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about the Little Theater, Newark’s last and finest theatrical den of smut.

It was nice to share the story of Newark’s rich sexual and cinematic subculture with a much wider audience than this humble blog reaches, but it came at the cost of paring things down to 1200 words, sacrificing some of the history I wanted to present.

This transformation, intended to attract middle-class, mostly white, residents to the area, has no place for the sort of social formations provided by the Little Theater—even gay parents in Chelsea have turned on sex shops, using child-protection rhetoric.

But the loss of these spaces is a local, and a national tragedy, for almost nothing in America offers as multiracial, cross-class, and sexually fluid a democratic public sphere (for men—more on that below) as the Little Theater.

I get it: readers might be interested in the fact that men are still attending porn theaters and curious about what goes on inside; they are less likely, collectively, to hold a deep interest in the Little Theater’s development from ethnic grindhouse to multicultural cruising spot or its role in Newark’s cultural history. As film archivist Dan Erdman notes, porn theaters, the few that remain, lend themselves to a particular kind of quick-hit journalism, exactly what I’d aspired to avoid: “the writer gives a brief history of the theater, buys a ticket from the gruff doorman, takes a look in each room, notes the free coffee in the lobby, takes quick stock of the other customers.” All Erdman leaves out are the sticky floors.

(I should also note, not every piece on porn theaters falls prey to the tendencies Erdman rightly laments; Charles Ferruzza’s longform 2013 article on Kansas City’s Strand is marvelous journalism, and Victor Fiorillo’s 2007 article on Philadelphia’s now-gone Forum is well researched but succumbs to a risible, gay-baiting AIDS panic in the home stretch; I actually called it out for this upon moving to Philly in 2008 and immediately checking out the Forum, but my angry comment has apparently long since been scrubbed by the internet housekeeping at Smack dab in downtown Newark, the Little Theater (Theatre on its marquee, but historically Theater in its ads, and also its social media accounts) is wedged among banks, corporate buildings, and historic churches on Broad Street, one of Newark’s major thoroughfares.Scattered men occupy seats, either alone or in duos, but most of the crowd congregates at the back of the theater, behind a dugout-like short wall.Downtown Newark is undergoing the same aspirational redevelopment as other postindustrial cities around the country, and men trading blowjobs in seats is not a part of the city plan; Whole Foods, slated to open next year two blocks away, is more like it.According to Ohio law, possessing material that shows a minor in a state of nudity is a fifth-degree felony.The law provides an exemption for parents or guardians to photograph their unclothed children for certain purposes, but doesn't allow a child to photograph nude pictures of himself.

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