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August 11, 2002 03:12am
Linda Lovelace Victim or Pioneer, New Play Asks
Source: Reuters/Variety
by: Paul Majendie

(EDINBURGH, ENGLAND) -- Was "Deep Throat" porn star Linda Lovelace a pioneer of sexual liberation or the exploited victim of abuse?

That is the question a new play on the porn industry's most famous star poses at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival - and even the stars of the critically acclaimed show don't know the answer.

Lovelace, star in 1972 of the first porn movie to become a runaway mainstream hit, died after a car crash in April having spent years campaigning against pornography and trying to live down her notorious past. She was 53.

The play "Deep Throat: Live on Stage" by British author Simon Garfield tells in compelling detail the stories of Lovelace and her "Deep Throat" co-star Harry Reems, using their own accounts from interviews, books and official testimonies.

Garfield, who as a journalist once interviewed Reems, leaves the audience to make up their own minds about the "chic porn" stars of an era when America was celebrating a sexual revolution. Prurient theatergoers in search of a cheap thrill will be disappointed.

Katherine Parkinson, who plays Lovelace, told Reuters in an interview: "What is very fascinating is what she wrote. She said she was abused but she contradicted what she said earlier -- that it was really liberating." Lovelace certainly had a roller coaster career after starring in the film about a woman with a misplaced clitoris.

The phrase became a household word and was used during the Watergate scandal to describe the secret source for Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's articles that contributed to the resignation of U.S. President Richard Nixon.

Lovelace's career collapsed as she tried to switch to soft-porn films. After several years out of the limelight, she wrote her autobiography "Ordeal" in which she claimed she was a porn industry prisoner forced to perform obscene sexual acts, sometimes at gunpoint, by a sadistic and abusive husband who beat her and forced her into a life of prostitution and debauchery.

The book became a bestseller, her cause was taken up by militant feminists and she testified against the industry before a presidential commission studying the effects of pornography.

Parkinson said of the star she portrays with real poignancy: "We know she was abused by her husband Chuck Traynor and she was basically exploited. But it is tricky to say she was exploited all the time."

"I have a lot of sympathy for her without necessarily saying she was a victim all her life. I think she was flotsam on the stream of the really rough Seventies."

Alex Lowe, the actor who plays Reems with great panache, said: "It's lovely to play a larger than life character."

But he was certainly not turned on watching the movie as part of his research.

"It is still quite shocking. It looks like a Victorian freak show act and isn't remotely erotic."

And Lowe was quick to stress that the play had not jumped on the bandwagon after Lovelace's death.

"The play was being planned long in advance of her death. I would hate anyone to think that somehow we turned her into an icon Princess Diana-style by saying - Isn't this story incredible, she died in a car crash, how tragic, she died young and stayed pretty. That is not the case."

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