Starring Linda Lovelace, Chuck McCann, Mickey Dolenz
"Aw, shut up, lady. I'm doing you a favor."
It's sort of difficult, giving all we know about Lovelace's life at this point, to just accept this dumb film for what it is: a goofy political satire with a porn star protagonist. I mean, did you ever read Linda's book? That shit was bananas, and even if only 5% of it was true, well, she did fuck a dog on film. Imagine applying for a job or shopping at the grocery store with that scene nestled away in your memory banks. Still, this was Linda's moment of redemption, her bid for mainstream success, and if it had worked, if the film managed to deliver on its promise of biting satire and sexy hijinks, then perhaps her story wouldn't have ended in bitter tragedy at all. Sure, Linda's dead, but she was not only alive when she made this, she was pushy and demanding and pretty fuckin' sure this was all going to work out. I'm not sure Linda was ever happy, but I'm guessing '75 was still one of her better years.
Directed by Claudio Guzman, a dude known mostly for kid TV, and written by Jack Margolis, one of the Laugh In gagsmiths, LL for President was, obviously, meant to capitalize on Lovelace's Deep Throat notoriety. Given that we are, after all, dealing with a woman known solely for her oral sex techniques, irreverence was clearly the way to go with this one. Margolis crafted an episodic, anything-goes script that attempted to skewer every race/creed/political party/belief system it could. Zaniness as a weapon of truth.
Then, they piled the film tits-high with cult-y celebrities, tossing Linda herself on top of this delicious farce like a proverbial cherry. In theory, it's a sound idea, perfect for the let-it-all-hang-out 70's. Unfortunately, the end product was mostly incomprehensible, a mish-mash of sexploitation set-pieces and old-timey gags. Imagine John Waters as a grumpy old square, and you've got it.
The story: It's the eve of the 1976 presidential election. American is sick and tired of the same old politicians. A big convention is thrown together in a muddy field, where every numbskull and oddball political faction in the country can meet up and hash it all out. The scene is somewhere between Mad Magazine and Russ Meyer, with black Klan members rubbing up against the Pole-for-President crowd (they wear sashes that read "Polund") while bare-assed hippies fuck in the dirt, and the Suicide for Fun committee continually lose members via self-inflicted gun wounds. There's the Peace and Quiet committee (they shush everyone), a pro-Wolfman Jack contingency, and one presidential hopeful named Ed McMuffin, but no one can decide on a candidate. There's a six-man cabal headed by a foul-mouthed sultan, Abdul Ali Umagooma (Art Metrano), who have been appointed to choose a candidate, but it's such a screwy group of folks - there's a nazi, a hippy, a flamboyant gay guy, a reverend, a Chinese man, and a black power dude - that nobody can reach a decision. Out of frustration, one of Abdul's harem girls suggests Linda Lovelace, and they all decides it's a fantastic idea.
"She's a sweet girl," notes Chow Ming (Joey Forman), "Sweet and tangy, like duck sauce."
Cut to: Linda Lovelace, hosting some sort of outdoor seminar on oral sex.
"Thank you all for coming," she says. Everybody laughs.
"Woops, I mean, thank you all for having me." More giggles.
"Wow, I'm really blowing it!"
Etc. After it's over, she runs into the goofy cabal, who tell her she's their presidential nominee. Before she can accept, however, she has to ask her uncle. Uncle Sam (Robert Symonds, RIP), naturally. He's at the old folks' home. She goes to visit him, and he stares at her tits the whole time.
"Wars and cars keep getting smaller, but those breasts of yours keep getting bigger," he croaks. It's a pretty creepy scene. Anyway, he gives her his blessing and names her party: The Upright Party. It's a boner joke.
And so, Linda goes on the campaign trail. Admittedly, I was only six years old when this film was released, so perhaps I'm just not as clued in to the 'hep' humor of the piece to get why the fuck a lot of these gags are supposed to be funny, but seriously, some of 'em are just head-scratching.
There's a scene where Linda's shooting a television ad, and a plane crashes in front of her. The charred pilot crawls out of the wreckage and says, "I'm Marty. Don't fly me." And then he dies. Is that funny? There's a rally in a park, and a child molester guy, surrounded by young girls in front of a lemonade stand, says, "Here girls, have some candy to go with that lemonade!" And then he gives them candy. And that's it. A group of people play baseball, and one of the balls flies into an open window and hits a guy in the nuts while he's banging his girlfriend.
"Jesus, Harold," she says, "You fuck like a guy with three balls."
The Nazi guy trips a nun. "Aww, another fallen woman," he says.
On the bus ride to a rally Chow Ming says, "I hate black cats. They should all be exterminated. Black cats cause seven years of bad laundry."
There's a shot of a trailer. In a voiceover, you hear a guy answer the phone.
"What? My uncle died and I inherited $300,000?" He says, incredulous. "This is my lucky day!"
And then the trailer blows up.
It goes on like that. You're never sure if what you just saw was a joke, or what it was. By the half-hour point, the lame script actually starts hurting your brain.
Linda's bus breaks down in the middle of nowhere, so everybody gets out and wanders around a backwoods town called Bobby Jo for awhile. One of the locals is none other than the immortal Robbie Lee of Switchblade Sisters and Big Bad Mama fame. The child molester dudes walks up to her dangling a candy bar.
"You ever have a warm Hershey bar run down your leg?" He asks her.
That's the whole joke.
Linda wanders off and finds a waterfall, so she strips naked and frolics in the water. And then Tarzan (with a talking monkey) shows up.
"I was raised by a family of owls," he tells her. "They taught me how to catch mice. And eat them."
"I just love an educated man," swoons Linda. Naturally, they make sweet love, while the monkey watches.
The bus gets fixed and they hit the road again, but then they run out of money in Chicago. Linda calls Uncle Sam, who tells her to go door to door to ask America to help her. So that's what she does. This occurs on Halloween, so there's a few shots of kids wandering around in vintage Ben Cooper costumes, which is pretty cool. The black power dude dresses up like a pimp and walks into a bar, where he challenges Scatman Crothers to a game of pool. He beats him and collects a big wad of cash.
The child molester guy chases a bunch of kids around but gets chop-socky'd by a karate dude. I dunno, think of lame Halloween gags. They're all in here.
At the end of the night, Linda counts up all the money.
"We have 8 million dollars!" She says. Eight million? How many doors did they knock on?
Anyway, Linda's surging ahead in the polls, so the "Dirty Guys", whoever they are (one of 'em is fake Stooge Joe E Ross), hire "The Assassinator" (Chuck McCann) to, erm, assassinate her. They call him while he's taking a bubble-bath with a huge-breasted beauty who is almost worth the considerable effort it takes to slog through this. She's uncredited, but I'm pretty sure it's Joyce Mandell (AKA Joyce Gibson, AKA Alexis Love).
The Assassinator heads over to Linda's hotel, but forgets which room she's in, so he just wanders around for awhule. He runs into a little girl and asks her if she knows where Linda Lovelace is. The girl spits in his face, and he calls her a dyke. I can't believe Chuck McCann went along with that line. The 70's were nuts. The Assassinator tries a couple rooms, but they're occupied with people fucking.
"Who designed this hotel," he asks the empty hallway, "Daffy Duck?"
And so on.
So, does Linda Lovelace become president in the '76 election? No, man, Jimmy Carter does. Look it up.
The film, not surprisingly, did not do well at the box office. Guzman shrugged it off and went back to directing Far Out Space Nuts. Margolis said 'fuck it', and quit the screenwriting business. And poor Linda, well, it was the beginning of a very long downward spiral from there. So, is there any reason to watch this? Sure. For one thing, it looks terrific, almost Russ Meyer-esque in it's sharp camerawork. It's also loaded with weird cameos from obscure 60's and 70's stars. Admittedly, I don't really know who most of 'em are, but even most casual pop culture fans will recognize people like Chuck McCann and Mickey Dolenz. Oh, and Linda Lovelace looks really pretty in this, and unless you like dog-fucker movies, there really aren't many places to see her.
PS. I would very much like one of those Linda Lovelace for President buttons.
Clip: Fun with stereotypes, circa '75:
Availability: Linda Lovelace for President is available on DVD.
- Ken McIntyre