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Linda Lovelace

REVIEWS - Movie Reviews

Everything about the life of Linda Lovelace, who died Monday
at age 53, was so so sad.

She had been a prostitute, a drug abuser, and the star of
some of the raunchiest porn movies ever made, back when the Mafia
filmed them secretly in ratty New York apartments. She stretched
her 15 minutes of fame to 30 by converting to feminism and
condemning pornography as "legalized rape," but there was never
much conviction in anything she said or published.

And yet there was a softness to her, and a gullibility, and a desperate desire
to be loved and accepted, making her seem more like a confused
girl from Yonkers than the leader of the porn revolution.

She was probably as stunned as everyone else when "Deep
Throat" became the most famous and profitable smut movie in
history, especially since it was little more than a down-and-
dirty stag film shot in ratty Miami motel rooms. In the context
of the tens of thousands of porn movies made both before and
after, it ranks pretty close to the bottom in terms of
cinematography, acting, entertainment value and just plain sexual
thrills.

But "Deep Throat," strange as it may seem, changed America's
sexual attitudes more than anything since the first Kinsey Report
in 1948. It altered the lives of everyone associated with it. It
super-charged the feminist movement. It gave the Mafia its most
lucrative business since Prohibition. And it changed the nation's
views of obscenity forever. We'll never know exactly how much
money it made--and continues to make--but estimates have gone as
high as $600 million, which would make it one of the most
successful motion pictures of any kind in any country in the
history of the world.

Nations, like people, have moments when they just need to
get drunk and party, and apparently something of the sort was
happening in June of 1972 when, at almost the same moment, the
Watergate burglars broke into the offices of the Democratic
National Committee and "Deep Throat" opened at the World Theater
in New York City. "Deep Throat" was not just a dirty movie. It
was a CAUSE, and it was so popular that most film critics were
afraid to deprecate it for fear of seeming unhip.

Ed McMahon, the sidekick of Johnny Carson on "The Tonight
Show," was such a fan of the movie that he showed up with six
friends and a case of beer, then stood outside the theater
afterward enthusing with the public. Frank Sinatra was one of the
early audience members, along with Vice President Spiro Agnew,
Warren Beatty, Truman Capote, Shirley MacLaine, Nora Ephron, Bob
Woodward and Sammy Davis Jr., who grew so enamored of Linda
Lovelace that within the year he and his wife would be having
group sex with her and her husband.

"Deep Throat" is finally one of those movies that really
can't be explained. It was simply THERE at a certain crazy time,
and it brought out every suppressed urge of a public starved for
sensation. And Linda Lovelace was the ill-equipped starry-eyed
girl at the center of that vortex.

Lovelace may be the only American celebrity to publish FOUR
best-selling autobiographies. The first two celebrate free
uninhibited sex as the most liberating form of human expression
since man learned to speak. The last two describe pornography as
a felony assault against women, a menace to the future of
civilization and the very essence of evil. In this one
desperately unhappy woman we have both the yin and the yang of
the sexual revolution played out before our eyes.

Linda Boreman--her real name--started down the road that
would turn her into the world's most famous sexual performer on a
day in 1969 when she was recuperating from a car accident at her
parents' condo in Fort Lauderdale. She and her girlfriend were
relaxing poolside in their bikinis--despite scars all over
Linda's body--when a bar owner and sometime pimp named Chuck
Traynor spotted her and offered the two girls a joint and a ride
in his Jaguar. She was 21. He was 27. In a matter of weeks she
had moved in with Traynor, and she soon found out that opposites
truly attract. He was the rough and possessive type, part of the
small-time criminal underworld; she was the protected daughter of
a cop. She didn't know much about sex at the time, but Traynor
said he would teach her, using hypnosis to increase her sexual
appetite.

Lovelace had grown up in Yonkers, the daughter of a New York
City police officer and a domineering mother who believed in
frequent corporal punishment. At Catholic school she got the
nickname "Miss Holy Holy" because she wouldn't let boys touch
her. When she was 16 her parents retired to Florida, and she
finished high school there without making many new friends. She
lost her virginity at age 19 and gave birth to a baby at 20. (She
claims her mother tricked her into giving the baby up for
adoption by having her sign papers she didn't read.) She returned
to New York to enroll in computer school and was planning to open
a boutique when a nasty car accident left her with a broken jaw,
broken ribs and a lacerated liver. That's when Traynor walked
into her life.

The hypnosis apparently worked, because within a few weeks
Lovelace was turning tricks. Traynor owned a bar, the Vegas Inn
in North Miami, but when business dropped off, he returned to
pimping. In later years Lovelace would claim that she was a
virtual prisoner during her prostitution years, 1969 to 1972, and
that she was frequently beaten and threatened with a gun. The
truth is difficult to determine, because Traynor freely admits
beating her but says it was part of mutual sexual games, and that
he did carry guns but he never threatened to use one on her. He
also claims she could have left at any time. As late as 1974,
Lovelace was declaring in public interviews that she loved
Traynor.

Traynor eventually married Lovelace--according to her, so
that she couldn't be forced to testify against him on drug
charges. Both became habitual users of marijuana and
methamphetamine, and Traynor increasingly came to think of her as
his meal ticket.

Eventually he moved her to New York where he hoped to sell
her services to the most famous madam of her day, Xaveria
Hollander, the "Happy Hooker" herself. But Hollander turned her
down as an employee, and it's not difficult to see why. Lovelace
was not a particularly attractive woman, especially by the
standards of the call-girl world. She had frizzy hair and a
square mannish face; her breasts were fake, the result of illegal
silicone injections she got in 1971, before implants had been
invented. Her sole appeal, according to those who worked with
her, was that her personality came off as winsome and girl-next-
doorish. There was also a little bit of the hippie "free love"
spirit about her.

Undeterred by Hollander's rejection, Traynor turned to the
next best thing--"loops." These were five-to-ten-minute filmed
sex acts that were also known as stag films, smokers and peeps.
They were all illegal, filmed secretly with 8-millimeter cameras
in New York City apartments with anonymous actors, anonymous
crews, and anonymous moneymen supplied by the Colombo crime
family. Lovelace made dozens of these, most of them directed by a
guy named Ted (Tom) Snyder, who wore cowboy hats, gold chains and
a gold pinky ring with "Ted" spelled out in diamonds.

When Traynor and Lovelace met Snyder in 1970, he was working
out of a filthy apartment on 48th Street, in the Times Square
area, and frequently used an actor named Rob Everett as
Lovelace's partner. Everett said Lovelace was not only a willing
participant in the filming, but "She loved sex." Her fellow
actors, responding later to charges that she was forced into the
business, even went further to say that she loved prostitution,
multiple partners, and especially any kind of rough sex.

Under Traynor's guidance, the loops got more and more
freaky. Lovelace appeared in a bestiality loop that she would
describe in one of her autobiographies as something she did at
gunpoint. But the six people on the set that day were interviewed
by film historian Jim Holliday, and all except Lovelace claim
that she not only did it willingly, she seemed to enjoy it.

Traynor and Lovelace got their big break at a cocktail party
for swingers where they met Gerard Damiano, a director of
softcore porn who was casting hardcore scenes for a new movie
called "Changes." Damiano was so impressed with Lovelace that he
wrote a script especially for her. That script would become "Deep
Throat," but first Damiano would have to convince his Mafia
bosses to use her.

Louis "Butchie" Peraino was the Colombo associate who had to
approve the budget for Damiano's "Deep Throat" script, and the
300-pound "Butchie" was not impressed at first by Lovelace. He
knew her as the star of the "M" series of loops, and thought she
should stay there. He wanted Carol Connors, a big-breasted
blonde, to play the lead in what was, for him, a major investment
of his father's money. But he changed his mind when Damiano had
Lovelace demonstrate her sexual technique for him.

Lovelace would be paid $1,200 to appear in the new film--
actually Traynor took the money--which was titled "The Doctor
Makes a Housecall." To give it a bigger look than the usual loop,
Damiano filmed it in Miami with $23,000 of the mob's money. One
of the crew members making the trip with Damiano was Herbert
Streicher, a 25-year-old Jewish kid from Westchester who had done
Wheaties commercials and Off-Broadway theater but was still
struggling to make it as a legitimate actor. He had turned to
porn, both behind and in front of the camera, to pay the bills,
and had even made a couple of loops with Lovelace. On this trip
he was hired strictly as a grip and gaffer.

Streicher liked Lovelace, and would always defend her as a
sweet trusting person, even though he pooh-poohed her accounts of
being forced into porn. "She's a beautiful person," he would say
later. "As far as a personality, Linda has got that magnetic
ability to draw an audience or anybody in a room directly to her,
that twinkle in the eye, that real smile without phoniness or
presumptuousness. Linda's a sweet, sweet girl, a very together
person. She's not super bright, and she's not an actress, but
she's totally open and free sexually."

If anyone knew what he was talking about, it was Streicher:
his screen name was Harry Reems. When Damiano couldn't find
anyone to play the key role of the doctor, he took
Streicher/Reems off gaffer duty, bought him a white coat at a
barber supply house, and film history was about to be made. The
cast and crew settled into the Voyager Inn on Biscayne Boulevard
and spent an uneventful six days shooting scenes that could just
as easily have been shot in Brooklyn. Lovelace would later claim
that she was savagely beaten by Traynor on the night before
shooting began, but no one else noticed anything strange about
his or her behavior. If anything, they thought Lovelace was a
little too much in love.

"She doted on [Traynor]," said Damiano. "She loved him, she
was close to him, she was never out of his sight." In fact,
Damiano discovered that she was so protective of Traynor's
feelings that she would try to disguise the fact that she was
enjoying the on-screen sex. After a while they started sending
Traynor out to get cigarettes when they needed a "money shot"--
"and the sex got five times better because she relaxed," recalled
Reems.

Of course, the other way to interpret that is that she was
an abused intimidated slave--the way she would be portrayed by
Andrea Dworkin and Gloria Steinem, among others, in later years.

From the opening titles, when Lovelace is seen driving
aimlessly around Miami with a deadpan expression, to the horrid
wakka-chicka folk-rock soundtrack, to the grainy jump-cuts, to
the cheesy cutaways to fireworks and rocket launches, "Deep
Throat" was the longest 62 minutes that millions of people would
ever sit through. In retrospect, the most inspired decision
Damiano made was to rename the movie "Deep Throat." Nothing else
could possibly explain its success.

The poster for the movie announced "Linda Lovelace IS Deep
Throat!" The grand opening at the 48th Street World Cinema
benefitted immediately when the film was slapped with an
obscenity charge, then named public enemy number one by Mayor
John Lindsay in his efforts to clean up Times Square. But as the
case made its way through the courts, "Deep Throat" was already a
media sensation, called a "major happening" and "porno chic" by
New York reporters.

Lovelace was interviewed by Johnny Carson on "The Tonight
Show," further stoking the interest of socialites, students,
swingers, and the curious. Sinema magazine summed up the effusive
prose of the day, praising Lovelace's "fresh carnality, the air
of thoroughly debauched innocence, the sense of a woman exploring
the limits of sexual expression and feeling. Linda Lovelace is
the girl next door grown up into a shameless . . . woman."

The obscenity trial itself was a circus, of course, ending
with Criminal Court Judge Joel E. Tyler banning the film and
fining the theater three MILLION dollars. The World Cinema was
hung in black bunting under the marquee: "JUDGE CUTS THROAT,
WORLD MOURNS."

As it turned out, Judge Tyler's decision was overturned by
the Court of Appeals, and that decision had the effect of
legalizing hardcore porn in New York forever. The floodgates were
open: if "Deep Throat" had been proven in court to have "socially
redeeming value," then virtually ANYTHING qualified. Soon "Deep
Throat" was playing in theaters throughout the country, and
Lovelace was a superstar. But she never quite figured out how to
handle all the attention.

Everything peaked for her about a year after the movie's
release when she appeared on the cover of Esquire and in a
Playboy pictorial. She published her first autobiography, "Inside
Linda Lovelace," and stated in the opening chapter, "I live for
sex, will never get enough of it, and will continue to try every
day to tune my physical mechanism to finer perfection. . . .
Nothing about sex is bad. That should be repeated over and over .
. . and perhaps the truth will eventually be seen." She also
claimed that she had devised a sophisticated system of oriental
and mystical self-discipline, bolstered by hypnosis, in order to
achieve her secret techniques for satisfying men and herself.

In August of 1973, she told Bachelor magazine that her
breasts had grown larger, not because of silicone, but because of
hypnotism. She crashed the Oscars and was invited to the American
premiere of "Last Tango in Paris," which she pronounced
"disgusting." She turned up at the Cannes Film Festival, where
she posed for the paparazzi, and she spent a lot of her time
testifying at obscenity trials, where she was frequently asked
for her autograph by attorneys on both sides.

What's odd, in retrospect, is that she failed to do the one
thing that would have provided her with long-term income.
Although she did occasional single-scene appearances in other
porn movies, she only made one other full-length film--the sequel
to "Deep Throat"--then swore off hardcore altogether. The Linda
Lovelace films that did flood the market were actually her old
loops that had been strung together to make choppy compilations
like "The Confessions of Linda Lovelace" and "Linda Lovelace
Meets Miss Jones." The "Deep Throat" sequel, on the other hand,
was released in a softcore version only, and by the time it came
out in 1974, with an R rating, audiences were infuriated that it
didn't deliver the goods. (Supposedly the hardcore scenes had
been removed because of a tricky legal situation, but that
footage was stolen from a vault in New York City and never seen
again.)

The beginning of the end came when Lovelace was arrested at
the Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas in January 1974 for possession of
cocaine and amphetamines. She was just starting out on what she
hoped would be a legitimate night-club and theater career. The
Aladdin Casino booked her for a play called "My Daughter's Rated
X," but it closed after a week when, once again, audiences were
disappointed to see that she didn't get naked. She tried dinner
theater in Philadelphia, bombing in "Pajama Tops." And sometime
during this ill-advised nightclub period, she and Traynor broke
up, and she instantly moved in with her producer and
choreographer, David Winters. Winters became her new Svengali,
setting up a NEW book deal for her that led to her second
autobiography, "The Intimate Diary of Linda Lovelace," and a
movie called "Linda Lovelace for President" that ended her dreams
of mainstream stardom for good.

Perhaps the most revealing interview she ever gave appeared
in Penthouse magazine, and in it she sounds like a country girl
lost in the big city. "After I got away from Traynor," she told
Eric Danville, "it was a lot more fun, because I wasn't being
sexually abused. I was walking around with transparent clothes
on, but that wasn't too bad. I didn't think looking sexy was a
terrible thing. I had many, many good times when I was with
David. When I was with David I had an awesome time. I met a lot
of people and had a lot of fun at that point. I went to see my
first play. I saw Richard Chamberlain in 'Cyrano De Bergerac,' I
saw 'Grease' in Manhattan. I saw the Alvin Ailey Dancers. I
became cultured, I guess. I'd never been cultured."

By 1976, when "Linda Lovelace for President" ended her
career, she had called it quits with Winters and run straight
into the arms of yet another man, a construction worker named
Larry Marchiano. By 1980 she had become a mother of two, a born-
again Christian, and a feminist--and was living on welfare as her
husband tried to make ends meet as a cable installer on Long
Island.

She had already become the feminist poster child for the
demeaning effects of pornography, turning up in Andrea Dworkin's
1979 book "Pornography: Men Possessing Women." And now it was
time to tell her story a third time, in the book "Ordeal," co-
written by Mike McGrady, the writer who had planned the "Naked
Came a Stranger" hoax of 1969. (The publisher, perhaps leery of
McGrady, was so concerned about libel suits that Lovelace was
required to take an 11-hour lie-detector test before they would
go ahead with it.)

This is the book in which she made her most serious charges,
accusing Traynor of virtual white slavery and the porn business
as a whole of legalized rape. "When you see the movie 'Deep
Throat,'" she told the Toronto Sun in 1981, "you are watching me
being raped. It is a crime that movie is still showing; there was
a gun to my head the entire time." She hit the lecture circuit,
talking about the evils of porn for $1500 per speech, and would
eventually testify before the Meese Commission on Pornography in
1986.

Her old friends in the business never really took the
allegations seriously. "After 'Deep Throat' the business simply
passed Linda by," said Eric Everett, her original sex partner in
her loop days. "She wasn't particularly attractive nor could she
act. If she'd told the truth about her life, her book may not
have sold as well as making up a story that claims she was forced
to do these disgusting things."

Yet she continued to be haunted by the film. Throughout the
eighties she was still in demand as a professional witness for
anti-obscenity movements. She appeared on "Donahue" and testified
before the Minneapolis City Council when it was considering a law
defining pornography as discrimination against women. And in 1986
she wrote her last autobiography, "Out of Bondage," with an
introduction by Gloria Steinem. Mostly she used the book to
describe her poverty-ridden circumstances and to counter attacks
on her credibility that resulted from "Ordeal." She portrayed
herself as the typical rape victim who gets raped all over again
in the court of public opinion when she decides to tell the
truth.

Just as the book came out, though, her health fell apart.
First she had a double radical mastectomy, the result of the
silicone injections she'd gotten in 1971. But during the
procedure, doctors discovered that her liver was malfunctioning,
the result of the blood transfusion she'd had after her 1969 car
accident. Apparently the original blood donor had Hepatitis C,
and barring a liver transplant, she would die. A liver did become
available in March 1987, and she underwent a 15-hour procedure at
Presbyterian-University Hospital in Pittsburgh, followed by two
months' convalescence. For the rest of her life, she would need
an anti-rejection drug that costs $2,500 a month.

In 1990 her husband's drywall business collapsed and the
family moved to Colorado. She worked for a while at Albertson's
drug store, but had to quit because of varicose veins that made
it difficult for her to stay on her feet all day. (She said this
was the result of Traynor's repeated beatings and rapes, causing
permanent damage to the blood vessels in her legs as well as
internal damage.)

In 1993 she went to work for a computer company, doing
purchasing and record-keeping for $9.45 an hour, but she was
fired a year later for falsifying a time card.

Her third marriage broke up in 1996. Continuing her pattern
of vilifying her exes, she described Marchiano as an emotionally
abusive alcoholic that she had loved for only the first two
years. Using an interesting choice of words, she told a Denver
reporter, "I prostituted myself [to Marchiano] so I could have my
kids. They were the most important thing to me. They were all I
ever wanted."

For the last years of her life she lived in Denver in a
small condo, working in "user support" for an investment company
and cleaning office buildings at night. She had also become a
grandmother in 1998, when her daughter Lindsay gave birth at the
age of 17.

For the generation born AFTER "Deep Throat," the term had
entered the vernacular as a synonym for oral sex and the name of
several cocktails. (All of them are served in a shot glass with
either whipped cream or Bailey's on top.) But even Generation Y
knows who Linda Lovelace is, as her daughter found out in high
school. "I'm not ashamed of my mother," she said. "I'm never
going to say, oh no, that's not her . . . I just have to deal
with it when it comes into my face."

But even as the very last smidgen of controversy seemed to
have been milked out of "Deep Throat," Ron Howard, the Hollywood
producer/director, optioned the rights to "Ordeal" for $3,000. So
given the growing Hollywood fascination with all things sordid,
we may see her story told one more time. Until then, she'll
mostly be remembered as the "How did she do it?" girl among the
people who saw the film, and the "Bad men made me do it" girl
among feminists and Christian crusaders. The porn industry has
coined its own term, "The Linda Syndrome," to describe porn
stars, like Angel Kelly and Samantha Fox, who become stars and
then disavow their porn past and embrace feminism.

Lovelace was the longest surviving member of her original
liver-transplant support group, so it's ironic that she died
alone, as the result of losing control of her car on April 3 and
hitting a concrete post. For almost three weeks she remained on
life support. When it was finally turned off on Monday, her
parents were at her bedside, along with Marchiano and her two
grown children. It was a car accident that led her into porn, and
all these years later, it was a car accident that finally
released her. In both cases, she never knew what hit her.

 

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