By: SexHerald Staff
Georgina Spelvin wakes up every morning at 5 a.m., and if she doesn’t do so promptly, her cat is always there to remind her she needs to start her day. She feeds the cat and fish, waters her garden, checks her email, works out, comes home to eat lunch with her husband, run other miscellaneous errands (e.g. grocery shopping), watches the evening news, has dinner, goes to bed by around 9:30 p.m., and reads a book until she dozes off. It sounds like the typical day of an ordinary 72-year-old woman to an unsuspecting reader but there’s nothing common about this legendary porn star.
For one, she started to appear in adult movies at the ripe age of 36. She snagged the lead role in The Devil in Miss Jones (alongside Harry Reems) and became part of the porn chic movement of the 70s (whereby adult films were being shown in mainstream theaters). Sequels were made after the original’s success, by which other industry favorites have joined in the fray for a slice of the limelight, such as Ron Jeremy, Paul Thomas, Sharon Mitchell, Peter North, Vanessa del Rio, Randy Spears and even Jenna Jameson and Savanna Samson in Vivid’s remake of the classic.
However, things weren’t always golden with Ms. Spelvin, and like most starving actors, she took typing gigs in-between acting jobs, fell into the addictive trap of alcoholism (show business revolves around a martini glass, says Spelvin), tried the burlesque circuit for a short period, and finally received help from AA at 45 at the insistence of friends and family. Not to be outdone by tragedic events, and in the style that could only be described as the “devil in Miss Spelvin,” she fell in love for the first time in her life at 49 and got married in Vegas (not by Elvis). For more on her extraordinary beginnings, read on.
SexHerald: When you were young, you suffered from polio. How did you overcome it?
Georgina Spelvin: Yeah, I got very ill at one point and one of my legs wasn’t growing as the other one was; I was falling down a lot, but this was before polio was a recognized disease. I was diagnosed as probably having polio because I seemed to be immune; I have antibodies to the virus in my blood, it seems. So, we just assumed that was probably what it was. I wasn’t terribly debilitated. I was in a brace for a short period of time and my mother, long before Mr. Kinney was famous for doing so, did massage, took me swimming—we learned to swim before we learned to walk, my brother and I, because my mother was a great swimmer—and, she was doing all the therapeutic things that became standard procedure later on, right from the get-go, and I got over it.
SH: You did some time on Broadway. How did you break into that?
Spelvin: Again, talk about a charmed existence. When I went to New York to try and break into dancing, in order to make a living as a dancer, I first got a job at the Latin Quarter nightclub and I had a couple of short jobs before that. That was the first rolling kind of gig. I had not been there, oh more than 3-4 months, when I went to audition for all the Broadway shows. Not only were there the beginning auditions, when they started to put a show together, but once a show opened they would have replacement auditions every 2-3 weeks, especially shows like Can-Can which would go through dancers like tissue paper. They were always injuring dancers and having replacement calls.
At a replacement calls for Damn Yankees, the stage manager from The Pajama Game— also choreographed by Bob Fosse—asked me if I would be interested in going into the chorus of the Pajama Game. After I picked myself off the floor after fainting, said “Sure!” That’s how I got into the chorus of the show. After about a year, the lead dancer doing the role originated by Carol Haney (whose understudy Shirley MacLaine, seen the second night the show played New York because Carol had a bad ankle, was swept up the high road to Hollywood) left leaving the understudy up for grabs. I got it and then a couple of months later, the girl who was playing the role also went to Hollywood and I got to do the role for the rest of the run. I thought I would just go from one marvelous musical comedy role to the next. Ah youth.
SH: Did you always enjoy dancing?
Spelvin: The bout of illness that we later decided must have been polio had a lot to do with it because my dad, against his better instincts and was not particularly approving, allowed me to take dance lessons because it would be good for my legs, strengthening my leg. So, I started taking dance lessons way early on. Truth is, my mother entered me in… if you got your baby’s picture taken, it was automatically entered into a baby beauty contest. My mother was notified that I had won free dancing lessons, and I think it was Harry Pritchet’s Dancing School in Houston, Texas. I have a feeling probably everybody who entered the contest won, but be that as it may that’s how I first got my dancing lessons. Mother said when I first started walking, I walked on top of my toes. I don’t remember when I wasn’t totally enamored of dance, ballet especially. I will walk 10 miles to see a ballet performance of good dancers; I just adore it.
We moved around all the time, and whenever we would get to another town, Mother would find a church, so that I could be sent to Sunday school on Sunday morning, a library, so after school I’d have some place to go, and a dancing school. Almost every little town in Texas had a dancing school. So, that was my life growing up.
SH: Why did your family move around so much?
Spelvin: My dad worked for Humble Oil Company that was the Standard Oil in Texas that became Esso and now it’s Exxon. He was what they call a doodlebugger; they would send out crews of men to dig a little hole in the ground and put a charge of dynamite down there and set it off and the seismograph machines would take a picture of the shock waves and that’s how they’d find the little pockets of oil and knew where to drill. Every two months or so, the crew would move to a new area. At first, there was one other married guy in the crew who had a couple of kids and they were older than I was but they were my playmates. They were the only children—of course, they weren’t really children because they were so much older than I—that I knew more than a few weeks of each stop. So, it was a very flexible kind of situation.
SH: Before The Devil in Miss Jones, it’s often said your first foray into the movie industry was a lesbian softcore film called Twilight Girls. Tell me a little about that.
Spelvin: I was actually in Pajama Game at the time that was done. I don’t even remember how I met Radley Metzger [director] who was doing that but someone came up. I think someone in the show said someone is looking for girls to be in a movie. I said, “Of course!” And they said, “It means baring your tits.” And I said, “So?” I’ve been working in the Latin Quarter where half the dancers were practically nude. I didn’t really see what was so dreadful about it. I’ve always been a little skeptical of the prohibition against nudity because it just didn’t make sense to me at all. That’s how I got to do the part, which was just a short scene they wanted to put into this French film in order to show some bare titty.
SH: Was the Latin Quarter a topless club?
Spelvin: The Latin Quarter was the premier nightclub of New York at the time; it was right in Times Square. No, they did not have bare breasts; they had as close to bare as it was allowed in the early 1950s. We had dancers, models and showgirls and then they had individual acts that were brought in.
SH: Was Twilight Girls the movie that enabled you to gain the role as Miss Jones in the famous Gerard Damiano movie?
Spelvin: Before that, I was involved in a group of underground filmmakers and we started our own studio called the Pickle Factory down in the West Village. It had actually been a pickle factory; it was a big open loft and that’s where we built our studio. This was during the Vietnam War. We were interested in stopping that and getting Nixon out of the White House. In the course of this, I was just calling around that had anything to do with film, looking for production work. One of the people I called, got me to set up a location and find some extras for them. Then they said "We need an older actress to play a madam, know anyone?" I said "Hello, I'm an actress, I'm older. How about me? Another 50 bucks, you bet!"
On that shoot, there was a guy named Bo Buchanan. He came up to me after the shoot, this was what they called a "tits-and-ass" film; it was not hardcore porn, but it did have bare boobs. And he came up to me and handed me the script for High Priestess of Sexual Witchcraft and asked if I'd like to play the mover and I said, "Sure." I didn't know it was a hardcore film at the time. That was something of a surprise. [laughs] On that film, I met Mark Stevens who was a very funny, funny guy. I don't know if you remember Mark at all but he had quite a career in hardcore film and was working a lot at that point. He asked me if I would like to work on another film and I said, "You bet." And he said, "We're shooting something next week. He gave me Harry [Reems]'s phone number. So I called Harry and told him Mark told me to call him and he said 'come over' and I did. And then Harry called Jerry [Gerard Damiano] and he said 'come over to the office,' and I did. He hired me to cook. While I was there at his office, someone came in to audition for the role of devil's advocate, Mr. Abaca, and Jerry asked me to read with him. After I did, Jerry said "Would you play Miss Jones?" And I said "Well, sure, why not?" I had already been, albeit inadvertently, in a hardcore film; I saw no reason why I shouldn't do another.
SH: You were essentially involved in a political underground movement. Do you believe, because you were part of porn—a subversive movement in its own right—you were part of an important revolution in American culture?
Spelvin: I was involved in the quest for common sense—and for freedom—from my earliest memory. My mother was very active in various organizations all her life - she was an architect student. My grandmother was a suffragette when she was young. The idea of repression that made no sense had been passed down to me from the very beginning. So yes, I was a revolutionary in every area. The idea of sex being portrayed in film, on stage, whatever, as part of the reality of life just seems to make perfect sense to me. I could not see why we would take this one area of the human experience and make it so taboo.
SH: As I understand it, you were in a long-term relationship with a woman. How did that come about?
Spelvin: I did not have a love relationship with Clair, a commitment. If anything, she was the first real girlfriend I ever had. I did not have friends as a child because we moved all the time, and then I moved to New York, in the gypsy world, I made friends with people on the show but ‘I love you, honey, but the show closed"; that’s just the way the way it was. I just didn’t have a good, close chum and I didn’t even know I missed it until Clair came on the scene and kind of adhered to me and I enjoyed having a companion that was not the husband figure. She was into having a sexual relationship; I was amenable to it as I was amenable to: ‘Well, what is the world about and let’s find out in every area.’ I did not find it repulsive; I did not find it any more attractive than having sex with a man, and she became my companion.
I did not really understand or appreciate sex until I met and fell in love with my husband and that was about, oh, 23-24 years ago. And it was the first time… I never wanted sex, I never craved sex, I never went out looking for sex. Sex was always a medium of exchange; sex was primarily to get to know somebody in order to get a job or to be more comfortable around the person I was working with—it was a commodity, I'm afraid.
SH: Any regrets thus far?
Spelvin: What is the point of regretting anything that has happened in your life which has made you who and what you are? There is absolutely no point in regretting it. And what if you could do it over again? You don’t have it to do over again. Who you are is sum of everything that has happened to you and how you have dealt with it your whole life. If that sounds terribly fatalistic, then I guess it is. I don’t think your fate is so designed that you cannot make choices as you go along and this point in my life, I try to make good ones. I’m not sure I always did but I made the choices that were there. I don’t have regrets in that I’m saying, ‘Oh god, poor me, what a victim. I was just terribly misused.’ Bullshit! I was a grown woman and everything I did, I did with my eyes wide open.
To order a copy of Georgina Spelvin’s autobiography, go to GeorginasWorld.com.
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