Thursday, 15 November 2012

Spanks For The Memories: The Growth of Video

This is the second extract from  Spanks For The Memories, my account of my years as a porno writer and video maker. Let's look at the growth of video and how Harrison Marks turned out to be very lucky indeed...
At the end of the 1980s it looked to all the writers as if the land was about to overflow with milk and honey. Looking back that hubris was a mistake, but how were we to know that the cold winds of the 1990s were about to hit us with a vengeance? 

To be fair, we had ridden out the video storm reasonably well and had learned to coexist with it, which is more than can be said for our American counterparts who were swept away by the video tide. In the USA the trade in magazines just died as everyone started renting pornographic videos from their local shop, but in Britain such videos could not be sold legally, thank goodness, so the magazines continued for a while longer. 

That is not to say that the country was not awash with videos, and I knew plenty of people who would travel to Holland to stock up on supplies of the latest American shagfests, which the canny Dutch were issuing on Video 8 cartridges that were actually made to record video in a camera. However, unlike a VHS cartridge these items were small enough to fit unobtrusively in a jacket pocket. Once home the merchant would slot the cartridge into his camera, hook that up to the VHS machine and then start to copy the video onto full sized VHS tapes to sell to the eager multitude.

 It has to be admitted that the law did not take the ostensibly overarching video legislation all that seriously, either. Until the day that he died, George Harrison Marks used to love telling the story of how he was once prosecuted for selling some spanking videos. So convinced was he that he would be spending time as a guest of Her Majesty that he went to court with a stock of fresh underwear and socks in a paper bag. As his name was read out the judge leaned myopically forward and asked if the defendant was the same Harrison Marks who had once edited Janus? When this was confirmed to him, his lordship’s eyes were raised slightly at the news, and the judicial lips were then pursed in thought. The defence council rose and made his one submission, which was that the videos had been exported to Denmark and that Harrison Marks was not responsible if someone chose to then export them back to Britain. This rather lame explanation was considered by the judge who then ruled that there was no case to answer and dismissed the defendant. To say that the courtroom was stunned was putting it mildly and for the rest of his life Harrison Marks would tell that story as an example of just how much the high and mighty enjoyed a good spanking read. Certainly, this event and others like it had an influence on the trade with more and more pornographers turning their attention to the making of spanking videos, with a reasonable degree of certainty that nobody would disturb them. 

Why did this not destroy the written word as it did across the Atlantic? Largely because the trade was still semi-clandestine as the police would raid a normal video shop that had the temerity to stock pornographic tapes. Therefore, unlike the United States or most of Europe, the punter could not go to a shop and rent a tape, instead he had to buy it from a man that he did not know and wait for it to arrive in a big, bulky envelope by post. Some punters were quite happy to give their details out, but most were not. Soho started selling videos, but many shops were ripping off the punters by selling them blank tapes, and the video trade acquired a reputation for out and out fraudulent activity, which the magazine side of the porn trade never had. 

To cut a long story short, the writers continued to make money with magazines that should have been killed off by video, and would have been had Britain not be quite such an anally retentive place as it was in the 1980s. 

On the other hand, the hack writers of Britain who made rather a lot of money under those circumstances gave thanks for anal retention and the type of government that it created.

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