Fleshpot: Cinema’s Sexual Myth Makers & Taboo Breakers
Edited by Jack Stevenson
Today, sexuality in movies is quite commonplace, but it hasn’t always been that way. Over the decades, there have been filmmakers and performers who have stretched the envelope to move the line that others didn’t dare to cross. From the silent movie era to the dawn of the modern porn industry, Jack Stevenson has collected a series of essays and interview to create Fleshpot: Cinema’s Sexual Myth Makers & Taboo Breakers. Many of the contributors are European, leading to the necessity of translated text that makes for fairly dry reading, especially next to the pieces by Stevenson and Kenneth Anger. The book is at its strongest when it’s dealing with stories of people as opposed to discussions of theme and history.
Jack Stevenson’s even-handed profile and interview of the controversial porn actress Linda Lovelace explores the legend behind Deep Throat, arguably the most famous porn film, and its star, Linda Lovelace. Lovelace has since claimed that she was forced into making the film, even having to perform in the film at gunpoint. She, and others, believe that viewing the film is equal to viewing a filmed rape. Although not much light is shown on the making of the film, most of the piece is about Linda Lovelace’s fight against pornography, and in particular, Deep Throat.
Udo Keir, although not technically a porn star, is still a legend of sexual cinema. Unlike Ms. Lovelace, he comes to the world of sexual cinema quite willingly. Tons May’s essay and interview explores Keir’s long career, including his collaborations with Andy Warhol, Paul Morrissey, and Kitten Natavidad.
By far the most compelling and sad piece in the book is “Dead Famous,” Jack Stevenson’s biography of Bodil Joensen. Joensen has the dubious distinction of being the queen of bestiality porn. The young Danish woman became famous; at least in the porno world, for her performances in films having sex with dogs, horses, and pigs. Stevenson’s biography doesn’t glamorize or demean her. His matter of fact approach to telling her tale is even more poignant than one that would attempt to make her a victim. Her upbringing by a religious fanatic mother led her to perverse notions about sex, so she was apparently quite the willing performer in these films that made their makers millions, while Joensen was paid a day rate, and later in her short life, was supporting herself as a prostitute.
Fleshpot is an interesting if uneven book. It doesn’t claim to be an authoritative text on the subject, but I still find it curious that no mention of Irving Klaw or his most famous model, Bettie Page, found its way into the book, nor much of anything about the Mitchell Brothers, who were also pornography pioneers. Omissions aside, what is included in the book is generally interesting, and some of the pieces are quite fascinating.