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Interview with 'Deep Throat' director Gerard Damiano

He directed "Deep Throat" and "The Devil in Miss Jones," which were the two most notorious and successful hard‑core films ever made, but Gerard Damiano believes the porno flick will soon be a thing of the past. "The only thing that's kept hard‑core going this long is the FBI and the Nixon administration," he says. "Without censorship to encourage people's curiosity, the whole thing would have been over six months ago."

This does not, perhaps, sound like a man visiting town to promote his own new hardcore film. But Damiano says he's a realist. His latest production is "Memories Within Miss Aggie," which opened Wednesday at the Three Penny, and his next one will be "Portrait," and that should just about do it, he says.

His "Deep Throat" was made at a time when he sensed that large portions of the general public were curious to see a porno film. He guessed right; both "Deep Throat" and "Miss Jones" made Variety's list of last year's top 12 grossing films. But once the curiosity has been satisfied, he said, audiences do not necessarily come back for more.

Is it, I asked, the you've-seen-one, you've-seen-them-all syndrome?

"Something like that," Damiano said. "I find pornography by itself to be boring on the screen. The only thing that perpetuates it is censorship; people like to feel they're being slightly daring to go to a hard‑core flick. But sexual intercourse does not lend itself to cinematography." He sighed. "I don't care what the 'Kama Sutra' says," he said. "There are not 101 different approaches to the subject. There are only three or four."

To get around such unavoidable limitations, Damiano has turned to techniques of greater artistry and stronger plots. His early films were essentially just hard‑core potboilers. But with "Deep Throat" he added a certain amount of humor. And, of course, he was working with Linda Lovelace.

"I wrote the film for Linda, he said. "If it hadn't been for her, uh, this particular skill she had developed, there wouldn't have been any 'Deep Throat.' At the time, my partners said the title was no good, but I was adamant: I said it would become a household word. And it has. Not only in the Watergate case, but last week we were No. 6 across in the New York Times crossword puzzle."

"The Devil in Miss Jones," his next film, was the first to gather generally upbeat mainstream reviews, particularly for the acting of his star, Georgina Spevlin. "That was a weird accident of casting," he said. "She came to the set originally to run the commissary, be the cook. But there was something about her..."

The movie's opening sequence, in which the lonely Miss Jones wanders around her barren room and finally commits suicide, was praised in some circles for its visually created mood. The scene was edited, Damiano revealed, in time to the Roberta Flack recording of "Bridge Over Troubled Waters." The first time he heard the record, it haunted him: "I played it again and again in the editing room, matching the rhythm of her singing to the rhythm of the cutting. We wanted to use the song on the sound track, but Simon and Garfunkel wouldn't sell it to us."

Wasn't that about the first time a movie was edited in perfect timing with a musical arrangement? I asked. "No," he said, "you're forgetting Walt Disney's 'Fantasia.' "

"Memories Within Miss Aggie" is a film structured around the dreams and fantasies of an old woman who remembers the erotic details of her earlier life. It is filmed in soft, evocative color, and it has a shock ending borrowed from Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" (1960). It got several curious New York reviews in which the critics advised Damiano to forget the artsy stuff and stick to the hard‑core.

"I didn't know whether to be flattered or offended," he said. "Apparently those guys were misled by my name into expecting nothing but hard‑core porn. Still, that is the next step: Why do we need socially redeeming values in these films? Why isn't pornography, in and of itself, of social merit?"

Damiano had brought along the star of his next film, a dark‑haired, dark‑eyed, pneumatic beauty named Jody Maxwell, and he said she would be the only person in it. The film is named "Portrait," and it will be about a woman with several, different personalities, he explained.

"She'll play a young woman, a teenager and a hooker. And the film will examine her fantasies in each of these roles."

And Jody will be the only person in it? I asked.

"The only WHOLE person." Jody explained. "There will also be parts of male bodies, of course"

How was she cast for the role?

"I met Mr. Damiano when he was conducting a university symposium in Kansas City," she said. "I'm four hours short of my drama degree."

What's it like, working in a hard‑core film?

"Challenging and really pretty demanding. It sort of excites me to think of turning on all these legions of people. And Jerry's very good, very professional. At first I was afraid of what family and friends, you know, would think. But it's a good role for a young actress with no previous credits. Even my father approves. And he's the county prosecutor in Kansas City.

[Footnote 2005: A documentary about the "Deep Throat" phenomenon, "Inside Deep Throat," was released in 2005. Although he reached the climax of his success with that 1972 film and "The Devil in Miss Jones" in 1973, Mr. Damiano's directorial career -- which began in '69 -- continued through 1994, according to the Internet Movie Database. In fact, he made 41 more films after "Deep Throat," only four of which were straight-to-video features, including: "Bottoms Up" (1976), "Let My Puppets Come" (1976), "Legacy of Satan" (1976), "Waterpower" aka "Enema Bandit" (1977), "Joint Venture" (1977), "Meatball" (1978), "Fantasy Island" aka "That Prickly Feeling" (1979), "The Satisfiers of Alpha Blue" (1981), "Never So Deep" (1982), "Slightly Used" (1987), "Future Sodom" (1987), "Splendor in the Ass" (1989), "Manbait" (1991) and a video sequel "Manbait 2" the same year, "Just for the Hell of It" (1991), "Buco profondo" (1991), and "Eccitazione fatale" (1992).]

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