Mrs. Marciano Calls Herself 'a Typical Housewife': the World Knew Her as Linda Lovelace

updated 01/28/1980 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/28/1980 01:00AM

Linda Boreman Marciano is proud of her garden—a small patch of snapdragons and vegetables that flourishes in summer behind her ramshackle yellow bungalow on Long Island. She lavishes toys and attention on her son, Dominic, 3, and she and her husband, Larry, are expecting a second child in the spring. She clips supermarket coupons faithfully and even finds simple enjoyment in cleaning the house. "I am," she says, "your typical housewife." It was not always so. Once upon a time Mrs. Marciano was Linda Lovelace, star of the celebrated porn movie Deep Throat. "I'm a woman with a lot of courage and a lot of strength," says Linda, 31. "I would say I've learned my lesson. I don't think anything like that could ever happen to me again."

What happened is told in her just-published autobiography, Ordeal, a nightmarish portrayal of sexual perversion and enslavement. Between 1971 and 1973, she says, she was transformed from the relatively innocent manager of a clothing boutique into a numb and brutalized sex machine who graduated from cheap street-corner tricks to celebrity bedrooms, among them Sammy Davis Jr.'s (Davis responds: "The whole thing is ludicrous"). At the time of her role in Deep Throat she announced publicly, "I did it because I love it." Now, comparing her submission to that of Patty Hearst, she says she turned into Linda Lovelace only out of fear of her husband, pornographer Chuck Traynor. "I want to say this as plainly as I can," she writes in Ordeal. "There was no pleasure. I never had any enjoyment from any of it at all. Not once."

The child of strict Roman Catholics, who claims she was beaten by her mother from the age of 4, Linda says she met Traynor nine years ago. Life in her parents' Miami home had grown unbearable. "At first he was really nice, very gentle and understanding," she recalls. "He would open a door for me and light a cigarette. And then he suddenly changed." Soon after she moved in with him, she says, he became abusive, beating her and forcing her into prostitution and perversion at gunpoint. To prevent her escape, she says, Traynor never let her out of his sight, even in the bathroom. "If I showed the least amount of independence, I would get beaten for it," Linda remembers. "I was not allowed to have any money, because he felt if I did, I could get away. He threatened to kill me or my parents if I escaped." After her third unsuccessful attempt to flee, Linda recalls, he punched her senseless. After that, "I was like a vegetable," she says. "I didn't think on my own or voice my own opinions. I wasn't a functional human being."

Ironically, her notoriety after Deep Throat gave her the strength to leave Traynor and remain in hiding until he took up with porn star Marilyn Chambers, whom he has since married. Linda tried to find acting jobs, but found herself typecast and, eventually, broke. In December 1974, two years after the release of Deep Throat, Linda was resting on a Florida beach when she ran into Larry Marciano, whom she had known a few years before. "When we saw each other, that was it, like in a fairy tale," she says. But Larry had never heard of Linda Lovelace, and she told him the truth gradually. "Little by little I found out what pornography meant," recalls Larry, 32. A construction worker, he was shown a still photo from one of Linda's gamiest 8-mm films by a coworker one day on the job. "I turned around," he says, "and walked I don't know how many miles that day." For a time he was plagued by the predictable taunts, but he says he has learned "to care only about Linda and not so much about other people." For her, that support has been crucial. "I thank God I can be with my husband and trust him," she says. "He was the only human being I had met who wasn't strange or didn't get into some kind of sexual problem."

Linda still fears retribution from Chuck Traynor—especially in the predawn hours after Larry has left for work—and she complains of chronic insomnia. Her financial position is precarious; she and Larry rely partially on welfare. Beatings have permanently damaged veins in her right leg; they will have to be removed eventually. She faces exploratory surgery to determine if botched silicone injections in 1972 will necessitate removal of both her breasts. For all that, however, she clearly feels reborn, and she hopes her book will be an inspiration to other women trapped by prostitution and pornography. "You can get back your self-respect and live a normal, decent life," as she puts it. "I did. It takes a lot of strength and, for me, a lot of belief in God—but you can survive."

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