PORN VALLEY - In the course of writing about the death of adult film legend Marilyn Chambers, AVN has contacted several people who've either been close to Marilyn in her personal life or have worked with her (or both), and what follows are some reminiscences culled from those conversations:
Georgina Spelvin, friend/co-star (Still Insatiable): "Ripples from Marilyn's plunge into the sea of erotica will expand forever. I'm very grateful for the times our paths crossed. They were far too few. Thanks, AVN, for this attention paid to a remarkable and talented woman."
From Georgina's website : "I feel more a sense of gratitude that I got to meet her a few times. I was even in her (I think) last film. Just a cameo walk-on, but I thank my good buddy Veronica Hart, who was directing it, for that perk. I'm very proud to be able to say, 'Yes, I was in one of her movies.' ... Naturally, I thought back on the weekend she, Chuck [Traynor], and I spent in Chicago with the indominable 'Professor Irwin Corey.' He, she, and I were guest judges at a nude beauty pageant. Chuck rode shotgun. Much hilarity ensued, as I recount in my book, 'The Devil Made Me Do It.' Alas, that was about the longest time I ever got to spend with her. She was a true original. The sweetness of her nature permeated every corner of any room she entered. I raise my glass of Perrier to you, Dear Lady of the Soap Box. Happy Trails."
Mara Epstein, co-worker; "My very first job in adult was running her fan club, back in the '80s. I worked for Miracle Films, and Miracle was the place to go for Marilyn Chambers films; they owned all her library; they produced all her films. They did all the Private Fantasies. I just remember that, when I was younger, I was just enamored with her because she was such a superstar, and I remember she had bad knees; she was always having operations on her knees. I just remember that so vividly. But she was always so personable and nice and I just remember having such nice memories of her. She was like an icon. I remember when she was thin and cute and spunky. It's just really sad. I still have my Ivory Snow box."
Veronica Hart, actress/director/friend: "I hadn't talked to her since last year. I called her when Michael [Cirigliano, Hart's husband] passed. It was tough for her; she had like a regular job and she was working really hard. She said she'd lost a lot of weight and she was sober, and it sounded like she was not living a great life but she was kind of like in a transition period. She was working at an animal place the last time I knew. 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."
Herschel Savage, co-star/friend: "I liked Marilyn a lot. If you take a look at the scene we did in Up 'n Coming, it's a pretty hot scene. I think Marilyn really points up the distinction of somebody who really was trying to be an actor and then got fucked for it. I mean, the dark side of pornography... We were both put in the AVA Hall of Fame together, in '89 or '90 or '91. It was a big affair. We sat at the same table, The first movie I met Marilyn on was Up 'n Coming. I was a replacement for another actor who couldn't cut it, and I played the record boss, so my experience with her, we shot our first sex scene in Tiburon, which is in Marin Country - beautiful, beautiful location. Chuck Traynor was hanging on the scene, and she was pretty much all about herself. There was like no attention paid in any way. I was like a prop, and right before we were supposed to do the scene, she was talking and talking and talking, and I just looked up at her and said, 'Marilyn, shut up.' And the place went deathly silent. And then she started laughing hysterically and everybody else started laughing. From that point on, we hit it off great; we had a great scene and we remained friends ever since. And we did a thing with John Holmes and somebody else; I'm not sure what the name of the movie was, but it was a four-way with John Holmes. We didn't stay in touch a lot, but we were always very close. We were actually very close in age; we were born the same year."
Brooke Hunter, co-star: "I was in Edge Play with her, and I knew her personally, too. We lived in the same area in Canyon Country... That was a very, very important time in my career, being a relatively new performer, yet getting this incredible role, and a Best Supporting Actress nomination out of it. That was amazing. I remember sitting with her and Lee Garland in the limo doing pickup shots and the whole sex scene that we did was amazing, and she was just a really fun lady. I remember her being nervous at coming back to perform again, and all of those good things. And somewhere, I still have the g-string that was cut off of her by Jamie Gillis."
Ron Jeremy, co-star: "I remember Marilyn and Chuck had a lot of investments together. They invested in a horse ranch up north of Vegas; then his other girlfriend Bo got involved. Then after Marilyn and him split up, they remained friends and business partners. And they had an ammunition store. I don't know who owns it now, but Marilyn is still the poster child, with the gun in her hand. The poster is right on that moving walkway at the airport, that goes to the baggage claim, so anybody who comes to Vegas is going to pass it. I just saw it a few days ago... She was always one of my favorites. When anyone asks me, 'Who were your favorite girls to work with,' I always say, 'Tabitha Stevens, Christy Canyon and Marilyn Chambers.' ... She was the best-known adult film star of her time. She was really cheery, nice girl, never bad-mouthed porn, always had a good attitude; hot performer. I'm really sad to see her go."
Sunset Thomas, acquaintance: "I'm feeling a little sentimental right now. Larry Flynt (my mentor - the man that gave me my start in the adult industry) just wrote the blurb for the back-cover of my forthcoming book ["Anatomy of an Adult Film"]. I'm flattered and honored. Of course, I'm a little selfish I guess, I mean we're in the process of mourning the loss of some of our greatest legends, most recently Marilyn Chambers. And so I got to thinking some, and it dawned on me that Larry was shot by some nutcase that despised the fact the he dared have a pictorial with a black man and a white woman. And then it hit me that those two subjects could have been our President's folks! (Not sayin' they were - but think about it). And so, let's for sure, be grateful for all those who have led the way in our own little freaky way towards a certain freedom we share!"
Richard Pacheco, co-star/friend: "The first movie I was in with her, Insatiable, I've been recognized more from that movie than any other movie I ever did. She had a huge following. In that movie, she was still with Chuck Traynor and he was kind of like this mysterious force on the set. He kind of pulled her - she was not allowed to hobnob with the hoi polloi. She had her own area; he kept her off to the side, and I was hanging out with the crew that day, because it was just the two of us working and what I remember most about that day, they got into setting up a straw poll every day about when Chuck was going to hit her, and people would be betting 2 o'clock or 3 o'clock or 4 o'clock and they were putting in money, and whoever guessed the right time would win the money, and that was what I knew about her then.* She was beautiful. I remember that we had to play a scene in a Ferrari, and it was, I guess, about 1979, 1980, but I had to touch her between her legs while she was dressed, and I had never encountered Spandex before. Wow, that was impressive! It was like just the thinnest layer of skin; there's nothing left to the mystery when you're touching somebody wearing Spandex. I had never encountered that. We had to start making out, and I reached between her legs, and I was just thrilled and delighted. Unfortunately, I played a character who had run out of gas, and I was in a rush to play for my fathers' softball team, was the plot device, so I had to siphon some gas from her Ferrari into a can, and I did that, literally. I had no experience siphoning gas, and I got a mouthful of gasoline. Have you ever had gasoline in your mouth? You might prefer cat shit or vomit. It's overwhelmingly evil, and you can't get the taste out of your mouth, so the whole time I was getting this blowjob from here, there's a kind of a grimace on my face, because I was thinking of peanut butter or pickles, anything with a strong taste to just try to kill what was going on in my mouth."
"Playing with Marilyn was like playing with the Yankees: You were at the top level of production available in the business. She just brought that with her."
"I did another movie with her, Up 'n Coming, and by then, Chuck Traynor was gone, and she was much more personable. She was hanging out with the other performers and she was friendly and nice and sweet, and a nice kid. I enjoyed her company that day, and was glad to see that because she always was kind of like top dog in the business, in terms of, you were working with Number One. I mean, this was the top of the line, and you wanted to do well with her, and if you did, you might get work at that level. She was always on the borderline of crossing into legitimacy in terms of being a name and having the mainstream media know about her, so she might have a Vegas thing or this or that, so your ambition thing was turned up when you were around her, and you wanted to do well."
"What I would say in retrospect, looking back at her in the business, was that she was not the most beautiful woman, though she was beautiful, in an era when most of the women weren't beautiful. She had little competition to be the great beauty. Annette Haven was probably the only one, or maybe Constance Money, because the '70s, by and large, they weren't growing them [beautiful] in the San Fernando Valley; they weren't the most beautiful women, as you may remember. She wasn't a particularly good actress, and she wasn't particularly hot as a performer. What made her Marilyn Chambers was fate... The fact that Marilyn did the Ivory Snow moment in history forever made her famous, and that made her a porn star of an extraordinary magnitude, because she wasn't. She was like '1a'; she was not really part of the industry like I was or Annette was, even, or Seka, or one of the regulars. She was not a regular. She was her own category, much the same as John Holmes was his own category. They were the ones who were designated, for whatever reasons, to be above the herd. For Holmes, obviously, it was the size of his schlong, and the fact that he'd been at it for so long. But Marilyn's notoriety from Ivory Snow made her a top star of the industry. Not her talent, and not her looks. And the Mitchell Brothers aspect of it. They too were a specialty category. Their theater was a sunny, well-lit, well-manicured, attractive artistic place where the city supervisors went, where the governor went, where visiting dignitaries went, and where show biz celebrities were apt to turn up in the audience, and it was one of the tourist attractions of mainstream culture in the city, along with Coit Tower and Fisherman's Wharf; you went to the Mitchell Brothers, and it was a much more upscale sense of pornography. So Marilyn and the Mitchell Brothers were all part of that vibe as well. Like when she got arrested in San Francisco for what they called digital penetration, the Mitchell Brothers couldn't wait for the court trial because they had so much on so many of the power players, if they fucked with them, they were going to - it'd be headlines for the next month."
"I enjoyed her company. I was happy to see her freed from whatever the Chuck Traynor thing was. Between what he did to Linda Lovelace and Marilyn, that guy was not one of the flowers of Western humanity."
*UPDATE: Peggy McGinn says that Chuck never hit Marilyn in public.
Do you remember Marilyn? Come share your thoughts with others at the Marilyn Chambers Memorial on Wednesday.