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    Ivory Snow model who became a porn star

    The empty box of Ivory Snow detergent was much like the other product boxes that turn up on the auction tables. The cute happy baby on the front drew a smile from me but didn’t hold my interest long enough to give it a second look. Then I saw the note. It was handwritten in ink on a long sheet of spiral notebook paper:

    “This is Marilyn Chambers. She became a big porn star. Ivory Snow took her picture off the boxes.”

    Now, the box possessed new meaning. It was no long a plain detergent box, but one with a history that included the mother in the picture.

    Marilyn Chambers

    Marilyn Chambers and baby on Ivory Snow detergent box, early 1970s.

    Chambers was “the most famous mainstream-crossover adult film star” during the 1970s and 1980s, according to a website devoted to her. Her porno film “Behind the Green Door,” released in 1972, was said to have changed the attitude of the public toward X-rated films, creating a larger market and acceptability for them.

    When I think of porn stars from the 1970s, Linda Lovelace and her “Deep Throat” movie come to mind. Apparently, Chambers, Lovelace and Georgina Spelvin (“The Devil in Miss Jones,” 1973) were the top names in the pornographic film industry during a period called “porno chic” or the golden age of porn. Chambers was named by Playboy magazine as one of the top 100 sex stars of the 20th century.

    Chambers was working as an exotic dancer and would-be actress when she learned about the film “Behind the Green Door.” She didn’t know it was a porno film, but took it on because she liked the fantasy theme, she has said, and the producers asked her to be the star. She also saw it as a way to boost her career as a legitimate actress in mainstream films. It did indeed make her a star – but not in the industry that she had hoped for.

    Ivory Snow note

    A handwritten note identifying Marilyn Chambers on the Ivory Snow box.

    The movie included an interracial sex scene, said to be among the first.

    At 19, Chambers was smart enough to negotiate her salary and a percentage of the gross receipts from the movie, which earned $50 million, and she insisted that the actors be tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

    She had a small role as actor Robert Klein’s girlfriend in the 1970 movie “The Owl and the Pussycat” starring Barbra Streisand (Chambers is listed as Evelyn Lang in the credits). In her late teens, she also worked as a model in New York, and appeared in print ads for Clairol and Coca-Cola. Around 1970, Ivory Snow went looking for a new fresh face for its “99 44/100 percent pure” Ivory Snow detergent and chose Marilyn Briggs – Chambers’ birth name.

    Marilyn Chambers poster

    “Behind the Green Door” poster, featuring Marilyn Chambers, 1972.

    She was pictured on millions of boxes of detergent as a beaming mother with an equally happy baby. Then “Behind the Green Door” came out in 1972, the producers promoted her by using the slogan, and the public got wind of it.

    Sales of the detergent rose, but unsurprisingly, Proctor and Gamble was not impressed. Ivory Snow boxes were removed from grocery shelves.

    “Behind the Green Door” was her first hardcore film, and among the first with some semblance of acting and a plot. She is known for two other X-rated films: “The Resurrection of Eve” in 1973 and “Inside Marilyn Chambers” in 1975. Chambers retired in 1976, but returned to making pornographic films in the 1980s when she could not get a job as a singer and actress.

    Marilyn Chambers

    Marilyn Chambers in a 2008 photo, from Wikipedia.com. She died in 2009.

    She appeared in “Insatiable” in 1980, and it sold exceedingly well in home video format. During the 1980s, she battled alcohol and drugs, appeared in a few other X-rated movies and in 2004 ran for vice president on the Personal Choice Party ticket.

    Chambers died in 2009 at age 56 of complications from heart disease. Her death came after she landed a role in the New York play “The Deep Throat Sex Scandal,” about the making of the movie and the trial that followed.

    An aside: Some folks apparently think that Chambers was the baby on the Ivory Snow box who grew up to be a porn star. She was not.

    As for the box, I wasn’t around when it sold. But boxes of the detergent sold for $2.50 to $51 (unopened) on eBay, while some did not sell.

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    1 Comment

    1. Marilyn attended and graduated from our high school Staples in Westport CT. Westport is a suburb in lower CT about an hour from NYC. Though Staples is known for a few famous graduates, Marilyn, I believe was the first Porn Star that graduated from Staples High School.

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