Let’s say it’s 1955, and you’re starting to get into porno. It all began at your local drugstore — the magazine section, specifically. The lurid covers on Stag or Sir! or Man’s Life grabbed your attention: a giant grizzly bear attacking a lone camper; a man swimming furiously to a boat as bright-red water moccasins, fangs out and ready to strike, are closing in; giant crabs attacking a near-hysterical dude in tattered clothes on a lonely beach.
And once you got to know the drug store clerk a little better, he probably showed you some of the “good stuff” he kept behind the counter…always behind the counter, so the church ladies wouldn’t call the cops: Titter and Wink and Beauty Parade and Flirt. He might have even had a copy of Tropic of Cancer or Lady Chatterly’s Lover! And no, unfortunately he’s not carrying Hugh Hefner’s newest magazine, the one you’ve only heard about.
In the back of all those magazines were ads aimed specifically at your demographic: skinny men getting sand kicked in their face, only to return weeks later looking like the Incredible Hulk; lonely hearts clubs; Blackhead Removal contraptions and cheap guns and karate lessons; and, of course, ads for “stag films”. For just $2.00 (almost $20 in today’s money), you could get a movie so thrilling, so lurid, so…unsuppressed, you just couldn’t help yourself but buy one.
(By the way, a decent projector would have set you back another $50 or so, or about 1/2 a month’s worth of rent in a decent New York City neighborhood at that time).
But a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do, and what you don’t have is a gal. Or, you’ve got a gal, but nothing’s happening until you’re married, and the dates are chaperoned by her mom and dad. You save up for a while, then go out and grab the newest, most bad-ass 8mm movie projector (the Kodak Royal — “quiet…brilliant…lubricated for life!”), and then send a company in Hollywood, CA, a couple more bucks (I swear it seems like all the porno companies were based in Hollywood then, which, of course, makes sense)…and a few weeks later, something awesome arrives in your mailbox. It’s in an unmarked, brown package…or, sometimes, in a package that’s labeled anything but “dirty movies. Something like “Tulip Seeds”, for example. (I didn’t make any of this up, as I’ve seen hardcore porn from the 40’s and 50’s at flea markets in original mailers).
Your first movie ordered? Something really filthy. You decide on a title that caught your eye — “Startling Show in Paris” — because it’s so dirty, it could only have been made in the world’s seediest city. And in the first few seconds of your new, great possession, you recognize the title of the strip tease the woman’s about to perform from your high school French class. “The Love of the Apache”. How…savage! You don’t recognize the stripper’s name, Robin Jewel, but that’s ok. You’ll order the Lily St. Cyr or Bettie Page or Blaze Starr or Tempest Storm movie next week (maybe all four!), after you get paid.
Look at the way she snatches that cigarette out of his mouth when she enters! The way she works that room! Her sheer, black hose! Those high kicks! Wait! Can you see her cootch?! It’s all just too much. Your brain melts after the first viewing. Nothing you’ve ever seen, ever, could match Robin Jewel! After your 50 feet is up and the film is spinning wildly in the take-up reel, you set the projector to neutral, stop the take-up reel from spinning, click the take-up reel’s arm up a notch, thread the film back to its original reel, flip the switch to rewind, and wait a minute or so until it’s ready to thread through the projector again.
Just you, that dark room you’re sitting in, the Kodak Royal humming for another 2 minutes…and Robin Jewel. Dancing the dance of those wild Indians.
At that moment in time, life didn’t get much better.