Golden Goddesses

Golden Goddesses
Front Cover: Serena

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Tribute: Gloria Leonard was not just a Porn Star ~ (1940-2014)

Photo by Kenneth Brewster
In March 2010, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gloria Leonard for Golden Goddesses. I had admired and respected Leonard since I first became aware of her while co-researching and writing "A Life Measured in Inches," and knew that once I began work on "Goddesses," I wanted to profile Gloria in her own chapter.
     Delighted when she accepted my request for an interview (I have to thank Seka again for being instrumental in this process as she alerted the "Club 90" girls about my intentions for the book), we set a date to talk on the phone while Gloria was still living in Florida.
     In June 2012, I, along with two friends, had the opportunity to spend time with Gloria in New York during a private gathering with friends on a boat. It was a wonderful, memorable afternoon. Gloria was lively, hilariously funny, and full of great stories. She looked beautiful. Three months after the book was published, Gloria sent me a touching note. In January 2013, she wrote:
'So far, I haven't been able to put it down - have just hit my chapter (love the name you gave it). Just wanted you to know how grateful I personally am to have been included but more than that, am blown away by the amount of work you invested in the project. Over the years, I have granted interviews to dozens of so-called writers only to never see a single thing in print so am particularly thrilled to have "Golden Goddesses" in my hot little hands.  I am grateful for your insights and hard work.
Love Gloria'
Last evening, I learned the sad news that Gloria Leonard passed away in her 74th year. In her memory and honour, I have updated her profile on this blog, with added excerpts from her chapter (see below). Adult film historian and friend, Bill Margold, is credited for her chapter's title, appropriately named: Gloria Leonard: The Grand Damndest of them All.
May you rest in peace, Ms. Leonard. You will be forever missed.  ♥
Excerpted from Chapter 8: Gloria Leonard: The Grand Damndest of them All
'Gloria Leonard is considered by her contemporaries as the highly esteemed “Grand Dame” of the Golden Era of pornographic movies. Now in her 71st year, Gloria still possesses razor sharp wit, intimidating intelligence, beauty and savvy. As a fiercely independent woman who entered adult films at the ripe age of 35, Leonard's verbal dissertation about her life, career, and the world around her is delivered with delicious deprecating humor that would make her teenage mentor, Lenny Bruce, smile in his grave...'

Gloria Leonard: Contrary to the stereotypical perceptions out there, nobody was every drugged and dragged off of the streets. The only person whom I ever hated was Linda Lovelace because, even in her book [Ordeal] and when she spoke publicly, she would always bring up the fact that a gun was held to her head when they were making Deep Throat (1972). But what she would neglect to include was that the gun was not held by anybody involved with the actual production, rather than by her boyfriend [Chuck Traynor], a lousy choice in men that she made. That always pissed me off that she wasn’t totally forthcoming about the circumstances. Marilyn Chambers was a very honest gal, whereas Linda adopted this kind of ‘I’m a victim’ and ‘poor me’ attitude and wound up having all of these hardcore, humorless feminists supporting her.

I earned quite a good living, by the way, specifically in the ‘80s, literally speaking at dozens of colleges and universities, very often debating the so-called, "feminists.'  My thinking was, if the bottom line of the feminist movement is for women to be able to choose whatever they want to do without any repercussions, well, shit, that’s what I’m doing. You should be cheering me on, not wagging your fingers at me.

I am somebody who was at the forefront of what was considered as a rebellious and radical industry, that is now quite commonplace. I feel we championed free speech and freedom for people to do what they want and to watch what they want.

Working in the adult industry has given me an opportunity to meet people that I would otherwise never have met. It's given me an opportunity to travel to places that otherwise I might never have had the opportunity to visit. It has given me a platform from which to espouse my political views. Bearing in mind that here I was raising a child single-handedly without the benefit of child support or anything else -- working my tail off to put a roof over our heads and food on the table -- this was before the term 'Women's Lib' ever existed, I was doing this.

I actually discussed my decision to work in adult films with my daughter prior to doing it. I explained that just the way there are movies with comedy, and with action, and horror movies, there are also movies with sex. I told her that I was contemplating performing in one and she was very supportive and encouraging. Occasionally, a few years down the line there would be somebody at school who would make some sort of an unpleasant comment to her, but she was tough, she let it roll.

Jamie [Gillis] inducted me into the Las Vegas "Legends Hall of Fame." He stood behind my chair, and of course, predictably, extolled my virtues, but the thing that he said which actually brought me to sobbing tears is this: "Babe Ruth was not just a baseball player, Frank Sinatra was not just a singer, and Gloria Leonard is not just a porn star." That, for me, is my Kodak moment. It was very, very touching.

*Please also visit Rialto Report to read a magnificent Tribute to Gloria Leonard by Ashley West, and  listen to a July 2013 Interview Podcast for a segment in which Ms. Leonard is featured.

Golden Goddesses: 25 Legendary Women of Classic Erotic Cinema,1968-1985 © 2012 Jill C. Nelson

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