Show Business: Sex Trip

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There is a fair chance that future historians may credit—or blame—Alex de Renzy, 34, an imaginative San Francisco pornographer, for bestowing the coup de grâce to movies' last remaining sexual inhibitions. De Renzy went to Denmark with a camera crew last year and shot endless reels of 16-mm. film of the country's legal pornography industry. The resulting Pornography in Denmark takes sexploitation as far as it can go. The picture explicitly depicts lesbianism, fellatio, cunnilingus, and every detail of conventional sexual intercourse.

The film has now achieved more or less legitimate distribution in Los Angeles and Manhattan, where it plays under the alias Censorship in Denmark: A New Approach. In San Francisco, de Renzy took the movie from what he jokingly calls his "sleazy lust house" in the tenderloin to a theater in the respectable Marina district. "We just couldn't fill up the theater with sex freaks," says de Renzy. "We are pitching to a much broader, middle-class audience." Not counting upcoming bookings in Seattle and Washington, D.C., the $15,000 venture has grossed some $800,000 in half a year.

To circumvent censorship, Porno, as the film is known, is passed off as a documentary. Clumsily interspersed with the sex scenes are travelogue footage of Denmark and man-on-the-street interviews of the queues entering Copenhagen's 1969 Sex Fair. Police vice squads have raided Porno—once in Los Angeles, twice in San Francisco—but courts have refused to close the show. Another censorship dodge, used by many of de Renzy's competitors in the fast-expanding porno market, is sex education. Such how-to-do-it movies as Man and Wife and Marital Fulfillment clinically demonstrate the positional permutations of coitus. Few if any of the pictures released so far in either genre are particularly erotic. Depicting sex that is crude, loveless and even passionless, they are really horror movies—repellent not so much for their immorality as for their inhumanity.

Amateurs Only. "I'm not exactly sure where it belongs, but pornography has a place in society," argues de Renzy. Before coming to that conclusion, he studied zoology at the University of Nevada, taught at an Air Force survival school, worked as a croupier in Reno, and shot industrial films in San Francisco. After moonlighting on stag movies, he leased a 50-seat lust house that he renamed The Screening Room. He spent $50,000 refurbishing and expanding it and as much on legal fees fighting police efforts to close it down. Since 1968, the box-office gross has risen from $100 a week to an average $8,000. To attract repeat patronage, de Renzy shoots a new 90-minute picture every month or so, and his cinematic technique is improving with practice. At first his stars were prostitutes, but he now casts only amateurs, generally hippies; he gets them for $50 a picture through an ad in the underground Berkeley Barb.

Adjusting to affluence, de Renzy drives a Porsche convertible and sails a 52-ft. yacht. He lives in a $150,000 hilltop estate in Marin County—with his secretary and one of his former actresses. Both are pregnant with his children, and he supports at least five earlier offspring. "I guess you could say," he says, "that I'm on a sex trip." So is a growing portion of the moviegoing public.