Sex Files Jun 20 2009
CUT THROAT TACTICS
Newly declassified documents show the FBI tried to stop the distribution of Deep Throat.


In the U.S. this week, declassified FBI documents revealed that the U.S. government conducted a wide-ranging investigation into Gerard Damiano, director of the 1972 porn film Deep Throat. The heavily redacted documents showed that FBI agents across the nation were directed by top figures at the agency to conduct a campaign of harassment and intimidation against Deep Throat producers and distributors in a deliberate effort to stem the tide of sexual freedom that was sweeping the nation. Records show they seized prints of the film, and questioned everyone associated with its distribution, from delivery boys to theater managers.

Included in the stack of documents is an August 1973 letter stating that Damiano was being considered for prosecutorial immunity. The papers don’t say what crime exactly Damiano had committed, but at the time the film was thought to violate obscenity statutes and, because of an assumed link between porn and organized crime, various RICO charges might also have been considered. Ironically, the second-in-command at the FBI at that time was Mark Felt, who would soon play Deep Throat in real life when he became a secret source for Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward during their Watergate investigation into Republican Party corruption. He adopted the moniker Deep Throat as his code name, and his real identity remained a mystery until he came forward in 2005.

Despite the FBI’s efforts, the tides of cultural change were too strong. What had been universally offensive just a generation before was seen as entertaining in 1972, and Deep Throat became the most popular x-rated film ever released, eventually earning more than 300 million dollars after an initial investment of around $25,000. At the height of the Deep Throat craze, the film was booked into mainstream cinemas and moviegoers attended packed showings without an iota of shame. Since then American culture has changed again, and, though consumption of pornography is so widespread it generates untold billions of dollars in yearly revenue, it has lost its aura of respectability and is virtually always consumed in private.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 23
1935—Four Gangsters Gunned Down in New Jersey
In Newark, New Jersey, the organized crime figures Dutch Schultz, Abe Landau, Otto Berman, and Bernard "Lulu" Rosencrantz are fatally shot at the Palace Chophouse restaurant. Schultz, who was the target, lingers in the hospital for about a day before dying. The killings are committed by a group of professional gunmen known as Murder, Inc., and the event becomes known as the Chophouse Massacre.
1950—Al Jolson Dies
Vaudeville and screen performer Al Jolson dies of a heart attack in San Francisco after a trip to Korea to entertain troops causes lung problems. Jolson is best known for his film The Jazz Singer, and for his performances in blackface make-up, which were not considered offensive at the time, but have now come to be seen as a form of racial bigotry.
October 22
1926—Houdini Fatally Punched in Stomach
After a performance in Montreal, Hungarian-born magician and escape artist Harry Houdini is approached by a university student named J. Gordon Whitehead, who asks if it is true that Houdini can endure any blow to the stomach. Before Houdini is ready Whitehead strikes him several times, causing internal injuries that lead to the magician's death.
October 21
1973—Kidnappers Cut Off Getty's Ear
After holding Jean Paul Getty III for more than three months, kidnappers cut off his ear and mail it to a newspaper in Rome. Because of a postal strike it doesn't arrive until November 8. Along with the ear is a lock of hair and ransom note that says: "This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits." Getty's grandfather, billionaire oilman Jean Paul Getty, at first refused to pay the 3.2 million dollar ransom, then negotiated it down to 2.8 million, and finally agreed to pay as long as his grandson repaid the sum at 4% interest.
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