Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Hot Child in the Bunk-Bed
All I ever wanted was the glamorous life of a child pornography star.
I was ten years old and in the right place at what most consider now to be a very wrong time.
Musically, my ripe-for-psychoanalysis dream was embodied by “Hot Child in the City”, an impossibly lurid come-on by Nick Gilder.
In addition, “Bad Girls” by Donna Summer, with its sassy streetwalkers and garish images of neon-splattered urban sin, supplied even more context.
But “Hot Child in the City” and “Bad Girls” were, for me, a long time coming.
Forget Jaws and The Brady Bunch and disco sucking and Pet Rocks selling. The ’70s media sensation that ruptured my development irrevocably was the omnipresent coverage of shag-carpet-era Sexual Revolutionaries at their libidinously most unbridled.
The news, in its every format, came consistently ablaze with talk (and Films at Eleven!) of wife-swappers, swing clubs, nude beaches, topless bars, massage parlors, Hef & Gooch & Larry, and--above and beyond all--dirty movies.
My obsession started, healthily enough, with plain old movies. Life was horrible. Movies were not. I wanted as much relief in motion-picture form as I could get. Combine this with what overcame me when I stared at (and dug crotch-level holes in the carpet over) the Naked Lady Golf Tees in the Spencer Gifts catalog and the onward progression of my mental well-being pretty effectively froze right there.
And all that went down when I was around seven.
I started volunteering to pick up my grandmother’s daily newspapers in order to study the New York tabloids’ Arts & Leisure spots for the auteur efforts of Gerard Damiano and Little Oral Annie’s celluloid showcases.
When I was finally old enough to ride my bike off the block, I spent most Saturday mornings in Ponce-De-Leon-like exploration of Brooklyn, only I wasn’t hunting for any Fountain of Youth. I peddled, instead, on the lookout for Fountains of Spew, wildly two-wheeling for hours on end to find adults-only bijous. One would turn out to be the first porn palace I ever sneaked into -- the Cinema Kings Highway -- and it's still open and running (yes, very much like a sore)!
Once there, I’d park my bike on the opposite corner and stare. And stare. And stare. And muse while I was staring about what must have been going on inside. Of course, if pressed, I’m not sure I could exactly define exactly what I thought that was. But it was . . . sexy. And it involved naked ladies. This is what mattered. Sexy naked ladies. Doing sexy naked-lady things. All sexy, all naked. All naked and sexy. I really couldn’t put it into words, but I knew the name for it. It was the universally preadolescent term for all such heady concepts: Playboy.
First handling of Playboy: November 1975. Location: a laundry hamper used to store my family’s extra bedding. Rightful owner: Pops McBeardo. Centerfold: lush, soft, sweet, redheaded Janet Lupo (pictorial title: “Hooray for Hoboken!”).Cover story: “Sex in Cinema ’75.”
The entirety of my subsequent existence ignited at that moment of my discovery of that issue. I had a purpose: Get more Playboy. See more boobies. And butts. And whatever lay beneath Janet Lupo’s heaping stacks of lap-fro. More importantly, I needed to see the type of movies that were featured in the “Sex in Cinema” section. SOON. But how . . . ?
After much thought--and I mean more thought than any seven-year-old has ever expended on anything--I hit on my solution and cried out: “I NEED A SAILOR!”
Ain’t than an adorable thought--slight, towheaded tyke McBeardo (who some people still mistook for a girl at this point) out there propositioning sea dogs for hands-on assistance in my carnal development.
Here’s what I was thinking: What kind of gentlemen normally frequent venues of fleshly repute? The answer: Military men. And Navy dudes always seemed to be carrying around those big duffel bags everywhere--duffel bags that certainly appeared sizable enough to encase a quiet second-grader, even with my raging one-inch “extra.”
Thus I dreamt of slipping some swabbie a couple of bucks (from my First Communion booty, no less) in exchange for his stashing me in his gunny sack and then taking in a porn flick. I was more than willing to sweeten the pot if he’d pack the satchel with Playboys and a flashlight.
I mulled over the feasibility of this plan for years. Fortunately, I didn’t have much opportunity to dawdle much near New York’s waterfronts. Then.
Ferociously fanning the flames of my precocious skin-screen passions were the bizarre, only-in-the-’70s succession of “adult” adaptations of beloved storybook favorites. Please understand the confusion generated in my impressionable libido by the likes of The Newd Adventures of Snow White (1969), The Ribald Tales of Robin Hood (1969), The Erotic Adventures of Pinocchio (1971) – and I was a Pinocchio nut to begin with – The Erotic Adventures of Zorro (1972), The Erotic Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1975), and The Amorous Adventures of Don Quixote (1976).
This puerile soft-porn succession led to two masterpieces of the form, the R-rated musical Cinderella (1977) with Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith and the bluntly titled omnibus Fairy Tales (1978), but only after the all-out assault on the senses mounted by the hardcore Alice in Wonderland (1976) across the summer of the Bicentennial.
“The world’s most popular bedtime story now really is a bedtime story. . . .” So intoned a kewpie-doll female voice in saturation radio spots touting the X-rated Alice that cropped up between spins of “More, More, More” by crossover (and connectible) porn queen Andrea True.
Coincidentally or not, the masturbation market’s curiously literal foray into childishness was followed, on a mass scale, by heightened public interest in the Real Deal.
Kiddie porn erupted all-encompassingly onto newsweekly covers, New York Post exposés, and every edition of ABC’s then-fledgling, Geraldo-powered 20/20, along with au courant installments of Starsky & Hutch and Lou Grant.
In addition, arguably higher-brow endeavors poked about in the same junior-size used-panties hamper. For instance, at your local art theatre (please note the “re” spelling), sophisticates could take in Brie-breathed filmmaker Louis Malle’s Pretty Baby (1978), wherein model/actress/sexual-dynamo Brooke Shields exhibited roughly the same amount of her raw physical being as Marilyn Chambers did in any given Mitchell Brothers production. And Brooke was a perfect ten. As in, born just a decade earlier.
Brooke then followed up Baby by announcing on TV commercials and extremely lickable print ads that nothing came between her and her Calvins. Get it?
I got it. I got it ALL.
My closest access to the black-market peddling of the pink-and-hairless, however, came via the Golden Age of the Made-for-Television movie.
Leading the pack was Linda Blair’s twin towers of genuinely seamy small-screen teen tempestuousness: Born Innocent (1974), with a proto-Abner-Louima misappropriation of broomstick that will forever elicit incredulous shrieks of “THIS was on TV?!”; and Sweet Hostage (1975), the blueprint for Vincent Gallo’s Buffalo 66 in which loony-bin coop-flier Martin Sheen kidnaps and falls for the pudgily pubescent future coke-squeeze of Superfreak Rick James.
Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway (1976), stars Jan Brady (Eve Plumb!), helmed by the director of Grease and The Blue Lagoon (Randal Kleiser!) and featuring the finest-ever use of “Cherry Bomb” (by The Runaways!).
Huge props, as well, get doled to Diary of a Teenage Hitchhiker (1979), wherein Charlene Tilton extends more than her mere thumb, and Off the Minnesota Strip (1980), the tale of a Mare Winningham as wayward filly who returns to the Heartland after some time working passenger seats along New York City’s infamous underage hooker boulevard.
Even Sooner or Later (1979), a bittersweet rock-and-roll coming-of-age story that went on to keep Rex Smith in dinner-theater paychecks for decades, exudes an inescapable pedo vibe.
Sooner follows a 13-year-old groupie girl who passes herself off as 16 to captivate the too-tight trousers of the pseudo-Frampton played by Rexilicious. Again, this was a nonjudgmental prime-time depiction of a junior-high-schooler doing what was necessary to get laid.
The movie’s spin-off love theme, “You Take My Breath Away,” performed by Smith, became an AM-radio smash. I thought it was “gay.”
Decidedly NOT “gay” however, despite its eerily androgynous vocal, was an insomnia-sparking creepout that shared Top 40 space with Rex Smith titled “Hot Child in the City.” The artist was Nick Gilder. The lyrics go as follows:
“Danger in the shape of somethin' wild
Stranger dressed in black, she's a hungry child
So young to be loose and on her own
Young boys, they all want to take her home
Hot child in the city
Hot child in the city
Runnin' wild and lookin' pretty”
Mr. Gilder’s opus was ultimately translated into a 35-mm X-rated motion picture. I know this because I accompanied my mother on a shopping trip to Red Bank, New Jersey, one summer afternoon just to get a glimpse of the poster for Hot Child in the City: The Movie. It was playing at The Strand, a hardcore pull-yourself-palace smack in the midst of Red Bank’s otherwise charming antique stores and cozy cafes. I can’t stress enough: It was the ’70s. Nobody noticed.
The gottadamerung of Network Kidporn Programming, though, remains Fallen Angel (1980), starring the since-deceased Dana Hill (Audrey Griswold in the second Vacation movie) and Richard Masur (Ms. Romano’s schlemiel boyfriend on the first season of One Day at a Time) as muse and molester. Respectively.
Fallen Angel’s opening shot depicts a boy and a girl, maybe twelve, leaning into what looks like a romantic love scene. Suddenly, the boy, who’s shirtless, flubs his line of dialogue. An irate auteur shouts, “CUT!” and the camera pulls back to reveal a Hollywood-scale motion-picture set with grips, gaffers, a clapboard guy, Panavision equiment, towering lights, a craft-services table, and an army scurrying to placate the frazzled filmmaker.
This was the television industry’s idea of how child pornography got made.
And it sure looked all right to me.
At last, I understood the “truth” about child pornography: Those kids got to get NAKED and got to have SEX. And they got PAID to have NAKED SEX! And the more NAKED SEX they had, the more they got paid and the more bonuses they scored--wicked shit, too, like puppies and pinball machines.
From then on, a (now) distressingly dominant share of my daydreaming was dedicated to imaging myself as a Child Pornography Star.
I envisioned lightin’ out of Flatbush all Huck-Finn-like on the F train (I swear, it was really the “F” train). Destination: Times Square.
Upon arriving at the Crossroads of the World, I’d seek out one of those “Chickenhawks” that I’d been studying up on. These were the child pornography industry’s talent scouts--keen-eyed gents in the know who corralled sweet-faced young-uns into the bang-biz.
The movies always depicted Chickenhawks as the “bad guys” but, to me, they’d be my ticket to hot times between the sheets with an endless succession of elementary-school lovelies, where I’d perform brilliantly and be rewarded with Coleco football games and all-the-root-beer-you-can-guzzle wrap parties.
Of course, I was suffering under the idiotic delusion that child pornography depicts its subjects enjoying warm, giggly, mutually groovy hetero high jinks. The raped-to-death and tossed-in-the-trash reality of such business didn’t really occur to me.
For a while.
Still, a boy can meditate to the tones of “Hot Child in the City” and imagine hanging out with high-heeled “Bad Girls” and hump the mattress of his bunk-bed and dream, can’t he?