My next contact with porn came in 1976. With my previous experience, I thought I couldn’t be shocked. But I was.
My girlfriend and I were spending an Indian summer weekend in Chicago. Faith had been curious to see what a porn movie was like but was afraid to attend one back home in Grand Rapids. Vigilantes had staked out the two porn theaters there and were photographing patrons in an attempt to embarrass them into staying away.
We chose a hole-in-the-wall theater south of the Loop. Faith had recognized the name of the star in the Chicago Tribune ad that read, “Linda Lovelace and Barnyard Friend.”
Clutching my hand, she ducked into the cavelike entrance. For us, hardcore sex between consenting adult performers would have been daring enough; we weren’t ready for what we saw.
Linda’s “barnyard friend” turned out to be a handsome brute: tan and proud, a mixture of boxer and terrier, with a bit of shepherd tossed in to narrow the snout and perk up the ears.
Faith would always remember her first porno.
Next, we visited an adult bookstore in Old Town. We found the place filled with magazines and 8 millimeter films like Hotsy-Tots, Little Lolitas, Family Fun, Dog Instruction, Friends and Enemas, and The Body Beer for Lunch Bunch.
“Let’s get out of here,” Faith whispered.
I was as surprised as she was to find these things being sold openly, not under the counter. Their professionally designed four-color packaging meant they were being commercially distributed in large volume.
I’d thought this stuff was illegal. Kinky as he was, Telsman had been afraid to produce films involving child sex, bestiality, or excretory functions.
Had the law changed during my four years in Grand Rapids? What was going on here? How had all of this been allowed to happen?
I dug out my old writing project. I had this panicky feeling that if I didn’t update it immediately, I might as well throw it out.
I decided to do some research when I visited Ace Walker in L.A. over Christmas. The last time I’d seen him was just before four big vice cops hauled him away. December, 1976.
“The woman in the film was orally copulating with the penis of a pig. This marriage counselor and psychologist jerk from San Francisco came down and testified for the defense. He said he’d used a similar film in treating a woman who had an aversion to her husband’s penis. When she saw this film, she realized that her husband’s penis wasn’t so bad after all. Believe it or not, a couple of jurors actually bought that theory. We got a ’not guilty.’”
Lieutenant Lex Zabel of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Administrative Vice unit was speaking into my tape recorder. I had told him I was researching an article on a porno industry without restraints. We were in Zabel’s office at Parker Center, a square, shining monolith in the middle of downtown Los Angeles, a building as imposing and impersonal as the motorcycle cops who buzzed in and out of its parking structure like blue bees around a high-tech hive.
Zabel was a forthright, solid man with a graying toothbrush mustache. Throughout our conversation, I’d be unsettled by his eyes: I recalled the term “cop’s eyes,” (from the Paul Newman movie Harper) eyes that allowed no secret to go unexamined.
Administrative Vice–“Ad Vice”–was a legend: feared by pimps, bookies and pornographers in the early ’70s, like Green Berets by Viet Cong. Ad Vice tactics had scared Ace Walker into testifying against everyone he knew in the porno business in return for immunity. There were only eight Ad Vice detectives, but they were the elite.
“Ad Vice takes the major investigations,” Zabel explained. “We have better equipment, cars, communications and more secret service money. And we can call in men from other divisions.” Zabel’s tone hardened. “Several years ago, we were conducting a massive juvenile pornography investigation. Grand jury indictments…dozens and dozens of kids to interview…”
He hesitated, his jaw tensing momentarily. Then he continued in his flat tone, “We didn’t want it to drag on, ’cause these kids were actively involved in ongoing shooting.”