Thoughts Over The Afternoon’s Margarita: Diane Duke and Free Speech, Not Porn Piracy, is What killed Porn

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If you accept the argument that the adult video store is the porn industry’s first line of defense, then you can accept the argument in that headline.

When I first started in the business in 1986 there was something like 25,000 stores in the United States handling adult movies.

Fox Business News in reporting on the porn industry several weeks ago cited something like 3,400 stores still out there. Hello? That means there’s 22,000 stores that have vanished literally into thin air. It’s not hard to see what’s happening in the mainstream especially if you accept the fact that NetFlix and those kinds of convenience services have ground the mighty Blockbuster Empire and others into dust.

Porn is a different story, however. You still have to make a trip to the local emporium if you want to buy or rent a porn film. The prototypical porn store had viewing rooms in the back, cum buckets in the front, glory holes, seedy clientele and surly cashiers out of heroin addict central casting. Very inviting. Even with that, the industry did incredible numbers. When VHS first came upon the scene you were buying tapes, premium, for anywhere from $59.95 and up. I saw where Deep Throat was going for $89.95.

Then along came a guy named Mark Carriere. Nobody talks about this because very few of the old guard are still around to remember. But Carriere singlehandely destroyed the pricing structure of the business with a company called Video Exclusives which specialized in making and selling garbage.

As beloved as he is, no one, either, remembers that Ron Jeremy worked for Carriere and directed under the name Bill Blackman. Jeremy employed a cast of usual suspects- Frank James, Sasha Gabor, Billy Dee, Tony Montana and Ray Victory; the female cast included the flavors of the month- whoever Carriere happened to have been banging at the time or who Carriere bought tit jobs for. At one time, even Christy Canyon was a contract girl for Carriere.

Still, the business carried on but no one ever cared to notice that video store owners were taking obscenity hits left and right. Oh sure, we heard about adult producers and company owners being carted away in handcuffs. I think Ruby Gottesman who went down in the Traci Lords fiasco did time in a dormitory and Russ Hampshire and Chris Mann spent their incarcerated days at swimming pools back when Boron was the place to go.

While the Free Speech Coalition was set up to fight the good fight, I know of no video store owner that ever saw a dime from Free Speech to pay their legal bills. There was a celebrated obscenity case in Virginia about four years ago, practically to the day. It involved a store owner named Rick Krial who owned After Hours Video. While I won’t bore you with the details, you can read them here: www.adultfyi.com/read.php?ID=33919

Krial’s attorney was Paul Cambria, and I’ll tell you right now Free Speech wasn’t accepting Cambria’s invoices. Krial closed shop.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to chronicle the daily adventures of store owner Greg Sakas who owned a couple of businesses in North Carolina and fought a prick of a sheriff handpicked by the Christian Right. Sakas, bless his soul, beat the opposition out of his own pocket. Did Adam & Eve a neighbor help him? No. Did Free Speech help him? No.

On another occasion, Cincinnati store owner Elyse Metcalf went to the Free Speech Coalition and was turned down because her case “wasn’t high profile enough”- the standard Free Speech answer in those situations. Russ Hampshire personally helped her with some of her bills, but the experience killed Metcalf.

The point? Store owner after store owner over the years have taken hits for this industry. Most stories you never hear about, but they do have a common thread. The Free Speech Coalition left these people twisting in the wind.

If I’m a store owner and have friends like that, who needs enemies?

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