A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Real Linda Lovelace

There's a new movie out called "Lovelace," about Linda Lovelace, the star of the 1972 hardcore porn movie "Deep Throat," which unaccountably became a mainstream hit and even got a review in the New York Times.
It made her an instant star, and she "wrote" not one but two autobiographies that claimed it was all great fun and she loved every minute of it.
As it happens, I actually met Linda Lovelace once. The year was 1980, and by then she was calling herself Linda Marchiano.
She had divorced her husband/manager Chuck Traynor, quit the porn business, and joined the anti-pornography movement. She was on a book tour to promote a third autobiography called "Ordeal," which said the first two books were all lies, that the porn business was a living hell, and she only did it because Traynor beat her and forced her to do it at gunpoint.
I was working at KCBS as a fill-in producer for a daily, two-hour interview/call-in show called "The KCBS Newsmagazine," and I booked her on the show.
She was very sweet and rather shy, and I liked her.
I can't say the same for her new husband, a cable installer named Larry Marchiano, who hovered protectively over her like a mother hen on steroids. A few years later she wrote yet another autobiography that claimed he was a control freak, and I believe it.
She and the program's host, Lila Petersen, sat in the broadcast studio, which was separated by a plate of glass from the engineer's booth, where I sat with the engineer. I was screening calls from listeners and funneling them into the booth, and I invited Larry to join us while the show was going on.
The program went nicely for the first half hour, but then Lila asked her a question that any reporter would ask: "You said in your first two books that the porn business was great, and now you're saying the exact opposite. Were you lying then, or are you lying now?"
That did it. Larry leaped out of his seat in a fury, tore out of the engineering booth, and rushed into the studio to yank her off the show – followed immediately by me, who grabbed him by the collar and dragged him out of the studio so the show could proceed without further interruption.
Afterwards, I expected to get praised by the news director for saving the day.
Instead, he said, "You should have let him pull her off the show. It would have made great live radio."
And that's when I learned one of the great lessons of journalism: Always go with the story and follow it wherever it leads.
I've built my entire career on that lesson, and I've always had a warm spot in my heart for Linda Lovelace because of it.
P.S. A few years later Linda quit the anti-pornography movement, too, saying they had exploited her as much as the porn business had.
I wish I could say she finally found happiness, but her later years were marred by chronic health problems stemming from a car crash when she was 20. In 2002 she was in another car crash, and this one killed her. She was only 53.
I hope this new movie doesn't exploit her all over again.