The actor and performer Robert Kerman, who became famous as a porn star under the stage name R. Bolla in the 70s and 80s, died in New York at the age of 71. Before and after his porn career Kerman was also active on Broadway as well as an actor in television series.
During the so-called Golden Age of US pornography, when porn was still filmed on celluloid, featured a storyline and was shown in shady movie theaters, Robert Kerman was able to build a career as a porn star under the porn name R. Bolla that lasted for over a decade. In addition to the still well-known »Debbie Does Dallas« Bolla played in about 175 movies with legendary stars like Veronica Hart and Amber Lynn.
Before Kerman entered the rapidly booming porn industry of the 70s, he was seen several times on Broadway. He appeared in supporting and leading roles in plays like »Cat on a Hot Tin Roof«. He made his first appearances in porn in the background. His first porn as a sex partner was shot in 1974, the title was »Anyone But My Husband«. Kerman chose his stage name after his favorite wine: Bolla. Among his most famous movies are »Babylon Pink«, »Girls on Fire« and »Scoundrels«.
When Pornos ran on the silver screen: Debbie Does Dallas
In 1978 he shot his most famous porno to this day: »Debbie Does Dallas«. Therein he played Mr. Greenfield, the owner of a sports store. His employee Debbie, played by Bambi Woods, tries to earn extra money to go to Texas for a casting as a cheerleader. A sentence at the end of the film has entered popular culture. Debbie says again and again: »Oh, Mr. Greenfield, I’m not that kind of girl. Oh, Mr. Greenfield, you’re so big.«
During his porn career, he got a role in the Hollywood movie »The Goodbye Girl« in 1977 through the mediation of Hollywood star Richard Dreyfus, who knew him because of his own passion for porn. He also starred in the well-known Italian horror movies »Cannibal Holocaust« and »Eaten Alive!« in 1980.
The impeded acting career: Kerman’s self-doubt in later years
In 1985 Kerman shot his last porn movie and left the industry to continue his career as an actor in mainstream productions. Several supporting roles in series like »Cagney & Lacey«, »Hill Street Blues« and »Spider-Man« followed. In later years he revealed in interviews that he felt regret about his porn career and suspected that his porn movies had cost him a career in the film business. In the anti-porn documentary series »The Dark Side of Porn« from 2005, he said: »Looking back, I’m sorry that I did it because it probably ruined my best years as an actor.«
But his contribution to the history of the development of the US porn industry has not been forgotten. In 1998 Kerman was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the Free Speech Coalition. In his acceptance speech, however, he also indicated that he didn’t think much of the VHS era of pornography. He said: »I retired when film retired.« So for him, there was a difference between porn movies and porn videos.
Several industry representatives and porn legends spoke out as the news of his death in his New York apartment hit the industry media. Among them were several former screen partners and directors such as Axel Braun, who praised the collaboration with him.
TheRialtoReport, a blog specializing in the history of U.S. pornography, published a one-hour podcast in his honor, including an interview with Kerman from 2013. To get to the page and listen to the podcast, click here.