The other month I wrote an article for Vice about the Little Theater, Newark’s last and finest theatrical den of smut. It was nice to share the story of Newark’s rich sexual and cinematic subculture with a much wider audience than this humble blog reaches, but it came at the cost of paring things down to 1200 words, sacrificing some of the history I wanted to present. I get it: Vice readers might be interested in the fact that men are still attending porn theaters and curious about what goes on inside; they are less likely, collectively, to hold a deep interest in the Little Theater’s development from ethnic grindhouse to multicultural cruising spot or its role in Newark’s cultural history. Continue reading
I had intended to write this a while ago, but then got distracted writing a piece on Utah’s asinine declaration of pornography as a public health crisis last month; that ran on Salon, which has a vastly larger audience than this humble blog, but the truth is, I find writing here more fun. So, back to Newark. Continue reading
If part 1 of this Brick City smut saga ended with the Cold War, part 2 began here, at a talk last year by Gail Malmgreen at the New Jersey Historical Society, discussing her work on the wonderful Newark Archives Project.
Well, that caught my attention. As did learning that Newark’s Legion of Decency left its files to Seton Hall University, just outside Newark city limits in neighboring South Orange. Continue reading
It’s been a porny month here: I wrote a piece about Playboy for The Conversation (mostly about how the magazine wasn’t porn, but still); I gave a talk about Porn Studies at the University of Oregon, then drove (!) from Newark to Madison, Wisconsin, to give a paper on the editing of adult films on VHS at the Film & History conference; finally, I’ve put in some labor-intensive editorial work on a collection about pornography in the 1970s that should finally come out next year (more on that later).
It was all tremendously refreshing, in the sense that I had been suffering from smut-overkill after writing two books on the matter. My academic interests had shifted toward leftist film history, the Queer Newark Oral History Project, and other things that I’ve been working on lately. But meeting a dizzying roster of scholars, archivists, and writers working on porn (and exploitation film)—Peter Alilunas, Chuck Kleinhans, Laura Helen Marks, Casey Scott, Dan Erdman, Kevin Heffernan, David Lerner, Finley Freibert, Maureen Rogers, and more!—really highlighted how much exciting work is going on in this area, and reinspired me to stay engaged with it.
All of which is a preface of sorts to this, a sketch history of pornography in Newark. For a few years, I thought maybe a history grad student could write a strong master’s thesis on the topic, but since no one is beating down my door to do that, I figured I’d take on the project as a sheer labor of love and write this as a sort of indulgence, to wallow in a world where no copyeditor can strip me of my semicolons (look ma; no grammar!). It also gave me an excuse to finally visit the Newark City Archives . . . but I’m getting ahead of myself. Continue reading