When porno chic exploded into mainstream culture in the early 1970s, American media coverage was… well, patchy. Mainstream publications often opted for a naïve, gawping, and voyeuristic approach, while most men’s magazines merely amped up the crude salaciousness of the new phenomenon.
But there were exceptions: The Rialto Report’s favorites articles came from over the pond, and a U.K. journalist, Tony Crawley. His interviews were well written, funny, bawdy and insightful, as if Gay Talese had applied his New Journalism approach to the world of adult films.
He only worked for a couple of years in adult film journalism, but he conducted definitive interviews with notable characters that included Linda Lovelace, Kim Pope, the Mitchell Brothers, Barbara Bourbon, and Darby Lloyd Raines.
We tracked Tony down to ask him about his memories of the era and re-publish his interviews. We start today by republishing his full interviews with director/producer Summer Brown, and actor Harry Reems.
Tony Crawley – Memories of a Chronicler of XXX
I was just a normal everyday journalist and I eventually moved to London to work on a film magazine that the Rank Organization were giving away free in their cinemas at the time called ‘Show Time’ – which later became something called ‘Show Guide’.
Eventually I joined a company called Thorpe & Porter, a publishing company that were housed within the Warner Brothers and Columbia building on Wardour Street. And one of the things they did was a magazine in English based on an Italian publication called Cinema X.
They came to me and said, “What can you do with this? Can you run with it?” And I said, “I should imagine so.” Movies are movies as far as I was concerned, so I worked on that as well.
Despite the name, ‘Cinema X’ certainly wasn’t porn. It covered Italian movies, German movies, British movies… any movies that might have had a nude scene or whatever else in. And it would cover all films ‘from lean to loin’.
For a short time, I started my own magazine, called ‘Premiere’, but the people that put up the money… ran away with the money so that didn’t go very far.
After that I became aware of the porno chic phenomenon that was starting in America so I created ‘Cinema Blue’, which they let me take as far as one could allow it to go in Britain in those days.
I was still working on the mainstream film industry, so for one reason or another I would going to the States, say, for the Oscars, and I’d stop off in New York on the way. While in New York, I’d get in touch with some of the adult film people and meet up with them to interview them. In the case of Harry Reems, I think I met him through the publicist for his book.
Harry Reems, with two other actors
Harry and I had a splendid interview in New York somewhere around 1975, and he gave me some other numbers – like Darby Lloyd Raines’ and Kim Pope’s. So I’d do my adult film interviews, then I’d get on the next plane for L.A. to do my Oscar report. I remember I was there in 1976 because ‘Taxi Driver’ was out, and I never went back for another Oscar after that. It was a dual life I led. One moment, I could be interviewing Clint Eastwood and the next minute, I met Darby Lloyd Rains. I met Jamie Gillis for about ten minutes in Cannes one year, so we had a short and sweet conversation there.
I started interviewing adult stars on the West Coast after I met Dave Friedman. I got in touch with him because a guy came around to the office in London to sell us material that we could use in ‘Cinema X’, pictures of movies being made or photos of the XXX stars. He had press book which had the name and address of Dave’s company, so I wrote to him and said, “I’d like to use some more of your material.”
Soon after, he sent me a message saying, “I’m passing through London, where can we meet?” I dimly remembered that there was an American bar at the Dorchester, and I thought as an American he’d be happier in an American bar than a British pub so made an appointment to see him there. I think it might well have been his first visit to London, not to Europe, but to London and he was quite the ‘ugly’ American, turning up with a huge stetson on. I think for some reason he wanted everybody to know he was American, which as soon as he opened his mouth, you’d know that!
His wife Carol, was a character too, but she was great. She died, and Dave came home from the airport one day and found her dead on the floor in the kitchen, she had a heart attack.
But Dave was an utter and complete gentleman, the sweetest man you could hope to meet. We did an interview in the bar, which was a great sprawling story which spanned his early days and setting up the EVI company. I told Dave at one point, “You should write all this.” And he said something like, “I don’t know how to.” I said, “Don’t be silly, look at all the writing you’ve done, like writing publicity matter. You can handle the pen better than most people I know.” And so he eventually did it (‘A Youth in Babylon: Confessions of a Trash-Film King’). The beauty was in the way he told the stories, because he told them so well.
After that, he became a great friend and we corresponded often until he passed. When I was in L.A., he connected me with people like Barbara Bourbon. I remember Dave showed me her adult films which he said were a cut above the rest, by saying, “This is the difference between chicken salad and chicken shit.”
She’d just appeared in a hardcore Radley Metzger movie (The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann (1974), and of course Radley had been well known to me at ‘Cinema X’ because of his 1960s softcore films – before he ‘crossed the border’ as they say.
Then Thorpe & Porter started ‘Game’ magazine, and I published longer interviews in ‘Game’ and shorter interviews in ‘Cinema X’ or ‘Cinema Blue’.
My involvement in writing about adult films didn’t last for long: ‘Cinema X’ collapsed first, then ‘Cinema Blue’ collapsed, and my marriage collapsed too, and got remarried and moved to France. I think they’d just run their course basically, and if magazines didn’t sell a certain number, Thorpe & Porter would just stop publishing them. And at the same time, they started Game so a lot of the writing went on into there anyway.
I used to get the occasional postcard from Harry Reems on his to make a film in Sweden or Denmark or whatever. But I think the last interview connected with that field was probably with Linda Lovelace… when she was saying that actresses were abused and dying and being left on the street. She may have had a good reason to be against it all, but what she was saying was very Trumpian.
I never kept copies of the magazines. I remember selling a bunch to some fan that kept waiting at the front door of the Warner Brothers building saying, “Psst. Psst, got any copies?” So I sold him the entire collection basically – for peanuts.
After that, I wrote a number of film-related books – including ‘Bebe: The Films of Brigitte Bardot’, ‘Screen Dreams: The Hollywood Pin-Up’, ‘The Steven Spielberg Story’, ‘The Films of Sophia Loren’, and a few others.
Nowadays I have a website, Crawley’s Casting Calls, that is a unique directory of what you never saw on-screen. It covers the films the stars did not make, and the movies that never were.
Tony Crawley first UK journalist to the US x-rated film industry from 1970s to early 1990s interesting article keep up the good work
I was amazed to see Tony Crawley featured on this site………… as I thought I was the only one who was a fan!
He seemed to have a healthy degree of interest in the business, mixed with a healthy degree of skepticism and humor. In other words a perfect mix for this subject matter.
Thanks for highlighting his work.
Thank you Rod!
Crawley was in some respects the 1970s version of The Rialto Report, in that he gave voice to people that we’d only seen on the big screen…. in a humorous and humanistic way.
I’d love to see his piece on the French film Exhibition if you’re willing to re-publish it!
Rialto Report lovers hit the jackpot today! Hold all my calls!!
Another excellent series of additions to the archive. Good to see a UK journo getting in on the act!
Great to see Tony Crawley interviewed.
I used to live for his column in House of Hammer magazine and its spawns.
Always came across as a really broad-minded, eclectic guy.
Would love to see Rialto coverage on the Continental Films magazine at some point.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3VpYkxZ9AE. Tony Crawley on camera.
Thanks Steve – good to see this!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELSTUzdZ3Q4&t=666s both parts with Tony Crawley
Tony Crawley was a great film writer! I loved his writing and he was a beacon of intelligence in a field of mediocrity…. (The Rialto Report apart obviously 😉 )