Tuesday, November 11, 2008

R.I.P.: Gerard Damiano

Gerard Damiano: pornographic film director and writer
Gerard Damiano directed one of the most famous, or rather infamous, films of the 1970s and for a while made pornography intellectually chic. Deep Throat (1972) reached a wider audience than any other pornographic film before or since. Its impact on US culture was such that its title was used for the Washington Post’s confidential source in the Watergate affair and subsequently became a widespread term for secret informants.

No. I've never seen it.
Deep Throat was made during a time of dramatic changes in social and sexual attitudes. It had a degree of humour — with fireworks going off and bells ringing at the climax of its sex scenes — and its plot was more imaginative than many films within the genre, with Linda Lovelace playing a woman who cannot get sexual satisfaction until she discovers that her clitoris is in her throat. Damiano wrote and directed it, composed the music and acted in it.

It reportedly cost around $25,000 to make and grossed anything from $20 million to $600 million, according to various estimates, making it one of the most profitable films ever made. But it remains a hardcore sex film, and it was financed by the Mafia. Damiano reportedly had a deal giving him a share of the profits, which would certainly have run into the millions, but was forced to sell his interest for $25,000.

The film was banned in many places and was the subject of a protracted series of obscenity prosecutions in the US. Damiano and Lovelace were granted immunity from prosecution in return for their co-operation with the authorities. Co-star Harry Reems was convicted, his case became a cause celebre and his conviction was overturned on appeal. However, the debate over free artistic expression was muddied by the Mafia’s involvement.

Emphasis added by me.

I heard a rumor about the throat while I was in high school. Now this obit has confirmed it.

Lovelace, of course, eventually claimed she was drugged up and coerced into it.

I remember the controversy regarding Reems at the time.

As incredible as it will sound, porn film makers back then kept telling anyone who would listen -- and that meant mainly reporters and talk show hosts -- that they represented the next wave of Hollywood. That soon, all movies would feature explicit sex scenes -- of all kinds.

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