Tracy Quan, the author of those action-packed urban rhapsodies The Diary of a Married Call Girl and its sequel, The Diary of a Married Call Girl, takes a long, thoughtful look back at the battered and disputed legacy of the late porn star Linda Lovelace, whose oral feats in Deep Throat did so much to de-elevate the cultural “conversation” in the Seventies. A proposed biopic of Linda Lovelace starring Lindsay Lohan, a casting match-up that at least had the virtue of being alliterative, didn’t leave the dock, but now there’s a new Lovelace project starring the elf-eyed Amanda Seyfried and Peter Sarsgaard as her abusive pimp-husband-manager Chuck Traynor (his last name a homonym for “trainer,” and horribly apt), perhaps the most thankless role since Eric Roberts played Paul Snider, the jealousy-crazed, psycho-ballistic estranged husband and murderer of Playboy Playmate of the Year Dorothy Stratten in Bob Fosse’s Star 80. Though I suspect Sarsgaard will be a shade more subtle and restrained, given the actor’s more phlegmatic undertow on screen compared to Roberts’ vein-throbbing.
Part of Lovelace’s afterlife is the continuing tug of war her post-porn career and revelations of subjugation and degradation provoked between pro-porn and anti-porn feminists. Quan writes
Eric Danville, author of The Complete Linda Lovelace, and a technical adviser on the Amanda Seyfried film, once asked Lovelace: “Why did you join up with feminists trying to ban porn instead of feminists trying to fight domestic abuse?” Lovelace’s response? “The people fighting domestic abuse never approached me. Catherine [MacKinnon] was the first person to really approach me” says much about how she led her life. Dance with the one that brought you.
“What fascinates me about Linda,” Danville told me, “aside from the sexual acrobatics, is how much she permeated American pop culture.” In the ’70s, Lovelace introduced Led Zeppelin and Elton John at live concerts, was invited to the Oscars and attended the Ascot races. She was the first to do these things as a hardcore porn star.[snip]
“Four decades later, heavy-metal bands are still writing songs about her. It’s amazing how much crossover she’s had and how long it’s lasted,” Danville said, citing Chainsaw’s 2010 release “Ancient Evil, The Ballad of Linda Lovelace” and the recent rock opera Lovelace by Anna Waronker and Charlotte Caffey. Lovelace pops up in punk rock and country, in a neo-dada composition by Big Block 454, and gets name checked in the Elton John/George Michael duet “Wrap Her Up” (along with Nancy Reagan and Julie Andrews.)` Legendary jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson has been known to insert the endearing words, “Linda Lovelace thinks I’m obscene,” when performing that Tinpan Alley standard, “I Can’t Get Started.” Danville doesn’t sugarcoat musical history, though. He was quick to note that Deep Throat’s own hokey soundtrack created a regrettable template for future generations of porn.
Fenton Bailey, codirector with Randy Barbato of the documentary Inside Deep Throat, sees, in Lovelace’s relationship to pop culture, the seeds of reality TV. Deep Throat “introducing Linda Lovelace as herself” was a harbinger of manufactured reality, he said. Her melodramatic story, her rise and fall, these are the plots we now consume daily.
And then there’s the porn medium itself. “Throughout the history of civilization,” Bailey said, “the crucial role of pornography is to be a midwife of new emerging media. It represents the killer application. Far from being marginal,” he added, “pornography’s a vital civilizing force.”
“Viral” may be a better choice of word than “civilizing,” but there’s no denying porn is a vanguard evolver and mutator in the media biosphere. Can’t say I’m keen on seeing Lovelace, the arc of Linda Lovelace’s life too shabby and depressing to yield a rainbow at the end, and why we would need a cautionary tale at this late date is beyond me, though the prospect of James Franco in smoking jacket and jammies as Hugh Hefner is mildly tickling. When actor Adam Brody, who portrays Deep Throat Harry Reems (who pioneered the Seventies pornstar mustache), says the sex scenes are more American Pie than Lars von Trier, i.e, more comic slapstick than cosmic agon, that’s an anti-enticement for me, who has studiously avoided the American Pie franchise. Not that I consider that that makes me “better than you,” I’m just noting it for the record.