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The Curse of Debbie Does Dallas

Porn Valley- Debbie Does Dallas has a notorious legal and social history.

Michael “Mickey” Zaffarano, who was involved with two New York Mafia families, oversaw production of the 1978 adult film. The mob had controlled pornography in the U.S. since it began importing 8-mm Swedish erotica in the late ’60s. (Deep Throat was its first and biggest theatrical hit, in 1972.)

According to The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry, the Bonanno crime family, through their capo Zaffarano, ran porn in California. Zaffarano also distributed for the Gambino family in New York, Los Angeles and Miami and owned many of the theaters where the films were shown.

In the late ’70s, as Debbie was making its way from the big screen to a new technology – VHS tapes played on VCRs – federal law enforcement officials got serious about cracking down on the mob-controlled industry. The FBI launched “MiPorn,” named after Miami, one of the target cities.

On Valentine’s Day 1980, 55 indictments were issued in 10 states, including one for Zaffarano. But he was never prosecuted. As 400 FBI agents fanned out to make arrests, including at Zaffarano’s Pussycat Theater in New York, he scrambled into a tunnel below his office in an escape attempt, FBI agent Bruce Ellavsky says in The Other Hollywood .

Zaffarano had a heart attack and died on the spot.

While MiPorn was under way, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders were suing Debbie for violating their copyright. The cheerleaders claimed the uniform worn by the title character on the movie poster and in the final sex scene was too close to the look of their uniform: blue and white and skimpy, with stars.

The organization sued theaters in Dallas, New York and Los Angeles and won temporary restraining orders that prohibited showings of the film. The suits were settled out of court after agreements to changes of the poster and the movie. Two employees of the Dallas theater that showed Debbie were found guilty of obscenity and sentenced to 180 days in jail.

Debbie also was part of a curse on the other participants – the ones on the screen. At least one of the male actors, Robert Kerman (porn name: R. Bolla), had a legitimate movie career going at the same time. He appeared in bit parts in The Goodbye Girl and later No Way Out. But, he says in the documentary Debbie Does Dallas Uncovered , casting agents held his porn work against him. According to Internet Movie Database, he was last seen as the tugboat captain in 2002’s Spider-Man .

Debbie herself, Bambi Woods (born Debbie DeSanto), disappeared after making a sequel and one other porn flick. Rumor has it that she died of a drug overdose in 1986, but no one has ever come up with proof. Other reports say she was rescued from the industry by her parents and lives in seclusion.

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