REAL STORIES
BY REAL PEOPLE Search
Sunday, December 10, 2017

Deep Throat, The Movie--Lettuce Fields and Feed Lots.

Credit:

In 1973, you could smell El Centro, California, long before you cruised past the lettuce fields and the city's beckoning "Welcome" sign. If you arrived at the proper time, that being around 4:00 pm, the aroma would make your eyeballs sweat. That's when all the cows were led to the troughs for their daily meal. A basic law of physics immediately comes into play. In order to add "mass" to an already full container, first, the past mass of the container, (the interior of the cow), must be "eliminated". The cause and effect of these actions were instantaneous. The resulting offensively unpleasant odor is something that demands imagination rather than definition.


At the time, my company owned the two movie palaces in El Centro. When we bought the Crest and the Fox theatres downtown, the purchase involved a "player to be named later" and that "player" turned out to be the Brawley Theatre in Brawley, California, about ten miles up the road. Profitable operation of the "The Brawley Theatre" was problematic from day one, when one "crunched" the numbers, it was determined that in order to make a single shilling for our efforts, over 50% of the entire towns' population had to appear at the box office every week, 52 weeks a year. The other two theatres were marginal at best.

Our competition was a drive-in located directly next to the feed lot. There's romance for you, take your girl and go sit in your car in 100 degree plus heat, enveloped in a cloud of "brown-house" gases. It doesn't get better than that. The only other source of real entertainment was the Owl Cafe and Card Room, down on main street, you could "shoot the shit" at a 4 am breakfast with all the heavy hitters in the lettuce biz or you could get skinned alive by the same guys in a game of five card stud later that evening. The Imperial Valley, at this time, was to say the very least, "entertainment challenged."

So one day, I was having lunch with my friend Vince Miranda, close to his office on Western Ave. Vince and I were both involved in a "charity" that we each held near and dear, "The Variety Club International", and we were discussing an upcoming event. I guess I should also mention that Vince was the owner of the Pussycat Theatre chain in California, the largest chain of porno theatres in the state. Vince was a real character, but a true gentleman.

At the time of our lunch, the phenom porn flick, "Deep Throat", had just opened in some theatres across the U.S. and Vince was telling me how he had grossed over $100,000 in one theatre in Hollywood, in a week. That was an astounding figure for any theatre much less a porno palace.

I wanted "in", a phone call was made and a few days later a brown paper bag with $10,000 in greenbacks was given to a certain "gentleman" at a coffee shop in Hollywood. The terms of the proposed "engagement" were laid out very clearly.

"Yoouse, get one print of the film. The $10,000 is a deposit against 50% of whatever yoouse gross in your theatre in El Centro. One of our "associates" will be at the front door "helping" you count the patrons as they enter.", said the nose. It continued, "If the cops grab the print, it costs ya $2500 to get a new one, if the cops throw you in jail and take the print, it's on yoouse....once you have earned the guaranteed deposit, you pay our "associate" 50 cents on the dollar every night." Pretty simple and straight forward.

Arrangements were made for the "opening" of the film for the following week and ads were placed with the local paper, The Imperial Valley Press". A reporter there called me and did a quick interview, which was printed the next day. The "buzz" was quick and intense and then a few days later the proverbially shit hit the fan. With less than 36 hours till "opening", I received a phone call from the just, honorable police chief of the fine burg of El Centro.

"Steve, I just want you to know, that if you attempt to show that trash in our city, you and your manager will be arrested within five minutes of the start of the film. We will seize the film and you WILL spend, at the very least, the weekend in jail. I have in my hand, a warrant executed by the county judge---Plain and simple, that is what is going to happen."

Now, that's a conundrum, don't play the picture and I lose the ten grand (the distributors were not the kind to offer a refund). Or play the picture, get the print seized and go to jail. I didn't care for either option. Everyone in the entire Imperial Valley had heard the news and reports on the local radio station were right on it. KROP a.m., (nobody would make that name up.) was reporting that the city would shut down the theater on Friday night, if "Deep Throat" opened.

After plenty of frenzied discussion at my office, a decision was made, and we set forth upon a path of no return. We simply moved the "opening" up the road to the Brawley Theater, out of El Centro's jurisdiction, hoping for a better reception from the local dignitaries. We didn't place new ads, we had no time for that. On Friday morning, we simply put "Deep Throat" on the theatre marquee and called the radio station to let them spread the news.

Within an hour, I received a phone call in my Tarzana office from a Brawley City official. The conversation went like this:

City official..."Ah, Mr Lane we have heard that you might be thinking about showing that "porno" picture here in Brawley. That ain't right, El Centro, you know, they told you not to bring that stuff down here, and we don't want that trash here either."

Me:..."I appreciate your concerns, but you know that the whole valley is aware of what is going on, and the people would really be pissed if you told them that you didn't think they should be able to see the film...and, so on, and so on.

We discussed the constitution, the fact that the movie was playing in mainstream theatres all over the country and the simple fact that I would sue the city if they impeded the showing of the film. But it was my last second promise that sealed the deal.

Me:...Sir, here's what I will guarantee you personally... you can take this to the bank... I promise that as soon as "Deep Throat" is no longer drawing a crowd. I will remove the film and replace it with a Walt Disney film and never play another porno in your fair city. You have my word."

City official, "I cannot give you approval, however, if you don't hear from me in the next few hours, you won't hear from me,"

The film opened on that Friday as planned. I personally drove the print down to Brawley so that if there was an arrest it wouldn't be an employee. I knew it was "all good", when I got in range of KROP and heard the news announcer telling it's listeners: "I am standing out in front of the Brawley Theatre, with two hours to show time and the line is already down to the Western Auto store." (A distance of about two blocks)

The film played for 5 weeks and when we did the math later, we discovered that over five times the listed population of the city of Brawley had crossed the threshold into the forbidden land of porn.

A new "renaissance" of movie going was birthed across the United States, and for about three years, "porno chic" was all the rage. Couples crowded theatres across the land, elbow to elbow with neighbors and friends, to see "Behind the Green Door", "Deep Throat" and "The Devil in Miss Jones." Kurt Loder, in his review of "Inside Deep Throat", said, "Deep Throat dragged hardcore pornography out of the scum-swamps in which it had traditionally festered and pushed it into the everyday world."

Some facts:
The budget on "Deep Throat" was about $25,000
Estimates of "Deep Throat's" gross revenue have been reported as high as $600 million.
Linda Lovelace, in her starring role, received $1200.
Harry Reems, the co-star, received $250.
To this writers knowledge, The Brawley Theatre in Brawley, California was the only theatre in history to play "Deep Throat" and follow it with a Disney film. (Snow White comes to mind.)
"Porno Chic" went the way of dial telephones as soon as the first VCR's hit the stores.


About the Writer

Steven Lane is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
Want to write articles too? Sign up & become a writer!

7 comments on Deep Throat, The Movie--Lettuce Fields and Feed Lots.

Log In To Vote   Score: 1
By V on April 29, 2007 at 02:26 pm
Way to go Steve! I love this story. I love your stories. I am also sad to say that I haven't yet seen, 'Deep Throat.'
 Report abuse

Log In To Vote   Score: 1
By Venditto on April 29, 2007 at 06:17 pm
wonderful article!
 Report abuse

Log In To Vote   Score: 0
By Steven Lane on April 29, 2007 at 10:19 pm
Reza, it played five weeks, which in Brawley was 4 weeks longer than the run of "Lawrence of Arabia" El G, the most fun of the whole deal was watching the line, everyone knew everybody, lol. There was a lot of "What the F***, are you guys doing here?...Answer was always, "Well,....um..What are you guys doing here?" Brawley became a very transparent community. As to the "porn peddler", I guess, I have to fess up to that one. Me and my partner actually made a porno in the early 70's--It was a western...Title..."UPRISING IN BOX CANYON"... $5000, 2 day 35 mm shoot. Ahh, the good old days. lol
 Report abuse

Log In To Vote   Score: 0
By Steven Lane on April 29, 2007 at 10:27 pm
Upps...16mm, not 35mm
 Report abuse

Log In To Vote   Score: 0
By Jen on April 30, 2007 at 08:57 pm
Thats great that you bargained for porn with Disney. Given your reception in the inland valley it's hard to believe that not so many years later, the Pussycat theatre in Canoga Park would open its doors in the afternoon to show discounted first run movies. I was around six or seven when I saw Grease there and Im pretty sure that's not the only thing that was on the seats.
 Report abuse

Log In To Vote   Score: 0
By Matt Weston on May 01, 2007 at 12:22 pm
You've set the bar pretty high with this one, Steven. Sweating eyeballs, "Deep Throat," a paper bag filled bursting with $10K in cash?! That's can't miss material for any story. Although you didn't use it this way, "sweating eyeballs" perfectly sums up what it's like to watch porn - especially with other people around! Thoroughly enjoyed this one.
 Report abuse

Log In To Vote   Score: 0
By Richard Gray on July 16, 2007 at 02:54 pm
Steven- Really enjoyed this piece. I was born and raised in El Centro and was 14 years old in '73 when "Deep Throat" came to Brawley. An interesting tidbit: The drive-in you mentioned, the "Motor-Vu", now has two screens and STILL fills up 5 nights a week. When I take my kids to visit their grandparents they always insist on going to the drive-in.
 Report abuse



Add A Comment!

Click here to signup or login.


Rate This Article


Your vote matters to us



x


x