My very brief career as a porn model

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This was one of my first “successes” as a writer. 1980. I had been submitting my cartoons to the BERKELEY BARB, the legendary underground newspaper. And when they also started publishing a porn tabloid — the SPECTATOR — I started submitting stuff to them, too.

The SPECTATOR ran a sex fantasy writing contest, with a $100 prize. And i submitted a story and won. I don’t even remember what the story was that i wrote. The only thing I remember was that the SPECTATOR had a female managing editor at the time — which was highly unusual for a men’s porn paper. So I tried to come up with a sex story that a woman would like. And I guess I did. I do remember my piece was primarily comedy, with a good punchline, as opposed to something that was supposed to be arousing.

So then the SPECTATOR invited me to go to the studio of Dave Patrick — their staff photographer — so they could shoot a bunch of photos of me being given the 100-dollar check by this naked porn model. Which they would run as a feature in their next issue. So that was a weird experience, being on the other side of the bright lights of a porn photo. When the issue came out, they decided to just use a close-up of me holding the check. Which was a little disappointing. I wanted to see the photos of me and the porn model. And I regret I never asked Dave Patrick for some prints of the photo session. Because it was sort of a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I could savor in my decrepit old age. But it was nice to cash the check. A hundred bucks was a whole month’s rent back then.

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A few random facts about me

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1.)  I’m an incredibly weird person. I’ve never met anybody quite like me. At the same time, I’m just an Every Man and I’m going through the exact same shit as you are.

2.)  I’m a shameless narcissist egomaniac who’s obsessed with myself. At the same time I’m just studying my life just like I’d study any other subject. I’m more interested in my life (as opposed to, say, everybody else’s lives) just because it happens to be my life.

3.)  I’m a registered Republican living in Berkeley, former hippie acid casualty who published a punk rock zine and interviewed Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols. Makes perfect sense to me. But I can see how it might appear odd to others.

4.)  My first real success, after a life of mostly failure, was in 1980, age 23. A local porn paper had a writing contest — submit your Sex Fantasy and Win $100. I won. Then the porn paper set up a porno shoot with me and some nude porno model handing me the $100 check. I still have a copy of the issue of that porn paper with my photo in it stashed somewhere. But I can’t for the life of me remember what it was I wrote.

5.)  I have two feral cats that I dearly love. Aside from that I really don’t have any friends. That’s probably not a good sign, re my mental and moral character.

6.)  I’m an attention whore with a shameless need to draw attention to myself. Half the time. The other half of the time I’m a reclusive nerd who wishes everyone would leave me alone. Needless to say. that has caused me some problems.

Mail

 

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My older sister has been forwarding my mail from Berkeley to the boondocks of Arizona where I’ve been living for the last 5 months.  How to describe the latest batch of mail that came the other day?  Ironic?  Symbolic?  Wistful?  Disturbing?

For a kick my sister stuck in a bunch of my old press clippings that had been lying around in her file cabinet for years.  Among them was a copy of the Berkeley Barb from 1977 with the first cartoon I ever got published.  Also in the batch of mail was my latest royalty check from my last-remaining publisher.  A check for 9 dollars and 60 cents.

So it was a weird juxtaposition.  Like a before-an-after picture.  Where I had started out.  And where I had ended up nearly 40 years later.  So it was hard not to “take stock” as they say.  Of all the shit that had happened between those years.  And how I had gotten from there to here.

The first thing I was nervous about was checking the date on the Berkeley Barb.  Because for years I’ve been telling the story about how my first published cartoon came out on July 7, 1977 (7-7-77).  And  making a big deal about  starting my career on such an portentous and magical number.  But then I thought:  What if I had remembered it wrong?  Or what if I had just made up the whole story, and then  had told the story so many times I actually started believing it?

This had happened to me once before.  For years I had told this story about when I was 17 and a senior in high school.   It was one of my most vivid high school memories.   I’d be riding around town with my buddies getting stoned.  And one of the hit songs of the day, “At 17” by Janis Ian, would come on the radio.  And it always disturbed me and haunted me.   This sort of maudlin ballad with lyrics like: “Those of us with ravaged faces / Lacking in the social graces / I learned the truth at 17.”  And in my memory it was like the soundtrack to my senior year in high school. . .   And then a couple of years ago I looked the song up and was shocked to find out it actually  hadn’t been released until 1975, a year after I had graduated from high school!  So much for that story.

But fortunately the date on the Berkeley Barb was in fact July 7, 1977.   (Actually it was July 8, but like with a lot of weekly newspapers they usually had it in the racks a day before the published date.)

I remember I was 20 years old at the time.  1977. I had already been homeless for a year.  I was already a deeply psychologically-wounded person.  Which I guess is why I had belly-flopped at such a young age to the bottom of society.  A position I had every reason to believe I would be occupying for the rest of my life.  I remember walking down 6th Street — San Francisco’s skid row —  amidst all these other losers, ghouls and lost souls.  And thinking:  “This is where they put people like me!”

Ace Backwords's photo.
I had already spent a year sleeping in the bushes at the Fremont Street off-ramp in a sleeping bag.  This isolated spot on top of a hill at the foot of the Bay Bridge, with a panoramic view of the San Francisco Bay and the skyline of Oakland and Berkeley off in the distance.  And I remember working on that Berkeley Barb cartoon for a month at that off-ramp.  Sitting on this ratty mattress that I had dragged up to my crash spot and drawing away. I carried my drawing pad and my pens around with me everywhere I went in my backpack.  I had this vague dream of becoming an underground cartoonists.  And, like many 20 year-old boy/men, I was filled with youthful dreams for my future.  These painful hopes and yearnings for a home and career and friends and fame and glory and great sex and drugs.  The usual.  And selling that cartoon to the Berkeley Barb was like the first encouragement I had ever gotten from the world.  And it planted this seed in my mind, like:  Hey, maybe I had a chance after all.  Maybe I could carve out some kind of career doing this.

And so the other day, when I was looking at that Berkeley Barb cartoon, it all came back to me.  The life that I had fervently hoped was waiting for me at age 20.

And then, of course, the royalty check for 9 dollars and 60 cents was sort of an ironic counterpoint to where my life had actually ended up, 37 years later.

Sometimes I think God actually purposely manufactures these kind of scenerios.  Like He’s up there in Heaven looking down on us thinking, “Lets see what he makes of this one.  This oughta’ be rich.”  (One of my favorite New Yorker cartoons was one of God standing up on a cloud, but he’s not throwing lightning bolts down at people, he’s throwing pies.  Thats sort of my conception of God.)   Sometimes I think God is kind of like a game show host.  And we’re all contestants on His game show.  A sort of “Beat the Clock” kind of deal.   The clock is ticking, we’re all racing towards death.  And in the meantime the game is to see if we can figure out what this life is really all about before we kick the bucket.  And periodically God will furnish us with some clues.  To give us stuff to think about.   To think about what our lives are all about.  And what the point of it is.  That’s assuming that  life does in fact have a point.

So I’m looking at that 9 dollar and 60 cents royalty check from my publisher, Paladin Press.  And wondering what it all had amounted to.  Paladin Press  had recently published my Surviving on the Streets book as an ebook.  I’ve never seen the thing, but I’ve been told its out there.  And I’ve got the 9 dollars and 60 cents to prove it.  Now Paladin Press is an interesting book publishing company.  They picked up the rights to my Street book when my previous publisher, Loompanics Unlimited, went out of business.  We are kind of an odd match; Ace Backwords and Paladin Press.  We don’t have a lot in common.  How to describe them?  They specialize in sort of rightwing survivalist/self-defense books.  They publish a lot of books about weapons and martial arts and street fighting.  Its the go-to company if you’re looking for books about the latest in eye-gouging techniques, and etc.  So there’s enough of a tentative connection between them and my Surviving  on the Streets book, which is sort of a how-to book for (you guessed it) surviving on the streets.

My previous publisher, Loompanics, was also a little on the off-the-beaten-track side.  And they were notorious for some of the crazy shit they published.   How to Kill, volume 1 through 7.  And  How to Manufacture Meth Amphetamines.  They sort of specialized in the taboo subjects other publishers wouldn’t touch.  Their number one best-selling book of all-time, by the way, was How to Pick Locks.  An entertaining as well as practical look at that particular genre.  I think they sold a couple hundred thousand copies of that one.

Now I loved Loompanics.  And I also deeply appreciate Paladin Press.  So I don’t mean this as a put-down.  But in my heart of hearts I always kind of considered what I was doing as sort of . . .  literature.   Art, if you will.  But evidently, the world at large has never quite considered me in those terms.  Considering that my books usually end up on the bookshelf next to How to Pick Locks and Advanced Eye-Gouging Techniques.

But what the hell.  That was the batch of mail from the other day.  Excuse me while I get up and go see what horrors are awaiting me in today’s mailbox.

The Berkeley Barb

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The Berkeley Barb was one of the famous underground newspapers of the 60s.  It sputtered on through the 70s.  Turned into a porno tabloid in the 80s.  And then went out of business in 2005 when the internet took over the porn business.

I sold my first cartoon to the Berkeley Barb.  Age 20.  Easy to remember the date.  July 7, 1977.  7-7-77

I remember I worked for a month on that comic strip.  It was a full page cartoon, and the Barb printed it on the backcover, in color.

At the time my big dream was to have a career as an Underground Cartoonist.  Which shows you how nuts I was.  Sheesh.  I was homeless back then, sleeping on this off-ramp on Fremont Street in San Francisco.   Beautiful spot actually.  This would be my homeless home for a year. It was on top of this man-made hill at the foot of the Bay Bridge.  I had an incredible, panoramic view of the San Francisco Bay, with Oakland and Berkeley twinkling off in the distance.  Thirty years later they would build luxury apartment buildings in the area, and the  “million dollar view” would be a big selling point.  Course I got to enjoy the view for a year and never paid anyone a dime.   Life is weird like that, ain’t it?

 

I vividly remember when I first saw my comic in print.   The Berkeley Barb had a newspaper rack on 8th and Market right near the City Hall.  I remember how thrilling it was to see my cartoon there on the back cover in print.  After all these years of seeing other people’s stuff in the media, there was my own stuff staring back it me!  It was like a form of magic.   Like I had entered into the other side of the media looking glass mirror.
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The Barb ended up paying me $30 for the cartoon.  When I got that $30 check I remember thinking:  “I worked an entire month for 30 bucks.  I’m gonna have to re-think this Career As An Underground Cartoonist thing.”

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Brushes with Greatness Part 2: The Secret Origin of “Ace Backwords”

Originally published 2002_11_27Carol Connors Autograph

The first famous (or semi-famous, I’ll let you decide where the cut-off point is for true celebrity) person I ever met was Carol Connors. Connors’ claim to fame was, she played the nurse in Deep Throat, the number-one-selling porn movie of all time at that point (I’ve heard its recently been eclipsed by The World’s Biggest Gang Bang starring Annibel Chong).

I was working for a sleazy porno tabloid from Los Angeles at the time. Impulse was the paper’s name, and it really was sleazy, even by porn’s standards. From some of the ads, you had to wonder if it was a front for some kind of  underground sex  ring or something. This was 1979, and there was an anything-goes feeling at the times, especially in decadent Los Angeles.

Anyways, I wrote a column for Impulse called; “Sin Francisco: Your Bay Area Porno Report” (how’s that for cheezy?) And I’d go to the local strip clubs and interview the latest porn stars or whatever. This was my first and only “success” at that point, age 22, writing a column and doing a comic strip for a sleazy porn tabloid from Los Angeles. I had some hazy dream in my head of being a professional underground artist. But the world mostly refused to cooperate with my dreams. Quite simply, I couldn’t deal with the world. I was a hyper-sensitive, art-fag kind of guy.  I had all these strange and tender feelings whizzing around in my head, and that’s what seemed real to me. The so-called Real World outside me seemed un-real. I had gotten a few comics published in the Berkeley Barb, the latest remnant of the ’60s underground. But aside from that, the world seemed completely indifferent, if not outright hostile, to my strange and tender feelings.  I sent out my work here and there. But the only encouragement I got was from this sleazy porn tabloid from Los Angeles. They actually printed a couple of my comics: stuff like Dagwood and Blondie having sex and then appearing on the Dick Cavett show and getting in a bitch-fight. “Phil Olsen” — the one-man editor/publisher of Impulse— sent me a postcard along with a $25 check: “Send more stuff. Let your imagination run wild.” And somehow, that postcard inflamed me. I still remember it clearly, 23 years later. For it was the first real encouragement I had gotten.

So I came up with the pen-name “Ace Backwords” — to save my family name from the disgrace of being associated with a sleazy tabloid from Los Angeles (they would do a good enough job disgracing themselves on their own later). Little did I realize that 23 years later I would literally have BECOME Ace Backwords, that almost everyone I knew would know me and call me by that name, that I would cash my checks made out to that name, and that my “real” name would basically cease to exist as an entity in this world.

So anyway, I came up with this column, “Sin Francisco,” and I would hack it out in sort of the style of a second-rate Hunter S. Thompson imitator. He was one of my heroes. And, like Thompson, I was beginning to see how working in the media, even on the minor league level of this sleazy porn tabloid, could be a ticket to ride. For one thing, I got into all the porn clubs for free. And on the months when “Phil Olsen” couldn’t afford to pay me in cash, he’d pay me with a big box of sex toys; huge dildos with accordion-like pieces in the middle that were battery operated and went up-and-down when turned on the vibrator mode (made a great coffee-table conversation piece).

I had done a comic strip take-off on the Mitchell Brothers, called “The Bitchell Brothers” (pretty clever, huh?) which they had liked, so they gave me a free press pass to their club, The O’Farrell Theatre, to snoop around and write about whatever I wanted.

The Mitchell Brothers were among the first pornographers to really cultivate the press.  They’d set up the reporters with free passes, hook ’em up with naked chicks, and take out expensive ads in the local papers. I think their underlying assumption re: the press was along the lines of Lyndon Johnson’s classic line: “Better to have them inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.” And they were rewarded for their efforts with over a decade of generally favorable, if not fawning, press from the Bay Area’s finest.

Every two weeks, when the new issue of Impulse hit the newspaper racks, I’d grab 20 copies and carefully stack them in my closet. Then I’d cut out my column and comics and paste them into a big scrapbook. Then I’d intricately color them in and decorate the margins with magic markers. I’d moon over that scrapbook, like I was a real writer and my work was being compiled in this glorious collection. The whole porn business was kind of like that. It was sort of a minor league version of the mainstream media, a Bizarro parallel media universe. And we had our own stars and celebrities and fan-clubs and movie premieres and even our own version of the Academy Awards. And we were just like real stars, except that the whole thing had an aura of loser-dom and shame.

And this, too. It was 1979, post-’60s Sexual Revolution, pre-’80s AIDS epidemic. So everybody was having sex with everybody in every possible combination. Hell, even I was getting laid back then. And, in some circles, the Mitchell Brothers were seen as the vanguard, the cutting-edge of the new Sexual Revolution. They were heroes almost. Not just pornographers, but promoters of sexual freedom and liberation. And there was considered something wrong with you if you weren’t jumping into the sack all the time. How repressed and un-liberated.

At the time, I considered Sex to be the holy grail that would lead me to Happiness, if not downright Enlightenment. So the Mitchell Brothers, to my 22-year-old eyes, seemed to be the Kings of the Party; the ones with virtually unlimited access to the most beautiful young sex-pots in the world. They were the Kings, and the O’Farrell Theatre was their Harem. So I took it as a given that they must be having the greatest time in the world, an assumption I clung to right up to the moment when Jim Mitchell took out a handgun and blew the brains out of his brother Artie.

Anyway, that night Carol Connors was the featured attraction. She got up on stage of the main theatre within the theatre, New York Live it was called. She was wearing a bright white nurses uniform and white nurses cap, and her white mini-skirt barely covering her fat wobbling ass. She looked like some kind of Viking Goddess Amazon. An inflatable love doll robot. She was sort of a cross between a brassy Mae West and wholesome blonde Daisy Mae sex appeal. With a strong jaw and big bones, big curves, tiny waist. She put on a very athletic, energetic show, bounding across the stage, unbuttoning her nurse’s uniform and stripping naked.

After the strip show it was announced over the P.A. that Connors would be appearing in 15 minutes in the Kopenhagen Lounge (how’s that for class?). There were like 4 different theatres within the O’Farrell Theatre, including a big video store. It was truly a porno arcade, one of the first of its kind. All done up first class; red wall-to-wall carpeting, “the Carnegie Hall of smut.” All that was missing was the chandeliers. The Kopenhagen Lounge was an intimate little room; about 50 plush chairs lined the four walls with a little mini stage the size of a bed in the middle. The “dancer” would strip and pose while the customers shined flashlights (provided by the theatre) at her. After her routine, the stripper would go from person to person offering herself for a lap-dance for a couple of bucks. You could stick your hand in her cunt for a couple of bucks, okay? That’s what it really boiled down to once you got past the wall-to-wall carpeting. And the line stretched down the hallway waiting to get in for Carol Connors show.

While the show was going on I talked to her manager/agent, Jack, who looked just like you’d expect a Hollywood porno star’s manager/agent to look; in other words like an undercover narc, with the shades and gold chains and shirt un-buttoned to show off chest-hair, etc. He and Carol were a team, and he talked enthusiastically about their up-coming deals and projects, visits to the Playboy mansion (they actually met with Hef!), etc. I couldn’t help wondering what he thought about his woman in the next room being mauled by 50 slobbering jack-offs with flashlights. What did they talk about at the end of the day when they were in their hotel room? It was a strange, brutal business, the porno business.  Everybody involved was either grabbing for money or grabbing for sex. So there were so many angles whizzing by, it was dizzying. Like a big, multi-dimensional jerk-off. And me, I was the most confused of all, for I had somehow added “art” and “love” into this potent mix. I had fallen in love with a 19-year old blonde Swedish stripper, so I was surely the biggest fool of all. There was another guy, a customer, who was always there at the Theatre, a nice Asian guy who was madly in love with this one stripper, Wendy.  He’d bring her hundreds of dollars worth of flowers and candy and expensive stuffed animals. He’d pay for a lap dance until his money ran out, and then watch forlornly as she left him, his beloved, to work the rest of the crowd of men. I had a line in my head that sort of made sense at the time: “Even at its most sordid, life is a profoundly spiritual affair.” And that line kind of saved me, for I never lost sight of where I was at, even as I was destined to spend the next 23 years in the gutter, or one small step above. Even in the cut-and-dried world of this haunted hall of neon zombies and sex and price-tags, there was love. And that was the most sickening and painful thing of all.

Later, I stood there in the hallway, interviewing Carol Connors, wearing a robe and not much else. I can still picture her baby face, so milk-fed wholesome, and her Hollywood false eyelashes (just the touch to make her seem like a glossy star). I don’t remember what she said. But I suppose I could look it up in my scrapbook; I still have it somewhere. That’s the weird thing about me: I’ve documented in one medium or other just about everything that’s happened to me over the last 25 years. Mostly I remember thinking: “I’m getting paid money to talk to one of the most beautiful, voluptuous women in the world. Me, the guy who never even had the courage to talk to the girl sitting in the desk next to me in high school.” And from that moment I was hooked on the whole media business. This whole crazy game.

I went back to my apartment and wrote up the interview in a style that was sort of a cheap, second-rate imitation of Hunter S. Thompson (“I was there to Cover The Story…”) who was one of my heroes, the big underground media hipster star. In a weird twist of life-imitating-art, Hunter Thompson Himself would come the O’Farrell Theatre 5 years later, and spend a year hanging around the club, ostensibly working on a big book about the club for Playboy, but mostly ending up too coked-out, and too whored-out, to produce anything.

Brushes with Greatness Part 2: The Secret Origin of “Ace Backwords”

Originally published 2002_11_27Carol Connors Autograph

The first famous (or semi-famous, I’ll let you decide where the cut-off point is for true celebrity) person I ever met was Carol Connors. Connors’ claim to fame was, she played the nurse in Deep Throat, the number-one-selling porn movie of all time at that point (I’ve heard its recently been eclipsed by The World’s Biggest Gang Bang starring Annibel Chong).

I was working for a sleazy porno tabloid from Los Angeles at the time. Impulse was the paper’s name, and it really was sleazy, even by porn’s standards. From some of the ads, you had to wonder if it was a front for some kind of  underground sex  ring or something. This was 1979, and there was an anything-goes feeling at the times, especially in decadent Los Angeles.

Anyways, I wrote a column for Impulse called; “Sin Francisco: Your Bay Area Porno Report” (how’s that for cheezy?) And I’d go to the local strip clubs and interview the latest porn stars or whatever. This was my first and only “success” at that point, age 22, writing a column and doing a comic strip for a sleazy porn tabloid from Los Angeles. I had some hazy dream in my head of being a professional underground artist. But the world mostly refused to cooperate with my dreams. Quite simply, I couldn’t deal with the world. I was a hyper-sensitive, art-fag kind of guy.  I had all these strange and tender feelings whizzing around in my head, and that’s what seemed real to me. The so-called Real World outside me seemed un-real. I had gotten a few comics published in the Berkeley Barb, the latest remnant of the ’60s underground. But aside from that, the world seemed completely indifferent, if not outright hostile, to my strange and tender feelings.  I sent out my work here and there. But the only encouragement I got was from this sleazy porn tabloid from Los Angeles. They actually printed a couple of my comics: stuff like Dagwood and Blondie having sex and then appearing on the Dick Cavett show and getting in a bitch-fight. “Phil Olsen” — the one-man editor/publisher of Impulse— sent me a postcard along with a $25 check: “Send more stuff. Let your imagination run wild.” And somehow, that postcard inflamed me. I still remember it clearly, 23 years later. For it was the first real encouragement I had gotten.

So I came up with the pen-name “Ace Backwords” — to save my family name from the disgrace of being associated with a sleazy tabloid from Los Angeles (they would do a good enough job disgracing themselves on their own later). Little did I realize that 23 years later I would literally have BECOME Ace Backwords, that almost everyone I knew would know me and call me by that name, that I would cash my checks made out to that name, and that my “real” name would basically cease to exist as an entity in this world.

So anyway, I came up with this column, “Sin Francisco,” and I would hack it out in sort of the style of a second-rate Hunter S. Thompson imitator. He was one of my heroes. And, like Thompson, I was beginning to see how working in the media, even on the minor league level of this sleazy porn tabloid, could be a ticket to ride. For one thing, I got into all the porn clubs for free. And on the months when “Phil Olsen” couldn’t afford to pay me in cash, he’d pay me with a big box of sex toys; huge dildos with accordion-like pieces in the middle that were battery operated and went up-and-down when turned on the vibrator mode (made a great coffee-table conversation piece).

I had done a comic strip take-off on the Mitchell Brothers, called “The Bitchell Brothers” (pretty clever, huh?) which they had liked, so they gave me a free press pass to their club, The O’Farrell Theatre, to snoop around and write about whatever I wanted.

The Mitchell Brothers were among the first pornographers to really cultivate the press.  They’d set up the reporters with free passes, hook ’em up with naked chicks, and take out expensive ads in the local papers. I think their underlying assumption re: the press was along the lines of Lyndon Johnson’s classic line: “Better to have them inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.” And they were rewarded for their efforts with over a decade of generally favorable, if not fawning, press from the Bay Area’s finest.

Every two weeks, when the new issue of Impulse hit the newspaper racks, I’d grab 20 copies and carefully stack them in my closet. Then I’d cut out my column and comics and paste them into a big scrapbook. Then I’d intricately color them in and decorate the margins with magic markers. I’d moon over that scrapbook, like I was a real writer and my work was being compiled in this glorious collection. The whole porn business was kind of like that. It was sort of a minor league version of the mainstream media, a Bizarro parallel media universe. And we had our own stars and celebrities and fan-clubs and movie premieres and even our own version of the Academy Awards. And we were just like real stars, except that the whole thing had an aura of loser-dom and shame.

And this, too. It was 1979, post-’60s Sexual Revolution, pre-’80s AIDS epidemic. So everybody was having sex with everybody in every possible combination. Hell, even I was getting laid back then. And, in some circles, the Mitchell Brothers were seen as the vanguard, the cutting-edge of the new Sexual Revolution. They were heroes almost. Not just pornographers, but promoters of sexual freedom and liberation. And there was considered something wrong with you if you weren’t jumping into the sack all the time. How repressed and un-liberated.

At the time, I considered Sex to be the holy grail that would lead me to Happiness, if not downright Enlightenment. So the Mitchell Brothers, to my 22-year-old eyes, seemed to be the Kings of the Party; the ones with virtually unlimited access to the most beautiful young sex-pots in the world. They were the Kings, and the O’Farrell Theatre was their Harem. So I took it as a given that they must be having the greatest time in the world, an assumption I clung to right up to the moment when Jim Mitchell took out a handgun and blew the brains out of his brother Artie.

Anyway, that night Carol Connors was the featured attraction. She got up on stage of the main theatre within the theatre, New York Live it was called. She was wearing a bright white nurses uniform and white nurses cap, and her white mini-skirt barely covering her fat wobbling ass. She looked like some kind of Viking Goddess Amazon. An inflatable love doll robot. She was sort of a cross between a brassy Mae West and wholesome blonde Daisy Mae sex appeal. With a strong jaw and big bones, big curves, tiny waist. She put on a very athletic, energetic show, bounding across the stage, unbuttoning her nurse’s uniform and stripping naked.

After the strip show it was announced over the P.A. that Connors would be appearing in 15 minutes in the Kopenhagen Lounge (how’s that for class?). There were like 4 different theatres within the O’Farrell Theatre, including a big video store. It was truly a porno arcade, one of the first of its kind. All done up first class; red wall-to-wall carpeting, “the Carnegie Hall of smut.” All that was missing was the chandeliers. The Kopenhagen Lounge was an intimate little room; about 50 plush chairs lined the four walls with a little mini stage the size of a bed in the middle. The “dancer” would strip and pose while the customers shined flashlights (provided by the theatre) at her. After her routine, the stripper would go from person to person offering herself for a lap-dance for a couple of bucks. You could stick your hand in her cunt for a couple of bucks, okay? That’s what it really boiled down to once you got past the wall-to-wall carpeting. And the line stretched down the hallway waiting to get in for Carol Connors show.

While the show was going on I talked to her manager/agent, Jack, who looked just like you’d expect a Hollywood porno star’s manager/agent to look; in other words like an undercover narc, with the shades and gold chains and shirt un-buttoned to show off chest-hair, etc. He and Carol were a team, and he talked enthusiastically about their up-coming deals and projects, visits to the Playboy mansion (they actually met with Hef!), etc. I couldn’t help wondering what he thought about his woman in the next room being mauled by 50 slobbering jack-offs with flashlights. What did they talk about at the end of the day when they were in their hotel room? It was a strange, brutal business, the porno business.  Everybody involved was either grabbing for money or grabbing for sex. So there were so many angles whizzing by, it was dizzying. Like a big, multi-dimensional jerk-off. And me, I was the most confused of all, for I had somehow added “art” and “love” into this potent mix. I had fallen in love with a 19-year old blonde Swedish stripper, so I was surely the biggest fool of all. There was another guy, a customer, who was always there at the Theatre, a nice Asian guy who was madly in love with this one stripper, Wendy.  He’d bring her hundreds of dollars worth of flowers and candy and expensive stuffed animals. He’d pay for a lap dance until his money ran out, and then watch forlornly as she left him, his beloved, to work the rest of the crowd of men. I had a line in my head that sort of made sense at the time: “Even at its most sordid, life is a profoundly spiritual affair.” And that line kind of saved me, for I never lost sight of where I was at, even as I was destined to spend the next 23 years in the gutter, or one small step above. Even in the cut-and-dried world of this haunted hall of neon zombies and sex and price-tags, there was love. And that was the most sickening and painful thing of all.

Later, I stood there in the hallway, interviewing Carol Connors, wearing a robe and not much else. I can still picture her baby face, so milk-fed wholesome, and her Hollywood false eyelashes (just the touch to make her seem like a glossy star). I don’t remember what she said. But I suppose I could look it up in my scrapbook; I still have it somewhere. That’s the weird thing about me: I’ve documented in one medium or other just about everything that’s happened to me over the last 25 years. Mostly I remember thinking: “I’m getting paid money to talk to one of the most beautiful, voluptuous women in the world. Me, the guy who never even had the courage to talk to the girl sitting in the desk next to me in high school.” And from that moment I was hooked on the whole media business. This whole crazy game.

I went back to my apartment and wrote up the interview in a style that was sort of a cheap, second-rate imitation of Hunter S. Thompson (“I was there to Cover The Story…”) who was one of my heroes, the big underground media hipster star. In a weird twist of life-imitating-art, Hunter Thompson Himself would come the O’Farrell Theatre 5 years later, and spend a year hanging around the club, ostensibly working on a big book about the club for Playboy, but mostly ending up too coked-out, and too whored-out, to produce anything.