Linda Lovelace rose to fame after starring in the groundbreaking adult film “Deep Throat.” But the story behind scenes was even more shocking than the film that made her career.
Born Linda Boreman on Jan. 10, 1949 in the Bronx, N.Y., Lovelace’s father was a New York City cop and her mother was a waitress. She had an unhappy childhood, as her parents were either absent or abusive. They were also extremely religious and as a result, she received her education at strict Catholic schools.
Growing up, she had the nickname “Miss Holy Holy” because she wouldn’t let boys near her. When Lovelace was in high school, her family moved to Florida, but she returned to New York to attend computer school at age 20.
In 1969, Lovelace’s life veered in another direction. She had returned to her parents’ home in Florida to recuperate after a car accident that left her with a lacerated liver and broken jaw. While out by the pool, she caught the eye of a bar owner named Chuck Traynor. The 27-year-old Traynor approached 21-year-old Lovelace, offering her a joint and a ride in his Jaguar.
Within weeks, Linda Lovelace and Chuck Traynor were living together.
But once Lovelace moved in, she saw Traynor’s true nature. His personality was possessive and rough, opposite to her own demure demeanor.
According to Lovelace, Traynor said he would teach her more about sex and used hypnosis to expand her sexual knowledge. Over the next few months she would undergo a transformation and soon was working as a prostitute with Traynor as her pimp. The couple habitually used meth and marijuana.
Lovelace wasn’t considered attractive by the standards of the call-girl world. Her appeal came mostly from her girl-next-door personality and a “free love” spirit. When she and Traynor moved from Miami to New York, she started making small, illegal pornographic films called “loops.”
People Lovelace worked with in the industry said she loved sex and prostitution. But Lovelace claimed later on that this was false and that Traynor forced her into the occupation. Traynor and Lovelace married in 1971, but she would later say that they married so she couldn’t be forced to testify against him a drug charge, thanks to spousal privilege.
Soon after, Lovelace and Traynor met a man named Gerard Damiano while attending a swingers party. He had directed some soft core porn features, but when he met Lovelace he was so impressed he decided to write a script especially for her. That script would become Deep Throat.
Deep Throat was one of the first pornographic films to feature an actual plot and character development. Lovelace starred as a woman with a clitoris in her throat and was paid $1,200 for the role. Her co-star, Harry Reems, played her psychiatrist. Though it was a pornographic film, there were other scenes that contained real dialogue and even jokes. The movie ends with the line, “The End. And Deep Throat to you all.”
Damiano used $23,000 from the mob – which had strong ties to the porn industry – to make the film. Shot mostly in low-budget Florida motel rooms, nobody predicted the success it went on to achieve.
Deep Throat premiered in 1972. It was 62 minutes long and millions of people saw it. It became the most famous and profitable porn movie in history. And Linda Lovelace was its shining star.
It’s not clear how much money Deep Throat has made over the years, but some estimates have put the figure at $600 million.
In some ways, Deep Throat altered America’s sexual attitudes, making hardcore porn less stigmatized than it was. It was talked about on national television and written about in popular magazines. Playboy founder Hugh Hefner hailed Linda Lovelace as the new sex goddess of the 1970s. And celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Johnny Carson, Truman Capote, and Nora Ephron were known to have seen it.
By the end of 1973, attempts were made in court to ban future showings of the film, but the legal drama surrounding the movie only propelled it further into the spotlight. By that point, Linda Lovelace was a household name.
The film happened to coincide with Richard Nixon’s Watergate Scandal. Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were covering Watergate and used an anonymous FBI source to get their information. Howard Simons, the managing editor at the time, dubbed the secret informant “Deep Throat” as a reference to his deep background status, as well as a nod to the widely publicized film.
However, Linda Lovelace’s fame wasn’t long-lasting. As glitzy as everything appeared on the surface and as happy as she seemed to be, the tone of her story took a turn. Her image switched from superstar to victim.
In January 1974, Lovelace was arrested for possession of cocaine in Las Vegas. That same year, her turbulent relationship with Traynor ended, the irony of their divorce being that the fame she earned helped liberate her from her abusive relationship. She married Larry Marchiano, who wasn’t in the porn industry, and had two children.
In 1980, after several years of living life off the radar, Linda Lovelace released her autobiography, Ordeal. It told a much different version of the Deep Throat years. It wasn’t the story of a carefree porn star, but rather a trapped and scared young woman.
Lovelace maintained that Tryanor had controlled and manipulated her. He would beat her until she was bruised and he forced her into prostitution, saying he’d kill her if she didn’t comply and that she would be “just another dead hooker shot in her hotel room.”
Traynor himself admitted that he hit Lovelace, but said it was part of a voluntary sex game.
In another shocking admission, Lovelace exposed the seedy underbelly of Deep Throat and said that in the film she was actually being raped.
When asked why she was shown smiling when she was actually being deeply abused, she responded that it was either smile or die.
Linda Lovelace switched her name back to Linda Boreman and became a strong anti-porn activist. Feminists like Gloria Steinem took up her cause. Finally, someone who endured silence for years felt she had a voice.
Still, in another twist of events, in the 1990s Lovelace was seen at porn conventions signing copies of Deep Throat. She had divorced Marchiano in 1996 and there was speculation that financial troubles led her to participate in these events.
On April 3, 2002, she was involved in yet another car accident, but this time it proved fatal. She was taken off life support and died at the age of 53.