Interview: The Transgressions of Georgina Spelvin

Georgina Spelvin, Shelley Bob Graham, is a former American actress and pornographic performer who is best known as the star of the classic 1973 pornographic film The Devil in Miss Jones, released during the Golden Age of Porn (1969–1984). As The First Lady of Erotic Cinema she went on to appear in over 70 adult films before retiring from the industry in 1982. Today she is happily living with her husband John Welsh an actor and writer, in his own regard, in sunny California. 

Cody Sexton: We really appreciate you making the time for us. What initially got you interested in adult films? 

Georgina Spelvin: I was apprenticed to a film editor. Some of the jobs involved adult films so I met and worked with Gerry Damiano. I was also catering for films and when meeting producers of an upcoming job, I was asked to read with a guy auditioning for the film. As I gleefully chewed up the scenery with the auditioner, Gerry came into the room saying something like "Who is that reading?" I was introduced to him and he asked if I would like to play the role. I asked if I could do so and still cover the catering and how much would it pay? He said something like $200 a day for the role and $100 a day to cater. A deal was struck and the rest, as they say, is history.

Sebastian Vice: What was a defining moment in your porn career?

Georgina Spelvin: Being awarded some sort of award. When told about it and asked to appear at some sort of ceremony to receive it - I believe it was in Toronto - I said I'd be happy to appear but I had only work clothes. They offered to pay for the needed wardrobe so we struck a deal.

Cody Sexton: What was Al Goldstein like? 

Georgina Spelvin: He was another "larger than life" figure - a big rolly polly pussycat. We met only once, that I remember. I hear that he came to a dreadful and ignoble end, which saddened me. 

Cody Sexton: I’m reading Goldstein’s autobiography now. 

Georgina Spelvin: I didn't realize he had written one. I'd love to read it.

Cody Sexton: It’s really interesting. The book is called: I, Goldstein.

Georgina Spelvin: I like to "delve into" books in the comfort of my bed. Which is really pretty silly as I am stretched out on the couch with my laptop on top of my lap most of the day. But books are different. I'm tactile by nature. I like the feel and, yes, SMELL of print matter. I had the run of my grandparents extensive collection as a tot and never fully recovered.

Cody Sexton: I feel you. I too love the smell of books. Especially those older paperbacks. I even love the way a secondhand bookstore smells lol.

Georgina Spelvin: Oh yeah!!! The "used books" section of my local emporium is by far the tastiest part. Or rather WAS. Alas, the establishment has succumbed to the press of expansion. The whole block that used to be dominated by the best coffee house and an authentic French crepes and omelet cook, Jacqui, who owned the joint and reigned supreme behind the espresso machines, has fallen to "expansion." The monster that "eats atmosphere."

Cody Sexton: That’s terrible. Unfortunately it’s happening in more and more places now. How cool was Gerry Damiano by the way?

Georgina Spelvin: How cool, indeed. A wonderful man with a wonderful wife and lovely sons. He wanted to make movies. Not unlike myself, he found only brick walls in the "legit" area, so when opportunity appeared in the porn arena, he made the best porn films he could.

Cody Sexton: The Devil in Miss Jones is a groundbreaking film with some of the best acting in any movie you’re likely to find from that period. What was the shoot like and do you think all these years later, it’s gotten the credit it deserves?

Georgina Spelvin: The shoot was kind of like a Boy Scout Jamboree. My sidekick, Claire, and I cooked and served all the meals. Gerry was like the priest at a Catholic boy’s school: kind and understanding but brooking no misbehavior. Joao Fernandez, the cameraman/lighting director was second in command. He spent more time getting the lighting just the way he wanted it on whatever bit of genitalia was currently being featured than I have seen lavished upon product in the most expensively produced commercials in which I had been lucky enough to appear – and there were quite a few in my checkered past. That is, no doubt, why it was the prettiest film of it’s time. Gerry’s direction, editing, and compilation of music and effects did the rest. And, oh yes, the actress featured through most of the film chewed the shit out of the scenery. That didn’t hurt.

Cody Sexton: The industry used to thrive on great storylines/scenery, but today they have all but gotten away from it. Why do you feel that is?

Georgina Spelvin: Most of the directors – often the producers as well – of the films I did in the 70s were frustrated filmmakers working in the only medium (sex films) available to them – just like us actors. They wanted to make movies. There were plenty of “smut peddlers” making short movies of pure and simple fornication then as well. Now that anyone can “film” as much fornication as they like for their own enjoyment or that of others, as with any commodity, mass production will always provide a lesser product – usually as lesser as the traffic will bear.

Sebastian Vice: Which pornstars and directors treated you the best/the worst?

Georgina Spelvin: I didn't "socialize" with most of the performers. Jane Hamilton being one notable exception. She and I felt an immediate camaraderie... AND she ended up meeting and marrying the "Great Crush" of my life. They had two terrific boys. I'm still in touch with her but we're far apart geographically, so I've not seen her in several years.

Sebastian Vice: Since your departure from the adult film industry what have you been up to?

Georgina Spelvin: I gave up on trying to make a living as an actress in 1974 when, after my final season of stock in Brunswick, Maine, I packed up my worldly goods into a 30-foot-long school bus with a smoke-stack sticking out the back and drove with my side-kick, Claire, to California. This is all in my book, of course. The short version, I “bootstrapped” myself into the job of compiling the material for the bi-monthly magazine of the Los Angeles County Medical Association with a desktop publishing program (Ventura Publisher). I then “desk topped” a couple of real estate magazines for the LA Times. Then, at 65, I retired and started to write my book. I got that done a couple of years ago and have been trying to keep up with the interviews, signings, personal appearances, and so forth since. Whew… I am so ready for a rest.

End of Interview 

To learn more about Georgina Spelvin or to order a copy of her book, please visit her official website here