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It’s safe to say that Roberta Findlay wasn’t immediately interested when I contacted her for an interview.
In fact I lost count of the number of times she told me to just go away. Actually I do remember. It was 14. Or 15 if you count the time I called her afterwards to thank her for this interview.
That’s not to say I wanted to force her to speak. But I did try and convince her that her career in film is much more important and interesting and pioneering than maybe she thinks it is.
Roberta just shrugged and asked, how is it be possible to be a pioneer for doing something you have very little intention of doing in the first place?
So let’s look at the evidence:
Firstly Roberta had a long career in film spanning several completely different eras: from the 1960s black and white films of her husband Michael Findlay, to the soft core films she made on her own for Alan Shackleton in the early 70s, to the long sequence of hardcore films she made with famed New York music studio owner, Walter Sear, and finally the horror films that she directed in the late 80s.
Secondly she often did almost everything herself – she produced films, wrote the scripts, directed, shot, and edited them. And she distributed them too.
And thirdly she’s a woman. And how many women do you know who’ve been so prolific over several decades in any male-dominated industry?
So yes, Roberta Findlay has had a more important and interesting career than she admits.
And it wasn’t meant to be that way. If her parents had had their wish, she’d have become a concert pianist. And if Roberta had had her way, she would have been a doctor.
So how did she become one of the most prolific directors of sex films?
Is it really true that the negatives for her films have been sealed behind a wall and that no one can get at them?
And why is she so keen on not being interviewed?
These questions and many more on this episode of The Rialto Report.
This episode’s running time is 83 minutes.
Roberta Findlay one-sheets and stills:
Just finished listening and I’m genuinely moved. She’s a difficult character alright, but the final section of this show was quite exceptional.
I love the attention to the overview of people’s career, but it’s the personal details that really elevate these podcasts into a new dimension – unchartered by fandom thus far. Stirring, and meaningful.
Absolutely amazing interview with the indefatigable Ms. Findlay, Ashley.
You managed to explore every nook and cranny of her fascinating life, and revealed her as down-to-earth, smart, and no-nonsense.
As always, your great intelligence, knowledge of the business, and sincere curiosity produces a striking portrait.
Well. Ash, this might be my number one favorite from the Rialto Report. Maybe because this Bronx pornograher has always admired this Bronx pornograher yet never met her. I see why she is special to me. Thanx Roberta for staying in deep focus.
Ms. Findlay doesn’t always come across as the warmest or most likeable person, but she’s also tremendously compelling. Hear her look back over 50 years of history – and marvel at the humanity that still manages to slip through the cracks. This oral history is providing something that the traditional academics just haven’t offered… a genuine understanding of the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ this industry happened..
Thanks for your persistence Ashley, it was well worth it – and thanks to Roberta for finally giving in and allowing us all a candid look into her remarkable life and career.
Good job Ashley! I listened to the interview with Roberta and all I can say is WOW. Lots of new information. It also explains why she wouldn’t talk to me back in the 1990s when I got in touch with her. She’s a female misogynist. A rare breed. I was surprised you didn’t ask her about her appearing in the black and white roughies like BODY OF A FEMALE and TAKE ME NAKED. Maybe that topic was off limits?
Completely compelling. Utterly brilliant. Always The Rialto Report.
Thank you, Ashley. And thank you, Roberta. One for the ages.
Among the dozens of incredible revelations in this interview is her love of Melville’s PIERRE OR THE AMBIGUITIES. I’m now dying to know if she ever saw the adaptation directed by Leos Carax (as POLA X), but moreso sad that we never got hers, which would have probably been even more unusual than Carax’s.
Let’s hope that friend that inadvertently walled up her negatives decides to do some remodeling in the near future.
Wow, if anyone has a book in them about their life, it’s definitely Ms. Findlay. I know she did the Chiller east coast autograph show a few years and was her usual cranky self and apparently hated having people tell her they liked her work. What a fascinating journey and quirky person. She seems to remember everything. C’mon Ashley, you apparently seduced her once , collaborate and get her whole story told.
Another stellar interview with a golden age icon, Roberta. As pieces of porn’s hidden past come to light, it raises new questions along the way. Roberta disliked, “Ron” enough to only use him once. I assume it is Ron Jeremy and not Ron Sullivan. So… why is Jeremy so disliked? Others have complained about him and yet he keeps making movies and gets TV face time. Can you tell us anything more?
Another excellent piece of work Ashley. Of interest, Roberta hung up on me when I called her for an interview for The Exploitation Journal back in the late 80’s. Also, Jamie Gillis related the Long Island story to me as well when we interviewed him. Great stuff because she is very difficult, though it does seem she is softening these days…
Ashley, also of interest, I recall Donn Davison telling me stories of how Shakelton abused Roberta, in particular the story of him beating her because she asked to be paid. Davison claimed Shakelton actually tossed her down a flight of stairs…
One Correction: Carnegie Deli is not closed for good, they were stealing gas and are bneing
fined and stuff and have to fix their pipes.
Colorful. I was gaffer for 1 week on Banned until pink slipped. Walter Sear
had a manner such that I felt the world was mine when he fired me. He called me a gentleman.
Roberta’s parting words had something to do with mother’s ancestory and anatomy, I don’t remember
Another stellar podcast by the Rialto Crew! Very blunt, down to earth woman.
FYI, cam across this rare interview with Roberta Findlay, back from 2005. Very consistent with her statements in the podcast.
One of my favorite episodes to date. Thanks, Ashley for this amazing interview with Ms. Findlay!
Roberta is fascinating ; she was as open as she was closed. It seemed like she wanted relate to us with her story yet she pushes us away with her words. A woman, who story is completely sympathetic yet will do everything in her power not to be. I loved her. I totally feel for her, and sadly, I know my love of her and Michael’s work will do nothing to bring her joy. I wish her only happiness and kindness. This one of the best interviews I’ve ever heard!
“she was as open as she was closed.”
Exactly. A mixture of intelligence, ignorance (willful or otherwise), industry, apathy best described in her own words: “a barnacle floating through the sea of life”..
What an oddball but I suppose we’re all the more poorer for their absence.
According to Jill Nelson’s biography of John Holmes, Roberta Findlay used the pseudonym “J. Angel Martine” primarily for producing credits, and some directing credits. Other sources state that Martine was a real person.
Can the Rialto Report confirm that J. Angel Martine was really Roberta?
Great job Ashley, twas worthwhile your insistence.
If anyone wants to check out Roberta on piano (at around 7mins in the video) and a mini interview with her on Sear Sound, Walt’s studio, here are the links:
The intro to this podcast *is* hilarious… Otherwise, it is kind of sad to hear from the perspective of someone who’s not terribly proud of their life’s work. Roberta seems to have some serious regrets.
Real woman in the most unreal of realities.
Trapped and surrounded in place of her
own making, and taking the rest of us
there, however reluctantly.
Complete definition of Oral History.
This one snatched from the jaws of
obscurity by AW’s tenacity.
I learned a lot about my sister’s life (Roberta Findlay) I really never knew.
I did know that she made x-rated and horror movies.
I did meet Walter Sear. He was a very special person.
I do think that Roberta is not correct in saying that she does not like women.
I believe she liked very much my wife Sandra who passed away in 2011.
What a character Ms Findlay is!!! Ashley you could charm the birds out of the trees. I love how she even made a pass for you at the end of the interview. Another remarkable life history of a female pioneer in the porn industry from the other side of the camera
In an alternate reality, maybe Roberta was supposed to become a medical researcher that would find a cure for cancer.
Very interesting interview, but somewhat guarded, almost as if she’s mentally editing out stuff like crimes that don’t have a statute of limitations.
Both this interview and the website are a revelation. Used to edit one of the several fanzines dedicated to these sort of films back in the Eighties (SUBHUMAN). What you are doing here is so amazing…….literally opening a door wider than anyone else who ever attempted such before.
There are few sexploitation series that capture an overwhelming sense of sexual sickness as the Flesh trilogy with Michael Findlay. They really nailed the meaning of the term smut. Joseph Mawra’s Olga is next in line for those honors.
That was tough listening at times – definitely felt like a sobering therapy session.
I haven’t seen, so far, but one of her movies, “Teenage Milkmaid”, and it was my first so-called “porn” film. But I’d love to find a copy of it. In any case, it’s great that getting an interview with Roberta Findlay.