Gerard Damiano, 80; Directed Ground-Breaking 'Deep Throat' Film

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Gerard Damiano, 80, a director whose 1972 pornographic movie "Deep Throat" generated so much controversy that it broke out of the underground world of the stag film to reach millions of viewers in the mainstream cinematic audience, died Oct. 25 at a hospital in Fort Myers, Fla., after a stroke.

"Deep Throat" attracted great media interest. In a feature documentary on the film's meaning released three years ago, feminist author Camille Paglia called the movie "an epochal moment in the history of Western sexuality."

Roger Ebert's 1973 review of "Deep Throat" called the movie "pornographic chic," adding that director "Mike Nichols told Truman Capote he shouldn't miss it, and then the word just sort of got around: This is the first stag film to see with a date."

"Deep Throat" was said to have added elements of cinematic art to the almost grim seriousness typical of many predecessors. Plot, humor, irony and touches of parody were listed as among its distinctive qualities.

Attempts to ban the film on obscenity charges and police raids at theaters where it was showing only served to generate more interest.

Made with a budget of about $25,000, "Deep Throat" earned tens of millions of dollars and made a household name of its leading actress, Linda Lovelace. In later years, Lovelace said she had been forced by her then-boyfriend -- not Mr. Damiano -- into making the movie. She died from injuries she suffered in a 2002 car crash.

As part of its legacy, Mr. Damiano's film became embedded in the story of the Watergate scandal. The movie's name was given to the source whose information was vital to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward as he and colleague Carl Bernstein unearthed information that led to President Richard Nixon's resignation.

Howard Simons, The Post's managing editor at the time, decided that a nickname was required for the secretive source: "Deep Throat" was said to have been a blend of the title of the movie with "deep background," the condition under which the source -- FBI deputy director W. Mark Felt -- spoke to Woodward.

Felt reportedly was less than pleased to learn the name assigned to him.

Gerardo Rocco Damiano, who directed as Jerry Gerard, was born in the Bronx, N.Y., in 1928. He joined the Navy on his 17th birthday and later joined a friend in opening a hairdressing business in New York. Overhearing sex gossip all day at the salon convinced him that sex films advertised to appeal to couples would have great commercial success.

Mr. Damiano directed dozens of adult films, including the top-grossing "The Devil in Miss Jones" (1973).

Survivors include two children from the second of his three marriages.

-- From Staff Reports

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