Ypsilanti’s Art 1&2, and the archeology of porn

A while back, I saw that someone online had shared this old photo of Washington Street, and, thinking that someday I’d have the time to look at it more closely, I tucked it away in a file. Well, this evening, as I was just looking through my files for a photo of former CIA director John Brennan for a post I was thinking about writing, I stumbled across it again. And, this time, I actually spent a little time looking it, first wondering whether or not I might be able to date it, based on what could be seen, and, second, thinking about what, if anything, of historical importance might be gleaned from this single photo. [If you’re curious, a larger version of the photo can be found here.]

While I didn’t get too far on the question of what might be interesting to record from an historical perspective, I think, based on the movies listed on the marquee of the former Martha Washington Theater, which had become the Art 1&2 in 1971, I have a rough idea of when the photo may have been taken.

According to my research, Frankie and Johnny were Lovers and Hot Channels came out in 1973, and Pleasure Masters and The Devil Below (the actual title was Angel Above – The Devil Below) came out in 1974. [As I just discovered, all of these films can be found streaming online. The previous links, however, are all work-safe.]

Here, if you’re curious as to the plots, are the descriptions I was able to find online. And, no, I didn’t watch any of them… at least not yet.

Frankie and Johnny were Lovers: “American folklore goes nutty and smutty with Frankie and Johnnie Were Lovers, and, ‘Oh Lordy, how they could love!’ Especially since Frankie is played by everyone’s favorite pouty-cheeked sex starlet, Rene Bond, and Johnnie is her frequent co-star and then-paramour, Ric Lutze. As the trailer proclaims, ‘Lovers in real life, they give the performances of their careers!'” [note: I can’t read the phrase, “Oh Lordy” without thinking of former FBI Director James Comey, and, because of that, I can’t help but imagine that he’s the author of this review.]

Hot Channels: “Husband Davy Jones is in the market for sex, since wife Darby Lloyd Rains doesn’t seem interested. He invests in a Mark III Sensulator, which costs, in 1975 dollars, about the price of an expensive new car. But all he has to do is load up a tape(!), put on the headset and be transported into a virtual world (before anyone ever called it that) of babes who want to have sex with him. Darby discovers the gadget, tries it out – there’s a setting for women as well – and buys one for herself.” [note: Could this be among the first explorations of virtual reality in popular culture? According to Wikipedia, the first movie to depict virtual reality was Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Welt am Draht, which was also released in 1973, but it is possible that Hot Channels came out first?]

Angel Above – The Devil Below: “While reading the Necronomican one night, a teenage girl accidentally calls up the Devil. When he tries to have sex with her, she rebuffs him. As punishment, he sees to it that her vagina not only has a mind of its own, but can speak it, too.” [“She paid the ultimate price for her curiosity,” says the poster.]

Pleasure Masters: “No matter what you’ve heard about oriental girls, you’ll flabbergasted by young Kikko!,” says the poster. [note: Whose idea was it to use the word “flabbergasted” in an add for a adult film? That seems really odd and antiquated to me, but I suppose it makes sense if you consider that they were going after an audience born in the 1920s. At any rate, I’m fascinated by the use of words like “lordy” and “flabbergasted” in these advertising materials, and I’m wondering, if I look long enough, if I might be able to find early ’70s porn advertising using the phrase, “I swanny,” which is something my grandmother in Kentucky used to say.

When I started researching this post, I was thinking that perhaps a film festival might be in order. Reading these write-ups, though, I’m not so sure how good of an idea that would be. I can deal with Satanism, and talking vaginas, but my sense is that anything with the words “oriental” and “teenage” should probably be steered clear of. But, to be honest, I am interested in investigating Hot Channels further, as I’m curious as to how the filmmaker envisioned virtual reality. Maybe we could watch it somewhere and have a panel of scientists discuss it, or something… Or, maybe, we could just listen to the audio. [I just found the audio for Angel Above – The Devil Above trailer on YouTube, and found it to be quite interesting.] Or, maybe not… I’m sorry, but I just can’t help but churn out ideas. It’s the way my OCD-addled mind works.

OK, so, if I had to guess, I’d say this photo was taken in the late fall of 1974, or early 1975… Can someone who was living here at the time either confirm or deny that based on what can be seen in the photo? And, if you work in some kind of secret government facility where you do photo enhancement work, I’d like to know what the signs say outside the old Spaghetti Bender, and what, if anything, we can determine about the people that can be seen… especially the person at the far right, who seems to be wearing a fur coat… How cool would it be if, working together, we could find one of these four people, and ask them what they might remember about this afternoon. Maybe they could even speak before our international Hot Channels symposium… You just know, looking at this photo, that the guy in the green jacket, striking the bigfoot-like pose, has a story to tell.

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  1. iRobert
    Posted August 15, 2018 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    My guess would be that the photo was taken in December, or possibly a few weeks before or after. Christmas decorations were not put up as early or taken down as late in those days.

    The mild weather conditions might be a clue to help verify the year and even narrow the possibilities for the exact date.

  2. iRobert
    Posted August 15, 2018 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    The headline on the posted flyers looks like it possibly says “WIN 1,000”

  3. iRobert
    Posted August 15, 2018 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    Comparing the growth of those trees to other photos where the year is known will help you verify the year. The deterioration of the wraps on the trees may also help.

  4. iRobert
    Posted August 16, 2018 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    I’m pretty sure those are bits of unmelted ice/snow you can see there along the edge of the street. So there had been some accumulation and this day it was almost entirely gone. I haven’t gone though the day-by-day temperatures and accumulation tables, but they are available.

    Richard H. Austin is the Secretary of State. He took office in 1971 and remained to 1995. So that bit of detail isn’t too helpful.

    There is a “Spaghetti Bender, Ypsilanti” Facebook page where you may get some help with info about that flyer. I’m guessing it regards a band competition.

  5. Anonymous
    Posted August 16, 2018 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    If you follow through on the International Hot Channels Virtual Reality Symposium, be sure to invite any of the actors who may still be alive.

  6. Posted August 16, 2018 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    When I was doing the radio show, I started receiving notes from a listener out of state who said he used to work at the Art 1&2. I’ll see if I can reach out to him and see what, if anything, he might add to this conversation.

  7. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted August 16, 2018 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    I remember it. You would walk by and being a curious kid you would try to get a glimpse beyond the darkened glass. I asked my mom what the difference is between X, XX and XXX hahahaha!

  8. Lynne
    Posted August 16, 2018 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Whoa. There used to be a Sec of State office right downtown? That must have been nice!

  9. Kat
    Posted August 16, 2018 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    What’s the store across the Pearl Street intersection?

  10. John Brown
    Posted August 16, 2018 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    What a time to be alive. When porn, its impact on the Ypsi revitalization, and the exploitation of women are a respite from the emotionally volatile day to day news. How quaint.

    Mrs Brown for many years lived overlooking the AATA Depot around the corner from there and made many interesting observations.

  11. Concerned Michiganian
    Posted August 16, 2018 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Ypsilanti will have to one day deal with the negative impacts of being a center for the area’s sex industry, if it is ever to develop.

    Clean up Ypsilanti!

  12. Posted August 16, 2018 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    It looks like the entrance to the SB is being used. Tom and Sue bought the building to the south in 75 I believe. The new buildings entrance was used then and the old entrance was covered up and became known as the cave. Nice little private 2 top.

  13. Paul on Facebook
    Posted August 16, 2018 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Someone on Facebook just posted the following:

    So we went to see an adult movie in 1972-3 when i was 18 the theater was simply the Art Theater. There was a short stint where adult films were not allowed. We used to go to Spaghetti Bender for dinner and a movie. Then when multiscreen theaters happened. Wayside 1 and 2 on Washtenaw, The Art 1 and 2 opened so I agree 1974-5ish.

  14. Concerned Michiganian
    Posted August 16, 2018 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    How can people raise children in a town with activity like that? Will businesses even go there? The city should close all sex related businesses immediately. Ypsilanti has a shameful history. It is time to move away from the awful sex industry related business, vape shops, bong stores and medical marijuana places that now litter the area.

  15. Barry LaRue
    Posted August 16, 2018 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    To answer the question on what was on the other side of Pearl Street in the photo, it was Carty’s Music. Band instruments, sheet music, music lessons, music related gear.

    As far as what Concerned Michiganian posted, the city has merely done what they could within legal bounds to discourage so-called adult entertainment. There are fewer shops dealing porn and peep show machines, etc. In any event, I don’t think that Ypsi has too high a percentage of the businesses you are concerned with. Medical marijuana is legal and I believe the current ordinance specifies a total number and the distance from one another they need to be.

    Ypsi is a pretty diverse community and we seem to be ok with the mix of stuff going on in town…

  16. Barry LaRue
    Posted August 16, 2018 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    Seems like Butterfield (the Flint theatre chain) closed the Martha Washington in 1969 after some violence occurred in the theatre. Larry Nahigian was involved in the first iteration, which I am pretty sure was the “Art 1”. They took the M and the HA off the marquee that spelled MARTHA to make ART. It was only one screen. The first year or two is was generally artsy films and oldies. At a certain point it morphed into porn then they twinned the theatre down the center and I think they went to showing 16mm. film rather that 35mm. That’s just my recollection.

  17. maryd
    Posted August 17, 2018 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Sadly some people only have eyes for smut. Concerned Michiganian perhaps the other thriving businesses have escaped your notice.
    Such as Bona Sera, Ypsi Alehouse, Go Ice Cream, Beezy’s, the Mix, the Taproom, Ziggies, the Rocket, Encuentro Latino Restaurant, the Studio,Dos Hermanos Market, The Democratic Headquarters, the library and many more!. Downtown Ypsilanti is flourishing with great food, live music and great people enjoying it all.

  18. Concerned Michiganian
    Posted August 17, 2018 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    I see the other business, but I wonder if there might be more if all the vape shops, bong stores, medical marijuana places, check cashing places and the strip club weren’t there. It is worth asking if those business keep other businesses away.

    Whether they are legal or not is irrelevant. Some things that are legal are not particularly good ideas. People should be asking if the type of businesses in towns like Ypsilanti have an effect on development.

    Clean up Ypsilanti! Clean up Michigan! #Sanders2020 #Whitmer2018 #BlueWave #Resist

  19. iRobert
    Posted August 17, 2018 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    What’s taking Steve Swan so long to comment on this thread?! I hope he’s alright!

  20. Steve Swan
    Posted August 17, 2018 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    I am now a Christian missionary in Uganda. I think I made about as much porn as a man can make. I just ran out of juice. Now I’m all about the lord. I do have a son, though, Steve Swan Jr., and he’s keeping the family business alive. Maybe one day he will post here.

    Have a blessed day,

  21. someone else on facebook
    Posted August 17, 2018 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    “(The Spaghetti Bender) started as a simple, intimate Italian restaurant with wonderful food. It wasn’t until after they expanded into what used to be the print shop next door (75-76 maybe?) that they began their evolution into the club they eventually became.”

  22. iRobert
    Posted August 17, 2018 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Whew! What a relief. I was worried we had lost you Steve.

    And I’m glad you finally got your “happy ending.”

  23. Art House Films
    Posted August 18, 2018 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    The producer of Hot Channels edited the film a little and re-released it later in ’73 as Computer Games.


  24. Dan Blakeney
    Posted August 19, 2018 at 12:40 am | Permalink

    Menu’s maybe, on the Front of The Bender?

  25. Posted August 2, 2019 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    This was a great post.

  26. iRobert
    Posted August 2, 2019 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Is Linette out of town?

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