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Some of the first adult movies that were made in New York in the early 1970s starred an attractive and slender woman with long dark hair. If you hung around long enough to read the credits, you’d see that she was called Tina Russell.
For a short time in the early 1970s, she was the biggest name in adult films. She was the original porn star.
Except that she was unlike other porn stars you may have come across. She looked happy, intelligent, and innocent, like the girl next door. In films she often appeared with her husband Jason, and in interviews she spoke passionately about wanting to make adult films that appealed to everyone. ‘Pretty fuck films’ she called them. She wanted bigger budgets that would allow directors to make artistic statements that would make everyone sit up and take notice.
And then along came the success of ‘Deep Throat‘ (1973) and Linda Lovelace, and Tina Russell was slowly forgotten.
The Rialto Report wanted to find who Tina Russell really was. Why did she make adult films at a time when it was all so new and such a taboo? Where did she come from and what was she like? And whatever happened to her after she left the film industry?
We tracked down people who knew her to find out what really happened to her. Friends, family, filmmakers, and fans. People like Jason Russell, Harry Reems, Andrea True, Fred Lincoln, Marlene Willoughby, Carter Stevens, Ultramax, Tallie Cochrane, John Amero, Ed Seeman, Alex Mann, Jamie Gillis, Georgina Spelvin, Gerard Damiano, Jeffrey Hurst, Tony Richards, Annie Sprinkle, Marty Hodas, Eric Edwards, and more. All of them talk here for the first time about their memories of Tina.
12 years in the making, 25 interviews. The Rialto Report is back.
This is Tina Russell’s story. The lost girl of porn.
For more pictures from Tina Russell’s life, see here.
With special thanks to Julia Knippen for her expert voiceover skills, Shane Brown for his immaculate taste in music, and Something Weird Video for the best selection in golden age films.
This episode’s running time is 107 minutes.
One of Tina’s earliest publicity photos
Tina and Jason – at the Nook of Knowledge for the ‘Porno Star’ publicity tour
Tina poses with one of her favorite cats, and referred to this as her ‘pussy photo’
Tina returned to making loops at the end of her career
Wow. Wow. Simply amazing to hear this level of research and history for this industry.
Very, very good indeed.
Tina / Linda was a much neglected figure in the history of the American sexual revolution. At last The Rialto Report corrects this – and congratulations on this towering achievement.
It strikes me how many people that you interviewed for this podcast have passed away since you spoke to them.
Thank goodness The Rialto Report recorded their memories!
The Biggest & Greatest Rialto Report ever !!! Welcome back it feels like Sunday again.
Read the book, seen the films… still the RR will add a world of information, thanks!
I’m an hour and twenty minutes in but it feels like 15 minutes. Fantastic edition of the podcast.
On a side note, does anyone know anything about Ming Toy from the loop advertisement above? Looks like she only officially appeared in 4 films according to IMDB.
You guys at the Rialto report can really be proud of this piece! It was one of the most poignant radios documentaries I’ve ever heard. I take my hat off to you all!
Sometimes a sadness becomes unbearable. Thank you to The Rialto Report for reminding us of our times and for keeping the truth in deep focus.
Thanks Roy – we deeply appreciate your support and kind words.
Five stars out of five! My only problem listening to your excellent reports is hearing the voices of all these old friends too many of whom like Linda have been forgotten by an industry they helped to create. Thank you for caring.
Thanks Carter – and when we say that this episode took years to make, it actually all started with you… You were the very first interview we did on camera all those years ago.
Thanks so much for the memories – we’re all lucky to have you.
Exceptional. Magnificent. Honest. Sad. Insightful. Intelligent. Hilarious.
The Rialto Report. Nobody does it better.
Thank you so much for the kind words Kyle!
This is not just the story of an forgotten actress, it’s the story of the birth of an industry.
Through one person’s journey The Rialto Report has told the story of entire era… in the most moving fashion imaginable. We lucky to have this level of artistry.
Linda would be proud. Finally.
We agree Rob – Linda’s story really is a parallel in many ways for the industry. Thanks for listening.
I love the way you told Linda’s story. I feel like I knew her after listening to your in-depth report. Thank you.
Thanks Lorrie! Your words are particularly special to us – as was your encouragement and help in interviewing John.
Any chance of hearing from Tracey Adams?
Should be mandatory listening for anyone considering entering the Adult Entertainment Industry. Made me magnificently and movingly understand why Jim Holliday chose Tina to be among the first class of actresses to be inducted into The XRCO Hall of Fame during its first awards show in 1985.
Well said Bill.
Your excellent work in preserving the history of adult film is now in the most perfect hands with The Rialto Report.
Beyond the service you do in documenting and preserving the history of the adult industry, you manage something extra special in episodes such as this; you preserve the existence and meaning of lives. Anyone could have told the story of Tina Russell, but you cared enough to tell the story of Linda.
Many thanks TC – very kind.
Such a sad end for a sensitive soul who was beautiful on the inside as well as the outside. Thanks Rialto & all concerned for a heartfelt telling of Linda’s story. Such a tragic loss.
Thanks everyone for the kind words and special thanks to Ashley and April for making this happen. Linda was very special to me and I truly regret that I lost her so long ago. She was my hero and I think about her almost every day. I know that her spirit is guiding me through some difficult times and she will make sure that I come to live in the happiness that she was not able to.
Correction to my last post….. The happiness that she once had but lost along the way!
The thanks should go all to you for allowing us to tell Linda’s story. Thank you for your friendship and support always.
I am reminded of the message that Linda wrote on the signed photo to you: “To my brother John, Be you NOW.”
Perhaps the best advice anyone could give.
She was a wise and good one, your sister. Just like her younger brother.
It was such a powerfully moving combination of hope, dreams and sadness. Left me crying because the themes reflect and touch the lives of many.
I feel a double sadness today. I feel I got to know someone beautiful who I didn’t know existed. And then found that she has left.
Thank you Linda for the life you led and left behind.
Gorgeous if tragic story. Very special.
Excellent work, beautifully put together. As an actress I adored her, she was a big deal as I was growing up in the 70’s. When I met Gillis, we talked a bit about her, he filled me in verbatim as he did in this audio interview. Now, of interest, that loop involving the cucumber. The industry was forever selling that loop in the back of porn mags in the late 70’s. The promise of what that loop offered was intoxicating. No penetration shown in the ad, but positioned to do so. That image stayed with me for a long, long time. So much so that the one adult video I ever shot in the early 90’s (The Valley Stream Slut) had a long, extended scene of a said actress with a cucumber. That scene completely influenced by an ad for a Tina Russell loop in the back of a magazine. Anyhow, thank you for this, very informative and very tragic.
Hi Keith – big fans of your work here at The Rialto Report, so thanks for stopping by!
And it’s great to hear your memory – and inspiration about – the cucumber! Thanks very much for sharing!
Very kind words from you lovely people, thanks so much for all you do!
Amazing podcast. But very sad at same time. Tina was seemingly a very beautiful, intelligent and sweet person that had very tragic ending.
Agree with other posters that this a perfect tribute to her memory and legacy.
Thank you RR!
Truly wonderful work…..
It’s great to learn facts – NOT gossip – about her life.
Let me state the obvious, as documentarians, you folks have talent coming out of your ears.
I feel tired just thinking about the amount of work involved in organizing all this information.
Do any of you know, what happened to a film Ms. Russell appeared in, called THE NEW COMERS – aka SEVEN DELICIOUS WISHES?… It was allegedly written and directed by Lloyd Kaufman ( of TROMA ).
Thanks P.I. – really appreciate your support!
Funny you should mention New Comers as it was mentioned in interviews we’ve done with Jamie, Harry, and Davey Jones too – all of whom had memories of the film even though they hadn’t seen it since they made it.
Of interest regarding the Newcomers. I have a one sheet for the film, given to me by my partner in business (at the time) for my birthday. It has a jerk in a gorilla suite on it, since I made Bloody Ape that’s why it was given to me. Anyhow, I brought it for Gillis to sign while we were conducting video interviews with him. He wanted the poster, but since it gift I wasn’t giving it up. We were sponsoring Gillis’s trip to Cinema Wasteland (We being Wildeye Releasing), so Gillis heard Kaufman was going to be at the show and was going to ask him for a poster (I told him “best of luck”, as the likelihood of Kaufman having the poster was slim, and Kaufman handing it over was even slimmer). Gillis did sign my Fulfilling Young Cups poster.
Of interest, the Newcomers was perhaps the first porn film I had seen on video. We are talking late 70’s, it was very silly, the sex wasn’t too impressive, not all that memorable…
Just found your web site looking for Tina Russell. What a gold mine.
Is there anywhere that sells any of her short movies are feature length movies. At one time I had a small collection.
I am very interested in a full length movie called “I am Woman” the title might have had an “a” in it after “am”. Can’t remember.
If you know where I might get some of the reproductions, I would appreciate it
It was great that you developed a podcast about forgotten performer who has been gone for about 35 years. The effort to get this level of depth must have been monumental. Also is was nice to hear a reference to the little known and probably less remembered performer Ultramax. I would like to hear a report on her or say Pat Manning.
We’re in touch with both Ultramax and Pat Manning… so who knows, perhaps one day…?!
My god, you just get better and better at presenting them and the stories get more and more moving. Anybody manage not to tear up by the end of this?
I have to admit that several of the Rialto episode have had this effect on me (Veronica Vera, Eric Edwards, R. Bolla to name a few).
… and for those of you whop aren’t familiar with Natasha’s books, check out her website. Recommended!
It may seem like such a minor detail in light of the tremendous deep research every episode offers, but I really want to praise the music selection in these episodes. This one’s use of two of my favorite performers, Judee Sill and Karen Dalton, was especially terrific! Keep finding those deep cuts to score these with!
Well spotted… we felt that somehow the equally poignant stories of Judee Sill and Karen Dalton somehow seemed to fit the story of Linda/Tina too.
Thanks for noticing.
Fantastic job! Best Rialto Report ever! I wish this had a larger audience…
Hey Jeff – your contribution to this podcast was greatly appreciated. Thanks for the memories which you spoke about in such an articulate manner.
It took a few days to get through it, but as usual, you created a masterwork. It really grew in intensity and emotion as the podcast went on. I found the conversation with Georgina Spelvin especially moving, as she witnessed Tina deal with some of the same issues she did, albeit less successfully. It felt like Tina wanted her career and profession to make a difference, to move the adult industry onward and upward, and when it pretty much abandoned her, her devastation took an ultimately tragic form.
Once again you focus on the humanity and we are the beneficiaries.
Thanks Jim. We agree with you about Georgina – her words are always wise, always honest, and always insightful.
fantastic job as always. Any chance you may undertake something about the late Erica Boyer? appsrently she was.well loved by all who met her plus lived an interesting life.
Hi Rod – it’s something we’ve considered. Our podcast interview with Barbara Dare, in which she expressed her great affection for Erica, gave us the same idea…
Rest in peace Linda.
Two of many extraordinary moments in this podcast:
1. The cops who dressed as a gaggle of rabbis.
2. Mintzer having the strength of character to stand up to prosecutors and plead not guilty after her film was busted. Her act of courage and principle in the face of state intimidation deserves wide acknowledgement among today’s civil libertarians. How satisfying and touching that after all this time The Rialto Report has helped to correct this oversight.
Thank you mw!
This is beautiful, working as it does on many different levels. The family, the friends, the husband, the adult film industry………….. all exquisitely melded together into one story.
I’m intrigued though. Did I read that you film all interviews? If so, why not turn this into a documentary film. It’s already far better than many works on the film industry out there.
Thank you Alan – a film is in the works!
Don’t know what more could be added given the previous posts but I have to mention that Rialto Report’s ability to gain the trust of so many people, in and out of the business, is simply the highest level of journalism.
Thank you so much George!
This one made me cry.
This was, by far, your best podcast and now my personal favorite. I discovered Tina Russell about ten years ago, but never knew much about her or whatever happened to her. Over the years I was able piece together some of her history but there wasn’t much info about her that I could find. The amount of work you have all done is outstanding! To gather and interview all these people who knew Tina best and to her their stories was informative, funny and sad. I had to listen to the podcast twice in a row because I was so moved by it. The Rialto Report did a tremendous job of finally telling the story of the legendary Tina Russell. I for one am thoroughly thankful for this. Amazing job!
Thank you so much for listening (twice!) and for your kind comments Philip!
Get a Ron Jeremy and Traci Lords. Interview..and Tom Byron..they know alot of facts
You and Ashley are right up there with “ESPN 30 For 30” and “Frontline” when it comes to interviews and documentaries. The loving, respectful and passionate production that you show in this episode completely blew me away. Then again, you’ve never made a bad or boring episode. If I lived in New York, I’d quit working on my podcast show so I could work for your extraordinary podcast series. Your show isn’t just about the Golden Age Of Porn via the east coast. Its a show that celebrates life, individuality, sexuality and diversity by letting the subjects tell their story. Thank you for inspiring me as an artist and THANK YOU for paying tribute to these underappreciated artists!!!
Thank you so much for this podcast. The level and quality of research is staggering.
This is one of the most saddest life stories I have ever heard. It made me so sad.
Great podcast. Keep it up.
P.S. Can you please post a photo that mention in the podcast towards the end? The one that was taken a few days before her death in California by her brother? I really want to see how unrecognizable she was from the person that we all remember.
I would say this is probably the best of the podcasts yet, but at the same time a very sad story of such a beautiful lady. Thanks for the hard work your doing to make sure people like Linda are not forgotten.
Fascinating audio documentary and very well done. I discovered Tina when I chanced across a copy of her book “Porno Star” is a used bookstore a few years ago.
But I have a question:
At the 80:20 mark in this audio file, there is a mention of a manager from the music industry who approached Tina to be her manager, negotiated a book deal for then, then absconded with her book advance. Does anyone know who this was? Because this is what manager Stan Polley did to the rock band Badfinger, which resulted in Pete Ham, then Tom Evans committing suicide.
Was the manager’s name left out for legal reasons or does no one remember who he was?
Very moving and painful listening.
A reflection of crushed hopes and dreams.
A talented, loving individual who couldn’t cope with rejection.
I was crying towards the end.
RIP Linda Mintzer.
I’ve only just discovered this site; amazing indepth research. Does anyone know if Jason Russell is still alive?
Many thanks for your kind words.
Unfortunately Jason Russell passed away about 11 years ago.
I knew nothing of Tina Russell and her story before listening to this podcast. Its an incredible piece of journalism when you can make me feel like Ive known her forever in a little over an hour. What an excellent podcast! In the portrait you’ve painted she seems like a beautiful soul.
Thanks so much Mike!
Wow, simply amazing reporting.
Tina was my first “porn crush” shortly after I discovered porn. Most porn actresses at that time looked like they had been dragged in off of 42nd St. while she certainly looked like the girl next door. In fact, she looked much like a high school girlfriend I had had a couple of years earlier, in a much more liberated form.
I was saddened when I first heard of her premature death, from “alcoholism”, which didn’t make much sense to me at the time. Now I know she really was killed by a massive betrayal and a broken heart. I can’t help but say, “Fuck Jason and the hillbilly horse he rode in on”. Jean Jennings? Seriously ? It’s fitting that he was dumped by Jennings a couple of years later.
Listened to the podcast and can’t stop thinking about it…can’t help but imagine an alternative reality in which Linda/Tina never met Jason, and how different her life may have been as a result.
In my life an a porn enthusiast, I have always been left with a number of nagging questions regarding certain films and actors. Can’t help but appreciate your unique ability to fill in so many of the blanks.
Keep up the amazing work, and thanks.
Thank you so much for the thoughtful comments Ken!
I listened to this one today. Tragic and heartbreaking–and excellent audio storytelling on your part. Thanks for this.
The mother of guitar-god, Jimmy Hendrix, also drank herself to death and died of cirrhosis of the liver; also at the tender age of 32.
She was in one of my father’s (Jerry Denby) films called Whatever Happened to Miss September.
So interesting hearing her story. I never met her as I was quite young then and didn’t really realize my dad was producing and directing ‘blue movies.’
Thanks for putting this together. She and I are rather kindred spirits.
To add to that bit of history … my sister in law was Sarah Nicholson (aka Jennifer Jordan) who appeared in my dad’s film The Big Con.
Sarah had married my brother Richard Denby. They met when he was working as a grip on a film set around 1976.
Unfortunately Sarah died in March 2022.