Staple Diet: Center Spread Girls (1982)

If there was ever a pornstar heaven, then chances are that here is where you’d find it. Dave navigates a cast of superstars to bring you the lowdown on some primo Gary Graver.

Opening on the set of dark and sadistic thriller, the scene being shot draws to a close, and the director bursts into the frame:

“TAIL SLATE! TAIL SLATE! Next set-up please. Reload the camera.”

It’s Gary Graver.

Forever cameoing in the majority of his X-rated fare – despite hiding behind his ‘Robert McCallum’ pseudonym – the sight of him in the role of a film director is incredibly satisfying. A stolen glance of an artist at work. Notoriously coy about his work in the porn industry, you hope that he realised just how much of a significant figure he was – especially during the Golden Era – and CENTER SPREAD GIRLS endorses that further.

The third of an impeccably crafted quartet that penned by C. W. O’Hara, Center Spread Girls is nestled comfortably between Society Affairs (1982) and Satisfactions (1983), and somehow manages to take their stunning ensembles and double-down. It’s one-sheet boasts no less than sixteen adult performers, and it’s a line-up you’ll struggle to see bettered, even if there’s a nagging curiosity as to why Jacqueline Brooks is front and centre on the poster. Obviously, it was a financial decision more than a creative one. She’s pitched as ‘Chic and Hustler’s Sensational Centerspread’ [1], and although Brooks has a fine – but very brief – presence on-screen, her XXX film career stalled at ten pictures.

The real quality of this light-hearted romp lies with the blue movie royalty of Veronica Hart, Annette Haven, and Georgina Spelvin. Spelvin plays Sue Forbes, the editor of Panther magazine: a louche but loved publication that’s been threatened with closure by the uppity conservative pressure group M.O.M. – Morality Over Madness (strapline: “M.O.M. knows best”). Sue has a cunning plan, though, and she gathers her former centrefolds and tasks them with seducing every committee member to either change their mind or lay the foundations for a scandal that will make them reconsider.

“What we’re doing is fighting fire with fire,” argues Sue in her rallying cry. “There’s enough heat in this room to make eunuch’s cum, and nun’s dance naked in the rectory.” It’s an inspiring monologue – but then there’s something quite stirring about Center Spread Girls in general: a group of women working together with the intention of taking down the establishment and fighting for their artistic freedom.

With its weighty cast, Graver keeps everything moving at pace, and O’Hara shows impressive dexterity in weaving his screenplay through a performing troupe that all deserve attention. Standout performers are many, but Paul Thomas is excellent as the stoically orthodox Rev. W. W. Williams, beating the drum of “morality, motherhood and ‘Mericanism”, and John Alderman, the brilliant character actor, dons his dusty old person’s wig again to play crusty Thurman Parrish [2].

Despite all the salacious seduction, Center Spread Girls even finds a few moments of genuine romance, with lawyer Jane Mohr (Hart) and Judge Roy Hammer (Robert Kerman – Cannibal Holocaust (1981)) engaging in some sweet flirtation that brings an unexpected tenderness to the picture. The most stunning encounter is saved for Beverly Martine (Haven) and her inducement of pornstar-turned-puritan, Lyndon Loveless (Eric Edwards). The former floozy turned straight-edge when his equipment began failing, but Beverly has a plan to crank up his projector, sit back, and both take in a performance to be proud of, in the hope that it might resuscitate Loveless’ old chap. The film? Graver’s Amanda by Night (1981). How satisfyingly meta.

USA ● 1982 ● Adult, Comedy ● 90mins

Veronica Hart, Annette Haven, Georgina Spelvin, Desiree Cousteau ● Dir. Gary Graver (as ‘Robert McCallum’) ● Wri. C. W. O’Hara

[1] The November 1981 edition of Hustler saw her dressed (briefly!) in Native American clothes for a feature titled ‘The Soldier and The Squaw’.
[2] Last seen in Co-Ed Fever (1980)

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