I Saw this Movie about a New York Sex Theatre in the Sex Theatre the Movie is About
The Adonis Theatre was originally a legitimate theatre built by Billy Rose for Fanny Brice.
That alone should have made it a landmark on 8th Avenue between 50th and 51st.
In the mid-70's, the Adonis Theatre opened as "The Flagship Male Theatre of the Nation." Such ephimeral folklore of the 70's era pornographic movie houses is unimaginable to most people.
There is no such thing as a porno theater--straight or gay--anymore. Only videotape and DVD is used, never film. The interiority of life comes more quickly to some realms than others.
It was a vast movie house, very grandiose with a large orchestra area and a big balcony with its own "lobby," which had wicker chairs that gradually were broken down.
In 1977, when Jack Wrangler was the top gay male film star, this film was shot inside this thriving den of male furtiveness.
This had a most extraordinary effect to go into a theatre and to see a movie about the theatre that was showing it.
I thought Wrangler very exciting at the time. It was possible to find the exact parts of the theatre while they were showing on the screen. It was possible to become a mimesis of Wrangler in the exact theatre seat he is filmed in in the film.
Later,in 1990, I met Jack when his wife, Margaret Whiting, the great 40's and 50's pop singer and I (a pianist) were both performing in a mutual friend's wedding.
I no longer found him particularly attractive, but he was charming and funny.
I took a cab with them from the wedding at Marble Collegiate Church here in New York to the reception on Sutton Place.
Jack sat in the middle and at some point told me about a drug of some sort that was "used for sex."
I thought that that was hilarious since it seemed so ineluctable once it hit the air. I am always relieved to find people who don't pretend to be completely other than their image.
I suppose I didn't exactly respond well with a mild pause and then saying "Is Bessie Love still alive?" which Margaret would be the only one of the two to be likely able to answer. However, Jack did know about other old Hollywood stories, about Rudy Vallee's museum to himself in the Hollywood Hills for one; and in his 1983 book WHAT'S A NICE BOY LIKE YOU DOING? he details some experience he had directing Betty Hutton and some other legit names in stock companies--Ruth Roman, some others I can't recall just now. It was fun.
He quit the porno business after AIDS became widespread and has done a good bit of directing--including directing the couple who got married in 1990 in comedy routines for Caroline's and Don't Tell Mama.
But the Adonis was interesting. You could do anything there; it was a kind of Dark Paradise.
The Adonis was moved to 44th Street and 8th Avenue in 1990, and that closed also in 1995 (although that was just turned into a peep show sex toy place called The Playpen and is still there), when all the adult theaters began to be closed.
The old Billy Rose-Fanny Brice Adonis Theatre building was razed in the late 90's to make way for another high-rise apartment building in the Worldwide Plaza complex.
A former roommate of mine moved into an apartment with her boyfriend in this new building. I managed to get in there where I helped her with her English--she was Slovenian--in a college paper; I wanted to see what it felt like to be in the building where an old classic had once ruled. Her boyfriend was Korean and my current roommate, her Slovenian best friend was showing him around Slovenia while she had to stay in New York, because she had hit a wealthy woman in the face with a purse in a cab near NYU and could not leave the country, although she only had to do a little community service, during which a black fellow offered her money for a blow job.
My current roommate came back to stay with me another year and the Korean kept the apartment in the building where the Adonis used to be, but my former Slovenian roommate moved out.
She discovered his porno collection and the coconut oil he used for masturbation--which he preferred to actual sex with her.
Nevertheless, with all this paltry new vice, there was was a real sense of loss, that the place had changed.
Very shortly afterward, I had little choice but to go to Hollywood to find a controlled version of what had been thrown away here, bulldozed.
Fortunately, it was there. (These things usually are not.)
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