Porn Again

Once a national sensation, Marilyn Chambers is finally ready to retire from the porn business

Out on the porch, Marilyn pulls John aside. Leaving the other diners to themselves on one end of the veranda, she and John share a moment together. They embrace passionately and kiss long, unhurriedly, as if at the end of a dream date. John adjusts his grip, pulling her closer. She leans against him. They hug, just standing there, gently swaying, kissing, looking into each other's eyes, exchanging whispers. An awkward silence falls over the group, reluctant voyeurs who've already seen it all but aren't quite ready for this. After several minutes, Marilyn and John, arm in arm, stroll to the parking lot, where they pose for a Polaroid, he standing behind and holding her with both arms wrapped around her waist, chin resting on her shoulder, prom-style.

It's time to go.

John, ever stoic, walks to his car while the group says its goodbyes. All smiles, Marilyn keeps telling everyone what a wonderful time she had. "Next time," she says, "why don't we all just get together as friends?"

Marilyn Chambers: "None of my marriages worked out. I'm very honest, brutally, to a point. Most men can't handle that."
Jennifer Silverberg
Marilyn Chambers: "None of my marriages worked out. I'm very honest, brutally, to a point. Most men can't handle that."
Procter & Gamble inadvertently gave Marilyn a publicity boost in the '70s when she was featured on a box of detergent.
Jennifer Silverberg
Procter & Gamble inadvertently gave Marilyn a publicity boost in the '70s when she was featured on a box of detergent.


It's nearly 1 a.m., and nearly 12 hours of being Marilyn Chambers has taken its toll. She's off in an hour, and she's ready.

No longer does she cross her feet for Polaroid after Polaroid with patrons at the Diamond Cabaret, which has hired Marilyn to help celebrate the opening of the topless club's members-only room. Her dress is buttoned. She's still on the clock, still a professional, still turns the world on with her smile, but the feet remain flat and the stints on an overstuffed couch grow longer and more frequent as the hours wear. She's on her second pack of Marlboros now and lamenting what awaits her when she returns to her suite at the Sheraton. She's tired, she says, but she knows she won't go to sleep. She'll just lie there.

"It's brutal," she says. But it never shows. She chats easily with whoever walks up. She spends nearly 30 minutes sitting next to an earnest stranger, talking to him about women and relationships. Only near the end of the conversation does she start digging her fingers into her palms, completely unnoticed by the man, just inches away, who never takes his eyes off her face. Stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down -- every few minutes, someone wants her for something. She never gets a chance to finish a Budweiser. I've-always-wanted-to-meet-you and could-you-sign-it-"Happy Birthday" and I'd-like-you-to-meet-a-good-friend-of-mine and how-about-if-you-sit-on-my-lap-for-a-picture? A woman in black leather boots and a tight skirt asks whether Marilyn knows so-and-so and invites her over to the house when she's done here.

She comes across as just plain folks. When someone panics over a missing bracelet, Marilyn is first to stand and look under her seat cushion. She requests a cigar but gets just a few puffs in before she's whisked away yet again. "Is it uncouth to relight a cigar?" she asks when she finally returns. No one is quite sure, and if she's dropping hints, no one jumps to buy her a new one. She gets a light, takes a few more puffs, then leaves it, forgotten, in an ashtray. A cop from a North County department waits patiently on a sofa for well over an hour -- he's willing to sip $6-a-bottle Bud Light until Marilyn has a chance to talk. Meanwhile, he saves her place on the couch and watches her purse. He's got a miniature teddy bear and chocolate-covered strawberries waiting for her out in the car.

"Coming here was very difficult for me," she confesses as the evening winds down. "I thought, 'Oh shit, I've had it with this stuff.' I know that people expect something that maybe I can't give anymore. But I will do anything for my fans." She says you can ask her anything. The mind boggles: The long-ago live performances in San Francisco, where police say Marilyn serviced 20 patrons at a time (prosecutors, however, declined to press prostitution charges); the 10 years spent with husband/manager Chuck Traynor, who wouldn't let her go to college or smoke cigarettes; the time Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel dangled a role in Goin' South, then asked her for cocaine and wanted to know whether she really got off during Green Door, angering her to the point that she stormed out midway through the interview. One query seems obvious: How did you survive when so many didn't? She pauses.

"Sometimes I don't know," she says. "I think that having a child really made my life complete. It's someone I can live for. None of my marriages worked out. I'm very honest, brutally, to a point. Most men can't handle that. I don't have a perception of a normal relationship -- I'm not sure if anyone does." Being a porn star makes relationships more difficult in at least one respect. "Telling you that you look great doesn't mean anything," she says.

After three divorces, she says, she's happy. "I love being alone," she says. "I don't have to answer to anybody. It's my house and my life. I really have to get to work every day, and I never have in my life. I really need that stability in my life. I really love going to work."

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