Gloria Leonard, a major industry spokesperson who rose to fame as a pornographic film star in her 30s before going on to publish men’s magazines, passed away on Monday in Waimea, Hawaii. She was 73 years old.
Her daughter Robin Leonardi said that a stroke was the root of the problem.
In the 1970s, a period that many in the industry now consider to be its golden age, when films had plots and actors enjoyed some crossover appeal with mainstream audiences, Ms. Leonard chose a somewhat unusual route into the world of pornographic films. She was a divorced single mother who was far older than typical starlets and had worked as a Wall Street broker and publicist, among other positions.
She told The Miami Herald in 1983, “I was a reasonably liberated lady, and I believed this would be the supreme test of just how liberated I truly was.
Her first listed performance was in Radley Metzger’s pornographic adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s play “Pygmalion,” “The Opening of Misty Beethoven” (1976). She continued to act in other movies, including “All About Gloria Leonard” (1978), which she also directed and was based on her autobiography, and “Odyssey: The Ultimate Trip” (1977), which was directed by Gerard Damiano of “Deep Throat” fame.
Ms. Leonard was hired as the publisher of the men’s magazine High Society in 1977 due to her experience in public relations and her prominence in the entertainment industry. She retained this position for more than ten years while continuing to star in and produce movies.
One feature she added to the publication were obscene images of stars like Jodie Foster and Goldie Hawn, typically taken from film stills. The Rialto Report, a website and podcast devoted to pornographic film, interviewed Ms. Leonard. “We were sued by a number of celebrities, including Barbra Streisand and Ann-Margret, and we won every case,” she said. The Living Centerfold Telephone Service, one of the first phone-sex lines, was inspired by a seductive recording of her voice on an answering machine that previewed the magazine’s upcoming issue. This audio was very well received in 1983. Every day, between 500,000 and 700,000 callers paid to hear recorded messages on answering machines.
Ms. Leonard defended the pornographic industry and her involvement in it, participating in disputes with feminists who thought the industry was misogynistic on talk shows and on college campuses.
“I said the whole point of the women’s movement is for women to choose whatever they want to do,” she argued. “Why should my choice be considered any less or more valid than your choice?”
On August 28, 1940, in the Bronx, Gale Sandra Klinetsky was born, becoming Ms. Leonard. Her first two unions were annulled. When Bobby Hollander, a producer and director of pornographic films, passed away in 2002, she was divorced from him.
Ms. Leonard served as the Adult Film Association’s administrative director from 1989 to 1992 after leaving High Society. She was elected president of the Free Speech Coalition, a trade organization for the pornographic media, in 1998. Living in Hawaii’s Hawi at the time of her death.
Ms. Leonard has a granddaughter in addition to her daughter.
Although Ms. Leonard claimed to have no career regrets, she did believe that the widespread use of video had devalued the sex-film industry. Anybody with a video camera “can rent a hotel room and make a porno these days,” she told The Rialto Report. I doubt that anyone would remember the pornographic females of today, she said.