At first a few small storefront theaters decided to test the water by showing some of those same newly produced silent 8mm. porno "loops", even some of the old black and white stag films, that had been available in the sex shops and in the peep shows at the adult video arcades. Then smut producers started distributing similar new material in 16mm, at first as silent films but soon with synchronized sound and music. Documentary films such as "Pornography in Denmark" and explicit sex education films like "Man and Wife" soon followed and were the real beginning of feature length (rather than short subject) porn in theaters.
I vividly remember the first time I saw hardcore porn in a theater. It was about 1970 and I was visiting San Francisco from Sacramento where I was living at the time. In the afternoon I walked into a little theater called The Screening Room in the Tenderloin area, operated by one of the true pioneers of porn Alex De Renzy. I expected to see the usual full frontal nudity along with simulated sex but was amazed and pleased to see EVERYTHING up there on the big screen in living color. Erections! Cock sucking! Pussy eating! FUCKING! All of the things that makes live worth living for us guys! There were even CUM SHOTS to show that it was all REAL, not faked and that the on screen "action" had a uh...happy ending!
There were several short films all made by De Renzy himself I believe and they were really quite good, aside from being totally explicit. Quality wise they were much better than anything I had ever seen in an adult theater in fact! Hallelujah! My dick was soon hard as a rock and throbbing like crazy. It's amazing that I didn't shoot my wad in my pants! The theater was small and crowded, no way that a gentleman like myself (what are you laughing at?) could whip my throbbing dick out and jack it off which is exactly what I felt like doing. When the show was over there was also no way that I could walk down the street with my tent pole sticking out (come to think about it, that might have made me pretty popular in certain sections of San Francisco!) so I slipped into the small bathroom of the theater and into a stall and with a few strokes of my right hand gave myself "the mother of all ejaculations", or so it seemed at the time. The next day I read in the San Francisco Chronicle that on that same evening the audience of the theater was arrested (just for being in a place where porn is shown!) along with De Renzy's manager. Whoa dude! That was too close for comfort! I decided not to visit the Screening Room again...at least until things cooled down!
As I mentioned before, the court soon put a stop to arresting audiences but it took a while, several years in fact, in some cities before the proprietors stopped getting hassled and arrested. What you could get away with in San Francisco or New York you definitely couldn't get away with in Peoria or Little Rock! I made several more trips to San Francisco and to the Screening Room and other adult theaters in the city that were rapidly changing over from softcore to hardcore films. Porn had not made it's way to the Sacramento adult theaters in the very beginning but it didn't take long. Soon I could enjoy XXX rated shorts and features in the Colonial, the same theater where I'd seen the first pubic hair/pussy shots a decade earlier. That being a bigger theater gave me room to find a spot away from other patrons and whip it out and jack it off as I enjoyed the show too.
It wasn't only me that was beating my meat in the adult flicks either. Pee Wee Herman was just unlucky when he got caught with his Pee Pee hanging out! If they would have arrested all the dudes that jacked off in adult theaters in those years, there wouldn't have been enough court rooms or jails in the country to hold us all! I'm sure it sounds crude and uncivil to some people (women in particular) but when you get highly aroused and your dick is throbbing...well sexual arousal is really what porn is made for, in particular if you are by yourself. Those sticky floors at the porn theaters were not caused by Coke my friends! Yup there was LOTS of jerking off in those porno palaces! When you saw guys on the hottest, driest day of the year going into the theaters with coats and raincoats (to put over their laps) you just knew there was something going on besides watching the movies. Most of us gentlemen indeed did put our coats over our laps but once in a while you would see some dude exposing his dong and beating his meat in full view of others. That was not good etiquette and neither was shooting your wad all over the floor. ("Ewwwwww!" say some of my female readers and I don't blame them!)
Gentlemen took some tissue or paper towels from home or from the rest room in the theater to take care of their eruptions and discarded those soiled tissues and towels in the trash cans that were conveniently located in the lobby. I am proud to say that the Horny Young Guy was a gentleman at all times...well almost all of the time anyway!
In the beginning and for the most part all the way through the porn theater era, audiences were almost entirely made up of males as you might expect. The classier theaters did attract some couples, especially in the latter years when the films got better but it was mainly just us guys and our dicks watching those nasty flicks in the dark. I can remember only a few times when I saw unescorted women in the theaters and they were almost always in groups of two or more gals, apparently just curious or attending on a "girls night out" lark. I remember having to zip it up rather quickly one night when a group of giggling babes took seats right behind me. Another time two women sitting near me were apparently more entertained by the gent in front of us (an obvious exhibitionist) who was whacking off without a jacket for cover than what was on the screen. That sucker did have one big dong though! Again these unescorted women, even women with their male partners were rare. For the most part then and now, women just don't care that much about hardcore smut...guess it's sort of like the Three Stooges to them!
The one exception to the no single women rule would be when you would occasionally see an obvious prostitute plying her trade, usually doing quickie hand job or blow job tricks in the dark. This was still pretty rare from my experience but there was one theater in the Sacramento suburbs that was famous for having whores available to give businessmen on a long lunch hour and matinee horndogs like myself a quickie blow job for $20. Yeah I took one of the babes up on her offer one afternoon. Not quite as good as a Mustang Ranch BJ but like they say there is no such thing as a bad blow job! In another suburban theater the whores were out in the parking lot waiting for their "johns" after the show. That was usually a bit too late for me...I'd already shot my wad at least once during the movies!
The hardcore shorts at the adult theaters were soon replaced by feature length porn and by then they didn't need to hide their explicit content in the guise of documentaries like "Pornography in Denmark" and "Man and Wife" any more. I believe the first full length fiction porno feature was one called "Mona", also known as "Mona the Virgin Nymph". It was about a babe who wanted to remain a virgin but was ready, willing and able to suck off her boyfriend or any other male she came in contact with. Damn! Where were the girls like that when I was in high school...or where have they been all of my life for that matter? While Mona was giving all those free blow jobs in public, her mom was letting Mona's boyfriend slip the big salami to her. Mom was an early day MILF I guess! "Mona", made by Bill Osco, was filmed in San Francisco, in fact partly at the Presidio Theater, one of the classier porno houses and in fact one I that I frequented on my trips to the big city. I sure wish I was there the day Mona was looking for a stranger to suck off. Some guys have all the luck!
There was quite a variety of those porn theaters by the way. Some were small storefront joints that had been converted from other retail businesses. Others were former neighborhood theaters (like the Presidio in San Francisco) or even downtown movie palaces that could not survive as mainstream theaters anymore. Some of the theaters were sleazy pits and others were quite luxurious and comfortable. In the peak days of porn we must have had a half dozen porno houses in Sacramento and well over twenty in cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles. There was a whole chain called Pussycat Theaters that I believe went nationwide. At least the Pussycat theaters were numerous and very popular here in the west. By 1972 porn was in every big and medium sized city in the country, even in many small towns. The court battles were all over. Legal movie porn on the big screen was finally here to stay!
The first blockbuster porn film was "Deep Throat" Made in 1972 for $25,000 it reportedly grossed over $600 million dollars in it's theatrical run which lasted for years. It's still making money as one of the most popular DVD porn titles in fact. In it's time "Deep Throat" was the talk of the country. Johnny Carson and Bob Hope were making jokes about it. For the first time celebrities and couples were attending porn flicks, that one in particular. You probably know the story...Linda Lovelace plays a woman who is having problems achieving sexual satisfaction. She goes to a doctor played by Harry Reems who discovers that her clitoris is down in her throat (!). You can guess the solution to her problem which is initially relieved by her going down on the good doctor's big schlong. What a prescription he must have wrote! Linda was able to do sort of a sword swallowing act with cocks and yeah she could eat the whole thing! That novelty made the movie!
"Deep Throat" looks extremely crude and amateurish today but it was the "Gone With the Wind" of the porn world for a while. It was the first porn feature that I ever saw that was in 35mm instead of grainy 16mm and at the time it did look very good up there on the big screen. I'm sure I jacked off during that one too! Ms. Lovelace later claimed that she was abused for years by her hubby Chuck Traynor and forced to do that film and other porn and I don't doubt her word. She will however always be remembered as the star of that film and the most famous cocksucker in history...at least until Monica Lewinsky came along! What a claim to fame! The film itself will be remembered as a phenomenon and a landmark porn film even though it's really not that good. There was much better stuff to come!
The Mitchell Brothers from San Francisco followed the success of "Deep Throat" with their own "Behind the Green Door" which starred Marilyn Chambers, a former model who had posed for the picture on boxes of Ivory Soap. Again that film was a tremendous hit and brought many more couples as well as all of us horny gents into the porn theaters. They followed "Green Door" with one of my all time favorites "Autobiography of a Flea" with luscious Jean Jennings and featuring "Long John" Holmes. This one was based on a classic erotic novel I'd read ten years earlier, never dreaming at the time that I'd see it as an explicit film. "Autobiography of a Flea" was directed by a woman and is beautifully photographed. It has been called "a hardcore 'Barry Lyndon'" and is one of the true porn classics. The Mitchells did several other films, some of them starring Marilyn Chambers, but none of them approached the quality of "Flea". The brothers days of working together in their extensive smut empire came to a sad end when one of them shot and killed the other.
From 1972 to about 1980 was truly "the golden age of movie porn". There were really some entertaining and erotic films made during that time. Of course there were a lot of bombs too but even the bad ones were usually enough to give you a stiff dick and a reason to whip the old dong out and give it some exercise if you didn't have your wife or girlfriend with you. Within a couple of years most of the films looked technically as good as the Hollywood product of it's time, in fact were frequently made by moonlighting professional crews. Almost all were in 35mm and color, well photographed and edited with decent musical scores. I looked forward to the new programs (usually double features) opening every Friday. I was a regular at the Pussycat and the other adult theaters in Sacramento, less so after my second marriage began but I never completely stopped going.
There were too many good porn flicks during that era to name them all but I'll mention a few of my favorites. Henry Paris, formerly known as softcore director Radley Metzger, directed some very classy flicks including "The Opening of Misty Beethoven"(above). Some call this one the best porn film ever made and I wouldn't argue too much there!), "Barbra Broadcast", "Naked Came the Stranger", "The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann" (another of my favorites) and "Maraschino Cherry", all by Henry Paris followed. These films were so good they actually played some of the art and repertory movie houses and a new phrase was coined for them and others of their class..."porno chic". Some of Paris's flicks had an S and M scene in them which I could have done without but otherwise they were a great combination of art and smut! They still look good today!
"Debbie Does Dallas" gets criticized for not being that good but I really liked it. Hey Debbie (Bambi Woods, a real ex-Dallas Cheerleader...I think!) was a real babe as were the other young women in the film. The sex scenes were well done and it had a sense of humor about itself. How could you ever forget that shower scene or the babe giving her boyfriend a blow job in the school library (some guys have all the luck!) or Debbie finally getting nailed by her boss Mr. Greenfield in his sporting goods store? I could and do watch that flick again and again. The "Debbie" sequels were unfortunately not very good. Most of them didn't even star Ms. Woods and got pretty ridiculous in the title department about the time they did "Debbie Duz Dishes" (really!)
There was also a series of films about high school and college girls (yes the performers were all of legal age!) that was lots of fun. "Little Girls Blue", "Good Girls of Godiva High" and "Fast Times at Ridley High" were three examples of that genre. Good looking young babes and lots of nasty sex...what more could any horny young guy or horny old guy want? Almost as good as a wet dream! There was a live action hardcore version of "Alice in Wonderland" that was a hoot. You haven't lived until you've seen Alice giving the Mad Hatter a blow job! Yeah this Alice was of legal age too. She was played by Kristine DeBell was a real babe and went on to be featured in some legit Hollywood films. Then there was a hardcore version of "Flash Gordon" called "Flesh Gordon" which featured Flesh, Dale Ardor, Dr. Jerkoff and some strange creatures called penisauruses. I love it! I could go on and on...there was definitely lots of good, boner inducing stuff made during that time!
A star system sort of developed. Besides Ms. Lovelace and Ms. Chambers you had Annette Haven, Seka, Georgina Spelvin, Nina Hartley and many others I've long forgotten. The guys in addition to Harry Reems included Eric Edwards, Ron Jeremy (who of course is still around!), John Leslie, Paul Thomas and the legendary Big John Holmes. Big John who had been around since the earliest days of 8mm. porno with his almost foot long dong made the rest of us guys feel totally inadequate every time we looked in the mirror. We really didn't much care who the guys in porn were anyway...it was those sexy babes who brought us into the porn flicks and if they wanted to do some lezbo stuff together...well that was okay too! Two babes doing the nasty is better than one!
The beginning of the end for porn in movie theaters was when the Betamax and then the VHS video recorder were introduced in the late 1970's. Some of the first titles ever released on videotape were the porno films mentioned above. "Why go to the movie theater when I can stay home and jack off while watching video?" thought Joe Sixpack. No more sleazy theaters (although they all weren't that way), no more worries about getting caught with your dick hanging out like Pee Wee Herman did. You could even watch the porn flicks with your lady and do some fucking or sucking on the couch or on the floor when you (hopefully) both got turned on. It really made sense and I was one of the first in my Sacramento neighborhood to buy a VCR and some porn tapes to go with it. At the time they were expensive, $40 to $60 a pop (in 1978 dollars...ouch!) Soon you could rent the tapes for a few bucks and you didn't have to buy them anymore. Mom and Pop video stores soon started springing up on almost every corner, most of them featuring an adults only porn section in the back room. There became less and less of a reason to visit the Pussycat Theater or any other adult movie house for most of us.
Above: Some adult theaters helped hasten their own demise by promoting the advantages of video porn with on screen ads like this and selling porn tapes in their lobbies.
Dwindling patronage due to video soon started taking it's toll on the theaters. They began to shutter as fast as they had opened or converted to porn ten years earlier. By the mid 1980's only a few porn theaters remained and most of them were showing poorly made VHS porn projected onto their big screens which looked positively awful. Classy porn shot on 35mm film was a thing of the past. Anybody with a video camera, a motel room, a couple of whores and a stud who could keep it up over ten minutes could and was producing porn. There were soon THOUSANDS of titles produced every year...and none of them very good. Nobody had a big enough share of the market to put any expense or quality into their product. The majority of the budget went into the full color packaging for the tape. The golden age of porn and porn theaters was sadly over just about ten years after it began.
It's now the spring of 2007 and nothing much has changed in the last twenty five years. There is still TONS of porn video out there, now almost entirely on DVD instead of VHS, and the great majority of it still sucks (no pun intended!) There may be some good stuff mixed in with all the shit but I have no idea how or where to find it. If pierced, tattooed, silicone boobed bimbos along with no plot, no dialog except maybe "Fuck me! Fuck me! Cram your big dick up my ass!", no production value...no talent!...is your thing, go for it! If face fucking and making women gag while giving blow jobs turns the modern young stud on or watching four hours of nothing but cum shots does the trick...well it's his life and his choice I suppose. I don't really mean to be too cynical nor am I passing judgement on what others consider erotic. Suffice to say that modern porn is just not to my liking and that is putting it mildly!
I do look back fondly on my days of attending adult movie theaters, both before and during the explicit era. From tits and ass only in burlesque and nudist films in black and white to full hardcore fuck and suck in glorious color on giant wide screens I saw it all and I'm glad I had the opportunity to do so. I'm sure it's an era that the world will never see again. Maybe high definition TV and increased bandwidth on computers will someday usher in a new golden age of quality erotica in our homes although I doubt that I will ever see it. On the positive side for now, many of the films from the golden age of porn (1972-1982) are available on DVD, almost all of them that I've mentioned here in fact. Most porn stores and video rental places don't seem to carry many of them though. You have to search them out and order them off the web. There's something to be said for watching these films in the privacy of your home but I still sometimes miss jacking off to new product at the old Pussycat Theater! Just call me a sentimental old fool! LOL
Oh I've rambled far too long on this subject but with no current female companionship, I have lots of time to babble incoherently at my computer! I mean I can't play with my weenie 24/7, can I? Hmmm...as a teenager I may have come close! Hey if you want to read a much more scholarly and yet very readable essay on the era I've been talking about check out THIS ARTICLE from Time Magazine (of all places!). Thanks again for reading this crap. See you on Thursday with my Celebrity Jack Off Fantasy for the month of April. Yeah I know...you can hardly wait! LOL The balcony (of the old Pussycat Theater) is now closed! Bye Bye!