Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Spotlight on Sharon Mitchell
Celebrated by classic porn fans for her tough, campy, androgynous persona, and daring on-camera predilections, Sharon’s childhood years were stamped with feelings of insecurity and confusion about her own sexuality and place in the world. Before the age of ten, Mitchell’s mother and father divorced prompting her mother to assume a position as assistant administrator of a hospital for the criminally insane. Her Hungarian grandmother was assigned the duty of co-raising the clever and auspicious child. To this day, Sharon claims that her grandmother championed her independence, and imparted pearls of wisdom to her young charge. Frustrated by her mother’s controlling ways and feelings of neglect brought on by her alcoholic father’s absence in her life, Sharon abruptly married at seventeen, but had the marriage annulled six months later. Never one to be bound by conventionality, Mitchell arrived on the New York scene in the mid-seventies while still a teen.
"I was out of diapers young and walking very quickly. I learned how to read very, very, young. I was extremely bright and I won some kind of contest when I was four years old for reading books. Other kids used to pick on me for being adopted. It was kind of confusing because my family always celebrated the day that they adopted me it was such a big deal. I always wondered if it was a big deal or if it was a curse. It just didn’t make that much difference to me. Interestingly, the Catholic Church, I believe, was the second largest white baby dealer in the United States during the 1950s, and they would charge ten thousand dollars for a white baby. They had all of these terms and conditions: you’d have to put the child through the Catholic school and donate lots of money until the child reached a certain age. There were other [alternative] adoption agencies, but apparently, you’d have to wait about ten years to get a white baby. For some reason, my parents wanted a white baby because it was the fifties, I don’t know. Every single month a nun would come around until I was about nine years old. You never knew when she was going to come, day or night. If they did not sufficiently believe a child was being cared for properly, they would take you back and reboot you out to somebody else."
"I got married at seventeen to get out of the house. He was a local guy who was a couple of years older than me. We were married for six months and then I left. I got the marriage annulled. However, I was legally emancipated. I could do whatever I wanted to do and went to New York on my own. I started working with Dorothy Palmer Agency, and Dorothy Palmer would book me on soap operas. Over the next seven years, I did a tremendous amount of bit parts in movies; talking parts in television and commercials. I did a lot of that while I was doing the adult entertainment. I was also a back-up singer, primarily in a band. I did a little bit of singing and a little bit of percussion."
"I did one of my first scenes with Jamie Gillis, and another young man (Russ Carlson) in Vanessa del Rio’s film That Lady from Rio. The director was trying to talk me into a double penetration or something and I had never even fucking heard of it you know. Jamie was like, “This girl just walked on the set. She has no idea.” I remember him arguing with the guy about that and he just kept saying, “You know what? Just listen to me. I’ll take care of you for a couple of months.” He could see that someone could have taken advantage of me. From that day forward, I worked with him in tons of films. He always watched out for me, and he was always a sweetheart and never judged me. We lived together from time to time and with other folks, and we shared apartments. I loved Jamie. Jamie was like the perverted father I always wanted to have. Jamie represented nothing but pure love for me: absolute, unequivocal, pure love. We all really looked out for each other. I used to babysit for Gloria Leonard. John Leslie, Jamie Gillis, Eric Edwards (Rob Everett), John Holmes, and Herschel Savage as well—those guys were just sort of my big brothers. We were the core of the industry. We were the Air Corps, the Marines, the fucking Navy, and everything else. We were it."
"There was a ton of money around in porn and I made up my mind that I was just going to stay working regardless of the type of work there was. There were two things I knew I didn’t want to do: one of them was prostitution, and the other one was being a waitress. I wanted to fucking avoid those two things. I was getting a lot of work as well. There wasn’t enough money to become a fulltime mainstream actress. I would have done it sure, but back then, porn was kind of a rotten thing to do. You had to walk into a theatre to watch porn because it wasn’t on TV back then; it wasn’t even on videotape. It was really a shocking thing to do porn which was part of the appeal for me. I was an anarchist, so it was a way to cause trouble and mayhem. It’s very funny, because at the same time I always maintained this sort of code of honor that I wouldn’t do certain things and I wouldn’t work for less than this, and so on and so forth. Those things got difficult to maintain especially toward the end when the industry was changing, and I was doing drugs and things like that, but I managed to not cross that line."
"You know people always ask me, “Was it heroin that drew you into porn?” It really wasn’t about one or the other. It’s just that I was experimenting with drugs ever since I could probably walk. I had been working every night literally, so when cocaine came along it kind of helped me stay awake. Heroin was the perfect drug for me and the good thing about it I was very careful, thank god. I never shared a needle and I was so secretive, I didn’t want anyone to know. There was nothing like heroin. There’s nothing that can compare to it before and very little since. It was something that took away any kind of anxiety or pain that was emotional or physical, or any type of chaos going in inside of my head ─ any type of feeling that I didn’t fit in. When I found that to go with the cocaine, I eventually dropped the cocaine."
"I became lonely for two reasons: I was a career porn star and that’s what I was. Pretty much everything legitimate had dropped off. I did a lot of adult films, but I would go out on the road dancing because you just can’t do that to your body. You can’t work in porn every day for months at a time. It’s exhausting and it’s just not healthy. I’d go out on the road for a while, and give myself a break and come back. The burlesque gave me a nice porthole to rest my other body parts and just stay toned, and stay in good shape, and obtain a fan base ─ all that good stuff. Today, doing porn is a stepping-stone toward prostitution as it used to be for women who wanted to get into the feature stripping business."
"We know that we are nice people, probably some of the nicest fucking people you’ll ever come across. We’ve raised each other’s kids and we’ve loaned each other money. We’ve been pals all these years. We’ve made our living; we didn’t hurt anybody. We’re not a bunch of fucking gangsters. We’ve evolved through a very tough period to struggle for what normalcy means to us. Whatever that means individually or collectively to us, and those of us who have survived it ─ you can’t find a better group of people."