Monday, May 28, 2012


World War II combat survivors of Company B, 124th Infantry Regiment, 31st Infantry Division. Photo taken at Camp Stoneman, California, December 1945.

"Every man's memory is his private literature." – Aldous Huxley


There are, I suspect, very few among us who need a specific day dedicated to the honor and memory of those we have loved, or those who have fought for us, in order to access memories of the ones who have meant so much in our lives. The presence of family members and friends who no longer walk and talk with us is presumably strong enough that they are often with us in our hearts and minds even in those moments when we crave peace and respite from the heartbreak of having lost them. Yet today is a day dedicated to actively calling up and commemorating all the people whose indelible presence in our lives gave us benefit and love and direction, whose sacrifices often made our very lives possible. And this is how it should be. So today I remember with fondness and no small measure of heartache the men and women and children in my family who have made such a mark on the way I live my life, the way I look at my life, and the hopes I still have for it; men and women who are no longer here for me to enjoy and thank for everything they’ve given to me. Many lived long lives, a crude balance of joy and suffering filling their days; others, including many young people whose faces are etched in my mind, were taken away far too soon, with too many days left unfulfilled.

On this day full of tributes, which extend beyond those we knew to those who defend and have defended this imperfect, maddening, blessed and beautiful country in which we live, I’m reading a book by Paul Fussell (who died only last week) entitled The Boys’ Crusade: The American Infantry in Northwestern Europe 1944-1945, a concentrated volume dedicated to the grueling detail of what it was like for the young men who were on the ground in Europe fighting what many have termed the last great, justifiable war. Fussell’s slim volume is concise and utterly empathetic—he passes along in the manner of a great observer, teacher and analyst the mindset of a vast group of boys from wildly diverse backgrounds who gathered together under an umbrella of common beliefs about their country, but also under common presumptions and prejudices about military protocol and, pointedly, about the continent and its peoples where and for whom they would soon be fighting.

The magnitude of what these boys were involved in dawned on them slowly, and though there may have been a gap between the relatively petty concerns over their treatment by their allies upon arrival in Britain and the impossibly difficult reality of day-to-day infantry battle they soon faced, in The Boys’ Crusade Fussell never loses sight of the fundamental humanity of his subjects. This dedicated adherence to the way these soldiers came to view their own experience, combined with Fussell’s resistance to parlaying accounts of what they endured into simple, sentimental patriotism, is part of what makes the book great. And it’s why I’ll remember it while I’m watching baseball today and listening to the various honors accorded to the men and women who fight to serve our country, regardless of how they may feel about the politics and policies that have created the conditions of their wars. Here’s Fussell on the conscripts and volunteers going into America’s involvement in World War II, the boy crusaders, words that for me put into crucial context the gravity of the sacrifices that they and hundreds of thousands of soldiers since have made:

At this distance it may not be easy to remember that the European ground war in the west was fought by American boys 17, 18 and 19 years old. At 17 you could enlist if you had your parents’ written permission, but most boys waited until they were drafted at age 18… Some of these men-children shaved but many did not need to. Robert Kotlowitz remembers bayonet drill. "We aimed, thrust, slashed or whichever—screaming 'Kill! Kill!' in our teen-age voices." Not a few soldiers hopeful of food packages from home specified Animal Crackers, which, one soldier said, "can do wonders for low morale." (Perhaps what troops were recalling when seeking this specialty was eight-year-old Shirley Temple singing "Animal Crackers in My Soup.")…

Taken as a whole, the boys had a powerful propulsion of optimism, a sense that the war couldn’t last forever, and that if anyone was going to get wounded, it would not be them. They had a common ability to simulate courage despite actuality: that is, a certain amount of dramatic talent, plus a vivid appreciation of black humor, involving plenty of irony. They had sufficient physical stamina to survive zero-degree cold from time to time, and considerable elementary camping skills of the sort common among civilian fishermen and hunters, which lots of survivors became after the war. They had to have fine eyesight, good enough to detect planted antipersonnel mines by their little triggers of thin wire protruding aboveground. They had to have a pack rat’s skill in collecting small objects, like looted knives and forks. And preeminently, they had to have extraordinary luck. One infantryman’s mother exhorted him to be careful. He answered: "You can’t be careful. You can only be lucky."

Today I remember the people I love who are gone, those who fought, including Paul Fussell, and those who continue to do so in conditions which I could likely never endure. I do so in the hope that there might soon be a time in which war, never the thing being honored on this day, is itself but a memory.


Friday, May 18, 2012


When I started going back to the New Beverly Cinema regularly in 2007, one of the first people I noticed there visit after visit was Julia Marchese. I didn’t know this then but she’d only been working there for about a year, yet she was clearly someone who served as a sort of galvanizing rod for the excitement and sense of adventurousness that was really beginning to coalesce around the cinema at just around the time the New Bev’s original owner, Sherman Torgan, passed away. One of the reasons she drew people to her like moths to a projector lamp, of course, was that she was (and is) cute as a button—when I first noticed her I’m sure I wasn’t the only male (or female) film geek who loved her look. (She favored the emblem of geek goddesses—plastic framed glasses—at the time.) But she also clearly loved being at the eye of the hurricane, gathering the creative people who would become hosts of the events and Q&As that would become one of the New Bev’s signatures in the revival cinema community, all the while showing her own gumption and creativity in helping to make the events happen. (This kind of confidence and enthusiasm can be, for appreciative film nerds, even more attractive than plastic framed glasses.) And after five years in which I’ve come to feel as though I’m a part of that New Beverly community—and it really is a community—it’s become increasingly clear about Julia’s place of importance at the heart of what goes on there. For many of us she is the first person we see when we come to the theater, either when we purchase our tickets or buy our popcorn. She is the bright and shining face of the New Beverly Cinema. (She's also become a good friend to my family and me.)

Beyond that, Julia really has stepped up to become a representative of what the theater itself means to the film community at large—that is, the effort to keep revival cinema and the ability to project 35mm prints alive and well in the face of the digital cinema revolution. Her work began earlier this year with a widely circulated petition (upwards of 10,000 signatures) designed to raise the consciousness of filmgoers and studios as to the perils of supplanting the distribution of 35mm prints with a digital-only option. Features in many publications, including a high-profile story in the April 12 L.A. Weekly , have outlined the dilemma and acknowledged, among the efforts of many others, Julia’s resolve and passion in helping to preserve the 35mm tradition.

And now Julia is trying to take the next step by making a film herself. Last month she initiated a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the making of a documentary in which she hopes to chronicle the storied history of the New Beverly Cinema, a place that is clearly as important to her as blood and oxygen, and also inevitably to fold into the narrative the struggle facing revival cinemas like the New Beverly, but also other single-screen revival, first and second-run cinemas worldwide, as the prospect of expensive digital conversion looms like a scythe over their tightly budgeted bottom lines. The movie will be called Out of Print, and in telling the story of the New Beverly Julia hopes to interview not only some of the famous filmmakers and actors who have become frequent guests and patrons, but also some of the less instantly-famous regulars, and she also plans to chronicle the stories of other cinemas facing similar situations around the globe. (As part of that process, she’s even been invited to program a week of films at a revival cinema in London later this year.)

The catch (and there always seems to be a catch, doesn’t there?) is that Julia is relying on Kickstarter to gather the funds for her project, and she’s not quite there yet. She has projected a budget of $75,000 so that she can hire a professional crew, pay them a reasonable wage, and also fund the film’s physical production and promotion. But Kickstarter’s deadline is May 24 (that’s this coming Thursday, for those of you without calendars), and if she doesn’t reach that $75,000 goal in time the funding that has already been pledged will go away and she’ll be back to square one. So far she’s pulled in over $32,000 from generous film fans who have pledged as little as $1 and as much as $5,000, and that’s an incredible result, especially in a battered and bruised economy. But the truth is, even in the best of times the community of hard-core film lovers tends to be populated by folks who don’t have a lot of money to spare, so the fact that Julia has gathered as much as she has in such a relative short amount to time really speaks to the love people have of the New Beverly and, frankly, toward Julia herself. (Her sincere enthusiasm is so infectious, she even managed to squeak a three-figure donation out of Yours Truly, and I ain’t exactly Scrooge McDuck.)

Plainly speaking, the prospects for Julia’s film become more and more tenuous with each tick of the clock moving toward that Thursday deadline. It would be nice to think that someone in the film community, wherever they might be, could and would swoop in at the last minute and fill in the financial gap that remains looming between Julia and the fulfillment of this cinematic dream. But that kind of thing usually only happens in the movies. The reality is, while acknowledging the fantastic generosity of those people who have already donated, Julia still needs about $43,000 if Out of Print is to ever get made. There is no more time for glad-handing and the subtle approach. It is my sincere hope that you will join me and hundreds of others who have already made our pledges and offer your support for Julia’s project, one that is intended to honor the history of the New Beverly Cinema and move toward a confident stride into its future. $43,000 is a lot of money to drum up in less than a week, it’s true. But the future of theaters everywhere that are unwilling or cannot afford to make the switch to digital projection are facing even dicier chances than that, and by creating a cinematic document of the history of the New Beverly Cinema, one of the last surviving calendar-based revival house in the world, Julia hopes to honor not only the theater but the movies themselves and the hope that they would continue to thrive and reach people via the 100-plus-year-old format in which they have always thrilled us. Have three or four fewer lattes, go out to eat one or two times less this month, and voila—you might just find yourself with a few extra dollars which you can pledge toward all the pleasure the movies, and the New Beverly Cinema in particular, have provided you over the years. Please consider using that spare change to support Julia Marchese in her march toward production of her first feature, Out of Print, whose title will hopefully prove not to be prophetic after all.

(Visit the Out of Print Facebook page for updates and further important information.)


Sunday, May 13, 2012


It's a day for flowers and chocolate-dipped strawberries and long-distance phone calls, for sure. And this Mother's Day, while I'm away from home, these tokens may or may not mean more than they usually do-- I wish I could deliver them, and the attendant hugs and kisses, to all the moms in my immediate family in person. But I can't, so I figured I'd just ruminate for a moment publicly about the mothers I love most, in real life and in the imaginary world of the movies. Ma Kettle, as embodied by Marjorie Main, remains the movie mom I love most who not only tickles my funny bone but also grabs me (firmly, but also gently) and takes me back to the world of growing up around my mom's mom. Grandma Dee was a woman with a pioneering spirit who, with my grandpa, built her own house on a plot of land west of Lakeview, Oregon and developed a small farm around it that she lived on and eventually refused to leave, even for groceries, until the day she died. Every time I see Ma Kettle I think of her, and for that I'm forever grateful. I have no pictures of my Grandma Dee to call up right now-- Dee was the name her grandchildren and friends called her, but her birth certificate read "Darlene"-- but if you look to the sidebar on the right and down just a bit you'll see a picture of me in the arms of my other beloved Grandma, whose name was Rina. (I wrote about her briefly here in 2009.)

The other three mothers that I most favor in the movies aren't exactly exemplars of the shiniest, most upstanding qualities of motherhood, but they are indelible and powerful portraits nonetheless. Kate Bush's song "Mother Stands for Comfort" appeared on her Hounds of Love album in 1985-- that chilling portrait of motherly love taken to a logical, frightening extreme projects forward with eerie prescience the character conjured by Hye-ja Kim in Joon Ho-bong's devastating Mother (2009):

She knows that I've been
Doing something wrong
But she won't say anything
She thinks that I was
With my friends yesterday
But she won't mind me lying

Because Mother stands for comfort
Mother, hide the murderer

It breaks the cage and fear escapes
And takes possession
Just like a crowd rioting inside

Make me do this, make me do that
Make me do this, make me do that
Am I the cat that takes the bird
To her the hunted, not the hunter?

Mother stands for comfort
Mother, hide the murderer
Mother hides the madman
Mother will stay mum
Mother stands for comfort
Mother will stay mum
She stands for comfort

Of course, Delphine Seyrig's beautifully modulated performance as Jeanne Dielman in Chantal Akerman's thrilling Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles presents a somewhat different point of view on the joys (or lack thereof) involved in maintaining the illusion of familial ties. This is a major high-wire act that looks like anything but, a chilling glimpse into the head of one mother whose life has become a shell of routines that only faintly resemble the familiar surroundings of home and hearth and gestures of motherly comfort.

And then there is my go-to movie mother when I need a high of unmatched, blackly comic proportions-- Piper Laurie as Margaret White, who embodies the the death-grip of motherly concern and the horrors of repression and religious oppression all in one deceptively inviting, coldly judgmental bosom. (Her daughter Carrie's breasts may have been dirty pillows in her eyes, but I always imagined that Margaret regarded her own bosoms as somewhat more seductive and alluring than that, deep down in that place where she tried to shove all those kinds of thoughts so maybe even God wouldn't find out.) I often think of Laurie's Margaret and when I do I'm not thinking of a woman I would want for anyone's own mother. Instead, this brilliant performance embodies for me qualities which certainly make her, for me, the greatest of all devastated and delusional movie moms-- so powerful is Margaret's professed love, refracted as it is through the blood-stained glass of her own religious obsessions and forever corrupted at the point of being turned loose on a daughter who most needs the kind of comfort her mother is incapable of providing.

Those are the movie moms of the imagination. Thankfully, the mothers in my own real world have been somewhat less dramatic, something more than oppressive or willfully manipulative or robotically distracted. My moms, all three of 'em-- they are all so much better at being that person we all look to for guidance and strength and love than they would ever admit. All three are there whenever we kids need them and (luckily for we kids) even when we don't.

To Baa-Baa (our name for Patty's mom, a beautiful, diminuitive, utterly generous lady), Neoma (my own mother, whose indulgence and support made my life growing up as a teen in a cowtown among kids whose interests were largely far different from my own as happy as it could have possibly been), and of course, my dear wife Patty, who never thought she had it in her to be a mother and who has turned out to be one of the best, a jewel in the eyes of our daughters-- and, of course, mine-- I give all my love and tribute today. Happy Mother's Day to my three beautiful Moms.


Tuesday, May 08, 2012


At some point along Susie Bright’s fascinating life journey as a pioneering “sex-positive” feminist writer and speaker on the subject of all things sexual, someone at the San Francisco Chronicle referenced one aspect of her career and dubbed her the Pauline Kael of porn.

On the face of it such a description might perhaps scan a little flip or high-concept, but a closer look reveals that the label is actually pretty accurate. Pauline Kael grabbed hold of the subject of movies in a personal, emotional, colloquial way that made the subject her own, at times as much an ongoing autobiography of her relationship with this popular art in attempting to address movies in terms that made them, and the discussion of them, intellectually piquant but always accessible and often more interesting through the vitality of her writing. Kael’s all-encompassing, loose-limbed, masterful style made reading about movies, especially in her collected volumes, seem to reach out and become as much about everything in life that the movies touched, drew upon, addressed and sometimes blithely or clumsily or cynically ignored. In the same way, from her emergence as a cofounder and editor of the first magazine about sex devoted to women, On Our Backs (“Entertainment for the Adventurous Lesbian!”) in 1984, Susie Bright has taken on male and female sexuality as her great subject with vitality, determination, humor and, yes, an abiding spirit of adventure. The magazine ran for seven years, but Bright hardly stopped there. She has been a guiding voice for much of the significant writing on erotica in this country through the female-oriented erotic literature series Herotica and also the Best American Erotica Series, both of which she founded, and her weekly series In Bed with Susie Bright, distributed through, is dedicated to the freewheeling, humor-laced discussion of serious social and sexually related topics. Even those who may not be as familiar with her writing may have been touched by her contributions as credited choreographer and consultant on the Wachowski Brothers Bound, which undoubtedly benefited immensely in the eros department through the wisdom she imparted to Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon. Why, she even has her own blog!

But most appropriate as applied to our purposes here, Susie Bright also became, in 1986, the first female member of the X-Rated Critics Organization and in the same year began writing feminist movie reviews for Penthouse Forum, a position she held for three years. It’s refreshing to realize just how fruitful, and how important, this unlikely artistic marriage of feminist thinking and Bob Guccione’s pornography empire actually was. Her tenure writing reviews under the banner “The Erotic Screen” and also as “The X-Rated Advisor” established a unique relationship with readers of both genders who were looking for advice and a fresh perspective that went deeper than a simple flaccid or erect dick icon to signify the quality of a given porn film. Bright engaged readers on everything from the “couples” video market, misconceptions about the S&M sub-genre and documentaries on sex workers to explicit how-to videos, erotic foreign cinema and myriad other subjects, establishing in the process her unique voice-- one which took seriously an aspect of popular filmmaking that had never enjoyed much thoughtful consideration even from (especially from) the majority of those who enjoyed it most, all the while never losing sight of the libidinous fun to be had from indulging in both porn’s mainstream and its extremes.

(Notably, Bright recognizes its stature as a cultural watermark but otherwise has no love for Deep Throat-- “Unless you’re assembling a museum, why bother renting, let alone buying, Deep Throat?” she wrote in 1987. “It’s a terrible movie by which to judge your erotic appetite.”)

I first became aware of Susie Bright in the 1995 documentary made from Vito Russo’s groundbreaking history of homosexuality in the cinema, The Celluloid Closet. The movie is a fascinating, flawed take on Russo’s examination of the coded history of representation of gay characters and themes; it presents attitudes in America and the movies toward these characters unflinchingly, with the appropriate sense of condemnatory precision, but its understandable passion sometimes gets in the way of complete fairness. Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman are not shy about taking scenes from modern films and using them out of context to make their larger point, regardless of whether or not the scene holds up as evidence of intolerance on the part of its filmmakers in its original context. (The use of a scene involving the violent death of a cross-dressing villain in Richard Rush’s Freebie and the Bean from 1973 is a major sticking point, and I wrote about it in more detail here.) But within this sprawling, sometimes difficult history I was immediately attracted to the way Bright, one of the film's frequently referenced talking heads, often comported herself with self-deprecating humor and geniality among the solemn surroundings, and I latched onto the intelligence of her commentary immediately. She seemed to shirk the general heaviness of the film as a whole, regarding its thesis with seriousness but resisting its dirge-inflected sensibility. One sensed there was some room for flexibility, some ambiguity in Bright’s contemplation of the documentary’s concerns, and when the movie finally got around to The Children’s Hour, an adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s 1934 play which tells the story of two schoolteachers accused of being lesbians, Bright’s own ambivalence about the story, and her own surprising feelings which are still churned up for her when she sees it, became for me the emotional highlight of the documentary.

I’ve followed her career with interest ever since, so needless to say I was somewhat floored when one day, after the posting of yet another SLIFR quiz, I received a link to a list of answers from Susie Bright. The Susie Bright?, I thought to myself. Is it possible? Then a simple click on the link confirmed that, yes, indeed, Susie Bright had answered an SLIFR quiz!!! I was beyond tickled, and she has been a faithful participant ever since, always publishing the answers on her own blog, raising my spirits and those who read her answers every time she does so.

And as for her own film writing, last year Bright published a terrific volume encompassing her movie reviews for Penthouse, her writing as the X-Rated Advisor, and a slew of excellent and provocative essays and interviews with filmmakers like Christopher Rage, Sharon Mitchell and Russ Meyer, all under the banner Susie Bright’s Erotic Screen Volume 1: 1967-1989—The Golden Hardcore & Shimmering Dyke-Core, and damned if that writer from the San Francisco Chronicle wasn’t right. This immensely entertaining book, which demands in the most seductive way possible that the reader see the golden age of pornography, the video revolution, and the very idea of the social and artistic value of sex on film, through the prism of her warm, probing, critically attentive perspective, reads like Bright’s version of I Lost It at the Movies, Pauline Kael’s seminal first collection of essays. (It’s no stretch to imagine that Kael, whose own books were graced with sexually shaded titles and who frequently demonstrated a healthy and witty interest in the subject herself, would have appreciated Bright’s irreverent and forthright intelligence concerning sex and movies.) I’ve devoured Bright's book twice now— once for fun, once so I could scribble notes all over the margins (It’s okay; I got the e-book and printed it out) and, if you’ll pardon me, I had a ball both times.

I was taking the notes furiously because I knew I wanted to talk to Susie Bright about some of the stuff that the book deals with. While I was doing that I got an e-mail from her wondering, since she enjoys the SLIFR quizzes so much, if I’d be interested in collaborating on a quiz of her own composing that would encompass the history of porn and its sometimes casual, sometimes crucial connection to mainstream Hollywood. The quiz would look at both the depiction of sexual material during porn's classic era (roughly, the early '70s) and examine the players and filmmakers who worked both in porn and in “legitimate” cinema at different points in their careers. I thought it was a great idea, providing of course that Susie exercise her voluminous knowledge of the subject and do all the writing; I would relegate myself to the role of suggestion-maker and eventual publisher of said quiz. And so, six months or so later, life making demands on both of our allotted time as it usually does, we’re finally ready to bestow an honorary doctorate and SLIFR staff status upon this sharp, entertaining writer and unveil Professor Susie Bright’s Brazenly Cinephallic, Unapologetically Vulvacious Porn Movie Quiz. Professor Bright’s quiz works just like the usual SLIFR quiz, but this one may make extra-special demands upon both your movie intelligence and your willingness to step out and get conversant in a public forum with some of your personal responses to the soft-and-hard-core genre. On top of that, Susie is offering something no other quiz has ever offered, and I'm not just talking about the opportunity to indulgence in a fun discussion about erotic movies. Yes, Susie's got prizes! (More on that below.)

As a way of warming you up for this very special quiz and encouraging you to read the book, I submitted 11 questions to Susie Bright, which were inspired by The Golden Hard-Core and the Shimmering Dyke-Core. Considering the depths of knowledge and experience she has to share, this is admittedly the interview equivalent of a quickie, but hopefully it is one which will get you in the mood for the more demanding, but no less tingly academia to follow. (I guess that kind of makes me the SLIFR fluffer, doesn’t it? And what is the female equivalent of one who has this job, by the way? Now, there’s a question I should have asked Susie!)


Dennis Cozzalio: In your view, what is the biggest misconception about porn?

Susie Bright: That it's "all the same." There's far more variety in erotic movies than there's even been in television programming. Also, that porn is separate from the rest of the movie-making business, on its own planet. The cross-over, particularly below the line, behind the camera, is dense.

DC: Is there a classic era for porn in the way that there might be said to be a golden age of Hollywood?

SB: Oh, yes, and it mirrors one of Hollywood's golden ages, the '70s, the Easy Rider-Raging Bull era. The emergence of the "X-rated" title, of sexual liberation, was a creative breakthrough in Hollywood and porn independence. It's impossible to speak of one without the other.

DC: Pauline Kael famously tried to talk her editor into allowing her to review Deep Throat for the New Yorker, with no success. Have you ever “crossed-over” and written about sexuality in mainstream movies?

SB: Oh, sure, all the time. I live-blog the Oscars. I consider it my duty— as well as a lot of fun— to follow big-cinema's love-hate relationship with sex. I feel for Pauline K, one of my heroes. The New Yorker is pretty stuffy. They've only covered my work as a legal plaintiff (ask Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer about what he thinks of my erotica!) -- they aren't keen on analyzing erotic forensics. (Bright was also polled recently by the Criterion Collection for her top 10—DC.)

DC: What makes a porn film great?

SB: It's all the same things as great movies in general: a smoking script, mouth-dropping cinematography, actors that grab you by the throat, movie charisma. With porn, there's this extra "high-wire" aspect to it, the acrobat in fuck instead of in flight. To stay in character, to stay on script, completely believable, while engaged in a tremendous physical effort— it's a rush of its own. That, and a little originality, is what made my years as an early porn critic, exciting.

DC: Critic Howard Hampton wrote that Smoker, made in 1983, is the “one work of authentic pop art in porn’s past” and drew a parallel between that movie and Godard’s Made in U.S.A. Your own writing suggests that porn may have its own standards for what might be considered pop art and that it's possible to approach porn seriously on its own terms, with a mixture of fun, precision and openness to perception. Who’s more resistant to this kind of bridging of sensibilities, film buffs or porn connoisseurs?

SB: I find film buffs and porn connoisseurs are often the same person, as Howard Hampton demonstrates! The people who are resistant are the bean-counters who run the business, whose conservatism and disrespect for their own product is just tragic.

DC: You write about actors Jim-Ed Thompson and Ellen Eddington as the Fred and Ginger of S&M erotica. How else do the parallels between porn and mainstream film extend, beyond parody of popular Hollywood films?

SB: I praised Jim-Ed and Ellen that way because they were so graceful, so effortlessly suave in their demonstration of something that would make most people feel pretty awkward. Robert McCallum, one of the most prolific directors in porn's golden age, was Orson Welles's DP for decades-- his real name was Gary Graver. The man is a genius with a camera in his hands. Who wouldn't want him to shoot sex? That's not a parallel, it's just a case of a great guy working with big budgets and little budgets. An actor like Georgina Spelvin or Jamie Gillis— they are the Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro of their world. Okay, so Spelvin didn't do accents, but she played every kind of character. I would've liked to see Jamie in the upcoming prequel to the Godfather series.

DC: Your piece “Working on the Sex Line” concludes with a question: “I don’t know why the sex industry can’t make a decent film about itself.” Do you still wonder? Or has one emerged since the piece was written?

SB: This is an area where there's been a lot of improvement.. I think there are many movies that are far more authentic and nuanced about sex work than the cliché-monsters we used to laugh over. It's not just movies, either— the performances we see on Cable TV about sex work have been some of the most innovative. A small film I saw recently, Meet the Rileys, wasn't any big whoop-de-do, but it captured a moment that has some poignant realism and refreshing absence of moral judgment. The movie I'd like to see now is something that would directly indict the "rescue industry" and how they exploit sex work worse than anyone else.

DC: What did you think of the Hughes Brothers’ American Pimp?

SB: Well, it was very entertaining. I'm sure no one leaves the room when it's playing. And if you're involved in sex work, you feel like you're having a running argument or "you-go-girl" conversation with its captivating subjects. In fact, anyone in the entertainment industry who relies on an "agent" to do their business will relate to these pimping documentaries. They are the no-B.S. middleman. But the Hughes Bros are not feminists, they aren't queer, and they're religious. They miss a lot of the big picture because of their blind spots. Sex work is multi-ethnic-- there are so many overlapping traditions. The line between straight and gay is irrelevant. There are women running women, women running men, every kind of intermediary is doing their little operation. This is one little piece of it, a little bit of eavesdropping.

DC: There seems to be a concern running through the “X-Rated Video Adviser” columns about availability. As you edited the book, how concerned were you about the fact that, despite the development of the Internet, it might still be difficult to locate some of the films you were talking about?

SB: I'm distraught. Many of these films have been destroyed. The masters were destroyed after the Meese Commission prosecutions, much like silent films were destroyed when talkies superseded them. People just flushed away the "product" like it was worthless. This is a situation where only crazed collectors are going to end up saving a legacy.

DC: Clearly video changed things for porn, making it more a private matter than a public one. How else has the move to video been significant for porn?

SB: It brought in a new era of creators, of artists who hadn't been part of the Rat Pack. It brought in women, it brought in the punks, the outliers, multi-media artists. I think video is directly responsible for the end of the Ratings Board for all intents and purposes. NC-17, or being unrated, is a result of video.

DC: Has porn improved since the X-Rated Video Advisor first appeared in 1987?

SB: Oh my. Let me shed a tear. In many respects, the decline has been significant. Certainly erotic "film," real films, have gone the way of the dodo bird. And the scale of video and Internet porn has made big budget affairs, with all their attendant production values, a thing of the past. What's interesting now in video and streaming live performances is the Wild West nature of it, the inter-activity, the intimacy and rawness of it. It's like performance art gone wild. I'll tell you what has improved though, remarkably in porn-- fetish and props. It's been a geek's paradise in sex movies.


Okay, kids, the wait is over. Time to pick up your #2s and get ready for a real treat, the very first guest appearance by an honest-to-murgatroyd cultural icon writing and hosting a SLIFR quiz. If we had stock to buy and sell, it would most certainly be up at this point, as will be some other things as you dive into the unique interview test that follows. And now, with no further hesitation or interruption, SLIFR is proud to present Professor Susie Bright’s Brazenly Cinephallic, Unapologetically Vulvacious Porn Movie Quiz. Take it away, Susie!


I sit upon a lonely throne in a singular Hall of Fame: The X-Rated Critics, 5th Estate Division.

It is a rather solitary honor, as there are few people who've reviewed and critiqued erotic film ephemera for decades without spontaneous combustion.

Last year, I published the first volume of my vintage porn memoirs: The Erotic Screen. For those of you who love sleepers, high- and low-brow sex in cinema, the glory days of glory holes, I know it is a special treat.

Now it's time for everyone to share.

Behold the digestif —The first Brazenly Cinephallic, Unapologetically Vulvacious Porn Quiz, a game of memory and sweat-soaked splendor that will test your literary and celluoid wits to their limit.

I dare you to get lost in a thousand peep show wet dreams. Give me your HD money shot. Drown in erotic nostalgia— the very best kind.

How to Play

This is a parlour game, for our mutual amusement and edification. There are no "right" answers, just juicy ones.

Feel free to research questions you don't have immediate opinions on— or skip to those you do!  It's best to settle into our quiz like a good bedtime story or a drive-in movie night.

There are two ways to publish your replies:

1. On your own blog... send us the link in the Comments section below!

or 2. Write your heart out in the Comments Section below. When you answer the quiz, be sure to copy and paste the questions,along with your answers— so readers will not have to constantly scroll up and down referencing what you're talking about!


I was provoked to compose this quiz by the legendary Dennis "There's Nothing Wrong with That" Cozzalio, master of the Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule movie blog, who has posted an array of brilliant movie quizzes for years, in this same vein.

As Dennis says: "We value your your honesty but equally so your loquaciousness, your willingness to participate elaborately.Answers are always much more fun to read if they go beyond the simple one or two-word response. Your logorrhea will not be punished here, only your reticence."


Got your blue pencil ready? Everyone who posts answers to at least 20 of my questions will receive a free copy of The Erotic Screen (email me for your freebie, along with the link to your quiz notes or comments!)


1. Match The Quotes with The Writers-- Or Instead, Just Pick Your Favorite: 

The Quotes

A. “Sweden: Heaven and Hell was probably the best sexploitation soundtrack ever made, but was anybody listening?”

B. “I prefer theaters in which men strip completely bare-ass in the balcony and slouch down in their chairs with one foot on the chair in front of them, whilst other men crawl up up the balcony steps on all fours, meaningfully.”

C. “Then she says, now dig this she says . . .” and he broke up laughing, a strange rasping laugh for maybe the fourth time since he started what was shaping up to be an interminable story, “. . . she says: “Listen, who do I have to fuck to get OFF this picture??1?” And he began his final light, his boss laugh, the kind that quickly, smoothly, turns into a monstro cough

D.  “No Matter What Kind of Porn Movie You make, the audience must always believe the actors are getting off.”

E. “The East Coast has always lagged far behind in the production of sex films, probably due to the lack of experienced people willing to work in this area, plus not enough free-swinging girls.” 

The Writers

1. William Rotsler,Contemporary Erotic Cinema, 1973

2. Boyd McDonald,Cruising the Movies,1985

3. Terry Southern,Blue Movie,1970

4. Jim Holliday,Only the Best,1986

5. Stewart Ziplow,The Filmmakers Guide to Pornography,1977


2. The First Time You Peered Into a Peep Show— What Did You See?

"Peep Show," Noun

1. a sequence of pictures viewed through a lens or hole set into a

    box, traditionally offered as a public entertainment 

2. An erotic or pornographic film or show viewed from a coin-operated booth

Peep Show 

3. Jamie Gillis vs. John Leslie ?

Jamie and John

4. Your Favorite Genre of Stag Film?

a) Typical Nudist Colony Volleyball Match

b) Candy Barr stripping in Smart Aleck

c) How To Deliver an Enema, a US Navy Production 

Nude ballgame

5. Linda Lovelace BioPic Casting

In the two new Linda Lovelace flicks coming out, several actors have already cycled on and off the casting roles, including Adrian Brody, Demi Moore, Amanda Seyfried, Lindsay Lohan, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matt Dillon, Mary Louise Parker. 

Forget them. 

Who would you cast— living or dead, porn star or A-List— to play:

Linda Lovelace? 

Linda Lovelace’s Mother?

Evil Porn Pimp/Linda’s Old Man?

Gloria Steinem?

Secret Linda Lovelace Lesbian Lover?


6. For Perfect Art House Masochism, make your case for the very best:

a) Bunuel: Belle de Jour

b) Bertolucci: Last Tango in Paris

c) McQueen: Shame


7. Name One Classic Element of Swedish Erotica

 (Wanna cheat? Go here.) 

Swedish Vanessa

8. Who's your favorite sex symbol who keeps turning up in the oddest places?

It’s hard to name many actresses like Patti D’Arbanville, below, who has done sex and Hollywood and soap opera with much aplomb— and years without respite.

Patti was discovered by Warhol at 13. At 17, starred in Flesh by Paul Morrissey and Warhol; Bilitis, David Hamilton; Big Wednesday, John Milius; and the TV series Charlie’s Angels, and Rescue Me.) 

Patti D'A 1970

9. What is Your Porn Star Name?

Mine is "Lady McGee."  

Here's how to decipher yours:

Your First Name = Name of First Pet You Remember

Your Last Name =  Name of First Street You Lived On

Put it together and you have something legends are made of.

"Smart Aleck," starring Candi Barr

10. What Do The Following  Five Films Have in Common?

Peter Berlin in That Boy

Boys in the Sand

LA Plays Itself, by Fred Halsted

The Idol

Pleasure Beach

Peter Berlin in his usual street attire

11. Annette Haven vs. Seka?


12. Not the Bradys vs Who's Nailin’ Palin

Palin and Bradys  

13. What is Your Favorite Sex-Drenched Vampire Movie?  


14. What Was the First Nude Scene That Made an Impression on You?

Choose a scene from a movie-- not illustration or still photograph.

Maria Schneider and Marlon Brando in Bertolucci's "Last Tango in Paris"

15. Name Your Most Esteemed Cross-Over Director

 Roger Watkins, "Last House on Dead End Street" horror director who worked in XXX as Richard Mahler

Gary Graver, Orson Welle's D.P., who directed in XXX as Robert McCallum

Joyce Snyder, directed XXX "Raw Talent" and horror film "Pledge Night" 

Roger Watkins in editing room

16. Who's Your Favorite Cross-Over Star? Pick One Male, One Female Lead

So many casual viewers believe porn and civilian-Hollywood never cross paths, but quite the opposite is true. There are dozens of distinguished cross-over actors, of which I've just selected a few for your difficult decision-making.

Female Lead

Marilyn Chambers, Rabid

Traci Lords, Crybaby

Carol Conners, The Gong Show

Sasha Grey, The Girlfriend Experience

Male Lead

Paul Thomas, Jesus Christ Superstar

Aldo Rey, from G-rated Green Berets to X-rated Sweet Savage

Rocco Sifreddi, Anatomy of Hell

Ron Jeremy, Orgazmo

Spauling Grey, the X-rated Farmer's Daughter

PT Superstar
Paul Thomas as the apostle Paul

Chambers Rabid

"Rabid," by David Cronenberg,starring Marilyn Chambers

Aldo Ray in "The Green Berets

Siffredianatomy of hell
Rocco Siffredi in Breillat's "Anatomy of Hell"

Orgazmo ron jeremy
Ron Jeremy, in Matt Stone and Trey Parker's "Orgazmo"

Traci cry baby
Traci Lords, in John Waters' "Crybaby" 

Farmers daughterspaldinggray
Spaulding Grey in "The Farmer’s Daughters

Sasha Grey star of contemporary porn video and female lead in Steven Soderbergh's "The Girlfriend Experience."


Normal_carol connors
Carol Connors made 20 hardcore films in the Golden Age, starred in the Gong Show in 70’s, and is the mother of Thora Birch.

17. What was first and last X-rated movie you saw in movie theater?


18. Who's the Best Male Porn Star Who Played both "Gay" and "Straight"?

Bonus Points: Speculate why all these men were known spectacularly for their penis dimensions, more so than their bisexual roles.

Jack Wrangler, pictured above.

John Holmes

Marc Stevens

Jeff Stryker (imitating Aldo Ray, come to think of it, in "Stryker Force")

Jack Wrangler

19. Ginger Lynn vs. Bree Olsen 

Charlie bree ginger

20.   Plugz vs. Wall of Voodoo

There are two contenders for Best Song Recorded for an Original XXX Soundtrack.

They are both New Wave classics. Listen and defend your favorite!


Plugz, New Wave Hookers 



Wall of Voodoo, Nightdreams

23. What could a sex film director do right this minute to give you an incredible thrill?

 Forget ratings and just think your "perfect world."

Gerard Damiano: Deep Throat, Memories Within Miss Aggie, Devil in Miss Jones. "Discovered" Annie Sprinkle. Not bad!

21. Did You See the following "household name" porn films? In theater or on video, DVD, or streaming? Which is memorable?

 Devil In Miss Jones

Deep Throat

Behind the Green Door


DMJ Spelvin
Georgina Spelvin in the opening scene of "Devil in Miss Jones"

22. Depending on your mood, what is your favorite or least-loved erotic/porn movie cliché?

My friend Spain says it's the neck scarf that was ubiquitously worn by Swedish Erotica peepshow loop girls.

Green door poster
Poster for "Behind the Green Door," by the Mitchell Brothers, starring former Ivory Snow cover model, Marilyn Chambers

24. Best post-feminist erotic/porn flick you’ve seen yet?

This could include Candida Royalle, the lesbian videos from Fatale, the Crash Pad series, Tristan Taormino's work for Stagliano and Vivid, SIR Video's Bend Over Boyfriend— or anything you might have seen posted in the Toronto Feminist porn awards.

Fatale Videos' "Bend Over Boyfriend"

 25. Were there any adult films that you were initially excited about, only to be disappointed with?

Debbie Does Dallas02
Bambi Woods in "Debbie Does Dallas"

 26. On a more positive note, did you encounter any films that you went into expecting the worst and walked out being pleasantly surprised?

Japanese aggie
Japanese box cover for "Memories of Miss Aggie," by Gerard Damiano

27. Last One: Who is your Dream Team for the ultimate erotic movie?

(Actors, actresses, directors, writers, composers, etc.)

It took me 25 years to write, index, and video-hyperlink my book The Erotic Screen a handy reference if you're trying to research this quiz! It took about six months to compose and design this blog post, with Dennis' encouragment. Thank you to all the artists who've been a part of my long strange night at the movie theater! Can't wait to see your replies...