In the lobby, vintage movie posters adorn the walls and mirrors; huge gold vibrators hang from flower arrangements on the stair banisters; and a Good Vibrations table offers catalogs, videos, condoms, and lube, as well as some interesting new items like the Fleshlight -- a large gray male masturbation toy that is squishy and warm inside -- or the Shatki, a ribbed, snake-shaped, marble-colored dildo that can double as coffee table art. Upstairs, in the mezzanine, Queen greets close to a hundred industry professionals -- porn writers, actors, distributors, and producers -- who schmooze over champagne, stuffed mushrooms, and sushi.
Panelist Jamie Gillis, who boasts one of the longest careers in porn history (pun not intended), holds court at a small table surrounded by fervent admirers wearing gold spandex, sequined tube tops, and boas. (It's a '70s thing.) Gillis is the man, I am told by a greasy-lipped gal in a bustier, responsible for On the Prowl, a movie concept poorly represented in Boogie Nights that brought regular schmoes off the street to have sex with porn actresses on film.
"This is before video, you understand," says Gillis' fan before insinuating herself into his conversation.
Annie Sprinkle, pornographic "goddess" and author of Post Porn Modernist, arrives with her abundant red tresses and more abundant cleavage. Cris Cassidy, a highly regarded '70s and '80s porn star who went on to produce her own lesbian movies for Tigree Video, fields questions along with Candida Royalle, founder of Femme Productions, erotic entertainment for lusty hetero ladies. Richard Pacheco, the Golden Age's "best character actor," poses with Megan Ishlar, a writer for On Our Backs, the country's first all-lesbian porn magazine.
"These are true sexual adventurers," says 44-year-old Lonnie Bonacuro, a porn enthusiast who dished out an extra $50 in the hopes of meeting Pacheco in the flesh. "They're all great, but Pacheco was more than just a dick. He was the one I fantasized about. He helped me realize myself."
"I could act," assures Pacheco, a family man who quit the business when the AIDS epidemic made headlines and has been working on his memoirs, tentatively titled Even When It Was Bad It Was Good. "But I was sexually unreliable. I was not an exhibitionist. The humiliation was off the scale. You can't imagine. Forty people watching while you try to get a hard-on, and your dick feels like it belongs to someone else."
According to Queen, Pacheco had a cock-double in his first adult movie, Candy Stripers, but any shortcomings he demonstrated on the set, he more than made up for off camera.
"The real hot sex happened behind the scenes," admits Pacheco. "I was going at it with Nina Hartley in the bathroom one time. She was sitting on the sink, and it collapsed. Water came shooting out of the floor. It was pretty funny."
In the theater, casual and not-so-casual fans fill the seats. The turnout is impressive, even by San Francisco standards. A quick poll suggests that most in the crowd haven't seen tonight's movies on the big screen. In fact, most in the crowd were still in nappies when the movies were released. For them, the "Sexual Revolution" is a concept from sociology textbooks.
"From what I know," says 22-year-old Justine Durieux, "adult movies were actually movies back in the '70s. They had scripts and plots; they were shot on film; they were meant to be seen on a big screen. I'm a film student, you know. I can appreciate that."
"She just wants to see a 15-foot penis," counters her friend, punching her in the arm.
"Well, you know," titters Durieux. "This is a good place for it."
Indeed, after a little warm-up music from the Castro Theater organ player and a brief history lesson from Queen (who is, we are assured, wearing underwear), the lights dim and we are taken on a whirlwind tour of the Golden Age of adult cinema: a delightful song-dance-and-fuck routine from the X-rated musical Alice in Wonderland (1976); a sidesplitting baby-talk scene from Naked Came the Stranger (1975); the disappointing screen debut of Sylvester Stallone in Italian Stallion (1970); a surreal moment of life imitating art imitating life from Deep Inside Annie Sprinkle (1981), during which Sprinkle enters the theater and sits down beside people watching an explicit movie in which Sprinkle enters a theater and sits down beside people watching an explicit movie; the famed trapeze-masquerade-orgy scene from Behind the Green Door (1972); a hyperartsy boy-on-boy 69 workout from El Paso Wrecking Corp. (1975); a Goethean discussion of death in Devil in Miss Jones (1972); a culinary piss scene in Barbara Broadcast (1977); the more-than-full-screen presence of John Holmes in Legends of Porn; and the rarely seen, nearly unbelievable fisting scene from Maraschino Cherry (1978).
"Uh, yeah, that was interesting," says Durieux as the lights come up and panelist Pacheco removes his face from the crotch of panel moderator Queen. "The fisting scene was a bit intense though, huh? I mean, it was really, um, gooshy, and she was so small. I mean, you know what I mean, his fist was so ....
"That's enough pornography for a little while, I guess."
Not so for everyone.
At the Roxie, a line winds down the block for the first of two sold-out midnight showings of Disco Dolls in Hot Skin, a 3-D porno from 1978 starring John Holmes. Roxie booker Elliot La-vine is pleasantly surprised.
"We've always danced around the idea of playing porno," says Lavine. "Hot Skin had the added quirkiness of being in 3-D and being dated, but I thought if 50 people showed up it would be a miracle."
As it is, Lavine turns away over 50 and there are still folks sitting in the aisles.
William Mangold, who plays Harry Balls, a sadistic embezzler who drowns women in soup while fucking them, makes an appearance for the film's reopening. The crowd is thrilled and he is regaled as the celebrity he believes himself to be.
The lights dim. Red-and-blue cardboard glasses appear. The chant begins: "3-D porn! 3-D porn!" The first sight of Holmes' fifth limb in 3-D brings a roar of disbelieving laughter. The first money shot brings riotous applause. Soon, the crowd is in full swing, shouting, "Open up!" or, "Harry, you're an asshole!" whenever appropriate. There is chatting and much laughter as folks try to outdo each other's witticisms. Aside from the blow jobs and bad acting, it's hard to believe we're among 250 people in a theater watching pornography; it feels more like a viewing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show -- without the squirt guns. (Note: Bring squirt guns.) There is already talk of return groups.
"Well, we like to give the people what they want," says Lavine in wonder. "We'll keep running it until there's no more interest."
Disco Dolls in Hot Skin plays at the Roxie Theater Friday and Saturday at midnight until further notice.
By Silke Tudor