Friday, January 09, 2015

Aphrodite Shuddered - Chapter 8 (revised)

Chapter 8
(Mostly) True American History

Late-June 1986
Owing to the combustible mixture of sizzling temperatures, high sexual tension and excessive alcohol consumption, summertime in the US is often referred to as The Silly Season, and Americans tend to blow-off political steam that time of year. On occasion, especially in wartime, they express their seasonal exuberance by rioting in the streets, but in most years they just have angry public debates about whatever hot-button issue the media happen to be hyping at that moment. Due to the influence of a conservative electorate (and the absence of a major war), the media's boogiemen of choice during that summer of '86 were drugs and pornography.

The re-election of President Roland R Regulus in 1984 had seemingly reaffirmed the conservative social policies that his administration had espoused in his first term. Not surprisingly, though, there was a severe dichotomy between political ideals and societal reality. Although the administration paid heavy lip-service to family values, law-and-order and all-around clean living, the volume of hard drugs being smuggled into the United States had never been greater. To help combat this drug crisis, the First Lady - Nan Regulus - earnestly advised America's youth: “Just Say Uh-Uh”.

Here's a perverse example of the Regulus Administration's get-tough-on-criminals policy: Since the early-80s, the White House had been flouting federal law by illegally funding anti-Sandanista insurgents in Nicaragua with the proceeds derived from the sale of TOW missiles to Iran. However, after a congressional hearing blew their cover in 1985, the president's operatives needed to find new surreptitious sources of cash. By mid-1986, rumor had it that profits from cocaine now flooding-in from Columbia were being used to finance the administration's private war on communism in Nicaragua and El Salvador. But about that sordid subject, the nation's major news organizations remained silent.

On the pornography front, the ultra-conservative US Attorney-General Edwin Moose got the summer silliness rolling by publicly denouncing the newsstand display of obscene materials such as Playboy magazine, as well as vilifying “filthy lyrics in rock and rap so-called music”. Those public statements were laughable, but what occurred next was not very funny: one of America's most famous (or infamous) porn stars, Tammi Lorraine (born Wanda Mae Glutzenheimer), who purportedly was in her early-20s, caused a legal firestorm upon announcing last week that she was only 15-years old when her “motion picture” career began, three years before. She had managed to gain employment in the porn industry through the use of a faked California driver's license obtained from her mother's sleazy no-good boyfriend. During the years in which Miss Glutzenheimer was a minor, her producers had released dozens of titles featuring her - all of them top sellers.

Attorney-General Moose responded within 24-hours by ordering the largest search-and-seizure operation in American history. Federal law enforcement reacted so quickly that it seemed like the Department of Justice had been poised and ready to pounce, as though Tammi Lorraine was part of a government sting operation.

So, thousands of FBI agents and US Marshals, in search of her illegally produced hardcore films, immediately began conducting raids on every adult video outlet and distributor in the country. Producers and distributors who had ever marketed Lorraine's sex films soon found themselves in jail. And over the next week, almost a million copies of her tapes and films were pulled from store shelves and eventually destroyed. At the same time, Moose issued a statement warning private owners of her films/tapes to destroy all of them in their possession - or else face a prison term if caught with them (I sheepishly admit to having once owned a Tammi Lorraine sex tape, although I had already thrown it away long ago due to its being worn-out from repeated viewings).

The FBI's parallel investigation of the interstate commerce in pornography revealed additional illegal films (unrelated to the Lorraine case), touching-off a wave of mass arrests in the environs of San Fernando Valley, California, where most commercial X-rated videos were produced. Then Congress quickly sprang into action (an exceedingly rare occurrence indeed): the House Majority Leader fast-tracked stringent new federal laws requiring producers of X-rated films/videos to maintain meticulous records on all performers and to verify their legal status as adults, on pain of a harsh prison sentence. The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations issued subpoenas to leading porn industry producers, ordering them to testify before the committee (but not until after Congress' four-week summer vacation).

Around the nation, church groups and concerned mothers picketed and chanted slogans (“NO MORE PORN!”) outside the dwindling number of adult movie theaters, which by now were being supplanted by home video. The only people still patronizing them were those in the market for a prostitute or who couldn't afford a VCR.

In Seattle that summer, one of the last remaining adult movie houses in the city - The Embassy Theater - shut its doors permanently after a pipe-bomb exploded inside its nearly empty auditorium. A few days later, the United States Attorney for Seattle, flanked on either side by the Prince County Prosecutor and Sheriff Pat Nuttingham, announced at a press conference the federal RICO indictments of various “officers” of the BWM gang. The gang, as an entity, was charged with the production and interstate transport of child pornography, and conspiracy to promote prostitution across state lines, along with more mundane charges of money laundering and drug trafficking. This was all very surreal to me, after having played a small role in this affair.

As for Tammi Lorraine, things turned-out rather well for her. Legally, she got off scot-free and managed to use her current notoriety as a springboard to a mainstream movie career, with cult comedy producer/director Jim Walters having recently signed her to a three-picture deal.

Eventually, the federal criminal charges against Tammi Lorraine's agents and producers were quietly dropped, for one very embarrassing reason: Two years before, while Tammi was still a minor, the government had issued her a US passport on the basis of the same phony driver's license she had used to get hired in adult films in the first place! 

Copyright 2014 by K.D. Bishop 

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