The Deep Throat Sex Scandal – a review

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So informative, animated, funny and wonderful was David Bertolino’s The Deep Throat Sex Scandal press opening at the Zephyr Theater tonight, that I had to come right home after the show and start my review while it’s still fresh in my mind.

The story follows its narrator, Harry Reems, from his humble pre-porn beginnings as an actor, through the stressful, alcohol-laden end of his court affair over the highly controversial “porn chic” 1972 movie, Deep Throat. Though there is an alternating cast, this night found Marc Ginsburg portraying Harry Reems with infectious charm and panache; definitely a strong leading actor.

The highlights are many.

Michael Rachlis plays dual characters that both get a meaty amount of stage time.

The first is “Minute Man”, an actor who makes money on the side shooting adult content–or “loops”, as they were called then–and suggests fellow actor Reems’ also give adult performance a go for some extra cash. His energy as a youthful stud would make it an easy guess that maybe the role is more or less an extension of Rachlis’ own personality; not necessarily a big acting stretch per se. That is until he moves into the more character-driven role of Bruce Kramer, Reems’ attorney during the Memphis, Tennessee trial. Rachlis carries a good deal of the show, making each role distinct with unassuming, charismatic appeal.

Natasha Charles Parker plays a timid, adorable Linda Lovelace. With a squeaky voice and soft smile, she portrays Lovelace through the lens of Linda’s biography Ordeal, in which Lovelace’s then-husband Chuck Traynor is a tyrant who exercises total control over her at every possible moment–sometimes completely disturbing scene shots in order to do so. Together, with Alec Tomkiw as Traynor, they deliver the background story of Deep Throat through uncomfortable on-set moments, off-set violence and Lovelace’s eventual escape.

Veronica Hart plays Shana Babcock, Mona and “Salon Lady”. All of her fans know Veronica Hart is an amazing actress. She’s amazing at everything she does, but it was thrilling to see a show like this showcase her talents as a performer. She landed the judge role in Boogie Nights in 1997, and played the stoic part flawlessly, but it was a real thrill to see her range so brilliantly displayed in this presentation. “Salon Lady” is her smallest role of the show, with just a moment of stage time in the play, but it’s a gem of a moment.

Herschel Savage–another great acting talent from adult–plays Gerry Damiano and Alan Dershowitz. He’s amazing in both roles, but particularly as eccentric director/hairdresser Gerry Damiano. Bart Tangredi delivers a convincing mob character as Vito, and then briefly plays Charles Keating.

To say Frank Blocker had a memorable moment as federal prosecutor Larry Parrish is an understatement. The audience was howling as Blocker delivered, with incredible bravado, a long and positively Biblical description of Lovelace’s deep throat scene with Harry Reems to a mock courtroom jury. It is the end of a closing statement Reems’ character remembers as ‘lasting for hours’, and also one that would find Harry Reems guilty on charges of conspiracy to distribute obscenity across state lines. Whether or not Parrish actually delivered those words and exactly in that way, it’s a priceless scene that should find it’s way to a video recording. It’s practically a religious experience.

There was a certain amount of well-placed nudity the actors pulled off as effortfully and unselfconsciously as any seasoned adult performer. The music selection was well-chosen. Bruce Vilanch had an unscriptedly funny cameo appearance as Tennessee Judge Joel J. Tyler, and Sally Kirkland stole the show with her cameo as the theatre “Ticket Lady”. All together it was very well done.

Rebecca Bardoux and a few notable mainstream celebrities were among those in attendance. Ron Jeremy was scheduled to make an appearance, but he’s recovering from surgery–and I hear he’s recovering nicely. He was definitely on our minds and in our conversations, married with wishes for a speedy recovery. Ron, you were sorely missed.

One theater-goer expressed concern that the Lovelace portrayal might further cloud non-adult audience’s perception of the industry today, but I think audiences are savvy enough these days to know that’s not true and to take a philosophical stance on events as they happened that long ago. The criminal element in adult and Lovelace’s story are now apart of porn lore. Tales of mafia involvement in early Las Vegas and early Hollywood are legend; part of American history and a fading past in the wake of business-legitimizing corporations.

Linda Lovelace was an anomaly. I respect her story through Ordeal, and look forward to the movie, Lovelace, but also see hers as a life whose truth likely lies somewhere between the worlds of adult and anti-porn feminism, with honorable and shady people on both sides. Ultimately, I respect it as part of the complicated and important history that is the American Adult Entertainment Industry.

Congratulations to David Bertolino and director Jerry Douglas for a fantastic production! I’m already anticipating my next visit to the Zephyr.


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Author: Julie Meadows

Francophile, oenophile, French Scrabble advocate and future zombie apocalypse survivor.

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