Hagerman — a tiny, hyperactive, tough-as-nails Asian woman once described by a colleague as “Yokoesque” — offered me $1000 a week to manage the Jolar Cinema. Right away, I took the word “cinema” off the front sign and redesigned it to read “Jolar — Live Nude Dancers,” since the dancers weren’t even hinted at on the old signage. Over the next 30 days, the weekend bank deposit increased from about $9000 to a little over $12,000, mostly on the strength of the bright new sign, advertising in local military papers (with a coupon for a “free nudie show,” actually a handful of extra booth tokens), and growing video-rental revenue as we expanded to take credit card and check deposits.
Another project was replacing the creaky old film projectors with video decks and oversized TV screens. I rebuilt the dancers’ stage, installing flashing built-in lights on the floor and ceiling. We revamped the private-talk-show booths, decorating each with a different theme: a tropical jungle, a collegiate bedroom, an Asian boudoir, and a “kinky” room where the dancer could sit in a leather stirrup seat suspended by heavy-duty chains. Comical illustrated signs on booth doors now proclaimed these “Sexual Therapy Consultation Rooms.” I kept the wall-mounted tissue boxes.
SD PORN CHRONOLOG #2: Jolar opens in September 1978 on Broadway downtown, with A. Dale Manicom listed in articles of incorporation as owner of the “local” company set up to manage the club. Federal authorities later accuse real owner Harry Mohney of using trusts and corporations to conceal his business interests and to avoid taxes. 1980: The Gaslamp Quarter’s 16-block area contains around 30 adult bookstores, movie houses, and porn shops. Summer 1983: Jolar relocates to a former furniture store in the College Area on University Avenue, next to an Amvets secondhand shop.
I went on a firing spree, weeding out dancers who were full-blown drug addicts or evincing other unreliable behavior (including two I caught prostituting in booths). Firing the reprobates cut the staff in half; the remaining dozen women saw their daily tips increase. At that time, they weren’t paid a salary. Women kept their cash tips, while Jolar kept the money from the machines operating the stage and private-booth shutters. When Jackie saw how much money the dancers were making, she installed lockboxes over the slots where the customers dropped the dancers’ tips, and the tips were split 50-50 with the woman at the end of the shift. I was instructed to fire anyone caught taking a cash tip in her hand.
One reason Jolar paid me so well was that I was legally responsible for anything that happened. If a dancer was arrested for prostitution or for having drugs on the premises, I’d go to jail, too. You can believe I ran a tight ship. Bickel had installed a video-surveillance system that covered the stage and dancers’ dressing room, while wiretaps allowed us to monitor the conversations going on in private-talk-show booths. The eavesdropping was intended to ensure that the girls weren’t turning tricks or buying or selling drugs.
The threat of jail loomed constantly, and vice cops were always visiting, in particular Officer Goldy, badge #1356. Goldy’s job included policing the city’s strip clubs and peep shows and enforcing City-decreed regulations that tended to be fluid, with frequent revisions.
One funny week, the City changed the rules for peep-show establishments, as defined in section 33.3302, division 33 of the municipal code. Suddenly, to keep our permits active, we had to screen at least 51 percent non-X-rated material in our film booths. This was surely enacted thinking it would shut down the peeps. Instead, the following Monday morning, all the peep-show store managers in San Diego were running around to camera and hobby shops buying out the all-age-appropriate 8mm and 16mm film footage.
By that afternoon, the sounds of Donald Duck, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and King Kong clips boomed from within peep-show booths along with the usual moans and groans of porno loops! This lasted almost a month, and strangely, some of the non-X-rated movies earned as many quarters as the porn loops (black-and-white boxing films were inexplicably, disturbingly popular).
Around the same time, another new ordinance required adult shops to take the doors off the booths, even those with live girls. Our local lawyer, George Haverstock, argued that the legal definition of “door” allowed for a saloon-type swinging affair that provided a modicum of privacy. This staved off citations and possible closure for another few weeks while we wrangled new deals with the City. It was a constant wrestling match, and vice was getting more aggressive in their patrols. Sometimes, they even arrested clerks or patrons, usually for lewd conduct, drug possession, or intoxication, or whatever else they could come up with to keep us in court (and, I suspect, to scare away customers). My old work files show ten official visits from police between August 10 and October 16, 1985, including:
8-10: Officer P. Derninc, ID #2164, cited clerk for “litter” in 11 booths.
8-11: Officer Swarzendruber, badge #250, unit #2559, entered office and demanded “Beth’s” real name and address, would not say why he needs this information. I refused to provide, he left without further incident.
8-20: Vice officer J. Deloach, badge #711, ticketed second-shift clerk John for not having a Misc. Merchandising License on display.
8-26: R. Camacho, ID #2563, ticketed [clerk] John for having doors on booths. They told him he’d be arrested if they come back and doors are still on.
9-19: Officer C. Armstrong, ID #2740, ticketed [clerk] Tom for doors on booths, threatened with arrest if doors aren’t removed by next visit.
10-16: Officer Goldy, badge #1356, arrived at 1:00 p.m. with two vice officers and took photographs of the stage and all the girls working, refused to say why. Girls scared…I refused to let him in dancers’ lounge, he and other officers left.
Officer Goldy styled himself as our nemesis; often, to my mind — and perhaps his as well — playing Holmes to my Moriarty. He might as well have had a magnifying glass when he showed up to inspect the premises, checking for anything from the smell of pot in the dressing room, to “forbidden sexual acts” by dancers, to customers getting intimate with each other in the booths.