I totally fell for it. Last week, when a package arrived with a message scrawled prankishly on the envelope, my hands shook a little. It said: "A letter from your FIRST girlfriend!" -- and my heart skipped a beat. Joelle Vidal, is it really you, after over 20 years?
The last time I heard from my "first" girlfriend, she was walking down my front steps with my green metallic motorcycle helmet, which she promised she was just "borrowing." This was the girl who taught my tongue what to do in an open-mouthed kiss, who dropped acid with me for the first time, who cursed in French and could get my kittens to do her bidding. I'd give anything to get a fond letter from her after all these years.
But no, this package was from a different kind of girlfriend, a sex symbol who can just as instantly trigger my teenage nostalgia, but one whom I had never met. Inside this envelope was a videotape and a press release announcing the comeback of none other than the most popular actress in the history of porn, Marilyn Chambers. The video is called "Still Insatiable."
I wonder how many readers can conjure an instant mental image when Marilyn Chambers' name is mentioned. Do you flash on her fucking on a trapeze and taking on all comers in "Behind the Green Door" -- or are you haunted by her voracious marathon on a pool table in the original "Insatiable"?
For most people, even if they've never seen a hardcore film, Chambers' legacy is the image of a sweet young thing with an adorable smile cradling her baby on the Ivory Snow detergent box. Chambers was the girl who went from model for soap ads to porn-star legend, and she was cast in some of the first well-produced, no-holds-barred X-rated movies.
Reading the publicist's letter, I learned that for years Marilyn had no interest in ever making a hardcore movie again because of her concerns about AIDS. She's a real mom these days, and like most parents, she's into long-term preservation. But since VCA, the releasing company behind her comeback, instituted its condoms-on-every-set policy, she had second thoughts. Her good friend from porn's golden years in the '70s, Veronica Hart, offered to direct a video that would show off Chambers to her best advantage, and she decided to go for it.
Marilyn, of course, has grown up since the days when she was a whippet-slim fox with a boyish figure. She's womanly now, with her breasts and hips set off in Victoria's Secret corsets. I asked Hart how fans have reacted to the movie so far, and she said, "About half are just irate because they don't ever want to see Marilyn again if she's not exactly as they remember, and the other half wouldn't care what she looked like as long as they know its her. They love her, period."
"I think I'm part of that last crowd," I said. What really gave me goose bumps in this new video was when Marilyn's steely blue eyes turned right to the camera, and that smile of hers made everything else in the picture disappear. I never realized until now that grin of hers, her expression of earthy satisfaction, is like a combination of Huck Finn, the Miss America Pageant and the first great fuck you ever had, all rolled into one.
When Marilyn made her first movie, neither she nor anyone else had any idea she was making history. Her early producers were just grateful to have a hot young girl who was willing to go for it on camera. I don't think anyone realized what her star power was really all about: that captivating smile of hers that personified a whole damn attitude about taking your pleasure and loving every minute of it.
The other key to Marilyn's appeal -- the character behind that great face -- can be seen in the film "Insatiable." Although '70s pornophiles wouldn't have used this term, she could "bottom" like nobody else. Even though Chambers didn't make S/M or fetish movies per se, she could take an otherwise vanilla situation and turn it into a power-charged tour de force. I don't know what the male consensus is on Marilyn Chambers, but if you ask any woman who was affected by her early performances, they will tell you that her impact came from the way she grabbed you in that aggressive, yet submissive fantasy place -- the place where you could imagine taking on the entire Marine Corps and then taunting them for more. She was sassy and demanding, but she also offered the payoff of total vulnerability and ecstasy. I used to dream about being like her, feeling that open, being "made" to do things and loving it. Now, as I talked with Veronica Hart, I realized that my over-40 fantasies have turned the tables: Now I know exactly what Marilyn wants and I'd love to be the one to give it to her.
For some '70s nostalgia addicts, reminiscing about whatever happened to Susan Dey from the "Partridge Family" may be enough. But my erotic retro-heart belongs to that girl who hasn't yet returned my metal-flake helmet -- and to the porno goddesses I watched open-mouthed from the seats of the Pussycat Theater. I'd welcome a comeback visit from any of them.
"Still Insatiable" is available wherever fine adult videos are sold, and it also stars Chloe, Stacey Valentine, Kylie Ireland, Juli Ashton and Mr. Marcus, as well as cameos by Gloria Leonard, Georgina Spelvin, Ron Jeremy and others. Veronica Hart told me she'd love to hear what any of you think about it -- her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.