Juliet Graham‘s time in adult films was short but memorable.
A statuesque blonde, she appeared in notable films like ‘The Story of Joanna‘ (1975), ‘Alice in Wonderland‘ (1976), and the elusive ‘The Ganja Express‘ (1978) – and dated two early industry regulars, Jamie Gillis and Ashley Moore. For a time she also was a regular in pictorials in the pages of New York-based men’s magazines.
A year after her first film, she left the business, and appeared in mainstream movies and television shows (including a brief appearance in Woody Allen’s ‘Annie Hall’ (1977), acted in the theater, became a model, and hosted a number of cable TV shows.
And then, as many fans often lament in relation to their favorite adult film stars, she disappeared. Except that Juliet Graham didn’t disappear. She is one of the few stars from the business in the 1970s who stayed in New York, where she still lives.
So what does she remember about that heady period in the 1970s when she lived with Jamie Gillis, appeared in some of the more ambitious pornographic films, and then attempted to achieve mainstream success?
Growing up in Queens
I was born Bonnie Schiffer in Manhattan, and raised in Fresh Meadows, Queens before we moved to nearby Jamaica Estates.
My father’s family was Jewish and they came over with the influx of Jews that landed at Ellis Island. My mother’s family were Episcopalians who were originally from England, and they’d been in the country since around 1710. It was a strange mix; I attended a Jewish school but I also went to church.
Juliet on left
My parents were school people; my father was a high school assistant principal, and he coached fencing and basketball, and my mom started out as a school secretary before she had me and my two younger brothers. Growing up, I was closer to my father. I always thought my mother was disapproving of me, and perhaps she had good reason. When I was a kid, I’d refuse to do any housework. I just said to her, “My job is to do well in school.” Fortunately, I could get away with it, as I was the top of my class nearly all of the time.
I attended high school in the late 1960s, and was pretty studious and serious. I was independent, and didn’t like to conform or go along with the crowd. My closest friends were the weirdos and misfits. I identified with them. I felt like an outsider, perhaps because I was attending a Jewish school and I didn’t identify as being Jewish. My classmates were nearly all Jewish, and they’d give me hell for coming into school on Jewish holidays, and for not belonging to a temple. And I didn’t eat kosher either. It was rough.
My family wasn’t a particularly cultural one – unless you count visiting historical sites which we did regularly. We rarely went to the theater or to the movies, and even though my father was a Phys-Ed chairman, we never went to a sporting event either. As a teenager, I wanted to change this, so I sought out films and plays by myself, and took myself off to see them. They had a big effect on me. I remember thinking, “Those people on screen are good – but no better than I am. I could do what they do. And maybe one day I will.” After that, I started auditioning for high school plays, and I was successful – although I was usually left out of the musical theater productions because I didn’t have much of a singing voice.
Juliet (top right) with her family
I loved reading, though I had strange tastes. On the one hand, I liked ‘Gone With the Wind’, but I also really got into Ayn Rand. Her philosophy appealed to me because she depicted a world with people that had integrity. These people were successful in their war against the mediocre. I liked that. Nowadays looking back, I think Rand was a little naïve and didactic, but I still have a lot of fondness for her.
Despite the fact that I’d been rejected by my classmates for years, something strange happened in my mid-teens. I suddenly realized that I’d become very popular. And not just with the boys either – I seemed to be popular with everybody. To this day, I’m still not entirely sure what happened. At the time, I found it strange: I was still the same person, so why was I suddenly in demand? Overnight I started to be invited to join all the sororities, and to go to all kinds of parties. Then the football captain asked me out. I was pretty suspicious of suddenly being flavor of the month. I figured it could disappear as fast as it came on, but I decided to enjoy it while it lasted. It was fun having everybody like me, but I still didn’t consider them to be my real friends. The misfits and weirdos were still my real friends.
In my senior year, I had a boyfriend. We’d go to a movie, sit in the back row of the balcony, and make out. He invited me to the prom. I thought about it briefly but I didn’t want to go because I’d have to get a new dress and pay for the limo, and I didn’t want to ask my parents for money. Plus there was nobody I really wanted to see at the prom. So I turned him down. I broke up with him soon afterwards.
Unfortunately, my mother developed early onset Alzheimer’s disease in her 50s. We noticed some of the signs immediately. At first, it was just forgetfulness. She started putting things in the wrong place. After a while, we couldn’t entrust her to be near the stove. Then she started to wander away from the house. I wasn’t living at home by that stage, but I visited often enough to see the worst of it. We took her to a neurologist to see what the story was, and that’s when we found out.
Her mental deterioration was very fast – it only took about three years – but she lived on for almost 20 more years. My father took care of her for over 15 years at home. Then he developed prostate cancer, perhaps from the stress and strains of being a caregiver because it was so draining for him.
College… and hippies
When I graduated from high school, I went to Queens College where I studied English Literature with a minor in Education.
I was still living at home, but often I had a big gap between my classes, so I used to hang out in the student gathering building. I’d make my own hippy jewelry, and I’d sell it there. I had a cigar box full of beads, Indian corn, nuts, and crystals, and I made jewelry out of all these items.
I used to sneak into the Village a lot too. There were a lot of crazy looking hippies in the Village then. I didn’t particularly want to be a hippy, rotting my brain to the point where I wasn’t going to come back, and I didn’t want to wear filthy clothes either. But overall I liked it and I got a variety of jobs there.
I worked in a head shop – it sold paraphernalia for smoking pot and DayGlo posters. I sold my jewelry there too. Then I got a job applying fake tattoos – the ones that just required a damp cloth. And I worked for a costume store called Royal Rags. They sent me out every weekend dressed in a harem outfit to drum up business, and so I’d go to Washington Square Park and hand out flyers about the store.
I’d taken drugs a few times, but I really didn’t start in earnest until I was in my late teens. And by earnest, I mean more than just pot. I experimented with cocaine, mescaline, you name it. I snorted heroin a couple of times – not knowing it was heroin. It gave me a strange high, like I couldn’t stop nodding off. One time I was sitting in a bathroom on a toilet next to a sink and my head kept hitting the sink, and yet I didn’t have the strength to get up.
I got heavily into LSD for a while. It was wonderful. I loved the way my vision changed and enabled me to see things so differently. Colors changed, and everything moved around differently. Eventually I had a bad LSD trip, and I thought that the guy that I was with was gonna kill me. It was so scary, so I gave LSD up after that. I never did it again.
It was a revolutionary time to be young with the rise of the counter-cultural movement. I was an independent thinker – but I wasn’t particularly political. I went to one protest march against the Vietnam War. I thought it would be like a social event. When the cops started running towards us with their batons out, I was scared. I said, “I’m out of here. I’m not doing this.” I didn’t get drawn into politics again after that.
I wasn’t sexually active until I was in college. I’d dated this guy back in high school when I was a virgin, and he used to come over to the house where I baby sat and we’d make out on the couch until we heard the family coming home. But I wouldn’t sleep with him. Then two years later, just by coincidence, we met up in Washington Square Park. By this time, he was some kind of male model and a guitar player, so I thought, “Ok, now we can be lovers.” I decided he would be the one to take away my virginity.
One night, we went over to his friend’s house, and he went out to cop some drugs. I waited and waited for him to return, and finally his friend fucked me. So that’s how I lost my virginity… It was horrible. I didn’t want his friend, but I was just so high that I didn’t know what was going on. When my boyfriend, or rather the one I wanted to be my boyfriend, came back, neither one of us said anything. It was an awkward situation. Taking drugs was not good for that relationship. We never got into who we really were to each other because of the drugs. The drugs were a form of escapism, and took us away from our real selves.
Throughout the time I was working and hanging out in the Village, I was still living at home in Queens. My parents let me live there, on the understanding that I wouldn’t stay out overnight. Every night I’d hang out with friends and hippies on the streets listening to music, and then I’d catch the last E train of the night before daylight. I used to get home at quarter to five. I stuck to my parents rule, so they didn’t say anything.
Summers in London
While I was in college, I went to summer school in London. The course I took was on Victorian prose and modern British poetry. I remember learning about Tennyson’s ‘Idylls of the King’. I did absolutely no work. I was out every night until four o’clock in the morning. I got straight As only because I bought a paper from a term paper service. I knew it wasn’t legal, and you weren’t supposed to do it, but I figured I could get away with it, so I did.
Juliet in London
I started out living in the Bloomsbury area where the school was, but I spent a lot of time in Kensington with this guy that I met. He was another male model, very good looking and well-dressed, and I just felt turned on by him. Unfortunately, he was a bad boy too. The first night I was out with him, he hot-wired a car, and we stole it and just drove off in it.
He was a real crook. He had cans for collecting donations – like the March of Dimes. He’d give them to these little old ladies who went around London and collected money from people on the streets. When the money came back, he just pocketed it. Then I found he had a stolen credit card racket going too. He even stole my credit card, so I had no access to money. I was stuck: I wanted to go over to the mainland of Europe and to the Isle of Wight, but because he’d stolen my credit card, I couldn’t go anywhere. We split up after that.
The next year I went back to London, and I had even a more debauched experience. This was just after the period of the swinging ’60s in London, and I went to discos almost every night. They were called discos even though this was before the era of disco music. I remember songs like ‘All Right Now’ by Free, ‘Lola’ by the Kinks, and ‘Honky Tonk Women’ by the Stones being played everywhere. One night I went home with a guy who said he was a Lord. I went back to his place, which was impressive, and had sex with him. When I turned over, I found another guy on the other side of the bed – who looked just the same. It turned out they were twins. So I ended up sleeping with both of them.
Amazingly I ran into the same crook with whom I’d been involved the previous summer. We just bumped into each other in the street. I still had feelings for him, so I got involved with him all over again. Big mistake… this time he gave me VD! I had to go to the National Health and get a shot of antibiotics.
I didn’t spend as much time with him the second year because I met a Yugoslavian call boy and musician. He proved to be no better than the first guy. I moved in with him, but one day when I was snooping through his drawers, I came across a prison identity card with his mug shot. It transpired he had a prison record in the United States. I kept quiet about it, but a few days later when I was in the bathroom, I noticed the floor tiles weren’t even. I looked underneath one of them and found a gun hidden there. Sure enough, he was a gangster.
When he found out that I knew, he raped me. I was living with him so I didn’t feel like I could leave. I didn’t have anywhere to go so I just stayed with him. He brought another girlfriend home one night, and they fucked in the bed in front of me. She became jealous, and wanted him to get rid of me. One night he even tried to kill me. He put his arms around my neck and squeezed and it was his girlfriend that stopped him. So he threw all my stuff into the street instead. I had to go down and pick it all up.
I returned to New York. That was enough excitement for that trip.
Working in New York… and swinging
I graduated college in 1972. For almost three years after that, I got an office job, working nine to five and dating casually.
I’d always wanted to be an advertising copywriter because I wanted to write things that were creative and clever, and that enticed people to buy things. I’d always done a lot of writing – small things like short stories for the school yearbooks, book reviews for the library, things like that – and I wanted to do more.
As it was, my first job was for a fashion house where I picked out the fabrics and designed the patterns on men’s shirts. I got fired from that job because I had the temerity to move into the office of a man who’d just left the company. The office was empty and as I was the highest-ranking woman there, I thought I’d move in. That’s feminism for you…
Eventually I got into publishing – with a job as an editorial assistant producing books for Time Life. The first book I worked on was called The Family Craft Handbook. It was about hobbies and crafts, and explained how to make everything from kites to macramé. It was like an alphabetical guide and there were 24 volumes. I just threw myself into each activity, found out about them, and then wrote about them. I got a credit in the book for that.
I was still living at home in Queens, but it was becoming difficult because I’d started dating two different guys, and I was struggling to keep them separate. I met one of them at a swinger’s party.
I learned about swinging from a guy I met at a bar, and he invited me to see for myself what the scene was like. So we went to a swing that very night and I slept with a couple of people. It was nothing special but he wanted me to try it again.
There was a bar called the Botany Talk House on 6th Avenue where you’d meet other people interested in swinging, and then you’d go your separate ways to different people’s houses. Everyone would meet there. Sometimes it would just be two couples going off together, sometimes it was more. But the evenings typically started at the Botany Talk House.
I felt very sexual, but the swings just weren’t something that I found exciting. They never seemed to work out as I wanted them to. For example, I’d heard black guys were supposed to be good in bed, so one night I waited for one particular black guy that I liked the look of, but he’d already been with two other women. He came up to me and said, “Honey – I’m sorry, I have nothing left for you!” And then to make matters worse, I was approached by this big, fat guy who was the host of the party, who wanted to fuck me. I said, “No, I don’t think so.”
At one of these swinging parties, I met a guy named Steve Tucker. We liked each other and started a relationship. He told me he acted in adult sex films, in which used the porn name, Ashley Moore. The swinging parties were good for his film career as he met many women there who he then introduced to adult film directors.
Steve didn’t do adult films full time. His day job was selling aluminum siding, and he did well at it. He was very bright. I liked him a lot, and we started dating.
Steve Tucker (aka Ashley Moore)
Ashley Moore… and Jamie Gillis
Steve invited me to a film shoot. I was intrigued so I went along as a spectator – and that’s how I met Jamie Gillis. I remember being transfixed watching Jamie fuck this woman. I was very impressed with him. He had an intensity that was irresistible. That, and the fact that he locked eyes with me all the time he was fucking his partner. The film was called ‘Two Senoritas.’ Marc Stevens was on the set that time, and also some Spanish women who didn’t speak English very well.
Jamie Gillis in ‘Two Senoritas’ (1975)
Steve became jealous when he saw how I was looking at Jamie. The chemistry between Jamie and I was strong, and I started seeing him after that. From then on, it became a real competition between the two of them. That’s when I knew that I had to move out of my parent’s house and find a place of my own so that I could juggle them both. I moved in with my girlfriend Diane on the east side of Manhattan in the Murray Hill area. I had my own room so it was easier to manage the situation. Steve and Jamie knew each other well because they were often in the same films, but at first Steve didn’t know that I’d started a relationship with Jamie. Of course, Jamie knew that I was seeing Steve, but he didn’t mind in the slightest.
It was Jamie who first asked me to make an adult film. That was ‘Oriental Blue’. It was my baptism in film. I remember I was just invited to watch the shoot, but I was getting so turned on that when Jaime asked me, I said, “Okay, I’ll do it.” I don’t even remember getting paid for it. Probably not. I only agreed to do it because it was with Jamie. That’s the real reason that I wanted to do it.
After dating both Steve and Jamie for a while, the situation came to a head when Steve found out I was seeing Jamie. Steve gave me an ultimatum: He said I had to choose. It was either Jamie or him. Jamie didn’t care one way or another. He said he was happy sharing me, but Steve was adamant. In the end, I said to Steve, “If you give me an ultimatum, I’m going to have to pick Jamie.” It wasn’t that I preferred Jamie. I just didn’t like getting ultimatums.
Steve was a sensitive sort and had a soft side. He had two cats that he loved and took care of. But he was also hot-blooded and impulsive, and he took the break-up badly. He refused to speak to me for years. I was one of the loves of his life, and he had difficulty getting over our relationship.
I moved in with Jamie and we lived together for a few years at 305 West 45th St. We had a second floor apartment that overlooked one of the Broadway theaters. Jamie used to lean out of the window and proposition the prostitutes in the street below, and we’d watch drug deals taking place with people from the Gilded Grape club.
I liked Jamie because he could be so sensitive, sweet, and intellectual, and he read poetry out loud, but then he’d be so crass as to bring over another person and expect me to fuck them. It was a huge contradiction in one person, and it was so unique. Sometimes it was very exciting, other times less so.
We often did crazy things at Jamie’s instigation. Once he brought Harry Reems over for a threesome. That was fine. I liked Harry. Harry didn’t take anything too seriously and he just enjoyed having a good time. We went to the swinger’s club, Plato’s Retreat, a few times too. I didn’t care for it much as there were too many bridge and tunnel people. They were mostly walking around gawking at the few people that were actually doing anything. It felt cheap.
During this time, I was featured in some of the men’s magazines. I remember Al Goldstein came to interview Jamie and I as a couple. They persuaded me to do the interview naked. When the pictures came out in Screw Magazine, I was so embarrassed. I had no idea how exposed I was, and some of the positions I was in were very revealing.
Life with Jamie was never normal. He had a reputation for getting being rough and dominant, but when he was with me that was not the case. In fact, he liked to be dominated. On one occasion, I put a dog’s leash around his neck and pulled it over the top of a door, and made him get up on his hind legs. He enjoyed role-playing like that.
The breaking point in our relationship was when he brought over this young kid and wanted me to break him in – which I did, but then the kid stole my money. $120. He was just a street kid, a hustler, and I guess he didn’t know any better.
I said, “Jamie, you oughta pay me back that money.” And he refused, so I moved out. I found a furnished apartment in a building across the street. It was $250 a month – which was a lot more than the $190 that Jamie and I were splitting at his place, but I’d had enough of the crazy lifestyle with Jamie.
I didn’t stay mad at him for long, and Jamie took the breakup well. We stayed close friends for the rest of his life. Jamie was… Jamie.
After appearing in ‘Oriental Blue’, I decided to make a few more films. It seemed like fun. I kept my day job in the office, and took a different name for the films. I chose Juliet Graham, because I just liked the way it sounded.
One of the early films I made was Gerry Damiano’s ‘The Story of Joanna’. It starred Jamie and Terri Hall. I recently met up with Gerry’s son who asked me about my memories of making the film. I was afraid to say that I remember very little about it. I do recall being in a very cute maid’s outfit and doing a 69 with Terri which was fun. Then I remember being in a dominatrix outfit and whipping her, which I also enjoyed.
Juliet, with Terri Hall
The ‘Story of Joanna’ shoot was lengthier than most, and I was there for the whole duration hanging out with everyone and watching it all being filmed. It was shot at this impressive mansion – where we also stayed. I think it was actually a finishing school for girls. It was very airy and open, and had high ceilings, an impressive staircase, four poster canopy beds, and large fireplaces. Every room had a glass-paneled door. This wasn’t the usual porn film set.
I also remember watching the scenes which featured Terri Hall, such as the adagio sequence where Terri is penetrated in various orifices, and also her dance scenes. Terri was quite a dancer. She had a beautiful body, and I loved her breasts.
I heard rumors that she had a breakdown later, but she was pleasant and perfectly normal when I knew her. She was very sweet. She seemed a little off in her own world at times, but at other times she was very savvy and totally aware of what she was doing and what persona she wanted to project. She was funny too; one time, she was just about to start a sex scene with one of the skinny actors, and she leaned across to me and said, “Boy, the guys in this industry don’t have much in the way of muscles, do they?”
Juliet Graham, with Terri Hall in ‘The Story of Joanna’ (1975)
As for Jamie, he was really into his role in ‘Joanna’. He was crazed with his obsession with the lead female character. It was an intense part. He was nasty to her and he completely got into the role.
Terri Hall was in a few other films with me, one of which was ‘Alice in Wonderland: An X-Rated Musical Fantasy’ (1976). I remember auditioning for the lead role of Alice because they liked my long blond hair. Instead they gave me the part of the Queen of Hearts, and I accepted it.
Kristine DeBell took the lead role, and she was very sweet. And young. She might have only been two or three years younger than me, but she seemed a very young 20 or 21. She had that innocence that they were looking for. She didn’t really have to act or project too much, just be incredulous and open, and she was great at that. She had one scene with me, and another with the prince I think. She was fine, not difficult or temperamental at all. She was the only person who wasn’t part of the adult industry, but she didn’t seem to be prim or objecting to anything. Our scene wasn’t simulated, and it worked out fine.
Kristine deBell in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ (1976)
They started by shooting some of the porn scenes, so I figured that it was just another porn movie with a bigger set and a little larger cast. But then when I saw the musical numbers and how they got everybody up to speed to do them, I was incredibly impressed. This was one of the best productions I’d been in.
My main memory of the film was that I had to sing. On a porn film! In the end, I more or less talked instead of singing. It’s hard to say whether you could even call it singing. I remember this exchange where Alice goes, “If I’m found guilty, will I be dead?” and I answered, “Not until I get some head.” It was cute.
Nancy Dare and Terri Hall had both danced professionally for a while so they were able to do whatever the choreographer wanted. But I couldn’t really dance and was basically very klutzy. I tripped up a few times in the heels they had me wear, and in one instance I fell down badly on my ass. They didn’t seem to mind as they said it was part of my character so they left it in the final cut.
It seemed like we were shooting for weeks. It was never-ending but we laughed a lot. Bucky Searles in particular was hilarious. He did the music and had an acting part as well. He was so funny. He cracked everybody up in between and during takes.
I remember John Lawrence who played the King of Hearts. He was this big black guy. He wasn’t much of an actor but I guess he was trying to be. He always cracked me up because his way of acting was with his finger. Every line, every word, he’s gesturing with his finger. I liked him though. I remember asking the writer to write a love scene between John and I, so I’d have an excuse to sleep with him in the movie. It didn’t happen though…
Tony and Sue Richards played Tweedledum and Tweedledee. They were everybody’s favorite couple. They were on the porno scene for a short while, and were both really nice. They really loved each other and didn’t want to do scenes with anybody else. I really liked them. They looked like they could sustain their marriage through all of this, but I heard later that they split.
One of the producers, Bill Osco, the obnoxious one, made a pass at me on set one day. I told him I was Jamie Gillis‘ girlfriend and I had no interest in him. Then he threatened not to pay me if I didn’t go to his room with him. I ended up spending one night in his room but I didn’t sleep with him. I just said, “This is ridiculous. If you want, we’ll stay up. We can talk all night if you want, but I’m not going to have sex with you.” The money was good on this film so I didn’t want to lose it. I seem to remember I got paid $1,000.
Juliet Graham, with Kristine DeBell
There was a New York premiere for ‘Alice in Wonderland’. I remember Andy Warhol was there. It was in one of the main theaters in Times Square that no longer exists. I invited my aunt and uncle, which was sort of a cheeky thing to do, and they were shocked. Afterwards they had nothing to say to me, except that the whole thing was ‘perverted.’
I’d already told my parents about the films – and in fact I’d taken both Jamie and Steve home to meet them. My parents liked them both because they were smart and intelligent. Their reaction to the films wasn’t “whoopee,” but it wasn’t a terrible response either.
During my time making adult films, I got to know many of the people on the scene – and most of them were good. I remember meeting Bobby Astyr, and being told I had to shot a sex scene with him. He was strange looking and so I thought it was going to be unpleasant but it wasn’t. Bobby was funny, and the scene was entertaining. Many of these films had a lot of humor in them aside from the sex.
I didn’t hang out with the film people all the time as I had a day job, and I was busy balancing the demands of my office work at the same time. Eventually I got fired from my day job because I was taking too many days off to do the films. My employer didn’t know what I was doing, but he just knew there were too many times when I didn’t turn up for work. Getting fired was actually a blessing as I was able to collect unemployment insurance for 65 weeks. I figured I’d spend the 65 weeks and see if I could make it as a mainstream actor or model.
The adult films had been a sideline – and a short-term one as well. All of my appearances occurred over a 12-month time period. I was ready to try something different.
Extras… and ‘The Ganja Express’ (1978)
One of the first things I did was to get a modeling portfolio, which I took to a number of agencies. Eileen Ford took me on for a while. She got me a good number of jobs and auditions, but ultimately all I got were these ‘go-see’ pictures. These really weren’t the same caliber as national ads that other people had in their books so Ford dropped me after about three months. It was a blow, but I soon found other agencies that kept me busy with lots of work.
The modeling work was plentiful and just kept coming. I got some TV commercials modeling lingerie, panty hoses… even a print campaign advertising vaginal lubricant. I took pride in always wearing my own clothes and doing my hair and make-up where possible. The modeling was fun – except for the fact that the photographers were all so predatory… It seemed impossible to do a job without them coming onto the model, which became wearing.
I also started getting regular work as an extra on mainstream film sets, and I did some theater work as well, such as a play that satirized organized religion called ‘Reverend Money.’
Juliet in ‘Reverend Money’
There was so much work, I never went back to a regular 9-5 day job. I was making such good money as a model and as an extra. I was also dating a lot. It was a good time.
One day I ran into this man named Dick MacLeod. He saw me on my block in the Times Square neighborhood, and came up to me saying he wanted to meet me. He told me he was casting for a film that he wanted to make called ‘The Ganja Express’, and that he had already cast Jamie Gillis and Annie Sprinkle. I told him I didn’t want to do any more hardcore porn, and he seemed OK with that.
He wanted me to play one of the leads and said every other character in the film would do hardcore porn – but that he wouldn’t expect me to do it. I felt like he was sabotaging his whole film just to keep me pure, but I was happy to be considered for it. The film had a higher budget than any of the other adult films I’d been in, so in the end I agreed to the role. Even though I wasn’t doing any sex scenes in ‘Ganja Express’, I still wanted to use a different name so I retired the Juliet Graham name and became ‘Laura MacKenzie’.
Dick MacLeod was a funny character. He was an old-fashioned, lovable rogue. He was a combination of P. T. Barnum and Babe Ruth. In fact, he always claimed Babe Ruth was his illegitimate father – and he looked exactly like him. I even made him enter this Babe Ruth lookalike contest once.
He’d had a colorful past, full of ups and downs. He was in World War Two where he was some sort of radio signalman. After that, he got married and had six children, and somewhere along the line, he got involved in counterfeiting. He had a serious racket going. Eventually he was caught and served a lengthy jail sentence. To hear him talk about it though, he just made it sound like a joke.
By the 1960s, he was living up in Boston, where he tried to run for governor – but they didn’t let him because he was a convicted felon.
When I met him he’d split up from his wife, and he soon had designs on me. In short, he wanted to marry me. I told him, “I’m not gonna marry you but I will take your name.” So that’s how I became ‘Chris MacLeod’ in a few films. I liked it. It just sounded good. I told him I had no feelings for him, but that I’d go to bed with him once just so he didn’t have to keep imagining what it would be like.
Dick had made several films before, including a softcore film called ‘Kitten in a Cage’ he made back in the ’60s in Boston. He wanted ‘Ganja Express’ to be a big budget porno film that would make his name in the business. I was grateful that he wanted me in it. The film was a bigger undertaking than anything I’d done before – long days, an extended shooting schedule, and a large cast. We shot on Plum Island in Massachusetts, so it was expensive having everyone up there for the whole time. It was a non-union film, but Dick paid me SAG rates and overtime, so I made good money.
Richard did most of the casting through Dorothy Palmer’s agency in Manhattan. My God, what a character Dorothy was. You’d walk into her office and the first thing you’d hear was her questioning somebody, “Hey honey, would you take it up the ass?” And that was shouting across the office! Anybody that was there thinking they were going to get a legitimate job must have been shocked to the core. She did get mainstream jobs for people too, but I think porn was her bread and butter. I would go to her office to find work. Whenever anybody was casting, she’d have them there.
Terri Hall in ‘The Ganja Express’
The ‘Ganja Express’ production wasn’t smooth sailing, and at times it was downright dangerous because no one knew what they were doing. We shot a number of scenes at sea on a boat but no one seemed to know how to sail. At one point, the boat sailed straight into a pile of rocks, and I shot off and fell onto the rocks. I had to do a lot of standing on deck – which was a precarious activity, and Dick was usually crouching down out of sight, holding my ankles so that I wouldn’t fall overboard.
To make matters worse, my leading man Jeff Hurst kept vomiting in the boat, which didn’t make it smell too good. He and I knew each other from ‘Fantasex’, which was a fun shoot. He was a very sweet guy. Al Levitsky was another guy in the film that I liked a lot. I don’t know why he didn’t get to a higher level in films. He had a good sense of humor, and a great smile.
Juliet Graham, with Jeff Hurst
I can’t say the same for Catherine Burgess who was the other female lead. I couldn’t stand her. She had a way of reciting her lines by splitting them up with a lengthy pause in the middle so you had to keep the camera on her. She definitely thought she was a big star and was very patronizing towards me. We had a lesbian scene together that was meant to be sweet but ended up very tentative and not passionate at all. There was just no chemistry between the two of us.
Catharine Burgess (left) and Juliet Graham (aka Laura MacKenzie) in ‘The Ganja Express’ (1978)
Ganja Express had a troubled post-production. We shot most of it in 1975, but it didn’t come out until 1978 – and then it kind of disappeared afterwards. When it was released, I remember going to see it. It was better than I expected. I didn’t know how Dick was gonna cut between the hardcore and softcore scenes because he basically shot two different movies, but it turned out OK.
After the premiere, the film never seemed to get a proper release, except maybe for a week in Canada and a week in Detroit, I think. Dick said the reason was that we’d gone over budget, and the person who financed it refused to put up more money to distribute it. His partner was this man named James McManus, who’d never done a film before. He just put up the money. Who knows what the reason was?
Juliet Graham on the set of ‘The Ganja Express’
Mainstream Films… and cable TV
Dick got me into SAG for ‘Ganja Express’, and my first film after that was Woody Allen’s ‘Annie Hall’. I remembered being very excited because I was in a scene with Woody Allen and Diane Keaton. At the time, I didn’t even know if I was in the camera shot.
Juliet Graham’s brief cameo in Annie Hall (1977)
I went on to appear in over 100 other mainstream films as an extra, like Neil Simon’s ‘Chapter Two’ (1979). In some of them, I had a good amount of screen time.
Juliet Graham, with James Caan in ‘Chapter Two’ (1979)
I had a proper part in ‘The First Deadly Sin’ (1980) with Frank Sinatra, but sadly they cut it out. Still, I got residuals on it for the next 30 years…
I also got a part in the long-running daytime soap ‘All My Children’. The show was set in a fictional suburb of Philadelphia, but it was recorded at ABC’s TV18, which was in Manhattan at 101 West 67th St.
The acting was work but also a fun time, and for a while I thought I was getting somewhere with my career. Unfortunately, it didn’t add up to much. I made some B-movies like ‘Gold of the Amazon Women’ with Anita Ekberg (I was her handmaiden) and Donald Pleasance. Anita and I became friends – we’d share chapstick on set. She was entertaining though a little imperious.
In the early 1980s, I also had several different cable TV shows using the Chris McLeod name. I interviewed personalities in New York and covered cultural events. I had a lot of leeway with what I did. These kind of cable shows were very popular at that time, so I had a lot of fun doing it. The best one I did was called Q1J, that was sponsored by Q Magazine which used to be a big thing.
Aftermath… and beyond
Gradually New York changed, and the people I had known moved away. I seemed to be one of the only people who stayed in the city. After ‘Ganja Express’, Dick went back to Massachusetts. He kept writing books and coming up with new ideas for screenplays, but sadly they went nowhere. He’d always lived dangerously and unsafely, and for a time he lived in an old school bus with no heat or electricity. By the end of his life, he was living in the basement of somebody’s house with no heating. One day they just found him there. It was terrible. He’d had a heart attack, and had been dead for a while. I’d kept in touch with him until shortly before he died.
Eventually I became friends with my old boyfriend Steve Tucker again, and we saw each other regularly. He lived in Manhattan in the West ’60s in an apartment that was still decorated with furnishings from the early 1960s – like shiny wallpaper and DayGlo artifacts. He’d left the aluminum business and had started selling ads for a sports business magazine.
We’d see each other and speak on the phone often. He told me about the women in his life, which I found fascinating. By this stage, he’d become a little hardened, and was more determined not to let his vulnerability show again. He complained that as a guy approaching 50, and with a job that didn’t pay all that much money, all of the pretty 20-something year olds that he wanted to hook up with weren’t interested in him. Things were very different from when he was younger. He said that as soon as a date found out how much money he was making, she’d just move on. The women either wanted gorgeous young guys, or they wanted old guys with a lot of money. So he became a little bitter as he got older.
He eventually found someone special and told me he was going to get married. This woman was a music producer. He was going to ask her to marry him. One night they went to a dance, they had a little spat, and didn’t speak for a while. The next thing I knew was that Steve had been found dead in his apartment. He’d had a heart attack. He was only in his early 50s.
Jamie passed away more recently. I was saddened by the fact that he didn’t tell me that he was terminally ill. He hardly told anyone. I guess he had his reasons but I wish I’d known. His health deteriorated so quickly, and then suddenly he was gone.
Time passes so quickly. I’ve been writing my memoirs for a while now, and I’ve almost finished them. I always wanted to write about my life. All the different parts of it. Not just one part or another.
It’s been quite a ride.