Steve Turtell – Boys before Playboy: Poodles and Porn on Commerce Street (1975)

Chuck Connors as The Rifleman
Chuck Connors as The Rifleman

Ma, a.k.a. Sydney Chandler Faulkner, had two older friends, Mack and Nelson, a long-term couple who’d met in the army during WWII and had been together ever since. They raised poodles and published The Poodle Review, a monthly magazine for other breeders. When they had company, they kept the dogs out of sight in the basement of their two-story, 1899 townhouse on Commerce Street, just in from Seventh Avenue South. Once a month they invited friends over to help get the latest issue into the mail. We were paid five dollars and a substantial dinner to sort the subscription list by country, city and zip code and place the bundled magazines in the proper USPS canvas bag to be delivered the next morning. The big night of the year was the annual stud issue; every serious breeder advertised in it and the magazine was three or four times the usual thickness and required that many more canvas sacks.

It was easy pleasant work, the repetitiveness relieved by Ma’s risqué wit – about an inept lover he complained: “You know, he’s the type who likes to make his own hole.” And he once asked a departing boyfriend “Can you make it through the door without a shove? Do you need a kick to make it down the stairs?” I once laughed so hard I spit out Mack’s cornbread.

On special nights, once all the sacks were full and the dishes cleared, there was a screening of one of the many silent films Nelson had. His collection was among the largest in the world and he frequently sent copies of obscure titles to museums and film festivals all over the globe.

Some of these films never left the house, i.e., the ones from his private stash of porn films of young actors who later became famous. It was not always possible to be sure that, for instance, it was really Chuck Connors, and not a lookalike, who’s large swinging dick flopped against each thigh as he swiveled the cowboy slim hips we all loved on The Rifleman. Not that we cared. It was fun listening to Sydney assess the ease or difficulty with which he would deal with every penis on view. We never doubted his abilities, as many friends could attest to them. He once amazed me and Peter Hujar when on a dare he described, in unbelievably exact detail, the penis of any person we selected who walked by on Christopher Street. When we could verify it, we both admitted he was one hundred percent accurate. Peter chalked it up to a form of ESP, developed because of Ma’s single-minded devotion to the pleasures of oral sex.

Fun as this was, my favorite film ever was not a fuzzy, scratchy glimpse of someone who might (or might not) have played Eddie Haskell on Leave It To Beaver, but an animated, black and white, Swedish version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Forget Disney. Forget The Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson. There was nothing virginal about the heroine, and it was hard to imagine the dwarves had ever been anything other than the raunchy, bearded lechers who, as they walked out to work every morning, looked back at the gingerbread house with such perfectly rendered lust the animators could have gotten a job with any film studio they chose. They also depicted Dopey as less stupid than stupefied by Snow White waving goodbye from the window, her breasts delicately resting on the sill, the nipples a darker black than the window-frame.

While it was pornographic, there was more wit than porn, especially in the climactic scene, immediately following the dwarves return from work and a return to the pleasures of Snow White. Dopey was the last in the door, moving so fast he looked like one of those Japanese men who shove passengers into the trains during rush hour in Tokyo. But once the door was shut that was the last we saw of any of them. The remaining few minutes were all viewed from outside the house. Which lost its soft, gingerbread curves and now stood proud and erect and then began to sway like an underwater reed, while the walls seemed to breath in an out, in and out, faster and faster as the chimney got longer and fatter, the white coping on top the chimney morphing into you guessed it and suddenly the whole column vibrated like a tuning fork until it spurted volcanically – shooting thick streams of, yes, those are clouds which rise up and join the other clouds floating in the sky above Snow White’s house and the house comes to rest and the scene settles down to a vision of eight columns of cigarette smoke emerging from the soft, shrinking chimney. The smoke streams weave a delicate pattern in the sky as the credits begin and we’re left with the lovely suggestion of all eight members of the household enjoying their post-coital bliss in the capacious bed we’ve never seen.

Other than the brief glimpse of Snow White’s breasts, there was not a single image that could be described as hardcore porn. Not one penis, no suggestion of a vagina, but, to this day, the single best cinematic depiction of orgasm I’ve seen other than the moment in Russ Myers’ masterpiece, Beneath the Valley of the Ultra Vixens, when the film itself seems to rock back and forth or that delicious final image in North by Northwest when Cary Grant (now there’s a star I would have loved love to see “perform”) corners Eva Marie Saint in the sleeping car and Hitchcock (who’s name suddenly seems pornographic in this context) cuts to a shot of the 20th Century Limited (a pornographic century if ever there was one) penetrating, uh, I mean entering, a tunnel.

Steve Turtell

First published on Steve’s blog, March 19, 2012.

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