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Miami’s Ties to Deep Throat

Miami- Before Miami Vice and Scarface defined Miami for a generation of TV and film buffs, the city already had earned a dubious distinction in cinematic history.

Deep Throat, www.xxxdeepthroat.com the pornographic movie banned in 23 states when first released in 1972, was filmed largely in private homes and motels in Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

Like a distant uncle encountered only at funerals and weddings, Deep Throat is making headlines again with the release of the documentary Inside Deep Throat. The film opened in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston on Feb. 11. It’s set to air on HBO in 2006.

Few who remember Deep Throat’s local connection are likely to boast of it, even if it is the most profitable movie ever filmed in South Florida and perhaps of all time: It cost $25,000 to make — reputedly financed by associates of the Colombo crime family — and grossed $600 million as of 2002, according to the Internet Movie Database.

”We don’t cite it very often,” said Jeff Peel, director of the Miami-Dade Mayor’s Office of Film and Entertainment. “I’m not sure we even have it in our list of movies that were made here.”

The newly released documentary, co-produced by Brian Grazer, the Oscar-winning filmmaker of A Beautiful Mind, has cultural commentators from Los Angeles to New York waxing philosophical on the significance of the first pornographic movie to attract mainstream attention.

Capitalizing on renewed interest in the movie, the Las Vegas production company that owns the rights to Deep Throat plans to rerelease the film in its original form and release a second version edited to garner an ”R” rating, according to Daily Variety, an industry publication.

Deep Throat is cited by many as a milestone that paved the way for today’s billion-dollar pornographic film industry. It was the first such movie to draw mass audiences, many of them titillated by the obscenity prosecutions that led FBI agents to raid theaters and police to arrest the film’s leading man, Harry Reems.

The film also left a lasting impression on the popular culture — one where a pornographic actress ran for governor of California in 2003 and the industry’s biggest stars pen New York Times bestselling books and launch million-dollar product lines.

Given the cultural resonance of Deep Throat, it can feel a bit underwhelming to behold one of the film’s Miami locales, a former motel at 12350 Biscayne Blvd.

Now a dormitory for students at Johnson & Wales University in North Miami, the walled-off compound no longer resembles the inviting motel where an auburn-haired actress filmed a few scenes while dressed in a nurse’s costume.

The building designed by Morris Lapidus — the same architect who designed Miami Beach’s Fontainebleau Hilton — has been stripped of its signature 30-foot-high orange arches and the parabolic dome that topped the motel’s offices at the time of the film’s making.

Biscayne Boulevard circa 1970 was beset with drugs, prostitution and blight, making the intersection of Northeast 123rd Street a fertile place for the then-underground industry of pornography, said South Florida historian Paul George.

”Those hotels that had hosted bona fide tourists in the ’60s would do anything from prostitution to porno,” he said.

These days, the buildings, swimming pool and offices are surrounded by a pale yellow, six-foot-high wall. And none of the students who live there seem to have ever heard of the movie.

Joseph ”Sepy” Dobronyi, a Hungarian baron who hosted the cast and crew of Deep Throat for three weeks of filming at his exotic home in Coconut Grove, remembers the shooting fondly.

”Everybody was always very happy and festive,” he recalled.

In her 1973 autobiography, the star of Deep Throat, Linda Lovelace, who died in a car crash in 2002, devotes three pages to Dobronyi, describing him as ”a winner” and his home as ”a shrine to sex.” Dobronyi, 82, still lives in the house. When he saw the film’s final cut, Dobronyi recognized his living room and a large portrait of himself in the background.

For all its cultural status and financial success, Deep Throat left a trail of sad lives punctuated by regret and self-destruction.

Lovelace, aka Linda Boreman, became a housewife, mother and anti-porn crusader. Though she said she was coerced into pornography by an abusive husband, the allegations were never proven.

Reems, aka Herbert Streicher, went on to star in other adult movies and battled years of alcohol and drug addiction. He eventually settled down with a wife and a real estate practice in Park City, Utah, where he still lives today.

Reached by telephone at his home, Reems declined to talk about Deep Throat.

To be sure, Deep Throat was not the last pornographic movie made in Miami, though adult films are often a surreptitious activity, Peel said.

”I don’t think it’s the kind of thing that they really want government officials to know about,” he said.

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