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Gloria Leonard, Porn Pioneer, Publisher And Feminist, Dies At 73

Gloria Leonard, porn publihser, dies at 73

Gloria Leonard, a pioneering figure in the porn industry’s so-called “golden age” of the 1970s, and the first woman to become publisher of a major pornographic magazine, died earlier this week after suffering a massive stroke in Hawaii, where she lived. She was 73 years old when she passed away February 3.

She appeared in approximately 40 porn films in her career as a performer, but later became known as an outspoken feminist as well as free speech advocate. Gloria Leonard served as president of the Free Speech Coalition, an organization that lobbies for legal rights of the porn industry, starting in 1998.

Gloria Leonard saw no contradiction between her feminism and her high-profile participation in porn.

“The whole point of the women’s movement is for women to choose whatever they want to do,” she once said. “Why should my choice be considered any less or more valid than your choice?”

A native of The Bronx, New York, she was born in 1940 as Gale Sandra Klinetsky. After working as a Wall Street stockbroker, among other jobs, she entered the porn industry as a 35-year-old divorced woman and single mother. She went on to become a legend of the adult entertainment industry.

She performed in such explicit films as The Opening of Misty Beethoven, The Ultimate Trip and All About Gloria Leonard, an autobiographical porn film which she also directed.

But in 1977, she was picked by New York porn mogul Carl Ruderman to become publisher of High Society, a leading pornographic magazine of the era. It was a first for women in the porn business.

“He wanted a female publisher of a men’s magazine,” Gloria Leonard would later explain. “I was chosen because I had a strong background in PR and journalism.”

Remaining in the position until 1991, she sensed a public demand to view not only established porn performers in the nude, but mainstream Hollywood celebrities as well. She created a “Celebrity Skin” feature for High Society, in which the magazine found nude or semi-nude photos of famous women — often still frames from their films — and published them.

The magazine was sued, without success, by Barbra Streisand as well as Ann-Margaret and Margot Kidder after Gloria Leonard printed photos of them in various states of undress.

Gloria Leonard also claimed credit for inventing the “900 number” sex phone service, which was promoted by ads in High Society, though she claimed never to have made money from the sex lines personally.

She also stressed that while porn was her business, it was not the entirety of her life.

“I still go to the theater, I still listen to jazz,” Gloria Leonard once told an interviewer. “I have friends who work outside the industry. It is part of my life, it is not all of my life.”

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