You may not know the name Bambi Woods, but you’ve likely heard of the adult film Debbie Does Dallas. Made in 1978, it’s regarded as one of the most important films of the “Golden Age of Porn” and remains one of the most well-known porns to-date.
The plot revolves around a group of cheerleaders raising money so their squad captain, Debbie, can try out for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Texas Cowgirls, based out of Dallas. Bambi Woods was the leading lady, playing Debbie. Rumor has it, Bambi had previously tried out for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders in real life.
The film was a huge hit and sold 50,000 copies once it came out on video, which was a record-setting release for its time. A number of sequels and spin-offs came from Debbie Does Dallas, including a Broadway musical. But with fame came controversy.
For starters, the fictional team’s name and costumes were a blatant reference to the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. This didn’t sit well with the (real) team, who decided to sue the movie’s distributors. They ended up winning their trademark infringement lawsuit in the federal court, but the situation put them at odds with the mob.
At the time, much of the porn industry was funded by the mafia. Michael Zaffarano, a capo in the Bonanno crime family, was the sole stockholder for Pussycat Cinema, Ltd. His Times Square movie theater began showing Debbie Does Dallas in 1978, complete with a giant billboard featuring Bambi. The advertisement claimed that Bambi Woods was an “Ex Dallas Cowgirl Cheerleader.” The film was briefly pulled and scenes showing the similar costumes were edited out. But the controversy pushed Bambi even further into the spotlight.
Little is known about Bambi’s life outside of Debbie Does Dallas, but we do know from her own account that she wasn’t entirely comfortable starring in porn. In this rare interview clip, she recounts how she owed friend money and said friend, who was involved with the adult entertainment business, suggested she audition for the film. After production was over, she still didn’t have enough to pay her friend back, which led Bambi to exotic dancing. Bambi became a rising star in the industry, but due to her newfound fame, her family found out about her adult film career. Allegedly, this was a source of shame for Bambi and she decided to step out of the spotlight.
There’s very little information available on what happened to Bambi in the years after Debbie Does Dallas. Back then, the adult film industry wasn’t strictly regulated. Bambi Woods is a stage name created by Jim Clark, the director/producer of Debbie Does Dallas. Her real name has never been released.
Bambi likely would have drifted off into obscurity if it weren’t for a 2005 article by an Australian newspaper, The Age, which claimed that Bambi had died of a suspicious drug overdose in 1986. A documentary that came out that same year, Debbie Does Dallas Uncovered, alleges that a private investigator traced Bambi to Des Moines, Iowa where she was living a normal life. They claimed that Bambi wanted no further involvement with the film or her past career.
A woman claiming to be Bambi came forward in 2007 for an interview with the blog YesButNoButYes. The interview was done entirely over email and there doesn’t appear to be verification that the woman was actually Bambi. During the interview, “Bambi” disputes much of the information that was released in Debbie Does Dallas Uncovered, but reaffirms that she is living an ordinary life outside of the spotlight.
The situation is certainly odd. One minute, a woman is proudly displayed on a Times Square billboard, promoting the porn that she stars in. The next, she’s supposedly embarrassed by her fame and disappears, never to be heard from again.
Perhaps in the age of technology, where we can find out everything about a person in mere seconds, it makes the circumstances extra suspicious. Naturally, people have jumped to conspiracy theories. Some believe the OD story, others suspect mafia involvement led to her demise. It’s hard to wrap our minds around an iconic adult film star going unrecognized for over 40 years, without a single friend or neighbor spilling the beans. But without definitive proof, anything’s possible in the Bambi Woods MIA debacle.