The Secret Life of Dolly Sharp, Part 4: Whatever Happened to Helen Wood? – Podcast 112

The Secret Life of Dolly Sharp, Part 4: Whatever Happened to Helen Wood? – Podcast 112

In the first part of the mini-series ‘The Secret Life of Dolly Sharp’, I went in search for the enigmatic Deep Throat actor with the mysterious past, who seemed to disappear from the face of the earth back in 1972. I spoke to Gerry Damiano and Harry Reems who worked with Dolly on ‘Deep Throat’, to actors who appeared in other films with her like Fred Lincoln and Jamie Gillis, even one of the first porn agents, Tallie Cochrane.

In the second part, I found that Dolly had had a long and successful career on stage and in movies – as Helen Wood – long before she entered the adult film industry.

In the third part, I went in search of Dolly Sharp, to find out why she had disappeared from New York shortly after she appeared in ‘Deep Throat.’

In this final episode, I look for Helen Wood.

This podcast is 43 minutes long.


Helen WoodHelen Wood takes New York


Helen WoodHelen in ‘Give A Girl A Break’


Helen WoodHelen Wood in the 1990s


Helen WoodHelen in the 1990s


  • Posted On: 10th October 2021
  • By: Ashley West
  • Under: Podcasts


  1. Fred · October 10, 2021 Reply

    Hands down the greatest achievement from all of the efforts from various sources.
    Simply the most insightful piece of work and intelligent output.
    Congratulations to all concerned.

  2. Joe R. · October 10, 2021 Reply

    After the barnstormer of the third episode, this delivers on every front.


  3. Samantha Kay · October 10, 2021 Reply

    Sensational conclusion. I could listen to Ashley West’s voice all day.

    • Jim Stevens · October 10, 2021 Reply

      If you have to revisit a story, this is the way to do it. The last episode was an emotional rollercoaster…whatever issues Helen had, John was a case for study himself. The threats of extreme violence…my God. An exemplary, sometimes scary piece of detective work.

      • Morty · April 23, 2022 Reply

        What Fantastic Journalism this is
        I remember seeing Deep Throat as a Teenager in the 80s. I remember Dolly/ Helen in that infamous scene. She was way ahead of her time.Just Excellent Journalism. Mainstream could take some lessons.

    • April Hall · October 16, 2021 Reply

      Thank you Samantha!

  4. Chuck P · October 10, 2021 Reply

    Broke my heart but gladden me to hear she found a kind of peace and didn’t end alone. A great interview, as always.

  5. Chris Williams · October 10, 2021 Reply

    I love to see someone turn this into a film. I was so disappointed by the series The Deuce, and the producers obsession with pimps (who had little to no part in the Golden Age of Porn in reality), and how they skipped over the fascinating “white coater” era. Dolly’s story would be a great way to explore something unknown to the vast majority.

  6. Helen's New Fan · October 10, 2021 Reply

    I shed more than a tear…… for a person I didn’t even know about a few months ago.
    Complex, sad, emotional. A small masterpiece.

  7. ANON · October 10, 2021 Reply

    I am kinda speechless.

    You told the story, and yet I still want more.

    Amazing storytelling.

  8. Jeff Robertson · October 10, 2021 Reply

    Awesome Article and Podcast That Was So Amazing

  9. MJ Striker · October 10, 2021 Reply

    Wow, even later in her life, in the picture of her in front of the car she always kept her lean athletic dancers body. If she wanted a big career in porn she could have been another Georgina Spelvin. Amazing so much interest in a woman who played just a bit part in Deep Throat.

    Thank you Rialto for this story. Would love to see a story on the poor mans Johnnie Keyes, the second biggest black porn star on the 70’s King Paul aka Uncle Paul. Where did Paul come from? he had an east coast accent? how did he get into porn? Why almost all Diamond Collection loops? what happened to him, is he still alive?

    • Jake Roberts · October 10, 2021 Reply

      Wow. Just wow.

      With all due respect, did you even listen to the 4th part of the podcast?

      You know the episode that mentioned the lifetime of pain and angst she suffered because of the adult film career?!!?

      If so, why the hell would you write “If she wanted a big career in porn”….?!?!

      She clearly never wanted that.

      And then to talk about King Paul, when there is so much to admire in this story, in this podcast, in this life… Have some respect.

      And listen to the podcast.

      • J. Walter Puppybreath · October 10, 2021 Reply

        Have a care: MJ works King Paul in to every post. It’s what sustains him.

    • Rob C. · October 10, 2021 Reply

      Listen to the podcast first, mate.
      It’s clear you haven’t.

      Go on. Try it. You’ll like it. It’s a good one.

  10. Jerk · October 10, 2021 Reply

    Amazing story! Thanks

  11. Keith J. Crocker · October 10, 2021 Reply

    Fantastic piece. I’ve mentioned before that Joe Marzanno was slated to shoot a one day wonder with her. I’ve given many film presentations, some on musicals and I’ve even showed clips from Give a Girl a Break! Who’d have known? That said, one of the most fascinating aspects of this was how much her boyfriend recorded personal conversation. The part with the therapist is really fascinating because that is a no no. Most therapists wouldn’t go for that. And it certainly wasn’t easy to do pre-90’s. Anyhow, this was a really good piece of uncover work.

  12. Marco Antonio Santos Freitas · October 10, 2021 Reply

    Incredible work.

  13. Richard · October 10, 2021 Reply

    We all have some form of dysfunction in our lives, and it’s clear these two definitely did, and were still able to have a life together. It’s interesting how very talented people, sometimes hook up, with total losers. Congratulations to Rialto, for this amazing presentation. RIP Helen!

  14. Milkman Dead · October 11, 2021 Reply

    After the great conclusion to this series I’d suggest to all that you revisit podcast 20 which did a great job covering Deep Throat. It’s an even better listen with this perspective on one of the movie’s stars.
    Great job, Mr. West.

  15. Olivera · October 11, 2021 Reply

    Amazing story and great storytelling.

  16. Stevie · October 12, 2021 Reply

    Ahh the complexities of the human experience. Kudos to the Rialto Report for capturing the all the details of one woman’s quest to find herself in an often unforgiving world.
    One can’t help but hope that somewhere in Ms. Wood’s life , she found peace and happiness.

  17. cary · October 12, 2021 Reply

    Stellar series, on my! i was touched as i can hear you were as well, Mr. West. A big THANK YOU to the gentleman that were in her life that allowed you to share their experience with Ms. Wood. and finally, …Helen. i too wish i could of met you. your life, your talent, your beauty, YOUR HUMANITY, that integrity and gravitas i hear in your story, makes me say, you’re missed, and thank you for being.

    Thank you RIALTO.

  18. Ed · October 14, 2021 Reply

    Absolutely incredible work to put all this together! Many people (including myself) would have just expected “Dolly Sharp” to have disappeared into the mists of time, never to be seen again. That you managed to find out so much about her is unbelievable detective work. The dedication and skill of the people who run this site is nothing short of astonishing.

    Any chance of a feature on Connie Peterson? Love to know what happened to her, she just seemed to vanish.
    Or the ultimate find would be the blonde-haired Color Climax actress known as “Christa”, she seemed to be the starting point for every young boy sneakily checking out his first porn mag, or watching his folks VHS copy when they were out….

  19. Corn Flakes · October 15, 2021 Reply

    Thoroughly enjoyable. The depth of Rialto Report’s journalism and Ashley West’s story-telling creates a vivid picture of the actor and the human that embodies her. Helen Wood lived a very interesting and arguably, tragic life. The rise and fall of Ms. Wood is an age old tale that would have remain untold but for Rialto Report’s dogged preservation of this important history.

    Mr. West’s investigation involved 10 years! And the result is a spectacularly fulfilling portrait and inside look of this transformative era in American life, film, pornography, law, and the human experience. Easily, the story-telling is on par with This American Life. Fascinating!

  20. Hyrb Tarlyk · October 15, 2021 Reply

    you guys have done some awesome work, and this is the best piece you’ve ever done. A fantastic piece of journalism. And the luck too…I can imagine the shit eating grin on Ashley’s face when hearing this dude recorded everything….a seam of pure GOLD, and hit a towering 500 ft home run with it that completely cleared the stadium.

    To me the most fascinating part was how these people were so toxic for one another but yet still stuck with it and had it worked out. They were frankly complementary people, both so tortured by the shame component around sexuality. I cant imagine the subverted shame he must have felt in his need to degrade her over her participation in porn, and equally I cant imagine the shame she must have felt to abandon all her accumulated skill set and disappear completely from society for the rest of her life once it became known she was the legendary co star of Deep Throat. I also wondered why there was nothing on his lady as well, her obscurity seemed intentional and the conspicuousness of it always intrigued me too.

    Fantastic, fantastic work….this piece should win some award for journalism honestly. There is serious movie potential here as well, this is such a fundamentally human story.

    • April Hall · October 16, 2021 Reply

      We greatly appreciate it Hyrb!

      • Xavier · November 16, 2021 Reply

        Just finished binge-listening to this story. It’s STUNNING. Helen Dolly Sharp Wood came “alive” and touched my heart. Nothing in her life was wasted. As we can see and hear, it kept on giving. I had already been blown away by your stories, Dear Rialto Report, but this one left me speechless. Thank You.

  21. George Maranville · October 17, 2021 Reply

    I’ve come back to this story many times over the past few weeks. It’s so far beyond a story about the golden age of adult cinema. Of course, that’s true of all the work done by The Rialto Report but this one is so above the stratosphere it takes your breath away.

  22. Don · October 19, 2021 Reply

    Yet another amazing story, i always found Helen/Dolly the most interesting character in Deep Throat. I always thought i was the odd one out for this but gladly see i am not.

  23. Chris Flash · October 25, 2021 Reply

    ANOTHER home run from Rialto Report!

    You are performing a public service for those of us who lived during and enjoyed the golden age of porn and those who want to know more about those days.

    Thank you!

    — Chris Flash

  24. Julia · October 31, 2021 Reply

    honestly one of the most interesting podcasts I’ve ever listened to. Helen Wood had a truly incredible life.

    Thank you so much for this.

  25. Byron Lueders · November 23, 2021 Reply

    This is as much an incredible tale of a talented woman’s life as it is a document about the poisonous masculinity of a banal man. I guess I have to applaud her boyfriend’s paranoia that resulted in all of this source material. Glad to hear that Jon was willing to do the work on himself to overcome his issues (and also that he didn’t MURDER Helen).

    Thanks again for objectively presenting this story of two complex, real people. Mic appreciation for continuing to preserve the legacy of these obscure Golden Age performers.

  26. Patrick · December 5, 2021 Reply

    Just finished listening to all four episodes of this podcast. What an incredible, insightful, heartbreaking piece of investigative journalism. What an incredible talent Helen Wood was, and you served her memory well.

    I do wonder if you ever made contact with her son while you were putting this piece together. I would be curious to get his perspective on her life.

  27. Mr. Fred C. Dobbs · December 14, 2021 Reply

    The striking thing about this story is that Helen Wood was so casual about doing porn work, seemingly viewing it as just another acting gig. I cannot help but wonder if she viewed doing porn scenes as little different from getting a job through the infamous “casting couch” that was purportedly common in mainstream Hollywood throughout the 20th century.

    In both cases, actresses were obliged to have sex if they wanted to earn money. The casting couch was done “behind the scenes” so the actresses involved at the very least didn’t having the experience tarnishing their subsequent careers. Perhaps Helen found herself on the casting couch at some point in career. She would have hardly been alone. She may have assumed that since porn was an underground industry it was essentially the same thing and she could walk away from it later without anyone knowing that she participated.

    And, then, in a cruel twist of fate, one film becomes a popular sensation…

  28. A · January 21, 2022 Reply

    I loved the entire series you did on Helen Wood. She had a very fascinating life, and you did a great job of unearthing a lot of it. I do have several questions though. If money was the primary reason she turned to sex films, what had happened to the money that she had earned since she was a child? She had been a teen model, a dancer, an actress, violinist, and she dated wealthy men, so she would have been able to save some money. You don’t go from working in a big-budget studio film for an Academy-Award winning director in one year and go into porn the next year, without a significant fall in fortune. Back then, she could have been arrested and lost custody of her son for her porn work, so she was taking an enormous risk. If she wasn’t getting alimony and child support from her ex-husband Ed, what was the reason for it? Why didn’t Ed keep in touch with their son? Why didn’t you interview their son? How did he feel about his mother’s appearance in “Deep Throat”? Did her second ex-husband know about her porn past, and why did that marriage end? If Helen was seeking anonymity after “Deep Throat”, being a waitress was not the way to go about it. There would have been steady stream of customers who would have recognized her, since her character’s name in the movie is Helen and she was using her real name Helen. Why didn’t she find another job where she wouldn’t have had to deal with the public who would have recognized her from her porn past?
    I hope you do a fifth part about her life.

  29. Devonaire · January 21, 2022 Reply

    This podcast was agonizing to get through. Numerous times I had to pause it to absorb what I’d just heard. Helen was an incredible free spirit, a bit of a warrior woman, and definitely a renaissance woman; actress, dancer, musician, and a hell of a porn goddess!
    I absolutely couldn’t understand Jon’s obsessive anger toward Helen once he learned of her porn past. Her ex-husband Ed felt, rightfully so, why dwell on that aspect of her past, she’s with you now. The idea that he thought of causing her physical harm I found totally absurd. But there’s the rub eh? It’s what I call the “macho work ethic”, men, in most cases, want to own the woman that makes them feel so good, and Jon was there for a while, wanting to maim her, destroy her.
    I found Helen/Dolly totally intriguing. With all her talent, to think of her as a waitress all those years is bewildering to me, almost heartbreaking. She let so much go but went on living her life. Obviously, she loved Jon a great deal, possibly the love of her life. In the end, they got through it.
    Thanks for a great podcast that was heart wrenchingly beautiful, and yet at the same time rather painful.

  30. Devonaire · January 21, 2022 Reply

    One thing that struck me hard about this podcast, it’s obvious to see, for Helen, Jon was the love of her life. They went through HELL to make their relay work. They came through it. As strong as Helen was as a person she was made somewhat vulnerable by the revelation of her past to Jon, and he freaked. But they came through it and Jon was with her to the end. Easier things in this world, but they got there.

  31. Mr. Kritik · April 5, 2022 Reply

    A person almost has to pause a moment and catch their breath from the ‘Star Is Born’, behind-the-scenes, Psycho-Emotional Trip resulting from this 4 Part Series. Ultimately rather tragic, but certainly a story that might very well be worthy of a Biographical Treatment in Print & Film/Video. There would seem to be little doubt about Ms. Wood’s Talent, be it Stage, Screen or Recording.
    It is understandable from a ‘Protecting The Home-Fires’ perspective, some of Decisions that Ms. Wood made. Certainly a very confusing and ‘warp-speed cultural changing era’ in which to have to make Decisions related to Family, Friends and the Future.
    I do share Devonaire’s Questions about this amazingly adventurous lived Life…. A follow-up with Ms. Wood’s Son would definitely be an interesting perspective ( presuming he would even be receptive to such ). How did Jon manage to Record Sessions with His Therapist…? In light of Jon’s Deep Love for Ms. Wood, did he ever consider actually Stopping ALL Contact with Her ( with respect to All the psycho-emotional Pain their Relationship seemed to have been causing her ) ? What happened to ‘Billy Love’…? Was Ms. Wood’s Waitressing Income always enough to cover her family’s expenses….? Definitely a sad situation and tragic unrealized fulfillment of Talent ( so in agreement with Ms. Wood’s Ex-Husband Ed ). Definitely more interesting ‘Cultural Gold’ that certainly seems to beg to be Mined ! Thanks TRR & Keep Digging !!

  32. trkkazulu · April 22, 2022 Reply

    Wow, just wow! What a story. What a brilliant piece of research. Thank you ever so much for these four episodes!

  33. Jon · June 11, 2022 Reply

    I was watching a movie and a guy was at a strip club. He made reference to playing ping pong with a girl who didn’t use a paddle. My mind immediately went to Honeysuckle Divine,,, I am over 70… My research eventually led me to Rialto,, never heard of it. What a fabulous read.
    Then, I somehow got to Helen Wood. I was absolutely blown away!!! The greatest fiction writer in the world couldn’t make that up. No doubt it would make a great movie but where would they find someone with similar talent to play the lead.
    Rialto is now bookmarked. Thanks soooo much.

  34. Anthony Testani · June 18, 2022 Reply

    This was probably one of the most fascinating podcasts that I have heard to date. A Hollywood up-and-coming star turned a porn actress for a short while and disappeared. And to hear it from her boyfriend about her life and what happened to her was amazing. I felt sad in the end, for both people, but your ability to pull the emotion and honesty out of the people is priceless. I am interested in seeing Dolly’s Hollywood work as a result of this. Thank you guys again. This podcast is an example of why you are an expert in the field. I look forward to listening to everything else.

  35. AJ · July 2, 2022 Reply

    As damaging a Jon’s obsessive behavior was on Helen and their relationship, the upside was the fact that he recorded everything and held onto those recordings. Especially since it gives us a glimpse into who Helen was as a person outside of the Helen Wood: Renaissance Woman or Dolly Sharp: Porn Star personas. She sounded like a vivacious woman who lived life on her own terms for her son and herself.

  36. Daniel Foley · February 2, 2023 Reply

    Finally got around to catching up on some of the older episodes as work has been nuts but this was well worth me waiting to get to. Absolutely amazing four-part series. I must admit for a grown man the end had me in tears what a beautifully put together, meticulously researched and fascinating story. This is what makes the Rialto Report such a special group. Kudos to the entire team for this fantastic and captivating piece of history that I won’t soon forget.

  37. Tigerheart · February 11, 2023 Reply

    This is for me, one of your best stories on the Rialto Report. Profoundly moving, funny, fascinating and at times painful to listen to. I am not surprised her partner was seeing a therapist given his extreme reactions to finding out about her time in adult, but the final section is incredibly tender and you do have the sense he very much loved her. Rest in peace Helen Wood!

  38. MISTYK the DJ · July 23, 2023 Reply

    Wow! This was a story I got sucked into to! Love makes you do crazy things!
    Great storytelling Ashley!

  39. Lady and Tramp · February 4, 2024 Reply

    rip and God bless you

    – From Korea –

  40. Al · May 8, 2024 Reply

    Hoping someone with deep pockets turns this into either a movie or documentary.

    Excellent piece!

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