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Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Two Brian De Palma films were released today in the Blu-Ray format: Scarface and, from the director of Scarface, Dressed To Kill. Glenn Kenny offers a unique look at the latter by recalling the opinions of porn star Ron Jeremy, with whom Kenny knew through working as a production assistant in the porn industry during the "waning years of porno chic," as Kenny describes them. As Kenny explains, Jeremy felt that his past as a porn star would be less and less of a stigma as porn had been going through its "chic" years and mainstream films were becoming more permissive as far as depictions of sex:

Back in 1980 Mr. Jeremy was even more peculiarly delusional than he is depicted in the strangely poignant 2001 documentary Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy—albeit, perhaps, with better reason. A buff and boisterous 27 years of age, he was crowing to whoever would listen that he had just acquired his SAG card, and also completed some extra work in the new Woody Allen picture, which, as was even then the case with Woody Allen pictures, was as yet untitled. (My calculations put it as Stardust Memories, and I don't believe Ron made the final cut.) Because porno chic really still was a thing, and because of what was being perceived as the "new" or "newish" permissiveness in mainstream film, Ron believed that the porn thing would soon no longer be a stigma and that he'd be able to make a relatively painless and strain-free entry into the Hollywood firmament. I remember him waxing particularly eloquent on this topic with then-Playboy-writer David Rensin, who was visiting the set for an article and who sat around quietly dictating his notes into a mini-cassette recorder. Ron, I remember, had just done a threesome scene with two blondes that had sufficiently discombobulated him that he emerged from the bedroom set with his Fruit of the Loom briefs on inside-out. Warming to his topic, Jeremy ultimately decried the hypocrisy of the ratings system. "Did you see Dressed to Kill?" he asked Rensin. Of course he had; we'd all seen DePalma's Dressed to Kill, which had been released earlier that summer and was something of a succès de scandale. (Hey, look, I did the accent grave!!) I think I had seen it two or three times, 'cause me and my boys were big DePalma fans. Ron wasn't quite so sanguine about the picture. "I can't believe they gave that picture an R! It's total bullshit! I mean, come on. That shower scene in the beginning? I saw that finger go up there, you can't fool me. And they call US perverts."

Ron was referring of course, to the film's notorious opening shower-rape-fantasy scene, in which Angie Dickinson and, alternately, her nude double Penthouse Pet Victoria Lynn (and boy did Penthouse make hay out of THAT connection, if I recall correctly) are violently taken by an unknown hunky assailant. It was Mr. Jeremy's contention that the sex play in that scene indeed crossed the line into "hardcore," e.g., "penetration" and was getting away with something. Mr. Jeremy's subsequent public pronouncements, inasmuch as I've followed them, have not infrequently taken a similar why's-everybody-always-picking-on-me-when-somebody-else-is-doing-worse-stuff tone.

In Richard Schickel's recent Conversations With Scorsese, on page 116, Martin Scorsese delves into the days when porn was beginning to go mainstream:

[Discussing Taxi Driver]

Schickel: The woman—a society campaign worker—is attracted to Travis because he’s so out of her league, as it were. Her Junior League, I guess. Which makes this notion of taking her to a porn movie—

Scorsese: Oh! I know. Well, you have to remember, a lot of people don’t remember now, but at that time, they were trying to make porn acceptable, with Deep Throat and Sometimes Sweet Susan, and pictures like that.

Schickel: I went to a few of those.

Scorsese: It was okay to go with a girl. But Brian De Palma and I went to see Deep Throat, and he said, Look at the people around us, it doesn’t feel right. There were couples. I said, You’re right. We should be with all these old guys in raincoats. It was a wonderful kind of hypocritical thing that was happening—it opened up the society.

Posted by Geoff at 11:37 PM CDT
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