Unlike today, pornography was illegal and very hard to come by in 1969. Straight porn was difficult to find and gay porn nearly impossible. Denmark was the first country in the world to legalize the production, sale and distribution of pornography in 1969. In the U.S., court cases were working their way through the judicial system to change all that.
In 1969 a man named Albert Ross Deim was arrested in his Salt Lake City home for having pictures, books and movies “deemed obscene.” A city judge fined him $100. Interestingly, his arrest would never have happened at year’s end because of a United States Supreme Court decision that ruled people could view whatever they wished in the privacy of their own homes. In Stanley v. Georgia, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously invalidated all state laws that forbid the private possession of materials judged obscene, on the grounds that such laws violated the First and 14th Amendments. The court found that an individual has “a right to satisfy emotional needs in the privacy of his own house.”
But court cases were of no use to three horny South California high school seniors in April of 1969. The day before my 18th birthday, Jerry Smith, Fred Townsend and I went to a drive-in theater to see Three in the Attic which had been rated R. In late 1968 the Motion Picture Association of America instituted the nationwide system of ratings based on the viewer’s age.
At the drive-in cars were backed out to the street with theater security walking up and down the line looking for cars full of teenagers. Finding us, we were asked to produce I.D. showing that we were 18 years old. Fred was 18, so he had no problem, but Jerry and I weren’t going to be 18 until the next day, so the guard made us pull out of the line. We bitched, and we complained, and we thought how stupid it was, but there was nothing we could do about.
Undaunted and still horny, we then set off to prove we could pass for 18. We decided to go specifically to a “dirty “theater to see if we could get in. In 1969 the only “art” theater that we knew of in Orange County was in Buena Park. “Art” was a euphemism for porno then.
We braced our nerve, drove to Buena Park (with Fred and Jerry drinking Kirin Japanese Beer to fortify their courage), and tried to get into an “adult movie house.” When we went up to the ticket window we found, to our horror, that sitting behind the booth was a little old white-haired lady with chubby cheeks. Our lust was almost lost.
I couldn’t believe it. I was ready to call the whole thing off because, after all, who could buy a ticket to a smutty, filthy stag movie from somebody’s grandmother? However, Jerry, the horny cynic, reasoned, “She probably owns the theater!” So with that logic, we sallied forth, huddled together to prove we had the stuff to get into an adult movie.
Upon entering the lobby we were assailed by the smell of Old Spice Cologne. The theater was dark, filled with a smoky haze, and with each step our gym shoes seemed to stick to something on the tacky floor. We stumbled in during the ending of the first movie. The place had only about ten men there, mostly sitting alone but a few in pairs. Cigarette smoke drifted up and swirled in the projector’s light.
The film was some kind of black and white burlesque movie. The only thing about it I could really make out was some Amazon-type women dressed in sequin outfits which only covered their snatches. Their big bosoms had falsies pasted on from which tassels dangled. I should have known I was gay back then because I don’t remember the women, but I sure remember the costumes.
The movie was of the poorest quality I had ever seen. We only saw 15 minutes of that film before it ended, so we waited in anticipation for the next movie. During the intermission, Fred went to the concession stand for popcorn, and we nearly puked when we tried it. It was stale and tasted rancid and was probably days old. I bet we were the only ones who ever bought popcorn in that place.
To our dismay, the next film wasn’t even in English! It was a Japanese flick, filmed in black and white with English subtitles written in white, so most of the time we couldn’t even read them. We sat through the entire film because, after all, we paid $3 for an Art House experience. But mostly, we stayed because Fred and Jerry were hoping to see more tits and ass. They hoped in vain.
This second feature was the most boring, mind-numbing, tedious and monotonous film ever. The only part I could remember after leaving the theater was a scene of this Japanese man running down a dark alley, yelling in guttural Japanese while being chased by a hoard of pigs. This chase scene went on for about 15 minutes. He finally broke down the door of a building, ran into the men’s room and fell into a urinal while the pigs rutted and snorted around him as the credits rolled.
This was it?! We were robbed! We should have known something was wrong when we were the only ones to stay after the intermission. We should have saved our money and bought a Playboy. So much for my first encounter with smut in the movies.
Years later I learned that if you really wanted to enjoy an Art Theater experience, you found a single gentleman to sit next to. Like Blanche Dubois, I came to rely on the kindness of strangers. Then I didn’t care what was on the silver screen.