Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ivory Soap and Denim - Lest We Forget

She was a blond beauty from New England with aspirations of becoming a fashion model and actress, he was a handsome man from a showbiz family in Beverly Hills who also longed for legitimate fame.  Ultimately, the blond beauty and the handsome man found their fame...but it was probably not what either of them had in mind originally.

Her name was Marilyn Ann Briggs, but the world would come to know her as Marilyn Chambers, the porn actress who became a household name due to her pre-porn stint as the model seen on boxes of Ivory Soap detergent.  Once it was revealed that the Cybil Shepard-look-a-like's face was in laundry rooms  across America, Chambers hit the big time.  Her porn films became must-see, screened at legitimate movie houses.  A brief singing career followed as well as a staring role in David Cronenberg's Rabid (and frankly, Chambers was pretty damn good in it).   Unfortunately, Chambers' time in the legitimate spotlight did not last long, and eventually she returned to adult entertainment.  There was that stunt when she ran for vice president (with Charles Jay) , and from time to time she'd show up on talk shows or in interviews about the so called "golden age" of skin flicks, but for the most part she was forgotten by most until her death early this year at the age of 56.
The handsome guy was John Robert Stillman, who'd eventually be known as Jack Wrangler.  After he'd done some legitimate stage and radio work, Wrangler found his way into the burgeoning gay porn movement of the mid 70's.  Due to the fact that Wrangler could actually act, he was a breath of fresh air in skin flicks.  What made him an icon was the fact that he seemed to redefine the image of what a gay man was.  Wrangler's persona was of a denim wearing, blue collar, all American guy, who just happened to enjoy having sex with other men (and considering when he hit it big, gay men had very little in the way of role models; Paul Lynde's bitchy queen persona or Rock Hudson's closet case image were pretty much the only choices).  Keeping everyone on their toes, Wrangler eventually moved on to straight porn (he reportedly claimed that he lost his virginity to a woman on screen), and then he went and married singer, Margret Whiting (some twenty years his senior).  Of course, Wrangler never claimed to go straight, nor did he disown his past which he spoke of freely.  In his later years, he created a second career for himself producing and writing Broadway shows.  Unlike Ms. Chambers, Wrangler seemed to have had a pretty good ride.  He died this past spring at the age of 62.
I wanted to write about Marilyn and Jack as this is the time of the year when you'll see a lot of memorials to the celebrities we've lost, and I did not want these two to be forgotten, as they were just as important to popular culture as Michael Jackson or Farrah Fawcett.  And for many, they were iconic figures who helped push, for better or worse, the envelope a little further .

Rest in peace, Marilyn and Jack.


missmagnoliathunderpussy said...

Lovely piece Pax dear. Of course I really feel sorry for Margaret Whiting, I just saw her on a program about Johnny Mercer, taped since Jack died and the poor thing looks terrible, she never really looked her age but since his death it seems to have caught up with her and then some. Their's was quite a love story and the old girl really misses him, it's always sad to be left behind.

Virginia Gal said...

What a lovely tribute and so valuable, because they were entertainers as well as Farrah and Michael!

Pax Romano said...

VG, thanks!