Hoping to take my mind off my romantic failures, I decided to pay a visit to porno’s version of the public library: the adult video store. My local branch was a sad, fucked-up smut shack named “Stan’s of Hollywood,” down on 3rd and Western.
The energy at Stan’s was foul beyond belief – it was profoundly weird, and desperately lonely – but, like all porn stores, Stan’s constituted an edifice of epistemology: a tiny berth from which to behold, and perhaps decode, the byzantine history of smut.
And make no mistake, Stan’s selection was impressive. There were so many tapes, in fact, so many staggering pyramids of cleaved genitals and crimson buttocks, that if you faltered, even for just a moment, vertigo and giddiness could take over and you’d be dragged into an avalanche of poor decision-making, leaving the store hundreds of dollars poorer for it. Over the years, I’d learned to be careful. With plenty comes mediocrity; and not all tapes can be trusted.
Entire eras, in fact, are suspect. I’ll come right out and say it: I dislike most pornos from the 1970’s. Film buffs can go on all day about the celluloid-laden “Golden Era,” but the truth is, ninety-nine percent of those movies are garbage, embarrassingly crude follow-ups to the more imaginative and better-shot exploitation films that preceded them. Even standout efforts like the Mitchell Brothers’ Behind the Green Door and Radley Metzger’s The Opening of Misty Beethoven both feel like they’ve been written in a single afternoon by some half-smart fourteen year-old boy. And not that it especially matters, but the wank factor on those films is so low that it’s almost not worth mentioning.
Of course, the films that followed them were no more skillfully conceived; if anything, their scripts were even worse. What’s exceptional about 1980’s pornography, though, is the music. Everyone jokes about the “campy” wah-wah of 1970’s porn-tracks, but that funk-band-in-a-box sound isn’t campy – it’s unlistenable. The 1980’s ushered in Video Sex, but it was also the Age of the Synthesizer; we shouldn’t forget that. The fuckings of superstars Randy Spears, Tom Byron, and Peter North (and the women! That aggressively coked-up, highly-aerobicized, poison-silicon-betitted clan!) were set to the strangest of Keyboard sounds. To me, the retarded computer-generated loopings actually work: complementing videotape’s bleary, vacant resolution to perfection, Synth-sound created a production value that is Lo-fi at its very best. It provided an ambience that underscored the abject, majestic cheapness of pornography – its poverty of connection, of hope.
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