10 True Porn Stories and Details We Hope Show Up On ‘The Deuce’

From the invaluable book 'The Other Hollywood,' a few plotlines we hope David Simon and George Pelecanos are considering.

That money was then put into some other, non-porn films of note.

As Kelly explains, “The Perainos made so much money on Deep Throat that they went out to Hollywood and developed their own legitimate motion picture film studio—Bryanston Films.” Their idea was to develop and produce their own projects, which never quite came together, but they bought distribution rights to several “legit” titles, including Bruce Lee’s The Way of the Dragon (retitled Return of the Dragon for American release), Paul Morrissey’s Andy Warhol-produced Flesh for Frankenstein and Blood for Dracula, John Carpenter’s debut feature Dark Star, John Travolta’s debut feature The Devil’s Rain, Ralph Bakshi’s controversial Coonskin, and, most profitably, Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

“I don’t know how much money they made off of that, but I’m sure it was a lot,” Kelly says, which is an understatement; it grossed more than $30 million in it is initial run, off a $300,000 budget, but thanks to the Perianos’ aforementioned shady bookkeeping practices, the filmmakers barely saw a dime. Production manager Ron Bozman later summed up the experience: “We made a deal with the devil, and I guess that, in a way, we got what we deserved.”

Being a male porn performer required a very specific skill set.

The Deuce’s emphasis on male pimps and female prostitutes establishes several potential adult film actress characters, but we’ve not really seen any potential male performers. As Deep Throat star Harry Reems noted, there were very few guys who were initially starring in “loops” (basically, plotless short films of X-rated action), and they kept very busy. ”Smitty [an early producer] paid Sean Costello a sum of money to produce five loops a day,” Reems explained. “The first thing Sean did was to hire me and Fred Lincoln to help him produce, direct, and act in these films. Sean, Fred, and I must have made 150 loops that summer. We earned our nickname of ‘The Dirty Three.’ We created a whole new atmosphere. The Dirty Three were about as reliable as anybody in the industry for getting it off on cue—perhaps the most reliable. That’s why we had all the work we could get and why we kept hiring one another when we were commissioned to make loops.”

It wasn’t just a way for actors to break into filmmaking.

Reems, Costello, and Lincoln were all guys who came to New York to be legitimate actors, and often had training and even gigs off- and off-off-Broadway, who did porn to pay the bills. Female performers often had the same backstory – and directors had their own version of it. As Damiano explained, porn was one of the few places where a novice filmmaker could get a shot: “The only reason most of my films dealt with pornography was because at that time that was the only media an independent filmmaker could work in. I was gearing my films to sell to a specific market because there was not enough money involved to gear it to any other market. Working within a limited budget—under $25,000—you could not do the great American love story. For that kind of money you had to stick to the bedroom and then every once in a while you’d get an opportunity to express an emotion other than sex.”

Those filmmakers were very resourceful.

Not that they were all there to make art. Chuck Traynor, who was Deep Throat star Linda Lovelace’s husband, manager, and abuser, recalled one particularly prolific early pornographer: “Bob Wolfe made a million loops. He was a nice, black-haired guy. I think Linda and I made probably between ten to fifteen loops at that time for him. It’s really hard to say because with someone like Bob Wolfe who shoots with two cameras you never know how many you’ve made.”

It was, in much of the country, quite literally a criminal activity.

One of the key complaints that porn-makers who lived through the era have lobbed at Boogie Nights over the years is how the threat of jail is never even mentioned, when they spent much of the ‘70s in constant fear of getting busted. “At that time, just shooting an X-rated film was subject to a bust for pimping and pandering,” said Bob Chinn, director of the “Johnny Wadd” films and one of the inspirations for Burt Reynolds’s Jack Horner. “And if you had drugs on the set, that would definitely mean jail. So I wouldn’t tolerate drugs on my shoots.”

And police weren’t the only ones targeting pornographers.

When James Franco was cast as twin brothers on The Deuce, plenty of porn historians assumed he was playing some version of the Mitchell Brothers – who weren’t twins, but were the most famous adult filmmakers on the West Coast, thanks to the smash success of Behind the Green Door. They also had an antagonist in a future California Senator, according to writer Jack Boulware: “San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein acted as a schoolmarm to the Mitchell brothers. She would attempt to regulate them, and they would gleefully thumb their noses at her. They were harassed by her so many times—via the police department—that they actually put her home phone number on their theater marquee that said, ‘For a good time, call Dianne.’ She had to change her number—and then they got her new number, and they put it on the marquee again!”

In fact, there was this whole FBI operation…

In the late 1970s, FBI agents Pat Livingston and Bruce Ellavsky – family men and self-proclaimed J. Edgar Hooverite conservatives – went undercover as porn distributors in an attempt to bust the industry wide open (mostly the mob ties). Their operation, dubbed MIPORN, had some success, but at a cost: Livingston and Ellavsky spent too long, too deep undercover, sucked into the clubs-and-girls life, and Livingston in particular had a very hard time shaking his good-time alter ego. In fact, this shouldn’t be a subplot; this should be its own movie, or even a series. Pitch it as Boogie Nights meets Donnie Brasco. Be right back, I need to call my agent…