Zalman King: Writer and producer of '91/2 Weeks'


Zalman King's stylish erotica includes the TV-friendly Red Shoe Diaries, introduced by a pre-X-Files David Duchovny, and 91/2 Weeks but he began his career as a dramatic actor and continued to make occasional forays into non-erotic cinema. Zalman Lefkowitz changed his name when he began acting, starting as a gang member in Harland Ellison's autobiographical "Memo from Purgatory" (1964), an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

Other one-off roles ranged from "Man with the beard" in a 1965 episode of The Munsters to the lead in "Muley", a 1967 episode of Gunsmoke, one of several different characters he played in the series. From 1969-71 he played Aaron Silverman in The Young Lawyers, about a Boston law firm that works for poor citizens, and was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor.

From then on, King often starred, though never in a major feature. Lo B'Yom V'Lo B'Layla ["Neither By Day Nor By Night", 1972) despite its Hebrew title, was made in English. King plays an American in the Israeli army who is wounded and shares a hospital room with a blind woman who mistakes him for her long-lost lover, while he, increasingly embittered, rejects his father (Edward G Robinson). Some Call It Loving (1973) is an updated Sleeping Beauty, and Trip with the Teacher (1975) a basic exploitationer, while The Passover Plot (1976) is a ludicrous conspiracy thriller showing Jesus faking his own death to kick-start Christianity.

A change came when King wrote and produced 91/2 Weeks (1986), though it was directed by the 1980s style-merchant Adrian Lyne. Starring Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger, its food-sex-in-the-fridge scene was frequently parodied. It was also nominated for a Razzie for Worst Screenplay, though it stood little chance against the winner, Howard: a New Breed of Hero.

Nevertheless he had found his forte, and moved into projects featuring lubricious young actresses in barely credible stories that necessitated regular disrobing. The business became a family affair, with King's wife and two daughters working behind the scenes.

Two Moon Junction (1988) follows a Southern debutante slumming with a drifter, and gained another Razzie nomination. Wild Orchids (1989), starring Rourke and Jacqueline Bissett, is little more than a disconnected series of erotic encounters. In true exploitation style, Wild Orchids 2: Two Shades of Blue (1991) traded on the name while having nothing whatsoever to do with the original.

King perfected the form in Red Shoes Diaries, eight plot-light TV series (1992-97), several direct-to-video features and a TV movie. Duchovny introduced each episode as a man whose fiancée committed suicide and who hopes to learn why through a personal ad asking women to write to him about their erotic experiences. It featured a surprising number of more or less serious actors: Bond girl Maryam d'Abo, The Breakfast Club's Ally Sheedy, Matt LeBlanc, later of Friends, stand-up Margaret Cho, alternative film stalwart Udo Kier, and model-turned-actress Joan Severance, while Sheryl Lee sandwiched her appearance between the television and cinema incarnations of David Lynch's Twin Peaks. It also supplied a pool of talent for his feature films. But neither nor Body Language could replicate its success.

Lake Consequence (1993), starring Billy Zane and Severance, showed that sexual repression can be overcome by infidelity and al fresco ménages-a-trois. In 1995 King found inspiration in the erotic diaries of Anaïs Nin and based Delta of Venus on selected episodes.

There was a different side to King: he produced two of Alan Rudolph's lesser films: Roadie (1980), a musical sex comedy starring Meat Loaf, and Endangered Species (1982) a sci-fi about mysterious cattle mutilation. Perhaps the ubiquity of harder sex on the internet took the rug from under King's gentle, almost romantic style. Female Perversions (1996), starring Tilda Swinton, apparently has ambitions as a feminist statement, albeit about a kleptomaniac and a lesbian and displaying the requisite acreage of flesh.

A friend of the Nouvelle Vague director Agnes Varda, he appeared in her autobiographical The Beaches of Agnes (2008); Crazy Again (2006) is a documentary about the mental health problems suffered by the country and western star Dale Watson.

John Riley

Zalman Lefkovitz (Zalman King), actor, writer, director and producer: born Trenton, New Jersey 23 May 1941; married 1965 Patricia Lousianna Knop (two daughters); died Los Angeles 3 February 2012.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
Life and Style
Baroness Lane-Fox warned that large companies such as have become so powerful that governments and regulators are left behind
techTech giants have left governments and regulators behind
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin visits her 1990s work ‘My Bed’ at Tate Britain in London, where it is back on display from today
artsBut how does the iconic work stand up, 16 years on?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor