Created by Cinema: The Enigma of Ajita Wilson
I originally wrote this article in 2015, and have recently revised it slightly. The original article appeared in issue #29 of CINEMA SEWER, with jaw-dropping illustrations by the phenomenal Robin Bougie. You can purchase the hard-copy version, and Robin’s other essential publications, at his official store.
Cinephiles in the 21st Century live in an abyss of celebrity-saturation. We know everything about our modern day demigods, from what car they drive, to how many freckles they have on each buttock. We’ve squealed at their triumphs, wept over their tragedies and memorized their O-Faces through the miracle of “stolen” sex tapes. Long gone are the puff pieces of the classic movie rags. Those adoring pages have been replaced by tabloid TV to detail the comings, goings, toilet habits and sexual peccadilloes of the rich and infamous. Without salacious publicity oozing from every orifice, today’s biggest stars would soon fade from consciousness and into the land of also rans.
In this world of celebrity obsession, it is interesting to know there is a star who continues to fascinate, to intrigue and to pique our curiosity long after her death — and does so without gossip columns to stoke the public’s appetite for more. Neither the passing of time, nor the mystery surrounding her life, has dimmed her light or managed to snuff out film fans’ longing to know more about the statuesque siren known as Ajita Wilson
“A sculptural beauty. Tall and fascinating.” – Tina Aumont
Ajita Wilson seemingly appeared out of nowhere. In 1976, strolling across the screen in Cesare Canevari’s THE NUDE PRINCESS, she became an overnight sex sensation. Long and lanky, with the features of a sculpture come to life, Wilson effortlessly holds the viewer’s attention. One cannot look away when she is onscreen. Her piercing eyes, dewy lips and large hands — manicured beyond all reason — had an unearthly quality that was impossible to resist. Her figure displayed a strength and grace, like a gazelle in human form. As Director Jess Franco has suggested, she was more of a presence than an actress. Wilson’s most arresting onscreen moments are ones of stillness. She commands attention simply by being there. She possesses an aura of dignity, even when surrounded by the most diabolical of cinematic perversions.
“Ajita had that naivete, like she belonged to a world less perverted than our own.” – Jess Franco
Where did this enigmatic beauty come from? That question has haunted the halls of online fandom since the first paving of the information superhighway. If the publicity pieces of the 1970s are to be believed, she was born in New York City in 1950, and was one of America’s biggest sex stars. Truth be told, Ajita Wilson was all but unknown in the USA until well into the video age, save for an appearance in a 1981 issue of Jet magazine as a “Beauty of the Week.” Even those who knew her best were unsure of her origins. Jess Franco suggested in the 2003 documentary SADOMANIAC, that the mysterious star hailed from Ethiopia. Online speculation suggests Rio De Janeiro, or elsewhere in South America. One particular amusing take on the tale is that Ajita was born in Flint, Michigan, and worked as a firefighter. Moving to New York City, the story goes, she began performing as a drag entertainer and prostitute before undergoing surgery to become a woman.
That’s right. It has long been suggested that Ajita Wilson was born biologically male. In keeping with her enigmatic allure, these rumors didn’t begin to pick up steam until after her death. In life she was hailed as the ultimate sex goddess. Her image appeared in countless nudie magazines across Europe, and she attained a status on par with other sex stars such as Laura Gemser, particularly in Italy and Greece.
Ajita Wilson’s onscreen persona was one of power and uninhibited sexuality. Following her 1976 debut in Canevari’s aforementioned political sex-farce, she worked nearly non-stop for a decade. There were stop-offs in softcore flicks such as BLACK DEEP THROAT (1977) and THE PUSSYCAT SYNDROME (1983), as well as more high-gloss productions like the German sex comedy JOY OF FLYING (1977) opposite Gianni Garko. She was also a frequent inmate in the world of women-in-prison films with roles in such titles as HOTEL PARADISE and ESCAPE FROM HELL (both 1980). 1981 saw her promoted from prisoner-in-peril to sadistic warden in Franco’s insane SADOMANIA, a role so over-the-top that Wilson’s performance assured her place among cult stars ever after.
Her star rose at a dizzying pace. A producer only needed to place Wilson’s name and image on a poster to ensure box office returns. Certainly prolific, Wilson seemed to have been more interested in the work than the role, and featured in films that are the very definition of diversified. There were comedic sex-romps such as MY NIGHTS WITH MESSALINA (1982), actioners like LA BRAVATA (1977) and CONTRABAND (1980), and the erotic soap operas LOVE, LUST AND ECSTASY and EROTIC PASSION (both 1981). Some of the nuttiest films in Wilson’s canon were two co-starring roles opposite gender-fluid singer Eva Robins in EVA MAN (1980) and EL REGRESSO DE EVA MAN (1982). While achieving fame among the patrons of sticky-floored theaters in Italy, Wilson was probably most popular in Greece. She filmed a number of of sexual potboilers on the island, most notably as a gun-toting hot mama in the “Cleopatra Jones” mold for BLACK APHRODITE (1977).
While her image may have graced magazines and film posters aplenty, interviews with Ajita Wilson are scarce. Few of her contemporaries are living and active in the industry, but those who have been interviewed speak of Wilson’s kindness and professionalism on set. While Tina Aumont, interviewed for the DVD release of THE NUDE PRINCESS in 2003, expressed surprise at the suggestion that Wilson was not born female, Jess Franco and Lina Romay did not. “She was definitely transsexual,” said Romay in the documentary featurette VOODOO JESS (2006), tracing the making of Franco’s MACUMBA SEXUAL (1983), in which Wilson and Romay co-starred.
As the late 70s/early 80s softcore boom faded away, and American hardcore product flooded the worldwide market, Ajita Wilson’s star began to descend. While a few higher-profile films came her way, she increasingly found herself cast in bottom-of-the-barrel hardcore features. While no stranger to performing sex onscreen, which she had done occasionally throughout her career, her hardcore appearances in the late 1980s were grimy affairs with zero budget and limited talent either side of the lens. It was around this time that Wilson’s physical appearance began to change.
Her eyes, once alluring, began to take on a sadness that she never seem to shake, no matter what character she was playing. Her breasts, once voluptuously round, became flattened, and her face began to take on a more masculine appearance. Was her body beginning to reject the many procedures it must have have undergone to reveal the woman inside? We can never know for sure, but the lively spark she once displayed was all but gone. Film offers dried up, and she found herself going back to her roots in the world of prostitution.
Her final film to be released in her lifetime was 1986’s sordid WHITE MOUTH, BLACK MOUTH opposite “anything with a pulse” strumpet Marina Hedman. In the film, Wilson seems detached, hardened and uncomfortable. She engages in sex acts she obviously does not enjoy, and one can’t help but notice that the light in her eyes that was dimming seems to have gone out completely.
Softcore cinema was dead, and in many ways that was the end of Ajita Wilson. The question lingered, though…who was she? Did she really exist outside of the cinema? Was she merely a creation of the screen, with the real woman forever to remain an enigma? It seems as if that was the case. On March 26th, 1987, the woman we knew onscreen as Ajita Wilson died tragically in a car accident in Rome.
In a world where the public needs to be constantly fed sensationalism in order to remain engaged, Ajita Wilson’s story should have ended there, with nothing but rumor and speculation lingering in the ether. However, her enigmatic qualities may well be why she is still remembered and talked about among cult film fans today. Ajita Wilson’s eyes, both distant and penetrating, make her seem alive still, whenever her image flickers across the screen.
Who was she? Maybe the questions she left behind are her gift to us…she is whatever we need her to be. Thus, Ajita Wilson was cinema: ethereal and wistful, fragile and forever.
“She was charming, beautiful and very professional. The rest is not important.” – Carlos Aured
Copies of the CINEMA SEWER, both the magazine and book editions, can be purchased at their official store.
REVIEW Black Aphrodite
REVIEW Joy of Flying
REVIEW Savage Island
VIDEO The Pussycat Syndrome
VIDEO Ajita Wilson Gets Down! (Disco Scene From “Erotic Passion.”)
VIDEO Erotic Passion (More Scenes From the Film)
VIDEO Savage Island (Edited Trailer)