Who Are the Underdogs?

Capital Video’s attorney, Michael Pill, likes to style himself as the defender of the underdog. Let’s ask, who is the underdog in this situation, and who has power?

Capital Video describes itself as “the largest adult retail chain in the nation”. Owner Kenneth Guarino told Dun & Bradstreet that sales for 2005 amounted to $21,005,399. He has been doing business since 1979. In a 1994 profile, the Wall Street Journal reported, “Mr. Guarino is a rich man. He lives in a luxurious home on Narragansett Bay, drives a Mercedes, and–federal prosecutors in the Las Vegas case say–has numerous foreign bank accounts.”

NoPornNorthampton was started in late June by two citizens who live in a two-family house in Northampton. As for porn performers, “very, very few of its line workers ever escape from grinding poverty. The relationship of capital to labour in the sex industry is classically Dickensian.” The Los Angeles Times reports that some performers are willing to forgo condoms for as little as $50 extra per sex act.

Court documents describe how Kenneth Guarino “was associated with Natale Richichi, a capo in the Gambino family of La Cosa Nostra, who dealt directly with the bosses of both the Gambino and Patriarca families and had influence with other factions of La Cosa Nostra… Guarino in 1979 began to pay ‘tribute’ to Richichi to fend off extortion attempts and to assist Guarino with other business matters where Richichi’s influence as a capo might benefit Guarino… The total amount of the payments is in dispute, but between July 1985 and September 1995, Guarino paid Richichi at least $1,728,000 in cash.”

To the best of our knowledge, NoPornNorthampton has no influence with the mafia. As for porn performers, U.S. News reports, “There is a constant demand for new talent, and few actresses last more than a year or two… Checks sometimes bounce. The borderline legal status of the industry makes performers reluctant to seek redress in court…” Dr. Mary Anne Layden tells the US Senate, “[Performers in the sex industry] have high rates of substance abuse, typically alcohol and cocaine, depression, borderline personality disorder which is a particularly serious disorder and dissociative identity disorder which used to be called multiple personality disorder. The experience I find most common among the performers is that they have to be drunk, high or dissociated in order to go to work.”

The “elitism” charge was raised by a speaker at Thursday’s City Council meeting. We’d like to note that the zoning ordinances before the city aren’t about shifting adult businesses from one neighborhood to another. They are about putting a 500-foot buffer between any Northampton home and a large adult business. It doesn’t matter if that home is on Elm Street, Damon Road or North Street. They will all enjoy the same protection.

We further address the issue of elitism in our Frequently Asked Questions…

FAQ: Doesn’t your campaign smack of elitism?

A: Why no, the reverse is true. The most visible porn advocates have been saying that freedom of speech is so important, it trumps all other things people might value, such as a safe neighborhood, one that’s comfortable to walk around in, economically prosperous, where people won’t be harassed or solicited for sex.

Porn advocates appear to be indifferent to the suffering of ordinary people, whether it’s porn workers with STDs, spouses of porn addicts, or cities whose downtowns can’t grow due to the presence of an adult business. Despite mounting evidence of the social harms of porn, the porn advocates assert they simply know better what’s good for America, and that the people can’t be trusted to impose the slightest regulation on adult businesses or soon we’ll all be burning books. There’s no evidence that adult-use regulations in Hollywood, New York or Boston have led to censorship, but the real world seems to matter little to porn advocates. That’s elitism.

We can also look at this from a power perspective. Who has access to millions of dollars, fancy prep schools, exotic cars, expensive lawyers, Ivy League MBAs and luxury homes? The porn merchants. On the other side, vulnerable young porn workers, small towns with limited resources, parents busy raising children. Who are the elite in this situation?

9 thoughts on “Who Are the Underdogs?

  1. Your case would be a lot better made if you stuck to the relevant facts instead of merely mudslinging. Posts like this make you come off like a bunch of incredulous whining babies.

  2. $21,000,000 in sales is not very much in corporate america. I wonder how much money is funnelled into the various feminist and religious and so-called family values organizations that you rely upon for your source material, and who otherwise want to impose their morality upon me by laws?


  3. It is unlikely that $21 million is the full extent of Kenneth Guarino’s annual gross sales. Besides Capital Video, Guarino is also associated with Metro Studios. The full picture is hard to discern due to the opaque structure of many of the enterprises Guarino is associated with. I quote from a profile of Guarino at Lukeford.com:

    Ken Guarino, who dined with Gambino crime family leader John Gotti in 1992, ranks among porn’s most powerful. Lucky to avoid MIPORN conviction, Ken controls one of the four main producers of sex videos along with Vivid, VCA and Leisure Time. Owner of the North Star distributorship, the Italian-American took over Intropics and Cal Vista Video, revived dormant lines like Paradise Visuals and Soho Video and added a magazine publication company to create, wrote AVN in 1994 “the closest thing to vertical integration in the entertainment industry, period.” Majority owner of the porn conglomerate South Pointe Enterprises, Inc., the corporate parent of Metro Home Video, Guarino sent his company public in 1994 “to become more acceptable” by buying an inactive corporate shell rather than using the traditional method of a public offering.

    An expert corporate shell shuffler, Guarino, like Sturman, Mohney and Milton Luros, spends his considerable talents creating dummy corporations and business spider webs to launder mob money, avoid taxes and set up large offshore savings accounts.

    In 1994, the Wall Street Journal reported, “Mr. Guarino is a rich man. He lives in a luxurious home on Narragansett Bay, drives a Mercedes, and–federal prosecutors in the Las Vegas case say–has numerous foreign bank accounts.”

    Between July 1985 and September 1995, Guarino somehow found at least $1,728,000 in cash to pay Natale Richichi, “a capo in the Gambino family”.

    The worldwide porn industry as a whole has $56 billion in annual revenues (Forbes). I’d say it’s more than a match for today’s feminist, religious and family values organizations.

    You may call it “imposing your morality”, but our main goal is to raise awareness that people are suffering from porn, suffering in large numbers, so those who sell and watch porn will exercise self-restraint.

  4. You’ve scolded people (me, for instance) for discussing “minor side issues” rather than the “substance of your arguments.” Are you suggesting that the identity of the underdog is a serious issue? “We’re the underdogs, so we’re right,” right?

  5. Dr. Pill certainly seems to think it’s worth claiming the “underdog” title, so we wanted to address it. Charges of elitism have also been flying around for months. More generally, much of porn is about power, domination and exploitation, so we do think this is an interesting issue to explore.

    If a group of people is relatively weak (porn workers, small communities), then others should be alert to the risk that they will be exploited.

  6. But what does being underdogs or not have to do with anything? So what if big, bad Dr. Pill claims to be the underdog? Does that have anything to do with anything? If you’re going to scold people for discussing what you say are minor side issues, why won’t you stick to the major, substantive issues? Why don’t you just say, “Oops. This isn’t really important. We god caught up in this, but it doesn’t matter. Sorry.”

  7. When people and communities are exploited for money, and businesspeople won’t exercise good judgment and compassion, that’s when the government needs to intervene with law. We want people to correctly perceive who here is the weaker party who needs and deserves protection from City Hall.

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