Sunday, March 18, 2001

Porn peddlers

CEOs in raincoats

        General Motors, the biggest brass in the corporate army, is peddling porn.

        “General Motors sells more graphic sex films every year than does Larry Flynt, owner of the Hustler empire,” says the American Family Association. As owner of DirecTV, GM makes $200 million from X-rated trash.

        AT&T also has a slice of the $10 billion-a-year U.S. porn industry. It offers a hard-core sex channel, Hot Network, on its cable service.

        Hotels are hustling smut, too. Sleazy, X-rated movies are now as ordinary as mints on the pillows in 40 percent of hotel rooms.

        “You would fall off your chair to see what's on TV in the major hotels downtown,” said Phil Burress, president of Citizens for Community Values (CCV).

        Mr. Burress said Time-Warner Cable and the City of Cincinnati are also involved in “white collar porn.”

        “Every time someone watches adult pay-per-view on Time-Warner, the city gets 5 percent of the revenue from the cable contract.”

        At the CCV banquet Monday night, 500 people donated $129,000 to fight porn. The battle against Larry Flynt is not over. It's just moving north to Butler County, which is home to 12 of the 19 porn shops in greater Cincinnati.

        At the CCV banquet, they played a Larry Flynt video. The CNN news clip was rated G, but it did contain graphic stupidity: two 16-year-old girls in the Hustler store in Monroe, giggling that it was “cool,” and Mr. Flynt, bragging about being the champion of indecency.

        He boasted that his Monroe store is as close as possible to Hamilton County, just over the Butler County line. It still eats him up that he was run out of Cincinnati in the 1970s, and his gross videos were banned at his new downtown store in 1998. But he knows the list of sheriffs and prosecutors who are double-tough on porn is a Who's Who of Lawmen in Southwest Ohio.

        With one exception.

        Former Butler County Prosecutor John Holcomb “didn't see it as a problem, I guess,” said Mr. Burress.

        Mr. Burress thinks that's because a top official in Mr. Holcomb's Democratic Party was Barbara Tomaino, whose husband, Peter Tomaino, owns two VIP Video stores in Butler County that specialize in hard-core porn. “There was a sign hanging out in Butler County: "Porn is welcome here,'” Mr. Burress said.

        Whatever the reason, that sign is coming down. Mr. Holcomb died last year and was replaced by Republican Prosecutor Robin Piper, who pledged to enforce Ohio's pornography laws.

        That's bad news for VIP Video, Hustler and Bristol strip club, which is being zoned into extinction.

        “It's like the Civil War, you can't measure it by any one battlefield,” said Mr. Piper, who is now walking point. “I believe most people don't understand the indirect harm pornography causes. . . . I'd say that in 65 percent of the child molesting cases I've handled, porn and obscenity was involved.”

        Mr. Piper is looking forward to the day when he can ask pro-porn lawyers what part of seeing a woman tortured and raped is socially redeeming art.

        CCV is passing petitions to ask Butler County commissioners to give Mr. Piper a full-time prosecutor and investigator to fight porn. They should do it.

        “It's not popular to be anti-porn. And it's not popular to be for it,” said the CCV's banquet speaker, columnist and TV host Tony Snow. “It's popular to be neutral.”

        Which is how we get X-rated hotel movies and smut from Chevrolet.

        Mr. Snow, who grew up here, was glad “Cincinnati still knows the difference between right and wrong.”

        We should be glad, too, that some people fight to keep it that way.

        Contact Enquirer Associate Editor Peter Bronson at 768-8301; fax: 768-8610; e-mail: Cincinnati.Com keyword: Bronson.


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