Lesser Newman: Capital Video Has Seen the Light and Will Make its Springfield Viewing Booths Safe

It has become a cliche in American culture, yet its truth still makes us laugh. Lucy offers Charlie Brown a football to kick. Charlie Brown knows that during virtually all previous attempts, Lucy has pulled the ball away at the last minute, causing him to go flying and land flat on his back. Nevertheless, Lucy knows just how to push Charlie Brown’s buttons to get him to ignore his past experience. For example:

“I’m a changed person … isn’t this a face you can trust?” (9/22/57)

“I give you my bonded word.” (9/21/58)

“You have to learn to be trusting…” (10/4/59)

“The odds now are really in your favor!!” (10/16/60)

This time, Chuck himself pulls back at the last moment, expecting to catch Lucy in the act. This prompts her to say, “Don’t you trust anyone any more?” He then tries for real, with predictable results. (9/10/61)

The ball is jerked away by a chance muscle spasm … a “ten-billion-to-one” muscle spasm. (9/25/66)

“Look at the innocence in my eyes.” (9/29/68)

“Think how the years go by, Charlie Brown … think of the regrets you’ll have if you never risk anything…” (10/1/89)

“How often do you think you can fool someone with the same trick?” Sally demands, watching her brother walk outside.
“Pretty often, huh?” she says, a few panels later. (10/16/94)
Thomas Lesser of Northampton firm Lesser Newman Souweine & Nasser is an attorney for Capital Video. He is trying to preserve the entertainment license for Capital Video’s porn viewing booths at Apremont Triangle in Springfield. Prostitution and other illegal activities have been observed around this store for some time. Sought-after grocery stores decline to locate next to the store due to “the crowd that you see around it”. Comments on the Internet suggest it is a well-known meeting place for high-risk sex. At Squirt.org, a website that caters to “cruisers”, the store is described as follows:

Most booths in arcade have glory holes, many times you can share a booth, have recieved some of the best blow jobs in my life here. Always some action going on. It’s got 20 booths, 3 large glory holes, several peep holes
On July 1, we published an open letter to Mr. Lesser asking him to stop helping Capital Video, as their viewing booths are a persistent health hazard that is contributing to the blight at Apremont Triangle. This was a follow-up to a similar private letter we sent to Mr. Lesser and his associates on June 20. We wrote:
Dear Mr. Lesser:

We understand you have engaged with Capital Video to defend the license for their viewing booths in Springfield. We would like to call your attention to the role establishments like these play in the transmission of HIV. During 2003-2005, the most recent data available, Springfield had nearly the highest rate of HIV infection diagnosis in our state, second only to much-smaller Provincetown. The fourth-highest infection rate is found in Holyoke. Male-to-male sex is the leading cause of HIV infection in Massachusetts, and increasingly so in recent years.

As you may be aware, Capital Video’s stores in Springfield, Kittery and Meriden have featured prominently on the ‘cruising’ website, Squirt.org. Comments on the Internet may be hearsay in the eyes of the law. Nevertheless, they describe the reality that these stores cater to a group of people who are cavalier in the extreme about their personal health and the health of their sexual partners. Capital Video sells media that encourages promiscuity and heedlessness, and realizes increased profits when it turns a blind eye to patrons’ activity on its premises. Despite Capital Video’s protestations that it discourages sexual activity in its stores, in an era when pornographic content of all kinds can be accessed directly in the home, the unique selling point of viewing booths is to facilitate physical sexual contact between two or more people.

We find it telling that Capital Video’s Springfield store experienced the problems that it did mere months after the company endured a highly public controversy over conditions in its store in Kittery, Maine. In January 2006, Capital Video general counsel Lesley Rich promised Kittery Town Manager Jon Carter that the company “is very sensitive to the needs of the communities in which we do business… It is a strict policy that our employees consistently police the property surrounding (Amazing.net), and we will double our efforts to (ensure) that this is done on a routine basis.”

If Capital Video sincerely cared about store conditions and customer activities, we doubt the Springfield police would have found what they found last fall. Alternately, it could be that the nature of Capital Video’s business is such that it is simply not possible to maintain healthy conditions over time in the face of its customers’ desires. Either way, the people of Springfield have little basis to trust that Capital Video can or will permanently improve the conditions of its viewing booths at Apremont Triangle.

On Squirt.org, Capital Video’s Apremont Triangle store gets the most comments of any location in Springfield. It is plausible that it is one of the leading centers for HIV transmission in the region.

We do not believe you intend to do the gay community any harm. However, by defending Capital Video’s viewing booths you are protecting a significant route for HIV transmission. Understanding the health issues at stake, US courts have ruled that private viewing booths do not merit First Amendment protection. For example, when ruling against Capital Video’s attempts to stymie viewing booth health regulations last year in Kittery, York County Superior Judge Paul Fritzsche wrote: “There is no fundamental liberty interest to view sexually explicit materials in a closed viewing booth at a business.”

It is our hope that, out of compassion for the people of Springfield and the gay male community, you will decline to defend further the viewing booths at Apremont Triangle.


Adam Cohen and Jendi Reiter


Elizabeth Dembitzer
Merry L. Nasser
William C. Newman
Rebecca L. Passa
Jonathan Z. Souweine

We received a reply from Mr. Lesser dated July 17. Here is the body of the letter, with minor formatting changes for better appearance on the web. The original letter may be viewed as a PDF.

Dear Mr. Cohen and Ms. Reiter:

Thank you for your letter of June 20, 2007 and the concerns that you expressed regarding the transmission of HIV. We share those concerns. The lawyers at my firm have long considered this to be an extremely important issue, and as lawyers and as members of the community, have worked and supported efforts to decrease the transmission of HIV. As you may know, based in part on this commitment, our firm was recently awarded the first annual Reproductive Freedom Award by Tapestry Health, Pro-Choice Massachusetts and the Abortion Rights Fund of Western Massachusetts.

In your recent letter, you argue that no community should ever issue a license for a booth which allows the viewing of adult material since such booths invariably lead to unprotected male to male sex, thus providing a significant route for HIV transmission. We disagree with this assertion. If adult content viewing booths are properly regulated, they allow no opportunity for physical contact and pose no risk of transmitting HIV.

With regard to the Springfield viewing booths, you are aware from the hearing conducted on June 18, 2007 that our client Capital Video instituted a series of procedures in December 2006 and January 2007 to insure that there would be no physical contact of any sort between individuals, These steps, which were undertaken after this law firm was hired, included:

  1. Firing the manager of the Springfield store, as well as the District Manager who oversaw the Springfield store.

  2. Installing a surveillance system with a monitor directly in front of the cash register, divided into sections to allow the simultaneous viewing of four areas (two cameras showing the viewing booths, one displaying the store area, and the last showing the sidewalk in front of the store). The surveillance system allows the district manager as well as the home office to have live access to the four-part viewing screen at all times, and both monitor it on a regular basis.

  3. Large metal sheets were installed on the walls of all adjoining viewing booths to insure there can be no contact between customers.

  4. An 18-inch opening was cut into the bottom of each video booth door, which allows the employees who monitor the booth area, to make sure that only one person is in a booth at a time if they have any question about that fact.

  5. Booth area lighting was increased to the same lighting level as the retail portion of the store.

  6. Two lights were installed on the front exterior of the building, as well as the surveillance camera described above, to insure there is no loitering outside the store.

  7. Three booths were permanently removed and blocked off by a wall.
As you are aware, these steps have proven successful. At the June 18, 2007 hearing, there was no evidence presented by the police and/or the Health Department, which have monitored the establishment on a regular basis since the changes were completed in January 2007, of any improper activity or conduct. This is not surprising since, given the constant video monitoring, such activity has become essentially impossible. In fact, the materials on your own website indicate that the last two entries on Squirt.org, a “cruising” website, which were written after the changes noted above were begun to be implemented, discouraged frequenting the store because Capital Video: (a) had increased its level of lighting, (b) will “throw you out” if they see you opening doors and (c) are “very serious” about preventing physical contact between customers.

We also respectfully disagree with the statement in your letter that viewing booths are not constitutionally protected. We are very familiar with the freedom of expression parameters of both the United States and Massachusetts Constitutions and recently were successful in having the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in Mendoza v. Citv of Fall River declare a local “public indecency” ordinance which had banned all public nudity, whether in a barroom or in the musical “Hair”, unconstitutional.

At issue is constitutionally protected freedom of expression. Your suggestion that because adult material is available on the Internet, it loses its First Amendment protection in public stores simply has no merit. That argument ignores the fact that many Americans are not fortunate enough to be able to afford a computer while others may choose, given the pervasive nature of electronic surveillance by our government, to not view adult material on a home computer.

In closing, we would reiterate that we appreciate your concerns. However, government must not be allowed, when the activity is not causing harm, to impose its moral views upon individuals. This is especially true where, as here, the procedures instituted in the Springfield store have and will continue in the future to prevent any recurrence of improper activity. We, of course, will continue our personal and legal efforts in support of programs and policies that battle the scourge of HIV, such as needle exchange, condom availability, and educational programs, efforts regarding which, I am sure, you are supportive.

For these reasons, we respectfully decline your suggestion that we no longer represent Capital Video.

Because you posted your letter to me on your website, we would request that this letter be printed in full on your website as well. Thank you.

Very truly yours,

Thomas Lesser
Our reply:

Over the past year we have published a great deal of evidence that Capital Video’s viewing booths, in a variety of times and places, are health hazards, centers of high-risk sex, and contribute to the blight of surrounding neighborhoods. These problems may not be acute in all of Capital Video’s locations at all times, but are seen often enough to conclude they are endemic feature of Capital Video’s business. This is not surprising, since Capital Video has a financial incentive to turn a blind eye to activities in its stores. Since lives are at stake, we feel Capital Video should be held to strict standards of performance.

We would like to respond to some of Mr. Lesser’s specific points:

The prominent mention of “reproductive freedom”, “Pro-Choice” and “Abortion Rights” in his letter is an irrelevant distraction. These activities may or may not have merit, but their mention here appears to be a bald play for liberal sympathies.

Our letter to Mr. Lesser asserted that private viewing booths lack constitutional protection, not that all viewing booths lack protection. With that said, even if Capital Video loses its viewing booth license in Springfield, its customers will still be able to buy the exact same pornography there, only they will be required to view it “off-premises”. This is a trivial, de minimis restriction on speech. It is fully justified by the nuisance the Capital Video has proven to be to Apremont Triangle, and the courts would uphold it on that basis.

Mr. Lesser constantly makes out our position to be more broad than it is, suggesting we favor a material degree of censorship, when in fact our proposals are modest, well supported by precedent, and, as we have demonstrated elsewhere, will have no meaningful impact on the diversity of speech people may experience, whether or not they have access to the Internet. NoPornNorthampton itself makes use of material some may find offensive in support of its political goals. As our website causes no “secondary effects” (e.g. crime, blight) that we’re aware of, we would not like to see our own First Amendment rights curtailed.

We do not assert that it is impossible for a viewing booth operation to be safe. However, as Gabriel Rotello writes, it is extremely difficult and failure is the norm.

“…Based on the evidence, I have no doubt that if owners of commercial sex establishments had to file ‘epidemiological impact statements’ proving that they would not harm gay sexual ecology before they could get or renew their licenses, very few would be allowed to operate.” (p.199)
Over its long history, Capital Video has demonstrated no consistent ability to make its viewing booth stores safe from a health perspective. It is unreasonably risky for Springfield to assume that Capital Video will suddenly succeed where it has failed so often before.

We are not surprised that recent comments on the Internet say that Capital Video is presently “serious” about monitoring customer activities in Springfield. It is not uncommon for Capital Video stores to go through cycles of strictness and laxity, depending on the level of scrutiny local officials are giving it at any one time. Glory holes routinely open, close, then open again. We are not reassured by promises of stepped-up monitoring. The inclination of Capital Video clerks to ‘look the other way’ is legendary. See, for example, these comments from Squirt.org members about Capital Video stores:

Troy, NY
8/4/06: They have had troubles keeping clerks, there always advertising for help. If you go when the young chick is on with the stud in her lip she doesnt give a shit of who’s in what booth or how many just drop money and be cool…

North Kingstown, RI
3/22/07: Stopped by NK..of course Bandana Johnny was there, truly with a stink on…its disgusting. I wonder if its a heath issue with him being there. Would Amazing be liable? Afterall, they do let him loiter all day knowing his dirtiness…

Meriden, CT
4/18/07: Went there today for the first time. There was at least 10 guys there and i was suck in a matter of minutes. Definately a good place to go for fun. the two young guys working didnt pay any attention and it is very easy to find someone…

Dallas, TX
6/18/07: I haven’t been here durning lunch in awhile, but in the mornings could be fun. No staff bothering you knocking on the door. anyone ever interested in meeting let me know?
The reality of the situation is clear. The current improvements at the Apremont Triangle store are likely to be transient. In particular, we doubt the sought-after grocery stores will move into the neighborhood until they perceive a more lasting solution is in effect.

We dispute Mr. Lesser’s claim that Capital Video has cured all the problems around its store. At the June 18 entertainment license hearing, we recall that Springfield police officer Rupert Daniel testified that prostitution appears to be continuing in the area. Although we did make a video recording of the hearing, we would appreciate receiving a complete copy of the transcript (as taken down by Capital Video’s court reporter) so we can more easily review the testimony.

Capital Video would not be the first, nor will it be the last, adult enterprise to be “busted” for its secondary effects. These harms are distinct from “indecency”. They are physical, long-term impacts on neighborhoods and public health that have nothing to do with a person’s opinion about porn or nudity. A permanent adult enterprise that blights a community is worlds apart from a few showings of “Hair”. The courts understand this, upholding properly drafted adult-use zoning ordinances across the country. Daytona is an excellent recent example.

The time has come for Mayor Charlie Ryan and the city of Springfield to look past a well-paid lawyer’s easy assurances and rely on the truth of its experience with Capital Video over the past 15 years. What say you, Charlie Brown?

See also:

Viewing Booths and HIV: An Open Letter to Thomas Lesser of Northampton, Attorney for Capital Video

It is remarkable that while the fate of Capital Video’s viewing booths in Springfield hangs by a thread, glory holes, sexual activity, foul conditions and management laxity remain hot topics of discussion by patrons of Capital Video stores around the country. Even metal plates between viewing booths, promoted as a key part of the recent improvements in the Springfield store, appear to be easily defeated…

Comments on Squirt.org about Amazing Video of Meriden, CT – explicit language

Description: “Several of the video booths have 2-way mirrors (on/off switch on wall above video screen). You can watch action or use this as a way of hooking up. Usually a good amount of action there. Staff leaves you alone.”

Selected comments:

9/9/06: went on FRi at 1:30 GH was in full use
Best BJ I have ever had TY!

9/18/06: …Later when leaving, I found that the lot and turnpike from one light to the next and back was an active cruising circle. couldn’t believe how much action that place was getting. Highly reccomended!

10/3/06: Glory Hole is now open….sheetmetal has been removed. [emphasis added]

1/26/07: After GH being open earlier this month, once again covered. Also notices put up prohibiting LOITERING! But nobody seemed to enforce, didn’t seem to keep guys from wandering around, testing doors. Nonetheless, not very welcoming. Too bad, because place seemed more friendly after the troll manager left.

2/3/07: This place still has some of the best dicks. My door got opened 7 times within 30 mintues. As I was playing with myself and watching porn, guys walk in whip it out right in front of me. Although I usually come here to get sucked it’s hard to pass up a big dick when it is right in front of you. And after watching everyone getting off on the TV it’s even more tempting to suck off anything that comes into the booth.

4/18/07: Went there today for the first time. There was at least 10 guys there and i was suck in a matter of minutes. Definately a good place to go for fun. the two young guys working didnt pay any attention and it is very easy to find someone.


5/20/07: I’m never disappointed here. Last Monday discovered the buddy panel and got off watching my neighbor. Today a young man followed me into the booth and knew just what to touch and just what to do. Thanks, he said.

5/30/07: Glory hole back open

6/7/07: was there at lunch time last week and the glory hole was closed up but the booth next to it looks like there is one in the making, kinda small right now. Lot of folks there but not alot happening. Finally got a blowjob from this guy with another guy watching through the buddy glass. Thinkin of heading here on Friday night the 8th. Anyone lookin to take my load?

Comments on Squirt.org about Amazing Video of Troy, NY – explicit language

Description: “Got Sucked by 3 hot guys all different times today and I sucked and got fucked by 4 guys all in the booths , it was tight, but well worth it, cock in the ass and one in the mouth. “

Selected comments:

7/5/06: are the holes open again?

8/4/06: They have had troubles keeping clerks, there always advertising for help. If you go when the young chick is on with the stud in her lip she doesnt give a shit of who’s in what booth or how many just drop money and be cool. Was in the other day, and holes were closed and the glass windows were disabled. But like others have posted the parking lot is very cruisy and the alley way also…

8/9/06: The store in Pittsfield used to have booths, but they remove them completly a few years ago.

4/12/07: was there the other day. one is open again.

4/21/07: Wven better news – look between 6&7 and 8&9 – GH delight!

5/9/07: …checked back rooms glory holes are now unblocked…

5/21/07: Was there yesterday–very good action — dropped a load in a hungry mouth –nice to see it going again–anyone wanna hook up??

The note below about the parking lot in North Kingstown, RI is a good heads-up for Northampton. The parking lot for Capital Video’s planned store at 135 King Street is in the back, with foliage by the railroad tracks offering numerous concealed spaces.

Comments on Squirt.org about Amazing Express/Video Expo of North Kingstown, RI – explicit language

Cruising tips: “Staff is cruiser friendly, never a hassle! Booths in the middle on left have peep windows between them…just press the button. “

Description: “Adult video store with preview booths in back room. (Nicely sized parking lot behind building, view blocked from the road…great for, well…)” [emphasis added]

Selected comments:

12/28/06: I’ve been going to this place on and off for years and had never met this fellow until one day last week. At least I think that it was him. A rather fat, unwashed, late 50s looking individual. . .probably uncut with an entirely new brand of cheese growing under the hood, and a nasty, unwashed, brownish bandana sticking out from under an equally dirty baseball cap? If it was him, he followed me out to my truck and tried to convince me to return to the store with him. Ich!

1/11/07: I used to frequent this bookstore for years. Back when it was a quarter of the size and only had one entrance in the front of the building (late 80’s). There were only 4 booths in the back. Had some hot times there. The clerk used to lock the store and lay me down for some awesome head. Shit, he could suck some cock! He also introduced me to poppers. He would pop a new bottle everytime we hooked up, about twice a week…

3/22/07: Stopped by NK..of course Bandana Johnny was there, truly with a stink on…its disgusting. I wonder if its a heath issue with him being there. Would Amazing be liable? Afterall, they do let him loiter all day knowing his dirtiness. That day he went into a booth…rapidly followed by 3 men, one at a time. It was disgusting to hear him spitting on the floor multiple times. I’m thinking his spit could pass a disease. I wish I was a lawyer.

4/3/07: This place is disgusting. Today there were several gross and dirty people cruising the bookstore. There were all in their 70’s and smelled like they haven’t showered in weeks. I had to leave it was so bad. In addition, they rattle the doors and open them several times even after being told that “I am all set”…

5/15/07: This place hasn’t had GH’S in quite a while but that shouldn’t stop you. Sometimes there are just older gents hanging around rattling doorknobs and the infamous dirtbag “Bandana Johnny” is always lurking but for the most part it’s a great place to give or receive some great head. Booths are a bit small for a good fuck but it can be done.

Keeping stores clean appears to be a persistent, systemwide problem for Capital Video…

Selected Comments on Squirt.org about Amazing Superstore of Dallas, TX – explicit language

8/1/06: No paper towels, trashcans, etc. Really gone down hill…

8/23/06: I go here often, took three loads with two in my ass> great place

9/22/06: Cruised there yesterday; place was nasty and dirty…

10/26/06: First time at this place. Love the arcade with all the different hallways and twists and turns, upstairs booths, also. Lots of varieties of cock! Hooked up immediately with a young preppie that loved to have his ass serviced in every way possible! He unloaded a nice load of cum in my mouth! Will certainly be back to this place!

11/18/06: Went here last night and left. Every room I went into was so filthy and smelly I couldn’t even get turned on. Pretty gross…

12/9/06: …it does smell, I think they use dirty mop water or something. I have walked in and the front of the store smelled like vomit!…

1/6/07: Hi Guys. I went here on Thursday and I have to be honest, the place smelled like a sewer. They really should do a better job of cleaning the place, or at least change the mop water more than once-a-week.

6/18/07: I haven’t been here durning lunch in awhile, but in the mornings could be fun. No staff bothering you knocking on the door. anyone ever interested in meeting let me know?

Selected Comments on Squirt.org about Amazing Express of Providence, RI

Cruising tips: “Grab a booth, only takes a minute before… “

Selected comments:

7/6/06: This used to be a pretty nice place. I was there today [briefly] and the booth area downstairs smelled like a port-a-jon…

7/18/06: …The last word that comes to my mind when I think of this place is “clean”. And the booths are really small, except two VIP booths which takes nothing smaller than a $5.
My experiences there have been…walk down the steps, and see what appears to be every homeless crack addict and hustler lining the walls… Finally I leave, only to be approached in the lot by yet another hustler “hey, what’s up…wanna hang out?”
I’ve been there three times in my life, and had similar experiences each time.

7/19/06: wanna hang out means –“i’m a ho, how much do you want to give me so i can support my drug habit” and who in there right mind would want to get off with one of those guys, they look like they are in some state of a walking comatose, not to mention they are filthy looking

Description on Squirt.org about Amazing Express of Johnston, RI

Cruising tips: “If nobody picks you up before you enter a booth just leave the door unlocked and you’re sure to meet new friends. “

Description: “I’ve never even made it into a booth alone. There’s always someone ready willing and able. “

Description on Squirt.org of Video Expo of Groton, CT (a Capital Video store)

“…boarded up glory holes, but new ones appear all the time…”

Gazette: “Porn store’s viewing booths raise stink in Springfield”
During the hearing, Nota himself said one of the holes in the Springfield viewing booths had been made with a drill, something that we presume would make a lot of noise. More generally, Internet comments from patrons suggest that Capital Video’s stores in Springfield, Kittery, Maine and elsewhere can be popular places for people to meet up for sex, at least when the store management chooses to be lax. And being lax is profitable. As one patron puts it, “theres more money going in the machines with lights off and holes in the walls…”

Here are excerpts from [a June 19] article in the Gazette:

“We agree and will not dispute that in October and December certain things occurred on the premises that should not have occurred,” said [Northampton attorney Thomas Lesser, representing Capital Video]…

At issue are the 16 enclosed viewing booths police and health officials inspected Oct. 19. Springfield health inspector Steve Stathis reported that all of the viewing booths were found ‘soiled’ at that time and littered with paper towels, tissues, and other debris. The walls, floor and video monitors were stained with what appeared to be bodily fluids, according to Stathis and police.

‘There were seven booths that contained holes in them that appeared to be 2 inches wide,’ Stathis said.

Springfield Detective Martin Germain inspected the store with Stathis and said it was his opinion that the holes were drilled to facilitate sexual acts among people in two separate booths…

Detective Jaime Bruno, who works in Springfield’s vice-control bureau, said he entered one of the video booths Dec. 20 in an undercover operation, and also entered the store on two additional occasions that day. He reported a strong stench of bodily fluids in the viewing booth area, and being groped by customers on all three visits…

‘It’s a never-ending battle,’ said Nota, of preventing customers from altering the booths. ‘We do our best…’

Erica Walch, a neighborhood resident and former president of the civic association, testified that she has witnessed prostitution almost daily in the Apremont Triangle and that Capital Video’s store creates an atmosphere of ‘lawlessness in the area.’

‘If the neighborhood is going to be developed, it has to go,’ said Michael Tuckey, a neighborhood resident and the current president of the civic association, after Monday’s hearing.

Springfield Republican Reports on Apremont Triangle Mailing about Amazing.net
“Residents…told The Republican that they believe the store draws prostitutes as well as vagrants who publicly urinate on their properties….

“David B. Panagore, chief development officer for the Springfield Finance Control Board, agreed with an assertion by Tuckey [Michael M. Tuckey Sr., president of the Armoury-Quadrangle Civic Association] that a sex-oriented video and products store discourages companies that could revitalize the area from moving in.”

Springfield Police Commissioner: “…it is fair to say that ‘Amazing’ constitutes an attractive nuisance that contributes to blighted conditions there”
“We have a great interest in the quality of life in the vicinity of the triangle and have previously taken some steps to mitigate it. Much remains to be done and it is fair to say that ‘Amazing’ constitutes an attractive nuisance that contributes to blighted conditions there.

“We…would work with any group that has innovative ideas for dealing with this condition, particularly if they transcend the inherent limitations of an enforcement only approach.”

Gazette: “Porn store opening delayed”
Police dispatch reports going back to 1998 paint a picture of burglaries, panic alarms, ambulance calls and altercations in and around the Amazing.net store at Apremont Triangle. Capital Video has gone back on promises to Northampton, resisted (unsuccessfully) viewing booth health regulations in Kittery, Maine, and has a financial incentive to be lax about activities within their stores with viewing booths (patron: “…theres more money going in the machines with lights off and holes in the walls”).

One of Capital Video’s own patrons suggests an awareness that lax periods follow restrictive ones: “I agree that it is not really worth the time with the bright lights and no holes but they will be back eventually. Be Patient!” It’s time to break this cycle and win permanent gains for Apremont Triangle with viewing booth health regulations, better adult-use zoning, and shutting down Capital Video’s Springfield store as a public nuisance. Let Mayor Charles Ryan know how you feel.

Capital Video Springfield: Secondary Effects Extend to Prostitution; Actions the City Can Take
[Fred Rowe:] Outside, we have both male and female prostitutes standing across the street, by our building, and we have a vacant lot that we use for parking. They stand there, and they wait for [customers] to come out, and they solicit them, and they try to take them out behind our building, and do their business. It’s unbelievable.

Capital Video’s Springfield Porn Shop Repels Sought-After Businesses
“The [potential grocery] market is really the key, we think, to the whole building. The people that come, the market operator–their issue is number one, the Video Expo [Amazing.net] across the street, and the crowd that you see around it…”

Springfield License Commission to Review Alleged Capital Video Violations for Drug Sales and Lewd Activity On or Near the Premises
The hearing, allegedly for license violations regarding five counts of illegal activity including drug sales on or near the premises and lewd activity, was postponed early this week. The License Commission does not invite public comment at its hearings, but residents can send concerns about Amazing.net to: Springfield License Commission, Room 317, City Hall, Springfield, MA 01103.

The Gloryhole FAQ (explicit language)
Understanding the glory hole phenomenon is useful when evaluating statements made by commercial sex shop operators such as Capital Video. For example, at Capital Video’s license violation hearing in Springfield on June 18, they made much of the fact that they recently installed metal sheets between the viewing booths in their Apremont Triangle Amazing.net store. However, Lilfuzzyg, “an avid attendee of gloryholes”, suggests above that metal partitions can be holed just as wooden ones can…

When Capital Video general counsel Lesley Rich declares that some Capital Video viewing booths have retractable “buddy windows”, glory hole devotees can reasonably infer that Capital Video welcomes sexual activity in their booths. Glory holes have been such a distinctive feature of Capital Video’s Springfield store they are mentioned prominently in its citation on Squirt.org, a website that helps members cruise for casual sex:

Most booths in arcade have glory holes, many times you can share a booth, have recieved some of the best blow jobs in my life here. Always some action going on. It’s got 20 booths, 3 large glory holes, several peep holes

The phenomena of glory holes and high-risk sex at Capital Video’s Springfield store do not appear to result from a mere transient ’employee breakdown’, as claimed by its project and construction manager Anthony Nota (Gazette, 6/19/07). They are in fact longstanding and well-known features of this establishment. Springfield Mayor Charlie Ryan should keep this perspective in mind as he determines the fate of Capital Video’s viewing booth license this summer.

Capital Video’s Porn Shops Get Many Comments from the “Cruisers” at Squirt.org
There are websites where men looking for anonymous sex make lists of good “cruising” spots across the USA. One example is Squirt.org, “your neighborhood cruising guide”.

On this site (which has explicit photos), we notice that the Amazing.net store is one of the two “cruising” locations listed for Kittery, Maine. This listing has 56 comments, far more than the number two listing, the I-95 Northbound Rest Area (11 comments). Amazing.net stores are owned by Capital Video Corporation, the company proposing to build a porn shop with viewing booths at 135 King Street.

When we search Squirt.org for cruising locations in Springfield, Massachusetts, 13 sites are listed. Number one for comments is Video Expo (68 comments). This appears to be the same store as Amazing.net, since they share the same address (486 Bridge Street).

Then we searched Squirt.org for cruising locations in Meriden, Connecticut. Four sites are listed. Number one for comments is Amazing.net (79 comments). The other three sites have no comments at all.

Many Porn Shops with Viewing Booths Likely Fall Short of OSHA Standards

In 2006, compliance appears to have been an issue at Capital Video’s porn shop in Kittery, Maine. This porn shop contains 16 viewing booths. We recall last year’s testimony from Kittery’s police chief (emphasis added):

The Chief said their informant told them that on numerous occasions he had tried to clean but had not been given any information on how to wash the areas properly. Police Chief Strong said he believed the collection of material they made, along with the lab results, showed beyond a reasonable doubt that there were body fluids being exchanged or deposited that other people were exposed to…
What Kittery Found at the Porn Shop
Chief Strong said Fernald Road residents had complained about finding offensive trash on the road and the Department did their own surveillance, finding such items as empty pill bottles, lubricants, leather straps, movies, and used condoms within 100 yards of the rear of the establishment on Fernald Road. [We note this trash was found during a time when Capital Video’s porn shop in Kittery still had closed-door viewing booths.]

“Commercial sex venues: a closer look at their impact on the syphilis and HIV epidemics among men who have sex with men”, Sexually Transmitted Infections, 8/2/06
Study: A cross-sectional study of 1,351 MSM who were diagnosed with early syphilis who did and did not encounter sexual partners at commercial sex venues.

Results: Overall, 26% MSM diagnosed with syphilis had sexual encounters at commercial sex venues. Of these, 74% were HIV positive, 94% reported anonymous sex, and 66% did not use a condom. Compared to those who did not have a sexual encounter at these venues, they were twice as likely to be HIV positive…six times more likely to have anonymous sex…twice as likely not to use a condom…and twice as likely to use non-injecting drugs…

Conclusions: MSM diagnosed with syphilis who frequent commercial sex venues are engaging in high risk behaviours for syphilis and HIV transmission and acquisition. Thus commercial sex venues are one of the focal points of syphilis and HIV transmission and acquisition.

“No Turning Back: HIV and Gay Male Sexuality”, The Body, Winter 2005/2006
A U.S. study of public sex environments (PSEs) — parks, beaches, public bathrooms, truck stops, etc. — and commercial sex environments (CSEs) — bars, bathhouses, sex clubs, etc. — found that half of the HIV-positive MSM [men who have sex with men] surveyed had visited a PSE (50%) or a CSE (41%) in the previous three months, with 24% going to both. Interestingly, MSM who visited PSEs did not engage in more unprotected sexual activities than did those who did not visit PSEs, while visitors to CSEs had significantly more unprotected sex than non-visitors.

“The continuing HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men”, American Journal of Public Health, 6/01
OBJECTIVES: This study characterized the AIDS epidemic among urban men who have sex with men (MSM). METHODS: A probability sample of MSM was obtained in 1997 (n = 2881; 18 years and older) from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco, and HIV status was determined through self-report and biological measures. RESULTS: HIV prevalence was 17%… [C]urrent levels among urban MSM in the United States approximate those of sub-Saharan countries (e.g., 14%-25%) and are extremely high in many population subsegments. Despite years of progress, the AIDS epidemic continues unabated among subsegments of the MSM community.

“Homosexual encounters in different venues”, International Journal of STD and AIDS, 1997
We aim to provide empirical data regarding the role of various sex-on-premises venues for gay men in the spread of HIV infection and homosexual activity with casual partners at different (public) venues was assessed. A questionnaire was filled out by participants in a cohort study in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Questions were asked regarding sex in private homes, baths, cruising areas, darkrooms, cinemas, and hotel rooms… the number of partners practising unprotected anogenital sex was highest in (semi) public venues.

“Court upholds N.J. law discouraging sex in video shops”, AIDS Policy Law, 3/21/97
AIDS: Claims that a State law regulating adult video shops unconstitutionally interfere with the shop’s free speech rights have been rejected by a New Jersey appeals court. The law was aimed at preventing the spread of contagious diseases where coin-operated, sexually explicit videos are shown… The appellate judge wrote that the law does not suppress sex videos but does prevent book shops from providing closed booths for patrons to watch the videos.

“Judge upholds closing of theater that was site of high-risk sex”, AIDS Policy Law, 5/5/95
AIDS: New York City’s decision to close a gay movie theater where inspectors found male patrons engaging in unsafe sexual activity with other men was upheld by Justice Marilyn G. Diamond of the Supreme Court in Manhattan. She rejected the theater owner’s argument that the city’s March 31, 1995 closure of the New David Cinema on West 54th Street violated the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of speech. The city based its action on a provision in the state health code which prohibits oral, anal or vaginal sex in commercial establishments. Despite several warnings from the city, the movie house did not follow the demands that it move forcefully to prevent high-risk sexual activity among patrons… Some gay activists contend the action was unjustified, since most of the sex that occurs in those establishments in consensual and involves solo or mutual masturbation. Others point out that a good deal of unsafe sex does occur. Because men often have several sexual liaisons during a single night at a theater or club, the risk of HIV transmission is magnified many-fold.

Massachusetts Health and Human Services: HIV-AIDS Epidemiologic Profile Fiscal Year 2007

October 2006 Fact Sheet
From 1999 to 2005, the number of people living with HIV/AIDS increased by 30%… As of the end of 2005, a cumulative total of 27,631 Massachusetts residents have been diagnosed and reported with HIV infection, with or without an AIDS diagnosis. Of these, 11,665 (42%) have died…

Male-to-male sex and injection drug use are the leading reported risks for HIV infection among people living with HIV/AIDS, accounting for 33% and 27% of all infections, respectively… Among males diagnosed with HIV infection, the proportion of HIV diagnoses with male-to-male sex as the primary reported exposure mode increased from 41% in 1999 to 53% in 2005.

Geographic Distribution
Top twenty cities/towns in Massachusetts by rate of HIV infection diagnosis (2003-2005):

  1. Provincetown
  2. Springfield
  3. Boston
  4. Holyoke