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Playboy Salutes L.A.'s Contributions to the Sexual Revolution With a Tour That Leaves Out the Grimmer Realities


Some curious things were missing from Playboy's "History of the Sexual Revolution" tour in Los Angeles last week.

Little things like treatment clinics for herpes, local jails with inmates sired by absentee fathers and the fact that Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger pioneered birth control because she believed nonwhites were "reckless breeders."

Of course, talking about the downside of the sexual revolution isn't as much fun--not to mention what it could do to Playboy's business empire--so the traveling tour instead focused on more upbeat sites and stories.

For example, one of the first stops on the route was the site of Ciro's nightclub (now the Comedy Store), where a stripper named Lili St. Cyr was arrested in 1951 for taking a "bubble bath" onstage in a glass tub that was noticeably short of bubbles.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday September 24, 1998 Home Edition Life & Style Part E Page 2 View Desk 2 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Playboy tour--In a Sept. 14 story about Playboy magazine's "History of the Sexual Revolution" tour, the tour guide reported the Federal Communications Commission was created in reaction to a racy Mae West radio routine. In fact, the FCC was formed three years earlier, in 1934.

Other stops included Hollywood Forever Cemetery (formerly the Hollywood Park Cemetery), a famous porn theater and Hugh Hefner's mansion, where the pajama-clad magazine founder held court with the media and served lunch. The two-hour bus tour was led by James Petersen, a bespectacled, 50-ish journalist who used to write the Playboy Advisor column, which answers such pressing questions as how many calories does semen have (about two per dose) and does chewing a mint before performing oral sex improve the sensation (apparently not).

Petersen took a break from that noble calling in 1996 to pen a decade-by-decade chronicle of the sexual revolution of the 20th century. A lengthy chapter on the 1970s is featured in the current issue of Playboy, along with nude photos of model Cindy Crawford, but we're pretty sure people will buy the magazine for Petersen, not for Crawford.

To bring the semi-scholarly history articles to life, Playboy has sponsored several "Sexual Revolution" tours--in New York City (the cradle of the movement), Washington, D.C. (the censorship battleground) and San Francisco (free-love capital of the 1960s). Late last week, the tour rolled through Los Angeles--on Thursday for the media, and Saturday and Sunday for the public.

Petersen, wearing a black sports jacket, tan slacks and a cute fluffy bunny tail on his derriere (OK, we lied about the tail), says L.A.'s chief contribution to the revolution is celluloid.

"In the 1920s, Hollywood took control of the public image of sex," he says. People learned how to kiss and how to court from movies. And later they learned a few other tricks too. About 80% of all porn films are made in greater Los Angeles, he reports.

Not surprisingly, one of the stops on the tour is the former Pussycat Theater (now the gay-oriented Tomkat Theater), which showed "Deep Throat" 13 times a day for 10 years.

"This was porn's shining hour," Petersen beams, standing over the theater's skin-flick walk of fame, a section of sidewalk stamped with the handprints and footprints ("the parts of the anatomy you're least interested in for a porn star") of such actors as Linda Lovelace, Marilyn Chambers and John Holmes.

Petersen fails to mention that Holmes, who boasted of sleeping with thousands of women, died of AIDS at age 43.

Instead, pointing across the street to a sex-toy shop that sells S&M chains by the yard, Petersen waxes nostalgic about an L.A. family who "sat around the kitchen table carving dildos and making penis harmonicas" in the 1970s. And people say Playboy doesn't promote family values.

The tour also highlights several sexual revolution villains, such as the Directors Guild of America, which is castigated for caving in to censorship pressures; the USO, which banned risque entertainment for soldiers during World War II; and the Catholic Church, the perennial bogeyman of sexual libertarians.

At another point, the tour bus lurches past a former home of Ronald Reagan, whom Petersen calls "easily the most antisexual president of the century," in part because he had the gall to "pour money into child pornography stings," thus crimping "free sexual expression."

But Petersen heaps praise on Charlie Chaplin for fighting censorship, and for impregnating and then marrying a 16-year-old, then divorcing her for a younger woman (a 15-year-old), who later charged him with demanding an act of "sexual perversion as defined by the California Penal Code" (Hint: It involved consuming about two calories).

Another of Petersen's sex heroes is Mae West, who "challenged existing morality" by appearing on radio and telling a wooden ventriloquist's dummy, "You're a nice piece of ash." West also hinted at a fling with the dummy: "I got the marks to prove it, and splinters too."

An outraged President Franklin Roosevelt responded by creating the Federal Communications Commission to squelch radio indecency. Petersen describes West as a 1940s precursor to Madonna.

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