Golden Goddesses

Golden Goddesses
Front Cover: Serena

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Remembering Marilyn Chambers

Marilyn Chambers - Photo by Kenji
Marilyn Chambers passed away suddenly five years ago today. She is missed and remembered fondly not only by her fans, but by all of those who knew her well. In the summer of 2007, I interviewed Marilyn over the telephone for our biography, John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches. Marilyn's memories of Holmes were overwhelmingly positive -- she understood him. A year after "Inches" was published and Marilyn sadly passed away, I reread our interview and realized there was enough material that could hopefully serve as the foundation for a Chambers profile/chapter in Golden Goddesses. Though the book was still in its infancy stages, my conversation with Marilyn Chambers is what became the impetus to highlight twenty-five women from Marilyn's era. 
     When we spoke, Marilyn's honesty, her spirit, her introspection and her love for her daughter, McKenna, were the factors that came through, and I wanted to honour those elements when I began to piece together Marilyn's profile. Thanks to McKenna, and to documentarian Valerie Gobos, because of their input, I was able to finish the chapter.
     One of the most touching aspects of launching Golden Goddesses in Hollywood in November 2012, was having the opportunity to meet Marilyn's long time best friend, Peggy, and her husband Darcy. Peggy and Darcy are wonderful, salt of the earth people. I am happy and pleased that Marilyn and Peggy were able to share in one another's lives for as long as they did, and I greatly appreciate their support of the book, in addition to McKenna and Val.
     The following excerpts are condensed from chapter four, "Marilyn Chambers: Girl Next Door Goes Behind the Green Door." I'd like to thank Valerie Gobos for suggesting the chapter's title. It's what Marilyn would have wanted.

    Of all of the female stars to resonate with aficianados of the golden era of Adult, Marilyn Chambers towers above the rest. Legendary for her unbridled, sexual  eccentricities onscreen, Chambers' early years  offer a glimpse into her potential as a maven in her field.
     Born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1952, Marilyn Ann Briggs came from good stock. Chambers was actively involved in gymnastics and trained as a junior Olympic diver as a young teenage girl. At seventeen Marilyn travelled to New York and enlisted with the Wilhelmina Talent Agency where she was promptly sent on auditions for commercial and film work. Chambers won a small role as Robert Klein's girlfriend in The Owl and the Pussycat, a Barbara Streisand that also co-starred reputable actor George Segal. During this period, Marilyn was photographed for the now infamous Ivory Snow soapbox advertisement that surfaced just as her career as an adult actress emerged after she agreed to appear in Behind the Green Door (1972) for brothers Artie and Jim Mitchell. When the pair made her an offer to star in their production and engage in real sex on camera, Chambers flatly turned them down, but reconsidered when they agreed to pay her an impressive sum of money for her efforts. She never imagined that the filmmakers would meet her demands and terms.

Marilyn Chambers: "I did that because I didn't want to do the film. I thought, 'Okay, I'm really going to give them something they're going to say no to.' I said 'I'm from New York, Don't you know who I am? I'm not going to do that!' They were cool guus and and they were very foxy, very sly, you know? They had their shit together for a short period.
      I loved the Mitchell brothers. I loved Artie and Jim and still do today. They're like brothers. Tey gave me an opportunity to do something and I thought 'Okay, I'll do a couple of films for them and then I'll get out of it, and I'll be able to do stuff in Hollywood.' I agreed [to do the film] and I got a percentage [of the film's gross] for approximately ten years, and then it was over. That part of the contract I forgot to look at."

 "It's an interesting thing. For a very long time I've been obsessed about wanting to write a book or  doing a documentary about why people go into the porn business and is there a type of person. Whey did they do it? What was their childhood like? If you were getting your master's in psychology, this would be a great thesis. I have a lot of questions about my own life, but I had a great childhood. Something interjected in there though, to propel me in that direction whether it was outside forces or inner stuff. It would be an interesting topic to explore."

 "In Insatiable, I did the last scene with John [Holmes], and I remember Stu Segall, the director -- we were shooting this film in San Francisco. Stu days, 'We're going to pick John up at the airport.'
     I said, 'Okay, great.' I'm not sure if another person was there, but we got into the car and we drove to the airport, and we picked up John Holmes. I was so totally nervous. I'd heard so much about him. I was no afraid, but just totally shy like, 'Oh my god.' [John] and I were sitting in the back seat and we were talking, and I was just kind of looking at him in awe, going, 'God, this guy is really smart. He really is reasonably articulate.' He said that he was just kind of a country boy and that he was doing all of this so that he could live a normal life. He was so not the John Holmes that I thought he was going to be. He didn't come marching up going 'Hey! Move over bitch!' He was a meek, kind of  a gentle man. I thought, 'Oh, okay, is he going to be able to take control here in the scene?'"

"Insatiable is my favourite film. I looked the best. I felt the best. I felt the sexiest. It was like the prime of my life right there. That was a time when you saw me being totally sexual, everything was great. Everything was going my way and I just felt sexy, and I felt happy. I wasn't into drugs and alcohol. We partied, but that wasn't my life. I love that film, but the problem with the film industry is that they got so into 'Let's make it a story for women, so women will watch.' They they went overboard and the fims had too much story and too much talking, and these people can't act. Then it evolved into vignettes. There's a beginning -- a middle and an end. There's not this big, long story that you have to sit through. The filmmakers went from stag films to loops, to Behind the Green Door, which was very experiemental to an Insatiable type thing. -- back to almost loops, which were sort of life vignetters [as in] Marilyn Chambers' Private Fantasies, five fantasies in one film."

"When VHS came out that was a huge turning point. Because then people started shooting on video. You could be the straightest, staunchest person in the world, but this is a person’s human nature. They are curious about sex. Everybody has sexual fantasies. And the older I get, I believe you don’t want those fantasies. That’s a private thing that you do in your own home, or behind closed doors, unless you’re a swinger. Everybody doesn’t have to know what your sexual fantasies are. We are different people in this world. We are different people when we go to work. In a straight job, around the water cooler, you can’t say, ‘Oh yeah, we did this and that’ because it’s going to haunt you. Our generation, we just wanted to be free and live the way we wanted to, but that’s not how life works."

"The best thing that’s ever happened to me is my daughter. To be a Mom is the best thing in the world. You know, that’s all I ever really wanted to do after I had finished doing films."
Golden Goddesses: 25 Legendary Women of Classic Erotic Cinema,1968-1985 © 2012 Jill C. Nelson

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