Adult industry actor, historian, and provocateur, Bill Margold, died on Tuesday night. He was 73.
The Rialto Report’s Ashley West remembers his last conversation with Bill.
Conversations with Bill would invariably follow a familiar pattern.
He would start out gruffly, barking down the phone.
Then he’d complain angrily about an issue, railing against someone who had offended him or a group that had let him down. I’d usually calm him by talking about football.
Then we’d get down to business and talk about the history of the adult film industry. We’d swap notes about who we’d heard from. He always wanted to know who we’d interviewed. He asked about the well known figures and the obscure, and had a ready, caustic opinion on everyone.
And throughout every conversation he’d call me ‘kid’.
Bill was a big supporter and friend of The Rialto Report and sent us regular emails commenting on the most recent podcast or article. He often left comments on the Rialto Report site too. We visited him a number of times in Los Angeles and he was always an entertaining host. In some ways, The Rialto Report took inspiration from Bill. Yes, he was a historian, but above all he cared about the people behind the image. Similarly The Rialto Report has always been keen on the ‘what’ and the ‘how’, but above all we’re interested in the ‘who’.
We often talked about doing a podcast interview with him. He was enthusiastic but wanted to do it in person (most of our interviews are conducted over the phone). He also said that he wanted to be the last person we ever interviewed. He promised he wouldn’t hold back and that it would be the best interview of all.
Bill was born in Washington, D.C., and graduated from California State University with a degree in Journalism. He was the son of Nathan Margold, a Harvard Law School graduate who went on to become Solicitor General of the Department of the Interior under President Harry S. Truman.
He started in the industry with agent Reb Sawitz in the office of Reb’s Pretty Girls modeling agency, helping ease actresses’ entry into the industry and finding work for them with a then-small but growing number of directors and production companies.
Getting started as a performer in some of the most celebrated movies of triple-X cinema – including Lust at First Bite (aka Dracula Sucks) (1978) and Olympic Fever (1979) – Bill went on to become the head of the trade advocacy group, the Free Speech Coalition, as well as either founding or co-founding the X-Rated Critics Organization (XRCO), Fans of X-Rated Entertainment (FOXE), and the foundation Protecting Adult Welfare (PAW). Of all his ventures, Bill was perhaps proudest of PAW which he created to assist adult performers in all areas of their lives. Partly as a result of this work, Bill acquired the nickname Papa Bear.
In recent years Bill broadcast a radio program on XXXPornStarRadio.com. He died during the broadcast of the show.
I last spoke to Bill two days ago. He started by being his usual blunt self.
“It’s Margold here. Were you trying to contact me? I just got a missed call and I figured it was from you.”
I assured him I hadn’t been trying to reach him.
“Well, we should speak more often. Have you heard what the assholes at the Free Speech Coalition are doing? They want to categorize porn stars as sex workers! Can you believe it? After everything we’ve done to preserve our history. I’m so mad I’m busting open like a ripe melon. I’m going to start a new organization called the APASW. It’s the Adult Performers Aren’t Sex Workers.”
He ranted for a few minutes before I moved the conversation onto the subject of the football play-offs and whether he’d seen the Steelers beat the Chiefs. His tone mellowed.
“Say, have you ever found out what happened to Maria Tortuga? You should find her. She’d be a great interview. How about Pat Manning? I could tell you some stories about her. And tell me about how you found Desiree Cousteau. What is she doing nowadays?”
We talked about the recent Rialto Report postings. He said he hoped to see Eric Edwards soon. He marveled that Eric was one of the only survivors from the start of the industry.
“Isn’t it strange that I seem to have become one of the few dinosaurs who’s still alive from the early years? History is so important to preserve, but now I seem to have become part of history too.”
The conversation fell silent, which was rare for an interaction with Bill.
“Let me ask you a question. Why do you do the Rialto Report? Why are you interested in my people?” he asked.
I returned the question. “Why have you done what you’ve done in your life?”
“You’ll have to wait until our interview for that. But I guarantee you, it’ll be worth the wait.
For the moment, just keep on doing what you’re doing, kid. Just keep on doing what you’re doing.”
The phone clicked and he was gone.
RIP Bill. You will be missed.
I spoke to Bill on many occasions and he always spoke about The Rialto Report. He LOVED you guys.
Thanks for continuing his work.
Thanks for everything Bill. You were one of a kind.
I talked to him right after he called you and this was the EXACT conversation. The man spent 23 hours a day on the phone. I’m at a loss.
Sad to hear of his passing.
Bill Margold… truely a one-of-a-kind.
I used to chat with Bill when I attended the AVN Expo in the early-to-mid 00s/2000s,for he was a helleva nice guy and it’s sad to know that he won’t be there at this year’s AVN Expo(since he was a regular fixture there). Interesting to hear that he was done with the Free Speech Coalition and preparing to start off his new version of it,which we’ll now never see come to reality.
RIP Mr. Margold.
And as he asked, have you found Maria Tortuga and Pat Manning and interviewed them yet? Both were wonderful supporting stars and sometimes stole the show from the so-called leads of their respective movies.
Sorry to hear of his passing. When I started researching adult movies from the 1970s, he provided some good insight. I even quoted him in my article on Joe Robertson’s The Love Feast. RIP Bill.
LIFE… Many a fond memory with Bill & our Saturday afternoon Coldwater Canyon football gang – We gathered once a week for our ritual beginning @ 10:00 without fail for nearly 25 years – It was the club, it was the place where guys from all different sorts of backgrounds could bond, trade stories, & exercise prowess among one another – All levels of athletes were welcome, some ex-NFL, ex-college, highschool, or just some who had a love of the game – Bill was a rabid LIONS fan.
RIP Bill, I asked him several times in emails years ago about films from the 80’s, he really had a great memory. I asked him what was the film he did with Tiffany Clark and he not only emailed me the title but said it was filmed in Oct 1979, he really knew his history of adult films. He also told me a story when they filmed California Valley Girls in 1983, that Eric Edwards was late for his scene with Kimberly Carson and if he didn’t get there soon they were going to use Bill with her instead for the hot tub scene but Eric showed up.
I told him my favorite scene with him was in Midnight Zone and it happened to be a none sex scene, he did an over the top impression of Shatner in that classic Twilight Zone episode Nightmare at 20,000. Gina Valentino played the stewardess who tries to calm him down as Bill flips out, he then walks in on Gina and the pilot and just watches. He said he had fun with that film and liked Gina and used her in a few of the films he was making with Drea but they never had a scene together. First Jim Holliday and now Bill is gone, they really did know the history of the golden age better than everyone. It seems like Ron Jeremy and R Bolla are just about the only guys left from the 70’s, most are gone now, gonna miss your insights Bill.
Missing my friend Bill today.
He passed away while doing what he loved…. chatting….. on the radio.
From the Other Dinosaur of the Biz,
I’ll miss you. Perhaps we’ll do lunch in Heaven someday soon.
(Or I’ve heard about this great BBQ place down below–My Treat)!
Rest in Peace, my old Friend. I love you…
I should have also said Eric Edwards and Joey Silvera are also still around from the 70’s, no disrespect meant.
Well said Eric. Best chris
Small historical footnote. It wasn’t Reb’s “Pretty Girls” agency. (That name change was done by Drea). It was known then and for many many years as Reb’s Sunset International. I still have one of the old business cards.
RIP Bill. Sad sad news. A huge lovable unique character. Loved speaking with him on the phone. Was always hoping the Lions would make it to the super bowl!
Take care kid!
Sad news, indeed. I loved the role he played as “protector/mentor” of people in the industry. I also loved the scene he did with Kassi Nova in Butts Motel. Oh, how I envied him in that role. Who will carry the historian torch now?
Also, glad to see Mr. Edwards chime in. I feel like I have grown up with you! Hope you are doing well.
The way the cards got dealt, we started out on opposite teams taking big
shots at each other. Over the time of our lives, I came to understand that despite
his brash exterior, the man just had a big heart. He eventually won my respect
whether he ever meant to or not. Overall, our business . . . and the world . . . was
better off for him having been in it. – the ghost of Richard Pacheco
Rest In Peace Bill. I’ve got many fond memories with you. Say hi to Pogo & Viper, Jamie & the rest.
So long, Bear.
Sorry to see him leave. I would like to have heard an in depth interview with him.
My exposure to Bill Margold has pretty much been limited to interviews here and elsewhere and in “After Porn Ends,” but when I heard of his passing, my heart sank a little. He was an excellent spokesman for the golden age and the industry at large.
Great to see Eric Edwards’ post here. Hope you’re doing well.
Always love seeing Howie here as well. I will always consider you the best, most versatile actor adult ever produced. You and Georgina Spelvin in “The Dancers” is a master class of what adult films, then or now, could be capable of.
Another voice goes silent.
A man among men.
Rest in Peace, Bill.
(that picture of he and Viper is ACES!)
Visit: http://artsliberationfront.BlogSpot.com and http://williammargold.blogspot.com
I knew Bill from 72, 73. Wrote a piece on our relationship. Last talked to him a week B$ he passed.
One of a kind. A true advocate for the industry.
I interviewed Bill for my research in my animated mockumentary on December 18th, 2016. He gave me some good insight on the biz, his thoughts on Viper, Traci Lords, Tony Al-ay, and the like; his time working on “69 Minutes (aka Nudes at Eleven)” as the Khadafi stand-in and him being miserable during the shoot because he was away from Viper; how he would give stage names; and so on. (He even told me that he would name an actress Coral Reef, if he had the opportunity.) And sadly, 29 days later, he died. I just wish I would’ve given him another phone call to gather more information for my film, and sadly, the Fates had other plans.
I miss that man. He was a great help to me, you and everybody else. RIP you big ol’ teddy bear!
I was really sorry to hear of Papa Bears passing. I am not in the industry in fact I live in a small town in the south far away from Hollywood, but some 25 years ago I had the pleasure of talking with Bill on the telephone when I was doing research on the golden era of porn.
I found in the 15 minutes or so of talking with him just as you would think a man who was making sure that I got the right information for my research. So he pointed me to the great book by Jim Holliday “Only The Best” which helped me immensely in my study and of which I still have the copy of the book to this day. So I will aIways remember him in helping me in that way. I can say without a doubt that
I truly believe the adult industry has lost one of it’s last mavericks a man that stood for the performers and for the fans that watched.
Thanks for letting me ramble a bit but I just wanted to share the story. RIP Papa Bear
I had no idea Bill passed till one of my FB friends posted about it tonight. I had considered entering the adult industry 10 years ago, but I came across Bill’s website and he talked me out of it (which I am grateful for). We had many long conversations about our lives. I had a couple of opportunities to meet him in person, but the timing wasn’t right. I will never forget how funny, kind, caring, and honest he was. I regret I never got to meet him, but I hope he is in a better place now. Goodbye, my friend, rest in peace…you will be missed and I will never forget you!
I’ve known Bill Margold since the mid 80’s. He found out that I was a theatrical costume designer from a small town in Indiana, and was wanting to talk to me about perhaps designing for some adult films. He first mailed me a letter, as he didn’t have my phone number. I got a chuckle from his business card. It stated “God created the heavens and the earth, but Bill Margold created himself.” I told him that I would be happy to work with him and did a few small projects for some films he was involved in. I never knew what films they were. He would just tell me his needs, and several times I did it at no cost because it was low budget. In 1992 he asked me to custom make him some denim jackets for a line of garments he was thinking about working with me to create that he wanted to call “Barely Decent” garments for a business he had called “Barely Decent Entertainment “. I did a denim jacket with an airbrushed teddy bear wearing a tuxedo and “Barely Decent Entertainment “on the back, and on the front did his girls raising the flag over the right pocket, and put his name over the left pocket, and gave it a patriotic theme all over. It had “Hollywood” on one sleeve and “California ” on the other sleeve, and I loaded the jackets down with rhinestones. I was doing a project at one of the film studios, so I came to LA and personally delivered the jackets to him. He was blown away. We spent a lot of time together on numerous occasions in the 90’s when I would be in LA. I must say he was one of the most intellectual and well read men that I’ve had the pleasure of being friends with. He was so funny, because if you took him out to eat and said you were paying, you can bet, you paid! They didn’t call him “papa bear” for nothing! He could eat bear size portions! I never left without giving him a check as a donation towards one of his charities. I loved his passion for the people in the adult film industry. He introduced me to many legends that are no longer with us. He tried to talk me into moving to LA, and maybe creating the line of clothing he never got around to designing, or starting a production company with him, but I got so tied up in my business that we slowly lost track of each other after the mid 2000’s. We were FB friends, and I would let him know when we were working on a new movie. Last time I talked to Bill was via FB. I told him we did costumes for a designer for a movie called “Elvis meets Nixon”. Bill asked who was playing the Elvis part. I told him Michael Shannon. He said “Kid, that Michael Shannon has a face that will wilt roses! Why in hell is he playing Elvis?” I will always cherish the times I talked to or spent with Bill in person. The last time I saw him in person was in the late 90’s for the Consumer Electronics Show I was attending. I stopped by and gave him a donation, game him a big hug and shook hands, and now I’m sad that I didn’t have more time with this incredible man. It’s kind of like an entertainer I know said in one of his songs “Life is short, even in its longest day.” RIP Bill. You will be missed and are much loved.
–got to spend a couple of days with him in LA a few years back– between restaurant visits (“Food is very important now”, he reflected) we tracked down some exterior locations for an old porn movie I was researching. His memory was amazing, and of course various other stories got triggered–legendary porn stuff and funny restaurant reflections (food again)… I felt immediately and completely comfortable around him. Another statement of Margold’s that is apropos now: “Dust and me co-exist very well together.”
Reunited with Viper, RIP!
Bill.. Was the man.. He was voice for us baby boomers for sure… I am going to miss him and so will many others.. He was one of kind…We have lost the best of the best kids!
I’m late getting this news and there’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said. Vaya con dios Bill!
I was so saddened to read of my friend Bill’s passing. I left the adult industry over 32 years ago and have mixed views about it and the people in it – indeed that was one of the reasons I left to return east, change my life, and become rather wealthy in “respectable” mainstream business. I took Bill to lunch 3 years ago when I returned to visit LA and often him to dinner when he came east for the now defunct East Coast Video Show.
I always felt Bill was a very fine and above all, kind person. I saw through his egomania and exterior gruffness; he was always willing to help people…frankly too willing.
Bill was unique; he certainly had his faults as well as his qualities. My own view was as I told him and he didn’t demur, that he’d have had a better life taking a M.S.W. degree and becoming a professional social worker. We always had a very frank and cordial friendship…certainly I did not always agree with him..who did?
I shall miss him a lot. RIP
You were my reason I entered the adult industry and I will always remember you allowing me to work at your FREE SPEECH BOOTH at various conventions.
There was never a kinder person than you esp helping the new stars entering the industry…….. I just found out you passed and I cried……….you will never be forgotten papa bear.
He had the grace to answer a letter I wrote him way back in the 80s. Don’t even remember the content of what I said but he stressed the idea that porn stars were rebels and that free speech was king. I appreciate his generosity in writing back (as he obviously was a really busy guy) and I’m sorry to hear of his passing.
I just heard about Bill’s passing after discovering your podcast (great work btw).
Several years ago, I was researching something in the non-adult world and Bill’s name came up. I reached out to him and he immediately got on the phone with me and told me stories for a good hour.
I watched his memorial service on YouTube and it was very touching.