Thursday, 30 December 2010


One of the most torrid passages from Henry Miller's controversial “Tropic of Cancer” was read aloud Thursday, November 9 to a City Council committee considering demands for stronger anti-pornography laws.

Several hundred persons jammed the hearing room at the outset of the session, but many of the women attending filed out before the sizzling paragraphs studded with obscene four-letter words were read. The exodus followed a request by Councilman Edward Roybal, chairman of the Public Health and Welfare Committee, that microphones in City Hall outside the chambers be turned off.
Purpose of the hearing was to determine ways and means to dam a flood of indecent literature allegedly inundating bookshops and stands in certain sections of Los Angeles, leading to recent police raid and arrests.

Dr. Donald Cortum, state chairman of the Citizens for Decent Literature, a national organization founded in 1955, and a delegation of the group's membership urged the formation of a Los Angeles citizens committee to combat such books as “Tropic of Cancer.”

“Los Angeles is being deluged with obscenity, pornography and so-called erotic literature,” he told the committee. He blamed the Communist party for much of the “indecent trash being offered in books and magazines here,” and charged a Red conspiracy to weaken American morals through the distribution of pornography. “Good outstanding citizens in many cases are completely unaware of the trash on our local newsstands,” he said. “It is for this reason that a Council-appointed citizens committee should be functioning to supplement legal action.

Warning that unconsidered action on Cortum's recommendation might lead to censorship, Raymond Frazier, a salesman of 1197 S. Windsor Blvd., and Arthur J. Gates, manager of the Sunset News Co., voiced opposition to any vigilant action. “I urge caution, moderation and education as the strongest methods of counteracting pornography,” Frazier testified. Gates said vigilante censor groups were attempting to drive established, offensive magazines from the newsstands. He urged action against publishers of pornographic literature to cut it off at the source.

At the end of the two-and-a-half-hour hearing Chairman Roybal said the committee would review all testimony before making any recommendation to the City Council.

Since its organization in 1955 by Charles H. Keating, Jr., an Ohio attorney, Citizens for Decent Literature has established local committees throughout the nation.
(Source: Los Angeles Examiner, Friday, November 10, 1961, reprinted in The Nudist Newsletter No. 120/1962)

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