Porn’s Politicians

Truth, liberty and the pursuit of high office

Published: Jan 28 2018, 01:01:am

Prepared for Cinema Sewer #31
[Published in 2018 by Cinema Sewer]


    Twelve years before Americans elected their first actor-president — former General Electric pitchman Ronald Reagan — filmmaker Barry Shear explored the notion of a pop star in the White House. His 1968 political fantasy Wild in the Streets was based on the idea that celebrity was a qualification for high office. (It had worked for Reagan, who in 1966 had been elected governor of California.)
    In Shear’s picture, rock rebels demanding “power to the (young) people” promise to lower the voting age. Their slogan: “Fourteen Or Fight!”     
    A boxoffice hit for double-feature distributor AIP, I blame Wild in the Streets for inspiring the big screen’s most incredible candidacy, 1976’s Linda Lovelace for President. Marketed as a comedy, it traded on its star’s notoriety as a porn performer. Her campaign slogan: “A vote for Linda is a blow for democracy.”
    In the years since, we’ve seen dozens of American entertainers follow Reagan’s example and seek public office. The successful ones have served as city mayors (Jack Kelly, Clint Eastwood), state governors (Jesse Ventura, Arnold Schwarzenegger) and in the U.S. Congress (Fred Thompson, Sonny Bono, Al Franken). As well, there is reality TV star Donald J. Trump, America’s current (at the time of this writing) performer-president.
    It should come as no surprise that a number of adult film stars have done the same. This issue of Cinema Sewer salutes six women who went all the way. No mere simulations of political participation, their campaigns were explicit acts of electoral democracy. Their real names appeared on official ballots, and the results are a matter of public record.

1. CICCIOLINA (Italy; 1987): “Down with nuclear energy, up with sexual energy”
    The Golden Age of Porn’s best-known international star, Cicciolina was born Elena Anna Staller on November 26, 1951 in Budapest, Hungary. Between 1970 and 1994, she performed in some 40 feature films. As Ilona Staller, she was a founding member in 1979 of La Lista del Sole (The Sun Party), Italy's first Green Party. In 1985 she switched to the Partito Radicale, campaigning for human rights and against nuclear energy, Italian NATO membership and world hunger.
    Perhaps inspired by Delacroix’s classic painting “Liberty Leading the People,” the take-charge blonde often delivered her political speeches bare-breasted. In the 1987 election (held June 14-15), she won a full five-year term to the Italian parliament, during which she continued to appear in hardcore features.
    The representative of the Lazio district of Rome (1987-1992), her 20,000 vote total made her the second most popular Radical Party candidate, after the party’s leader. Among Italy’s most colourful progressive politicians — in 1990, during the run-up to the Gulf war, she said "I am available to make love with Saddam Hussein to achieve peace in the Middle East" — Cicciolina has been collecting a €39,000 ($47,940 US) Parliamentary pension since she turned 60 in 2011.  

2. JODIE MOORE (Australia; 2001) “Queensland I’ll promote it”
    Born Jodie Ann Klassen on April 11, 1976 in Brisbane, Australia, Jodie Moore made two life-changing decisions in 2001. Having achieved regional fame as a strip-tease dancer and men’s magazine model, she made her debut as an adult film actor. (During a six-year career, she starred in more than 60 features.) That same year, she stood as an Independent Party candidate in Queensland’s February 17 state assembly election. Running in Brisbane's Woolridge constituency, Moore placed fifth in a field of five, receiving 1,057 (or 5.1 per cent) of votes cast.
    A month later, she ran in the March 17 byelection for a seat in Australia’s federal parliament. It was news when a billboard featuring nude photos of the senatorial candidate for Brisbane's Ryan constituency was taken down by the city’s roads department. Although more people voted for her in the larger federal district — she got 1,351 (or 1.79 per cent) of the votes — she came in sixth in a field of nine.
    Success in politics eluded her, but the tiny blonde Aussie used her fame in the international porn industry to fulfill the promise of promoting her homeland. For many years her website combined adult hardcore content with personal political commentary.
3. MARY CAREY (United States; 2003) “I’ll be a kick-ass governor”
    Cleveland, Ohio-born Mary Ellen Cook was into the second year of her 10-year-long adult film career when California Governor Grey Davis was faced with a recall election. Born June 15, 1981, the all-American actress was one of a number of show business celebrities on the huge ballot faced by Golden State voters on October 7, 2003. Running on a Ciccolina-like platform of social reforms — she promised to “recruit fellow performers from the adult video industry as ambassadors of good will” for the state — she received 0.1 per cent of the votes cast.
    Critics of her candidacy suggested that she was not very bright and that she was lying about having a naturally big bust. It’s not clear whether the implants controversy won or lost votes for the full-figured blonde.       
    Yes, she lost to mainstream movie actor Arnold Schwarzenegger (with 4,158,194 votes), but Mary Carey did manage to come in a respectable 10th in a field of 135 candidates. Although her candidacy was called a publicity stunt, campaign promises such as legalizing same-sex marriage, a gun-control program and addressing the AIDS epidemic made sense to 11,179 voters.

4. DOLLY BUSTER (Czech Republic; 2004) “Politics does not have to be hell”
    Her calmly reassuring campaign slogan reflected the years of social and cultural change that shaped Nora Baumbergerová’s political persona. Born Katerina Bochnickova on October 23, 1969 in Prague, she left the Soviet satellite state at 14 for affluent West Germany. In 1989, she made her debut as Dolly Buster, parlaying a dominating presence into major stardom during a 12-year career in reunified Germany’s adult film industry.
    In 1993, her native Czechoslovakia split into Slovakia and the Czech Republic. In 2004, the year they joined the European Union, the socially-active actress returned to Prague. She stood as the Independent Erotic Initiative party’s candidate for a deputy’s seat in the European Parliament, campaigning on a platform of sexual freedom and animal rights.
    She earned just under 7,000 votes, or 0.72 per cent of ballots cast during the June 11-12 election. Though the blonde Buster — the name celebrated her surgically-enhanced breasts — was not a winner, she remained entrepreneurial, branching out from film production to restaurant management. Recently, she was inducted into Das Syndikat (Germany’s association of mystery writers) for her series of crime novels featuring Lilly DeLight, a porn star turned amateur detective.   
5. MARILYN CHAMBERS (United States; 2004) “Don’t write us off — Write us in!”
    If America’s “porno chic” moment began with Linda Lovelace’s debut feature, the 1972 sex-clinic comedy Deep Throat, it reached its artistic high point with Marilyn Chambers’s first adult feature, the sex-club fantasy Behind the Green Door (also 1972). With her athletic figure and wholesome good looks — she was the all-American young mom on every box of Ivory Snow soap flakes sold in 1971 — her choice to become a porn star was the ultimate act of boom-generation rebellion.
    While the working-class Lovelace played a presidential candidate in the movies, suburban princess Marilyn Chambers Taylor went on to be the real-life running mate of the libertarian Personal Choice Party’s Charles Jay on the November 2, 2004 election ballot in Utah.
    Born Marilyn Ann Briggs on April 22, 1952 in Westport, Connecticut, her 35-year performing career bred in her the libertarian values represented in her politics. She was pro-choice and for free speech, privacy rights and personal responsibility, and against legislating morality and high taxes. The PCP ticket received 946 (or 0.1 per cent) of Utah votes, to come in sixth behind mainstream party candidates George W. Bush/Dick Cheney (the Republicans who won) and Democrats John Kerry/John Edwards.     
6. MIMI MIYAGI (United States; 2006) “I’m bare and honest at all times”
    Pornography, an established film genre, had just begun its migration to the Internet when Mimi Miyagi made her screen debut in 1990. Born Melody Damayo on July 3, 1973 in Davao City, Philippines, she made no secret of her 14 years as an adult performer when she ran in the 2006 Republican primary race to choose the party’s Nevada gubernatorial candidate. In addition to being a registered Republican, she was a card-carrying member of the National Rifle Association.
    She also represented the new American diversity. A diminutive Asian, she had the forthright manner of a tiger mom, and her campaign issues included school reform, reducing the state’s crime rate and raising the minimum wage. She came in fourth in a field of five on the August 15 ballot, receiving 1,651 votes (or 1.17 per cent). Afterwards, Miyagi followed the example of Marilyn Chambers  (who had co-owned a Las Vegas gun shop in the 1980s), and joined her state’s Libertarian Party.  

    At least two questions are raised by the above brief notes. Why is it that the history of porn-star politicians is essentially a her-story? Why is it that the platforms of the European performers are socially progressive (or left-wing), while the Americans skew to the right? These are subjects for further study, to be sure.

The above is the text of a Cinema Sewer article by Michael Walsh originally published in 2018. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.

Afterword: It all started when I read a piece in B.C.’s online newsmagazine The Tyee. Written by my old Province newspaper colleague Tom Hawthorn, it was headlined "Other U.S. Losers, Lovable and Not". It discussed third-party presidential candidates in the 2004 American election, noting Marilyn Chambers's place on the Utah Personal Choice Party ticket. OK, I thought, had politics been a career option for any other adult performers?
    As it turned out, lots of porn stars have offered opinions on political issues, but few have gone all the way (so to speak). Curiosity made me search out the records of those who had actually appeared on official ballots, and whose runs could be verified on government websites (where vote counts were recorded). It was a fascinating exercise, but not really a publishable story, so it remained in the form of notes in a file on my computer.
    Then in mid-May, at the the 2017 VanCAF event, I had a chat with Cinema Sewer publisher Robin Bougie. I found myself pitching the story as an article for CS 31. He agreed to consider it, then approved my outline. In preparing my words for publication, he added three items of original artwork. You can see his pictures by buying a copy of the magazine from the Cinema Sewer store.