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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On April 14, McKenna Marie Taylor discovered her mother's body in her trailer in Santa Clarita. She had died alone. A toxicology report revealed traces of Vicodin in her system, but according to Bill Briggs, his sister had been taking the painkiller for long-standing knee problems and at the prescribed level. The official cause of death: a brain aneurysm.
"The sadness for me about Marilyn," says Cal Neff, "is that she was given something to hold onto-she got married, she had a daughter, there was a certain stability, she had friends who were supportive. But when things went south on her, she went south with them. She never found redemption."
But maybe there was no need for redemption, nor for her to seek it. Marilyn Briggs lived her life, for better or worse, on her own terms. What she did finally find in the end was acceptance and a great deal of gratitude for who she was.
Two services were held for her in California. On April 22, her birthday, her daughter hosted one-a Marilyn Chambers tribute, in effect-at Laguna Beach for fans and people in the industry. But an earlier memorial service at the funeral home-for Marilyn Briggs-was attended by family and some 150 to 200 fellow members of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
"She was in AA and NA for many years and she helped a huge number of people," says Bill Briggs, who, with his sister Jann, helped arrange the service. "That was her thing and she did it her whole life. One after another, people talked about how Marilyn saved their life. And she took a lot of kids in under her wing. They saw her as a glamorous figure but she made sure they didn't get involved in the seamier side of life, as she had."
In a 2006 interview, Marilyn looked back on her life with bittersweetness but also with clarity and humor.
"My life," she said, "could have been a lot fuller. You know, I was never really super-happily married, I didn't have a big family that I wanted, I didn't get to experience . . . I don't know. I've always thought of myself as just an everyday kind of a person, and I made myself into a 'star' and that's how I had to live. But there also comes a time when you've gotta say 'Thank you, goodnight.' I'm a little bitter. I think things should have gone differently in some instances that didn't. But you know what? I had a great run, I had a good time, and a lot of people are making a lot of money off my name.
"Maybe," she concluded with a laugh, "I'll open up a geriatric home for old porno stars."
In retrospect, that might not have been such a bad idea. She would have found satisfaction in helping others as she had in AA and NA. She would have lived and died among peers and friends rather than alone. She would finally have been home.