It's the most prestigious night of the year, the American Movie Awards, where the great and the good of Hollywood assemble to pay tribute to their favourite subject: themselves. But one attendee shows up alone, and the crowd gathered outside the auditorium wonder why... the reasons are manifold, but began when the woman in question, Jerilee Randall (Pia Zadora), was an aspiring writer, and had won an award of her own for her work while still a student. That night, which should have been the best of her young life, she agreed to go with a man whose father was the famous author Walter Thornton (Lloyd Bochner) because she hoped he would help her career, little knowing she would end the evening sexually assaulted by a garden hose.
Well, not a garden hose on its own, none other than Ray Liotta was brandishing it, in his debut role that meant his first line in his own prestigious career was "Looks like a penis" - referring to Jerilee's trophy. We all have to start somewhere, and Pia Zadora had already started way back in the nineteen-sixties with the equally notorious Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, but it took a long break between that and her next movie, the much-derided Butterfly, for which she threw the integrity of the Golden Globes into question by winning Best Newcomer. Undaunted by the brickbats, she ploughed ahead and her billionaire husband bankrolled this adaptation of a Harold Robbins novel, all with the author's blessing.
The Lonely Lady was more or less the last time she would ever star in a widely distributed movie as after it she recognised it was not her strong suit and turned to singing to make her living, but for bad film fans across the world, she had done enough with what she had to very nearly beat the sixties epics of Joan Crawford or Lana Turner at their own game, only here with the eighties twist that every time the production got nervous the audience was going to exit the theatre in droves, they made Pia doff her togs and deliver yet another nude scene. Fortunately (depending on how you looked at it), she had already proved she was worth watching till the end thanks to a style reminiscent of a spoof on a television sketch show, only this was sincere.
Zadora may have been floundering as far as her thespian abilities went, but she was no dummy, and claimed that after she saw the first dailies she was already drafting her acceptance speech at the Golden Raspberry Awards, just as well as she did go on to win their equivalent of Tom Hanks' nineties double Oscars having won for Butterfly the previous year. Back at the plot, we were given the missing link between Valley of the Dolls and Showgirls, except we were following a writer who sleeps her way to the top (only that's not quite how she puts it in the climactic ceremony that was not the actual Oscars because the project didn't have permission to use their name). But who sleeps with the writer to make their name in Hollywood - isn't that an old joke? Strictly speaking, however, it was Jerilee who did the social climbing.
She winds up marrying Walter and it's a happy arrangement until he starts taking credit for a single word she altered in one of his screenplays that made it a blockbuster (she's just that good a writer!), and soon after she doesn't have to coax his ageing member into satisfying sex as they separate. After this she does not meet one decent man in the entire business, but has to hold her nose and do business with them regardless, often of a carnal nature, even in one scene with a female star who is a lesbian and tricks our heroine into being seduced by her. With a freakout sequence following that is curiously reminiscent of when Peter Davison turned into Colin Baker on Doctor Who, poor little Jerilee (named after Jerry Lee Lewis?) is sent into a coma which she snaps out of eventually, swallows her pride and goes hell for leather in the service of her career, all so she can throw their awful Hollywood back in their faces. The pity of it was, you can imagine many women did get a very raw deal out of making it (or failing to) in this industry, but this turned those concerns into pure farce, like a John Waters effort only intended to be serious. For trash fans, it was heaven, for everyone else, steer clear. Music (that theme song!) by Charles Calello.