Presidential dreaming

Looking forward without regret

Published: Jan 10 2015, 01:01:am

February 28, 1975

"YOU WON'T RECOGNIZE HER," Orpheum Theatre manager Ted Bielby said.
    He was right.
    Linda Lovelace, 24, the blue-movie actress whose name has became a household word, has been repackaged, reprocessed and reprogrammed. Gone is the girl with the Little Orphan Annie curls, the petulant, freckle-faced star of 1972's Deep Throat.
    In her place is a college prom queen, the all-American girl. Elegantly gowned, she enters the room, poised and confident. She extends a manicured hand and flashes a winning smile. The effect is vice-regal and, well, wholesome.
    "I'm studying dance now," she says, purring. "Tap, jazz and rock.  I'm also taking singing lessons and acting lessons. What I'm doing is expanding myself."
    Lovelace is in town to promote her latest movie, Linda Lovelace for President, opening at the Orpheum on March 7 [1975]. Vancouver is the first stop on a cross-country tour that takes her to Calgary, Winnipeg and Toronto, the Canadian cities where the film is being prereleased prior to its assault on the U.S. market.
    The new film "had a budget of $1 million, and a million-dollar advertising budget," she says.  Deep Throat, she recalls, cost $28,000, and paid her a straight salary of $1,250.
    Her second feature, the non-pornographic Deep Throat, Part II  (1974), paid her a salary and a percentage of the gross. As far as the new movie is concerned. "I have a very good percentage."
    "I got up front salary, and a salary upon release. My upfront salary was over 100 times what I got for Deep Throat. Well, more than that, more than 100 times," she adds with a small, satisfied laugh.  "And all at once."
     Born Linda Boreman in The Bronx, Lovelace is a 1970s version of the American Dream, her success a commentary on the age and its attitudes. Never before has anyone achieved such prominence and international celebrity status solely on the basis of a performance in a hardcore pornographic film.
    Her name is synonymous with a sex act that is illegal in many, if not most of the United States. Her ability, however, has made her a sought-after talk show guest, a newsmaker and a trend-setter.
    Although she says "I don't care for  pornographic movies," she does not join in the chorus of film industry spokesmen who claim that such films are in decline.
    Of Deep Throat, she says "it's behind me only in that it was done yesterday. I'm not embarrassed (by it), or am I going to say 'oh! I just did it because I needed the money."
    "I did it because I wanted to. I enjoyed it," she says emphatically. "The film has grossed over $40 million which, if you work out the ratio of what it was made for and what it grossed, it's the top-grossing film ever made, more than Gone With The Wind, or West Side Story."
    Few contemporary issues are more emotion-charged or opinion-clouded than pornography. Two solid, objectively demonstrable facts do emerge, though.
    At the present time [1975], the pornographic film business in the United States is not in decline. In addition, public acceptance of adult movies is more broadly based than it has ever been.
    The first point is supported by a three-year survey of reviews published in the entertainment trade paper Variety. Between January, 1972 and December, 1974, the tabloid weekly reviewed 66 hardcore features.
    In 1972, there were six homosexually-oriented features, and 17 targeted at heterosexual audiences, for a total of 23 films reviewed. In 1973, the numbers were seven and 18, totalling 25. Last year, there were one and 17 for a total of 18.
    As the above breakdown indicates, the only slackening off has been in the production of pictures aimed at male homosexuals. Wrote Variety's Addison Verrill in the issue of January 22, 1975:
    "The porno biz panic that followed the U.S. Supreme Court rulings (of mid 1974) has died down and funding is again available for quality porno . . . Thus the production cash is flowing again, new 'class' features are opening and the public, judging from the recent grosses, has not tired of watching the real thing."
     The steadily growing public acceptance of "the porno biz" is illustrated in the career of director Gerard Damiano, the man who wrote, directed and edited Deep Throat.
    "He wrote a script in a matter of days," Lovelace says, "and did a fantastic job with the music, and put the whole thing together."
     According to the feature's leading lady, "he got fired for going $3,000 over the budget, and for insisting upon me being the star of the film.
    "The producers wanted a bleached blond with large breasts," she says, "someone who was very loud and boisterous. They felt that I was too skinny and not attractive enough."
    Damiano insisted on following his own lights. His first film created a sensation that has since been dubbed "porno chic" — by Ralph Blumenthal in a five-page 1973 New York Times Magazine feature — and everybody who was anybody had to see it. Linda Lovelace, the actress whose name wasn't even mentioned in the original Variety notice, rocketed to fame.
    Damiano's second film, 1973's The Devil in Miss Jones, pushed the revolution a step further. Miss Jones became the first hardcore movie to be seriously reviewed on the cinema pages of such national publications as Time, Newsweek and The New York Times.
    His third feature, Memories Within Miss Aggie, moves further still. Last month, it became the first porn movie included on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences list of films eligible to be nominated for the coveted Oscar. By that act, the film industry's most conservative voice acknowledged the existence of  pornography as a legitimate movie genre.
    Deep Throat, meanwhile, remains on view approximately 30 miles south of Vancouver's Theatre Row. Booked originally for a week-long run in August of 1972, it played in Blaine's adult movie houses for nearly a year.
    It returned last year, co-featured with Damiano's The Devil In Miss Jones. According to Sea-Vue Theatre manager George Borden, Jr., "it's the most successful picture we've ever had."
    The largest portion of his business, Borden says, comes from Canada. To date, more than 100,000 Vancouverites have made the trip, he says.
    Prolonged discussion about her past, evolving social attitudes and film trends, eventually begin to bore Linda, and irritate Larry Marciano, her personal "co-ordinator," who has hovered protectively nearby throughout our interview.
    "That's yesterday," she says, a touch of the old petulance playing around the corners of her mouth. "Yesterday got me where I am today, and I talked about that yesterday.
    "And today, I want to talk about Linda Lovelace for President."
    "It's all about the freaks of America who have decided that they've had enough of the present two parties, and have gathered together a group of people, and have decided on me as the third party candidate of the United Peoples' Party."
    Linda Lovelace For President.
    Somehow, in 1975, the idea hardly seems outrageous at all.

The above is a restored version of a Province interview by Michael Walsh originally published in 1975. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.

Afterword: A  mere snapshot, the above interview captures a moment in the life of an unlikely cultural icon. In 1975, it appeared that the former Catholic schoolgirl was indeed living "the American Dream." She had risen from obscurity, achieved international celebrity and was starring in a feature film with her name in the title. She was credited as the author of two 1974 paperback autobiographies — Inside Linda Lovelace and The Intimate Diary of Linda Lovelace — in which she offered a positive picture of the adult film industry. The full story is more complex, and more like a nightmare. In her third autobiography, 1980's Ordeal (written with reporter Mike McGrady), she tells a tale of criminal abuse and sexual slavery, allegations that made her a prominent figure in the anti-pornography movement. She gave talks at feminist meetings and, in 1986, gave testimony before Attorney General Ed Meese's Commission on Pornography. By 1987, though, she'd become disenchanted with the Women Against Pornography group's leaders, saying in an interview that "they used me too." She died in April, 2002, at the age of 53, from injuries sustained in a car crash. The surprise, given her notoriety, is that she starred in just three feature films — 1972's Deep Throat, its 1974 sequel, Deep Throat Part II, and Linda Lovelace for President 1975) — only one of them containing explicit sex. Interest in her as a cultural phenomenon was rekindled by the the 2005 documentary feature Inside Deep Throat, and reflected in the six-month run of Lovelace: A Rock Musical (2008) in Los Angeles. Last year, Amanda Seyfried had the title role in Lovelace, a biopic that (in the words of Variety critic Rob Nelson) reduces "an immensely disturbing, politically byzantine tale to a series of cartoonish vignettes."   
    In 1975, Linda Lovelace played a porn star running for president. In 2004, her contemporary Marilyn Chambers made a real-life run for high office. Chambers was the vice-presidential nominee of the Personal Choice Party in the state of Utah. She was paired with ideological libertarian Charles Jay, the party's presidential candidate. Their campaign emphasized that Chambers had once owned and operated a gun shop. Together they received 946 votes. A "third party," the PCP took 0.10% of the Utah vote, coming in sixth behind Republican George W. Bush (663,742 votes, or 71.56%).

See also: For more on the career of director Gerard Damiano, read my review of his 1981 feature Beyond Your Wildest Dreams. Pornography is considered both as a genre and and an issue in my reviews of Insatiable (1980) and Up 'n' Coming (1983), as well as in my two interviews with actress Marilyn Chambers in 1980 and 1983. Earlier consideration of the issue can be found in my reviews of the 1976 Alice in Wonderland and The First Nudie Musical (1976). A documentarist's view is examined in Not a Love Story: A Film About Pornography (1981). The issue of sex in the cinema in the mid-1950s was the subject of The Notorious Bettie Page (2005).