How Much Can You Say About Marilyn Chambers?
I had the opportunity this week to write the Post's obituary of Marilyn Chambers, the Ivory Snow girl who became a star of hard-core pornography in the anything-goes days of the 1970s. At the age of 19, when her face was appearing on boxes of Ivory Snow detergent -- advertised as "99 44/100 percent pure" -- Marilyn Chambers appeared in one of the most notorious (and most popular) pornographic films in history, "Behind the Green Door."
She was perhaps the first porn star to be well known to the general public and to speak openly about her career. ("Deep Throat" also came out in 1972, the same year as "Green Door," but its star, Linda Lovelace, was not as visible in the mainstream media as Chambers was.)
At any rate, Marilyn Chambers was 56 when she died of still-undetermined causes, but foul play was not believed to be involved. Her 17-year-old daughter found her body at her California home.
The story broke rather late in the day -- after 3:30 p.m. -- and we had to scramble to see how best to cover it. Naturally, it led to all kinds of awful newsroom puns. (Yeah, sure, I'm "all over" the Marilyn Chambers story.) Chambers was certainly a significant cultural figure of the 1970s, but since we're still a mass-circulation newspaper, with standards of taste to maintain, I had to decide on the fly how much and how little we could say about what she actually did.
I opted for the modest approach, describing only in very general terms what happened in "Behind the Green Door" and in Chambers's other films.
Several people have asked if I've seen "Behind the Green Door" and, well, how much do I really know about this business anyway? I'm not telling. But I will say that I did a lot of reporting for this story in a short amount of time, and that I discovered a number of curious facts about Chambers that I couldn't even hint at in the story.
I wrote the obit rather quickly and later found this rather interesting 1977 interview with Chambers online. I have no idea who the interviewer is, but I can tell he's trying mightily to preserve his journalistic dignity while other visions dance through his head.
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