Jeff Smith noon, March 8
Battle of the Peeps - An Insider History of San Diego Porn Shops (newly revised 10-23)
Confessions of a pornographer
1 - Battle of the Peeps: Confessions of a Local Pornographer (revised/updated 10-23-08)
2 - Peep Shows: A Cartoon History
3 - Local Musicians and Porn - Get Out The Wah-Wah Pedal!
CONFESSIONS OF A LOCAL PORNOGRAPHER: Battle of the Peeps - the inside story of a local pornography empire, by Jay Allen Sanford
I didn’t set out to become a pornographer.
In '84, about to become jobless, I grabbed the Yellow Pages and circled every “bookstore” listing within moped-riding distance of my North Park apartment. Hand-delivering my unimpressive resume took me to a round, one-story building at 6321 University Avenue, where a sign out front informed that Jolar Cinema was a bookstore of the adult variety. The “cinema” referred to peep-show booths, where 8 mm, 16 mm, and (then new) video porn unspooled 24 hours a day. Live strippers performed in booths in the back.
The “bookstore” was a front room that had a few shelves of triple-X-rated magazines. A shaggy clerk charged me $2 admission (traded for eight machine tokens) to enter the rear room, where celluloid peep-show booths lined the perimeter and video booths ran down the center.
The back of the club had an enclosed stage with narrow booth doors arranged in a semicircle around access windows. Customers entered a booth, dropped tokens or quarters into a slot, and a little hydraulic door rose to reveal one or more "totally nude" dancers on a stage. Another slot made it possible for customers to pass dollar bills to the women, who, thanks to the slight elevation of the stage, gyrated their pelvic region near the customer’s face.
The windows cost $1 to open, but after around a minute, the shutter slammed shut, and it took more cash to reopen.
Behind the stage were four private-talk-show booths, where customers could solicit one-on-one performances from the ladies. A thick pane of Plexiglas separated the “dancer” on her raised mattress from the customer, whose side of the booth included a stool and a wall-mounted box of tissues. The cost here was $5 to start the show, plus whatever tips you stuck in the lady’s slot (a hole cut into the wall), with the show growing progressively raunchier based on tips. Dancer and customer communicated via boxy old phone receivers, though few dancers did much talking.
Manager Lee Bickel hired me as a clerk. The duties on my solo 5:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. shift included checking in the evening dancers, selling product, changing and maintaining the film projectors and video banks, and managing the sometimes troublesome customers.
Twenty-four years old at the time, I learned from my first paycheck, signed by Edward Fonzo at Modern Bookkeeping, that I was earning just over minimum wage and working for a company based in Durand, Michigan, called Ellwest, which was the name on the store’s brass tokens.
SD PORN CHRONOLOG #1: 1966 -- Harry Mohney, in his early 20s, is laid off from his railroad job and becomes a projectionist at an X-rated drive-in theater in Battle Creek, Michigan, invests in a partnership with drive-in owner Floyd Bloss. They open another porn drive-in just off Highway 69 in Durand Michigan, a small town near Flint. The drive-in is called the Sceen, but locals refer to it as "the Durand Dirties." The following year, Mohney launches a distribution hub that specializes in importing European porn films, and he hires over 200 people.
"That was probably the largest employer in the city," Shiawassee County Sheriff A. James LaJoye told the Minneapolis Tribune (8-19-96). "He'd pop for $ 6,000 or $ 7,000 for all the equipment for those kids [in little league and high school football]. He was very well liked in the Durand area...You couldn't find too many people over there that had a bad word to say about him."
By 1973, Mohney has bought out Bloss and bought up over 100 businesses in 10 states and 20 cities, including San Diego. His string of massage parlors, X-rated theaters and drive-ins, adult bookstores, and even a topless billiard hall generate income of around $6 million a year. After divorcing his wife, Mohney moves in with 18-year-old porn star Gail Palmentier (later known as Gail Palmer) and makes ten movies with her, including the popular “Candy” series starring Carol Connors.
I soon discovered that Ellwest was part of one of the nation’s largest pornography chains, a big employer and X-theater operator (including porn drive-ins!?!?!) not just in Durand, but all over the United States.
Mohney's Entertainment World International was the main Midwest distributor of X-rated movies; his Wonderful World of Video (previously Amber, Inc.) had a lock on West Coast distribution from its office at 6315 Hollywood Boulevard. The company had a stake in porn videos produced by Caballero Video, and Mohney was sole owner of Caribbean Films (whose corporate address was an L.A. post office box).
At that time, he was already wealthy enough to co-own, with other company principals I’d later meet, several homes in La Costa. As I became more entrenched in the business, I’d see financial reports for nearby operations in the chain, such as the Eyeful in Ontario, Venus Fair in North Hollywood, and Cinema X in Bakersfield. It was stunning to see how much money was pouring into the company.
Bickel upgraded me to manager, and I began building the bookstore into more of an adult boutique, putting up new shelves for highly profitable (and ridiculous looking) rubber, leather, and novelty goods, right down to the inevitable blow-up dolls and buckets-o’-lube.
We started one of the city’s first adult-video rental systems, with tapes (mostly Beta) arriving weekly from the company in Michigan. The company shipped all the chain’s stock and reorders from Variety Distributing, at 1112 North Saginaw in Durand. I wasn’t allowed to place orders with anyone else. I was supposed to keep it a secret that someone outside San Diego owned Jolar; the owner on the business license was a woman named Jackie Hagerman, and a company-owned home in La Costa was listed as her primary address, though she spent no more than a few weeks a year living there.
It was an odd job. Bouncer skills came in handy, particularly when drunk guys tried climbing over the booth walls to get at the ladies. I also had to deal with dancers’ angry boyfriends and husbands, ejecting several and signing more than one police report. I caught shoplifters, and I tell you, it’s hard not to laugh out loud when you catch a bald guy wearing a Freak Brothers T-shirt slipping a pocket rocket into his bumpy pants. I doubled up the janitorial shifts to have guys constantly cleaning and mopping the peep-show booths (truly among the world’s worst jobs). I had to acknowledge that I had one weird gig.
It got weirder after Lee Bickel took a vacation from which he never returned. The company told me he quit. Bickel told me he was fired. I know he threatened a lawsuit and received a sizable settlement. I remained friends with him until he passed away a couple of years later from AIDS-related illnesses. He had been diagnosed just before he vanished from the tiny manager’s office alongside Jolar’s front desk.
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.
(My old Chevy Monza parked under the new Jolar sign I'd just installed and me in my Jolar office, muttonchops and all...mock me if you must, but that jacket was STYLIN' in the mid-'80s!)
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.
(Weekly report and daily deposit slips from my old work files - $2,700 in a day and almost $12,000 a week is a lot of quarters!)
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 talk booth doors now proclaimed these “Sexual Therapy Consultation Rooms.”
I kept the wall-mounted tissue boxes.
SD PORN CHRONOLOG #2: 1978 - According to an article in Forbes Magazine called “The X-Rated Economy” (9-18-78), adult bookstores and peep shows in New York's Times Square area gross $10,000 a day, while smaller operations in Hollywood average around $1,000 a day. Based on a sampling of actual dealer invoices, the Los Angeles Police Department estimates sex merchants do $125 million a year in the city of Los Angeles.
"There are companies," says Captain Jack Wilson, recently retired commanding officer of the Los Angeles Police Department's Administrative Vice Division, "that will provide the arcade booth, a change of movie and even mop the floors once in a while. You [the store owner] have no capital investment, and you get 50% of the take. It's a cash business." Wilson says there are 945 such machines in the city of Los Angeles that take in on average $75 a week -- $120 a week in a good location -- or $3.7 million a year.
September 1978: Jolar opens on Broadway downtown. Federal authorities later accuse real owner Harry Mohney of using trusts and corporations to conceal his business interests and to avoid taxes.
The 1979 film Hardcore shows downtown at its Sodom and Gomorrah peak, with George C. Scott stumbling through wall-to-wall porno shops in search of information about his missing porn-star daughter. He makes his way down Fourth and Fifth Avenues, dodging hunchbacked junkies and drooling perverts at every step.
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. (Dancer Shasae in front of Jolar, and 3 shots of Thumper...Best...Dancer...Name...Ever...) 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. (With Patti Petite at Jolar's first porn star signing, Honey, and 2 shots of Tory, including one in my office - note Buddy Holly Story poster, which has hung in every office I've ever had) 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 8 mm and 16 mm 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. Armstong, 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 defacto Moriarty. He may 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 (known to happen --- duh). Goldy once cited a married couple for sharing a booth, even though they were only watching a movie, not screwing. He also wrote a littering ticket to a guy who dropped a tissue on the floor. By law, the girls were restricted in what they could do during private-booth shows, and vice officers, posing as customers, would arrest the girls if they caught them crossing the line, doing shows with two girls or with foreign objects (against company rules, and a firing offense if caught, but big tip generators nonetheless). (Ancient porn star Helga booked porn stars for signings at Jolar - Candy in front of private show booth, Toni in dressing room, Honey in show booth, and Tara as seen from inside the dressing room, sitting on steps going into her show booth) Nude dancers had to be licensed, which required attending a downtown class that Goldy taught. I used to drive new girls there and sit outside the police trailer where courses were held. Sometimes, I’d hear him tell the girls, “That guy out there is nothing but a lowlife bottom-feeding pimp who just wants to grab the last dollar bill right out of your G-string.” He’d come out afterward and wink at me, as though it were all a joke. Increased police action (I hesitate to say “harassment”) was happening at adult establishments all over town, not just at places with live ladies. I found this out from two guys who visited my Jolar office. They wanted me to join them in forming a merchants’ co-op for local adult-store and theater operators that would pool resources for things like group legal representation. At that time, I’d never heard of Reuben Sturman or Gojko Vasic. They’d later be notorious figures in major legal brouhahas relating to their respective porn conglomerates. To me, they were just two guys trying to talk me into joining the 20 or so others who belonged to A.M.M.O. (Adult Merchants something-or-other; I forget, and my work files don’t say). I attended a handful of meetings. Representatives of most if not all of the bigwig Southern California porn concerns showed up at various times, including Noel Bloom (who’d previously owned Swedish Erotica), Norm Arno (owner of film company VCX, Inc.), Art Weisberg (who produced and distributed adult movies through Coastline Films on 333 Nutmeg Street in San Diego), and Johnny Zaffarano (who owned or ran several X-rated theaters). SD PORN CHRONOLOG #3: 1964 -- Porn distributor Reuben Sturman (aka Robert Stern, Roy C. English, Robert Butler, Paul Shuster, and Paul Bekker), son of Russian immigrants and a onetime distributor of candy, tobacco, and comic books, is indicted on federal obscenity charges. FBI agents had raided his Cleveland warehouse, seizing 590 copies of a paperback called Sex Life of a Cop. Sturman then sues J. Edgar Hoover -- both cases are later dropped. By 1978, Sturman's company, Sovereign News, distributes to sex shops in most major cities in the East and Midwest. In addition, he operates a chain of peep shows under the name of Western Amusements, manufactures his own peep machines (Automatic Vending), provides lie-detector tests for employee security (National Polygraph), distributes and manufactures marital aids (Doc Johnson Products and Marche Manufacturing), owns one of the more successful new men's magazines (Eros), distributes the Lasse Braun films for Dutch pornographer Albert Ferro, as well as running a chain of 800 retail bookstores. By 1985, Sturman controls General Video of America (GVA), among the largest distributors of X-rated tapes in the United States. Encompassing everything from production to retail sales and novelty production, his empire financially controls around 200 businesses in 19 states, 1 Canadian province, and 6 foreign countries. Los Angeles police estimate Sturman owns 580 of the 765 adult peep-show booths in the city. He installs booths in about three dozen San Diego-area shops, typically providing equipment worth $22,000 to $60,000 to the store owner at no cost in return for a 50 percent kickback of the booth income. 1974 -- Yugoslav immigrant Gojko Vasic manages downtown’s X-rated Pussycat Theater, part of an exhibition chain that local real estate manager Vince Miranda owns. Vasic borrows money from his parents to open his first porn shop downtown on F Street, across from the Cabaret Theater (aka the Lyceum and Off Broadway), patterned after a porn shop called Curious Yellow that had operated next to the Pussycat for years. Vasic eventually runs nearly a dozen F Street bookstores, including shops in El Cajon (opened in 1985), Miramar, Chula Vista, Escondido, North Park, and Leucadia, with all but the latter including peep-show booths. In the late '70s, a costume-clad F Street penguin mascot shows up at events to pass out flyers and peep-show-booth tokens; efforts are undertaken by some to ban the F Street penguin from public events. Sturman was easily the most mysterious and deferred-to figure at the merchant co-op meetings I attended (most held in closed, windowless bars, after-hours, in places as remote as Ramona). I got an instant sense of the power he seemed to hold over everyone. He once arrived with an expensive-looking briefcase handcuffed to his wrist. Everybody pretended not to notice; as always, they seemed intimidated, if not outright scared of the guy. I was dying for someone to ask, “Hey, big bank deposit, or are you on a secret mission for Her Majesty?” but nobody commented on the Bondian maneuver. If it was all for show, it was a damned good one. (At more than one of these odd functions, I found myself mentally cuing the Godfather theme, though I saw no outward evidence that such paranoia was justified.) Vasic put out a less peculiar -- and decidedly less La Cosa Nostra -- vibe than Sturman, but his clipped Yugoslav accent caused him to sound mildly sinister on occasion, depending on what he was saying. He complained about City and zoning harassment, and he proudly defied ordinances he claimed were effected solely with his stores in mind. This landed him in court often enough that he apparently thought he’d earned local martyrdom, if not outright deification. Vasic preached cinematic peep-show booths as the golden calf of his growing empire. Asked if he’d ever consider hiring live strippers, he’d say, “Peep shows don’t get periods or pregnant.” I recall one meeting at which vice cops sat down with local strip-club operators, though Sturman was a no-show, as were the other bigwigs. Vice was there to help us hammer out a legally acceptable definition of “masturbation,” down to whether over-the-clothes rubbing counted. This was an amusing cross-conversation. Mohney was there, along with his live-in mistress, and I recall her interjecting, “It shouldn’t even count unless the person masturbating has an orgasm,” which drew blank stares from everyone. I still don’t know if she was joking. At least once the final wording was put into the new city ordinance, dancers busted for doing two-girl shows would be charged with “mutual masturbation” rather than the previous “crimes against nature.” I stopped going to A.M.M.O. meetings -- and contributing dues -- when I realized Jolar had little in common with F Street, the Kitty Kat Theater, and all the nasty little porn shops getting pushed out of the Gaslamp Quarter. The latter knew they were doomed; it was only a matter of when. It may sound silly, but I considered Jolar upscale by comparison. Especially after a guy from Adult World defended his store's leaving illegal waist-level “glory holes” drilled between peep-show-booth walls (allowing anonymous physical contact between strangely inclined male patrons) because “Those booths make five times more money.” In this shot of 5th Avenue circa 1979, that ad sign for "Locker Room" refers to little bottles of liquid one could buy, to sniff and get a head rush from your heartbeat speeding up ---- peep show booths were littered with empty Locker Room bottles for years. We didn't sell the stuff at Jolar - or its cheaper bottled alternative "Rush" - but we still sometimes smelled that awful stuff in the booths, and occasionally found the empty containers, tho I admit there were FAR WORSE things found in the peep booths. (Another) one for the "eeewwww" files. Anyway, only a few AMMO meetings concerned those of us with live dancers (Body Shop, Les Girls, Star & Garter, and a couple of others), and Jolar was the only locale in the city with machine-operated live peep-show booths. (Les Girls had dancer booths for private shows, but without the money machines and glass partitions ---- ) (Midway & Rosecrans 1979) Besides, I quickly grew uncomfortable being in close quarters with Vasic and Sturman. They were the two most unnerving people I’d met in my porn career to date, simply because the blood in their veins seemed to run so epically cold. Peep shows were only my job -- they were these guys’ lives. (My pimpin' pics) SD PORN CHRONOLOG #4: 1985 -- Gail Palmer, who the previous year had reported Harry Mohney for tax evasion, sues him for using her name without permission to promote films like The Young Like It Hot after he supposedly excluded her from their financial “partnership.” In a court deposition dated November 19, 1985, Palmer states, “Although Mohney incorporated his business, he had total management and control over it while placing other people in positions of officers and directors to avoid being connected to the business. These named officers and directors were merely Mohney’s puppets.” A New Year’s Day fire at Mohney’s Indianapolis office uncovers documents that lead authorities to raid one of his Michigan warehouses. Hidden paperwork reveals Mohney’s hand in more than 70 corporations, including Jolar Cinema Ltd. Evidence surfaces that he may have skimmed over a million dollars a year from some operations. The Meese Commission report on pornography (1986) links his business dealings with organized crime bosses, stating (page 1230), “Mohney worked closely with the La Cosa Nostra [mafia] Colombo and DeCavalcante crime families, who dominated East Coast porn distribution with the Gambinos." On one of my worst days, a half dozen FBI guys showed up in my office. It seemed that Harry Mohney was in legal hot water, the feds having discovered that his company, not Jackie Hagerman, was Jolar’s true owner. When the feds saw the monitoring switch and speaker on my desk that eavesdropped on the private-talk-show booth phones, I was handcuffed and arrested for “maintaining an illegal surveillance system.” When they found a UPS box of porn videos sent from the Michigan office, they threatened to file federal charges against me for interstate transportation of pornography, which they claimed could earn me 20 years in prison. I sat there with my mouth shut (a company edict I followed religiously) while they tore my office apart and took away files, bankbooks, and records, even my school notebook from a night class I was taking in graphic arts. The charges against me were later dropped, but the FBI visited me a few other times. Most of their questions were about Mohney, particularly about his and the company’s residential properties in and around La Costa. I didn’t know at the time that his ex, Gail Palmer, had filed suit against Mohney in February '85, claiming that she co-owned the house at 2520 La Costa Avenue (“I later discovered it was placed in the name of Caribbean Films, Inc.,” she wrote in a court declaration). I was surprised to find out the FBI knew I’d house-sat in a couple of those La Costa homes (one periodically occupied by Hagerman, not Mohney). That’s about the same time that I started noticing black cars without license plates following me as I drove to our various bank deposit drops (we maintained several; I knew better than to ask why). When the drivers didn’t turn out to be robbers, I assumed them to be feds. I wondered if someone had been following me up to La Costa, perhaps on occasions when I was asked to prepare company houses for company guests. I’d be sent off by Hagerman or Mohney with a shopping list of snacks, fridge drinks, wine, condom boxes, and other stuff that I was to sprinkle around for visitors. I was occasionally instructed to introduce a “fun loving” dancer or three to male company associates, with the girls making their own deals with Mohney, Hagerman, and/or the visitor if there was to be monetary compensation for their time and efforts. I know, I know...weird gig. The house Hagerman frequented had all-white carpets and furniture downstairs, furthering that Yokoesque association for me. She liked my girlfriend and invited us to spend evenings and weekends there by ourselves, though she usually slotted in some shopping, dry cleaning, or car-delivery errands for me to do (she had a new Mercedes that always needed to be moved from some airport or another, as her expensive gold hood ornament kept getting stolen in parking lots). After the FBI raided my office, and as I began hearing more about the growing porn empires of Sturman, Vasic, and my own boss Harry Mohney, my girl flat out asked me, “Jay, are you working for the Mob?” I allowed that I couldn’t say for sure about the first two guys (especially after Sturman’s handcuffed briefcase), but I didn’t think Mohney was with the Mob. Maybe a mob, but not the Mob, you know? I’d met him several times; he was a nice guy. He’d congratulated me a bunch and paid me nice bonuses for the increasing revenue at Jolar. He didn’t talk like a wiseguy or goodfella. He had a linguist’s elocution and vocabulary. He dressed like a high school math teacher. Years later, I co-wrote a comic-book biography with one of the most famous porn stars Harry’s video company employed under contract, Hyapatia Lee. When writing about her memories of him and the era, she said “In San Diego we were invited to stay in Harry's home in La Costa. [My husband] Bud and I were given directions and keys in Los Angeles and when we arrived, we were very pleasantly surprised. It was a beautiful place right on a golf course. We were so impressed with Harry's hospitality. He told us make ourselves at home in the downstairs bedroom. As we moved in the suitcases, I started to put things away. I opened the closet door and found clothes, a set of golf clubs, and a suitcase belonging to someone else. I was perplexed. I called it to Bud's attention.” “We had never heard of the name on the suitcase tag. We started thinking. What if this person doesn't have his belongings anymore because he's dead? What if the mafia really does own this whole business and this guy crossed someone and they had him snuffed? Whose house were we really in? Were we in a safe position or dancing with the devil?” She says Harry came to the house later that night with a friend and the suitcase owner’s name was mentioned. Bud asked Harry “Why didn’t he take his suitcase?” mentioning finding the labeled case in a bedroom closet. "He always keeps his stuff here because he comes down here every other weekend," Harry replied. "Are you sure he's not dead?" Bud asked? Harry acted confused. "What are you talking about?" “Well, we thought that if this business really is owned by the mafia, that maybe this guy got in your way and you had to snuff him." Hyapatia says Harry looked at his friend for a minute, dumbfounded, and then they broke out in uproarious laughter. "No, no, no," he said, tears creeping out of the corners of his eyes, “he just comes down here to play golf twice a month and leaves his stuff here. We're not the mafia." Hyapatia recalls “They couldn't stop laughing and we felt relieved.” One of my oddest experiences at Company homes took place at the Yoko house. After spending the night, my girl and I awoke to the sound of multiple voices coming from the backyard. Imagine our surprise to find about a dozen guys setting up cameras and lights around the pool and deck, for a morning video shoot, and I don’t mean the wedding type. I found this was common and in fact I soon began recognizing Company houses as backdrops in porn vids screened at Jolar. Just as we were relaxing to the notion of what would soon be happening around us before we even ate breakfast, the director informed that Harry Mohney had commissioned this to be a “golden shower” video. (“Orange juice? Um, no thanks.”) (Dancer on the floor of dressing room before remodel, Toynisha - note film booth behind her still has 8mm box display - plus Honey, and porn star Patti Petite with Jolar clerk Jack) SD PORN CHRONOLOG #5: 1985 -- An indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Cleveland alleges Reuben Sturman conspired to evade millions of dollars in taxes by laundering $7 million through foreign bank accounts. He’s also accused of destroying records despite a grand jury subpoena. One of his codefendants, Scott Dormen, pleads guilty to conspiracy, admitting he delivered around $450,000 of unreported cash to Sturman. Meanwhile, Sturman-involved adult businesses in the Gaslamp Quarter (most operated under or serviced by his umbrella firm, Sovereign News Company) are being pushed out by new zoning and license restrictions. Mafia kingpins transplanted from the Northeast, such as John Antonelli (in the local porn and massage parlor business since the mid-'60s) and his associates, begin abandoning downtown porn emporiums. Mohney (or rather the company) bought an adult bookstore at 827 National City Boulevard, and Hagerman and I began remodeling the cavernous interior, setting it up like Jolar, with live dancer booths. However, there was some doubt about whether the City would allow us to open the doors. Mohney wasn’t a legal county resident, I was told, or perhaps he was merely unwilling to apply his name to the license. Lord knows, in-house paper trails regarding his many business interests were treated like top-secret documents: need-to-know prioritized, arcanely coded, and promptly shredded. We were instructed to refer to him as “our friend” in company correspondences and reports. In a meeting with Hagerman and Mohney, I was approached to front as owner of the National City shop, at least temporarily, until the permits cleared and the business could open. I considered the substantial offer to put my name on the business license as owner and on incorporation paperwork as president and controlling officer of the new corporation while we remodeled. We opened the front section as a bookstore, managed by a Jolar part-timer named Tom Gray, who would later go to a federal prison camp in Boron for dealing meth. The only reason the doors were opened was to stave off the City's threat of condemnation. In what is in hindsight a rare wise decision, I declined to become a part-owner of the National City store. Sure enough, it was shut down a few weeks later before the remodeling was finished, and neither Hagerman nor Mohney ever referred to it again. The locale later became an adult bookstore called Chuck's Books. Shortly after the doors were opened by a guy named Wiener (yeah, yeah, I know, truth is stranger than fiction), National City filed a criminal suit alleging his peep show booth violated the law, because of the doors on the booths. Wiener was found guilty and sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $1,000 by a municipal judge in Chula Vista. Within two years, the city finally managed to shut down Chuck's, but he just moved his shop down the road to 929 National City Boulevard - across the street from a Pussycat x-rated theater - and continued to defy local authorities over many years of legal actions and neighborhood complaints. Mohney was eyeing other San Diego sites for what would eventually become his Deja Vu clubs. Downtown was seeing the death of its peep-show population. At the same time, the city was becoming a hot spot for both porn producers and resident stars, with more and more videos being produced (and sold) within city limits. We briefly carried, on consignment, a few videos literally handmade by the dancers themselves (or by their entrepreneurial pimps-slash-boyfriends). The company saw the future was clearly in live nude girls, especially those industrious enough to market themselves with trinkets like handmade videos, Polaroids, and even worn undergarments (which we briefly offered to customers free as a happy hour promotion, part of a paid private-talk-booth show and given right off the ladies’ backs, as it were). The company opened new stores patterned after Jolar, such as Pandora’s Box on Sixth Avenue in Tucson, Arizona. Similar shops were started in Phoenix, Galveston, Las Vegas, and elsewhere, and Hagerman and I trained some of the new managers in Tucson or at Jolar. In-store porn-star signings became popular, with occasional media coverage. It wasn't always positive coverage (“You’ll be shocked to hear what’s happening in your neighborhood!”), but anything that mentioned our operations was considered good press. SD PORN CHRONOLOG #6: 1985 – 60 year-old Reuben Sturman lives in a 5,610-square-foot Van Nuys mansion. Though he avoids conviction in a federal sting operation dubbed MIPORN, he finally faces prison --- his downfall comes courtesy of an IRS agent who, since 1975, had been investigating his worldwide holdings, including kickback money earned from peep booths set up in San Diego. Sturman is found guilty of tax evasion in 1989, earning four to ten years at Boron federal prison camp near Barstow (plus a $2.46 million dollar fine). While in prison, he faces charges of conspiracy in a bombing said to stem from his hiring bikers to extort kickback money from porn shops. Sturman has a helicopter assist him in escaping from the low-security facility on December 7, 1992. He’s arrested eight weeks later in an apartment near Disneyland. He’s acquitted of the bombings but convicted of conspiring to commit extortion through the use of violence. Since he owes $29 million in back taxes, the IRS seizes all his available assets. Sturman dies of a stroke in late 1997. Gojko Vasic, founder of the F Street adult bookstore chain, dies in 1993. His wife Alma takes over the chain. The dancers were making far too much money for Hagerman’s liking. She came to visit for a week and revamped the system (her gold Mercedes hood ornament was stolen twice while parked out front, I suspect by angry dancers). She rebooked the girls as independent contractors and rented them booth space at the club to perform. We charged $75 per day off the top of anything they made, and then took 50 percent of their tips, which customers put through the slots into the lockboxes. The women didn't handle their money until the end of the week, when we’d deduct our booth-rental fees and our half of the week’s tips. This angered a lot of dancers, but none that I recall quit. In fact, competition became fierce to rent booths on weekend nights, with women paying days in advance to keep their preferred booth and shifts. Rent soon went up to $100 per booth shift. After a few weeks of this system, the state Labor Commissioner came down on us. I was visited on June 26, 1985, by deputy labor commissioner Victor Rojas, who brought with him several vice cops and a fire inspector, Captain Marion Stillwell. Stillwell kept me busy with eight cited violations, while Rojas and vice grilled the dancers. The labor department then informed us that dancers had to be treated as employees from that point forward, threatening us with years’ worth of dancers’ back taxes if we challenged the decree. Hagerman chose not to fight and put all the dancers on the payroll, requiring them to clock in (I had to buy a time clock) and paying most of them minimum wage. All their tips went into lockboxes that the company kept for each woman until the end of the week. Then Jolar would cut them a check for 50 percent of their total tips. It wasn’t just vice and the City that were campaigning to erase the pornographic blight on University Avenue. There were also occasional protestors. The 20 or so matronly ladies carrying “Jolar Exploits Women” signs around the building on four consecutive weekends (10:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m., same shifts as the dancers) were my favorite. They actually listened to the dancers when they went outside to say that they weren’t being sold into slavery and that the lowest wage earner among them took home more cash per night than the club manager (i.e., me). “Who’s exploiting who?” they posited. The protest signs didn’t come down, but it was enjoyable and amusing to see such disparate women, leading such unrelated lives, having a lively discussion in the front parking lot about a woman’s right to buy a condo off wages legally earned while nude. (Mati in Jolar hall, Tara, Rita beckoning customers to her booth, Bambi outside booth, Tiffany, Donna in the dressing room - someone could do a whole book on the psychology of choosing one's stripper name....) The club was raided again in February 1986, this time by cops holding warrants for the arrest of several dancers and myself. One of the dancers, “Angie,” had solicited an undercover cop, and others had been caught performing forbidden acts in private-booth shows for secret Sheriff shoppers (many of whom, the dancers insisted to me, exposed themselves and masturbated). POLICE REPORT against Ellwest, excerpt: “The window in booth permitted each side to view the other, and customers were asked to expose their penises and masturbate to show that they were not police. Each officer made excuses, however, and the performers did not insist. Officers saw defendant perform twice, each time with another woman. Each time, the performers fondled and licked each other's breasts and masturbated.... Officers who watched other performances testified that women other than defendant fondled and licked each other vaginally as well.... Manager arrested for operating or maintaining a house of prostitution and pandering, class 5 felonies.” I’d never spent more than a couple of hours in jail for the company; someone had always bailed me out while the handcuffs were still warm and taken care of my court appearances. I can't recall ever being in a courtroom for them, despite being arrested four times over dancer infractions (in addition to the unnerving if never-pressed FBI bust). Charges against me, anyways, were always dropped, if ever filed at all. This time I had to spend the night in a downtown holding cell, and I was unhappy about this, as you can imagine. Besides, I kept seeing those unmarked black cars, even/especially when I traveled to other Mohney-related businesses... When Harry Mohney next came to the club a few weeks later, I was still seething, and I complained up and down for who knows how long. I recall being pretty foulmouthed. I hadn’t even been offered the standard company bonus for taking the trip to jail ($1000 on each previous occasion).
On top of everything, he’d brought two young children, about two and four, into the back of the club where the dancer booths were. This was illegal and more than upsetting. Women seeing the kids through their booth windows were grabbing for their clothes and freaking out.
Erreca, a stunning young mom and our highest-grossing day girl, ran up to my office crying and announced she had to go home, immediately. “I can’t be in there shoving my hand up myself while little kids are running around and laughing two feet away from me! This is sick!”
I agreed, and a few minutes later I flat out told Mohney to take the kids (his, I later discovered) outside; I refused to let them stay another moment. He stared at me, mouth agape. Hagerman had heard me go off a time a two, but Mohney was the guy everyone in the company deferred and referred to with a reverence bordering on messianic.
Even as I was kicking him out of his own store, I realized my days at Jolar were numbered.
Harry quietly gathered his kids and drove them somewhere. I don’t think he said another word to me. Ever. He showed up with a bunch of workers a few days later, and they began tearing apart one wall of the bookstore to build a connecting hall between the counter and my office. I hadn’t been informed this major remodeling was about to happen, and Mohney drove off before I could ask, “Wot the...?”
I decided it was a good time to take a vacation, and I said so, out loud, to myself in the office, just in case the FBI might be listening. On Hagerman’s next visit, I gave her the dates I planned to be gone. She looked me in the eye and said -- ever concise and up front -- “You realize you won’t have a job when you get back?"
“We don’t get vacations,” she went on. “Remember what happened when Lee Bickel took a vacation?” she said, referencing the event that’d landed me in company management.
I packed up my stuff from the office, took down my Buddy Holly Story movie poster, made one last deposit, and visited the East Coast. When I returned to San Diego, Hagerman had hired a guy named George -- whom I hear she later married -- to run Jolar.
It was over ten years before I’d again see Jackie Hagerman or Harry Mohney. Hagerman won a “Good Guy” retailer award at a 1997 porn industry award show. She appeared pretty much the same as I remembered her, remarkably well preserved and as wired looking as ever. Mohney made a rare personal appearance when Larry Flynt inducted him into Hustler’s “Porn Walk of Fame” in L.A. on October 29, 2003. He looked 30 or more years older than I recalled, appearing wizened and tired. He’d surely been through a lot.
SD PORN CHRONOLOG #7: While Harry Mohney escapes personal conviction in MIPORN, his company, Wide World of Video, faces corporate charges. In the last MIPORN trial, in 1987, he pleads guilty and pays millions in fines. Meanwhile, the owners of Chuck's Books at 929 National City Boulevard face jail time for peep show violations there, in Lemon Grove, and the Fantasyland locale Spring Valley, mainly over not having doors on the booths. In June 1988, co-owner Steven Wiener is sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $1,000 for operating illegal viewing booths in the bookstore. In Chula Vista, Greg Vasic’s F Street Videos and Gift store, a few miles from the Fuller Ford dealership, is also the site of repeated civic and civil actions intended to shut down its peep show booths.
In 1989, the city of St. Paul Minnesota pays Harry Mohney 1.8 million to close his sex emporium the Faust, and he uses the money to open a Minneapolis strip club called Deja Vu, which would soon expand via affiliated clubs into his eventually Dream Girls chain. In an interview with the Detroit News in 1991, Mohney describes his strip club philosophy. "Hugh Hefner forgot what he was selling. He tried to use female sexuality as a loss leader. But we never forget the business we're in: And that's tease and please...Call us the Bonanza Steakhouse of nude entertainment."
1991 -- Federal prosecutors call Harry Mohney “the nation's second-largest purveyor of pornography” and estimate his net worth at over $100 million. In October 1992, he begins serving three years for tax evasion at Boron federal prison camp. "He used scores of corporate entities to hide himself in a very effective way,” says Richard Delonis, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted Mohney. “I have not encountered anyone who took cheating on their taxes to this kind of level." A federal tax lien totaling $14,454,611 is levied against Mohney’s companies in October 1993.
The next time I visited Jolar, a year or so after my vacation, Hagerman had hired a new guy to run things. Willem Hoiejenbos, a European, was listed in the articles of incorporation as “president of Jolar Cinema of San Diego Ltd.” In the years since, I’ve dated several of the Jolar dancers and gotten to know him a bit. At one time, Hoiejenbos and I both dated a platinum blonde stripper calling herself “Savannah” (who lived with me while she worked at the club). Contemporary Jolar girls told me the dancers weren’t making nearly as much money as in the old days, when $20,000 to $30,000 weeks were becoming commonplace.
Post-Jolar, taking a cue from how popular porn stars are, I founded my own comic book publishing company, Carnal Comics, featuring porn-star autobiographies. True Stories of Adult Film Stars became the top-selling adult comic book title of the '90s.
I got to work with and often befriend women like Annie Sprinkle, Marilyn Chambers, Jasmin St. Claire, Jenna Jameson, Hyapatia Lee, Annabel Chong, Jill Kelly, Kendra Jade, Christina Angel, Ginger Lynn, Aja, Savannah, and dozens more lubricious ladies. I fell in love with one porn star and lived with a few others, though those are tales best left untold, assuming you’d even believe me if I shared them. Jolar eventually proved to be nowhere near my weirdest gig.
(With Christina Angel in our Vegas "Whale" suite)
SD PORN CHRONOLOG #8: 2000 -- Harry Mohney co-owns the Deja Vu strip club chain (reportedly grossing $10 million yearly), and his Deja Vu Consulting firm manages over 60 strip joints (nee “gentleman’s clubs”) in the United States and Europe, including the Hustler Clubs. He has eight children, four born out of wedlock.
April 2000 -- Nineteen local peep-booth establishments are inspected by vice, who issue notices of violation at twelve. Four arrests are made for violation of California Penal Code section 647(a) (Lewd Act in Public), and one person is arrested for violation of Health and Safety Code section 11364 (possession of narcotics paraphernalia).
In May 2000, City Attorney Casey Gwinn spearheads an effort to have doors removed from area peep-show booths “to prevent group sex, masturbation, and a variety of unsanitary and unsafe sex practices.” He introduces the vice report at a city council meeting, citing items found in booths, including “excrement, sexual paraphernalia, used condoms, semen, used Kleenex, used napkins, clothing, urine, narcotics paraphernalia, balloons, and matches.”
I bumped into several ex-Jolar dancers over the years. Anorexic-thin “Toni” became a street prostitute and was battling AIDS when I last saw her. Her voluptuous little sister “Honey,” with the Betty Boop voice -- whom I hired on her 18th birthday -- is an actress I’ve seen in several mainstream movies and TV shows (including Married...with Children). “Sandy” started her own real estate office in East County and has, I hear, done very well. “Mary Jane” has a high-profile job in a famous zoo run by her father. Russian transplant “Sapphire Skies” ended up managing Deja Vu’s Kearny Mesa club, as well as appearing in an issue of Carnal Comics.
(Dressing room shots of Tracey, Bunny, Deja Sin, Mary Jane and porn star Jezebel Flaire)
“Tiffany” filed a lawsuit against Jolar after ten years of employment, spending her last day locked (by herself) in her dancer booth and having to be removed by police who disassembled the booth door.
“Jezebel Flaire,” “Shyanne,” “Justan Obsession,” “Becky Sunshine,” “Annah Marie,” “Bonnie Michaels,” and several others became relatively anonymous porn “stars,” none of them to any notable acclaim. “Shyanne’s” porn website contributed to her losing custody of both her children.
(Mary Jane with Leena, Jezebel Flaire in booth [note locker safe under booth, where the dancers kept their valuables - installed after a rash of women stealing from each other], Shyanne, and Kennedy in her booth as seen from the customer side -- checkout the clunky old booth phone used to communicate with patrons)
SD PORN CHRONOLOG #9: 2000 -- The City implements a no-touch rule at strip clubs that ends lap dancing. When the ban is contested, a city hall scandal erupts involving FBI wiretaps and bribery accusations regarding Cheetahs owner Michael Galardi allegedly paying off three city council members: Michael Zucchet, Ralph Inzunza, and the late Charles Lewis. San Diego strip clubs are said to generate around $20 million annual combined revenue. The city’s adult bookstores earn about $25 million. In 2001, zoning issues force two of F Street’s San Diego stores to close. Of the 30 adult boutiques once based in the Gaslamp Quarter, only 2 remain. By 2004, only 19 of the city’s licensed 39 adult entertainment businesses have peep-show devices. A local ordinance is drafted and passed that forbids peep shows from operating between 2:00 and 6:00 a.m.
In January 2001, a new law went into effect, AB 2509, amending section 350 of the Labor Code to read, "Any amounts [of cash] paid directly by a patron to a dancer...shall be deemed a gratuity," i.e., the ladies could keep 100 percent of their tips. Jolar attorney George Mull filed a lawsuit against the Labor Commission contending that the new law treats strip clubs differently than other industries and that the law “interferes with the contracts clubs have with their dancers.” The labor dispute is still in contention. At this writing, Jolar takes out the first $50 from the dancers’ booth machines, with the rest of the machine money split in half. The dancers keep all cash tips, in accordance with the new law, and they’re also paid an hourly minimum wage. They’re fined $100 if they leave their shift early.
In 2008, Harry Mohney opened the Erotic Heritage Museum in Las Vegas. Calling himself “America’s leading Erotologist,” his 24,000 square foot museum has revolving feature exhibits, a permanent collection of porn memoribilia, and a gift shop that sells vintage porn films and posters. Most everything in the museum is related to films Mohney himself had a hand in making, ie the Candy series, early Gail Palmer movies, etc. http://eroticheritagemuseum.com
As of June 2009, one of Harry Mohney's sons runs the Deja Vu Love Boutique in El Cajon. Jolar on University now sports a Showgirls logo out front, officially marking it part of the same-named Mohney-run chain of non-booth strip clubs, ala the Hustler clubs also run by Mohney for Larry Flynt.
In the strip mall next to Jolar is an internet cafe called Lucky Jolar's, the site of a Channel 10 news report (6-11-09) about internet gambling which alleged the operation might be illegal under state gaming laws. The photo of the reclusive Mohney used in that news report came from this very article you're reading, which appears to have become the most comprehensive and referenced source about Harry Mohney on the internet. Just sayin' -------
Jolar principals keep popping in and out of my life. I co-created a mildly successful comic book series with “Bonnie Michaels” (Nightingale: Mistress of Dreams) and “Deja Sin” (Fallen Angel). I paid for “Jezebel Flaire” to go to massage school while she was my mistress, and I covered the rent for “Mary Jane” for about a year while we were sleeping together (I guess qualifying her as another mistress, though she’d kick the ass of anyone calling her that). I dated “Shyanne” while she worked at Jolar a couple of years ago, though I was living with her long before she became a self-described “HoJo” (i.e., Jolar Ho).
I now regret recommending the Jolar gig to her, as other dancers then encouraged her (back) into drug use and prostitution. Not that she wouldn’t have drifted toward that anyway, but strip clubs too often provided her -- and many others -- with an irresistible one-stop shop.
According to Shyanne, the company opened a new locale on Barnett Avenue, where she sometimes “dances” in the same peep-show-booth setups. She told me robberies are frequent, vice are constantly on patrol, and her bosses claim the City is trying to shut them down. Again. The battle of the peeps goes on.
JUST ADDED 11-15-08
Tonight, I found a "lost" Jolar file, with a March 1987 article from Mohney's hometown newspaper, about him getting busted after the New Years fire at his office, that resulted in feds discovering his safe and documents linking him to all his various porn endeavors. I separated this file years ago because mice got at it and ate a bunch of it! I just came across it and am scanning what's left of it, for your perusal ---- lots and lots of details not in my original writeup, plus material I clipped about the TOP pornographer in the nation getting busted too, Rueben Sturman (also partially eaten - never store paper in a garage) ---- scans below.
STRIPPER POKER - LOCAL INTERNET CAFE WITH PORN CONNECTION SPECIALIZES IN ONLINE GAMING
BUT IS IT LEGAL?
The low key sign above an otherwise indistinguishable strip mall shop at
“Jolar” – which only appears on the internet card, not the Café sign - also happens to be the name of the X-rated peep show arcade and strip club next door at 6321 University, wherein women perform nude shows for individuals in “Private Talk Show” booths.
Both Jolar and the Lucky Internet Café are operated by longtime local smut peddler Harry Mohney, once called by the Meese Commission the second biggest pornographer in the
Jolar, a combination porn shop, peep show arcade, and strip club, opened on Broadway downtown in 1978, before moving to its present location near College and University in 1983. Mohney’s other local porn endeavors have included everything from 8mm peep show arcades in the ‘70s to x-rated film production (Caribbean Films) at his La Costa home on 2520 La Costa Avenue in the ‘80s. In the mid-'80s, Jolar was taking in from $12,000 to $20,000 per week, much of that in peep show quarters.
More recent local porn businesses operated locally by Mohney include the Déjà Vu Love Boutique in El Cajon (run by one of Mohney's sons) and the Barnett Superstore near the airport, with the latter locale featuring the same Talk Show Booths (and many of the same Live Nudes) found at Jolar on University.
Of Mohney’s current local business interests, the Lucky Internet Café may be the one most scrutinized by authorities. With all its computers set on internet games like blackjack, keno, poker, and electronic slots, are patrons just buying internet time, or are they gambling? Does sale of the Lucky Jolar swipe cards qualify as a legal sweepstakes, or illegal betting? If the gaming sites themselves are illegal, as alleged by most federal interpretations of current law, is the Lucky Internet Café aiding and abetting illegal gambling by setting all their computers on such sites?
What about the Café paying off the winners on-site – does that qualify the Café as an unlicensed (and illegal) casino? Which business is the customer patronizing - and collecting their winnings from - the website, the Café, or both?
Is even naming itself “Lucky” on the sign out front perhaps Mohney’s bid to attract gaming clientele, rather than the coffee slurping MySpace surfers found at internet cafes where the startup screens AREN’T all loaded with onramps to gambling websites?
In the past, Mohney has circumvented local vice-related ordinances by creatively and aggressively challenging the letter of the laws. In 1985, the City changed the rules for peep-show establishments, as defined in section 33.3302, division 33 of the municipal code, stating that businesses licensed for booths had to screen at least 51 percent non-X-rated material in order to keep their operational licenses.
Instead of shutting down the peeps, as probably intended, the ordinance resulted in Mohney’s booths running whatever non-X film stock his managers could find, including cartoons and old boxing films. The ordinance was later challenged and defeated, having done little but create porn shops rocking to the sounds of both cinematic sex and Elmer Fudd singing “Kill Da Wabbit.”
The following year, the city’s vice department began requiring x-rated peep show operators to remove all doors that might hide activities being conducted within. Vice enforced the rule by citing or arresting any employees found on a premises lacking doors on the booths.
Jolar lawyer George Haverstock advised Mohney to install swinging saloon style half-doors that barely managed to meet the new requirements, while still hiding booth activities from prying eyes, including vice cops, successfully keeping the matter tied up in the courts for years.
Mohney has spent a lot of time in court himself. Aside from countless criminal complaints, and the 14 million dollar tax bill that sent him to prison upstate in Boron, he's been sued a number of times, most notably by former mistress and porn star Gail Palmer, with whom he produced the successful "Candy" series of porn films.
The space at 6311 University housing the Lucky Internet Café was formerly home to a Metabolife dealership, an operation that experienced its own protracted set of legal problems. The entire half-block strip mall, which has also housed thrift stores, a check cashing store, and a pizza parlor, is owned by one of Mohney’s companies.
The California Attorney General’s office is looking into the legality of online gaming at internet cafes, as is the local District Attorney’s office, according to Channel 10 news report aired on June 11.
RELATED BLOG ENTRIES:
"Pussycat Theaters - When 'Cathouses Ruled California" -- for the first time, the detailed inside story of the west coast Pussycat Theater chain of adult moviehouses, which peaked in the '70s but later died out. Told by those who actually ran the theaters! http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs/bands/2008/dec/26/pussycat-theater-history-when-cathouses-ruled-ca-5/
"Before It Was The Gaslamp: Balboa's Last Stand" - Cover story 6-21-07: In the late 70s/early 80s, I worked at downtown San Diego's grindhouse all-night movie theaters, for the owner of the Pussycat Theatre chain, Vince Miranda - this detailed feature recalls those dayz, the death of the Balboa Theatre, etc.
"Field Of Screens" - Cover story 7-6-06: Complete theater-by-theater history of San Diego drive-ins thru the years, including a few which screened X-rated fare for awhile.
PEEP SHOWS - A CARTOON HISTORY: From where it all began, to where it all went bad....
PORN & MUSIC: LOCALS WHIP OUT THEIR WAH-WAHS
For as long as there’s been porn, there’s been porn music. Which means porn musicians. Which, nowadays, sometimes means porn star musicians – Hyapatia Lee released CDs with her band W4IK, Dyanna Lauren sang backup for Rick James, Madison had her own band playing various Sunset Strip hellholes, Traci Lords released a techno CD, and Rocco Siffredi has a porn series called Rock ‘N’ Roll Rocco. According to Vivid Video anyways, Jimi Hendrix was filmed having sex, resulting almost 40 years later in that company’s newest porn DVD.
Local rapper Son Doobie co-produced, scored and performed a sex scene in an X-rated tape, and local drummer Sunshine Blue shot porn scenes with former boyfriend Ron Jeremy. Zao’s song “Savannah” is about a well-known porn star’s suicide. At least a half dozen local musicians pseudonymously scored porn scenes for longtime North County pornographer Al Borda, whose wife, porn star Tami Ann, was a long-time local club fixture.
The local music-and-porn connections are as varied as they are unprintable, but here’s a brief overview covering a few such happenstances ------
The three Point Loma High grads of Defamation League released their album The Anatomy of Grit-Hop in January 2006.
The band calls itself "the official band of the Bryan Barton for Congress Campaign." The onetime Arizona Minuteman volunteer hoped to win the seat to represent California's 53rd District. "Barton's opponent [was incumbent Democrat] Susan Davis," says Nick Sleezin, "and she's sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League, so it seemed like a good fit."
Barton, a self-described "conservative Christian," earned headlines in 2005 for allegedly detaining a Mexican man at the border and forcing him to be photographed with a T-shirt that read, "Bryan Barton caught an illegal alien and all I got was this lousy T-shirt." Authorities decided that Barton didn't hold the man against his will.
"We don't necessarily align ourselves with his political positions," says MC Khemicle Ali (real name Chas Lomack). "I mean, it's not like we endorse pro-life and sh-t like that. We think the guy's cool, though."
The band is tied to Barton via campaign supporter Steve York, who gained notoriety in 2005 after he used UCSD's closed-circuit campus-TV channel to broadcast video of himself having sex. The controversy that erupted earned York an appearance on MSNBC's Scarborough Country.
"A lot of the instrumental tracks on our first CD were used in the soundtrack to [York's] porno, Rising Fees and Popping Bs," says Dune Murderous. “We also did some songs just for the porno that aren't on the CD 'cause, well, 'cause they're porno songs.”
"After my 15 minutes of fame were over, I decided to come back with another production," says York. "I wanted something professional and fun." York, banned from UCSD's TV studios, says his Stevie Why Productions released a 35-minute DVD that features his skin and the music of O.B.'s Defamation League. The trio's "grit-hop" is a mix of hardcore/punk guitar with hip-hop beats and lyrics.
"When we [have sex] it's not to Yanni," says Defam's MC Khemicle Ali. "When I think of porn, I don't want to hear some cheesy '70s porn guitar track.... If it weren't for Steve York, I might have taken a job at Legoland or Chuck E. Cheese. Porno shouldn't be such a taboo. America was founded by Puritans and Quakers and sh-t like that."
The band was also involved in a controversy over their scheduled appearance at the 2005 Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. "We knew we would not be allowed to play, so we decided to take it over and do our own thing," says Dune Murderous. The group arranged to set up their own unapproved route-side performance in the parking lot of the Barnett Avenue Adult superstore. Porn star and gubernatorial candidate Mary Carey was to appear with them during their show.
When contacted about the plans six days before the event, marathon entertainment director Shauna Buffington was not pleased. "A hip-hop band playing in a porno is probably not appropriate [for the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon]," said Buffington. "Normally, [unauthorized bands] get shut down."
She said permits are secured by the city for each band to play at each site along the run. "People play in their own front yards, like in Crown Point, and that's fine. But if they play on public property or at businesses, we've made them stop." She said she wouldn't "necessarily" call the cops herself, but she said the authorities are usually successful at getting rogue bands to stop.
Two days before the event, the band and Carey appeared on 91X to talk about their plans. That was a big mistake, says band manager Sam Elhag.
"Mary was not supposed to talk about it [on the air]. She was only supposed talk about [another promotional event] we were doing Saturday. Two hours after we were on 91X, the cops came to the store and told the manager as soon as anyone plugged in an amp, the store and everyone involved would get cited. We wanted to continue and move it to the roof, but the bookstore said they can't take the risk because of the kind of business they are in."
Elhag doubts the SDPD issued the warning of their own volition after hearing the statement on 91X. "Cops aren't that proactive. They don't give a crap about this." (Thanx to Ken Leighton for some of the DefLeague material)
Blue Shift has their own porn star story. “The band started out as a one-off thing, to play a Halloween party with our friends in the band Three Piece Unit,” says guitarist Dave Howarth. “When we started getting gigs at places like the Second Wind in Santee, we figured we might as well keep playing and see how it goes.” He describes the band’s music as “Instrumental surf rock with a little punk mixed in. You know, ‘Spunk.’ We're playing with a few vocal song ideas, but haven't really done anything about them yet.” The band is filled out by drummer Andy Richardson [“who likes to beat on old animal skins and yell”] and bassist Gary Robertson [“He taught himself to play, though I suppose that’s true of almost all bassists”].
Howarth offers his side of an event that was mentioned awhile back in the Reader’s Crasher column. “We were playing a house party. Halfway through our set, the crowd really started to thin out. We figured, since the house was so small you could pretty much hear us everywhere, that everyone left to get another drink or something. We didn’t find out what had really happened until we read about it later [in Crasher]…turns out some internet male porn star happened to be at the party, and he was doing some impromptu performing with his date on the back lawn. How the hell did he know about the party? I guess his date was invited.”
Unaware of their carnal competition, the band kept playing.
“We had no idea there was a porn star in our midst, nor did the person throwing the party. Kind of a shock to us all, really. I guess he [the porn star] didn't last all that long, because the entire crowd was back within five minutes. I think there were a lot more people there at the end of our set, and they were definitely, um, in aroused spirits. The party people should've told us what was going on at the time, so we could have gone to watch, too. Punks.”
Immortal Maggot C-nt’s very name limits them to the private house party circuit.
“The only rule we have is that we have to be drunk to write or play our songs,” says drummer/bassist Adam. “Yeah, we occasionally p-ss some people off, especially religious nuts and feminists. We have one song called ‘Jesus Walked On Water Because He Was Light In The Loafers’…the one that really gets a reaction is ‘The Only Reason Guys Show Girls Porn Is So They Get The F-ing Point.’ Girls boo us. Guys like it, though. Kinda like porn itself.”
“The only reason guys show you porn/is so you get the f-ing idea and learn what they do
So get the f-ing point and learn to s-ck some d-ck”
The 23 year-old says women in the audience don’t always complain. “They’ll sing along to ‘Black Guys Have Pitbull D-cks.’”
Formed in 2000, the band has released two albums, with a third - “Funboy Techno” - in progress. He says they sometimes play what he calls “accidental” gigs. “Like, we went to a party with some emo band playing and, after they were done, we just picked up their stuff and started playing. We were drunk and we did about three of our songs, while downing a bunch more beer.”
What about the instrument owners? “They went somewhere and weren’t around, and nobody ever said anything to us. I think everyone thought we were supposed to be [playing].”
And the audience reaction? “The house emptied out and everyone went outside, probably to cry and do each other’s hair. That’s what they do at emo parties.”
Louis XIV formed in April 2003 from the ashes of the band Convoy. In January 2005, the Illegal Tender EP -- self-released on their own Pineapple Recording Group label -- spawned the radio hit "Finding Out True Love Is Blind."
Their first album, The Best Little Secrets Are Kept, was released in March 2005. The first single "Finding Out True Love Is Blind" was featured on both the EP and album. The second single was "God Killed the Queen."
The music video for "Paper Doll", taken from Best Little Secrets, was released exclusively on the alt-porn website Suicide Girls. The video, featuring various models in different stages of undress, was directed by alt-porn pioneer Eon McKai, director of "Art School Sluts," the "Kill Girl Kill" series, and "Neu Wave Hookers."
The band's performance after an August 28, 2005, high school football game in Birmingham, Alabama, was to be televised on ESPN. When parents got ahold of The Best Little Secrets Are Kept CD and found a naked woman on the cover and explicit lyrics within, they complained to school administrators.
The school contacted Old Spice, the event sponsor, whose contract with ESPN allowed for their approval of entertainment. On August 24, school principal Sandra Spivey told an NBC affiliate, "We have been assured by the concert promoter that the band's performance this Saturday will be appropriate for a high school audience." The next day, Louis XIV was replaced by Four on the Floor, a Birmingham band.
"You're My Li'l Puta is an audiovisual musical satire about a medical cannabis activist and his ex-girlfriend," says video artist Tony Mindcontrole of the "popumentary" DVD he's working on with his band the Swollen Monkeys.
"The ex-girlfriend falls into the depths of meth and sexual addiction, becoming a pathological liar and completely changing from her formerly shy and honest persona." He says one scene in the "mostly autobiographical" DVD may qualify it for an X rating.
"There's a video set to 'Latex Lady from Long Island,' a love ballad about plastic, female, full-sized hump-me dolls. The character -- not yours truly -- really does make love with her/it. The footage captures some touching, intimate moments of real latex lovemaking." Not that Mindcontrole is into porn. "I've never seen an X-rated film," he says.
Mindcontrole (real name Tony Villodas) says the film is inspired by Frank Zappa, whom he says he got to know through his "mentor," former Zappa sideman Jimmy Carl Black.
"Jimmy couldn't even use his own name for a while, due to litigation with Frank over the Mothers of Invention characters. Frank and I didn't get along at all.... One day, before the recording of Zappa's Bongo Fury LP with Captain Beefheart -- around '75, '76 -- I sparked up a doob as Frank and his band rehearsed, and he stopped the song mid-tune, spun around, aimed his guitar at me, and snarled. I love his music, but it sure was hate at first sight with me and him. He hated pot and I hate cigarettes."
Sue Palmer - often called the Queen of Boogie Woogie - first earned local attention while backing up blues belter Candye Kane. They toured the world together, with Palmer also appearing on Kane’s CDs Diva La Grande and Swango. The duo co-wrote the title track on Swango, which can also be heard in the 2000 NPR documentary The Girl Next Door, profiling porn star Stacy Valentine.
In March 2006, former punk promoter Phil Wasted put on a rap-meets-porn event called "Fantasies" at the Royal Palace in El Cajon. Porn stars such as Stormy Daniels and Jenna Presley were reportedly on hand, with MC Ron Jeremy doing some comedy. Local hip-hop artists Cricket, the BLGZ, Young Sicc, and Sky Tower Click performed.
Nasty O of Sky Tower Click points out that the marriage of porn and rap isn't new. He told Ken Leighton for Blurt "Snoop Dogg and G Unit, they all have their own porn companies. Snoop has Doggie Style Pictures. G Unit put out a DVD called Groupie Love. A lot of the lyrics are explicit. A lot of the music videos have sexual themes."
Then there's the always-quotable Steven "Sugar" Cole, a local pro-am porn producer and frequent nightclub operator. “Naked girls go with rock and roll like jelly goes with peanut butter, and they taste even better,” says Cole.
The former adult bookstore manager wants to open a local club called Groupies, which would offer both live music and nude entertainment. However, he says that city bureaucracy has made this impossible.
“I sank fifty grand into one location on Midway with the assurance that I’d get all the permits,” he says, “but at the last minute they rejected my licenses, after lying to me for six months about what I needed to get approval. All I want is to have stripper go-go girls while the bands play, on individual podiums and on a separate stage for anyone who’d rather look at girls than the band.”
“I’d even pass on the liquor license,” he insists, “if the girls can be nude. I’m sure I could still make money, but the city just plain doesn’t issue [nude entertainment] permits, and they haven’t since the seventies.”
Cole says he’s managed similar clubs in Philadelphia and Rhode Island, the latter venue hosting a once-monthly All-Male Revue.
“It sells out every time, and I’d do it more often, if the women would buy a few drinks once in awhile. Guys in a strip club spend [at the bar] like sailors on shore leave. Women give all their cash to the dancers.”
He says San Diego officials have been more difficult about licensing than anywhere else he’s ever operated.
“All the strip clubs in this town, they got their original licenses over twenty years ago. The permits get renewed if they can prove that someone who lives in San Diego still owns the place and if they’ve been okay with vice. But opening a new place, they’ll lie and say I can get a ‘burlesque’ permit, by putting in more of a theater setup, but then they deny every other application I need to open.”
Cole claims that a vice department official once told him “You could be the head of the Mafia and you’ll still never put another nude club in our town,” and this sort of stonewalling makes him even more determined to do business in San Diego.
“For a Navy port, it’s pretty f-ing conservative here,” says Cole. “The strippers have to wear pantyhose under their G-strings. What happened to the wild, wild west?”
“You guys [in San Diego] really need a place like Groupies. It’s not healthy for a whole city to go without any kind of sexual release.”<p>Onlinebootycall.com, a local-based dating service (“finding the pieces without the puzzle”), has produced a music video with local Ho-lo-gram Records, performed by hip-hop artist Rio.
Available on YouTube and MySpace, “OK OK” features scantily clad ladies showing up at Rio’s door to shake their butts at the camera as he raps “Hit her on the web, tell her holler at ya, dog” “If you already got a man, hit me on the low” and the surefire charmer “She’s like a Sidekick, one flick of the finger and the top comes off.”
“When I first started OBC, I was the only member,” according to Bootycall founder Moses Brown. He says within three months, he had 5,000 members. “I went to chat rooms and told people about it, posted links on message boards and added banners to user groups. I also created webpages on sites like MySpace, Friendster and Blackplanet and posted banners there.” He claims the site currently has over a million members, 200,000 of them women.
“A lot girls on OBC do want bootycalls, they just don't know it yet or don't want to admit it,” he says. “However, that doesn't mean you should come out the gate with a line like ‘Hey girl, I need some ass ASAP,’ That just makes you sound like a jackass…Instead, you should be patient and use a little game, you know?”
Moses authored the “Bootycall Ten Commandments” posted on the website, including “Thou shalt get out before the sun rises,” “Thou shalt kiss anything except my mouth,” and “There shall be no cuddling. Ever!”
RIO VIDEO "OK OK"
Like this blog? Here are some related links:
OVERHEARD IN SAN DIEGO - Several years' worth of this comic strip, which debuted in the Reader in 1996: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/photos/galleries/overheard-san-diego/
FAMOUS FORMER NEIGHBORS - Over 100 comic strips online, with mini-bios of famous San Diegans: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/photos/galleries/famous-former-neighbors/
SAN DIEGO READER MUSIC MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/sandiegoreadermusic
JAY ALLEN SANFORD MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/jayallensanford