  • In User Friendly, this was Greg's justification for once having worked for Microsoft.

    Web Original 
  • Gloria in Off the Page and into Life gives this excuse for having done nude photos for a magazine in college. Her best friend, Emily, gently teases her about it, but otherwise doesn't seem to care. (College is expensive, after all.) But considering how conservative Pageson is, you can't blame Gloria for wanting to keep it under wraps.

    Western Animation 
  • In one Batman Beyond episode, Inque reveals to her daughter Deanna this was the reason she left her (even saying that she was younger than Deanna was at the time).
  • Death himself (as in, the Grim Reaper) from Family Guy claims he once "did some films I'm...not especially proud of" when he was young, to explain his ability to swallow the meat off a turkey leg in one gulp.
  • In Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, Apache Chief turned to adult films after he was fired by the Super Friends and needed a source of income. He isn't proud of it.
  • Part of a chain of excuses in The Looney Tunes Show when Daffy markets Bugs' design for an automatic carrot peeler.
  • On The Simpsons, Rainier Wolfcastle is getting rid of old stuff in his home, and Homer spots the old porn movies he did years ago. He notices that there's only gay porn, and when Homer asks if there's any hetero stuff, Wolfcastle simply replies, "What's there is there."
  • In the first Halloween episode of South Park, Cartman claims to his friends that the reason why his mom posed for Crack Whore magazine was because "...she was young and needed the money," but Stan points out that the photographs were taken just the previous month - granted, Cartman's mom doesn't seem to have any source of income beyond whoring herself.

    Real Life 
  • When it was brought up on Get This, these were Ed Kavalee's exact words about an old film project of his, Meat Pie, in which he played a teenager who has sex with a meat grinder and gets a penis transplant. Kavalee's comment was, "After seeing it, people look at me differently. They ask things like, 'Were you in some kind of trouble? You could have asked me for money!'"
  • This is how Jackie Chan justifies having once appeared in a porn flick (if Cracked is to be believed, which it may not be). He's actually unashamed of it and points out that Brando took his clothes off on camera. He started doing his own stunts because of this, but it became his calling card as he gained fame.
  • Legendarily, Marilyn Monroe had some nude pictures taken of her by an acquaintance of hers in May of 1949, being told that they were for a "tasteful" art calendar. This was back at the beginning of her modeling and acting career, where she was practically still unknown, low on personal funds, and very much living hand-to-mouth (in fact, Marilyn used the money from the shoot to narrowly prevent her car from being repossessed). By her own and others' accounts, the shoot itself was, despite the content, very much a perfectly professional and controlled experience, since she knew the photographer, and his wife was present for the whole shoot. Said pictures would be later be rediscovered and cause a scandal and happened to be featured in the first issue of Playboy. Upon the rediscovery, Marilyn was called in front of a panel of executives of Fox, the holders of her contract, and asked point-blank if the woman on the calendar was her. She replied, just as frankly, that it was indeed her in the pictures, and that she was quite embarrassed that they had resurfaced... because the photographer hadn't managed to capture her from her best angle.
  • Sylvester Stallone, who made his acting debut in a porn flick Party at Kitty and Stud's (now better known as Italian Stallion — see below). How much did he need the money? He had been evicted from his apartment and had been sleeping in an NYC-bus station for three weeks. He later said he was so desperate, it was either "do the movie or rob someone." The film's creators later edited the film and re-titled it Italian Stallion to cash in on Stallone's newfound fame.
  • Simon Rex appeared in a few solo porn films before his modeling and VJ years.
  • When Dave Barry ran for President (long story), this was a common answer on the Q&A forum.
  • The wrestler Sherri Martel got in a spot of bother when some magazine leaked old nudies of her... right before a televised PPV. Fortunately WWE turns a blind eye to softcore porn.
  • Several celebrities and creators did stints as exotic dancers in their time:
    • Maya Angelou (yes, that one) was one.
    • Same deal with Channing Tatum (who, in one magazine interview, said he did it because — true to the trope — he was young and needed money after dropping out of college). This period of his life served as the basis for Magic Mike.
    • Rapper/actress Eve is another celebrity who worked as a stripper before becoming famous.
    • Tom Morello (of Rage Against the Machine fame) was a male stripper for a time.
    • Chris Pratt was utterly embarrassed to reveal that he used to be a stripper (a very low-rent one, he admits) before he became famous.
    • Subverted with Vincent Price, who performed in drag and stripped in the early 1940s when he was already a very successful stage actor with several film roles—to raise money for the war effort, rather than for himself. And he loved it.
  • Vanessa L. Williams's Penthouse photoshoot was explained as such. She still lost her Miss America crown over it, however. The issue featuring Vanessa Williams' photoshoot ended up being banned as the centerfold (Traci Lords) was revealed to have been underage at the time she posed for her picture, rendering all her porno pics and films child pornography.
  • Danny Slavin, who played Leo Corbett, the Red Ranger in Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, only did it because he needed money for law school. Understandably, it took a lot of convincing to get him to return for the 10th anniversary Reunion Show (not helped by the fact that, during the filming of the Reunion Show between Lost Galaxy and its successor, the producers tried to screw Amy Miller, the actress who played LG's Big Bad Trakeena, out of her paycheck; Slavin walked off the set in protest out of solidarity with Miller and only returned for the 10th anniversary as a personal favor to one of the producers). Surprisingly, he ended up returning for the finale of Power Rangers Super Megaforce years later.
  • Up until about 1991, Merzbow (yes, that Merzbow) made soundtracks for S&M porn flicks.
  • Subverted by Jessica Biel, who did a topless magazine shoot in late 2003. She didn't need the money at all, having just come off of the very successful remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) and also having signed onto Blade: Trinity, but her agent (who she fired not long afterward) apparently negotiated a very nice chunk of the money for himself. Biel did it mostly for the sake of Playing Against Type (she was on the end of her long stretch on 7th Heaven) and to go for some indie cred.
  • The ex–Daily Mirror political editor and UK political adviser Alastair Campbell, New Labour titan and inspiration behind Malcolm Tucker, gives this as an excuse for his first journalistic appointment: Writing (possibly autobiographical) pornography for Penthouse Forum.
  • Sasha Grey, now an actress and avant-gardist, spent five straight years in the porn industry. She's known just as much for one as the other nowadays. She's not ashamed about it, though.
  • This has happened a lot with Japanese game makers, the hentai industry there is not nearly as stigmatized as its equivalent is in the United States, though usually once a company makes it big they no longer go back to making hentai. Nintendo ran "love hotels" during The '50s and early 60s, before Gunpei Yokoi made the Ultra Hand toy and changed the direction the company went in from then on out. Meanwhile, back before Enix merged with Square, among the projects it had under its belt were at least two really old H-games.
  • Thin Lizzy's forgotten Deep Purple tribute album under the name Funky Junction was explicitly done for the money. Similarly, the song "I Need You" (B Side to "The Farmer") was recorded as part of a deal for studio time, the song being written by the studio's owner.
  • Peter Steele of Type O Negative posed for Playgirl in the '90s. Whilst it certainly got him more female fans, he quickly regretted it because it made people think he was gay, because he also attracted a lot of men as well. In his case, he had been in music for about 16 years when it happened, so being young is not exactly an excuse.
  • The excuse was similarly used by Shawn Michaels in the DX reunion on WWE Raw 1000 to explain why he posed for Playgirl.
  • An out-of-universe WWE example would be Mickie James and her multiple, explicit nude shoots while trying to make it in wrestling.
  • Neil Gaiman got his first published book with a decidedly non-literary biography of Duran Duran. Worse yet, the publisher folded shortly afterward and he didn't even get the money. He says it taught him that selling out isn't worth it. On the plus side though the band itself said that they thought it was their favorite biography. Gaiman also did some writing for the British soft-core porn magazine Knave, though he stopped that when the magazine started focusing solely on porn. He seems to be more embarrassed by the Duran Duran job.
  • Actually inverted for actress Valerie Leon, who appeared in several Carry On films and other raunchy British comedies in the Seventies; she steadfastly refused to appear nude, but has said in some recent interviews that she actually regrets that she was too shy to do so because she understands now what a great figure she had back then.
  • Leonard Nimoy once gave this answer word for word when asked about Zombies of the Stratosphere.
  • Channing Tatum says this is why he ended up doing GI Joe The Rise Of Cobra. He signed a lucrative studio contract after Coach Carter, thinking it'd help his career, but didn't realize until later that this meant he'd be unable to pass on films that would potentially be poorly received by critics or audiences.
  • Sierra, one of the biggest players in gaming during The '80s. Known for being (for the most part) family-friendly. But it was the early '80s, computer gaming was in its infancy, and they badly needed some cash to get started. The game that gave them enough money to actually make their signature family-friendly games? A text adventure called Softporn Adventure. Later, when the company had grown into an established developer, Al Lowe came along and re-tooled it, added some gags, and played the whole plot as a comedy — then sold it as Leisure Suit Larry 1: In the Land of the Lounge Lizards.
  • Sibel Kekilli starred in some pornographic movies when she was first starting out.
  • In 2004, it was revealed that Japanese baseball player Tadano Kazuhito, who had signed with Cleveland Indians minor league team, had starred in a Japanese gay porn years ago. He literally used this quote to explain why he did it in a press conference.
  • Chris Evans was mildly embarrassed when an interviewer brought up one of his earliest gigs as one of the heartthrobs featured in the board game Mystery Date. Evans was surfer dude Tyler, despite having no idea how to surf.
  • It's an urban legend that Joan Crawford did a "stag film" early in her career before she became a star. She always denied it, however. note 
  • Subverted by Eva Marie when her racy pictures were uncovered on Total Divas. She had been battling alcoholism and depression at the time.
  • Anna May Wong in her early career had to do a lot of roles playing either a Dragon Lady or else providing exotic Fanservice - due to Hollywood being reluctant to cast an Asian woman as the lead. By the time Daughter of the Dragon came along, she refused to play them anymore and took her career to Europe and Australia to play more varied roles.
  • Gail Kim once did topless photos for a Korean cell phone company before she was in wrestling.
  • Holly Marie Combs went topless for an obscure film called A Reason To Believe and was shocked when photos of it appeared on the internet after she got famous for Picket Fences and Charmed.
  • According to a recent biography, during his hustling days, Malcolm X occasionally worked as a male prostitute.
  • One of Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer's early works was the cheerfully cheesy theme tune for the 1980s quiz show Going for Gold. Sometimes interviewers bring this up in the expectation that he would be embarrassed by it, but he's not embarrassed by it at all, pointing out that it paid the bills for a few years and brought him some useful contacts, and everybody who saw the show remembers the theme song, so he must have done a pretty good job of it.
  • In only the second episode of Mythbusters, Kari Byron (then only a background crew member) allowed Adam and Jaime to scan her butt to create a mold for a myth. She didn't have much trouble with it at the time, thinking "It's just some little cable show! No one will ever see this!" One massive explosion in popularity later, "Now, when you search for me online, what's the first thing that comes up? My butt!" Fortunately, she had a sense of humor about the situation, and more recently, has become more appreciative of the segment, as "Who wouldn't want a memento of how good their butt looked when they were in their twenties?"
  • When Simu Liu was fresh out of college and decided that he didn't like being an accountant, he took a couple odd jobs, including being Spider-Man for kids' birthday parties (because the full-face mask hid the fact that he was Asian and there were no Asian superheroes kids wanted at their birthday parties), and being a stock photo model for a paltry $120 (he signed away the rights and hasn't earned any royalties since). As he's risen in fame during the run-up to Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, people started pointing out all of the odd places where they've seen this guy before, including, ironically, on the cover of an accounting textbook. Liu has taken it in stride and even used some of his old stock photos as reaction images.
  • In the '70s, Jeremy Irons worked as a presenter on a British young children’s TV show called Play Away. There was nothing really embarrassing about this — he was a young actor earning honest money, like several others who worked on the show before going on to greater fame — but clips from the period sometimes surface and contrast dramatically with his later Affably Evil roles.
  • Presumably, this was Minnie Driver's reason for getting into what she has described in an interview as her "most embarrassing moment":
    When I was starting out, in the early 90s, I had to fake an orgasm in a room full of male ad execs at an audition for a chocolate bar ad. It was grim.
  • In his days as a young stand-up comedian, Richard Belzer used this for an excuse when he appeared as a panelist in the adult game show Everything Goes. He said he needed the money so he could take his family on a Hawaiian vacation.
  • During her college years, Swedish journalist Christina Lindberg took roles in exploitation films such as Thriller: A Cruel Picture and did several nude photoshoots in order to pay for her education. Needless to say, she does not look back fondly on any of these assignments.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): I Was Young And I Needed The Money


Shawn Michaels' Playgirl Shoot

During an argument with the rest of DX, Triple H brings up that when Shawn Michaels loses his smile, he does weird things like pose for Playgirl. He excuses it by saying that he was young, stupid and needed the money.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / IWasYoungAndNeededTheMoney

Media sources: