Imagine if your dad was known as the “king of porn.” Now imagine that it’s the 1970s, and your dad ends up attracting attention from the FBI because of his spicy filmmaking. Perhaps too much for many of us to imagine… But for Gerard Damiano Jr., it’s a walk down memory lane.
His dad, Gerard Damiano, Sr. — who I refer to as Jerry in this episode — wrote and directed Deep Throat, the most famous porn film of all time, while Gerard and his sister, Christar, were growing up. And the stories surrounding the film are at least as fascinating as the film itself.
During the filming, abuse played out in the personal life of the star, Linda Lovelace, so you’ll hear about that in this episode, too.
Stream it on Apple Podcasts/iTunes, iHeartRadio, Amazon Music, Spotify or below! Or read the transcript below.
“Growing Up with Deep Throat: Gerard Damiano Jr.”
a Girl Boner Radio transcript
Early on in his life, when all of this was happening, Gerard told me he was a pretty quiet kid.
Gerard:…fairly introverted, shy, creative. I drew a lot. I drew constantly when I was a kid, and I’ve continued to draw my whole life. My sister was much more extroverted. She was more the cheerleader and ballerina.
And especially for decades ago, their household was considerably sex-positive.
Gerard: My father, I believe, had a very healthy attitude about sexuality, as did my mother. And it’s something they shared with us at a very early age. Now, when I say at an early age, we were never exposed to hardcore pornography or actual sexual intercourse when we were children, nothing like that.
But our parents taught us from my earliest remembrances that the human body was a beautiful thing. It was a natural thing. And then as soon as we were old enough to know what sex was, to have a healthy attitude about sex.
All of this was very contrary to his father’s strict Catholic upbringing.
Gerard: Where he was taught that sex is dirty, sex is something you should never talk about. Sex is something that you should be, you know, ashamed of. You get in trouble for talking about it like that. And so I believe in his films and his filmmaking, he was rebelling against that notion.
Gerard knew their upbringing varied from those of their peers — and not only because of the sex-positive messaging at home.
Gerard was seven when he first stepped onto the set of “Deep Throat,” where he would start working behind the scenes.
Gerard: Within a year it was this national and then international phenomenon. So the fact that our father was not only a filmmaker, but an adult filmmaker, was not a secret. Suddenly everybody knew, all the kids at school knew. Their parents knew.
So, pretty early on we knew that we weren’t like other kids. Our dad was on the evening news. There are interviewers coming to the house…. I think every kid thinks their father is special, but we were pretty convinced that he was. He got a lot of attention.
They couldn’t walk down the street in New York City without people recognizing Jerry and asking for his autograph.
So what exactly is “Deep Throat” about? I asked Gerard to share the elevator pitch.
Gerard: So in one line, a dissatisfied young woman, Linda Lovelace visits an unconventional therapist, Harry Reems, who discovers the cure for her problem deep within her throat.
And wow, is that cure…extraordinary. It’s revealed here, in the expanded overview.
Gerard: Unsatisfied and unfulfilled a young woman, Linda Lovelace, derives little pleasure from sex. She feels a lot of little tingles, but wants bells ringing, dams bursting, and bombs going off. Her roommate, Dolly Sharp, sends her to an unconventional therapist, Harry Reems, who discovers the root of her problem. Her clitoris is deep down in her throat, the solution, a technique known as Deep Throat. Once cured, she devotes herself to helping others to find sexual satisfaction that she so desired.
Years before he actually saw the movie, Gerard was on the film set.
Gerard: I saw Deep Throat for the first time when I was 15, under the age without my parents’ knowledge or consent. You know, which might to some seem hypocritical, but my father was pretty traditional in his ways. I mean, yes, he might have been the “king of porn…”
…but he still didn’t want his son to see his films until he reached adulthood.
Of course, by the time I was 15, I’d heard of Deep Throat more than half my life, so I couldn’t wait to just find out what the fuss was all about. So of course we were living in New York City and the film was playing. At that point there were a couple of theaters where it played continuously at the same theater for more than 10 years.
It was on an endless loop with “The Devil and Miss Jones,” another one of Jerry’s films. It’s about a lonely woman who dies by suicide, only to realize she’s committed to hell on a technicality.
The two movies played around the clock at that theater – 24 hours a day. And young Gerard wanted to see his father’s film.
So my best friend and I, we jumped the turnstile and went into the city without our parents knowing where we were, and went to 42nd Street.
The guy at the box office barely looked up when Gerard, who was small for a kid and barely reached the top of the counter, handed him $5 to get in. Gerard and his pal found seats and “Deep Throat” started rolling.
It opens up with a very long scene of Linda Lovelace driving this big blue Cadillac ElDorado through North Miami. Now that was our dad’s car, you know, or the family car. So my friend and I were more excited about seeing the car on the big screen than we were seeing sex for the first time like that.
It’s like, “There’s your car!” “That’s my car!” “Look at the car!” Like that, you know? It just suddenly personal because the movie was so famous at that point, it really brought it home for me to see, oh, there’s my dad’s car.
And so I couldn’t help but when I saw my dad later that night confessed that I’d finally seen a movie. Whether I was gonna get in trouble or not, I knew I just couldn’t keep it in.
August: Do you remember that conversation with your dad?
Gerard: Yeah. It was a very quick. We were in the car, he was dropping me off and so…I knew I could run away! [laughs].
I could tell he was a little confused because on one side he was proud, but on the other side he was like, should he be reprimanding me? Should I be punished? So he just kind of let it go, okay, what’s done is done. I think he felt since I kind of did this on my own that he wasn’t culpable, that he didn’t show porn to a minor.
Young Gerard had shown it to himself. Today, of course, many if not most kids see porn well before age 18. But there were pretty unique reasons that Jerry may have been concerned.
Gerard: This also happened at a time where there was a lot of, not only scrutiny, but my father had been prosecuted and persecuted. You know, this was after the Nixon administration and his war on, on porn, and now by this time we were into the Reagan administration and the Meese Commission.
The Meese Commission put together this huge report — 1,960 pages long — that was supposed to be the result of an investigation into pornography: its effects on viewers and its connection to organized crime. The group included a forensic psychiatrist, an evangelical Christian author, a Catholic priest, a couple of attorneys, a judge… It was apparently pretty inconclusive and heavily criticized. But it definitely fueled controversy.
Given all of that, the filmmaker had kept his kids away from the actual filming when they were on set.
Gerard: At a younger age, I was making props. I was painting sets. I was involved, but I wasn’t allowed to be anywhere near the set when they were filming. Not that my father thought that I wasn’t mature enough at 16 or 17 to be there.
But God forbid they got busted and now there’s a minor, you know, that would be terrible for everyone because you know, if you saw the headline, you know, a minor caught at, you know, you didn’t have to read them that I was in the back painting set. Everybody would think the worst: Here the king of porn is subjecting his own children, putting his own children in front of the camera, child pornography. And so he needed to steer clear of all of that. So he kept us away until I was 18.
Then I was a PA on the very first, you know, production that I was old enough to be on and worked alongside of him.
At that point, Gerard became a production assistant, or PA, working alongside his dad.
Gerard: It was really great, and I’m so glad that I had that opportunity. And I was able to be on the set, not only working, but could watch my father in action doing what he loved to do, and that was to direct. So I really got to see a side of him that I’d never seen before.
Gerard also loved the whole vibe of working as part of the film crew.
It’s something that’s hard to explain unless you’ve been in that situation. When you’re on a film crew, you have all these different people that are doing completely different jobs, you know, in front of the camera, behind the camera, but everyone is, united, completely focused on the image that’s in front of the camera.
And when that camera’s rolling?
Everybody stops. Everything is silent, everyone is focused, everyone is doing their thing,
Then the director calls “cut…”
…and everybody goes back to what they’re doing and, and like that. And there’s always problems, things that happen on set. Everybody is it was kind of sharing this, this, this vision of what they’re going for, but then always having to, improvise and, you know, as the day goes on and it’s running late and we don’t have time for the shot, we have to cut and go over here, but everybody works together.
And so you develop very quickly a comradery with everyone on the set and everybody works together as a unit. And that I really appreciated, really being part of a team.
Like my father would look over and give a nod to the cinematographer and he would know exactly what he was saying. They wouldn’t have to stop rolling. They were communicating almost telepathically. And, you know, that was something that I, I really enjoyed and, and loved working on those sets and working alongside of my father because again, he felt like everybody was, working together as part of a greater whole.
They all faced pretty major controversy together, too – all of which affected their family and daily lives…as the “war on porn” continued.
August: I know this film has been banned and there’s so much controversy around anything still sex related in so many ways. But especially at that time. And you mentioned that he was very cautious about you kids and everything. Were you aware of controversy and how did he or your family, how did you all deal with people, having these harsh comments or wanting to persecute him and that kind of thing?
Gerard: Well, I mean, very early on our father was literally arrested. I mean, FBI agents came to our house and you know, my sister and I were playing out in front. My mother begged them not to handcuff him. And I think, you know, she was very wise, my mother was very supportive of our father.
I don’t think he would’ve been able to do what he did without her and her support. But in that particular instance, she convinced them to just lead him out and take him to the car without handcuffs because she didn’t want us to see that. Like our father being let out in chains . We were sent to our grandparents with, uh, strict instructions not to turn on the TV.
Little did any of them know what would actually end up happening. Jerry ended up spending a full day in an office…
…with a bunch of agents that were smoking cigarettes and laughing and telling jokes, and they all asked him for his autograph. You know, like old pals.
But then at a certain point they said, “all right, it’s time to go.” Everybody gets up and then they say, “sorry, we gotta do this.” They put handcuffs on him. And he was like, what?
He’d thought everything was fine. An officer said:
Gerard: “Come this way.” They handcuffed him behind his back and then take him outside.
And sure enough, here is the media gauntlet, the perp walk where all the flash bulbs going off and everything. They, you know, needed to get that publicity shot of the king of porn in chains.
Thankfully we were spared down on the evening news that night, but you know, after that, our father had to appear in court all across America, in places that he’d never even been to.
You know, he had to go to Covington, Kentucky to appear in court, and he said, “Covington, Kentucky. I’ve never even made a phone call there.” Yet he had to go and he would be quick to say, on his own dime.
The court doesn’t pay your way and put you up in a hotel. It’s just, you get fined if you don’t show up. So he would have to take days off, you know, so he is not working. Now he’s gotta fly down to Kentucky, put himself up in a hotel for a couple of days just so he could plead his innocence in court. And so that happened a lot.
Their mother tried to explain what was going on to the kids.
Gerard: Cuz we asked her, “What’s going on?” We couldn’t imagine our father who was just so, loving and, and full of life and, and so, excited about being a filmmaker and celebrated by so many, we couldn’t imagine him as a criminal. This whole thing made no sense to us then, and it makes less sense to me now, looking back.
But she explained to us that our father was ahead of his time. There were people that didn’t understand what he was doing and maybe someday they would. Which I think was true.
The Damiano Films website talks about the protests and prosecution like this: “Finally it was not the film, but the very definition of ‘obscenity’ that was on trial. Ultimately it was decided that no definition could apply to the entire Nation. What may be commonplace in San Francisco could be shocking in Memphis. Therefore what was considered ‘obscene’ could only be determined on a local level, based on ‘community standards.’
This created further chaos, as one county would ban “Deep Throat” completely, while across the river people would line up to see it. And gradually, “Deep Throat” became a touchstone of the Free Speech Movement. All the while the film’s popularity grew.
I read a bunch of articles about “Deep Throat” before interviewing Gerard and was so struck by the various takes on the film.
It’s been celebrated as this wonderful celebration of female sexuality. And then some people feel that it’s more sexist. I think it’s so amazing that there was a film where the clitoris was featured in the seventies, which is like two decades before the clitoris was in medical books. Like that is just blows my mind. But I’m curious, do you feel that the film is sex positive?
Gerard: Oh, absolutely. There’s no question in that. And, there’s some people that are very much against it and people that have the strongest reactions to the film. You know, especially negative reactions, are people that have never actually seen it. They’ve heard things about it and so they form their opinions based on that.
But the film itself, aside from personal lives of the people that were involved and so forth, the film itself and the message of the film itself is very sex positive, feminist, you know, and even empowering to women because as you yourself just brought up, the focus of the film is the protagonist, Linda Lovelace. It’s her quest for sexual fulfillment.
Now, the female orgasm in 1972 was not only not spoken about in films, there are people that didn’t even know it existed. The ridiculous plot, and my father would admit it was, the whole thing was a goof, but the ridiculous plot of the clitoris in the throat, again, there were men that had no idea where or what the clitoris was anyway, so it might as well be in the throat. But suddenly people were talking about that. People were talking about the clitoris.
So when, the movie really crossed over into the mainstream, it was not the only, but one of the very first films that got couples, and especially women, to Brave 42nd Street in the 1970s, which was a seedy, even dangerous place, especially for a woman alone. You know, women wouldn’t really go there unless they were working and by working, you know what I mean? suddenly it became the thing to do and people would go on dates and celebrities would go and UN dignitaries. It really changed things in that respect, in that idea that suddenly sex films were not just for the men’s clubs.
Not just to be shown in the basement of Knights of Columbus Hall or at a bachelor party or, you know, on a Friday night when no women were around. This was something for everyone.
You know, this is not necessarily something that my father consciously did say, I’m gonna make a movie for the women. But he would often say that he felt that women’s fantasies and the notion of female sexuality was far more interesting than that of men.
Again, the most revolutionary thing about the film, you know, wasn’t the fact that it was a 30 foot blowjob on the big screen, was the fact that you had a film in 1972 where the women were front and center, where the protagonist was a female, that it was her story about her quest.
She wasn’t candy on the arm of the hero. She wasn’t the prize at the end of the race, or the sidekick or the co-star or whatever. It was her story. And she was front and center.
You know, growing up in the twenties and thirties. There was a very different idea about gender roles and so forth. So he was really rebelling against his own upbringing and the commonly held preconceptions about gender roles and so forth.
So he, again, felt it was just more interesting to try to get inside a woman’s head and find out what turned her on and so forth. And I think that the popularity of his films showed that it made for much more interesting story.
One woman, in particular, rose to huge acclaim after working with Jerry Damiano as the star of “Deep Throat” — Linda Lovelace.
If you type her name into a search engine, most content you’ll find mentions controversy surrounding her participation in the film. You’ll read that Linda’s abusive husband Chuck forced her to perform in the Deep Throat and that she later renounced the film — as well as porn as a whole.
Linda’s real-life story is one of both deep intense personal trauma and professional success. And Gerard doesn’t shy away from talking about that.
Gerard: Linda’s story is a very complicated one, and there’s no doubt she suffered greatly at the hands of her husband.
Details about the abuse emerged years after the filming and success of Deep Throat, in a memoir Linda co-wrote, called ORDEAL.
Gerard: Following the film, she was celebrated as the first porn star and she really rode a wave of celebrity after that. Now stories that came out later and are not inconsistent with everything that I heard about her and Chuck and being on the set is that, her husband was, you know, also her manager.
She didn’t audition for the role of Deep Throat because the film Deep Throat was written for her. When she and Chuck showed up at my father’s office, he did all the talking. And when my father saw this astonishing, you know, sexual technique that Linda had, he wrote the script for her.
Her astonishing oral sex technique, the deep way she gave fellatio. In “Ordeal,” Linda wrote that Chuck taught her how to relax her throat muscles in such a way that kept her from gagging. She then trained herself to relax her muscles at will.
Gerard: So Deep Throat was very much this kind of organic process that was inspired very much by Linda and who she was and how she presented herself at the time.
Gerard told me that, as horrific as the domestic abuse Linda later revealed in “Ordeal” was, it wasn’t a shock to hear about.
Gerard: That was not a surprise to most, in that you could see that they had this very kind of, dominant submissive relationship.
what she said in the book was that the set, the deep throat set, was a safe space for her because what came out later is that, you know, the, the horrors that she suffered at the hands of her husband were much worse than anything that could have happened in the, you know, in a porn film like that.
I mean, the films that she did before were loops. And by loops, I mean these are like short silent movies for the Peep show that, you know, I, I wouldn’t even mention on your show, which were awful things. So working on Deep Throat was not only, you know, kind of a step up in that respect, but it changed the dynamic of her relationship with her husband because he was very domineering.
But once they got to Miami to start filming the movie, suddenly, I mean, she was a star and everybody treated her like she was the star of the show. And her husband was pushed off to the side cuz he was just in the way, like, you know, almost like a stage mother or something. And so he started getting very jealous. He was losing his grip on her because suddenly she was the star, she was the focus. She didn’t need him anymore and was pushed to the side.
And so famously, you know, he beat her up on the set of the film. And now when I say on the set, not on the set, he couldn’t have gotten away with that because on any film set, there’s always eight or 10 people standing around the whole time. So again, it was a safe space. She was protected. But at night, behind closed and locked doors is when he beat her up.
Rumors later spread that her husband Chuck beat her because she didn’t want to be in the film, which Gerard said is a huge misconception. In Linda’s memoir, she said that the attack happened because Chuck accused her of smiling too much at other people — at her co-star, the director, the crew. Chuck was controlling and jealous, most of which came out behind closed doors.
At one point, Linda approached Jerry about Chuck’s jealousy…at a peak point in the filming.
My mother told me the same, that she had come to my father and said, “I’m nervous I’m not gonna be able to do the scene tomorrow.” And he said, you know, “Why? What’s going on?”
He said, “Well, Chuck is so jealous he doesn’t want me to do the scene.” And so my father said, “Well, we’ll figure something out.” So they actually told Chuck that they were running out of film stock and they needed somebody to go crosstown to get filmed so that they could do the next scene.
And so he went and took my dad’s car and drove. And once he was outta the way, then she could relax. And then that’s when they did the famous Deep Throat scene.
As far as everyone working on the film knew, Gerard said, Linda wanted to be there. Abuse can be so insidious that way…what’s obvious in public versus private.
Gerard: And no one on the set, my father, the, the cinematographers, no one had any idea that she was not there of her own consent.
Because she seemed to be, enjoying the attention. What she was nervous about was the acting cuz she had no acting experience. So my father had worked with her for three weeks prior to going down to Miami to give her some acting training to learn. Not just acting, but acting for film.
Hitting your mark, finding the light, not looking at the camera. Staying in character, what does that mean? Being in character when something goes wrong, you know, don’t break character. You know, this is the reality of what happened prior to filming the movie.
So for people to say, and there are people that believe that she was forced at gunpoint, she was dragged down there and that watching Deep Throat is like a snuff film or something where what you’re seeing, you know, is an act of rape that was captured on film, like some kind of documentary, is very far from the truth.
Now the fact that she was abused absolutely but at home or with her husband in other situations. I mean, this guy was a strip club owner who was a pimp who literally pimped her out. You know, for her to be in deep throat, suddenly that opened up a whole new world to her because after the celebrity that came with being the star of this huge film, she was suddenly surrounded by circles of other people who all said, what are you doing with this asshole?
And so through that she was able to get away from him. Um, She met this guy, David Winters, who was, had been a dancer in Hollywood and at this point was a big choreographer, brought her out to Hollywood. And so for years she was with him. She made other movies. She would try to break into the mainstream.
So eight years later when the book came out and you know, people were saying, oh my God, she had a gun held to her head and, my father was more surprised than anybody.
In “Ordeal,” Linda talks about the terror of that gun, pointed at her at home, and the metaphorical gun that never seemed to leave during her relationship with Chuck. “Even when no gun could be seen, there was a gun pointed at my head…,” she wrote. “It’s impossible for people to understand terror unless they’ve felt it, lived it, tasted it.”
Given the anti-porn movement of that time, which still exists today in various ways, and the many rumors and controversies surrounding Deep Throat,Linda’s story, Gerard said, is a complicated one.
Gerard and his sister keep that in mind as they present Deep Throat across this country this year, in celebration of the film’s 50 year anniversary.
Gerard: And that’s why, we’ve been presenting the film as we have, because we’re very sensitive to Linda Lovelace’s story and her allegations because the abuse of women and misogyny, one of the biggest problems of our time. And that’s really at the core of all of this, is that it’s a very sensitive subject because it touches a lot of people very deeply because it resonates with them.
And so the story of a woman not being believed, I mean, that’s important. We need to listen to women. We need to be sensitive, systematically. Institutionally. And we’re waking up to that right now. As I say, we as a society are dealing with it in different ways, and some people are trying to heal and find healing.
And the healing is not by canceling, cancel, cancel, cancel and pretend it doesn’t exist or don’t, you know, oh, don’t wanna hear, wanna see, but to try to understand what really happened.
There are others that are doubling down on it. Our country is really becoming divided. I mean, I don’t even want to open up that political can of worms, but it’s really a shame and I just have to keep reminding myself, it’s all about love. It’s all about love.
Lately Gerard and his team have been working to get Deep Throat into the Library of Congress – specifically in the National Film Registry.
…where each year they name 25 films for preservation. Now this is kind of like an honorary title and the criteria for being accepted into the National Film Registry are that a film has to be 10 years old or older, which Deep Throat clearly is, and it has to exhibit cultural, historic, or aesthetic significance. I mean, there is absolutely no doubt that Deep Throat had a huge impact on American culture, on US history.. . I mean, it certainly, touched on a lot of different things.
Now the aesthetics could be argued, but some think it’s an artful film, and you know it’s a comedy, some people might say no. But the other aspect of the National Film Registry is that they want to represent all different aspects of American filmmaking. So far, not a single adult film has been included.
There are a number of X-rated films. Midnight Cowboy, which has very strong sexual themes, was rated X when it came out. a great film, but it doesn’t show penetration. Okay. I guess that’s where you draw the line. It’s not an adult film. I think even King Kong in 1933 had, uh, X rating when it first came out, because of the violence and some nudity, which you know, is kind of lost by today’s standards. But if the National Film Registry truly represents all aspects of American filmmaking, you kinda have at least one adult film.
And given the history and impact of his father’s film?
Gerard: Clearly Deep Throat should be the first to go in. So, you know, we’ve been, I don’t wanna say campaigning, but we’ve been kind of spreading the word.
So he encouraged us all to visit votethroat.org.
Gerard: Org as an orgasm, and you get more information and there’s a link that will take you to the ballot where you can choose up to 50 films a year.
As for watching Deep Throat, you can currently only do so by attending an in-person screening – something Gerard has been busy hosting.
Gerard: They don’t actually preserve the films, so we’ve gone ahead and we’ve done this 4K restoration of Deep Throat to preserve it for future generations. I can’t tell you what to think about the movie. We just wanna preserve it and we’ve restored it back to the way our father originally intended for it to be seen in 1972.
And you make up your own mind, you know, if you wanna see it, nobody has to see it. But for those that want to, we wanna make sure that it’s available in its original form and you make up your own mind.
And future generations, who knows what they’ll think looking back, you know, in a hundred years. But we’d just like for it to be available so that people can see it.
We have not sold it, for streaming or Blu-ray. I mean, maybe in the future we would do that, but right now we feel that it’s important,my sister and I present the film ourselves. We’ve had talk backs where we have film critics, historians, sex worker rights advocates, some golden age porn stars, appear with us and had this discussion about the different aspects of Deep Throat, which it’s a many layered thing.
And so, we feel that, especially for younger generations that have no idea what the big deal was. When you see the film today, it’s pretty vanilla by today’s standards. So it’s important that they understand a little bit about where the world was at, when the film came out, and why it made the impact that it did.
[acoustic cord riff]
To learn about upcoming screenings, events and updates, visit damianofilms.com.
Find direct links in the show notes. There you can also click on my website to sign up for very occasional email updates from me — including fun surveys I often use to shape upcoming episodes.
For bonus content, head to patreon.com/girlboner — where you can hear me tell Gerard the hilarious — at least I think it’s funny — way I first learned about the film.
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