Deep Throat Sex Scandal!

Not to be confused with the Nixon whistleblower of the same name, the adult film Deep Throat (1972) was the catalyst for a nationwide debate about obscenity and censorship which culminated in a 1976 jury trial in Memphis, Tennesse. The film tackles the then-taboo subject of oral sex, depicting a woman whose clitoris is discovered to be at the base of her throat. The only way she can achieve the earth-shattering orgasm she’s looking for is through fellatio. I’ve seen it – it’s hilarious.

My excellent friend Dr. Ava Cadell took me to see the premiere of a play called The Deep Throat Sex Scandal last Thursday night, which chronicles the life of this movie. As we walked in, we had to duck under protesters of the play who were against smut (soon realizing they were part of the play) and then the playwright himself David Bertolino brought us glasses of wine – thank you! The script laid out the story from the point of view of Harry Reems, played by a convincing and lovable Marc Ginsburg. We traveled in time from Harry’s first foray into adult film (shocker: he didn’t start out as an adult actor!) in 1970 all the way to the end of the 1976 trial, and briefly beyond. Reems’s friendship with Linda Lovelace (played by Natasha Charles Parker) was one of the central arcs, as she endured her abusive pimpish husband Chuck Traynor (played by Alec Tomkiw) and teamed up with Reems and director Jerry Damiano (Herschel Savage) to make one of the most famous porn movies of all time. The shining light of the play for me was Veronica Hart, a Hall of Fame honored adult actress who some of you might know from her role as the judge in Boogie Nights. In this play she takes on many different roles with equal aplomb. She got big laughs as the weathered, raunchy porn producer Mona who gives Harry his first break – “you want me to show it to you right here?” – and won us all over with her portrayal of Shana Babcock, a feminist porn veteran who convinces Lovelace to leave her controlling husband. She also fills a tiny role as a woman in a hair salon cackling about whether or not to try giving her husband a blow job. It would have been a forgettable part if it weren’t for her Lucille Ball delivery that had the audience knee-slapping. Insiders know that Hart is also a porn producer herself under a different name, Jane Hamilton. In real life, the conservative Southern judge and religious jury convicted both the mobster producers as well as lead actor, Harry Reems, despite attempts of divine Hollywood intervention by Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty who had seen the film and worried about censorship of their own current films, Carnal Knowledge and Shampoo. The lawyer for the prosecution was played with absolutely perfect comic timing by Frank Blocker who had to stall lines because of all the laughter – particularly when he describes in gory detail the screen blow job in question. And true to L.A., there were celebs in the audience – Christopher Knight (Peter Brady!) and Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing!) were in attendance. No, I didn’t take their picture. But here is a lovely picture of Dr. Ava posing with Veronica Hart. Harry Reems almost crossed over into mainstream when he won the role of the coach in Grease, but alas he lost the role just as quickly when the obscenity conviction came through. He appealed the verdict, with the help of Alan Dershowitz, and won, but by that time his reputation was tainted and he was fast becoming an alcoholic. As we learn at the end of the play, he cleaned up after 20 years and now owns a real estate company in Utah. Maybe things would have been different for porn actors if it weren’t for the advent of home video. After all, why jerk off in a public movie theater if you can do it in the privacy of your own home? In any case, the night was a lot of fun. Jerry Douglas did a great job directing this play that began its life off-broadway in NYC. I wish I could show you a trailer of the play, but happily there is also a terrific documentary about the rise and fall of Deep Throat called Inside Deep Throat – this trailer gives you a good idea of what the whole scandal was about.
2015-04-23T09:09:03+00:00

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