Howard Ziehm: Mona… (and marijuana, music, and M.I.T.) – Podcast 48

Howard Ziehm: Mona… (and marijuana, music, and M.I.T.) – Podcast 48

Make no mistakes about it, Howard Ziehm is one of the people who invented the adult film industry.

He was there taking still photos for adult bookstores in the 1960s – when the most you could reveal was a girl in her underwear. He made some of the first color loops – when all you could show was the subject writhing on a mattress by herself.

And then in 1970, as the market finally demanded hardcore, he made the groundbreaking ‘Mona: The Virgin Nymph’.

Time magazine called it the ‘The Jazz Singer’ (1927) of fuck films. Variety called it “the long-awaited link between the stag loops and conventional theatrical fare” and it was listed it their annual Top 50 grossing films – the first pornographic film to feature. And it was the first nationally released 35mm adult feature film to play in actual movie theaters.

In short, it was the blueprint for the 1970s porno chic hits that followed.

Howard went onto make many more adult films over the next decade, including ‘Flesh Gordon’ (1974), a science fiction adventure comedy erotic spoof of the Flash Gordon serials from the 1930s.

So who was the mysterious Howard Ziehm behind these films?

Fortunately he’s finally completed his autobiography which The Rialto Report is assisting Howard to publish shortly. And it’s a hell of read. It’s a huge, entertaining, and riveting book that names names, settles scores, and tells truths. It’s also one of the best biographies you’ll read about anyone in the film industry.

And it turns out here was someone who was going to be a theoretical physicist, owned one of the most successful clubs of the 1960s folk scene, worked as a nude model, had a drug running scheme importing marijuana across the border into the US, played guitar in a Los Angeles band called Father Plotsky and the Umbilical Cord – and all that before he ever even thought of making a porn film.

Today we’re joined by Howard Ziehm to talk about his surprising life leading up to the film ‘Flesh Gordon’. It’s quite a ride.

This episode’s running time is 99 minutes.


For those interested: Howard Ziehm’s soon to be published memoir, “Take Your Shame and Shove It: The bare truth exposed” tells in vivid detail the surreal and picaresque forces that almost prevented Flesh Gordon from being made and the hedonistic bacchanal that followed that quickly found itself being swallowed by a rising tide of drug abuse and mysterious diseases that nearly destroyed the newfound freedom of a world unrestrained by puritan chains.


‘The Virgin Runaway’ (1970) (directed by Howard Ziehm)

Howard Ziehm, Virgin Runaway

Howard Ziehm, Virgin Runaway

‘Hollywood Blue’ (1970)

Hollywood Blue, Howard Ziehm, Bill OscoJapanese one sheet for ‘Hollywood Blue’ (1970)


Hollywood Blue, Howard Ziehm, Bill Osco

 ‘Mona’ (1970)

Mona, Howard Ziehm, Bill Osco

 ‘Harlot’ (1971)

Harlot, Howard Ziehm, Bill OscoNewspaper ad for ‘Harlot’ (1971) (using an alternative name)


Harlot, Howard Ziehm, Bill OscoNewspaper ad for ‘Harlot’ (1971) (using an alternative name)

 Beverley Cinema

Beverly Cinema, Howard Ziehm, Bill Osco



  • Posted On: 15th March 2015
  • By: The Rialto Report
  • Under: Podcasts


  1. Chris Conney · March 15, 2015 Reply

    Wow – I never thought we’d get an interview this detailed with Howard Ziehm… especially his early pre Flesh Gordon work. This is amazing! Kudos – you guys have done it again. This has made my day.

  2. James Bradshaw · March 15, 2015 Reply

    I’m listening to this now and loving it. A question – any chance of a second interview covering the second half of Mr Ziehm’s life?

  3. Sylvester · March 15, 2015 Reply

    Listening to this interview, I have to see this book! Any idea when it will be out?

    Thanks to the Rialto folks for keeping this incredible research going.

  4. Roy Karch · March 15, 2015 Reply

    Very interesting story from Howard Ziehm.
    Never had the pl
    easure of meeting this pioneer
    …. would love to meet you one day, Howard.
    ‘twould be a blast. Am here in Hollywood.

  5. William Margold · March 15, 2015 Reply

    Ashley and his associates have created a house of historical (and hysterical) worship where-in one can be brought to their knees…for any number of reasons!

  6. Umberto D. · March 15, 2015 Reply

    Continuing the superlative, sterling research….

    I loved this interview. Howard is a complete one-off, who else is there in the business who has led a life encompassing theortical physics, folk music and porno movies?

    I am interested in whether Howard kept copies of all the loops that he made in the 1960s? I’d love to see them and see how they differed from the competition.

    • The Rialto Report · March 15, 2015 Reply

      Sadly Howard had a house fire a few years ago (caused by the forest fires that ravaged his area of California) and lost most films, loops, and materials from his career.

  7. Tony Walsh · March 15, 2015 Reply

    Very interesting analysis of the pre-Deep Throat era, which is often ignored by other so-called historians. The podcast may have been nearly 100 mins but I was left wanting more! Not that this is a complaint but any chance of a second half of this – much as you have agreed to do to the fine Lasse Braun interview recently?

    Loving your work.

  8. Mark Savage · March 15, 2015 Reply

    Another stunner, Ashley.

    It’s galling how a country that prides itself on freedom has an Establishment that goes out of its way to bust and jail individuals practicing that freedom, a freedom so important, apparently, that young men must die fighting to preserve it. The recent treatment of pornographer Max Hardcore is proof that nothing has truly changed.

    Fascinating information about the “mini-house” phenomenon.

    I’m dying to read Ziehm’s entire book, and hope he also covers FLESH GORDON in that one.

  9. William Margold · March 17, 2015 Reply

    The reason that pre-Deep Throat era history is ignored is because there are very few people left who lived (and lusted) through it. I stumbled into XXX at the end of 1971 through a connection to Titus Moody, and didn’t meet “Reb” until the spring of 1972.

    And please don’t link the misery that Max Hardcore wrought with anything even remotely associated with the joyfully demented antics of Howard Ziehm .

  10. Hank Rose · March 18, 2015 Reply

    With X so segregated and marginalized from mainstream media, it does us no good to compare and compete legacies as if there is some Judgment Day for sexual showbiz. All we are is lust in the wind.

  11. Creighton Crockett · October 7, 2016 Reply

    Is this the Howard Ziehm that lived in Erlangen, Germany and attended the American High School in
    Nuremberg, Germany ?? His father was in the Army there? Howard, Mike Wash and I were the best of friends.
    Creighton Crockett
    Nashville, Tn.

  12. Howard Ziehm · October 13, 2016 Reply

    Hello Creighton,
    Forgive me if my deteriorating brain cells don’t specifically recall you, but those days in Erlangen were some of the best in my life. Who could forget the handsome and athletically gifted Mike Walsh who even at that age was endowed with a “package” that he liked to display nestled beneath his tight white swimming suit around the base swimming pool. I at that time didn’t have a package or pubic hair and was immature beyond my age. I write about all of this in my book which I hope you get a chance to read.

Leave a reply

Verified by MonsterInsights