NOTE: I have to admit I’m a little on the fence for the yes-or-no discussion on Porn. I think it comes down to personal choice & that banning sex work of any description usually does more damage than service to the women in it. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in allowing it to go unregulated. I simply believe in the rights of adults to choose what to do with their own bodies, even if I’d do something different with my own. However, beyond that, I have included Gloria Leonard as a muse not because she was a porn star, but instead because she was a woman who knew herself and was unwilling to compromise that knowledge for anyone.
Most famous for being a porn actress, director and publisher of High Society magazine, Gloria Leonard began her career working as a broker on Wall Street, later working in public relations before being cast in her first movie (apparently she wasn’t told at the time that it was a pornographic flick). In the end she starred in over 80 adult films, while maintaining her role as an editor and creating some of the first phone sex lines.
Life and Times
Born in the Bronx in 1940 as a child Gloria Leonard was mostly left to her own devices and often snuck out to jazz clubs when she was young – managing to see many jazz legends in their prime.
She pursued other careers before appearing in her first adult film in 1974, when she was 34 years old. Her daughter was thirteen at the time, Gloria discussed the decision with her and began acting in skin flicks with her daughter’s blessing. She continued to act for the next decade, racking up an impressive list of films, however she was only just beginning.
She had a fourteen year run as the editor of men’s mag High Society, beginning in 1977. Reportedly she was initially envisioned as a figurehead however she took her position seriously and worked hard across all areas of the magazine, particularly in the early days.
She was one of the first to recognise the potential of phone sex lines, recording herself promoting issues of High Society and other big names in the sex industry (such as her fellow Club 90 founder and member, Annie Sprinkle) talking dirty.
She was one of the founders of Club 90, one of the industry’s early support groups for actresses in adult films, as well as a lifelong member and advocate. She was a feminist and often debated the role of pornography and censorship on the women’s rights movements, debating Women Against Pornography numerous times.
She suffered a stroke at her home in Hawaii and eventually died in 2014 as a result after suffering significant brain damage and being disconnected from life support.
“Isn’t the very essence of feminism being allowed to do with my body whatever I choose to do with it? Why should my choice be considered any less or more valid than your choice?”
“I will always be as famous for what comes out of my mouth as for what goes into it.”
“I’ll always remember Gloria courageously fighting for our freedom. When an early issue of Ms. Magazine had a cover story that was a “round table discussion about porn,” yet no one from porn was invited to sit at the table, Gloria organized a protest in front of Ms. Mag’s office and sent out a press release. She knew how to work the media. Our Gloria could have been a mighty politician, but then, she was. She did it her way.” – Annie Sprinkle (a fellow founder & member of Club 90) on Gloria
Find her on IMDb.
Or listen to her interview with the Rialto Report.