Wayback Wednesday column: The thankless job of reporting on porn

Madison porn movie column

We travel far back in time for today’s impromptu due to a major snowstorm Wayback Wednesday column — to March of 1987 — March 25 in fact as the helpful time stamp notes. I keyed in the text of it below so the column is easier to read.

But first, some back story.

I was in the Times-News Sports Department when this was written, but also offered movie reviews to the news staff on occasion. I volunteered to attend the obscenity trial in Alamance County Superior Court this day because the whole thing seemed . . . weird. I thought it might really be a freak show. Figured it would make a good column. It was a freak show. Someone else would have to determine the merit of the column itself.

I actually knew one member of the jury, a pretty huge coincidence once you consider I never, ever covered anything but sports back in those days. He was a former professional baseball player named Jim Holt, who once famously played in the World Series for the Oakland As. He worked overtime that day to avoid direct eye contact with me.

The reporter providing actual news coverage of the trial was my now longtime friend Eddie Huffman, a Burlington native who recently moved to Greensboro and is the author of   book about songwriter / singer John Prine.

So, here’s the column. A real blast from the past.

—-

GRAHAM — I thought if anyone had a free pass to the hottest show in town it was me.

Hot? Sizzling was the word. Scalding. Burning hot in my back pocket.

Porno movies — legal and free — in North Carolina for one day and one day only.

Skin and more skin — playing Tuesday — at the Alamance County Courthouse.

Being an intrepid member of the press, I knew it was my bound duty — no matter how vile and disgusting — to attend.

I pictured legions of curious gawkers attempting to slip into what would be an overcrowded room. People of all descriptions working their way into dank corners — lining the walls for what used to be routine fare at the Circle G Drive-In. And of course minors, hoping to have their prepubescent questions answered in a matter of hours, would have a field day trying to find an open path by wary court officials.

It all seemed so sordid — and exciting.

Adam & Eve, a mail-order house that specializes in adult videos, sexual devices and magazines, had been on trial for just over two weeks. The charge? Eight felonious counts of dissemination of obscenity under North Carolina law.

Five hours of videotapes were scheduled to play on Tuesday in an attempt by prosecutors to define obscenity under so-called “contemporary community standards.”

I was ready for . . . anything.

Except what I got.

It was, in a word, boring.

By the time the indefatigable Traci Lords had coupled with almost everyone within arm’s reach in the 90-minute film, “The Sex Goddess” (innocuously titled “People’s Exhibit M21) it was readily apparent that in no way was the jury getting a clear definition of “contemporary community standards.”

But they were finding out what a “Sex Goddess” was — I think.

But of course Ms. Lords, after leading her merry entourage through a series of sexual encounters culminating in one big happy orgy, had a tough act to follow.

“Gourmet Quickies” starred the equally capable Vanessa Del Rio. Vanessa was no “Sex Goddess” but she was pretty quick nonetheless. And despite her limited vocabulary, which was a sum total of about six interchangeable words, she was always able to clearly express her wants and needs.

That’s a pretty mean feat when you stop to consider that her efforts were backed by the worst combination of atonal Muzak ever heard by human ears.

It was sordid all right, but hardly exciting. Painful might be a better word.

And I guess the upshot of it all is that no sideshow broke out. The throng of Alamance County’s indignant, mischievous and maladjusted failed to materialize at the door.

It was quiet, eerily quiet. A bizarre freak show for lawyers, reporters, graduate students and just a handful of the curious. A sparse gathering in a brightly lit room alternately watching, then turning away, from the 40-inch TV screen.

Alamance County did not care and by this time neither did I.

“In many ways I’m glad for this trial. It gets this thing (censorship) out in the open once and for all,” a legal type said to me just before noontime break. “But on the other hand, it’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever been involved with.”

I couldn’t agree more. So after taking in just enough of the matinee show, “The Ultimate O,” I adjourned myself to a nearby tavern.

For now, at least, I know what a “Sex Goddess” is. I’m still working on “The Ultimate O.”

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