SANTA CLARITA, Calif. — Marilyn Chambers, star of such golden age classics as Behind the Green Door and Insatiable, was found dead Sunday in the mobile home where she had been living for the past several months. She was 56, but would have celebrated her next birthday on April 22. Chambers was found by her daughter, McKenna. No cause of death is yet known, and an autopsy will be performed.
Chambers, who said she began performing under her real name because she was unashamed of what she did, was nonetheless born Marilyn Ann Briggs, and she made 16 movies during the period 1972 to 1986, mostly for the Mitchell Brothers and Caballero Home Video. It was at Caballero that she created the series Marilyn Chambers' Private Fantasies. During this period, she was married to her manager, Chuck Traynor, and though they were divorced in 1985, when Chambers made her comeback film for VCA Pictures, Still Insatiable, in 1998, she requested that Traynor be present for the filming to lend her moral support. The comeback, however, was short-lived, generating just nine movies, some of which were non-sex roles. Chambers tried her hand at producing as well, creating what was hoped to be a continuing series, Nantucket Housewives, for her own company, Damaged Productions.
More recently, Chambers essayed the voice of title character in the upcoming feature, Porndogs: The Adventures of Sadie, a live-action comedy directed by Greg Blatman, featuring canine actors with voices dubbed by such familiar porn names as Ron Jeremy, Tera Patrick, Evan Seinfeld and Heidi Fleiss.
According to a synopsis on the Internet Movie Database, "Sadie, the most beautiful Yellow Lab in the whole wide world, lives an idyllic, pampered life in the suburbs. One day, she comes into heat and has no idea what to do with her new found feelings and urges. When she learns that her loving owners are about to have her spayed, she runs away to the big city where her sexual adventures begin."
"We had a great time doing the voices," Jeremy told AVN. "We went up to San Francisco for it. Marilyn was looking great and really excited about it."
"My greatest memory of Marilyn is, I was just a kid out of New York 28 years ago, and Bob Vezey was shooting a book, 'Marilyn Chambers' Love Positions'," Jeremy continued. "He was shooting a layout for both Club magazine and for the book, and I had just won a trip to Mexico on Wheel of Fortune, but when he called me to do this, I cancelled three days off my Mexican vacation. So I got to do this book. The book was supposed to be softcore, but I kept getting an erection, because when the pressure is off, you get a boner even quicker. And Bob Vezey was saying, 'You've got to hide it, Ron; we don't want to see it.' So Marilyn says, 'Hide it right here.' Oh, my God - right into the vagina. And Chuck Traynor looks over and goes, 'Well, so much for softcore.' I was in heaven. I was in love with her from that day on, for life. And I stood in when she had a scene with her boyfriend on Insatiable 2; I stood in for her boyfriend."
The pair had also been signed to appear in an off-Broadway production of "Deep Throat The Play," with Chambers scheduled to play the role, especially written for her, of Linda Lovelace's "aging porn star girlfriend," according to Robert Interlandi, who was handling rights for the project for Arrow Productions.
Lovelace and Chambers had been long-time friends, having both been married to Traynor at different points in their careers.
"They were supposed to do the final contract signing for 'Deep Throat The Play' today," Interlandi said. "It was originally going to run in Boston, but we got kicked out of the theater, so now it's going to play in mid-July at the World Theater in New York. Funny enough, that's where Deep Throat originally played, so it makes full circle. But she really wanted to be a part of 'Deep Throat The Play' in some fashion, so they wrote her into the script."
"What a charming woman," echoed the play's producer, David Bertolino. "I'm shocked to hear that she passed away. I was just notified this morning. She was starring in our show. We're opening on Broadway in July, and we're just devastated over it. I called Marilyn's house this morning and I was speaking to Peggy McGinn, who is Marilyn's best friend and also her attorney, and she told me that Marilyn on Friday got my text letting her know that she'd be getting a call from our general manager to finalize the contract today, so she was very excited about coming on board. We're going into rehearsals in June, and we're shocked, we're devastated."
Bertolino said that Chamber had spent three days with him in New York in January, where she auditioned for the associate producer and director, and "she aced it; she was wonderful."
Howie Klein, co-owner of Caballero Home Video, also recalled Chambers as "a really nice, very pleasant woman. I liked her a lot."
"We went on the road together to promote her stuff," Klein remembered. "We hit Cleveland, New York and Philadelphia. One thing that really sticks out in my mind, when we were in Philly, she took me to this place that had sensory deprivation tanks. It was incredible. We both went in these sensory deprivation tanks. It was really neat. I also took her to IVD's first open house that [Frank Kaye] had way back in '82 in Hightstown [New Jersey]. He was new in the business and he had an open house, so I took her there."
It was on that same trip that Chambers encountered the publisher of a fledgling adult-oriented magazine.
"The first interview I ever did for AVN was Marilyn Chambers," said AVN founder Paul Fishbein. "She was in town to promote the theatrical release of Insatiable 2. So I put on a suit and went down to the hotel to interview her for one of the early issues of AVN, and I was completely intimidated, I was nervous and I could barely get the words out. I started to interview her, and she had her bodyguard in the room, but after a few minutes, she sent him out, and in the middle of the interview, she stops and she looks at me and she says, 'God, I'm horny!' I didn't know what to say or what to do, so I just went on to the next question and finished the interview. I was totally terrified of her. And I told her the story about 20 years later and she just laughed her ass off and said, 'Ah, I probably would have slept with you.' I was just so nervous around her."
Chambers' very first movie, though, was Behind the Green Door, a landmark for its time both because it featured the "99 and 44/100 percent pure girl" - Chambers had appeared recently as the "cover girl" on boxes of Ivory Snow detergent - and because it featured her in a scorching interracial scene with popular performer Johnnie Keyes.
"We were really close," Keyes told AVN. "I'm still in shock. It's like it's not even really hitting me yet. I don't know what my feelings are. It's like my brain is protecting me right but the gloom is starting to set in."
Other performers of the day were more forthcoming.
"She made an impression because she was my first big star in porn," recalled Tom Byron. "The first day I showed up on the set, we were shooting dialog sequences at the Palomino Club in North Hollywood, so I just remember it being a very surreal experience, being with Marilyn Chambers in the place where they shot the fight sequence in Hooper. Plus Redd Foxx came to the set that day. Apparently, he was a friend of Marilyn's and showed up. I was so green, Marilyn had to teach me a couple of things, like how to put my dick in her ass. As a matter of fact, she might have been the very first girl I ever fucked in the ass, now that I think about it; yeah. I just remember little patches of it, because it was just such a surreal fucking experience."
On the other hand, Paul Thomas found Chambers and her people somewhat intimidating.
"I was cast in Insatiable 2 opposite her, and when it came time for my scene with her, I was a little bit nervous about it," he said. "And then she marches in with her manager Chuck Traynor and her hairdresser and a whole entourage of people, and it became more like fucking a corporation than a person, and I couldn't achieve erection; I couldn't come close. So they brought in the girl who was about to do the next scene, and she fluffed me, and I got hard immediately, and Marilyn came in and I got soft, and they brought the girl in again and I got hard. I think Shanna McCullough was there too, helping me out. Finally, it just didn't work, so they called the scene, and I finished it a couple of months later at [Godfrey Daniels'] house with Cara Lott as a stunt butt, and that's my Marilyn memory."
Chambers' final hardcore movie in the early days was Marilyn Chambers' Private Fantasies 6, for Miracle Films, which produced nine of her films altogether, but during that period, she was making inroads into the mainstream film career that she'd always wanted. In 1983, she starred in the sexy spy thriller Angel of H.E.A.T., and in '77, snagged the starring role in David Cronenberg's horror film Rabid. She also created several sexy titles for cable TV, including Party Girls, New York Nights, Bedtime Fantasies and Sextrospective.
Finally, Chambers decided to once again take the plunge into XXX, signing a three-movie contract with VCA Pictures, all of which to be directed by her longtime friend, Veronica Hart, the first of which was Still Insatiable.
"It was really great, because we had a mainstream writer write it, who had had a couple of very successful books, but he was a big fan of Marilyn's," recalled Hart, who took the news of Chambers' death very hard. "Marilyn had come to [VCA owner] Russell [Hampshire] and we were so thrilled to be able to get her for this three-picture deal, and I was so delighted to be able to work with her because she was my girlfriend and we'd worked a lot of stuff before. We did a lot of R-rated stuff for cable."
"When I first met Marilyn, I was just getting into the business and she was already such a huge star," Hart continued, "and when I saw her, she had her entourage around her and Chuck [Traynor] was there, and she was such a big star, and I thought, 'Oh my gosh, if only I could be like Marilyn!' She was so sweet to me, and then it was such a thrill to be able to work with her, first acting in the R-rated stuff, and then directing her in the X-rated stuff. She was such a good actress. We always talked about that we were going to do like a Cagney & Lacey; she always wanted to do some kind of police detective show for cable. She said, 'Hey, we can do this. We're good actresses. We can do this.' And she was just such a great actress and a really good person. She loved animals and she loved kids, and she was just a really, really great gal. I'm so glad I got to work with her and I'm so sad."
After her VCA contract was completed, Chambers worked a variety of jobs in the Los Angeles area, including salesperson for an adult DVD distributor, salesperson at a used car dealership, and as an animal rescue worker. She also worked as a home care nurse shortly after the death of her parents in approximately 2004.
"She was working at an animal place the last time I knew," Hart said. "It was like an animal care place. She was hauling bags of feed in, and she didn't want anybody to know. But she said it was good because she was losing a lot of weight. She had gone through a lot. She lost her mom and her dad, and that was about - I guess that was about five years ago, now. And she went back and she became a home health care nurse, but I don't think she could make a successful living at it, but she wanted to take care of people. She'd taken care of her parents."
In all, Chambers appeared in just 23 hardcore films, including Behind the Green Door, The Resurrection of Eve, Inside Marilyn Chambers, Beyond DeSade, Never a Tender Moment, Insatiable 1 & 2, Charli, Up 'n Coming, Marilyn Chambers' Private Fantasies 1-6, Still Insatiable, Dark Chambers, Edge Play, Marilyn Chambers' Guide to Dirty Dancing, Nantucket Housewives, Marilyn Chambers' Guide to Anal Sex, Marilyn Chambers' Guide to Masturbation and Marilyn Chambers' Guide to Oral Sex.
No information has yet been given out about the actual cause of her death, nor what funeral arrangements have been made.
Photo gallery: Marilyn Chambers