Bill Margold, who passed away yesterday aged 73, was a true icon of the American adult film business. He started in the industry in the early Seventies, appearing in softcore titles like The Goddaughter, Flesh Gordon and Panorama Blue before segueing into the emerging hardcore world, appearing in the likes of Dracula Sucks, Olympic Fever, Teenage Cruisers, Hard Candy, Pink Champagne and Platos: The Movie. From the 1980s up until 2007, he maintained a steady career, usually playing supporting (and increasingly non-sex) roles in over 250 shot-on-video porn films, but his acting career is not the thing that makes him noteworthy.
A former journalist, probation officer and talent agent, Margold was very much adult’s ‘keeper of the flame’ – a seemingly tireless advocate for the industry, supporter of performers and keen historian. When no one else seemed interested in recording the history of the adult film business – certainly not from an insider’s viewpoint – Margold was there. He founded The X-Rated Critics Organization (XRCO), Fans of X-Rated Entertainment (FOXE) and the PAW Foundation – Protecting Adult Welfare, the first group aimed at supporting adult performers. He also served on the board of the Free Speech Coalition.
During this period, Margold was a go-to talking head for TV producers and journalists wanting a porn industry spokesman – in the absence of any central organisation, Margold was the most visible figure. He didn’t look like anyone’s idea of a porn star, and he was passionate and argumentative, which made him a powerful figure when it came to battling stereotypes and falsehoods. I recall seeing him on Channel 4’s open-ended After Dark discussion show, where he easily wiped the floor with anti-porn campaigners.
In more recent years, Margold dedicated himself to celebrating the industry’s past, with the Legends of Erotica ceremony. He was responsible for persuading many Golden Age stars that their past was something to celebrate, not hide from – without Margold, many more stars of the 1970s and 80s might still be unaware that they have a huge and adoring fan base.
Margold was opinionated, abrasive and often angry if he felt that he – or the industry he loved – had been slighted, as anyone who was friends with him on Facebook could attest. But the industry needed someone who was that combative and dedicated. He died in the middle of his radio show devoted to the adult industry – maybe not quite the way he’d want to go, but close enough I suspect.