Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Porno for tyros

By Carl

There was a time, in the dark recesses of the '70s and into the early '80s, when porn was cool.

There was a time, before AIDS (then known as the Gay Cancer), before even herpes, when porn was about as mainstream as professional wrestling or professional bass fishing. Perhaps even more so, since anyone could participate and often did.

There was a time when birth control and abortion made sexual liberation and exploration inevitable and even palatable.

There was a time when the forces of morality... you know, the guys who later exposed themselves as serial adulterers and pedophiles... were waned behind the onslaught of popularity some porn produced.

I'm reminded of this by this sad story on the wires today:

Marilyn Chambers, the angelic-looking, blue-eyed blond who symbolized purity while selling laundry detergent then went on to become one of the first mainstream porn superstars, died Sunday in her Los Angeles home. She was 56.

The Westport, Conn.-born actress was found by her 17-year-old daughter, McKenna Marie Taylor.

An autopsy will be done but no foul play is suspected.

This is Marilyn Chambers. This is not a fake.

She was a mainstream model and actress, even appearing briefly in the Barbra Streisand film, The Owl and the Pussycat.

Her big break, so to speak, was a film called Behind The Green Door, the first porn film released to mainstream theatres. It paved the way for later films like Deep Throat, and actresses from Linda Lovelace to Tracy Lords to Jenna Jameson to have legitimate superstar credentials both in porn and in Hollywood.

In fact, so big an impact had she had in American culture that the city of San Francisco declared a "Marilyn Chambers Day" in 1998, some 25 years after her film.

I knew her indirectly. Al Goldstein of Screw magazine lived in my neighborhood, and we'd speak on occasion (the man wouldn't stop talking, in point of fact, so it was more me listening), and her name came up in conversation a few times, always with respect for what she did for his industry.

Marilyn Chambers represented a difficult crossroads for the burgeoning feminist movement of the '70s. On the one hand, some feminists thought all porn was to be shunned as exploitive. On the other, here was a woman who was taking control of her career in porn, who was strong and could dictate how and where her body was to be used, who was also exploring the First Amendment boundaries, very strong feminist values.

I do not judge the woman beyond this: She lived her life as she saw fit, and made her way as best as she could. She broke ground, and whether we are the better for it is for history to judge. But she was a human being, and for that she is accorded my respect and compassion.

Godspeed, Marilyn. Godspeed.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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