Leonard’s friend, director Luc Wylder writes:
It is with a heavy heart that I share the passing of our sweet angel, Gloria Leonard. Thank you for your constant support, love and friendship in life. May you now soar among the stars and bless us with your light as we celebrate the passing of one of the true founders of the adult community. May you now rest in peace, my dearest friend. Namaste.
The adult film legend had suffered a massive stroke at her home in Hawaii on January 31 or early February 1, leaving her in a paralyzed state. According to fellow performer Annie Sprinkle, Leonard was not found for approximately 24 hours, at which point she was taken to the Intensive Care Unit of the North Hawaii Community Hospital.
On Monday, Feb. 3, doctors removed the breathing tube which they had inserted, and although Leonard was able to breathe on her own for a while, her brain damage from the stroke was apparently so extensive that she was unable to continue to do so.
According to friend and fellow adult performer Veronica Vera, Leonard passed away Monday afternoon with her daughter Robin by her side.
Leonard, 73, was born Gale Sandra Klinetsky in The Bronx, NY August 28, 1940. A teenager during the 1950s rock ‘n’ roll era, she attended DeWitt Clinton High School along with younger classmate, actor/comedian Robert Klein.
The 5’9″ doyenne of the adult film world began performing on camera in 1975 — at age 35 — and her movies include classics from porn’s pre-video ”Golden Age” such as Radley Metzger’s The Opening of Misty Beethoven, Water Power, and Joseph Sarno’s The Trouble With Young Stuff and All About Gloria Leonard.
Legendary director Metzger once said that he would probably be best remembered for the person who discovered Gloria Leonard.
Reportedly, in the early 1980s, Leonard almost clinched a deal for Norman Mailer to write a porn film. A veteran of 64 films, eight of which she directed, Leonard retired from performing sex on camera in 1984.
Leonard was married to the late adult producer/director Bobby Hollander from 1981 until their divorce in 1990.
Hired by publisher Carl Ruderman, Leonard helmed High Society magazine from 1977 to 1991. At the magazine, Leonard established the first phone-sex lines in 1983. The magazine fought a legal case over them in the Supreme Court, the outcome of which legalized the adult phone sex business.
At High Society, Leonard also created the genre of “Celebrity Skin” — and was threatened with lawsuits by celebrities such as Margot Kidder, Ann-Margret and Barbra Streisand after she published nude images of them.
Leonard was a staunch advocate for free speech and sexual expression. In 2010, she told writer Jill C. Nelson, author of the book, Golden Goddesses: 25 Legendary Women of Classic Erotic Cinema, 1968-1985:
I earned quite a good living, by the way, specifically in the ‘80s, literally speaking at dozens of colleges and universities, very often debating the so-called, “feminists”. My thinking was, if the bottom line of the feminist movement is for women to be able to choose whatever they want to do without any repercussions, well, shit, that’s what I’m doing. You should be cheering me on, not wagging your fingers at me.
I am somebody who was at the forefront of what was considered as a rebellious and radical industry, that is now quite commonplace. I feel we championed free speech and freedom for people to do what they want and to watch what they want.
Leonard had started out as a copywriter for Elektra Records when they were “just a little one-room office in Greenwhich Village” and also worked for various PR firms. She noted that at High Society she wrote the “lion’s share of the copy, including cover lines.”
Leonard served as the administrative director of the Adult Film Association from 1989 to 1992, until the AFA merged with the Free Speech Coalition. She moved to Hawaii in 1993, returned to Los Angeles in 1997 to work for Private Media Group, and was elected president of the Free Speech Coalition in 1998.
Monday, Mark Kernes reported at AVN.com:
Longtime friend Veronica Vera, who was a member with Leonard of early adult actress society Club 90, posted the following on Facebook: “Gloria Leonard needs our prayers. Just learned from her daughter Robin that Glo is in the hospital in Hawaii and has suffered a massive stroke. Robin on the way to Hawaii first available flight in the a.m. Best way to keep in touch is to FB friend Robin Leonardi (lives in Sarasota).”
Robin herself wrote, “It is with a heavy heart that I report that my mother Gale Leo [as Leonard is currently known] had a massive stroke. She is now in ICU at North Hawaii Community Hospital. Roger and I are on a plane first thing tomorrow. Please say a prayer and hold the image of Gale skipping in an open field, the sun shining, with butterflies aflutter and the wind caressing her smiling face.”