Monday, July 24, 2017

"All purveyors of obscenity will be exposed for what they really are."

This week's HMOTD episode covers the Herb Tarlek brush-with-mortality tale "Straight From The Heart," and WKRP's second bite at the zany mistaken identity sitcom plot apple, "Who's On First?" Both episodes are solid, with "Who's On First?" providing a lot of laughs. But we spend a lot of time talking about the setting of "Straight From The Heart"'s final act, Herb's final sanctuary as he hides from the reality of impending heart tests at the hospital: a 3D porn theater.

Rob and I are well-equipped to talk about all the myriad ways in which neoliberal, corporate consolidation in the early '80s hit the mom and pop businesses of America, be they funeral homes, wrestling circuits, or indeed radio stations. But we maybe don't provide the same righteous oomph defending America's down-home purveyors of smut.

We have talked local Cincinnati porn magnate Larry Flynt and his taking on the titans of the print porn industry in HMOTD 024, but in this episode we go deep into porn theaters: their brief flirtation with respectability during the Deep Throat early '70s, their slow decline back into sleaze as depicted in media like Taxi Driver, and their eventual purge from the centers of major cities in the sanitized 1990s. In the midst of our standard HMOTD tale about corporate consolidation wiping out small businesses, we discuss their value (and other businesses like dirty bookstores) to marginalized communities like urban gay men. We also touch on perhaps our generation's first encounter with the concept of the porn theater, the arrest of Paul Reubens a.k.a. Pee-wee Herman.

Given that most of these theaters were operated or extorted by organized crime, our brief discussion of depictions of Italian-Americans in media during "Who's On First" can be considered a nice unintentional coda to our porn theater discussion. But mostly it's just funny to hear us stumble, hem and haw as we try to understand the appeal of the sticky-floored XXX theaters of yore. Be sure to join us in a couple of days for a look at WKRP's entrance into the world of vice when HMOTD 042 drops!

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