Marilyn Chambers, 1952 – 2009

On Monday, we posted that adult film actress Marilyn Chambers had unexpectedly died April 12, just 10 short of her 57th birthday. Today, we pay homage to the legendary star.

Marilyn made her porn debut starring in the classic Behind the Green Door in 1972. Once filming had wrapped, she told the producers that she was the girl on the cover of Ivory Snow soap boxes, which she shot during her modeling days in New York. They billed her as such when the film was released, and once Proctor & Gamble found out about their cover girl’s new career, they quickly pulled Ivory Snow from store shelves. The controversy helped make Behind the Green Door one of the biggest adult film hits of its time.

And thus, a porn star was born. She was one of the biggest names in the industry in the ’70s and ’80s, and even crossed over, landing a lead role in David Cronenberg’s Rabid in 1977, however, mainstream success eluded her.

A quick rundown of her impact on the adult film industry:

  • She was one of the first porn stars to shave her pubes
  • Performed the first interracial sex scene in an American feature-length hardcore film
  • Insisted that her co-stars get tested for STDs, in the early ’70s, before people even thought to do that
  • One of the first women to demand, and receive a percentage of her film’s gross receipts

But beyond all of that, she was one of the first really famous female porn stars (aside from Linda Lovelace).

She recorded a few songs, too, one of which, “Shame on You,” was used as the theme for 1980’s Insatiable. Rich and I used it in an episode of Pot Psychology that we filmed with sexpert Susie Bright. Susie knew Marilyn personally (you can read her thoughts on Marilyn’s death on her site), and when Rich and I randomly began singing the song, Susie was surprised, and said that if Marilyn knew that two people—who were toddlers, and nowhere near thinking about porn, during the crest of her career—were singing her song, she’d be so touched. The idea of that made me smile.

Learning of her death just six weeks later saddened me, and I wonder if she knew that strangers like us (a straight girl and a gay guy who had no sexual interest in her) thought of her fondly, because of her work. Especially considering this interview with her, that appeared on the 2006 re-release of Insatiable, in which she admits that she’s kind of bitter about how things turned out for her. As Rich pointed out, it’s kind of like she’s giving her her own eulogy.

And while Marilyn expressed her displeasure with the porn industry (even though she continued to appear in such films, right up to the end), I don’t think it was the cause of her demise, nor do I think it reduced her life to a tragic, cautionary tale. In fact, if it weren’t for her films, most of us would never have gotten the chance to fall in love with her. Where ever she is now, I hope she now knows that there are people singing her song.

RIP, Marilyn [FourFour]
Remembering Marilyn Chambers – 1952 – 2009 [Susie Bright]

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