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Op-Ed: Memories of Acting in 'The Deep Throat Sex Scandal'

AVN Senior Editor Mark Kernes reflects on his brief role in the play, whose final performances are this weekend, and points out some of his fellow actors' truly excellent performances

Op-Ed: Memories of Acting in 'The Deep Throat Sex Scandal'

HOLLYWOOD—Okay; I'm going to betray my bias right up front: Last week, I was tapped to play the judge in The Deep Throat Sex Scandal, and I have to say that despite a couple of "senior moments," I pulled it off, and aside from my extreme nervousness, it was even fun. I got to work with a first-class troupe of actors, including adult legends Veronica Hart and Herschel Savage, not to mention assistant director JC Adams, who gave me great tips and was open to whatever feedback I could give. (I hear this week's judge, Bart Tangredi—who also plays mobster Vito, censorship bigwig Charles Keating and a video cameraman—is adopting a couple of my "Southern" pronounciations: "DE-fense" and "Cal-i-forn-eye-ay.")

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So feel free to take the following with a grain of salt, but I absolutely stand by my review of the play, which was written well before I was offered my judgeship. Bill Margold, who's been present for just about every performance and even helped with the scripting, is telling everyone who'll listen that he hopes Marc Ginsburg—the guy who plays Herb Streicher, better known as Harry Reems—will take his character on the road for a one-man show, and I think I'd have to echo that assessment: The guy never breaks character on stage, and though I never met Streicher/Reems in person (despite the fact that some think I've been in this business forever), it seems to me, from all I've heard, that Ginsburg has not only made Reems more approachable to modern fans who may not be very familiar with Reems' work, but he's even made him into a nice (if flawed) guy that has the audience rooting for him to come out on top of his mid-'70s obscenity bust.

I was also quite impressed with Natasha Charles Parker as Linda Lovelace. It's an unforgiving role, since for the majority of the play, her character is almost completely under the thumb of her manager/husband, well-played this week by Brett Aune, and it's not until well into the second act that that the Lovelace worm begins to turn—and when she does, it's subtle but effective enough that it'll be something audiences will reflect on after they leave the theater.

But if anyone besides Ginsburg can be said to be the star of the show, it has to be Frank Blocker, the only actor to have followed the play from its New York City debut last year to its West Coast premiere here. Frank's main role is as Reems' Tennessee prosecutor Larry Parrish, and his final monologue (aka his summation of the prosecution's case against Reems) is played with just the right amount of Southern sleaze that one could expect from an anti-porn zealot—and the audience reacts with laughter and applause every time he does it.

Finally, as far as the mainstreamers go, I can't leave out Michael Rachlis, who plays Reems' attorney Bruce Kramer during his trial, and as the judge, I had most of my interactions with him—and he was quick (and nice) enough to cover my ass, without missing a beat, when I forgot a line in the middle of some heavy dialog. But what's most worth mentioning is Rachlis' range as an actor. The audience first meets him as "Tim," the off-off-Broadway actor who first introduces Reems to the world of porn acting, and when I first saw the play, I actually didn't realize that the actor playing Tim was the same guy playing Kramer. Sure, part of that is the fact that Rachlis has slicked-back hair and wears thick glasses as Kramer, while as Tim he wears an Afro wig and spends a good part of his role naked, but it's a performance well worth savoring.

Oh, yeah: the nudity. I've recently seen a couple of articles claiming that it's actually traumatic for mainstream actresses to be nude on camera, even if they're just topless; that several of them say they somehow feel demeaned by having to play roles where the plot calls for them to undress or <gasp> "make love" to their fellow performer. Of course, coming from a porn background, that's not something I run into much (well, ever) on-set, and if anything, some adult actresses actually prefer walking around clothesless—and I'd have to say that Natasha could hold her own with pretty much any of them. Not that she walked around nude when not on stage, but for the few minutes that she was required to be either topless or completely nude, she betrayed no shyness or shame, and in talking to her afterwards, she seemed perfectly at home with doing what the plot called for. Ginsburg and Rachlis also seemed fine with showing the audience their cocks—in fact, they all seemed so at home with the nudity that the audience might actually believe that Ginsburg is actually licking Parker's pussy during the recreation of one of the scenes from Deep Throat.

Finally, let's talk about the adult world's contribution to this play. In his adult career, Herschel Savage has shown that there isn't a role he can't sink his teeth into if there's any semblance of a plot or character to work with, and here he'll actually make you believe he's the Gerry Damiano who not only made Deep Throat on a shoestring, but had to deal with the mobsters (notably Tangredi's Vito) who bankrolled the film and handled all of its distribution—and skinned him out of the millions of dollars of profits the film's made over the years. But Savage's versatility is at its best when he switches roles from the sleazy Damiano to Reems' attorney for his appeal, the famous Alan Dershowitz. It's not as meaty a role, but Savage handles it as well as can be expected.

But when it comes to versatility, the Oscar goes to Veronica Hart. We won't spoil the surprise that comes with the audience's first contact with her, but Hart beautifully essays about a half-dozen roles, including a suburban housewife customer at Damiano's hair salon, an anti-Vietnam War protester who segues into a hippie/free-love goddess, a New York adult talent agent, and finally as Shana Babcock, a composite "veteran adult actress" character that's part Marilyn Chambers, part Georgina Spelvin, part Darby Lloyd Rains ... and part Hart herself, since she began doing X-rated movie work in 1980. Finally, during this final week of the play, Hart will also snag the role of the ticket-taker outside the NYC theater where Deep Throat is being shown for the first time.

Oh, yeah; she gets nude too.

So all of that is what you'll get a chance to see if you attend one of these final performances of a show that hopefuly one day will play in every large city in the country—and if for no other reason (and there are many other reasons), fans of adult entertainment in the L.A. area can go just to support the fact that two fine adult actors have been tapped for roles in a mainstream play in which they acquit themselves well, despite the fact that, no matter how many adult movies they've made—well over 1,000 for Savage and over 100 for Hart—there's nothing that compares to the thrill and the anxiety that comes from playing a part where, each night, you get only one take, and it has to be perfect each time.

I know; in my small way, I've been there.

Anyway, The Deep Throat Sex Scandal is playing at the Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. Tickets can be purchased through the show's website, through BrownPaperTickets.com, or at a special discount on Goldstar.com.

Pictured, l-r: Veronica Hart and Natasha Charles Parker






Related Content:

Herschel Savage
Veronica Hart
Georgina Spelvin
Mark Kernes

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