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For the time being, Superman and Batman are still rated X in Redondo

September 17, 1987|KAREN ROEBUCK

Certain magazines just aren't for children. They may be too lewd, too suggestive, too violent, too scary. So years ago Redondo Beach made it illegal to sell or give such publications to kids under 18.

It wasn't Penthouse or True Detective that officials were after back in 1954. It was Superman, Batman and other comic books.

"They can watch the news, they can probably rent a video, but they can't buy a comic book," City Atty. Gordon Phillips said in an interview. "I can't imagine what you could see in a comic book that you couldn't see on TV; some of the toothpaste ads are really erotic."

Jay Williamson, manager of Galaxy Comics on Aviation Boulevard, agreed. "Children can watch "Dynasty" or whatever they want and probably see worse."

Six years before that law was passed, another Redondo Beach council made it illegal for youngsters to go to wrestling or boxing matches, most bowling alleys and pool halls, and skating rinks and movie theaters after certain hours.

"I don't think we have any skating rinks, but if we ever do, (children) can't go in," Phillips said. "They can watch Hulk Hogan on TV, but God forbid there be a wrestling match in Redondo Beach--you'll go to jail."

The laws are still in effect, but the City Council is expected to repeal them and half a dozen other outdated ordinances next month.

As part of a broad reclassification, most of the old laws were reduced about two months ago from misdemeanors--punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine--to infractions--punishable only by the fine. Committing the same infraction four times in a year, however, is a misdemeanor.

"So people can bring out their comic books now and only pay a fine," Phillips said, "unless they do it more than four times a year--then they go to jail."

Phillips said these laws are no longer enforced, and he doubts that some of them ever were. For example, he cited one from the Municipal Code: "Every parent who encourages or abets his child to loiter is guilty of a misdemeanor."

"I don't know how one encourages his child to loiter," Phillips said.

Enforced or not, such laws make the already-thick Municipal Code thicker, and Phillips says it's time to trash them. "These things just collect over time. Every city has them," he said.

"I started looking through the book one day and started laughing. It's kind of interesting," he said. "It's like the laws you read in "Ripley's Believe It or Not."

Social pressures often provoke local governments to pass laws regulating or prohibiting activities or fads, he said. "There's a public reaction to everything kids do or read or like. If kids like it, there'll be a public reaction to it," he said.

Other fads that a former Redondo Beach council tried to quell were flagpole or tree sitting, walk-a-thons, dance marathons and other endurance contests and exhibition--all in one ordinance.

"Cities are very, very sensitive to these social things," Phillips said. "You can play yourself to exhaustion on an athletic field, but you can't dance yourself to exhaustion." Ironically, the City Council these days routinely issues permits for walk-a-thons and running marathons.

Williamson, the comics vendor, agreed that laws reflect the times.

"It's funny," he said. "They said the same things at the time (about comic books) that they're saying now about rock lyrics."

Police officers do not go looking for violations of these laws, but if someone complains, the Police Department must enforce them.

"It's unlawful for a law enforcement officer not to enforce the law. We don't determine if a law's outdated," said Redondo Beach Sgt. Avery Richey. "If it's on the books, someone can be arrested and cited for it."

City Manager Tim Casey wonders how certain laws would be enforced. For example, he pointed to a 1977 law that prohibits anyone from removing "any stone, gravel, or sand from the beach or oceanfront of the city; provided, however, the provisions of this section shall not apply to visitors or curio hunters who pick up stones for curios or pleasure purposes only."

Casey joked that a beachgoer could be arrested for neglecting to brush off his feet.

He also laughed at a bathing apparel law that would make most bathing suits--men's and women's--as well as many shorts illegal. According to the law, an opaque garment must be "at least one inch above the navel and a line at least one inch below the crotch." Women, of course, must be covered on top, too.

But if a police officer cites you for your beach clothing, it's no joke. That law isn't being repealed. In fact, it was passed only 10 years ago.

"I think that's a good law," joked Phillips. "My oh my, we'll bring morality back to Redondo Beach. I think we better see these bathing suits come back into compliance with the law."

Phillips said the law is probably unenforceable and unconstitutional except for the opaque requirement.

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