Porn History 101: How Deep Throat star Linda Lovelace’s tragic life was a very modern morality tale

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from www.dailymail.co.uk – At high school they called her ‘Miss Holy Holy’ because she wanted to become a nun and always kept the boys at arm’s length.

But Linda Boreman never took her solemn vows. And as for her coyness with the opposite sex, history records that she soon got over it.

For as Linda Lovelace, she achieved a sexual notoriety — thanks to a film shot in a Florida hotel room — that would overshadow the rest of her unhappy life.

In 1972, she starred in Deep Throat, a phenomenally successful hardcore sex film that would make her the world’s first porn superstar, but later an unlikely feminist icon after it emerged she had effectively been raped in making it.

To an army of liberal supporters, Deep Throat and Lovelace blazed a trail for a new era of cinematic ambition and sexual freedom.

For the rest of us, Deep Throat remains the painfully tawdry film which — by introducing hardcore sex into the mainstream — ushered in the infinitely more explicit internet porn that is now only a keyboard click away.

Now, the febrile debate the film sparked when it was released is about to be reignited with not one but two feature films in development about the woman at the centre of it.

The question is whether Hollywood will set aside its usual desire for a happy ending and tell the real story of a deeply troubled life — one which encompassed not only porn but drug abuse and prostitution, not to mention poverty, serious illness and a horrific death? It has to be said, the omens do not look good.

Lovelace was 23 when she became an overnight sensation. Raised first in New York and then Florida, she’d had a strict Catholic upbringing with her father, a policeman, and a mother who held Tupperware parties.

But by the time she was 19, she began to rebel against the strictures of her home life, and it was at that age that she lost her virginity to a school friend. Just a year later, she was pregnant and had a baby which her mother forced her to give up for adoption.

Recovering from a serious car accident soon afterwards, Lovelace became involved with Chuck Traynor, a Jaguar-driving bar owner who’d spotted her sunbathing at a local swimming pool. She was later to condemn him as violent and controlling, but Traynor soon became both her husband and her pimp.

She later claimed he introduced her to drugs and hypnotised her to increase her sexual appetite and abilities. He had soon introduced her to prostitution and then into a string of short sex films made for peep shows.

Attractive but certainly not beautiful, Lovelace had another asset, and in 1972 Traynor pitched his wife’s unusual ability at oral sex to a fellow guest at a swingers’ party.

Gerard Damiano, a former hairdresser, was looking to make a ‘humorous’ porn feature film with Mafia money. After meeting Lovelace (whose stage name he invented), Damiano decided to call it Deep Throat and base it entirely around her.

Completed in less than a week, with all interior shots filmed in the same cheap Florida hotel room, the 61-minute Deep Throat cost $30,000 to make but earned an estimated $600 million — making it the most lucrative film ever made.

Opening in a single New York fleapit cinema, a few enthusiastic reviews and talk of ‘porno chic’ soon led to the film being a popular topic of conversation at the city’s more fashionable dinner parties.

‘How does she do it?’ mused a writer in the New York Times. ‘The film has less to do with the manifold pleasures of sex than with physical engineering.’

An attempted official clampdown only fuelled the frenzy to see it. Celebrities including Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty and Truman Capote joined the queue, and Frank Sinatra held private screenings in his home for guests who reportedly included Sammy Davis Jr and Vice President Spiro Agnew.

‘I thought it was about giraffes,’ quipped Bob Hope.

Deep Throat didn’t get an 18 certificate in Britain until 2000, but an estimated ten million Americans saw the film as the Mafia distributed it around the country, burning down cinemas when owners refused to hand over half their takings.

Appalled, the Nixon administration prosecuted the film’s makers for obscenity (‘This is one throat that deserves to be cut,’ observed a judge), but Hollywood stars and free-speech campaigners rallied around the film.

Americans, they argued, had a constitutional right to watch crummy, Mob-financed hardcore porn. Lovelace and Traynor were feted at Hollywood parties and became fixtures at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy mansion. She became a household name, and during the Watergate scandal, the Washington Post reporters called their secret source Deep Throat.

Revealing that she earned just $1,200 for the film, Lovelace shrugged.

‘I wasn’t paid much but now I’m known, so it’s OK,’ she said.

That dubious fame hardly lasted, though, and her two subsequent films — neither of them involving hardcore porn — flopped.

She became a heavy user of cocaine and amphetamines, and in 1976, after signing up to play the title role in an erotic movie, Lovelace bizarrely announced that ‘God had changed her life’. She said she would no longer pose naked and even objected to a bare-breasted statue of the Venus de Milo on the set.

She had by then rid herself of Traynor, escaping his clutches one night in Las Vegas, where she was performing in a cabaret show. Disguising herself in a wig, she jumped into the back seat of a friend’s car.

Hiding out in different hotels for weeks, Lovelace then began appearing in public in skimpy outfits everywhere from London to Las Vegas, attracting some attention but never enough to launch the mainstream film career she yearned for.

She remarried, this time to a builder named Larry Marchiano. They settled down and had two children, later moving to suburban Denver.

In 1980, with feminists increasingly attacking pornography as demeaning to women, Lovelace found a new opportunity to grab the limelight.

In an autobiography entitled Ordeal, she claimed that Traynor had physically and mentally abused her throughout their marriage, forcing her into pornography literally at gunpoint.

Her husband had had her gang-raped by five men, she said, and kept her a prisoner ‘just as much as if I was in Alcatraz’. He would never let her out of his sight, spying through the keyhole when she was in the bathroom and listening to her telephone calls with a .45 automatic pistol pointed at her.

Traynor would use his gun again when she was filming porn scenes, she added. ‘Chuck kept a gun in his pocket and would click the trigger, letting me know what would happen if I did not look convincing,’ she said.

‘For years afterwards, I would have nightmares about the fear I felt when I heard that clicking.’

The abuse continued after the film came out, she said, as Traynor would give her the drugs she craved only if she agreed to perform her signature sex act on strangers.

Suddenly, the free thinkers who had so glibly championed Deep Throat looked a little foolish.

Quite how much Lovelace had to be coerced into the sex industry remains a moot point, with fellow porn stars insisting she was a willing collaborator.

But she passed a lie detector test over her allegations — demanded by the co-author of Ordeal — and others attested to Traynor’s violence and Lovelace’s turning up with bruises on the Deep Throat set on some days.

Whether she was forced into Deep Throat or not, the feminist anti-pornography movement clutched this unlikely new ally to its bosom.
Deep Throat cost just $60,000 to make, and it has made more than $500 million

Deep Throat cost just $60,000 to make, and it has made more than $500 million

Championed by prominent thinkers such as Gloria Steinem and Andrea Dworkin, Lovelace gave lectures on college campuses and testified convincingly about the dangers of pornography to government hearings.

‘When you see the movie Deep Throat, you are watching me being raped,’ she baldly told an official inquiry into the sex industry in 1986. ‘It is a crime that movie is still showing. There was a gun to my head the entire time.’

For her old friends in the business, though, she was a traitor and they sneeringly coined the term ‘Linda Syndrome’ to describe former porn stars who later try to disown their seedy careers.

But it wasn’t long before Lovelace turned on her feminist allies, too, complaining bitterly they had ‘used’ her.

‘They made a few bucks off me, just like everybody else,’ she moaned. Lovelace told friends the final insult was when Steinem did not invite her to her wedding (to David Bale, father of British actor Christian Bale). Poverty and a series of health crises blighted her later years.

During a double mastectomy brought on by botched silicone injections years earlier, doctors discovered her liver was collapsing from hepatitis, which she had in turn contracted from a blood transfusion after a 1970 car crash.

A liver transplant in 1987 left her dependent on expensive medical drugs. But her husband had lost his building business and they were living on welfare.

They divorced in 1996, with Lovelace claiming he was an alcoholic who had physically and mentally abused her and the children. After becoming a grandmother in 1998, she spent her last years living alone, working day and night to make ends meet.

But she had one more ideological U-turn left. In 2001, the vociferous anti-porn campaigner stripped down to sexy lingerie — aged 52 — for Leg Show, an adult magazine.

‘There’s nothing wrong with looking sexy as long as it’s done with taste,’ she said, to counter the inevitable accusation of hypocrisy. Friends insist she was simply desperate for cash.

A year later, she was dead. Driving to a hospital appointment for kidney dialysis in April 2002, she crashed into a concrete post in Denver and was hurled through the windscreen.

She suffered massive internal injuries, and after two weeks on life-support, her family gathered at her bedside and asked for the machine to be switched off.

It was a sad end to a deeply troubled life. And now history has chosen to pick over Linda Lovelace’s life.

The first of the two upcoming films, Lovelace, has just finished filming. Directed by the Oscar-winning duo Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, it stars the doe-eyed, beautiful Mamma Mia! star Amanda Seyfried as Linda (who was nothing like as pretty), James Franco, Peter Sarsgaard and Sarah Jessica Parker.

The latter stepped into the role of Gloria Steinem after Demi Moore, the first choice, dropped out.

Significantly, the film has the backing of Lovelace’s grown-up children, Dominic and Lindsay — and of Catharine MacKinnon, a feminist lawyer who campaigned with Lovelace to ban porn films. Prof MacKinnon describes her old comrade as ‘sweet, strong, smart and real’.

Her friend and former biographer Eric Danville, who has worked as a consultant on the film, told me the script takes Lovelace’s life up to the time when she renounced Deep Throat and became an anti-porn crusader.

‘The film will try as much as possible to end on a positive note in terms of Linda’s story,’ he said.

How does the film portray her? ‘I have to be diplomatic here … very much as she saw herself,’ he said. ‘A victim — for want of a better word. That’s the tale that everyone really knows.’

Danville himself remembers her as ‘very malleable and very, very trusting’, but also as ‘extremely media savvy … she knew what people wanted to hear from her’.

‘But I met her near the end of her life and she was utterly disillusioned. She felt she’d been turned over by the feminists almost more than she was by the porn industry.’

Assuming it ever gets off the ground, the second Lovelace film, Inferno, is purportedly an adaptation of her tell-all autobiography.

The actress Malin Akerman, who will play Lovelace alongside Matt Dillon as Chuck Traynor, says she has read both scripts and Inferno is darker and more lurid.

The troubled actress Lindsay Lohan was originally to play Lovelace until she was sacked. Film publicity shots of Lohan lying semi-naked on a bed pouting at the camera while a line of faceless men started unbuckling their trousers behind her suggest Hollywood’s penchant for glamorising porn and prostitution will be given full rein.

Like Deep Throat, the true story of Linda Lovelace is neither glamorous nor uplifting — however much the film’s fans insist it is some sort of celluloid Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Perhaps it would be better, given all she went through, if this troubled woman was allowed to rest in peace.

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