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Telling X-Rated Tales of Being the ‘Pornographer’s Daughter’

| January 25, 2014
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Liberty Bradford Mitchell (seen with her father Artie Mitchell in photo behind) tells the story of growing up on the fringes of an X-rated world at the World Premiere. (David Allen)

Liberty Bradford Mitchell (seen with her father
Artie Mitchell in photo behind) tells the story of growing up
on the fringes of an X-rated world at the World Premiere. (David Allen)

Liberty Bradford Mitchell has a unique perspective on the pornography industry. She’s the daughter of Artie Mitchell. He and his brother, Jim, were hippies, sexual revolutionaries and then kings of the porn industry, as filmmakers and owners of the O’Farrell Theatre in San Francisco.

Now Liberty Mitchell, 42, a mother of two kids, is starring in “The Pornographer’s Daughter.” It’s a one-woman play about growing up on the fringes of the porn industry, and what happened when Jim killed Artie in 1991.

Mitchell often visited her dad at “his office,” the O’Farrell Theatre, sometimes joining him to watch the films he and his brother were making.

“It was very strange. I believe, I was like 4 or 5, when I noticed what I was looking at on the screen,” she said. “You know, it didn’t immediately disturb me necessarily. It was more kind of an overwhelming sense of, ‘Wow, I never really imagined that that’s what a naked movie would look like.’ ”

In the play, Mitchell recalls seeing a sign in the lobby saying “Under 18 not admitted,” and worrying that she’d be thrown in jail.

Her dad’s line, which Mitchell delivers in a sardonic tone: “Relax, beautiful. You wouldn’t be a Mitchell if you didn’t do a little jail time.”

The Mitchell brothers made tens of millions and won an invitation to the Cannes Film Festival for their film “Behind The Green Door,” one of the first feature-length X-rated films. Fueling the film’s success, and the brothers’ infamy, was the revelation that the star was Marilyn Chambers, the woman pictured on boxes of Ivory Snow.

The play also details both the brothers’ drug and alcohol use and Jim’s growing paranoia. And Liberty Mitchell tells the difficult tale of how Jim killed her dad. He served just three years in San Quentin on a manslaughter conviction.

Liberty Mitchell said she can relive that difficult event on the stage because she has some perspective now on the incident.

And one reason she’s willing to do it is to reclaim her dad’s reputation. He was portrayed in two books and a Showtime cable movie as an “unsavory character.”

She wants her children to be able to read “The Pornographer’s Daughter” someday and learn that their grandfather was “a really magnetic, interesting and inspiring guy in so many ways.”

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About the Author ()

Cyrus Musiker is the Evening News Anchor at KQED Public Radio. But he also worked for a decade in the wine industry in Massachusetts, New York City, San Francisco, and Napa Valley. Cyrus sold wine retail and wholesale in New York, supplying Roederer Crystal and French Burgundies to celebrities in the Hamptons who didn’t appreciate how good they had it. He moved west in 1978, and worked as a cellar rat shoveling pomace, and pumping over for some of Napa’s best winemakers. He also did public relations and wine tours at Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville. Cyrus has traveled and tasted through Champagne, Burgundy, Beaujolais, and the Rhone Valley, and up, down, and sideways in California’s great wine regions. His one great regret in life is not buying land in Yountville when he lived there in the late 1970’s, when vineyards were “just $15,000/acre.” Cy’s most memorable wines—a 1904 Lafite Rothschild at a Heublein tasting in Boston in the late 70’s, a Nuits St. George “Les St. Georges” 1953 with Henri Gouges in his cellar in the Cotes De Nuits. Reach Cyrus Musiker at cmusiker@kqed.org.

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