Papers of Gloria Leonard, 1940-2015
Clippings, correspondence, photographs, and audiovisual materials of feminist, publisher, pornographic film star, and free speech advocate, Gloria Leonard.
Language of Materials
Materials in English.
Access. Written permission of Robin Leonardi is required to use the collection until December 31, 2030. If Leonardi dies before the restricted period ends, permission must be obtained from her daughter, Roxanne Felig, until December 31, 2030. The papers will be open without restrictions on January 1, 2031. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.
Conditions Governing Use
Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Gloria Leonard is held by Robin Leonardi. Upon Leonardi's death, copyright transfers to her daughter Roxanne Felig. Upon Felig's death, copyright will transfer and be assigned to the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. No material in the collection may be copied or made available electronically without Leonardi's permission until December 31, 2030. Should Leonardi die prior to December 31, 2030, permission to copy must be obtained from her daughter, Roxanne Felig, until December 31, 2030, at which point material may be copied without restriction.
Extent1.04 linear feet ((2 +1/2 file boxes) plus 1 folio folder, 2 folio+ folders, 1 oversize folder, 13 photograph folder, 1 folio photograph folders, 49 videotapes, 2 DVDs)
45 Gigabytes (2,872 files)
The papers of Gloria Leonard document her career in the pornography industry as an actress, magazine publisher, and advocate for pornographers and free speech. The collection contains book proposals and partial drafts of Leonard's autobiography; clippings related to her career, including her performances in pornographic films, her leadership at High Society magazine, and her notoriety as a publisher of celebrity centerfolds and creator of phone sex lines, her public appearances debating the merits of the pornography industry with anti-pornography activists, such as Women Against Pornography founder Dolores Alexander; some notes related to her speaking engagements; awards and certificates, including from the Adult Film Association of America; correspondence with family members, including letters from Leonard's daughter Robin and granddaughter Roxanne; fan letters; personal and professional photographs, including of Leonard's family, Leonard as a young girl, at work-related gatherings, publicity images, etc.; and videotapes. The videotapes largely consist of Leonard's appearances on numerous talk and television news shows expressing her views on the pornography industry and free speech, and often defending the industry on panels with anti-pornography activists. There are also videos of Leonard's television programs, Gloria Leonard's Hot Shopper Hour (Vt-295.13-Vt-295.21) and The Leonard Report: For Adults Only (Vt-295.38-Vt-295.45). Of note is Leonard's interview on The Leonard Report with transgender woman Liz Eden, who became well known through her depiction in the film Dog Day Afternoon (Vt-295.39). Other audiovisual content includes video segments of Leonard's appearance on Al Goldstein's sexually-themed variety television program Midnight Blue, as well as footage of Leonard's participation in an anti-censorship demonstration.
The Gloria Leonard papers arrived at the library housed in envelopes, plastic bags, or clipped together with paper clips and Post It notes, either created by Leonard or her daughter Robin. Any original folder titles have been maintained; titles in brackets were created by the archivist. In addition, Robin Leonardi digitized many of the documents that are available in this collection as well as additional materials and arranged the digital surrogates on a hard drive which she has donated to the library for researcher use (#E.3). The archivist did not attempt to match the original documents in the collection with their digitized versions. An appointment is necessary to access the digitized content. Please contact the Reference Desk. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online. The original videotapes were treated for mold and all tapes have been digitized. The collection is arranged alphabetically with DVDs and videotapes listed at the end of the inventory.
Feminist, publisher, pornographic film star, and free speech advocate, Gloria Leonard was born Gale Sandra Klinetsky, in the Bronx, New York, on August 28, 1940, the daughter of Russian immigrants Louis and Frances "Fanny" Klinetsky. Leonard had one older brother Harry and two older sisters Miriam and Lila. Leonard's first marriage was to Chick (Charles) Leonardi, a hairdresser. They had one daughter Robin, in 1963, and the marriage ended in divorce in 1967. In 1975 Leonard married and then soon divorced Ronald Kaplan, an economist. Leonard was separated from her third husband, adult film director and magazine publisher Bobby Hollander, when he died in 2002.
After high school, Leonard worked various jobs, including as a secretary; Wall Street broker; writer of liner notes for Elektra Records; as a publicist, including at General Artists Corporation (1957) and Gene Schoor Associates Public Relations (1958); and as a ghost writer for Dr. Joyce Brothers (early 1960s). In the early 1970s Leonard was living in Puerto Rico and working for a film company as a production manager. She returned to New York interested in pursuing film production work. While working as a secretary in an accounting firm she met the filmmaker Radley Metzger, who was interested in Leonard not as a production assistant but as an actress in his new adult film project, The Opening of Misty Beethoven (1976). This film launched her adult film career. Through the mid-1980s she appeared in or directed 30 adult films, including Odyssey: The Ultimate Trip (1977) and All About Gloria Leonard (1978), which she also directed. In 1977 she was hired by Carl Ruderman, an owner of High Society men's magazine, to be the magazine's publisher. She worked at the magazine until 1991, working on all aspects of the day-to-day operations of the magazine. Leonard became well-known for publishing topless photographs of celebrities in the magazine's feature, "Celebrity Skin." The photographs, which were largely lifted from film stills, were of popular actresses of the 1970s, including Goldie Hawn, Suzanne Somers, and Barbra Streisand. In 1983 Leonard also started the magazine's Living Centerfold Telephone Service, one of the first phone-sex lines. The phone sex line began as the "Gloria Leonard Hotline," where callers would hear a two-minute recorded message of Gloria's voice presenting a preview of the next issue of High Society. The popularity of this scheme inspired the magazine to expand the offering. Renamed the "Living Centerfold Telephone Service," the phone sex lines attracted over 500,000 callers each day who paid to listen to recorded sexual messages.
In addition to Leonard's film work and publishing, she hosted her own television programs, including The Leonard Report: For Adults Only, a talk show format where Leonard interviewed celebrities and personalities in the pornography industry, and Gloria Leonard's Hot Shopper Hour, a home shopping program where Leonard and her co-host, Mike Eagan, sold sex toys, lingerie, and other sexually explicit items to viewers. In 1984 Leonard founded one of the industry's first adult actress support groups, Club 90, whose members included popular adult film actresses like Veronica Vera, Veronica Hart, Annie Sprinkle, and Candida Royalle. Leonard also served as administrative director of the Adult Film and Video Association of America (1989-1992) until that organization merged with the Free Speech Coalition, a pornography industry trade group. In 1998 she became president of the Free Speech Coalition.
Throughout her career Leonard defended the pornography industry and her participation in it, appearing on talk shows and in debates on college campuses with anti-pornography activists, including Dolores Alexander, the president and founder of Women Against Pornography. She considered herself a feminist and disagreed with mainstream feminism's rejection of pornography, insisting that feminism means that women should be able to pursue whatever career they choose. A strong advocate for free speech, Leonard faced multiple lawsuits challenging her actions while at the helm of High Society. In the 1980s the federal government charged that the phone sex lines violated the free speech guarantees of the Constitution. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 1989 that the messages were sexually explicit but not obscene and were therefore protected by the First Amendment. Actress Ann Margret sued the magazine for publishing a semi-nude portrait of herself from the film Magic in 1980. The Manhattan Federal Court judge who heard the case dismissed Margret's claim that High Society violated her right to privacy since she was a public figure who knowingly posed partially nude for the film. In 1979 Barbra Streisand sued the magazine for publishing a topless image of herself, which was cut from the final version of the film The Owl and The Pussycat (1970). Streisand requested an injunction to halt the magazine's publication. Although Streisand won her case, the magazine had already gone to press. Leonard recalled any issues not yet shipped and sent telegrams to the magazine distributors who may have received the magazine to remove the offending pages.
After her career at High Society magazine, Leonard continued to speak publicly defending the pornography industry and as an advocate for free speech. Leonard was living in Hawaii at the time of her death from a stroke on February 3, 2014.
Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Accession numbers: 2016-M57, 2016-M86, 2017-M172
The papers of Gloria Leonard were acquired by the Schlesinger Library from her daughter, Robin Leonardi, in March and April 2016 and September 2017.
Processed: July 2018
By: Laura Peimer, with assistance from Ashley Thomas.
- Alexander, Dolores, 1931-2008
- Anticensorship activists--United States
- DVD-Video discs
- Electronic records
- Feminists--United States
- Girlie magazines--United States
- Jewish women--United States
- Mothers and daughters--United States
- Pornographic films--United States
- Pornography--Law and legislation
- Pornography--Social aspects--United States
- Publishers and publishing
- Sex in mass media--United States
- Sex in popular culture--United States
- Sex-oriented periodicals--United States
- Sprinkle, Annie, 1954-
- Telephone sex--United States
- Women Against Pornography
- Women in the motion picture industry--United States
- Women publishers--United States
- Leonard, Gloria, 1940-2014. Papers of Gloria Leonard, 1940-2015: A Finding Aid
- Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
- Language of description
- Processing of this collection was made possible by a gift from the Radcliffe Class of 1956 and the Mary Mitchell Wood Manuscript Processing Fund.
- EAD ID
Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository
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