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'Deep Throat' Director Gerard Damiano Dies at 80

'Deep Throat' Director Gerard Damiano Dies at 80

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Pioneering adult film director Gerard Damiano died Saturday of complications from a stroke. He was 80.

A former hairdresser from the Bronx, N.Y., Damiano is best known for directing the adult film classics Deep Throat and The Devil in Miss Jones. The theatrical release of Deep Throat in 1972 created the phenomenon of "porno chic," making it acceptable for couples and celebrities to attend X-rated movies and changing the way the public viewed explicit sex on screen.

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Gerardo Rocco Damiano was born Aug. 4, 1928 to an Italian-Catholic family. His father died when he was six, and his mother never remarried. Damiano joined the Navy at 17 and served for four years, later studying X-ray technology on the G.I. Bill.

Damiano opened a beauty parlor in New York City in 1956. He often told the story that he realized sex films could have crossover appeal after listening to the conversations of the women who made up his salon clientele. Looking back on his career in 2005, he told the Fort Myers News-Press that he became interested in moviemaking when his accountant introduced him to an industrial film producer who was shooting a low-budget horror feature.

During the late '60s and early '70s, Damiano directed sex documentaries and "marriage manual" films including We All Go Down (1969), Changes (1970), and Sex USA (1971). These early skin flicks made Damiano part of a circle that included performers Harry Reems, Jason and Tina Russell, Jamie Gillis, Fred Lincoln, Marc Stevens, and Shaun Costello (who was later credited under Damiano's name as director of the enema-bandit epic Waterpower.)

But it was Deep Throat that defined Damiano's career and revolutionized adult cinema. Shot in six days on a shoestring budget in Miami, the Linda Lovelace classic became an instant box-office smash and a cultural event whose impact continues to be felt today.

Damiano first met Linda while he was casting a hardcore insert scene for Changes. After witnessing her sexual talent, he was so impressed that he spent the next couple of days writing a film just for her. Damiano famously created the name "Linda Lovelace" for the star after finishing his script, which became Deep Throat.

While Deep Throat is said by some to have grossed in excess of $600 million, Damiano did not share in those notorious profits. The director sold his interest in the film after its release to his producing partner Louis "Butchie" Peraino for a reported $25,000. 

By the time Damiano made his follow-up film The Devil in Miss Jones in 1973, he had become the adult film world's first real auteur. "They invented a new word, filmmaker," he recalled in the 2005 documentary Inside Deep Throat. "Suddenly, there were independent filmmakers."

Actress Georgina Spelvin, who played the part of Miss Jones in the seminal film, met Damiano through Harry Reems. Spelvin wrote about her first encounter with "a real fuck-film director" in her recently published memoir The Devil Made Me Do It.

"What's a nice girl like you doing in a porn shop like this?" Damiano asked Spelvin. It was the beginning of a warm friendship that would last for 35 years.

Devil was another highly influential success that fueled the "porno chic" craze. The movie began and ended with Damiano himself playing a memorable cameo role as the nameless, impotent mental case trapped in an existential cell with the eternally frustrated Miss Jones. 

Damiano went on to direct other acclaimed, high-profile adult features including Memories Within Miss Aggie (1974), The Story of Joanna (1975), The Satisfiers of Alpha Blue (1981) and Night Hunger (1983). Outside the X-rated genre, he made the little-seen '70s horror film Legacy of Satan.

Other notable Damiano credits include the cult classic Let My Puppets Come (1976), Odyssey (1977), and People (1978), a documentary-style experiment that might be considered the forerunner of modern reality-porn videos such as Tristan Taormino's Chemistry.

Damiano married porn actress Paula Morton in 1975, and the couple had two children, Christar and Gerard, Jr. The family moved from New York to Fort Myers in the '70s. Although Damiano and Morton eventually divorced, they remained close until his death.

Damiano flew back and forth to New York to work until he retired from the business in 1994, having directed a total of 47 movies. According to the News-Press, the legendary director "lived out his final years in Fort Myers quietly, enjoying theatre, attending art openings, appearing at charitable events and reveling, especially, in the accomplishments of his two children."

Spelvin, Annie Sprinkle, and other industry friends joined Damiano's family to celebrate with the director at a surprise 80th birthday party this summer.

"When the lights came up and we all yelled 'Surprise,' I feared my favorite director was going to bolt," Spelvin wrote. "He later said, 'I haven't been that surprised since I was arrested.' He just couldn't believe his loving former performers and pals had traveled from New York and California just to nuzzle and hug and kiss him to pieces."

No memorial service is planned for Damiano. "That 80th birthday party was a celebration of his life - while he was still alive," his son said.

Contributions can be made in Damiano's name to AIM Healthcare Foundation






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