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Desperately Seeking Seka

Porn Valley- Of all the stars of the Golden Age of adult film, none loomed nearly so large as Seka. Today, some Swedish filmmakers look back at the career of Swedish Erotica’s biggest name.

The porno scene of the late ’70s and ’80s has managed to garner a modicum of mainstream attention from both fiction and documentary filmmakers in recent years. From the slick Hollywood films Boogie Nights and Wonderland to the biographically-oriented Porn Star and Wadd: The Life and Times of John C. Holmes (easily the best of the bunch), properties dissecting the heyday of America’s prurient past are a fairly hot commodity.

When it comes to celebrities from the classic adult cinema era, there aren’t many personalities whose careers grabbed enough headlines to give their name a household cachet outside of the explicit world that they typically inhabited. On the male side there’s no question who Mr. Big was; the legend of Johnny Wadd stands tallest among the men who have lent their skills to the sex film industry. On the female side, there are a few more who have penetrated the consciousness of the public, with fresh-faced Marilyn Chambers and notorious minor Traci Lords well-known even to those who have never viewed a blue movie. But of all the starlets who moved through the licentious and libidinal world of late ’70s celluloid sex, the platinum blonde born Dorothea Patton – known more commonly by her one name moniker Seka – is perhaps best known of all.

As a transitory figure from the days when pornography was making its move from the grindhouse to the living room, Seka had the good fortune to have her star ascend at a peak time of earning for figures of her ilk. But it was hardly mere luck that allowed her to become the most renowned adult actress of her day, as this woman was possessed of a powerful business-oriented mind that allowed her to capitalize on her fame and parlay it into stunning success. Coupling a manifest pride in her corporeal presence with a mental acumen sharp enough to trademark her personality, Seka rose to the top of her profession at a time when such celebrity was more lucrative than it has ever been.

Seka’s impassioned performances as idol left a lustful legacy that still resounds some 30 years after its occurrence, and they are especially noteworthy because of the democratic Stepfordization that is video’s endowment to the X-rated world. Given this towering stature, a trio of Swedish filmmakers has chosen to examine the starlet’s life in full with the documentary Desperately Seeking Seka. The movie has played domestically thus far only at a festival or two, but has already been shown in Europe and elsewhere (though it was recently banned from appearing at the Singapore International Film Festival) and has just now debuted on a lengthy all region NTSC disk from Njuta Films.

The central item included on the disc is a nearly hour-long biographical examination of the woman born Dorothea Patton. This narrative is not without its flaws, as it employs a relatively annoying “pop-up” style of graphic presentation that serves only to clutter its documentary framework. There’s also the problem of some wayward meandering, as part of the film’s approach involves visiting with contemporary adult stars at a Las Vegas expo. The assumption here is that these bits are supposed to delineate the big business that the sex film has become and to imply Seka’s role in building the industry, but in the main there’s little insight given that would justify the minutes spent covering the subject.

The rest of the film, however, is a worthwhile picture of one journalist’s attempt to track down Seka today and interview her about her past. Along the way we meet various personalities who speak about the famous star and the era that spawned her fame, from well-known sleazeball Al Goldstein to former co-workers Bob Burge, Randy West and Veronica Hart (an intelligent figure who still directs today under her real name Jane Hamilton, and who also appeared as a judge in P.T. Anderson’s Boogie Nights). Though the film’s trailer teases audiences about whether or not this fan’s quest will be successful, it’s hard to imagine that it’ll spoil things by mentioning the outcome here. (But if this sort of thing concerns you, stop reading immediately.)

Ultimately, the filmmakers make their way to the Windy City to try and chat with the erotic legend in a contemporary setting. When they finally discover her whereabouts, the former star consents to their requests and proceeds to openly hold forth about her salacious career. She’s quite candid on a number of subjects that concern the halcyon days of XXX yore, covering a range of ground with perspective and insight. Overall the star looks comfortable and healthy, and though age has crept up on her (as it does to every one of us), her confident beauty still shines right through the years and her smarts are quite clearly intact.

This final portion of the documentary is what really makes it a valuable venture, for hearing Seka give her perspective on a number of topics is both interesting and historically significant. My personal favorite moment is when she reveals that she turned down a role in a particular mainstream film because they wouldn’t pay her enough for a cameo – and then goes on to sneer at some adult industry figures for whoring themselves out because they wanted to be in a mainstream movie so badly. (Is there a truer example of the essence of exploitation than adult celebrities performing their act on the cheap in a Hollywood movie simply because they wanted to be in a “real” film? I think not.)

While the documentary itself is a solid work on the career of one of the greatest erotic film stars of all time, it’s the extra material included on the DVD that really fleshes out its subject. An entertaining commentary track, some excerpted scenes, a few outtakes, a photo gallery, a filmography, many production notes and publicity materials are all contained on the disk to complete the package. Also of note are tons of deleted and extended interviews, and though some are with lesser figures the extra information garnered from the likes of Jane Hamilton and Seka herself from these question and answer sessions is at times completely priceless.

With choice anecdotes and astute reminiscing peppered throughout the main event itself as well as the extra bonus material, the more minor gaffes of Desperately Seeking Seka’s narrative are easily overlooked. The filmmakers choose quite wisely with regards to many aspects of the production, and its ideal musical backdrop (think boom-chikka-wow-wow) and carefully selected examples of the star’s classic work heartily evoke the era of the celebrity’s fame. Surely not an outing for the prudishly faint of heart (though there is purportedly also an edit of the film made suitable for television), this newest example of the pornumentary is a fitting examination of one of adult cinema’s true Hall of Famers.

Few actresses who have worked blue have ever possessed either the beauty or the brains as the woman known as Seka at the height of her powers, and this lasting tribute to her legacy is both fascinating and archivally meaningful. It’s unfortunate that at this point there’s still only a European release to represent the risqué life of one of the American adult cinema’s authentic originals.



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