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Jewish World Review Sept. 29, 2000 / 29 Elul 5760

Greg Crosby

Greg Crosby
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Consumer Reports

Pop Porn -- I DID SOMETHING last night that I’ve never done before in my life. I walked out of a theater during intermission between acts and never went back. Before I tell you why my wife and I left in the middle of the show, I’d like to tell you a bit about me.

I love movies and the theater. I grew up watching the old classic films on television -- everything from Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy to Cary Grant and Loretta Young. For about 30 years I worked for one of the biggest entertainment companies in town. I wrote for feature films and I was involved in their marketing and publicity. My wife loves movies and the theater as much as I do. Sure, we watch the classic movie channels on cable, but we also go out to first-run movies and we rent videos of some of the newer films that we missed and wanted to see. From time to time we attend special screenings through the museums and other organizations.

We’ve had the good fortune to have attended musicals, comedies and dramatic plays around the world. We’ve seen first-runs in London as well as on Broadway and here in LA. The playbills we’ve kept as souvenirs through the years number into the hundreds. In addition to the big shows, we also attend off Broadway, Equity-wavier, and other small theater. “Going to the theater” has, for us, always been one of the delicious pleasures of life and hopefully it will be something we continue to enjoy --- even after our experience last night.

When we first heard, some time ago, that the old North Hollywood El Portel movie theater was going to be renovated and re-opened as a legitimate theater, we were thrilled. We anxiously signed up to become season ticket holders for the premiere 4 play season at the new El Portel Center for the Arts. As it turned out, we enjoyed the first two shows but did not like the third -- but that’s okay -- you can’t win ‘em all.

But the last play in our subscription series was the show we bailed out on last night.

The play is called “Popcorn” but a more befitting title would be “Pop Porn” since from the first line of dialogue on, that’s just what you get. Within the first half of this play there is enough offensive, vulgar language and low-class references to bodily functions and sexual acts to fill a couple of those teenage anything-goes summer gross-out movies with plenty left over for a week of Howard Stern shows. We took it for about an hour, then we left.

Understand -- it’s not that we were horribly appalled in some prudish, straight-laced sort of way. I realize, sadly, that in today’s culture, we, all of us, are forced to live with a certain amount of crudeness and degeneracy on a daily basis. It’s hurled at us from a million directions. I know all the four-letter words, I get all the references -- I just don’t happen to want to hear them, that’s all. I have no interest in them -- they hold no fascination for me. So I do what I can to mitigate my exposure to vulgarity. I don’t have to watch ugly just because ugly might be what’s in style this season.

And I don’t appreciate it being thrown into my face. I wouldn’t repeat half the things I heard on stage last night to guests at my home. It’s all about respect and courtesy to others. And yes, it bothers me when entertainment “artists” don’t show this same level of respect and courtesy for their audience.

Just because profanity on stage isn’t for me doesn’t mean that I want to ban others from it if they want it. There are plenty of plays around for everyone to choose the kind they’d like to spend their time and money attending. The problem is, in this instance, we never had a choice.

You see, nothing was ever printed in the advance flyers or in any of the subsequent ads warning people that the play contains language and situations that some may consider offensive.

I wonder if it ever occurred to the producers that someone might bring their young child or their mother to the performance. Maybe the producers just figured everybody thinks, acts and talks the way they do. Or maybe they thought they’d see just how far they could push this thing. I don’t know what their reasoning was and I frankly don’t care.

My wife and I were not the only ones to walk out on that show. I counted about a dozen others who followed us out to the parking lot. I wish there had been more, but seeing those folks slowly making their way to their cars did my heart good. It assured me that some measure of civility, however small, was still alive and well and living in southern California.

JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. You may contact him by clicking here.


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© 2000, Greg Crosby