BLOWING UP: David Bertolino is a family man. But he’s on a mission to produce a play about Deep Throat.
Growing up in Sudbury, David Bertolino’s upbringing was strictly G-rated. As a kid, he worked at his family’s store, Little Jack Horner, a well-known joke and magic shop in downtown Boston. “I demonstrated whoopee cushions and hand buzzers all day long,” says Bertolino, who still lives in Sudbury with his wife of 23 years — they met at a Halloween convention in San Antonio — and their 16-year-old son. He couldn’t seem more like a suburban dad.
And yet Bertolino has an NC17-rated obsession of sorts: he’s on a mission to launch a play about the 1970s adult film Deep Throat and the controversy it created, replete with full-frontal nude scenes for male and female cast members.
The cheeky 1972 film had higher-than-usual production standards and a clever gimmick (by porn standards, anyway): Linda Lovelace’s character’s clitoris is, er, in her throat. Following its opening at the World Theatre on 49th Street in New York, it took in loads of money (as much as $600 million, according to some estimates — making it one of the most successful films of all time, though adult-film box-office receipts are far less reliable than others). More important, it pushed societal mores and introduced pornography to the mainstream, with an audience that extended beyond the typical trench-coat crowd, including celebrities Jack Nicholson, Johnny Carson, Barbara Walters, and Jackie Onassis.
It also caught the wrath of many who deemed it to be obscene, notably the Nixon administration, which vigilantly interrogated people involved with the production and tried to halt it. (The fact that the film was financed by organized crime didn’t help.) Consequently, Deep Throat was picketed in some areas and, according to Time magazine, was banned in 27 states.
But what happened afterward — some of which is detailed in the 2005 documentary Inside Deep Throat — is arguably even more salacious, and (along with the making of the movie) is the subject of Bertolino’s play, The Deep Throat Sex Scandal.
In 1976, many of the film’s players, including actor Harry Reems, were convicted on obscenity charges in Memphis, where ironically the film never played. (Reems’s co-star, Lovelace, whose real name is Linda Susan Boreman, and the director, Gerard Damiano — both of whom are now deceased — were granted immunity.) Reems’s conviction was later overturned on appeal, with Bostonian Alan Dershowitz serving as his defense lawyer.
Why in the world would this be of interest to Bertolino?
“I was fascinated by all the stories surrounding the movie,” says the rosy-faced 54 year old, a wisp of strawberry-blond hair gracing his perpetually smiling face. “It’s a compelling story and it’s fun and titillating. I’m excited by it.”
Bertolino didn’t venture far from the family trade as an adult, becoming a costume sales manager. Once, while selling merchandise to the producers of a Halloween hayride, Bertolino saw an opportunity. “They were leaving money on the table,” he recalls. Inspired, he purchased farm land in Berlin, Massachusetts, and opened SpookyWorld, a hayride that featured 22 elaborate stage sets.