Looking for information / contacts on the adult film business in San Francisco in the late 1960s / early 1970s

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I'm currently working on an academic history of "sexploitation films" from the 1960s and 1970s. Of particular interest to me is the period covering 1967-1972 when San Francisco became very prominent in the production of adult movies. I'd be very interested in talking to or interviewing people who were involved with the business, either in front of or behind the cameras (shorts or features) or who worked in the theaters during that period (such as the Roxie, the Gay Paree, the Peerless, the Sutter Cinema, the Screening Room, the O'Farrell). If you regularly attended any of these theaters and have memories of the period, I would like to hear them. I'd also like to speak with people who knew, or know the whereabouts of, people such as Arlene Elster and Lowell Pickett (from the Sutter), etc. Finally, if you have pictures of any of these theaters from the time, fliers, etc., or know where I might be able to access some of the more difficult-to-find early features (Love, Yolanda; Stright Banana, etc.), I'd be very interested in talking to you. Thanks for your help.

Dr. Eric Schaefer, Associate Professor, Department of Visual and Media Arts, Emerson College, 120 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116 (617) 824-8861

-- Eric Schaefer (eric_schaefer@emerson.edu), April 15, 2003


Hmmm...."What's my Motivation?" Here is my experience with the S.F. porn industry in the early (very early) 70s. My boyfriend and I never set out to make a porn film. It was January of 1970. We were just a couple of hippies, hanging out in the Haight Ashbury, not much going on. We both were looking through "The Berkeley Barb", one of the popular hippie papers at the time, checking out the ads. We were both broke, and needed some money. So there was an ad that said:"Get paid to act in a short film", and we thought: "Wow, far out! Let's go for it!" So, we went to the place (on Sutter Street), and found out that it was for Alex DeRenzy's Studios (he was the most famous San Francisco Porn film maker at the time). Well, we didn't want to back out at that point, and besides..we were hippies - you know - free love, etc. So we said: "Yeah, okay!" At first they didn't believe that I was 18 They kept saying: "She looks 14!". So, I didn't have an I.D. card, but I showed them my birth certificate. It proved that I was 18, so the "auteur" (really the guy with the camera, who also directed)drove us REAL FAST in his little red sportscar to a house in Berkeley, that had a huge velour-covered bed, and not much else. The director lit a cigar, and said: "Take off yer clothes!" So, we did, no problem. "Okay, you're both gonna hafta take a shower. There's the shower!" He pointed us to the bathroom, a huge bathroom, with a fancy shower - gold faucets, marble, etc. So you know...we were kids, we were amateurs, right? "GIT IN THE SHOWER!" We got in the shower, and turned on the water. Only trouble is, I like the water really hot, and my boyfriend liked it cold. While we were arguing about the water temperature, the director was turning all shades of purple, green, red, blue....very Christmassy, actually! The director looked at my guy, and yelled: "Just git started! YOU! Come on...RUB SOAP ON HER TITS!" So, my boyfriend mechanically rubbed soap on my breasts. Well, I thought that I'd "perform", so I grabbed some of the soap, and rubbed my guy all over with it, moaning all the while...at first,the "director" said: "Yeah, Baby, that's more like it...yeah...get into it!" But then,I guess I started to over-do it, because he said: "Alright, Already! Fer Chrissakes, you're not making an epic here - this is a F*CK FILM!!!!" So then, the water of the shower was splashing all over the place, and I noticed the cameraman had his lights exposed (sounds suggestive), and were plugged in (also sounds suggestive) to the power. "Hey, Dude, you know, electricity and water don't mix...you could get a nasty jolt there!" So the guy tells us that I'm right,that we need to get out of the shower, on to the bed. So, we did that, and it was more of the same kind of direction. My B.F. was limp, and we were trying desperately not to laugh..I did what came naturally....my guy was on top, and I put my legs up high on his back, and just rubbed against him...well, I got a little fun out of it! After awhile, the director said: "Okay, that's a wrap!"(what a laugh), and we put our clothes on, were whisked back to San Francisco, each given $30.00 cash(was worth far more back then, than now), and for the next week, we had a blast on that money. We went out to the movies, out to eat, and took in the town. The only drawback was that my boyfriend's parents went to see those little porn films every week! So, we sweated a little bit about their seeing it. That l;ittle film was at the end of the SF porn "silent" era...a short while after that, we noticed that the films became more sophisticated. It was my only acting gig in a porn flick, not really my "thing", I discovered.

-- Deb Wong (deb_wong@hotmail.com), April 15, 2003.

What, may I ask, does this have to do with SF history? Maybe those brothers who had the O'Farrel Theater?

-- SFHE editor (chunkylover53@sfhe.tk), April 16, 2003.

Yes, you're right - Alex DeRenzy was at the forefront of the San Francisco porn industry, along with the Mitchell brothers (here is a photo of DeRenzy when young):

and a link to a site about DeRenzy:

Remembering Alex deRenzy

Here is a little more info:

Highly important figure in the history of American explicit film. His 1970 "Censorship in Denmark - A New Approach" was the first hardcore film shown at a commercial theater in the US, and many of his subsequent features are cult classics today. Always had a sense of the narrative and emotional eroticism of perverse situations.

Porn was brought from the back-streets to the mainstream in the early 1970s by two directors: Alex DeRenzy and Gerard Damiano. DeRenzy directed several ground-breaking documentaries on pornography, including A History Of The Blue Movie (1971), which featured uncensored clips from many explicit 'stag' films. DeRenzy's documentaries emphasised pornography's historical and cultural significance, and porn came to be recogised as a subject for study and discussion rather than prosecution. At the same time, Damiano's Deep Throat (1972) became porn's cross-over hit. Damiano recognised that, with changes in structure and publicity, porn's explicit content could be rendered acceptable to a wider audience. Unlike most previous porn films, Deep Throat was feature-length, with a script and a plot, its sex scenes thus being justified by the narrative. The film was popular with couples, and played in mainstream cinemas, its success being dubbed 'porno chic'.

Indeed, San Francisco in the early '70s was capital of the booming hardcore porno industry which native sons Alex DeRenzy and Jim and Artie Mitchell had pioneered in 1969.

In 1971, the brothers produced the porn classic Behind the Green Door, launching the career of adult film actress Marilyn Chambers. It cost $60,000 and grossed almost $30 million. The film was the beginning of a long series of successful feature-length productions for the Mitchells. They never claimed to be making masterpieces. "The only Art in this business is my brother," Jim claimed.

-- Deb Wong (deb_wong@hotmail.com), April 16, 2003.

u r one sick man!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

-- gladys (gladysugley2003@yahoo.com), July 14, 2003.

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