The Story of M
Young Marilyn Briggs left Westport to seek a new life in California. She found one in the movies-as Marilyn Chambers-but she never found the thing she wanted most.
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EARLY MARILYN CHAMBERS SIGHTINGS
Marilyn was, in fact, a good enough actress to gain parts in a couple of Staples High School musicals while still a student at Long Lots Junior High. She was also a remarkable athlete-a gymnast who could do back flips from one end of the gym to the other, a champion diver at the Patterson Club, a great dancer. In eighth or ninth grade, she performed as a go-go dancer at the Rage, a teen club across the Post Road from Playhouse Square that later became Bunyon's, a singles' bar.
In effect, she was already finding fortune in men's eyes. Decades before "sexting"-where today's teenagers send erotic photos of themselves via their laptops and cellphones-Marilyn broadcast her body and sexuality in real time.
The mother of one middle-school friend recalls a summer slumber party at their house between seventh and eighth grades. While the woman and her friends played bridge and drank cocktails in the game room over the garage, her daughter, Marilyn and three or four other girls were downstairs in their pajamas, eating, playing records and dancing with one another. The sole restriction that night: no boys. Deciding to check on the girls partway through the evening, the woman went out through the garage and into the back yard to look through a big picture window into the living room. There, out on the grass in the dark, she found half a dozen adolescent boys from the neighborhood staring through the same window, and facing them a few feet away on the other side of the glass, 13-year-old Marilyn, stark naked.
In high school, Marilyn was a cheerleader and a member of the Staples Players, the acting troupe that over the years has mounted first-class, professional-caliber plays and musicals. She appeared in school productions of West Side Story, Bye, Bye Birdie, Oliver and The Sound of Music.
But even then she had bigger stages in mind. She skipped classes to audition for acting jobs in New York City, and in her junior year landed the role of Robert Klein's girlfriend in The Owl and the Pussycat, starring Barbra Streisand and George Segal. Represented by the Wilhelmina modeling agency, she also won the part of the young mother of an infant on the box of Proctor & Gamble's Ivory Snow, alongside copy famously proclaiming the product "99 44/100% pure."
Meanwhile, back in Westport, she was growing impatient with normal high school activities. In 1969, her junior year, she was kicked out of cheerleading, along with two teammates and a number of male athletes, for drinking. Although nominated for Staples Homecoming Queen in her senior year, she didn't win, though a class poll did vote hers the "Best Student Body."
In retrospect, she seems to have been preparing for her biggest role.
"I don't think anyone who knew her back then was surprised when she started doing adult films," says Steve Miner, a Hollywood director who grew up in Westport and knew Marilyn from the time she was 14."What I remember is someone who was determined to make something of herself and her life. Somehow that ambition, combined with her relentlessly adventurous spirit and impatience with anything, or anyone, not moving fast enough, led her to make many bad choices."
And back then was the right time, and Westport the right place, for making the worst decisions.