Going ‘Deep’ with Bailey and Barbato

Jason LeRoy

Inside Deep Throat directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato help narrator Dennis Hopper penetrate the true meaning of their documentary.

Credit: Jason LeRoy

Inside Deep Throat documentarian Fenton Bailey has some words about why the students of Kent State should see his film:

“It is so very important that college students stop whacking off to online porn in their dorm rooms and go see our film about pornography!”

So said Bailey, co-director (alongside Randy Barbato) of the critically acclaimed documentary Inside Deep Throat, currently playing at Shaker Square Cinemas. The film, which was reviewed in last week’s edition of Pop Arts, is an in-depth examination of the 1972 porn classic Deep Throat, and the cultural phenomenon it sparked.

In their documentary, Bailey and Barbato argued that one could use the Deep Throat controversy to understand much of what has happened culturally in the pursuant years. And when they spoke to this reporter, they added yet another example to this already wildly extensive list.

“You know, I was watching ‘7th Heaven’ the other night,” Bailey said, “and it really does try to deal with sex, but it’s so opaque and indirect … It made me realize the simple fact that sex is part of life, but it has been completely shut out and exiled from the culture. The result is something like ‘7th Heaven,’ which wants to talk about sex but has both hands tied behind its back.

“This is the unfortunate and unintended legacy of Deep Throat. Yes, it started a multi-million dollar adult film business, but it also inspired the government to eradicate sex from the culture, to shove it back into the cultural closet. And that is not a good thing! The view of sex and relationships on ‘7th Heaven’ is so hopelessly twisted and corrupted and just bonkers, absolutely bonkers.”

Bailey and Barbato have been making documentaries and films on lurid and unusual topics for many years now, including The Eyes of Tammy Faye (about Tammy Faye Bakker Messner), Monica in Black and White (Monica Lewinksy) and Hidden Fuhrer: Debating the Enigma of Hitler’s Sexuality (about the allegations that Hitler may have been homosexual).

They also directed the feature film Party Monster, which starred Macaulay Culkin, Seth Green and Marilyn Manson in the true story of club kid/murderer Michael Alig.

Bailey said that while they are accustomed to making films about controversial subjects, they were especially intimidated while making Inside Deep Throat, with its portrayal of the underhanded actions on behalf of the government and the mafia in the Deep Throat melee. However, his answer, like most of his quotes, should be heard slightly soaked in sarcasm.

“Oh, we were absolutely terrified making this film,” Bailey said. “We went undercover! We were just terrified that either the mob or the government would come after us, so we were frightened no matter what. We tend to make films that are very polarizing, topics that are unpopular in one way or another. We are very selfless! We risk our lives every day! We are out there risking our lives to put fellatio on the screen.”

It is obvious when watching Inside Deep Throat that Bailey and Barbato are taking a subjective side in the controversy. They clearly empathize with the plight of Deep Throat and its beleaguered crew, and stand very much by the protection of pornography under the First Amendment. When asked about the role of objectivity in their films, Bailey and Barbato were somewhat less than reverent.

“Objectivity, bah!” Bailey said. “Objectivity is a boring conversation for boring journalists and documentarians who want to assert their moral superiority.”

“The camera itself may be objective, but unfortunately the camera cannot operate itself,” added Barbato. “Once the camera is being used and the film is being edited, it is becoming subjective.”

“We really immerse ourselves in the stories that we tell,” Bailey said. “Like when we made the film about Tammy Faye, we were experiencing her life through her view. You have to really give yourself up to the world that you’re covering. It is only through pure subjectivity that you really find truth.”

However, while Barbato and Bailey stand by the right of Deep Throat and other pornography to exist, they were not necessarily out to glorify the sex industry through making this film.

“We really just wanted to talk more about trying to understand this crazy porno world we live in,” Bailey said, “where everyone has been objectified and sex has been completely commodified.”

For more on Bailey and Barbato, visit their official Web site: www.worldofwonder.net.

Contact Pop Arts reporter Jason C. LeRoy at [email protected].