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Deep Throat Legend Gerard Damiano Dies

Florida- He directed one of the highest-grossing, most talked-about films in movie history: “Deep Throat.”, www.xxxdeepthroat.com

Then Gerard Damiano lived out his final years in Fort Myers quietly, enjoying theatre, attending art openings, appearing at charitable events and reveling, especially, in the accomplishments of his two children.

Damiano died Saturday of complications following a stroke. He was 80.

Damiano’s 1972 blockbuster, “Deep Throat,” was the first mass-market adult movie. Polarizing and controversial, “Deep Throat” was banned in 23 states yet embraced by a nation in the throes of the sexual revolution.

In 1973, reviewer Roger Ebert wrote, “(It) became ‘pornographic chic’ in New York. … This is the first stag film to see with a date.”

The film grossed $600 million – more than any adult film before or since, according to the 2005 documentary “Inside Deep Throat,” which chronicles the effect Damiano’s film had on U.S. culture.

“Inside Deep Throat” made it plain that in an industry known for toxic exploitation, Damiano was a different sort of director.

“I was just a nice guy, which is why I think I did pretty well,” Damiano told The News-Press in 2005. “I mean, I’d meet an actress and have to say, ‘Sit down, take your clothes off – I’m going to ask you to do some nasty things.’ You have to be pretty nice.”

His many warm, enduring friendships with others in the industry attest to that. When he turned 80 in August, adult stars from around the country flew in for the surprise celebration.

One of those was Georgina Spelvin (star of “The Devil in Miss Jones”), who wrote afterwards in her online blog: “His former wife (and still good friend) Barbara, their daughter, Christar, and their son, (Gerard) G Rock threw the best birthday bash I’ve been to since my Italian mother-in-law’s 90th … When the lights came up and we all yelled ‘Surprise,’ I feared my favorite director was going to bolt. He later said, ‘I haven’t been that surprised since I was arrested.’ He just couldn’t believe his loving former performers and pals had traveled from New York and California just to nuzzle and hug and kiss him to pieces.”

Yet perhaps he shouldn’t have been surprised. Damiano was a sweetheart, said friend Stephanie Davis, who writes the Downtown Diva column for The News-Press.

“He was just a fixture at all the cultural events – always very charming and dapper and suave, always there with a kiss and a ‘Hello, Gorgeous.’ He just made you feel like you were the only girl in the room.”

Damiano was intensely proud of his children, artist and filmmaker Gerard Jr., and performer, Christar, with whom he shared a vintage home. Born Gerardo Rocco Damiano to an Italian Catholic family in the Bronx, N.Y., his father died when he was 6. His mother never remarried.

The day Damiano turned 17, he joined the Navy for four years. Using the G.I. Bill, he studied X-ray technology. In 1956, then 29, he opened a hairdressing shop in New York City. There, Damiano’s accountant introduced him to a newsreel-maker trying to produce a horror film.

Damiano visited the set one day and loved what he saw, he recalled three years ago. He made friends with the filmmakers and helped however he could, hoping for a break.

The clincher? His white Coupe DeVille, which was perfect for hauling and chauffeuring. (That Cadillac later appeared in “Deep Throat” with star Linda Lovelace driving). One day, someone gave Damiano a camera. Suddenly he was in his element. Then Damiano met Lovelace.

“I thought, ‘Stop the presses!'” he told The News-Press.

“I spent the next couple of days writing a film just for her.” That film was “Deep Throat.”

It took just six days to shoot in Miami, and Damiano even had a cameo: as a gay man.

Yet for all the money the film made, Damiano took little of it away, which remained something of a sore spot – and something he preferred not to discuss – for the rest of his life.

After that, Damiano made other movies, including, “The Devil in Miss Jones,” “The Satisfiers of Alpha Blue” and “Let My Puppets Come,” which pioneered adult puppetry. After 47 films, he retired in 1994.

The unflinching auteur never became a Hugh Hefner-style swinger. He and his family moved from New York to Fort Myers almost 40 years ago.

They bought a house in south Fort Myers. The children attended Canterbury School.

“I’d work all week in New York. Then every Friday, I’d get on a plane, come down to Naples, then hop on one of those propeller puddle-jumpers and come home,” Damiano told The News-Press.

He and his ex-wife, who also lives in Southwest Florida, remained close until his death, said Gerard Damiano Jr. “I don’t think he ever stopped loving my mom,” he added.

There are no plans for a memorial service. “That 80th birthday party was a celebration of his life – while he was still alive,” his son said.

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