I was broke. Dead busted. I needed a jobfast. And the first that came along was at the Back Door Theater, "Parking and Entrance in the Rearfor Your Privacy." My friend Russell was working there, and he got me a job after one of his fellow employees passed out on the pool table at the bar next to the theater during a shift. Calling the Back Door (BD) a "theater" was something of a misnomer. It consisted of a restroom, lobby, projection platform/cashier booth, and a seating area which the staff referred to as "the pit." It was all crammed into a 16 foot by 60 foot store-front.My turf was the projection/cashier booth. It contained a couple of broken-down chairs, a cash register, two dilapidated 16mm projectors, "Little Roscoe" (a .38 caliber revolver so dirty it would probably have blown up had it been fired), and a TV set which was used heavily, as the entire staff all three of usfound watching it less boring than watching the BD's films. The films were pretty crude. My first glimpse of them came the day I was hired. I stepped up to the projection platform, peered through the viewing port between projectors, and saw a "cum shot"a man coming all over a woman's face. I was dumfounded. I couldn't believe that anyone would actually pay to see such things. But pay they did-five bucks a pop. The Back Door's patrons came in all shapes and sizes: young men, old men, chicano men, white men, black men, and above all, greasy white-shoed businessmen. Well over 90% of the Back Door's customers were male, and, of those, at least half were into the $13-haircut level of awareness. The female customers were of two types. One consisted of denim-clad, leather-booted dykes and their ultra-femme girl friends; the other, more common, type consisted of bored housewives with hubbies in towpeople apparently willing to try anything to spice up humdrum sex lives. My friend Ralph the butcher (he was an actual butcherhe hadn't "served" in Vietnam) would drop by the theater from time to time, and when such couples walked in, he made it a point to sit behind them and listen to their conversations. Ralph reported that the most typical comment was: "He can last for ten minutes. How come you can't even last two?" I couldn't see how the customers managed to last two minutes in the theater. It was a pit. The restroom was, arguably, the most disgusting portion of the premises. It was covered with gross, sexist graffiti such as; "Please don't jack off in this toilet, it's already had three abortions," and "The difference between toilets and women is that toilets don't follow you around after you've used them." On a couple of occasions some (literal) jerk jacked off against the wall, drew an arrow toward the gooey mess, and added the half-witticism, "Eat me." And on one occasion, my friend Joe Blues walked into the lobby and observed a crewcut, 300-pound redneck flogging his dolphin in the john blissfully unaware that the restroom door was wide open. The lobby was another gem. Its floor was covered with cheap red shag carpet, its walls with red fake-velvet wallpaper, and its ceiling with black glitter paint. Its contents consisted of a coke machine, a cigarette machine, and a sand-filled toilet subtly labeled "asstray." But the heart of the Back Door was the pit, the seating area. It was a 16 by 45 foot room with a screen made of two pieces of painted sheet rock at one end with seats extending from the other to about eight feet from the screen. The seats were described as "reclining airplane seats" in the theater's advertising. Sounds really comfy, doesn't it? Well, the seats probably were comfortable when they were new. By the time I started working at the Back Door they could well have been the breeding ground of black plague. They obviously hadn't been cleaned since the Back Door opened, and at least two-thirds of them had gaping holes in their upholstery. The ashtrays in their armrests were continually overflowing as we employees felt it beneath ourselves to clean them out. And the BD's customers found the cracks between the cushions and the holes in the upholstery convenient receptacles for their soggy kleenex and handkerchiefs. The floor of the pit made one's shoes go "shmuck, shluck, shlurp"; it was coated with a mixture composed of spilled coke, cigarette butts, the remnants of used kleenex, and god knows what else. Shortly after I started working at the theater, I walked into the pit in the middle of a film. While there, I was surprised to hear a long hissssss...After closing up that night, I went back into the seating area and found the source. The owner of the Back Door had installed timing devices coupled to aerosol cans; the cans sprayed a combination deodorant/disinfectant over the seats for a few seconds every hour. It was a token gesture. True disinfection would have required use of a flamethrower. I had another surprise the first lime I walked into the pit during the noon rush and observed the midday crowd. There they sat, white shoes gleaming in the darkness, eyes riveted to the screen, hands riveted to their pants. 1 was expecting that. What I wasn't expecting was that they would all be sitting neatly, row upon row, an empty seat on either side of every one of themviewer, empty seat, viewer, empty seat, etc.totally absorbed in the spectacle on the screen. It was one of the loneliest, most pathetic scenes I've ever witnessed. Another feature of customer behavior which initially surprised me was the frequent visit to the restroom before leaving the theater. After I figured that one outit took me about two hoursI began to dread my nightly janitorial duties. (Judging from customer behavior at the Back Door, the slogan "Porn is the theory, rape is the practice" is dead wrong. A more realistic slogan would be "Porn is the theory, pocket pool is the practice.") The films which provoked such behavior were sick jokes. They were low-budget, Los Angeles- based productions of the "pole'n'hole" variety with an occasional bit of lesbian action thrown in for diversity. The plots (when they existed at all), acting, direction, lighting, photography, sound, and editing were of a quality which made the average episode of The Dukes of Hazard look like Citizen Kane in comparison. As for violence, there was very little in the films shown by the Back Door; my guess is that no more than about one in twenty showed any explicit violence.(1) An example of the Back Door's offerings was a film titled Aberrations (2) which contained a scene depicting a gorilla fucking a woman in a vacant lot. In the middle of the scene, someone's pet German Shepherd wandered into the field of view, approached the guy in the gorilla suit, sniffed him for several seconds, and exited as casually as he had entered the scene. While atypical, this film certainly seemed to degrade women. It's true, as critics of pornography delight in pointing out, that male dominance is a common feature in pornography. Where these critics err, however, is in ascribing male dominance to pornography. This is a clear reversal of cause and effect. Pornography is a fairly recent phenomenon, having become widely available only during the last quarter century, while male dominance has its roots in antiquity, as virtually any ancient history text will show. St. Paul displayed a typical attitude when he commanded, "Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands, as unto the Lord." Violence against women is nothing new either. In fact it was at its worst during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. During those periods hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of women were brutally tortured and murdered under the biblical injunction, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." As for the contention that pornography somehow causes violence against women, all the evidence points against it. After Denmark eliminated all restrictions on pornography 20 years ago, the number of reported sex crimes there dropped. The 1970 Presidential Commission on Pornography concluded that there was no link between pornography and sexual violence. And Henry Hudson, chairman of Reagan's stacked anti-pornography commission, has even admitted, "If we relied exclusively on scientific data for every one of our findings, I'm afraid all our work would be inconclusive. Given the total lack of evidence linking pornography and violence against women, and the long history of misogynistic teaching and coercion and violence against womenmost visible at present in the efforts of various religions to use the government to deprive women of their rights to birth control and abortionone can only ask why "feminist" censorship advocates are focusing their attacks on pornography and not on misogynistic religious authoritarians. A plausible answer to that question is that they quite understandably feel frustrated by sexism and violence against womenand they're seeking easy answers and easy targets upon which to vent their frustration. Freedom of speech, civil libertarians, and smut merchants provide much easier targets than religious figures. And those figures are only too eager to help "feminist" censors attack their scapegoatpornography. One also wonders why anti-porn feminists, in addition to ignoring or, at times, lending credibility to reactionary religionists, ignore depictions of violence against women in the mass media far more horrible than those occasionally encountered in pornography. For example, "splatter" flicks such as Friday the 13th and Halloween consist largely of horrifying, extremely brutal scenes of the killing of young women, and are routinely viewed by millions of young people. Yet anti-porn crusaders ignore these disgusting films and concentrate their fire on the run-of-the-mill poles'n'holes flicks shown to small audiences in porn theaters. (3)
(1) Even the militant pro-censorship group Women Against Pornography estimates
that only 10-15% of pornography contains violence.
(2) Titles didn't matter much at the BD. Quite often we'd cut the titles from a film, invent a new name for it, and then advertise and rerun it under the new name a couple of weeks later.
(3) I am NOT suggesting that "splatter" films be censored. I consider the dangers of censorship far greater than anythus far undemonstrated-dangers these films might pose.
(4) A bizarre illustration of this recently occurred at my last place of work. Two of the barracudas female managerial varietywere inspecting a cute baby in a stroller. One turned to the other and cooed: "Oh look! A future customer!!"
(5) At times, the sleazyness or the porn bit borders on the surreal. I vividly recall a visit I made one evening around Thanksgiving to my pal Russell. who was then working at Zorba's Adult Bookstore. When I walked through the door I was floored. The dildos, autosucks, and fist fucking magazines were still in their racks and the inflatable "love" dolls were still hanging from the ceilingbut there was a difference: the entire place was covered with christmas decorations. The crowning touch was a red ornament dangling from the tip of 'The Destroyer," a two-foot-long, two-inch-thick dildo.
(6) The blimped-out, cigar-sucking, white-shoed grossero who owned the Back Door was netting at least $1000 a week from it.