What the Deuce?: part 2

With the current popularity of the HBO TV program The Deuce, I am compelled to unashamedly push my book about the subject. Having lived and worked in the XXX industry from its infamous birth as an aboveground illicit underground business I witness firsthand the. Not as much of oxymoron as it may seem, underground and aboveground were synonymous with the era of the early 70’s.

The “pill” was new and sex was unbound by the restraints of the Victorian mentality that thought procreation was the only reason for having sex. Recreational drugs were the thing as never before and the music was already on its irreverent path to challenging mores and “the man”.  Most of the aboveground activity of the love generation was in some way illegal and this is what led to the loggerhead of the old guard and the new generation.  The immorality of the Viet Nam war was clear to the generation that was compelled to fight it, not out of ideology, but because conscription left no choice but to participate or go to jail or leave the country.

The wilds of 42nd St was one place that revelled in the pleasures disdained by most of the nation’s local and federal laws. “A change it is a coming” was predicted by Bob Dylan in the early 60’s and so it was – a time of great change.

Rarely satisfied with the depiction of an era one has lived through being recounted by scriptwriters whose mandate is to make compelling watching for a general audience, I understand it is a process and am guilty myself of cutting corners, well aware of the inherent shortcomings due to broadcast time constraints, lack of accurate information and pressure from producers to add more or less of an ingredient deemed important in order to “push the merch”. “Throw some more sex in it, Charlie”, might be the post-reading comment of a script by the guy from the corner office. All of these factors considered I find the interest in the old grizzly blocks of 42nd St. still appealing to those who have only heard about the fascinating going’s-on in Times Square. Many would argue that period in NYC history is of importance from a sociological standpoint and I would agree. Most of the issues of the day were played out on the sleeve of Midtown’s jacket.

Not only were illicit sex shows and prostitution available but theatres played foreign and independent films that were rarely seen elsewhere. Some customers came for culture and some were just curious. The reputation of the Deuce was built on solid ground, “ain’t nothing square around there” was a quote from one of the local inhabitants who, no doubt, enjoyed the open illicit trades.

Jamie Guilis, Marty Hodas and L. Revene. Courtesy of the Rialto Report.

In my early days of filmmaking, I was introduced to the various flavors of the Deuce in conjunction with my work.  I often had to trip uptown from 14th St. to pick up money or deliver films. Marty Hodas was the premiere purveyor of smut at a time when porn was just beginning to surface openly in public places. The first hardcore sex came to the silver screen in California in 1970 with Sexual Freedom in Denmark. John Lamb took filmed images directly from the screen in Denmark and offered up a “documentary” on sex and broke the bank with attendance from an otherwise lame movie. This was the opening of the floodgate for other producers to see just how starved the viewing public was to willing pay to watch hardcore sex in the movie houses. Hodas took it one step further by instigating the “Peep Machines” where a loop of 8 mm hardcore film was played in booths like the old arcade movie contraptions that showed animation or cowboy film for a penny. A quarter would get you a portion of a “peep” but the viewer had to ply the machine again to see the complete movie. Marty made so much money that he didn’t count the coins, he weighed them.

A fluke of luck in Marty’s favor came when he applied for a license from the Consumer Affairs office who issued permits for vending machines. They had never heard of the concept of showing graphic porn on a kiosk type movie machine and so gave Marty a permit. Game on with Marty leading the pack. In short order, the Duece and beyond had bookstores with many peep machines, so much so that Times Square was full of Marty like enterprising people vying to cash in on the phenomenon. This attracted not only individuals but also organized crime. The perfect cocktail for the mob: Illicit cash business’ with untraceable income. What followed where the First Amendment legal cases with Deep Throat being the major test of what constituted obscenity. The Supreme Court could not come to a judgment against overtly public sexual activity. It was left to individual locations to judge what was pornographic. By 1977, after the conclusion of the Deep Throat trial, locations like New York City operated X film and bookstore venues with impunity. About the same time, the VCR became a viable home consumer product which transformed viewing from public to private entertainment. Most of the bookstores switched from peep machines to VHS rental and sales. The revolution had taken less than a decade to transform the Duece and most of the US to embrace sexual freedom on the screen and in the population at large.

One of my films (Puss in Boots) playing 42nd St.

Although the time was short from prudish Victorian ethics to full-blown sexual freedom, the lasting effect of the raunchy Time Square reputation prevailed until the late Nineties.  Theatres and bookstores were plentiful and prevailed until the VCR and cable TV usurped their usefulness.  All of the ancillaries associated with smut continued to this day, of course, but not with the same fervor that once was the climate when the public demanded change to be able to express themselves and do and watch what they wanted. The seedy quality of The Duece has been replaced with chrome and glass, but the underlying effects of the sexual revolution still echo in the caverns of the city. The TV program The Duece is a testament to the interest and nostalgia of an era that transformed not only the 42nd Street landscape but the entire country’s attitude towards a more liberal tolerance of peoples right to watch and engage in their own personal preferences.

Both books are for sale in print or e-book at Amazon.com. 


All other electronic formats can be purchased at Smashwords.com.










~ by Larry Revene on December 6, 2017.

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