Saturday, November 01, 2008

Bava Book Wins International Horror Guild Award!

The INTERNATIONAL HORROR GUILD AWARDS for WORKS from 2007

NOVEL
The Terror. Dan Simmons (Little, Brown & Company)

FICTION COLLECTION
Dagger Key and Other Stories. Lucius Shepard (PS Publishing)

LONG FICTION
Softspoken. Lucius Shepard (Night Shade Books)

MID-LENGTH FICTION
"Closet Dreams". Lisa Tuttle (Postscripts 10: PS Publishing)

SHORT FICTION
"Honey in the Wound". Nancy Etchemendy (The Restless Dead: Candlewick Press)

ANTHOLOGY
Inferno. Ellen Datlow, editor (Tor)

NON-FICTION
Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark. Tim Lucas (Video Watchdog)

PERIODICAL
Postscripts. Peter Crowther & Nick Gevers, editors (PS Publishing)

ILLUSTRATED NARRATIVE
The Nightmare Factory. Thomas Ligotti (creator/writer), Joe Harris & Stuart Moore (writers), Ben Templesmith, Michael Gaydos, Colleen Doran & Ted McKeever

ART
Elizabeth McGrath for "The Incurable Disorder", Billy Shire Fine Arts, December 2007

PETER STRAUB, named earlier as the year's LIVING LEGEND, was honored in an essay by Stefan R. Dziemianowicz (http://horroraward.org/peter_straub.html or download as a document: http://horroraward.org/peter_straub.doc.)

About The IHG Awards

The International Horror Guild Awards recognized outstanding achievements in the field of Horror and Dark Fantasy. Nominations are derived from recommendations made by the public and the judges knowledge of the field.

The IHG Living Legend Award is determined solely by the judges. Living Legends are individuals who have made meritorious and notable contributions and/or have substantially influenced the field of horror/ dark fantasy. Previous recipients are Ramsey Campbell, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Gahan Wilson, Stephen King, Richard Bleiler, Charles L. Grant, William F. Nolan, Alice Cooper, Ray Bradbury, Clive Barker, Hugh B. Cave, Edward W. Bryant, Richard Matheson, and Harlan Ellison.

Edward Bryant, Stefan R. Dziemianowicz, Ann Kennedy Vandermeer, and Hank Wagner adjudicated for the final award year of 2007. William Sheehan and Fiona Webster have also served as judges. Paula Guran administered the award beginning in 1996. The awards were overseen by a non-profit corporation, The Mirabundus Project, Inc.

For additional information on the International Horror Guild, please contact info@horroraward.org.
_______________

Donna and I are honored and delighted by this wonderful news! We extend our heartfelt thanks to the IHG judges and membership, and our congratulations to all the other recipients and nominees!

Friday, October 31, 2008

In Heaven and Hell With You


I've been listening almost exclusively to Siouxsie and the Banshees for the last couple of weeks. Halloween seems an appropriate time to write something about them, and about Siouxsie Sioux in particular, given that a song entitled "Halloween" figures so prominently in their discography.

In my opinion, no other British group of the post-punk era underwent such dramatic metamorphoses or so thoroughly explored their potential as a recording unit as Siouxsie and the Banshees. Their albums were strong and intelligently sequenced, their singles (collected as ONCE UPON A TIME and TWICE UPON A TIME) were glorious, and their B-sides (collected in the box set DOWNSIDE UP) were a laboratory for fascinating experimentation. Siouxsie herself was such a compelling figure, so obviously a creature of theater and so sleekly photogenic in their videos, I find it incredible, even outrageous to this day that no one ever approached her to act in features. And when harrowing flipsides like "Umbrella" started turning up, I couldn't understand why at least one enterprising horror director out there didn't have the brain to put them in harness right away as the Anglo answer to Goblin. They were not ones for standing still; they went through guitarists like Kleenex (The Cure's Robert Smith moonlighted with them briefly), but their core guitar sound was essentially defined from the get-go by original six-stringer John McKay and later refined when the extraordinary John McGeoch joined the Banshees for three of their most beloved albums (KALEIDOSCOPE, JUJU and A KISS IN THE DREAMHOUSE). Even with later guitarists on board, they were a powerhouse live band, driven by Budgie's thundrous drum sound and one of the most original and authoritative female figureheads a rock band has ever had.

I had the good fortune to see them live once; it was good fortune because Siouxsie and the Banshees never came to Cincinnati, but they happened to be playing in Washington DC in May 1986, on the day after a wedding we attended there. It was a funny situation: we were staying with the friends who got married, who had already been living together for awhile. Donna didn't want to go, but the bride did, but the bride was supposed to be honeymooning, so Donna ended up using my spare ticket under duress. We were strangers to Washington, didn't know where the Warner Theater was, but as we wandered around, people with pink mohawks and chained leatherware began to appear, so I suggested we just follow them. I had seen a number of punk and post-punk acts in Cincinnati, but here people never dressed the act -- you couldn't particularly tell a Ramones audience from a Jackson Browne audience by sight in Cincinnati. This concert was my only direct exposure to anything like an authentic punk audience, and I found their style and energy stimulating, but once the show was over, Donna wanted to get out of there pretty fast, so we did.
Apart from a little accident at the outset when the theater's heavy velvet curtains opened too swiftly, causing a backdraft that sent one right into Budgie's thundering drum kit, the performance was impeccably played with all three musicians giving their all. (I saw them with John Valentine Carruthers on guitar, whose gleaming work on "Cities in Dust" and "92 Degrees" is as definitive as anything they did with McGeoch.) I had seen only very early performance footage of the group at that time and was particularly impressed by how Siouxsie had matured as a live performer. She, who had started out shaking her fists and thumbing her nose and goosestepping across the stage, danced sinuously like an art nouveau Salomé, till the show climaxed with her somersaulting through stage fog while singing "Eve Black/Eve White," one of her many songs of fractured personality, this one inspired by THE THREE FACES OF EVE.
The classic group's only official live video release, NOCTURNE, captures them at an earlier point in time (with Robert Smith still aboard) but playing a similar set list; I recommend it, especially for the show-stopping "Night Shift," a grippingly dolorous dirge that opened Side 2 of JUJU and somehow became the cathartic centerpiece of every concert they played thereafter. (There's a circulating 1981 Cologne show that finds Siouxsie urging her catatonic audience to stand up, dance, do something, explaining "We're just a pop group" -- and then launching into this song.) Siouxsie and the Banshees were also, among other things, a highly film-literate band, even opening TINDERBOX's "92 Degrees" with a sound byte from IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE ("Did you know that more murders are committed at 92 degrees fahrenheit than any other temperature? I read an article once... At lower temperatures, people are easygoing; over 92, it's too hot to move, but just 92, people get irritable!!!")
I'm glad I had the chance to see them play when I did, because they began losing their appeal for me with their next album, the covers collection THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS. Their best remaining song, "Peek-A-Boo," was reportedly based on the master tape of one of their earlier songs... played backwards. That they could turn something so rooted in the outré into their only US chart hit testifies to their gifts of invention, even at this late stage. They disbanded after their 1995 album THE RAPTURE, with Siouxsie and Budgie (who married in 1991) focusing their attentions thereafter on the side project, The Creatures. The way groups end often colors the way we feel about them in retrospect, and the way Siouxsie and the Banshees slowly succumbed to overproduction, revolving door personnel and divided attentions meant that I spent a good deal of the past decade not listening very much to the many wonderful songs and albums they gave us.
This latest Banshees binge of mine got underway strangely. I hit a wall in a writing project and felt a depression coming on, so I decided to meet it head-on by listening to "Swimming Horses" from the HYAENA album. Of all the group's recorded work, this is the one song that never fails to get under my skin, and it's been known to induce blue moods in me that last for days -- blue but somehow delicious. In this case, however, I administered it to myself as a kind of antigen -- before the depression could take hold, I hoped the song would. Surprisingly, it worked. I then loaded all of my Siouxsie CDs onto my iPod and found that, despite the music's sometimes dark imagery, its propulsive drumming and spider-woven guitar lines and the sheer gusto of Siouxsie's bellowing combined into something quite energizing and uplifting. It's been a good companion.

In the course of this latest immersion in the Banshees, I read some things and discovered that Siouxsie and Budgie divorced awhile ago and disbanded The Creatures, and that Siouxsie released her first solo album, MANTARAY, last year. She's still a handsome woman, and the album finds her still in strong voice, and noticeably less guarded about showing her tender side. (What's next, a sense of humor?) It's a good album, opening with "Into A Swan," a pounding ode to impending personal transformation -- a theme also reflected in song titles like "About to Happen", "Here Comes That Day" and "If It Doesn't Kill Me." The instrumental sound of the album is percussive techno-cabaret, appropriately fantasmagorical but with a array of instrumentation whose broad musical palette recalls A KISS IN THE DREAMHOUSE. But hearing Siouxsie's voice severed from the tantric, flangey, tidal swell of The Banshees sometimes brings about in actuality the sense of dislocation that she often sang about on the albums she made with The Banshees in the late '70s and '80s. The ever-fluctuating flavors of the record's instrumental backing gradually ring hollow (or at least fickle) over the course of ten songs, failing to provide in visceral anchoring what it delivers in varietal color. Of all the tracks, "Into A Swan" and "They Follow You" come closest to capturing a classic yet distinctively fresh Siouxsie sound. Vocally and instrumentally, MANTARAY is an inventive album, though it falls short of being a wholly convincing or coalescent one. Siouxsie's voice needs to backed by stronger personalities, and I hope her next solo album finds her sounding just as bold but less alone.
To help set the mood for your holiday festivities, I leave you with Siouxsie performing the aforementioned "Halloween" with the classic Banshees lineup of Steve Severin (bass), the late John McGeoch (guitar) and Budgie (drums).

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Grace Slick @ 69

Grace Slick, self portrait.
Somewhere in California, I suppose, Grace Slick is celebrating her 69th birthday today -- and if she's not, because she has it in that fool head of hers that old people don't look good when they're making music or having fun, well... I'll celebrate for her.
I first saw and heard Grace singing "Somebody To Love" and "White Rabbit" on radio and television a bit earlier in life, when Jefferson Airplane's SURREALISTIC PILLOW album was climbing the charts, but they didn't become my favorite band until I saw them play live on National Public Television in two hour specials that aired in 1970. Those two shows, "San Francisco Rock: A Night at the Family Dog" and "Go Ride the Music", were released on DVD this year to little notice but, after decades of having to contend with bleary, jittery dupes, these clean and steady presentations (with remixed 5.1 mono sound) are godsends. These shows don't just represent the ground zero of my nearly lifelong love affair with Jefferson Airplane; they embody the moment I became obsessed with live music recordings -- savoring the ways in which live performance differs from studio recordings. As good as their studio albums were and are, live performance was everything to Jefferson Airplane. Witness this sample from "A Night at the Family Dog" -- where I also fell in love with Jack Casady's electric bass.
The way Grace Slick presided over Jefferson Airplane's initial media blitzkrieg, with her soaring contralto painting powerful Cassandra-like visions of the drug-amplified mind, I had assumed that she was the band's lead singer. In fact, she had replaced the group's initial female vocalist, Signe Anderson, who had been granted only one solo number and generally sang backup. Grace left her initial band, The Great Society, to join the Airplane and brought with her the two numbers she proceeded to make world-famous with them. Marty Balin, the group's mellow-voiced founder and actual lead singer, can be seen in footage of these early TV appearances huddled over an electric piano he's not playing, looking like the odd man out. Marty's persona as a singer was romantic and persuasive, almost feminine, and Grace complemented him with rock's first non-melodic female voice, whose value lay in its conveyance of a power that went beyond masculine into something nearer the prophetic or the godly. Finding herself the unwitting focal point in a band she'd just joined, Grace was sensitive to Marty's feelings and refused to allow either of her original contributions to the follow-up album, AFTER BATHING AT BAXTER'S, to go out as the A-sides of their next singles. As a result, Jefferson Airplane stopped being a singles band overnight and became one of the first true avatars of AOR (album oriented rock).
In addition to being beautiful, smart, sassy, sexy and a distinctive vocalist, Grace was one of the most original songwriters of her time: "Rejoyce" reduced Joyce's ULYSSES to a four minute song, "Eskimo Blue Day" and her remarkable live vocal improv on "Bear Melt" were impressionistic ecology, and "Hey Fredrick" and "Across the Board" are two of the most unflinching songs about sex ever recorded. She's underrated as a keyboardist and still generally an unknown quantity as a guitarist, though I've heard a tape of her playing acoustic guitar that proved her at least as adept at the instrument as the Airplane's rhythm guitarist Paul Kantner -- the father of her only child, former MTV veejay China Kantner. But, in a band also featuring Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, the last thing the Airplane needed was another guitarist.

My favorite photo of Grace, circa 1969, from the inner sleeve of Paul Kantner's BLOWS AGAINST THE EMPIRE album.

Over the years, I've done my best to celebrate my love for Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane in some tangible form -- I've finished the work but haven't been able to share it with the public as yet. Last year, I wrote an entire book about Jefferson Airplane's 1968 album CROWN OF CREATION that I hoped Continuum Press would publish in their "33 & 1/3" series; to date, they haven't. (They will start considering new submissions within the coming weeks and I will try, try again.) Before that, I wrote a four-hour script entitled JEFFERSON AIRPLANE: LOVE & HAIGHT, which told the band's entire story with founder Marty Balin as its protagonist and Grace Slick as its accidental antagonist. When more than a year passed without interest from anyone, I took my agent's advice and rewrote the script as a regular feature focusing on Grace. I had lots of ideas for people who could play Grace, ranging from Leelee Sobieski to Pink to Sarah Silverman, but the word that came back after all my troubles is that Grace and the Airplane weren't sufficiently well-known to have a movie made about them.

Excuse me? We're talking about the band that headlined at Woodstock and supported the Rolling Stones at Altamont, the band that Ed Sullivan and LIFE Magazine called "the top rock group in America." Grace herself was ranked #20 on VH1's 100 GREATEST WOMEN OF ROCK 'N' ROLL special. We're also talking about an industry that has made TV-movies about bands like Sweetwater and The Monkees. But be that as it may.

In honor of Grace's birthday, I've decided to post -- for the first time anywhere -- the first five pages of my unproduced Grace Slick biopic screenplay. Maybe someday we'll all be able to see the rest. In the meantime, enjoy.

INT. SUBURBAN LIVING ROOM - DAY
Caption: San Francisco, 1946.

Two little, dimpled hands carefully place a 78 rpm record on an RCA Victrola turntable and lower the heavy needle onto its spinning grooves.

Cue: “Three Little Maids from School Are We” from THE MIKADO, by Gilbert & Sullivan (any version dating from the period).

CLOSE SHOT of an ornate, black, Spanish-style fan fluttering. As the words of the song emerge from the crackles of the worn recording, the fan lowers to reveal the face of a plump little GIRL, six or seven years old, covered in heavy Geisha-style makeup which she has obviously applied herself. This is the YOUNG GRACE SLICK.

YOUNG GRACE (pantomiming)
Three little maids from school are we,
Pert as a school-girl well can be,
Filled to the brim with girlish glee,
Three little maids from school!

Her middle-class MOTHER and FATHER sit on the living room couch, looking more dumb-struck than entertained.

The little girl is wearing a fox stole and one of her mother’s dresses, which drags along the ground as she moves in a child’s version of grown-up choreography.

YOUNG GRACE (cont’d, pantomiming)
Everything is a source of fun!
Nobody’s safe, we care for none!
Life is a joke that’s just begun!
Three little maids from school!

INT. HIGH SCHOOL CORRIDOR - DAY
Caption: Palo Alto High School, 1954.
Three 13 YEAR OLD GIRLS are carrying their books to class. Two of the girls are cute, blonde and shapely, but the third is dark-haired, moody, flat-chested and pudgy.

SCHOOL MAID #1
He’s in my chemistry class! Talk about chemistry! Isn’t he the dreamiest?
SCHOOL MAID #2
I wish he’d asked me to the dance before Darryl did.
SCHOOL MAID #1
Greedy!
SCHOOL MAID #2
How about you, Gracie?
TEENAGE GRACE
Don't call me that. I hate that.
SCHOOLMAID #2
Okay, but who’s taking you to the prom?
TEENAGE GRACE
Jack Shit.
SCHOOL MAID #2
You mean nobody asked you?
TEENAGE GRACE
Nobody sees blonde hair and big boobs when they look at me. What’s left? Funny knees and a smart mouth?
SCHOOL MAID #1
You don’t have to be blonde or have... a womanly figure to get a boy, Gracie.
TEENAGE GRACE(irritated)
Oh, yeah?
SCHOOL MAID #1
No. You just need to make... an impression.
SCHOOL MAID #1 bats her eyes at a passing BOY, who crashes into an open locker door.
Cue: “Greasy Heart” by Jefferson Airplane.
A distorted sting of electric guitar grows in volume, sounding larger and larger until...

TITLE SEQUENCE - VARIOUS CONCERT STAGES
The adult GRACE SLICK is seen performing “Greasy Heart” onstage with JEFFERSON AIRPLANE.
She is dressed in an elegant, pearly white, silk pantsuit with loose sleeves and neckline, low white pumps. Her classically simple apparel offers minimal distraction from her long dark hair, icy blue eyes and porcelain Nordic features. She’s like a haute couture model, but scary as well; she’s like the 1960s prototype of a Goth punk.
Periodically throughout the song, Grace’s wardrobe changes.
GRACE(singing)
Lady, you keep asking why he likes you
How come?
Now she’s wearing a Girl Scout’s uniform...
Wonder why he wants more
If he’s just had some
Now a nun’s habit, wielding a crucifix...
Boys, she’s got more to play with
In the way of... toys

Now a loose-woven, see-through black net blouse with pockets over her nipples, complemented by a black leather miniskirt and thigh-high leather boots...
Lady’s eyes go off and on
With a finger full of glue
Her lips are torn apart
Her face in come-to-me-tattoo
Now she’s performing with black makeup covering every exposed inch of her skin. She thrusts a fist into the air in a Black Power salute...
Creamy suntan color that
Fades
When she
Bathes
Now she’s in Adolph Hitler drag, a little square mustache cut out of black paper stuck on under her nose...
Paper dresses catch on fire!
And you lose her in the haze
With wicked alacrity, she makes a warning “Sieg heil!” gesture to her audience, cautioning them...
Don't ever change people
Even if you can!

The stage is now covered in orange smoke. Grace emerges from the fog dressed in “Bride of Frankenstein” mode. Her hair is jagged, spiky, like an aurora of electricity. Her hands, moving mechanically, scratch at the air like robo-claws.
You’re your own best toy
To play with
Remote control hands
Made for each other

As before, a CLOSE SHOT of an elaborate Japanese fan, which drops to reveal the adult Grace in full Geisha makeup and apparel.

Made in Japan!
Woman with a greasy heart
Auto-matic man
Don't ever change people!
Your face will hit the fan

She whacks the side of her powdered face with the fan, and we return to the white pantsuit:
Don't... ever change people
Even if you can!
Don't change before the empire falls


EXT. LOMBARD STREET - DAWN

As the song continues, Grace (circa 1972) is laughing and drinking from a bottle of Jack Daniels while speeding down Lombard Street in San Francisco, where it turns into Doyle Drive in the vicinity of the Golden Gate Bridge. She must be going over 100 miles per hour.

You'll laugh so hard
You'll crack the walls
Grace loses control of the vehicle, which spins and crashes into a wall as the last word hangs in the air, resonating.
FADE TO BLACK.

Grace today. Anybody want to buy a painting?

Jefferson Airplane's manager Bill Thompson read my script (which was informed by my own research, as well as Jeff Tamarkin's fine book GOT A REVOLUTION! THE TURBULENT FLIGHT OF JEFFERSON AIRPLANE) and told me it was pretty accurate. For now, though, it's in a drawer.

Grace, whose tongue-in-cheek song "Silver Spoon" once extolled the joys of carnivorous living (including cannibalism), is today a practicing vegan. A previously unreleased recording called "Surprise Surprise," featuring her, appears on the new Jefferson Starship release JEFFERSON'S TREE OF LIBERTY, but she has been retired from music for many years and now devotes her time to painting. I like the pretty storybook quality of her art, but it doesn't begin to compare to the cutting edge brilliance of her voice or the songs she wrote. Grace says that she continues to write and record songs at home on the piano for her own amusement, and I hope to hear some of them someday. There have been reports of health problems in recent years, but she continues to appear at gallery shows to promote her art. For now, I'm simply glad that she's still with us and that the possibility of new work from her still exists.

Happy Birthday, Grace. You made an impression.

Tomorrow: Some Halloween thoughts on one of Grace's greatest stylistic descendants... Siouxsie Sioux.

COTTONMOUTH Debuts Tonight

At the tolling of Midnight...

Tonight...

Go here, Trick or Treaters, for the World Premiere of COTTONMOUTH, a new and terrifying film short by Christopher P. Garetano, based on Stephen R. Bissette's classic horror comic, which originally appeared in the pages of GORESHRIEK and TABOO.

And here's a link to Steve's own intensive account of the project's history.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Redder Than Ever and Less Deserted

Monica Vitti, l'adoro.

Last night I had the pleasure of screening BFI's new high-definition import disc of Michelangelo Antonioni's RED DESERT [Il deserto rosso, 1964] and came away with the unusual feeling that I had finally seen a beautiful woman captured in the Blu-ray format.

Of course, Monica Vitti isn't the first beautiful woman to be showcased in Blu-ray, but my own appreciation of beauty involves a woman's faults and flaws, her intensity, her fun, her mystery. Till now, I never came away from a Blu-ray experience with so many details of femininity left to savor. The freckles on her back. The fainter freckles on her cheekbones, sublimated by powder. The intoxicating auburn swell of her hair. The zipper down the back of her green dress. The wrinkling of her beige nylons. The way she gives herself to the camera, and what she withholds from the camera. The impish delight with which she bites into a quail egg when she's told it's an aphrodesiac. It's no wonder that Roger Corman once cited Monica Vitti as his favorite actress. Blu-ray brings us so close to her that we can feel all the warmth of this alleged Ice Princess of the northern Italian intelligentsia, and this startling access into her humanity brings us into deeper intimate contact with the anxieties she portrays. The film itself consequently becomes more powerful because the presentation excuses the iconography and lets us become involved with her as a flesh-and-blood being, alienated by a once-rural landscape that, with its foregrounded miniatures and electronic music, has creepily transformed into something like the alien spookscapes of Mario Bava's Terrore nello spazio.

I first saw RED DESERT (very much a science fiction film, I think) many years ago when it was released in a much inferior DVD presentation by Image Entertainment. I'd heard that the film marked an important advance in the use of color onscreen, but the Image disc did little to show why this was so. Consequently, I have long chalked the film up as my least favorite of the Big Antonionis. Today I feel quite differently. The BFI disc makes the film's innovative uses of color quite conspicuous, as it also does with what was gained from its use of heavy grain and shots lensed out of focus. Unfortunately, the richer presentation can do nothing to get the starch out of Richard Harris, whose dubbed performance isn't half the obstacle of the sheer two-dimensional look of him. Every time Harris appeared onscreen, I couldn't help thinking how much RED DESERT could have used the readier warmth and self-abandon of Antonioni's ZABRISKIE POINT compatriot Rod Taylor.

The movie's unusually understated climax did nothing to resolve my concerns for Vitti's Giulietta, whose expressed wish that everyone who ever loved her might form a wall around her is, I must confess, a yearning I have sometimes felt myself. For this reason, RED DESERT will probably now become one of those movies I revisit, less for cinematic reasons than because I found them inhabited by a kindred spirit -- like the calls I sometimes make on the spur of the moment to friends I've fallen out of touch with, to compare notes on how life has been treating us. Of course, Giuliana's fate will not change, but that's beside the point, because neither will mine.

RED DESERT is also available as a standard definition disc, also from BFI.

JVC Presses Eject

Yesterday was an historic day -- according to this sobering report from VW's own Sam Umland.

Monday, October 27, 2008

DEEP THROAT Director Damiano Dies

Director Gerard Damiano as seen in the 2005 documentary INSIDE DEEP THROAT.

One of my favorite cultural blogs, Jahsonic, is reporting the death of Gerard Damiano, the notorious director of DEEP THROAT, at the age of 80. Further online research shows that he died Saturday night, October 25, of complications from a stroke.
To call Damiano a writer-producer-director would be cutting him short: he was also an editor-production designer-actor-composer-cable carrier and special effects guy. He wasn't the most polished filmmaker of his generation, as he freely admitted, but no one could accuse him of being uninventive within his means. While most other adult filmmakers were thinking exclusively about different ways to showcase the sexual act, Damiano brought a wealth of imagination to a genre that didn't require it. In the process, he extended the possibilities of sex onscreen and underscored the value of fantasy and imagination in the meeting of two (or more) bodies.
As the prime mover behind DEEP THROAT, he created the most famous adult film of all time, a picture that scored regular mentions in its day on THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JOHNNY CARSON and ROWAN & MARTIN'S LAUGH-IN, later lent its name to a significant supporting player in the uncovering of the Watergate scandal, and continues to be a subject of interest and controversy almost forty years later. I'm reminded that my "Throat Sprockets," the graphic novel chapter that appeared in the debut issue of Stephen R. Bissette's TABOO, was bootlegged in Spanish under the title "Garganta Profunda" -- meaning "Deep Throat." (This annoyed me because it suggested to Spanish readers that my storyline was about a protagonist having a vampiric reaction to seeing Damiano's film!) I don't know that Jerry Damiano can be said to have changed the world, but his work certainly had an impact that is still being felt.
Damiano isn't often credited as a fantasy director, but his XXX cinema was pregnant, shall we say, with fantasy: THE MAGICAL RING (1971), THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES (1973), MEMORIES WITHIN MISS AGGIE (1974, which featured a ghost), LET MY PUPPETS COME (1976, which is exactly what it sounds like), ODYSSEY: THE ULTIMATE TRIP (1977), the sf diptych THE SATISFIERS OF ALPHA BLUE (1980) and RETURN TO ALPHA BLUE (1984), NIGHT HUNGER (1983) and, of course, DEEP THROAT (1972) itself. Just before working with Linda Lovelace changed his life, Damiano also took a stab at a "legitimate" (non-porn) horror film, LEGACY OF SATAN (1972, released 1974).
In 2005, Damiano was interviewed for the Brian Glazer-produced INSIDE DEEP THROAT, a major studio documentary about the phenomenon of that film's original release. For reasons that are now hard to fathom, DEEP THROAT briefly captured America's imagination and made hardcore pornography not only acceptable but chic. I remember this period particularly well because, in the mid-1970s, at a time when the film could not be screened here in Cincinnati (as indeed it probably still can't), a 16mm collecting friend loaned a print of DEEP THROAT to Donna and me -- yes, the first and last time I saw the film was on the living room wall of our first apartment. Donna was working a day job at a local hospital at the time, and the film was such a tantalizing part of the zeitgeist that she had no problem with inviting a select group of female co-workers to a private screening at our apartment. Sadly, my presence at this gathering was not welcome, but Donna gave me a very entertaining recap of everyone's comments during the screening after her guests went home. Within the last couple of years, we confided this story to a couple of other local friends, who surprised us by admitting that they, too, once had possession of a 16mm print and used to screen it for their friends!
While I don't think DEEP THROAT itself is anything to "write home about" (and neither did Damiano, apparently), what was written home about it makes for a fascinating time capsule, and this makes INSIDE DEEP THROAT is well worth seeing. It's also a humbling... nay, devastating exposé of the illusory nature of fame and the personal costs that are all too frequently paid for even a fleeting taste of the limelight.
The most inspired title of Damiano's zany career: 1989's SPLENDOR IN THE ASS.