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BAILEY, FENTON – INSIDE DEEP THROAT

DEEP IMPACT
It was his 60 year old grandmother’s interest in the porn classic, Deep Throat, that helped involve big-time Hollywood producer Brian Grazer in producing the documentary that goes Inside Deep Throat to explore that film’s extraordinary impact and aftershocks. Making this film helped destroy some major preconceptions, as director Fenton Bailey explains to Andrew L. Urban.


Generally considered the most profitable motion picture of all time, the 1972 adult film Deep Throat was more than a titillating curiosity and a huge moneymaker. Released at the very moment when the nation’s movements for sexual liberation, equal rights and counter-cultural values were reaching a fever pitch, this sexually explicit film unexpectedly became the flashpoint for an unprecedented social and political firestorm — a major cultural phenomenon whose impact continues to affect us today. More than 30 years later, Inside Deep Throat explores the phenomenon. Interviews with Alan Dershowitz, Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, Camille Paglia, John Waters, Erica Jong, Dick Cavett, Bill Maher, the film’s maker, Gerard Damiano and many others, provide a complex and comprehensive analysis of the film’s impact then – and the shockwaves it created.

"documentary gold"

At once amusingly entertaining and yet searingly revealing, Inside Deep Throat is documentary gold. It is a journalistically sound probe into the social and political waves that the pioneering porn flick, Deep Throat had on America, and an intimate revelation of the impact the film’s infamy had on those who made it and starred in it, from the conflicted Linda Lovelace to her tormented co-star Harry Meers. Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato have made a film that deals with the whole phenomenon of Deep Throat in a meaningful and fascinating manner; it’s made with good humour and cinematic verve.

Very few Australians are familiar with the World of Wonder in which the dryly entertaining English Bailey and the quieter American Barbato work. Their company has produced dozens of programs about subjects that might be considered marginal or risky, including the acclaimed Monica in Black and White (the definitive work on Monica Lewinsky) and The Secret History of Civilisation, a 6-hour doco on the history of pornography. Indeed, it was during the making of this project that talk turned to a biopic of Linda Lovelace, star of Deep Throat.

But the real trigger for Inside Deep Throat was the 60 year old grandmother of producer Brian Grazer, who had gone to see the film. “I think that haunted Brian,” says Bailey during his Australian visit in June 2005 to present the film at the Sydney Film Festival. “And we were intrigued why a big and established Hollywood producer like him would want to explore this subject. In fact we were slightly sceptical that he did want to do it, and yet all the way through, he was a very inspiring person to work with. Not at all what you’d expect from a Hollywood mogul.” (Grazer’s credits include several major tv shows as well as movies like Apollo 13, The Nutty Professor, A Beautiful Mind, Blue Crush, 8 Mile, Intolerable Cruelty and Cinderella Man.)

Bailey and Barbato never really believed that the doco would get made. “But suddenly it was happening and we were quite surprised. We had been talking to Grazer’s company, Imagine Entertainment, about directing the Linda Lovelace biopic that Brian wanted to do. When he dropped the biopic in favour of Inside Deep Throat, we were keen to get the gig.”

The first preconception to go was the expectation that the film would show how Deep Throat changed Hollywood. “But we soon realised that Hollywood didn’t open up as a result. Quite the reverse. Hollywood fled from depicting sex and sexuality on screen – except for a few isolated instances. So what did Deep Throat do? What it did was it took hard core out of the back rooms into the mainstream. It jumped species from the rain coat brigade to the middle classes and woke people up to the commercial potential of hard core porn.”

"to explore ideas of sex and sexuality"

Deep Throat helped create a multi billion dollar industry. “But the irony is,” says Bailey, “that the very thing that Gerard Damiano (the filmmaker) set out to do, which was to explore ideas of sex and sexuality, was the one thing that hard core hasn’t really done. It’s just become a commodified product. Stripped of ideas, stripped of everything except the mechanicals of f****ing. And that’s because the puritan American mindset could be satisfied with the capitalist orientation of America. As long as it’s a commodity without any extra impact, that’s fine…”

Fenton believes that the “puritan mindset” is built on a lie. “The self appointed moral leaders say one thing publicly but history shows that’s not always what they do. It’s institutional hypocrisy.”

Inside Deep Throat couldn’t be considered complete without at least a few relevant scenes from the film itself, notably the central scene in which Linda Lovelace performs a spectacularly effective fellatio on her guy – the moment that gave the film its title.

As Bailey pointed out after the festival screening of Inside Deep Throat, it was not a hard decision to include it. “It would have been so Hollywood to have made a film about fellatio and not show it.” But there is a more meaningful reason, too. “I think it dramatises how we’re so disconcerted at seeing this in public – as it was in 1972, among a whole cinema full of people. These days, porn is consumed in private.”

Indeed: World Of Wonder’s 13 part series on the hard core porn industry and its major player, Vivid Entertainment, Vivid Valley, made with an unprecedented all-access pass, is airing on Playboy TV from October through December 31, 2005.

Published November 10, 2005

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Fenton Bailey

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Linda Lovelace – star of Deep Throat







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