i'm nearly the same age as Marilyn, and remember seeing Behind The Green Door in the theater when it was new. At that time, films like Green Door and Deep Throat were considered by many people to be part of a sexual, and a larger cultural, revolution. The fact that it had a sordid and exploitative side, or that it didn't change everything, doesn't distinguish it from the politics or other aspects of the 'revolution' of the 60's and 70's. It turns out that often what we think is significant, isn't, as we overlook something else which might be. This interview from 1977 gives a peek into how Marilyn viewed herself and was viewed, back in the day. Back then she seemed very much the sort of person i wished i could be.
Many years later, my beloved Studio North art film theater (now The Magic Bag) had become an adult cinema. The videotape revolution was drying up porn palace revenues, and the place had begun having live burlesque and stage shows. A girlfriend of mine attended a performance with Marilyn Chambers headlining, and returned raving about what a fabulous gal she was - so funny, friendly, and generous to all the other females. As my friend wasn't usually so effusive about other women, or people in general, for that matter, i remembered this endorsement.
So about ten years ago, i found myself at The Cinema Wasteland Movie and Memorabilia Expo with Took, who snapped the photo above. It's a great, great, convention, but it gets kind of dull when you're sitting at a vendor's table all weekend. It was even duller, i think, for Marilyn Chambers, who was a guest primarily because she was the lead in David Cronenberg's Rabid. (If you haven't seen Rabid, please add it to your queue NOW.) She wasn't selling a ton of photos or autographs, and she was all alone at her little table. We would get up and pace the room, doing the circuit like caged animals, and would gravitate to each other's tables every day. Perhaps it was because Took and i were ladies of her age, or maybe because we all liked to laugh, but Marilyn treated new acquaintances like forever friends. i remember meeting her not so much because she was famous, or infamous, but because she was a blast. Also, pushing fifty at that time, she was still really sexy. Yes, the years of ups and downs, struggles with drugs and alcohol, had taken a toll, but the Marilyn essence was an inside-out sexy. The attractiveness of a person who is alive to possibility never dies.
Yesterday when reading the shocking news of her death, i noticed a bit of emphasis on her living alone in a trailer. Perhaps to family, friends, fellow professionals, she was bitter or sad. But i never got that from her in an environment which certainly reminded her of the mainstream film career her adult films capsized. It seems to me that a person with her dignity and class deserves celebration, not pity or cheap moralizing.
Susie Bright has a good remembrance in that vein here.