Golden Goddesses

Golden Goddesses

by Jill C. Nelson

ISBN: 9781593932985

Publisher BearManor Media

Published in Biographies & Memoirs/Arts & Literature, Nonfiction

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Book Description

Golden Goddesses vibrantly casts light upon twenty-five significant women involved in the erotic film industry during its Golden Era, between the years 1968-1985 when participation in adult productions was illegal. Profiling performers, directors, scriptwriters and costumers, Golden Goddesses is a palate of insights, intimacy, vulnerability and strength immersing readers into the lives of these celebrated and audacious females.

Sample Chapter

Marilyn Chambers: Girl Next Door goes Behind the Green Door (4.)

Of all the female stars to resonate with aficionados of the golden era of adult, Marilyn Chambers towers above the rest. Legendary for her unbridled, acrobatic sexual eccentricities onscreen, Chambers’ early years offer a glimpse of her potential as a maven in her field.

Born in Rhode Island in 1952, Marilyn Ann Briggs came from good stock. Her father worked as an advertising executive, and her mother was employed as a nurse. Along with her brother and sister, Marilyn’s family eventually settled in Westport, Connecticut where she was exposed to the finer things in life. Chambers was actively involved in gymnastics and trained as a junior Olympic diver as a young teenage girl. She was also known to have been extremely fond of the male persuasion, and in her senior year, Marilyn was Homecoming Queen. Although not particularly interested in pursuing a career as an academic, with her wholesome good looks and natural orientation as an actress, at seventeen, Marilyn traveled to New York and enlisted with the Wilhelmina Talent Agency where she was promptly sent on auditions for commercial and film work. Effortlessly, Chambers won a small role as Robert Klein’s girlfriend in The Owl and the Pussycat (1970), a Barbara Streisand vehicle that also co-starred reputable actor George Segal. During this period, Marilyn was photographed for the now infamous Ivory Snow soapbox advertisement that surfaced just as her career as an adult performer emerged after she agreed to appear in Behind the Green Door (1972) for brothers Artie and Jim Mitchell. When the pair made an offer for her to star in their production and engage in real sex on camera, Chambers flatly turned them down, but reconsidered when they agreed to pay her an impressive sum of money for her efforts.

“Green Door,” which showcased Marilyn engaged in sex with African American porn star Johnny Keyes, did big box office business and Marilyn enjoyed overnight stardom. Chambers soon followed up with another Mitchell brothers’ endeavor, Resurrection of Eve, released in 1973. Suffice to say, her fresh-faced image as the girl-next-door touting boxes of Ivory Soap was squashed once her alter ego was discovered.

After imbibing in a smorgasbord of perks reserved for those with epic stature, Marilyn was selective about ensuing roles, and along with her entrepreneurial husband and manager, Chuck Traynor, she maintained an aura of mystery while giving her fans just enough to keep them coming back for more. Chambers’ film career reached a climactic point in 1980 with the release of Insatiable, where she once again proved herself an actor, and performed for the first time with her male counterpart in legendary status, John Holmes.

In recent years, Chambers worked in a varied range of professions. An ardent advocate for animals in need of TLC, she remained connected on the fringe of the adult business and was a popular attraction at Horror Conventions. While married to her third husband, Chambers realized her most important role in life when she became a mother for the first time to daughter McKenna, now twenty-one. Conveying her strong maternal instincts to family, friends, and acquaintances, Marilyn greatly valued the precious unity that she and McKenna shared as mother and daughter. Sadly, their time together was cut short when Chambers passed away suddenly on April 12, 2009 from a cerebral hemorrhage and aneurysm, only weeks before her fifty-seventh birthday.

In 2011, Marilyn Chambers’ biopic filmmaker Valerie Gobos spoke about Ms. Chambers in order to contribute to this portrait. McKenna Taylor also shared memories about her legendary mother. I talked with Marilyn Chambers in June 2007.

The Owl and the Pussycat

Valerie Gobos:

Marilyn was born in Providence, Rhode Island and was raised in Massachusetts. She had a brother and a sister. She was a sophisticated girl, which is something you can’t take out of her. She came from a very good family on the east coast. Her mom was a nurse and her dad was an advertising executive in Massachusetts. I think she was popular in school. She loved the boys. She was more of an athlete, and I believe she was also a Homecoming Queen. She was definitely more interested in singing, and dancing, and acting, and modeling, versus being an intellect. There were no problems within the family dynamic. When she did start to model and got into that field, her dad really did not want her to do it. He tried to discourage her because he was involved in the business as an advertiser. He was exposed to actors and models, and he didn’t encourage it, but she really loved it.

Marilyn had loved Sophia Loren. She mentioned that in her book [Marilyn Chambers: My Story, 1975]. It was Ann Margaret and Sophia Loren – those two were her favorites. Of course, growing up in the 1960s, Ann Margaret was so popular and to Marilyn, one of the most glamorous, sexual women was Sophia Loren.

When Marilyn first started to model, she put her portfolio together. After she was finished with her schooling, she would take a train into New York. She’d registered with Wilhelmina Talent Agency. It was a modeling agency and she started to model. She was more of a commercial model, not high fashion, which was the old girl-next-door type of thing. She had done hair commercials. In the audio for Still Insatiable (1999), she talked about where she did a couple of hair commercials, and a couple of modeling jobs. The similarities are ironic. I did the exact same thing probably at the exact same time.

Marilyn started exploring acting when she registered with the talent agencies. She was dating a boy who had gotten a bit part in The Owl and the Pussycat(1970) and he said to her, “Would you like to come with me on set to see what a movie is all about?” She said, “Yeah.” It’s just like a fairytale story because when she was on the set of The Owl and the Pussycat she had her portfolio with her and somebody said, “Are you an actress?” She said, “Yes.” They told her, “They’re holding auditions upstairs. Would you like to audition?” She said, “Sure,” and she got the part of Barney’s girlfriend in The Owl and the Pussycat. It was quite easy for her.

In a poignant example of art foreshadowing life, seventeen-year old Marilyn (credited as Evelyn Lang) played the girlfriend of Robert Klein’s supporting character Barney in the comedic film about an enigmatic, aspiring actress (Streisand) who provides occasional sexual favors on the side, and moves in with a neurotic writer (George Segal). Although Marilyn’s role is minor, The Owl and the Pussycat has a winning formula and concentrates on the funny antics that transpire throughout the unlikely arrangement as the two leads are polar opposites in their educational backgrounds and mannerisms.

Valerie Gobos: Barbara Streisand, whom Marilyn thought was a real witch on the set, did not want to go to Los Angeles to promote the film so the producer sent Marilyn and another actress to L.A. She had never been out west before, so they sent the two of them to promote the film and that’s when she fell in love with L.A. Then someone suggested that she would love San Francisco and she went up there. When Marilyn went up to San Francisco, she realized there weren’t a lot of acting jobs going on there, and so she worked in a Health Food restaurant and danced. I think she started doing topless dancing but she didn’t talk very much about it. It could have been bottomless and topless, but it was definitely topless. Being so athletic, she was comfortable with her body and of course, during the late 1960s, early seventies everyone was taking their bras off, and going around and getting crazy, so she had heard about this audition. She had read about it and she thought it was a “bowling” film, but it was a “balling” film. In her interviews and in her own words they had said to her, “Are you willing to take your clothes off?” She said, “No problem.” Then they said, “You’ll have to have sex on camera.” She said, “Absolutely not.” She left. That’s when they called her. Before this, she had gotten the Ivory Soap job. Years later, it ended up on the shelves. They hadn’t released it right away, but when they did, it was in sync with Behind the Green Door.

Behind the Green Door

While working as a model, Marilyn was photographed holding an infant for an advertisement to be used on the front cover of the now infamous Ivory Snow soapbox for Proctor and Gamble. One year prior to making her adult film debut in Artie and Jim Mitchell’s Behind the Green Door (1972), Marilyn appeared nude in Sean S. Cunningham’s film Together (1971), but the part did not immediately lead to straight roles as she’d hoped. Chambers said when the Mitchell brothers offered her the lead in Behind the Green Door she asked for an exorbitant salary, in addition to a percentage of the film’s gross for a period of ten years. She believed they would turn her down flat. To her surprise, Artie and Jim agreed to the salary request and to her terms for residuals. In her own words, Marilyn recapped the dialogue that had taken place with the Mitchell brothers and shared what factors influenced her to accept the challenge of having real sex in the film rendering her world famous as Gloria in Behind the Green Door.

Marilyn Chambers: I did that because I didn’t want to do the film. I thought, “Okay, I’m really going to give them something they’re going to say ‘no’ to.” I said, “I’m from New York. Don’t you know who I am? I’m not going to do that!” They were cool guys and they were very foxy, very sly, you know. They had their shit together for a short period. I loved the Mitchell brothers. I loved Art and Jim and still do today. They’re like brothers. They gave me the opportunity to do something and I thought, “Okay, I’ll do a couple of films for them and then I’ll get out of it, and I’ll be able to do stuff in Hollywood.” I agreed [to do the film] and I got a percentage [of the film’s gross] for approximately ten years, and then it was over. That part of the contract I forgot to look at.

“Green Door” builds methodically as the story is described by two men in a diner providing an eyewitness account of a specific sexual event during flashback mode. Marilyn Chambers, known in the film only as Gloria, travels down the lonely northern leg of the infamous 101 coastal highway alone. After checking into a hotel, she orders a beer on the patio a few hours prior to being kidnapped by two men (Artie and Jim Mitchell) and whisked away to a private club. Blindfolded at first, Gloria doesn’t appear to be drugged, but she is strangely serenely calm when approached by a female who reassures the beauty dressed in a striking black evening gown (accessorized only by a pair of white pearl earrings) that she will not be harmed in any way. Gloria falls immediately into a hypnotic trance under the woman’s caring words, and is guided through a green door onto a stage. Six female attendants appear on stage and proceed to undress and make love to Gloria, their tongues and fingers wander upon and inside of her orifices as they warm her up for the evening’s entree -- African American porn star, Johnny Keyes.

Marilyn Chambers: When Behind the Green Door came out, I heard a rumor that my dad’s friends took him to a place where they were showing Behind the Green Door and didn’t tell him. It’s funny, because my parents and I never sat down and talked about my career. I told my parents about the film. I was up front with them, but for me, sex, drugs and rock and roll in the late 1960s and early seventies was “I don’t care what you think. You’re not going to tell me what to do.” They just kind of had to ride out the storm and then we became very close. My dad was always kind of secretly proud of me. One of my uncles would take me to see all his old cronies and he was totally proud of me. My dad’s brother would say, “Here’s Marilyn Chambers. She’s my niece.”

Valerie Gobos: Marilyn was so sexual. She really loved sex and she really enjoyed it, and she was a feisty, sexual young girl. She said that sex was such a turn on for her and it was even more of a turn on when the camera was rolling. She loved it, and it really excited her, which is typical of all actors. They love it when the camera is on them. I never heard her say anything about her dreading it or not liking it. She talked about how it was very physically challenging to stay in a position for a long period until they got the shot, but she was an athlete so she was in great shape, and she was strong physically. I think so many women in the straight world are romantics, and so there is that fine line, is it making love or having sex? Women in adult are just having sex and pleasing others. It’s much different from the typical woman who is more about, “I love him. He loves me.” The focus is different. Another thing Marilyn said that I think is interesting and I like is that when she did go out to Hollywood, she found that all of these actresses were sleeping their way to the top, and that Hollywood was so corrupt with these producers and directors saying, “If you want the part, you have to sleep with me.” She decided when she made a decision to get into adult films, that if she had to have sex to become a star, at least she was picking and choosing with whom she would have sex.

Marilyn preferred to become a star having sex on screen instead of doing it only to get a small part, and then move on only to be used and abused. She would rather be in control. She was good at it. I think so when I watch her films. She really had star qualities, for sure. She was lovely. She was trained, she was buttoned-up, and she thought she could crossover. Of course, later throughout the years like so many others, she found out that once you go over there you can’t come back again.

Marilyn articulated her opinions and her experiences regarding the implications of her decision to star in Behind the Green Door. Like with any other career choice, there are good days and bad.

Marilyn Chambers: You certainly have to be an exhibitionist as an actor, but in porn films, it has to be to an extreme. [It’s] like “Look at me!” You know I was a junior Olympic diver. I was a gymnast. I did all kinds of things and it was always like, “Look at me, mom and dad! Look! Look!” You know how a little kid goes “Mommy! Mommy! Look at me!” I always wanted to be reassured that I was wanted, and that I was doing well. I went way overboard and provided a lot of embarrassment to my parents, of course.

I never considered myself a prostitute, which was always the big controversy. In the old days, it was like “You’re a prostitute because you take money for sex.” No. I have a contract and I actually get paid before. It was difficult to decipher when I was younger. It was always like, “Whoa, am I a prostitute? Let’s set parameters here.

It’s an interesting thing. For a very long time I’ve been obsessed with wanting to write a book or doing a documentary about why people go into the porn business and is there a type of person. Why did they do it? What was their childhood like? If you were getting your master’s in psychology, this would be a great thesis. I have had a lot of questions about my own life, but I had a great childhood. Something interjected in there though, to propel me in that direction whether it was outside forces or inner stuff. There are so many women that it would be very interesting to explore ─ and guys too. Why or what is the type of person who is able to do this? What drives them to this? It’s a very similar background. It’s a pattern. It would be interesting, but it wouldn’t be pretty. It’s a definite downer. Most of the time, they either wind up loaded on drugs killing themselves or they wind up in terrible marriages, broke. If you look at the volume of people who pass through the adult film world, if you look at the statistics of people there are very few, a very small percentage that are still okay and around. You have to get through it and be a survivor. I’m a survivor.

A lot of the women who are getting into porn today, I don’t want to say they’re bubble-headed dopes, but look at the statistics, not real good. In the old days, if a girl was going to do a couple of porn films, she was doing it to get herself through law school or whatever, to create a life for herself afterwards. It wasn’t something she was going to be considering for her career. For me, it was considering a career in mainstream, thinking it was a steppingstone because I was looking at stuff like Last Tango in Paris (1972) and this type of a thing, which would have certainly told me that it was a possibility there was a transition that could be done. I was considered for a lot of other things, but when Behind the Green Doorcame out, it was like, “Oh yeah! Alright, okay.” The pendulum was moving forward, and then all of a sudden, it would swing backwards because everyone went nuts and [later] there was the Meese Commission, and so on.

According to some reports, Artie and Jim Mitchell, the two porn-trepreneurs and co-owners of the O’Farrell X-rated movie house that opened in 1969 at 895 O’Farrell Street in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, picked up on the resemblance between Chambers and the popular film and television actress at the time, Cybil Shepherd. Cleverly, they used Marilyn’s likeness as a promotional angle for “Green Door”as it dovetailed neatly with the arrival of the new Ivory Soap box that featured blonde, wholesome looking Chambers posing with an infant. In an effort to avoid scandal, Proctor and Gamble quickly terminated Marilyn upon discovering her extra-curricular employment while the Mitchells seized the controversy to further boost ticket sales when Behind the Green Door was released. The cumulative gross for the picture is estimated to be $25 million and was made on a $60,000 budget. Alternate images (such as the one above) depicting Marilyn holding the Ivory Snow box have been used repeatedly to encourage sales of Chambers’ films and memorabilia. Chambers herself was well aware of the financial benefits of capitalizing on the paradoxical Ivory Snow image.

In 1973, the Mitchell brothers parlayed the success of Behind the Green Door, recasting their fresh new starlet who delivered an above average acting performance, in Resurrection of Eve. Resurrection of Eve (aka The Mitchell Brothers Resurrection of Eve) is a subliminal porn takeoff on the Three Faces of Eve (1957) starring Joanne Woodward, only Eve in the Mitchell’s story doesn’t suffer from Multiple Personality Disorder ―though one could argue that her husband does.

Chuck Traynor & Superstardom

Valerie Gobos: Marilyn was dancing at the O’Farrell Club, which paralleled Green Door. It was during the time she was working with the Mitchell Brothers and she loved them. I’m not quite sure which dates she was dancing and doing her films, but I think she was doing them hand in hand because busloads of people would show up at the theatre to see her.

The O’Farrell Theatre served as a movie house and as a venue for striptease acts and live sex shows since it first opened in the late 1960s. Famous adult film stars that had appeared on stage or performed private sex shows over the years in addition to Marilyn Chambers (who according to Chambers was the theater’s largest drawing card) included John Holmes, Annette Haven, Amber Lynn, Nina Hartley and Erica Boyer. The historic O’Farrell Theatre is currently in operation today as an adult emporium.

Despite its worldwide reputation for nonconformity, that the sexually diversity for which the city of Francisco has become known, during the time of Chambers’ popularity, the Mitchell brothers were charged with obscenity more than once. They fought for their First Amendment rights in court and won. Chambers once recounted how on two occasions in the 1980s she was arrested for lewd conduct and for prostitution while headlining a show at the O’Farrell Theatre. She remarked that the awestruck police officers treated her well, and requested she sign autographs for them as a memento of having had the magnetic star as their special guest in the San Francisco jailhouse.

Valerie Gobos: Marilyn also went to Cannes Film Festival. I remember seeing footage of her at Cannes and I’m not sure what she was doing there if it was Green Door or what it was, but my goodness, to be able to be recognized at Cannes Film Festival – she really was a starlet. When Chuck Traynor took her on to manage her; that was his goal he had said to turn her into a starlet with the limos and the fur coats and really make her as glamorous as she could possibly be. He had done the same thing with Linda Lovelace as well. He was just ending his relationship with Linda Lovelace when he met Marilyn.

In 1975, when Chambers was introduced to her second husband Chuck Traynor (former spouse and manager of porn star Linda Lovelace) she was enchanted. Initially, the union served both parties well as Chambers believed Traynor would be an influential player whose Hollywood connections and experience would expedite her goal of progressing toward mainstream stardom. Traynor was obviously drawn to Marilyn’s star quality, and expected his own standing within the entertainment community would be heightened.

Marilyn outlined how Traynor had uniquely managed her career:

Chuck and I didn’t socialize with people that I did films with― instead he kind of tried to make me be above that—whether that was good or not. Obviously, it was good, because he always wanted to create a fantasy where I was kind of untouchable to the people that I was around, but on the screen, very touchable. When I would meet my fans, I was very touchable. The people that we worked with, we didn’t really socialize too much with them because then they would know too much about me and find out I was a real normal person. Any star, like Scarlett Johanson, you don’t know anything about her. She is a mystery and a fantasy. That’s why guys want her because they don’t know that she farts and that she is a regular person. She is a complete fantasy and that’s what a movie star should always be. Chuck told me, “Always give people what they don’t expect.” That was his best advice to me.


Excerpted from "Golden Goddesses" by Jill C. Nelson. Copyright © 2012 by Jill C. Nelson. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

Jill C. Nelson

Jill C. Nelson

I am a 56 year old Canadian co-author of the first and definitive biography about the late adult film legend and pop culture icon, John Curtis Holmes. "John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches," presented in an oral history format, was published in August 2008 by Bear Manor Media. The book contains three photos sections (including rare nudes), a 21 page filmography, 114 feature film reviews and 86 loops synopses. The second and expanded edition of our book was released October 2011, in addition to the kindle version.

View full Profile of Jill C. Nelson

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