• Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

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).

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 AMMO (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 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 (as Doc Johnson), 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 last 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 him in mind. This landed him in court often enough that he apparently thought he’d earned local martyrdom, if not outright deification. To Vasic, peep-show booths were not only the secret but the purpose of his considerable success. 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.

  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it


Sign in to comment

Win a $25 Gift Card to
The Broken Yolk Cafe

Join our newsletter list

Each newsletter subscription means another chance to win!