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It was inevitable -- an Internet lounge just for porn

Wednesday, May 31 2000
There is not much strip and very little tease in Justin Damon's live adult theater show. He's pretty much naked before he steps onstage, and the tight Calvin Klein briefs go away seconds after he hits the spotlight.

Damon has danced at the all-male New Meat Campus Theater for two years. But he's about to start a more respectable day job as an Internet technical support manager. It shouldn't interfere with his nightly dancing gig, though, because Damon (his stage name) will be performing both jobs for the same boss.

In another measure of the inevitable march of progress, the New Meat Theater next month will launch a full-service Internet lounge catering entirely to porn fans. An upstairs room at the Tenderloin theater is being outfitted with high-speed DSL lines, computers, digital cameras, scanners, and printers. Customers will be able to surf the Net for porn, download and print images, and even broadcast their own exploits on the World Wide Web.

Access to the Web lounge will be included in the $10 admission charge that patrons pay for the triple-X movies, live shows, and rows of 25-cent video booths traditionally found in an adult theater.

"It will be like a kinky version of Kinko's," says New Meat owner Terrance Alan. "You can't surf naked or get off there, but you can here."

Alan says the "Net Lounge" is a necessary improvement to keep his adult theater relevant in a digital age, by providing an unlimited choice of X-rated entertainment on demand. The technology, he hopes, will also help attract a new generation of Web-savvy clientele who, until now, have had to satisfy themselves by searching for porn on their own computers alone.

"We're enhancing the Internet by providing the fourth dimension: the ability to touch," says Alan, who plans to make the computer room a truly interactive place.

It is legal in San Francisco for patrons of adult theaters to engage in safe, consensual sex with each other, as long as they don't do it in a locked, unmonitored room or with anyone who is paid, such as a dancer.

"I've already hired a cute, 22-year-old, Net-savvy, blue-eyed, blond boy from Iowa to make sure everything in the computer lounge runs smoothly," Alan says, referring to Damon.

Alan also says New Meat's Internet service will be popular among the closeted, married, and discreet crowd who do not want to leave a traceable history of their browsings on their home or office computers.

New Meat's plan to go high-tech appears to be the first of its kind. And taking the venue upscale, Alan hopes, may help dispel the image that an adult theater is only for undesirables. "Creepy old men, speed freaks, and druggies -- that's the stigma we deal with here," says New Meat manager Chris Beamish. "But we're starting to get quite the opposite of the stereotype, and the Internet lounge will change that even more so."

Beamish says an adult theater will always be about sex, but doesn't have to be a miserable place. New Meat, he says, is trying to find ways to make the environment more fun and appealing. "There is good and bad seedy, as in titillating versus revolting," he says. "And let's be honest, Tenderloin seedy is not that hot."

Situated in San Francisco's notoriously crime-ridden Tenderloin District, which is zoned to accommodate many of the city's adult-orientated businesses, the New Meat theater has long been a victim of its own neighborhood. Alan bought the run-down and neglected theater last year, pledging to clean it up.

"When I first walked in, it was so gross I didn't want to touch anything," says Alan, who has since added fresh paint and carpet, and has more plans to remodel, such as converting the lobby into a cappuccino cafe. "I don't mean to sanitize the sex," he says. "I just want to make it clean, friendly, and safe by being inventive."

Alan points to the many straight adult theaters in the Tenderloin that have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in capital improvements in recent years.

"The Market Street Cinema is very clean and beautiful inside; it's like a penthouse palace. The New Century Theater has been impeccably remodeled," he says. "The straight sex industry is investing a lot of money to eliminate the mentality that these are dirty places. So why can't we?"

Alan won't divulge how much he has invested in his theater, but says his successful adult film production company -- New Meat Videos -- allows him to make a comfortable living without worrying that the theater turn an immediate profit. "The theater is my pet project," he says. "In one year, we've managed to grow business 20 percent, which isn't a lot, but that bucked the previous trend, which was going down."

Even before hatching plans for the Internet lounge, Alan began reviving New Meat with special events. Besides the regularly scheduled porn movies, Alan used the theater's stage for live entertainment like the "Dating Gayme" every Monday night in which gay men picked from the audience are set up on blind dates using the format of the famous TV show. There is also an Amateur Night stripping contest on Wednesdays. Alan foresees offering more entertainment, like stand-up comedy. New Meat has three floors, with sexual play rooms in the basement, a 100-seat theater on the main floor, and the Internet lounge upstairs. "There's no reason all of this can't go on in one building, giving people the chance to pick and choose," he says.

Beamish, who has managed adult theaters for nearly a decade, says he has seen the industry at its worst and tends to think it still has a future.

"It's about keeping things fresh and innovative. For us to go to the Internet is an obvious evolution. We all have computers and are technology-obsessed today. And that's cool; that's progress," Beamish says, noting that even if the adult theater does go upscale, its general purpose will never change. "It will still be just as sleazy."

About The Author

Joel P. Engardio


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