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A lovely ancient Playboy magazine…

The magazine Playboy was a big influence on my wanting to become a writer. Just like in the cliché, “I read it for the articles,” after I got done looking at the pictures I did indeed read the articles. Mostly the fiction, but the interviews too. The many finely wrought short stories that Playboy published inspired me to learn the craft of fiction, and the interviews taught me how to talk to people to get their stories, a skill that came in handy when I interviewed about a thousand porn stars and strippers from the 1980s through the mid-2000s for mags like Black Tail and Leg Show.

I went to the flea market in Chelsea today on my unending search for inspiration in print, and I found a lovely Playboy from January 1956.

Look at the clever cover collage of the bunny-eared photog looking in his camera viewfinder!

Look at the clever cover collage of the bunny-eared photog looking in his camera viewfinder!

 

This slender (72 pages including covers) but jam-packed issue has, among its charms, a recap of the first two dozen Playmates (including Marguerite Empey aka Diane Webber, Jayne Mansfield, and Diane Hunter (whom I interviewed decades later for Pat Reshen’s Over 40 magazine); cartoons by the legendary and tragic Jack Cole, creator of the comic book character Plastic Man and a frequent Playboy contributor, as well as fiction by Robert Bloch, Erskine Caldwell, and Herbert Gold. Probably the one name that most resonates with contemporary readers is that of Bloch, who of course was one of the great masters of horror fiction and created the original novel on which Hitchcock’s Psycho was based. And Caldwell was one of the biggest selling writers of all time with the paperback editions of his rural tales of lust and human folly.

I never cease admiring these beautiful vintage paperback covers!

I never cease admiring these beautiful vintage paperback covers!

 

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A marriage made in porn…

The recent movie Lovelace, starring Amanda Seyfried in the story of the life and career of the star of the controversial 1972 porn film Deep Throat, has gotten a lot of press, although I haven’t seen it yet. But that’s not unusual, because it takes a lot for me to actually see a new film. Because I spend most of my week looking at porn photos and videos for the website copy I write for adult sites, I devote a lot of my leisure time indulging my love for classic films of the non-pornographic variety. You see, I’m too busy catching up with those vintage movies which, as yet unseen, are still new to me. I believe it was Lauren Bacall who said…

Photo from Yank, The Army Weekly, November 24/26, 1944 (via Wikipedia)

Photo from Yank, The Army Weekly, November 24/26, 1944 (via Wikipedia)

Anyway, in 2001 one of my friends and colleagues in erotica, journalist Eric Danville, published his book The Complete Linda Lovelace, a fascinating study of this complex lady. Eric became friends with Linda in the last years of her life. She died after a car accident in 2002. With his great knowledge of Linda and her career (he did one of the most in-depth interviews ever with her, shortly before her death) Eric ultimately became a consultant on the Seyfried movie.

I got a copy of Eric’s book in 2001 and liked it a lot. It’s going to be republished soon–for more info go here. I remember standing in line at the book party to get the original edition signed by Linda Lovelace herself. She struck me as a very quiet, shy person. I met her again some months later at a pinup and glamour photography fan convention where we spoke briefly, and once more she seemed like a self-effacing, modest lady in her fifties.

Here is a photo from the days of her notoriety in the 70s:

LindaLovelace Pinup

In 2003 Eric wrote a screenplay entitled Linda Lovelace, based on his book. He recently made the script available online in PDF form. It’s quite a good read. I devoured it in a couple of hours, just about the amount of time it would take up onscreen. I think it would make a helluva movie with its fast pace and colorful characters. We encounter everybody from fuck flick producers, directors, and actors, to porn magazine editors and writers, to celebrities like Hugh Hefner, Sammy Davis Jr, and even the late advice columnist Ann Landers. It’s a story that moves from the netherworld of people struggling to make a buck in the lowest ends of the sex business to reaching unexpected worldwide fame and then mingling at the highest levels of celebrity. We see what it can take to be tops in the business of selling sexual fantasy when an ordinary girl from Yonkers, New York named Linda Boreman transforms into Linda Lovelace and is both applauded and condemned for doing private things with unusual skill in an inexpensive little film that turns out to be the biggest smut moneymaker of all time.

Structurally, the screenplay focuses on Linda’s relationship with her husband Chuck Traynor, who taught her the secrets of oral sex that eventually made her so famous (he said he learned about these techniques from women when he was in the military at Okinawa).

A cuddly picture of a less than cuddly relationship.

A cuddly picture of a less than cuddly relationship.

We see Linda go from a strict Catholic upbringing to a life of drugs and prostitution, her descent into degradation mentored by Traynor, who collects the money for her sexual services. “We had to support ourselves,” explains Linda in one scene, “and did it the best way he knew how.” It seems like a classic abusive marriage, where a weak-willed woman with low self-esteem gets herself controlled by a domineering and manipulative male riddled with his own insecurities–vulnerabilities which he tries to hide with his power plays over other people.

However the relationship between Lovelace and Traynor in the screenplay doesn’t seem much different from the kinds of abusive relationships we read about in the newspapers all the time, which usually come to light with an act of violence; the difference here is that Linda and Chuck’s unique trajectory took them not just into the porn business, where at first they were just able to eke out a living doing cheap S&M photos and short sex loops, but then into world fame through that business, which put their personal dysfunction into a larger context of cultural change, sexual revolution, mass marketing, celebrity worship and finally scandal-mongering when Deep Throat was prosecuted for obscenity in places like New York, Arizona, and Kentucky.

deep-throat-movie-poster-1972-1020144203

Danville frames the story and gives insights into the characters through dramatized reminiscences of the people Linda knew, such as Deep Throat director Gerard Damiano, co-star Harry Reems, and Screw magazine publisher Al Goldstein; as well as through Linda’s testimony before the Meese Commission on pornography in the 1980s, Chuck Traynor being interviewed by Goldstein, and Goldstein being interviewed by Playboy magazine.

Unlike many film and literary treatments of the porn world, Danville’s screenplay does not have an agenda to bash porn; if anything, its agenda is to tell a human story in its various facets and let the viewers make up their own minds. The pornographers are shown doing their job, sometimes sleazy, but mostly workmanlike. We see how the ready availability of jobs in the burgeoning porn industry of the 70s kept people, once they made the grade in the X-rated cosmos, performing both in front of and behind the cameras. When Chuck and Linda are offered more work in their days before Deep Throat, they take it…even when it means doing an unusually unsavory production starring Linda and a dog.

We see the irony of Chuck Traynor, having promoted Linda as the super-fellatrix, jealous at the idea that she might be enjoying her scene going down on Harry Reems in Deep Throat…as if Traynor unleashed a feminine force he might no longer be able to control.

In words spoken by the Hugh Hefner character in one scene, Linda Lovelace was a “small-town girl who makes good and helps America along the road to sexual self-discovery.” However–and this is just my hunch– the irony is that if Linda Lovelace didn’t come to the fore, there probably would have been somebody else, some other female living a life of erotic outrageousness, who would have been the 1970s symbol of the changing times, culture, and morals.

A good director could create an incisive and evocative film out of Eric Danville’s Linda Lovelace, but it’s well worth reading all on its own. To download your own PDF copy for just $3, go to Eric’s site here.

Linda_Lovelace

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I got the picture of Lauren Bacall from Wikipedia. I found the photo of Linda in the turtleneck here; the Linda pinup promo here; the Linda and Chuck portrait here; and the photo of Linda in her Lovelace t-shirt here.  The Deep Throat poster can be found at many, many places on the Web.

 

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