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?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?