Bambi Woods – one of the most famous adult movie stars of all time, and one of it’s most enigmatic. She burst onto the scene in the 1978 “Debbie Does Dallas“, became an international sensation, and then seemed to disappear almost as quickly as she arrived. her final whereabouts shrouded in mystery – in fact many people say she died in 1986 of a drugs overdose.
So, what really happened to Bambi Woods?
But before we get to that, a little backstory.
Growing up in England, and in the pre VHS days, my adolescent youth was spectacularly porn-free. It wasn’t until the late 80s that I first watched a fuzzy 7th generation copy of Deep Throat with a friend, one bizarre speed-filled summer afternoon, in a double header with John Water’s Pink Flamingo.
I came to America in 1996, in hot pursuit of an online redheaded temptress (who was soon after to become my wife) and that’s when I was first introduced to Debbie Does Dallas. For those of you who haven’t actually seen the movie, a brief recap, courtesy of the IMDB entry:
This all-time best-seller among adult movies is about Debbie (Bambi Woods) whose talents have earned her a coveted place as a professional football cheerleader for the Dallas Cowboys. However Debbie and her friends on the cheerleading squad are faced with a problem. She doesn’t have any money to make it to Dallas. She and her girl friends try to figure out ways to make a little extra cash… on the side! One of them works in a library, another in a candle shop, and Debbie herself works in a clothing store for Mr. Greenfield. While doing their odd jobs they realize that they can make more money by doing sexual favours for their bosses. Debbie makes enough money when “Mr. Greenfield scores a field goal and Debbie makes a touchdown”.
It’s one of those movies from the pioneering days of the adult industry, when stag loops burst out of the backroom, and full length adult features made it onto cinema screens across America. It’s claimed that at one point Debbie Does Dallas was making over $250,000 per week per screen. Arguably, it could well be the most profitable movie of all time, as it’s continued to sell on VHS, DVD and, most recently HD-DVD.
And as if to add to the mythical status of the movie, there’s also one of the greatest mysteries of the adult movie world – whatever happened to Bambi Woods, the star? Little is known about her early life, she appeared in just four movies, and then seemingly disappeared from the face of the Earth. Even her real name is a matter of fierce debate, and her wikipedia entry is sparse (and, it turns out, wrong on almost every count) This central mystery formed the backbone of the 2005 documentary Debbie Does Dallas Uncovered, and despite intense efforts, no trace of Woods could be found.
It was against this background, that I wrote one of our earliest “Where are they now” stories. It was a quickly written, hastily researched article, attempting to list the current whereabouts of the cast of the movie. I admit to no great sleuthing skills, just patience and a knack for using search engines. But somehow, the piece struck a nerve, and it’s become one of our most popular stories. In fact, if you search for Debbie Does Dallas on Google, that story – as of May 2007 – comes up second, beaten only by it’s IMDB entry.
And as time passed, readers sent in their own tips for expanding the story. And I edited and updated the piece. But no-one could ever shed light on the whereabouts of Debbie. And I never gave up hope that one day, we might find out.
And then……. in March of this year, an email arrived.
I came across your article on Debbie Does Dallas. It was the first porn movie I ever saw and was my introduction to sex so it’s fair to say it was burned in my brain. I was recently holidaying in Melbourne at a medium level resort and my wife and I became friendly with a couple who was also staying there.
We spent quite a bit of time with them and it bugged me that I knew her from somewhere and she said that she used to do some acting in Los Angeles in b-grade movies when, after about three days of hanging out with them, it hit me exactly who she was. I didn’t know any other way to bring it up but to just say it and she laughed and said she never even got recognised when the movie was out and doesn’t get recognised now but, yes, it was her.
I said it to her on her own but she said her husband knew all about it and we had quite a few laughs about it over the next few days. We even got her address and email to keep in touch. She said that no-one had ever approached her about the movie and it was no big deal and if they’d asked she would talk, just not on camera because of her children. She laughed about some private investigator trying to find her and said it would have helped if he had known her name.
She did say that a couple of things in some story recently (I think it might have been E! ?) were false. Firstly, she did not go on a date with one of the actors who said he did. (Sorry, I don’t know the actor’s name). Secondly, someone who said they had spoken to her parents never did. (Both of her parents are now passed away). She also said she had a friend who was called Desiree? who was also a big porn star who she met when they worked at a club together in New York and their kids play together all the time.
Anyway, don’t know if anyone really cares but thought some people would like to know that she is okay and well. She left to go back to America on last month after her holiday and said she really enjoyed her time here.
Hope this was of interest to you.
All the best
It’s one of those moments, when the hair stands up on the back of your neck. Was it a hoax? A crank email? Or could it be the real thing?
Kevin and I exchanged emails a couple of times, and I asked him to pass on a message to “Bambi” for me. I doubted very much that I would hear from her – if she’d managed to keep her whereabouts secret for 25 years, I had no high hopes that she would break her silence for me.
And then….. another email arrived:
I had your message passed onto me and I had a look at your site and I’m happy to pass on some information. I never wanted to be involved in a commercial activity about myself because when you do the press seems to think they have the right to do or say anything about you in the name of “public interest”. I had no idea that they were doing the documentary on the movie until I saw it on TV and it was quite funny to see these things being said about me which were so untrue. I’m happy to set it right for you.
I don’t know how much help I can be to you because, for obvious reasons, I don’t wish any photos of me to be published and I am not prepared to give out personal details as I would then be easy to contact. I wish no disruption to the lives of those around me but I will answer your questions. I find the interest in the movie quite amusing because at the time none of us thought anything of it. It was just a way to make money and no-one had any idea how big it was going to be and continues to be.
It amazes me that people are so interested in that movie. To me there was nothing great about it and to think that someone would make a documentary about it is just amazing.
If you have any questions you want to ask feel free to send them through and I will answer them as honestly as I can. Hopefully through your site you can put to rest these rumours that people like to spread around.
And so, I immersed myself back in the world of Debbie Does Dallas. I read everything I could find online, i rewatched the documentary, I bought the new version of the movie to listen to the commentary tracks, to glean whatever information I could. I compiled a list of over 40 questions, and sent them off.
And over a series of emails, Bambi answered them all.
Starting tomorrow, we’re proud to present the true story of one of the most famous adult movie actresses of all time – Bambi Woods, in her own words.
Bambi Woods, star of Debbie Does Dallas, one of the most famous adult movie stars of all time, mysteriously disappeared over 20 years ago, and since then, all attempts to track her down and find out what happened to her have been fruitless. Until now.
Today we’re pleased to bring you the first of a two part interview with the porn actress with the girl-next-door looks whose movie has passed into pop culture.
Let’s begin with the question of your real name. Various reports have said it’s Debbie Benson, Debbie De Santo or Barbara Woodson. And, of course, your stage name of Bambi Woods. I’m guessing none of these are right – so, what should we call you?
You’re right, none of those are right. I used Debbie as a fake name when I did porn. No-one has come close to my real name which is why I guess I’ve been left alone all these years! You’re welcome to call me “Debbie” though.
Your wikipedia entry says that you were born in Pierre, South Dakota in 1958. Can you tell us a little more about where you are originally from, and where you grew up?
I’ve never been to South Dakota in my life and was born in 1955, not 1958. I grew up in a town two hours flight out of New York. My family still lives there today.
The stories say you had a very religious catholic background, and went to High School on Long Island. Were you a cheerleader?
My family was religious but not in an extreme way. I did go to a catholic high school but not on Long Island I was never a cheerleader. In fact, the school I went to didn’t have cheerleaders!
So you would been 22 or 23 when the movie came out. What happened to you in the few years after leaving school and before the movie opened?
Like all girls I thought about going to college but my grades weren’t good enough. I wanted to be an actress so went to New York. I was in New York for 18 months before I did the movie and some friends of mine had met a guy who was into the porn scene and they introduced me to people involved with the movie. Never in a million years did I think that it would be anything like what it became and if I had known I would never have done it! I just thought it was easy money at a time when I had none.
It’s also said you ran away from school, and got married and divorced within a year, hitchiking across country to San Francisco.
Wrong on all counts. I finished high school and didn’t run away from home and I had never been married when I did the movie and I didn’t hitchhike to San Francisco. I have no idea where these stories come from.
Haha – so much for my research. Well, how about this – the publicity for Debbie Does Dallas said you were an ex-Dallas Cowgirl cheerleader – I think you even claimed that in one of the trailers. Jim Clark, the director, says the the whole movie was inspired by that story. Did you ever even try out for them? Or was that all just a promotional gimmick?
I have never been to Texas in my life. I was a complete no-body when I did that movie and was working in a store in Manhattan when I got the movie. I can’t remember the name of the store but it was on Broadway. It just used to sell groceries.
So tell us how you first heard about the movie
I remember I was having a drink with my girlfriends at the time and one of them had been in a porn movie which never even got released. I think she got $50 for half a day from memory. Seems like nothing now but at the time it seemed like a lot when you had no money. She introduced me to this guy whose name I can’t remember and the next thing I know I had an offer to be in a movie. It wasn’t until they met me that the whole Debbie thing was put together.
Where did the name “Bambi Woods” come from? Jim Clark (the Director)?
I think so. I didn’t make it up, it was just told to me.
Some scenes from the movie were shot at Brooklyn College, and the Pratt Institute in New York. What do you remember about the shooting?
It didn’t take long at all. We could only be there at certain times and we all thought it was hilarious as to what we were doing on college grounds. I can’t remember now how long it took but it was only a matter of days. This was a very low budget movie and everything was done as fast as possible.
Herschel Savage, one of the actors in the movie, claims he got paid about $150 a day. Do you remember what they paid you?
I remember vividly. $400!! Pretty good money for one of the biggest movies of all time, hey?
And yet, it’is claimed to be one of the five top grossing adult movies in history – do you feel sad that you haven’t been able to share more of that wealth?
Not really. Because it caused me and my family such a lot of grief at the time that sort of takes away from wanting to still be involved with it.
Your co-star in the movie – R Bolla, who played Mr. Greenfield – says that the two of you went out on a date once.
No. We did go out with a group of people after the shooting but not a date by ourselves. I wasn’t attracted to him at all and felt very uncomfortable shooting that scene with him.
Tell us about when the movie opened. Where did you first see the finished movie?
To be honest it wasn’t a big deal to any of us at the time. We got paid and that was the end of that. I wasn’t going to do another one as I didn’t enjoy the first one and then the lawsuit happened and people were trying to find me to get me to go to court and that was when I sort of stopped talking to people.
(A note of explanation here. Soon after the film came out, The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders filed a lawsuit against Pussycat Cinemas, Ltd for trademark infringement. While the Cowboys are never specifically named in the movie, the outfit Debbie wears in the final scene looks suspiciously like the ones the real cheerleaders wore. And the filmmakers’ case was probably not helped by promotional material they put out with phrases such as “Starring Ex Dallas Cowgirl Cheerleader Bambi Woods” and “You’ll do more than cheer for this X Dallas Cheerleader” – claims which, as “Debbie” now confirms, were completely false).
How did you feel about the press the film received when it came out?
The press was all negative to start with because it was to do with the law suit. I was terrified about getting in trouble somehow and everyone wanted to know whether I had really tried out for the cheerleaders and where I was from and I just knew that what I thought was going to be a nothing movie was going to get back to my parents. I never thought they would see it. I rang home and that’s how I found out they knew. I guess they read it in the paper along with the rest of America. Scary time.
How about rest of the cast? Did you know any of them prior to the movie? Any anecdotes to share? Did you keep in touch with them?
I didn’t know any of the cast before that movie and don’t keep in touch with them. The only person I still talk to from those days is a girl who was in quite a few movies and went by the name of Desiree Cousteau. We met at a club in New york and are still good friends to this day. Our kids play together.
Was that the Melody Burlesque Theater?
That’s the name I was trying to think of! Well done. Where did you read that? That was so long ago. You’ve sure done your research! After it (the movie) became famous I took advantage of that for awhile and I’d go to the parties and meet famous people and so on. I started working at the club in New York after the movie happened. A lot of big name porn stars would work there and celebrities would come and meet me. It made me feel special for awhile.
I’m not sure how long I worked there for but it was quite awhile. We just made enough money to get food and drugs and that was pretty much all we did. At the time no-one thought cocaine was bad for you and dope was everywhere and it really was a pretty wild time. I actually got very sick of the attention and worked in a club for about 6 months as a hostess, died my hair and cut it all off and tried to disappear. I think you can pretend to be something you don’t want to be for awhile but eventually you have to get away from it.
Tomorrow, in the second and final part of our interview, “Debbie” talks about making the sequel to Debbie Does Dallas, quashes some more of the rumors that have grown around her, and tells us what she’s been doing since.
In Debbie Does Dallas Uncovered. Jim Clark talks about trying to make a sequel to the movie, but being unable to due to your drug problems. But clearly the sequel came out – so what’s the true story?
I was high a lot but the real reason was I didn’t want to do a sequel. My parents were furious but the money was just too good and I did have a drug problem at the time. The people making the movie couldn’t find me. I ran into one of the girls who did the movie (who I saw on the documentary had died) (nb that would be Arcadia Lake, who later died of a drug overdose) and she passed an offer onto me and I said yes. Much better money this time!
I read an interview online where you claimed to have dated John Belushi. That’s kind of cool – is it true? Did you meet or date any other famous people?
Wow, how did you know that? Yes, I went out with John for awhile along with other celebrities. There were some big celebrity clubs in New York at the time and it was pretty wild. I remember hanging out with Ace Frehley from the rock band “Kiss” quite a bit. He was a crazy guy and always out of it but a lot of fun. I’m surprised he’s not dead!
I also got an offer to do “Playboy” around that time as well which was just before I went home. I was also interviewed by quite a few people during that time. I remember speaking to a guy who was quite famous as an interviewer in the “porn world” but I don’t remember his name but that interview went to air so you might be able to track that down. I can’t remember the name of his show but it was on cable. If you threw some names at me I’d remember it.
(Note: “Debbie” is probably talking about Midnight Blue, hosted by Al Goldstein)
There is a Debbie Does Dallas 3, but it looks to use outtakes from previous shoots. And there is a movie called Swedish Erotica 12.
I remember shooting quite a few scenes that didn’t make it into the second movie. I’ve never seen the third one so I really have no idea what is in it. All I know is that I was never hired to shoot a “third” installment although they probably had that in mind when I did the second one. I was hard to get hold of for the second one so they probably had a third one in the back of their minds as they were shooting. Who knows! There’s definitely no other movies. I was never a big “porn star”.
But Wikipedia mentions a film entitled “Debbie Does Farmland” during the shooting of which you died. Clearly, that’s not true. And there’s also the off-broadway musical.
Never heard of that movie. I did hear about the musical but I have never seen it.
It’s said that your parents rescued you from the adult business, and have helped protect your privacy since then?
I did go back and live with my parents for three years. They didn’t rescue me. I wanted to get away so I did. I’ve never had to protect my privacy. It’s just never been an issue. It’s amazing how cutting your hair off and going from blonde to brunette stops people noticing you. I have never hidden and in the last 20 years I have only been recognised perhaps 20 times. It’s always the same. They’re never quite sure and they have to get the nerve up to ask. The older I get though the less frequent it becomes.
But the Debbie Does Dallas Uncovered documentary tried to find you and failed – were they just not very thorough?
To be really honest, I thought that documentary was embarrassing for them. To say I disappeared after the movie when Debbie Does Dallas 2 came out? Are they for real? Pretty embarrassing for them. Most of the actors I’m sure were being truthful but to think that someone would put out a documentary saying I disappeared straight away when I clearly didn’t is just insulting to the people who bought it.
Has there ever been a temptation over the years to become a more public figure?
No, not in the slightest but I do appreciate the interest in me which is why I have done this for you.
So, without wishing to invade your privacy, what CAN you tell us about what you’ve been doing for the last 20 years? Your fans would love to know.
Well, it’s pretty boring I’m afraid. I’m married for over 20 years with a couple of lovely children who are both teenagers. My husband is involved with computer software here in California. We are very well off so luckily there is no financial need for me to use my past for any financial gain.
Debbie Does Dallas really has become a huge part of popular culture. Looking back, is it something you are proud to have been associated with, or not? Given the chance to do it over, would you still take part?
No, definitely not but it isn’t something that has caused me any great amounts of grief, just family grief at the time.
Finally, what message would you like to send to all your millions of fans around the world?
For those of you who actually cared about what happened to me for personal reasons and not financial, thank you. I’m fine and happy.
Isn’t it nice when a story has a happy ending?
But we’re not quite at the end – check back tomorrow for a final wrap up, and to hear an offer from “Debbie” that some publisher with a few more dollars than YesButNoButYes might want to jump all over.
Over the last few days we’ve told the story of our exclusive interview with Bambi Woods (here, here and here) one of the most famous adult movie actresses of all time, due to her starring role in the original “Debbie Does Dallas”. After a brief period of infamy, she retired to a life of obscurity, marrying and raising children, and living happily ever after.
The interview itself was carried out over the course of multiple emails, and while I have – at her request – held back a few details that may have allowed people to locate and track her down, most of what I know is here in the story.
Unfortunately, the one thing this story does lack is corroboration, any single piece of hard evidence that would prove I actually HAD been in contact with Bambi, and wasn’t the victim of some hoax. And while response to the story has been good, others share similar concerns. I feel it’s only fair that readers know this, because I can’t say for sure one way or the other. Certainly, from the tone of her emails, and the lengthy correspondence I had back and forth, I’m almost certain this is Bambi herself. But you have to understand, there’s no way I can be sure.
So should we have printed without corroboration? My attitude was – sure, why the hell not. If I was duped, then it’s not like anyone is out of pocket. It’s not like we’re charging you hard cash for this ? If there’s anyone out there who actually knew Bambi, and can send me a question that only they (and her) know the answer to, and will definitively prove it one way or the other, I’ll see if she will answer for us.
On multiple occasions I broached the subject of allowing us to publish a private photograph of her – not necessarily a contemporary one, but just one from her past that no-one had seen before, to prove that it had come from her. But she was unwilling, nervous of the reaction that may get from her family. And I have to respect that – she’s spent so may years without being found, why should she endanger that now.
However, she did make one final offer, which I will include here verbatim:
My family would KILL me if I gave any pictures out. What I WOULD do is an audio interview (my husband suggested this) in person if the company involved agreed to donate a sizable amount to charity. I don’t know why anyone would bother but if people can make documentaries and profit from them then they can donate money to charity if they want me to meet with them.
To be clear I am NOT asking for one cent for myself as I don’t need money and it would just be a once off interview. If anybody really wants my story (like the documentary makers) they can give some money to some sick kids. Everyone is happy to make up stories about me dying and doing “farmland” movies so they should be happy to hear the truth even if it isn’t as controversial as they would like.
So there it is. An offer of an exclusive interview with Debbie from Debbie Does Dallas. I would guess by phone or skype, although you never know, perhaps even in person. You can reach Bambi via YesButNoButYes.com – send us an email and we will pass on your details and offer to her. I wish we made more than 20 bucks a day in advertising to do this ourselves. But if I were the editor of Rolling Stone or Playboy, I’d be all over this one.
Our thanks go out to Bambi, or Debbie, for being so gracious and answering my questions so patiently, and to reader Kevin for brokering the interview. And if anyone out there knows where Jimmy Hoffa is, we’d be pleased to break the story.