Marilyn Chambers, who just died at 56, is an icon to generations of San Franciscans. The former Ivory Snow (“99&44/100% Pure”) soapbox cover girl starred in San Francisco’s the Mitchell Brothers mega-porn hit movie Beyond The Green Door. Hinckle was arrested for walking his dog without a leash after he wrote columns in the Chronicle pillarying the SFPD for sending some 30 cops to drag Ms. Chambers naked from the O’Farrell in 1985 when Dianne Feinstein was Mayor of San Francisco. Editors.
When the Mitchell Brothers O’Farrell Street Theater began presenting live acts on multiple stages — one set was built as a giant shower room — the Savonarola inside Mayor Diane Feinstein was awakened. As Mayor the convent-bred Feinstein was about as hang-loose as an Easter Island statue. Her mayoralty was firm on primness — women working in the mayor’s office were expected to wear dresses, no pants; formerly as a city Supervisor she had tinkered with ordinances attempting to regulate the commerce of sex in the famous seaport city, even unto suggesting that all the city’s sex emporiums be relocated into a single Red Light combat zone in the largely black Bayview District; she was actually taken aback when the residents didn’t cozy up to her idea.
If Dianne hadn’t fallen into an upwardly mobile career in politics — she became Mayor when her predecessor as Mayor, George Moscone was assassinated with Harvey Milk at City Hall — she would have had an excellent future as a disinfector of public telephones.
Feinstein empowered the vice squad of the SFPD as a sort of screwball comedy Papal Swiss Guard with the sworn duty of putting the Mitchell Brothers out of business. The O’Farrell, which Hunter S. Thompson called “the Carnegie Hall of sex in America,” was raided the way the Allies bombed Dresden. Every one of the Mitchell Brothers’ prostitution busts — there were hundreds in the 70s and 80s — was thrown out of court, a reality but that did not deter Feinstein’s finest from continuing to hit on the O’Farrell with metronomic regularity. Led by vice lieutenant Dennis Martel who paid proud to the flashlight prowess of the SFPD — he was frequently spied crawling about the O’Farrell’s back stairwells carrying a long black flashlight, and once sent 12 officers throughout the premises with flashlights in search of Marilyn Chambers’ W-2 form.
Flashlight-carrying cops invaded the darkened Kopenhagen Lounge, which already had a surfeit of flashlights. Customers sat on overstuffed sofas while undressed ladies cavorted about in the altogether carrying red flashlights which they used to illuminate their endearing young charms.
The trials became so frequent that sometimes there were two in one week. The ending was always the same, with dismissal of the “prostitution” charges against the O’Farrell. These repeat legal performances left Feinstein open to the quip that defines insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
The proceedings jammed the city’s criminal courtrooms and became a real ass-pain to the judges. Many of the dancers occupied their daytime hours by coming to the courtroom in solidarity and just a bit curious to witness why what they had did at night was criminal by day. The judges grew anxious to clear their calendars of these Feinstein-ordered absurdities and to streamline the processing to save judicial downtime wanted the size of the courtroom crowds diminished to curtail the circus atmosphere; some spectators thought the whole thing such a hoot they brought their lunches into the courtroom. Word of this cool-it-out approach apparently did not reach Hunter S. Thompson, the Mitchell Brothers’ Night Manager. One day he was passing the corridor outside the closed courtroom door dressed in his usual garb of tee-shirt and Bermudas, hands occupied with two giant tumblers of Wild Turkey on the rocks, when curiosity got the best of him and he charged through the courtroom double doors to deliver a spontaneous speech demanding a motherfucking speedy trial for his friends the Brothers. Artie Mitchell begged him to please stay away from the courthouse.
The star of the Brothers legal team was prominent New York attorney Michael Kennedy, who cut his attorney-client teeth in San Francisco in the 1970s defending the Brothers. (Kennedy also defended Jim Mitchell in the over-charged Marin County murder trial of Jim Mitchell for the death of his brother Artie in 2001. The DA said it was first-degree murder, when the shooting was the result of an intervention gone tragically awry.) The Mitchell lawyers in the 1980s acquired stiff necks from fighting off copyright VCR infringements of Beyond The Green Door by the mafia, and the never-on-Sundays constant SFPD vice squad sexual assaults on the O’Farrell.
The puss came to the pimple with the Marilyn Chambers bust in 1985 when she was dragged as naked as Venus exiting from her tub off the O’Farrell stage by a phalanx of police during a valedictory one-woman show; a total of eleven cops escorted her to her dressing room to ascertain that she didn’t conceal a weapon in some bodily orifice and more than 30 officers were eventually on the scene when backup was called because her bodyguard had a gun.
“One of those cops had the nerve to ask me, ‘You don’t wear any underwear?’ ‘ she said when she was released from the Hall of Justice at 3am.
Jim Mitchell had rousted me from the sleep of the just and said you better get down here, this is really a scene — “here” being his white Mercedes 500 SEL. which was parked in an alley across from the Bastille. Rocky Davidson of Antioch, a cousin of the Brothers and an indispensable man in the O’Farrell operation, was pawing through the Gucci briefcase of the muscleman from Vegas who was Ms. Chambers’ bodyguard. “There’s nothing in here but cash,” he said disappointedly. The cops were holding her bodyguard for lacking a gun permit and Marilyn — who had already suffered an overlong detention in the lockup because cops and sheriff deputies were lined up to have their own private Polaroid taken with her — had refused to leave without him.
“Wait a minute,” said Rocky, “I think I found it.” He pulled a little blue card out of the briefcase like a plum from a pudding. Leaves of cash fluttered all over the Mercedes backseat. Rocky took the card and went across the alley to Barrish Bail Bonds where the permit, which would give the bodyguard egress from jail, was eagerly awaited.
Marilyn came out wearing about twenty blue foxes which had been glued together into a full length coat and the bodyguard, one Bobby D’Apice, followed her wearing a designer Italian dark suit and enough gold to start a pawn shop. “They kill her, they have to kill me too,” he said, explaining his role. Jim Mitchell was sitting at the wheel of the Mercedes scratching his head underneath his Irish hunting cap. Deep into the historicity of the moment, he sighed, “The Ivory Snow Girl arrested for prostitution in San Francisco in San Francisco. It’s awesome.”
Ms. Chambers before taking a career step up to porn movies had been a model and the upper class-white-girl-next-door beautiful innocence of her face had landed her on a gazillion boxes of Ivory Snow (“99&44/100 per cent pure”) as the face of purity. When her night job was revealed, Ivory Snow hastened to pull millions of boxes off supermarket shelves and destroy them.
Yes. The Ivory Snow Girl had indeed been arrested for prostitution in San Francisco; the gravamen of the charge was that she had bounced her boobs, free, against the head of some bald guy in the audience. That charge, after all the fuss, was quietly dismissed in court.
The Brothers proved civic-minded chaps, always good for a go at the Comstocks of the San Francisco political establishment — they went to war against legislation to black out the neon nipples in Carol Doda’s big topless sign on Broadway. Ms. Feinstein did not get through her Blitz of the O’Farrell without taking incoming. The O’Farrell marquee blazed: “Want A Good Time? Call Dianne” followed by the mayor’s unlisted home telephone number. (The Brothers had friends inside PacBell who were favored with free passes to the O’Farrell.) Each time the sign went up she changed her number, and the next day a new sign would go up with the new number. Tit for tat.
(Excerpted from WARREN HINCKLE’s forthcoming book, Who Killed Hunter S. Thompson? to be published in June by Last Gasp of San Francisco. @ 2009 WARREN HINCKLE. His e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org and his website is argonaut360.com)
Afternote from co-editor Cockburn: The late Herb Caen once told me, as I’m sure he did many others, that Senator DiFi’s spouse boasted to him that in her marital intimacies the former mayor and subsequently senior senator from California threw aside the blue-nose inhibitions described above and was a sensual volcano. AC.