All About Gloria Leonard (1978)

It makes perfect sense that the sexual showcase devoted to the woman who gained notoriety for her much quoted quip that the difference between erotica and pornography lay in the lighting would have the finest production values of the entire Evart carnal canon, with warm hazy colors glorifying Gloria’s already advanced age for adult of 38.  This cavalcade of profile pics, invariably produced by erstwhile sexploitation “auteur” Don Walters (responsible for several all but forgotten Distribpix treasures such as Felicia and the faux French Franchette : Les Intrigues) hiding behind his hardcore “Howard A. Howard” alias, proved hugely popular both on their initial theatrical run as their second life on VHS and DVD.  While subsequent rip-offs in more ways than one would content themselves with presenting a parade of carnal clips from company-owned feature films, loosely held together by an interview with their star du jour, the real deal delivered audiences exactly what it promised, in spades, namely tons of newly shot footage detailing the star’s allegedly authentic experiences.  Truth in advertising may not always reap the appropriate returns but treating porn palace patrons as intelligent adults rather than gullible idiots certainly did, eventually extending the series to half a dozen epics that continue to do well to this very day.

In a star line-up that came to include the likes of trailblazing Jennifer Welles, superstars Seka and Annie Sprinkle, cult favorite Little Oral Annie and…erm…generic platinum princess Angel Cash (whose public popularity was never thus to warrant such attention), the choice of Gloria Leonard comes as something of a surprise.  Not because of her age, and I hate to labor the point (with the MILF movement not taking root until the dawn of the next millennium, courtesy of real world box office blast American Pie) as the series frequently focused on strong and savvy level-headed women rather than girls, but rather that she was not so much a major industry star at the time of production, providing strong support instead of taking center stage, a trend that was to continue unabated until her show-stopping award-accumulating turn in Ron Sullivan’s four part Taboo American Style from 1985.  Actually, 1978 proved something of a banner year for Gloria as Radley Metzger, who had famously introduced her to audiences as Lawrence Lehman’s complicit spouse in The Opening of Misty Beethoven, finally made good on his promise to construct an entire narrative around her formidable talents in both the thespian and sexual field with his fuck film farewell Maraschino Cherry.

Of all the Evart subjects, Ms. Leonard may be the most outspoken which has always made her an excellent spokesperson and defendant for the intimate industry but inevitably took its toll in terms of popularity with those unable to deal with such say it like it is frankness.  A single mom back in the day when it was still frowned upon by “polite society“, she had dabbled both as stockbroker and art dealer before entering the explicit arena, partly to provide for her daughter but also to fashion a forum for her firm beliefs in a woman’s right to sexual freedom.  She replaced adult actress Bree Anthony as editor of High Society magazine, a position her predecessor had fulfilled mostly for decorative marketing purposes (as in a literally “exposed” starlet equalling increased sales figures) but which she was to take very seriously indeed, another earnest effort that would characteristically rub some the wrong way.  Although up there with the very best, I find it telling that All About Gloria Leonard is rarely singled out by anyone versed in adult, fan or critic alike, as their series favorite while pretty much all of the others have received such accolades at one time or other.

With seasoned Joe Sarno standing by on the sidelines, the film’s star customarily given sole creative credit regardless of reality, the narrative framework has been pared down to its bare bone essentials.  It’s Gloria’s last day as editor on the magazine and she’s cleaning out her desk, putting away souvenirs of erotic experiences both on and off the job.  Practically every encounter that emanates from this simple set-up comes up trumps in the turn-on department.  Back when adult movies boasted original theme songs, this one broke the mold by actually having a good one, playing over evocative shots of a casually semi-nude Gloria languishing à la Emmanuelle, special attention paid to her long luscious legs.  Skinny tripod Peter Andrews gets the ball rolling by revealing why the girls at the office have nicknamed him “Horse“, only in part because of his real name being Horace !  Few will dispute the subsequent scene’s status as perhaps the film’s highlight as well as being among the sterling Sapphic sequences captured on celluloid.  Black Gloria Todd and Oriental Ming Toy team up with the star for a tantalizing three shades of flesh fantasy devoid of the racial stereotypes colored performers routinely still found themselves restricted to throughout the decade.  Teasing footage of the topless Todd strutting her stuff to a high energy disco ditty as a go go dancer builds up audience anticipation with a passionate pay-off that’s sure to please the most demanding dyke devotee.

Printer David Morris preparing proof shots when intimately interrupted by the very girl from the pictures is a ploy carried along lock, stock and barrel from the Jennifer Welles opus, right down to Gloria’s fevered voice-over detailing every sensation of their lovemaking.  Intercut with Gloria masturbating and then urinating, it’s still hot.  Considerably more intricate, upping the ante in terms of turn-on, is our girl’s report on prostitution with kindly lady of the night Monica Devon (the classy Kay Parker lookalike also in Sarno’s Silky) gently pressuring the roving reporter into duty when one of her regular clients brings a friend along.  Double the amorous action as Gloria nervously crosses the barrier of play for pay with a clean shaven David Pierce, forever defined by his indelible turn as the perverted Stephen Sweet in the Roger Watkins masterpiece Her Name Was Lisa, while maternal Monica makes sweet love to John Thomas, Samantha Fox’s boyfriend from the soul-searching psychodrama bit in Gerard Damiano’s People.  Gloria as a gangster’s moll servicing mobsters George Payne, Bob Bolla and one shot Daniel Paxton to ragtime music supplies solid sex, as does the star’s real life husband (her third, they divorced in 1990) Bobby Hollander thoroughly mauling vivacious Victoria Corsaut, best remembered as Wade Nichols’ otherworldly love interest from Chuck Vincent’s Visions.

Saving a scorcher for the send-off, Gloria interviews the industry’s two biggest male stars (now sadly both deceased) Jamie Gillis and Marc Stevens, delightfully and somewhat daringly posing as partners sharing perhaps more than their professional occupation.  Although Stevens was actually a crossover from adult’s gay ghetto and Gillis has revealed himself as bi-curious on occasion (tentatively blowing a tranny in Navred Reef’s Hollywood Goes Hard for instance), this is just a ruse to tease Gloria into the challenge of “setting them straight” which she does with her customary gusto.  There’s another terrific tune playing over this scene, entitled “Two Heads Are Better Than One“, a song Sarno would recycle for the subversive Sloan twins sequence from his scorching Tigresses and Other Man-Eaters.

Directed by Joseph W. Sarno (uncredited) & Gloria Leonard. Written by Gloria Leonard. Produced by Don Walters (as Howard A. Howard) for Evart Enterprises Inc. Photographed by Dick Neelan. Starring Gloria Leonard (Herself), Gloria Todd (Emily, the Go Go Dancer), Ming Toy (Belinda, the Waitress), Monica Devon (Pauline Harmon), Peter Andrews (Horace “Horse” Bentley), David Morris (Walter Keller), John Thomas (Martin), David Pierce (as David Shaker) (Martin’s Buddy), Jamie Gillis (Himself), Marc Stevens (Himself), Victoria Corsaut (as Valerie Vance) (Valerie), Bobby Hollander (Bobby), Anthony Shammas (Mr. Sissons), Robert Bolla, George Payne & Daniel Paxton (Gamblers). Running time : 111 minutes.

By Dries Vermeulen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *