Awaiting a Liver Transplant, Linda Lovelace Marchiano Struggles to Close the Book on Her Past

UPDATED 02/16/1987 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 02/16/1987 at 01:00 AM EST

Any day now the little black medical alarm Linda Lovelace Marchiano carries around in her purse will start beeping. If it doesn't, she will die. It's as simple as that.

Last November the 38-year-old star of Deep Throat, the most successful porn film ever made, was told she needed a liver transplant. She has been anxiously waiting for a liver to become available ever since. Once the beeper does go off, Linda and her husband, Larry, will have just four hours to get from their home in suburban Long Island to the Presbyterian-University Hospital in Pittsburgh where the 15-hour procedure will take place.

Marchiano's liver problem was discovered last September when she entered a New York hospital to have a double radical mastectomy. That operation, which has been postponed until after the transplant, was necessary because of silicone injections that her first husband, Chuck Traynor, insisted she have during the early '70s. "There are all kinds of lumps on my breasts, but the doctors don't know for sure if they're cysts, silicone or cancer," says Linda. "I spent quite a few months preparing myself for that operation. Then I got hit with this." Doctors have traced her liver malfunction to a blood transfusion she received after a 1970 automobile accident. Though it was undetected at the time, the donor apparently had a hepatitis virus.

Larry, a construction worker, and Linda live in a simple two-bedroom home in a lower-middle-class neighborhood. They have little money and try not to think much about the monumental medical bills they are facing. Linda's projected eight-week hospital stay will cost roughly $200,000. Afterward she'll be on an drug for the rest of her life—which could cost as much as $2,500 a month. Medical insurance probably will cover about half of the total outlay.

Linda has a 30 percent chance of dying from the operation, yet the Marchianos remain amazingly optimistic. "How the hell do we laugh about this?" asks Larry. "We have to," says Linda. "This is just another obstacle in my life—something I will overcome that will make me that much stronger."

Obstacles are nothing new to Marchiano. The daughter of a New York traffic cop, Linda Boreman was about to open a boutique when she met ex-Marine Chuck Traynor in 1971. They married that same year, and Linda's life turned into a nightmare. In her 1980 book Ordeal, Marchiano describes herself during that era as "the prisoner of a sadist." She claims she was beaten, raped and forced into sexual perversions by Traynor, often at gunpoint.

Totally degraded by the time Deep Throat was made in 1972, Linda says: "I was a robot who did what I had to do to survive." Traynor was paid $1,250 for Linda's work in the film; she never got a cent. After she left Traynor (who's now married to Behind the Green Door star Marilyn Chambers) in 1974, Lovelace made a few R-rated films but refused to do any sex scenes. Typecast as a porn queen, she could find no work as a legitimate actress.

Lovelace and Marchiano were married in 1976, yet Linda continued to be plagued by accountants, lawyers, creditors and prosecutors. The couple lived in a cold-water flat on Long Island and were often on welfare. Few were interested in her real story. Ordeal wasn't published until she passed a battery of lie detector tests.

In recent years Linda has traveled around the country, telling her story to college students, religious groups and community gatherings (her lecture fee averages $1,500). She has also testified before several commissions on the effects of pornography on women and children. "I don't know the answer to pornography," says Linda. "The only thing I can do is tell my story as a victim and try to educate people."

Larry has not read Ordeal or its 1986 sequel, Out of Bondage. "I wish I could turn off this Linda Lovelace stuff," he says, "but I guess it will never happen." The Marchianos have no intention of shielding their children, Dominic, 10, and Lindsay, 6, from the truth about their mother's past. "I know we've infused our children with enough love to handle the situation," says Linda. "They are going to know that other person is not their mom. It's just something that happened to their mom."

The Marchianos have blended well into their small community. Linda is a class mother at her kids' elementary school. When the town heard that Linda needed a transplant, the PTA collected $600. "That was a proud moment," says Larry. "This isn't a rich community."

As she awaits word of a donor, Linda has become more sensitive to her actions. "I hesitate to yell at the kids," she says, "because if I go in the hospital that day I don't want that to be the last thing they heard. But I'm not going to die. God has put me through so much that he's not going to take me now."

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