Tongue Untied

Niva Ruschell Talks About the Adult Blaxploitation Classic Film Tongue

by Flash
and Greg Dziawer

In the annals of adult film history, there have been many firsts. The first porno chic adult film was Wakefield Poole’s gay classic Boys in the Sand. The first porno chic feature adult film was Deep Throat. Everyone has heard of the latter; some have heard of the former. However, the first blaxploitation adult film stands primarily forgotten in the history of adult cinema.

In 1976, J&A Productions released Tongue. Tongue told the story of Quasi, a handyman who is mute due to an incident two years prior. Quasi’s only companion is a frog, who speaks to him. He goes to see Doctor Morecock about his predicament where his receptionist Shirley sees his nine-inch tongue. Shirley tells her friend Cherry, who lives on Quasi’s block, about Quasi. Cherry, who is looking for fun, invites Quasi over but will Quasi find the love he is seeking out?

The opening credits of Tongue simply read as follows.

J & A Productions

Brigitte Maier


Associated Producer
Niva Ruschell

Directed by
K. B.

The ending credits don’t add much more to the production.

Cherry Brigitte Maier
Al Poe Quasi
Margo Nancy
Dudley Dare Dr. Woodcock
Tasty Freeze Nurse


Camera Man & Crew
Black Camera Associates

Title Song “Tongue”
Written by
Nolan Davis
Niva Ruschell
Roger Hamilton Spotts
Sung by
Caprice Clarke

Music by
Roger Hamilton Spotts

For years, little has been known about Tongue, and many have wondered who was the seeming one-and-done director K.B. credited in the film, and what was the story behind Tongue? Brigitte Maier passed away in 2010, so the only clue to the history of the film is the credited associate producer Niva Ruschell,

Now, the associate producer and co-writer of Tongue Niva Ruschell opens up to Adult DVD Talk about the film.

Also present in the article is the voice of Jacques Descent. Jacques Descent handled the post-production work on Tongue. Unfortunately, Jacques Descent passed away in June of 2018; however, Greg Dziawer had extensively interviewed him for the forthcoming book Hollywood Unknown prior to his passing. Greg Dziawer has been kind enough to share the information on Tongue from Jacques Descent with Adult DVD Talk for this article.

Title card for Tongue

Flash: What caused you to become involved with Tongue?

Niva Ruschell (NR): I moved to Hollywood from Pasadena, CA, in 1968 to pursue an acting career. One of the first people I met was Roger Hamilton Spotts, who became and remained one of my dearest friends until his death in 1998.

In 1971 I performed the opening scene in Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song. I played the prostitute who deflowered the young Sweetback. At that time both Sweetback and Deep Throat were breaking box office records. Because of their success, I decided to produce an adult blaxploitation movie, make a ton of money, and then produce a mainstream movie in which I could star.

Sweet Sweetback movie poster

NR: After I had my epiphany, I actually met a man named Dog, who had a nine-inch tongue! He was a friend of my brother-in-law. I asked him if he would like to star in a porn movie, and he said “yes.” I had my actor, and I wrote my script titled, Tongue about a handyman who is exploited for sex. Now I just needed funding.

In 1972, writer, Nolan Davis, a mutual friend of Roger and mine, introduced me to a man named Peter Anthony Andrews, who at the time was working for the distributor of Deep Throat in New York. I sent Peter the script, and he wrote me back a denial letter.

Peter Anthony Andrews started working for Harry Belafonte Enterprises as a writer and producer in the early 1970s after graduating from Yale. He went on to become the Vice President of Primetime Programming at NBC in the mid-1970s. He was the co-creator, producer, and writer of the NAACP Image Awards in 1983. He went on to also be the Senior Vice President at Columbia Pictures and the Executive Vice President of MGM Studios. He recently received the Riant Theatre’s Pioneer of the Arts Award for Outstanding Achievement in Television and Entertainment.

NR: Peter Andrews moved to California in the Spring of 1973 to work as a Vice President of Programming at NBC. In the winter of ’73, Peter called me with good news; he’d found some backers for Tongue. Those backers were drug dealers from Detroit introduced to us by Raymond St. Jacques.

We were given a budget of $25,000 and formed Spain Productions with the assistance of attorney Stanley Handman, (I believe he was also an attorney for the distributors of Deep Throat).

Stanley Handman served as one of the attorneys for Bryanston Industries run by Louis Peraino. Louis “Butchie” Peraino was the son of Anthony “Big Tony” Peraino, a capo in the Colombo crime family. Stanley Handman assisted Bryanston Productions, the company that produced Deep Throat, in film activities and was with Bryan Records, Bryanston’s record label.

Flash: According to current records, Tongue was released in 1976; however, there has been some question as to whether the film was made earlier and just released in 1976. When was Tongue made?

NR: In January of 1974, we began pre-production. Peter Andrews and I wrote the script. We wanted Quasi to be a sympathetic character, looking for love and not just some guy with a gimmick. Peter had many Hollywood contacts and was able to hire Kurt Baker, an assistant director at the time, to direct the film.

Prior to directing Tongue, Kurt Baker had been the second assistant director for the film Shaft and the assistant director of Super Fly, both blaxploitation classics. Kurt Baker continued as an assistant director for most of his film career, only directing one other known film The Importance of Being Earnest.

NR: He also cast Bridget Maier, who’d recently appeared as a centerfold in Penthouse Magazine to play the lead.

Penthouse July 1974 cover

Jacques Descent (JD): I did a few films with [Brigitte Maier], and she was the servicer to business men visiting L.A., all for a fee of course. At the time she told me she was studying at UCLA psychiatry. When I visited Lasse Braun in Breda, Holland, she was living with him. That was 1973 as I drove through East Germany on that trip in a brand new red MB.

According to Jacques Descent, Brigitte Maier’s pimp was Glenn Kral, who also worked as a “stunt cock” in adult films at the time. Glenn Kral went on to produce several low-budget direct-to-video productions such as Beverly Hills Girls with 1980s scream queen Linnea Quigley, who acted in bondage films using the name Jessie Dalton, and Michelle Bauer, who acted in adult films using the name Pia Snow.

NR: All the subsequent cast members were acquaintances of Peter’s. The woman who played Quasi’s wife is Diane Dixon, and she was the wife of a mutual friend. The little girl on the roller skates throwing the water balloon at Quasi is my daughter Niko. The beach couple was played by two people that we picked up while cruising for attractive couples on Hollywood Boulevard. I do not remember their names.

Flash: How did Al Poe get cast as Quasi?

NR: The night before we were to shoot, I called Dog to give him his call time, and he informed me that he could not do it – he was a family man. With no lead actor with a nine-inch tongue, we panicked. The backers gave us the name of Al Poe – who saved the day!

Al Poe in Tongue
Al Poe in Tongue

Al Poe gives an excellent performance as the mute Quasi, and he truly makes the film work. Strangely, Al Poe has only appeared in a few known titles during his adult film career, and only in bit parts. He was in Possessed in 1971, Erotic Point of View in 1974, and Coming Attractions in 1976.

Flash: And you played Candy, the woman in the park who confronts Quasi?

NR: Candy – yes that’s me.

Flash: Tongue was beautifully shot, with some excellent unique camera shots. Do you remember who the cinematographer for the film was?

NR: We used a news crew from NBC as well as their equipment to film Tongue. Tommy Peters was the lead cameraman. We shot the movie over a two day weekend. The first location was the home of a friend of mine in Inglewood. We had no permit to film and just as Kurt called his last shot, the equipment blew the lights out on the block. We scrambled to gather everything up and leave.

Flash: Were there any other incidents during the filming of Tongue?

NR: The male Quasi sees with Cherry and Nancy went by the name of Black Sid. After the first take, the sound man, who was a big white guy, threw down the boom and proceeded to kick Black Sid’s ass. After he was pulled off of Sid, he told us that he was Bridget’s ex-husband!

Flash: Can you tell us some more about the production?

NR: This was during the gas embargo in 1973, so our backers provided us with limousines from Jackson Limousine Service which we used to transport cast and crew to the locations and also to cruise Hollywood Boulevard looking for attractive people to be in the film.

On the second day, we shot the scenes on the beach in Malibu at an actor friend of mine named, William C. Watson’s home. The closing orgy scene was filmed at the Trousdale Estates home of one of the backers. We wrapped in the wee hours on Sunday, and the film equipment was returned to the newsroom at NBC.

Flash: Where did you get the actors and the actresses for the giant orgy scene?

NR: Most were the people that we cast from cruising on Hollywood Blvd. But some of the men had erection problems due to too much cocaine.

To get all the necessary footage for the orgy scene, some anonymous actors stepped in for the hardcore portions that the cocaine-fueled extras were unable to perform properly.

NR: One week later, I was vacationing in Trinidad, when in the middle of the night, I received a telephone call from a friend telling me that our backers were shot in a drug raid. One died, and the other survived despite being shot multiple times.

Headline from the article about the producers being shot

According to reports, in an early morning West Hollywood raid performed by federal narcotics agents, one suspect was shot to death, and another was critically wounded. The two suspects brandished firearms before being shot, and heroin, along with a large quantity of cash, were seized from the location.

NR: I returned home to learn that Peter had mismanaged the money and we had none for post. Peter became evasive and secretive, and soon, we had no contact. It was three years later, in 1976, that I found out that Peter had partnered with a man named [Rudolph “Rick” Johnson, Jr.], who subsequently provided him with completion money. They formed J and A Productions and shot additional scenes – the ones in the doctor’s office in the opening of the film.  Dr. Morecock was played by David Downing.

David Downing was a character actor who appeared on stage, screen, and television. He appeared in films such as Gordon’s War and television shows such as All in the Family, The Jeffersons, and The Bernie Mac Show.

Flash: Do you have any idea how Peter got him to play the doctor?

NR: I am certain that he was a friend of Peter’s from New York. I didn’t realize that he’d died.

They also hired Roger to score the movie, and Nolan handled the PR. All this was done unbeknownst to me at the time.

Front and back of the Tongue soundtrack LP.

In 1975 Chocolate Cities released the vinyl LP soundtrack for Tongue. The soundtrack features the title song “Tongue” written by Nolan Davis, Niva Ruschell, and Roger Hamilton Spotts which is sung by Caprice Clarke. The music in the film composed by Roger Hamilton Spotts makes up the rest of the soundtrack LP. The B-side of the LP was mixed at Jacques Descent’s Cinema 35 Project Center and is an extended musical sequence directly out of Tongue’s soundtrack.

NR: I was invited to the premiere which was held at the El Capitan Theater on Hollywood Boulevard complete with spotlights and limousines. It was reviewed by the newspapers and trade magazines.

Collage of newspaper ads for Tongue

Flash: Does that mean that Peter Andrews directed the footage that was shot in 1976?

NR: No, Peter did not direct the footage that was shot in 1976. Kurt Baker did.

Peter Anthony Andrews brought Tongue to Jacques Descent at Cinema 35 that was located at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and North Western Ave in Los Angeles, California, for the sound editing. He may have also had the editing done through Cinema 35 as well. The credited editor of Tongue is T.L., and Jacques Decent’s go-to editor was Tony Lanza, who could very well be T.L.

Cinema 35 circa 1968-1969 with Jacques Descent working on the sign
Cinema 35 circa 1968-1969 with Jacques Descent working on the sign

Greg Dziawer describes the layout of Cinema 35 as, “The editing rooms were on the left side of the building, back behind this drive bay. The main office entrance was the door to the left of the bay, and for a little while in the early ’70s, the angora sweater that Ed Wood wore in the lost Operation Redlight from 1969 hung in the front office. The editing facilities and a projection room were behind it. This picture only shows half of the building. There was a corresponding drive bay on the right. There were also two sound-stages on the ground floor and a rather ornate apartment upstairs that Jack sometimes stayed in.”

JD: The original dubbing was done at my studio, and I ran the dubbing console with the 16 tracks. When I dubbed films my lab crew, guys and gals, would sit in the projection room, 32 seats on four level, and we would plug in a dozen handheld microphones plus the loops of sound effect playing on some tracks, and we would project back and forth the image till we got it right. The girls working on these dubbing got really good at sucking their thumbs and eventually could tell when there would be a wet scene. They would bring in a gallon of cheap wine and go at this for hours. I paid them $150 cash for the four hours. I do not know how many films we dubbed effects and dialogue tracks. It was just a side business to get the lab work from the producers.

The girl that dubbed [Brigitte Maier’s] voice in Tongue was my lab chemist.

Jaques Descent’s lab chemist and the all-around person was Toni Telo. She also had an on-screen role in Dames and Dreams.

 Toni Telo with Serena in Dames and Dreams
Toni Telo with Serena in Dames and Dreams

NR: As it turned out, Rick Johnson was a con-artist and stole the movie from Peter. I never saw a dime for my effort even though mine is the only real name in the production credits. I can take credit for creating a cult classic!

Flash: Do you know who ultimately released Tongue?

NR: I believe initially it was released by Rick. I was a guest at a party in Laurel Canyon shortly after Tongue was released. Someone asked me what I did for a living. I told them I was an actress and that I had produced a film – Tongue. That person’s face contorted and they said to me that they along with about 30 other people were scammed by Rick Johnson who had sold each of them the exclusive rights to Tongue. They were meeting in Malibu the next day to discuss what they could do about that.

At least two 8mm loops were created out of footage extracted from Tongue. An eight-millimeter loop generally consisted of a brief set-up, and then a sex scene was silent and was usually shot on 16mm film. Eight-millimeter loops existed at the same time as adult films, and were sold on 8mm film for the home consumer, and were shown in arcades and adult sex shops. Generally, 8mm loops were not sex scenes extracted from an existing adult film but instead consisted of footage shot just for that particular loop.

Foxy box with 8mm loop inside

One of the two known loops created from footage lifted right out of Tongue is the Sex and the Movies series loop 2 “Black and White Lez Sex.” It features the lesbian scene from Tongue with Brigitte Maier and Margo.

Sex and the Movies 2 loop box cover

The other 8mm loop is the Foxy series loop 3 “Lube Job.” It features the orgy scene from Tongue with Brigitte Maier, Margo, and a slew of people picked up for the day on Hollywood Boulevard. “Lube Job” is particularly interesting because it contains subtitles for dialog that were likely written by Edward D. Wood, Jr.

Lube Job catalog sheet

How the two loops made from footage in Tongue ended up being created isn’t entirely known. Jacques Descent estimates that he printed one million loops at Cinema 35 in the first half of the 1970s. Michael “Mickey” Zaffarano was a major client of Jacques Descent’s Cinema 35. Mickey Zaffarano was a capo in the Bonanno crime family, and Mickey Zaffarano was partners with Noel C. Bloom. Noel Bloom, the son of Pendulum publishing founder Bernie Bloom, founded Caballero Home Video née Caballero Control Corporation. Noel Bloom produced the loops, and Mickey Zaffarano distributed the loops to the arcades and shipped them to homes of mail order customers. “Lube Job” was one of the loops produced by Noel Bloom.

Jacques Descent’s Cinema 35 likely handled making the prints of Tongue; however, whether the footage that appears in the two loops was sold to Mickey Zaffarano and Noel Bloom by someone or whether the two ended up with the footage through other means isn’t known.

Mickey Zaffarano was a target of the FBI’s 30-month Miporn (Miami pornography) investigation and died of a heart attack in 1980 prior to being arrested by the FBI. He died in his Times Square office in New York City trying to destroy a print of an adult film while the FBI was on their way to arrest him.

Noel Bloom went on to form Artisan Entertainment, IVE Entertainment, and various other entertainment and home entertainment companies and is still alive.

NR: I wrote a novel in 2011 titled, And Hollywood Be Her Name. It is a fictional account of the true story of the making of Tongue.

And Hollywood Be Her Name book cover

Flash: Is there anything else about the production you would like to share?

NR: Now I am absolutely thrilled to know that the film has acquired such a following and has been well received. The fact that Tongue is considered to be one of the most important films of the 1970s makes it all worth it.

Niva Rushell in Tongue
Niva Ruschell in Tongue

September 2020 Update: With a heavy heart I have to report that Niva Ruschell passed away in May of 2020 likely from complications deriving from COVID-19.

Flash (@Peter_F_Lash) is an adult film reviewer and can be reached via e-mail at Flash’s adult film reviews can be read at Flash’s other interviews can be read at

Niva Ruschell is an actress, producer, and writer. Her book And Hollywood Be Her Name can be bought at

Greg Dziawer is President of DéJà VUE Films, currently distributing the lost 1974 softcore opus Dames & Dreams through Darkside Releasing. Dziawer’s articles focusing on the adult film world of Plan 9 from Outer Space schlock-teur Ed Wood appear on the Dead2Rights blog here.

Film producer, inventor, classical pianist, painter, and Hollywood Unknown Jacques Descent passed in 2018. He produced the first feature films starring adult legends John Holmes and Serena, directed Rene Bond (in still-lost footage) and was friends with Ed Wood. Serena’s first film, Dames & Dreams, was Jack’s final project. Forty-five years later, his ironic swansong is in distribution.

Adult Loop Database provided some images.

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