From the Distribpix Archives, all content ©Distribpix Inc. All Rights Reserved
For the last month, I have been fortunate enough to have a college student, acting as an assistant in my archive, doing many things, but primarily, his job was to continue on the never ending mission of digitally scanning through our archive. Not large scale stuff, like posters, but rather the countless filing cabinets of contact sheets and their respective negatives, racks of binders of 35mm color slides from the shoots, boxes of 8×10 glossies from all the sexploitation films, old theater shots, original VXP and Sweetheart theater mini catalogs, shoe boxes of never before seen photos, rolodex contents and even daily planners, etc.
As many of you have seen, there is a daunting amount of photo material in the archive, all one a kind and rare. So little by little, we are chugging through it, and backing up our files daily. As much as I love this type of nostalgia, I am drawn to the more personal ephemera, particularly shots of the people who were part of the actual landscape of classic erotica. No matter if they were on the big screen, the owner of the company, the projectionist or the janitor. None of them survived without the other. With the current state of technology today, it is easy to see how and why, many of us take for granted the actual workings of the golden age of erotic films. People today think that they would shoot a film, take it to theater, BAM. It was so much more involved than that and the mechanics of the industry were as complex and fine tuned as they are to this day, maybe even more so.
I have had several people as part time assistants, and this guy was by far the best. He was a worker and smart as well, and technical. He could handle scanning slides, organizing digital files and packing DVD’s at the same time. He did a great job helping me digitize some great ephemera. Almost 14,000 individually scanned files over several months- from contact sheets to business cards to catalogs. He was one of many who have helped me chisel yet another notch in the arduous task of unraveling the Distribpix legacy, which is Pornography in New York. Distribpix is Pornography in New York and more!!
I wanted to share a few of the more recent pictures from the golden age of NYC erotica, these have been hidden away for over 30 years, it is a pleasure to see some of them.
Joe Sarno and Gloria Leonard were both key players in the early days of New York hardcore. Joe was making films when he met Arthur and Howard, but he was still growing as a filmmaker. It is safe to say that he is a as synonymous with Distribpix, like bread and butter. Gloria was a legend in her own right. This photo was taken around the time that Joe directed, All About Gloria Leonard( 1978-79), which was a popular film from Video-X-Pix.
Annie Sprinkle and Distribpix/Video-X-Pix Founder, circa 1982. Annie Sprinkle was essentially discovered by Gerard Damiano while she was working at a theater out west. She followed him back to New York and the rest is history. She was vibrant, kinky and collected. As far as I know, this is has never been seen before and totally exclusive.
After legendary Bobby Sumner ran the World Theater is was taken over by the owners of Distribpix. The ran it with several other theaters that became part of the legendary Sweetheart Theater chain (The World, The Orleans, The Circus Cinema, The East World, The Harem). Arthur was a true businessman, and when it came to making a buck, he had the brains and the balls. He really did help to create and industry and move it along. His business sense was as keen as it could get. He would eventually own many theaters in NYC, and the surrounding areas.
Well, if you thought that Distribpix was isolated to only New York, your dead wrong. As much as it was a NY based institution, Howie and Artie, had branched out to the west coast, to make sure that their films would have equal representation in the theaters of Los Angeles, as well as other west coast venues. Those were the days, but not long after, 35mm began to die and of course for Artie and Howard, that was an obstacle that they conquered with ease( VIDEO-X-PIX and VIDEO SHACK). It really is an intense story and I am hardly able to scratch the surface. He talks about it with much passion and we have recorded so much of it. It is almost much better told by him.
Now, I want you all to listen up! Take a moment and make sure you digest the following little tidbits. This is a window display of the Flagship Video Shack on West 49thst, 7th and Bway, which was owned by Distribpix founders. As many of you know, it was the first and certainly the best, of the big biz video chains, that had created and helped to define home video.( 20 plus locations). In other words, like the slogan boasted, ” WE HAVE THEM ALL”, and they did.
Anyway, so this is a shot of the last window of the store, and the display is all ADULT product, nothing else, and what is the product? It is all Video-X-Pix product in the window. Next to the Video Shack, you can see the entrance to the porn theater, All American Girls is showing. That theater is also owned by Distribpix founders, and they operated it. So here is the lesson, which is obvious when you hear it from me, but it took me many years to see all of this and actually put it together. So they owned some of the best real estate in NYC, on that block they owned and operated a huge video store, which sold their own Video-X-Pix produced adult product, next to a theater that showed their own 35mm productions( and others)……….Holy shit, are you with me, talk about a little fucking empire! No doubt, the rents in NYC are as high as they can get. They got in at the right time, they had the brains to create and pave a niche and the drive to succeed.
The story can go really deep and as much as I want to tell it all, it is for another time. We may produce a short documentary that focuses on the basics of Video Shack, or bring back the brand in the form of a blog.
When I was around 7 or 8 years old, the words- Al Goldstein, Seka, Porno and Video were commonplace. I did not have the most typical upbringing. Totally normal in the sense that I would go to school, was an average(or below) student, and hung out. Not typical, in the sense that I was constantly surrounded by the adult business and I have 2 brothers, as well. So you got 3 boys, living and breathing this biz, all living in the same house. There were pictures of my father and Al Goldstein on the walls of our home and when I look back on it now, the pictures were hanging up, because he was proud of Al, and proud of their relationship. I still have those pictures, and they are amazing. I know I met Al, when I was a young boy, and have no actual memories that I had of him and me interacting, other than seeing him in my father’s office.
Al Goldstein, hopefully now resting in peace, is pictured here in much younger and thinner days. He is in the Distribpix offices eating cake and possibly celebrating the release of All About Gloria Leonard, or maybe not. I have not shown this to my father yet, but he is very quick to remember the most random stuff, and he may be able to identify the context of this photo. In order to discover the context of some of this ephemera, I have to almost act in a forensic manner.
The great Syliva Millhauser (my mom’s mom and only surviving grandparent), my grandmother, worked at one of the Video Shack locations on Long Island, I think it was the Carle’s Place store( I have to double check). She was an amazing employee and worked their for so many years. She is still alive and I want to interview here before it is too late. She would take me to work and I loved to stay with them, in their tiny apartment in Little Neck. My mother would drive me to Queens, and I would stay with her so many times. My grandpa Jerry would leave at 5 am and take the train to the garment district, where he worked for his entire life, until he was canned, it was sad. Oddly enough, at that time, the Video Shack on 49th st, was a cash machine and to keep grandpa Jerry busy, my father gave him a job as a security guard, to keep an eye on the ADULT room in the back of the store, which was a hot commodity. So my grandpa continued to get up at 5 am and head into the city, but instead of going to the garment district, he headed to Video Shack.
This amazing shot, shows grandma Sylvia, working the porn counter and working it well. Look at that selection in the glass counter. It is the mecca of adult VHS! I remember her so gracefully charging someone’s credit card for hundreds of dollars of VHS porn( which was like 2 movies)! Or asking why they did not rewind Debbie Does Dallas. Again, it is in hindsight that I realize all of this.
“Take Your Sweetheart to a Sweetheart Theatre”!! The Sweetheart Theatre chain consisted of 5 film houses- The World Theatre, The EastWorld, The Circus, The Harem and The Orleans. These were all prolific film houses, some more historic and important than others. The World Theater had an amazing reputation and if you had your movies play at the World, it was a good thing. It was like, ” If it is playing at the World, it must be great”. Gerard Damiano’s Deep Throat premiered at the World in 1972 and so did many of Radley Metzger’s films, such as The Opening of Misty Beethoven in 1976. The Circus around the corner was more gritty, but also a cash cow. I grew up around the theaters, I was too young to be a patron, but it never stopped me from going inside. I would go along for walks to pick up money bags from the theaters, with large men, that carried guns. I hung out with a Philippino projectionist named Raleigh, who would lift weights in the projection booth, between reel changes- NO JOKE. He was packed with muscle and if I remember correctly, he was a runner up or a winner of the Mr. Philippines contest, before he came to the US. I mean, I was thrown into this projection booth and I would peek down into this packed theater of perverts, it was awesome. I remember once, going down to the front entrance and asking for a soda and candy bar. I am not sure if I was even 10 years old at the time?
I hope you enjoyed my little mini tour of some of these rare and unique images, there are so many more stories and images, they really can fill volumes of coffee table books, but right now, I have to get some sleep. Long live New York’s golden age of erotica.