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Seabag, the San Ysidro male sex film ring

Rick Ford, downtown porn store owner, signs documents

Sometime during the last year, at a motel somewhere in San Diego, a group of young men allowed themselves to be filmed naked while masturbating. Each was responding to an advertisement in a sex tabloid seeking male models for consideration as actors in sexually explicit films. Each ended up being lectured in one of two x-rated videos titled Casting Couch I and Casting Couch II.

The videos consist entirely of brief interviews in which the participants are told essentially that they are undergoing a screen test as prospective porn stars. An off-camera interviewer asks them questions about where they are from, why they think they should be selected over hundreds of other applicants, and what kinds of sexual activity they are willing to engage in. One is even asked his astrological sign. Following the interview, the would-be stars are asked to come into "the studio," a motel bedroom. There, for the reputed benefit of a "casting director," the men strip and masturbate. The interviewer goes to great lengths in some segments to create the impression the film is being made in Arizona, but one youngster, when asked how he likes Arizona, says, "I'm not in Arizona."

Those associated with production and distribution of the videos insist the young men, women as young as 18, knew the nature of their work, were paid for it, and that each signed a model's release authorizing the filmmaker to use the product of his labor. The final product is hardly a bargain for those who purchase it. Both the visual and audio quality of the production is strikingly poor.

According to information contained in the videos, the films were produced in affiliation with a company called Seabag Productions and can be obtained through a firm called Halcyon Videos, 3808 Rosecrans Street, Suite 501-F. A visit to Halcyon Video's reputed Rosecrans Street address, however, revealed that Suite 501-F is nothing more than a small mailbox at a private post office called American Mail & Package Center. The clerk there, citing company rules, said she could reveal nothing about the boxholder or the business he conducts from the address.

Seabag Productions, however, filed a Fictitious Business Statement at the county courthouse on March 1. That statement shows Seabag as a one-man operation run by Hillcrest resident and downtown porn store owner Rick Ford, with a business address of 7998 Miramar Road. The building at 7998 Miramar Road, just across the street from the Miramar Naval Air Station, turns out to be the Miramar location of F Street books, a well-known chain of adult bookstores with branches all over the county.

Ford, in a Sunday night telephone interview, said Seabag Productions has no business relationship to F Street books other than to rent space on the second floor of the Miramar Road store. "It has no association with F Street whatsoever," said Ford. "I rent the upstairs floor, and that's where my mail-order business is."

Ford's mail-order business has earned a reputation for producing and distributing sexually explicit films featuring sailors and Marines engaging in homosexual acts, as well as other gay-oriented entertainment. According to police sources, Ford's suspected use of military personnel in his films resulted in a recent — but inconclusive — investigation of Seabag by the Naval Investigative Service.

Ford insists his company had nothing to do with the making or distribution of Casting Couch I or Casting Couch II, even though the corporate name appears in the films. The films were made by another man — identified as Cyrus Dozier — and Seabag was given the first opportunity to buy them. In one of the videos, Dozier is credited with being the director. "I couldn't afford to buy the rights to them," said Ford. "I was given the first right of refusal, but they were not the quality that I particularly wanted." The distribution rights have since been sold to a San Francisco company, according to Ford. Dozier, contacted Monday at the Gay Times newspaper, refused to discuss the videos. "I have no reason to talk to you about this," he said.

Ford scoffs at the contention that the young men featured in the videos were unaware that their auditions might turn into a full-length adult film. Besides, he says, it makes no difference because each signed a model's release. "A model release is that anybody that has photographs taken, when they sign it, it gives that person who took those pictures the right to do whatever they wish with the pictures," said Ford. "It is totally an ironclad release."

Participants in such films, said Ford, are not to be trusted if they contend otherwise. "The element of people that you are dealing with is not terribly credible," he said. Many of them are ordinary street hustlers — male prostitutes who cater to gay men, according to Ford. "Whether a guy felt like he wanted to sit there and choke his chicken for 75 bucks instead of turning a 30-dollar trick in the park — that's another story," said Ford.

According to Ford, all of the participants in the film were at least 18 and were responding to an advertisement for male models placed by Dozier in Swing Magazine, "which is a straight magazine." Dozier, said Ford, followed standard procedure in the porn business in the making of the films. "He paid each one of them," said Ford. "They did sign the release and he paid them. He said, "I will do for you what I can.' He has had sources from magazine companies and producers in Los Angeles. He has placed one or two of them."

But police say that anyone who makes porno films and pays the participants to engage in sexual acts, even masturbation, has violated state pandering laws, a felony. "When you encourage anyone to engage in a sex act for money, you are pandering," says SDPD vice detective Norman Hardman. "And, if people are having sex and getting paid for it, that's prostitution."

There is currently a 1986 case pending before San Diego Superior Court in which the makers of a heterosexual porn film are accused of pandering in connection with the effort, says Hardman. A similar prosecution of a case in Los Angeles is now under review by the California Supreme Court. Los Angeles authorities have led the way in California in the prosecution of porn cases by charging the actors with prostitution and the producers and directors with pandering.

Hardman says the crackdown in Los Angeles has led some pornographers to venture into San Diego County in an attempt to stay in business. "We have had an influx in this type of activity directly related to the pressure that Los Angeles PD put on the pornography industry in Los Angeles," says Hardman. But law-enforcement officials in both San Diego and Los Angeles, he says, are awaiting the outcome of the case now before the California Supreme Court to see whether to continue pandering arrests as a technique to shut down the porno filmmaking industry. Hardman says law enforcement "sort of stumbled on" the concept of using pandering laws against pornographers in the last three years. Previous enforcement attempts using obscenity laws usually proved fruitless, he says, because of First Amendment problems.

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Sometime during the last year, at a motel somewhere in San Diego, a group of young men allowed themselves to be filmed naked while masturbating. Each was responding to an advertisement in a sex tabloid seeking male models for consideration as actors in sexually explicit films. Each ended up being lectured in one of two x-rated videos titled Casting Couch I and Casting Couch II.

The videos consist entirely of brief interviews in which the participants are told essentially that they are undergoing a screen test as prospective porn stars. An off-camera interviewer asks them questions about where they are from, why they think they should be selected over hundreds of other applicants, and what kinds of sexual activity they are willing to engage in. One is even asked his astrological sign. Following the interview, the would-be stars are asked to come into "the studio," a motel bedroom. There, for the reputed benefit of a "casting director," the men strip and masturbate. The interviewer goes to great lengths in some segments to create the impression the film is being made in Arizona, but one youngster, when asked how he likes Arizona, says, "I'm not in Arizona."

Those associated with production and distribution of the videos insist the young men, women as young as 18, knew the nature of their work, were paid for it, and that each signed a model's release authorizing the filmmaker to use the product of his labor. The final product is hardly a bargain for those who purchase it. Both the visual and audio quality of the production is strikingly poor.

According to information contained in the videos, the films were produced in affiliation with a company called Seabag Productions and can be obtained through a firm called Halcyon Videos, 3808 Rosecrans Street, Suite 501-F. A visit to Halcyon Video's reputed Rosecrans Street address, however, revealed that Suite 501-F is nothing more than a small mailbox at a private post office called American Mail & Package Center. The clerk there, citing company rules, said she could reveal nothing about the boxholder or the business he conducts from the address.

Seabag Productions, however, filed a Fictitious Business Statement at the county courthouse on March 1. That statement shows Seabag as a one-man operation run by Hillcrest resident and downtown porn store owner Rick Ford, with a business address of 7998 Miramar Road. The building at 7998 Miramar Road, just across the street from the Miramar Naval Air Station, turns out to be the Miramar location of F Street books, a well-known chain of adult bookstores with branches all over the county.

Ford, in a Sunday night telephone interview, said Seabag Productions has no business relationship to F Street books other than to rent space on the second floor of the Miramar Road store. "It has no association with F Street whatsoever," said Ford. "I rent the upstairs floor, and that's where my mail-order business is."

Ford's mail-order business has earned a reputation for producing and distributing sexually explicit films featuring sailors and Marines engaging in homosexual acts, as well as other gay-oriented entertainment. According to police sources, Ford's suspected use of military personnel in his films resulted in a recent — but inconclusive — investigation of Seabag by the Naval Investigative Service.

Ford insists his company had nothing to do with the making or distribution of Casting Couch I or Casting Couch II, even though the corporate name appears in the films. The films were made by another man — identified as Cyrus Dozier — and Seabag was given the first opportunity to buy them. In one of the videos, Dozier is credited with being the director. "I couldn't afford to buy the rights to them," said Ford. "I was given the first right of refusal, but they were not the quality that I particularly wanted." The distribution rights have since been sold to a San Francisco company, according to Ford. Dozier, contacted Monday at the Gay Times newspaper, refused to discuss the videos. "I have no reason to talk to you about this," he said.

Ford scoffs at the contention that the young men featured in the videos were unaware that their auditions might turn into a full-length adult film. Besides, he says, it makes no difference because each signed a model's release. "A model release is that anybody that has photographs taken, when they sign it, it gives that person who took those pictures the right to do whatever they wish with the pictures," said Ford. "It is totally an ironclad release."

Participants in such films, said Ford, are not to be trusted if they contend otherwise. "The element of people that you are dealing with is not terribly credible," he said. Many of them are ordinary street hustlers — male prostitutes who cater to gay men, according to Ford. "Whether a guy felt like he wanted to sit there and choke his chicken for 75 bucks instead of turning a 30-dollar trick in the park — that's another story," said Ford.

According to Ford, all of the participants in the film were at least 18 and were responding to an advertisement for male models placed by Dozier in Swing Magazine, "which is a straight magazine." Dozier, said Ford, followed standard procedure in the porn business in the making of the films. "He paid each one of them," said Ford. "They did sign the release and he paid them. He said, "I will do for you what I can.' He has had sources from magazine companies and producers in Los Angeles. He has placed one or two of them."

But police say that anyone who makes porno films and pays the participants to engage in sexual acts, even masturbation, has violated state pandering laws, a felony. "When you encourage anyone to engage in a sex act for money, you are pandering," says SDPD vice detective Norman Hardman. "And, if people are having sex and getting paid for it, that's prostitution."

There is currently a 1986 case pending before San Diego Superior Court in which the makers of a heterosexual porn film are accused of pandering in connection with the effort, says Hardman. A similar prosecution of a case in Los Angeles is now under review by the California Supreme Court. Los Angeles authorities have led the way in California in the prosecution of porn cases by charging the actors with prostitution and the producers and directors with pandering.

Hardman says the crackdown in Los Angeles has led some pornographers to venture into San Diego County in an attempt to stay in business. "We have had an influx in this type of activity directly related to the pressure that Los Angeles PD put on the pornography industry in Los Angeles," says Hardman. But law-enforcement officials in both San Diego and Los Angeles, he says, are awaiting the outcome of the case now before the California Supreme Court to see whether to continue pandering arrests as a technique to shut down the porno filmmaking industry. Hardman says law enforcement "sort of stumbled on" the concept of using pandering laws against pornographers in the last three years. Previous enforcement attempts using obscenity laws usually proved fruitless, he says, because of First Amendment problems.

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