COUNT IT!


My visit in 1972 to Peachtree Distributing in Atlanta was short and less than sweet. That is unless you like the smell of day old garlic oozing from someone’s pores.  Short on ceremony; the cash, I was there to pickup, was dumped  on a desk as Thevis snarled, “count it!” Ten thousand, mostly singles, is daunting enough to thumb through, but with two thugs, looking as if they were from central casting, breathing down my neck, I found computing impossible and faked counting the dough. The other heavy in the room was Roger Dean Underhill, NY Gambino and porn kingpin Robert “Di Bi” DeBernardo’s man in Georgia.

Michael Thevis

Young Michael Thevis, like a character stepping  out of a Horatio Alger novel, hitchhiked from North Carolina to Atlanta, started selling magazines and books and a decade later was making a hundred million dollars a year from his smut publications. He was also producing legit films (Oliver Stone’s first) and had a thriving record company capitalizing on the popular soul music of the early Seventies. Thevis’ main cash cows, however, were the peep machines he ran in forty percent of the country in conjunction with Di Bi in New York.

Honoré de Balzac wrote: “where poverty ends, avaricious begins.” Michael Thevis was not content with money; he also wanted mega power. As a result he wound up serving a life sentence for tax evasion, racketeering, bombing, extortion and murder. One of  the murders was committed after he broke out of a Kentucky prison and returned to Atlanta for the revenge killing of Underhill, who was slated to testify at trial against him.

From the 1982 transcript of  the United States Court of Appeals : “Kenneth ‘Jap’ Hanna owned several adult book stores in Atlanta. On November 13, 1970, Thevis called Underhill at 8:30 a. m. and told him to come to work immediately. When Underhill arrived, Thevis had already shot Ken Hanna and left the body in the trunk of Hanna’s car in Thevis’ warehouse. In his haste to dispose of the body, Thevis left Hanna’s car keys in his pocket also locked in the trunk. Thevis told Underhill, a trained locksmith, to open the trunk and retrieve the keys. Thevis and Underhill then drove the car containing Hanna’s body to the Atlanta airport parking lot and left it there. Afterwards, Underhill took various steps to dispose of any incriminating evidence, including burning the moving pad on which Hanna’s body had lain and he replaced several bloody floorboards in the warehouse. In addition, he bought a welding torch outfit and melted the gun, trunk lock, Hanna’s car keys, some Mexican coins and a screwdriver that were in Hanna’s possession. That night Underhill dumped the melted objects and the bloody boards in the Chattahoochee River.”

The ironies of Thevis’ misadventures, along with the Peraino family and Mitchell brother’s feuds ending in fratricide, read like a Greek tragedy. Ferris Alexander, Reuben Sturman and others who accumulated vast wealth, also culminated in their tragic demise.

It did not escape me during research, recollection and reconstruction of events for my book on the heady, outlaw days of the porn era of the Seventies, that the wages of sin were not of the flesh but of  the brutal greed and shameless exploitation displayed by Thevis and the likes of him. Recounting this era is like riding in a glass bottom boat through an open sewer.

A dangerous journey during  the heady years of the 1970’s when porn was profitable, illegal and a loadstone for gangsters and profiteers attracted by easy cash from 8 mm smut loops, the book documents first hand reports of that era.

Possibly one of the most influential sociological changes since the industrial revolution, the advent of   hardcore sex films in public places, stripped away much of the quasi-moral vestiges of the ninetieth century Victorian era. It was a time when mores, morals and modesty changed inexorably. Porn was not the only sociological shift; it was happening in the arts, politics and society in general. Whether pornography was a catlist or a by-product of this change is difficult to cleave, but for certain it played a big part in challenges for first amendment rights.    

Literally at fox hole, basement level, I witness the paradigm shift from titillation to penetration in motion pictures. I paralleled the legal adjustments, while making films, and watched as the public demanded the ability to watch what they wanted. It was an important slice of American culture witnessing  implications of the past and the impact to the future. 

Available @: http://http://www.amazon.com/Wham-Bam-Boom-Sojourner-ebook/dp/B00ANZ1UOW

and also: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/266387

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~ by Larry Revene on January 1, 2013.

2 Responses to “COUNT IT!”

  1. the ebook is amazing. If you liked the Other Hollywood, you’ll be impressed with Larry’s book. Very well researched as well. Important.

    Like

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