The Last Gasps of the Dying
Sometime in the early 80's, I found myself living on the streets of downtown San Diego. Because of a combination of need for cheap shelter and active teenage glands, I discovered the dark and taboo world known as adult video arcades. To give you an idea of the time, let's do a quick rundown as to what was happening during that period. The pornography industry was moving from producing expensive Super 8 film loops to making cheaply manufactured videotape. The video arcades were all but killing the adult film theater industry. More money was flowing into the booths, while less and less was going into the movies. So much so, that just about everyone was attempting to grab a piece. Those were the days when promiscuous sex was just winding down. Even in ultra-conservative San Diego, just about anything went, all in the name of competing for two bits. A person could get a room the size of a small coat closet with relative privacy (except for the occasional doorknob rattling, or oral sex offer coming from a hole in the wall) for the price of a quarter for five minutes. For a homeless youth, you really couldn't find a cheaper place to crash. For several months, I more or less lived in these cabanas of lust and sin. They were far cheaper than any fleabag hotel, and in some cases far cleaner and safer.
Those were the days before the general public knew about the Internet, and online porn.
When I set out to write this article, I intended it to be a review of all of the smut palaces that reside within the city of San Francisco. But after making notes covering the third adult smut shack, I began to notice a pattern emerging that has now changed not only this article, but my outlook on these places as well.
With technology advancing at an incredible rate, one no longer needs to visit a business that carries the latest videos or magazines. And why should you? You can easily download the same thing off the Internet for free. This in itself has spurred the whole porno industry to play a hectic game of catch up. Look on any USENET porn-oriented newsgroup, and you and will see a half-dozen advertisements for porn-oriented web sites, offering just about every sexual concept imaginable. Most of them charge a fee.
This has become extremely popular for a number of reasons. Mostly because, like their adult bookstore counterparts, the web sites are highly organized and concept oriented. Want to see an orgy? Log onto www.orgy.com, and take your pick from live shots, videos that you can either download or order overnight, or fill up your hard drive with the pictures of your choice. All this can be done in the comfort of your home.
This is what adult book/video stores are in competition with. Because of this, the quarters are not dropping as much. In order to raise its income back up to at least a satisfactory level, the industry has been making some interesting modifications. Some places no longer offer the twenty-five-cent preview booths. Instead, they offer six-dollar preview booths, allowing you to choose one movie to watch all the way through, from beginning to end. Those that do offer the twenty-five-cent machines now insist on a minimum three dollar token purchase, or have shortened the allotted time per token/quarter down to as low as thirty seconds.
The thriving industry of porno video is also looking at hard times ahead. Less than a few years ago, you could rent or buy a video at a fairly low cost, and be assured that it would be a quality product. Now, you have to be very picky, or else you will end up paying for 120 minutes of a Ron Jeremy outtake, looped over and over.
As business declines, the smart smut places are getting out as quickly as possible. Most are slowly in the process of turning themselves into exotic tourist traps that can easily be compared to the mall-based Spencer's Gifts. Those that haven't figured it out yet, try to find new--and in some cases very bizarre--ways of attracting new business. In one instance, I found a place advertising a videotape that featured an 86-year-old actress. Interestingly, most porn places are now offering smut on computer disk. Unfortunately, most of it is being sold on obsolete disks.
But even as the industry draws mortal breath through a sucking chest wound, there is a pocket or two of survivors. These are places that have carved out their very own niche. I applaud these places for their originality. For going against the grain, and for generally providing quality smut. With pride, I give you my recommendations.
North Beach Video & Movie
When I last visited this place many years ago, they carried mostly S&M videos, and everything that Russ Meyer had ever done. Imagine my surprise at being greeted by an entire wall of scat videos as I walked through the front door! And that was only the tip of the iceberg. The further in I went, the more bizarre the material became. While other places offer material, such as a bound and gagged 50-year-old grandmother in spandex being gang banged, as an expensive alternative to the vast norm, this sort of thing is all North Beach Video carries, and all they ever will. The prices, depending on the genre or fetish, range from reasonable to very expensive. So bring your checkbook. If you are not sure about a title, they have preview booths located next to the cleanest video arcade I have ever seen in my life. Frankly, if the helpful and friendly staff can't help you find what you want, then no one can.
This place has been around forever, and for good reason. Where else can you sell off all your magazines and videos for a good price, or trade them in for a new collection? Magazines and videos range in price from $20 to $50, in every genre you can imagine. But don't think for a minute you are going to get some overpriced sticky magazine filled with Playboy images. Au contraire, the proprietors of this fine establishment know porn inside and out. If anything doesn't meet their standards, they will bluntly tell you to throw it out, and why. If you don't mind buying used, or just generally looking for a damn good deal, this is the place to start.
So there you have it. In my opinion, only two smut places will survive--as their smut peers collapse around them like burning houses of cards. I predict the level of desperation that is currently being witnessed now is a mere prelude to things to come. And I for one am looking forward to witnessing all the frantic maneuvers that will occur.
Over the next two years, I'll be visiting various merchants of perversion. Do you know what I'll see? I certainly don't. The nearest estimation I have is a freakish sex nightmare that even Salvador Dali himself would marvel at. And will it work? Will it give this lumbering dinosaur of an industry the income it needs to sustain yet another day? I doubt it. I really don't see surrealism going over big with the general porn consumer. Sure, there might be some people who would go for that kind of thing, but like everyone else, they will find their particular fetish fulfilled, compliments of the Internet.