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From: lattara<lattara@REMOVETHIS.europe.com>
Subject: Field Report: Porn Shopping in Soho
Newsgroups: rec.arts.movies.erotica
Date: Tue, 13 Feb 2001 18:44:13

The tiny minority of Ramers who don't have kill filters set to instantly delete any post with 'British' or 'UK' in the header are probably aware that as of last summer the UK has entered the realms of the civilised porn-consuming world. No more were we Brits to have to scavenge in seedy backrooms of run-down vid shops where dodgy geezers dispensed black-market porn vids in glorious Fuzz-o-vision and spectacular Eighth-Generation-Copy-o-scope.

I've been doing my best to bang on about this in r.a.m.e and other newsgroups for 6 months now but various factors kept me from sampling the goods on offer myself. At last, however, I have braved Britain's abysmal rail system and despite the best efforts of Richard Branson to leave me in a siding outside Hemel Hempstead I have donned my best raincoat - the one with the bottomless pockets and stain resistant fabric treatment - and ventured into the heart of porn darkness that is the square mile of Soho, sin capital of England....

My purpose was to buy hardcore R18 videos and I aimed on spending up to 100 pounds. I checked out 4 licensed sex shops - which are theoretically the only places R18 vids can legally be sold - all within a few minutes walk of Tottenham Court Road, Leicester Square and Piccadilly tube stations. The results of my smutatoria search are as follows:-

Lovejoys, Charing Cross Road:- I'm not sure this is actually called Lovejoys anymore -that was the name a few years ago. In any case, it's near where Old Compton St meets Charing Cross Road. It follows the old-fashioned sex shop model - respectable bookshop on the ground floor (Charing Cross Road is the main drag for bookshops in London), den of vice in the basement. Limited selection of R18 vids and DVDs, but the lowest prices for individual buys (ranging from UKP15.95 to UKP18.95). The shop will exchange vids for UKP10 but this did not appear to apply to DVDs.

Original Soho Bookshop, Brewer Street - Right in the throbbing heart of Soho where walk-up whores rub shoulders with Gucci-clad advertising execs and TV producers, again this has a respectable bookshop on the ground floor and a basement stocked with smut. All the R18 vids and DVDs were priced at 19.95 UKP (except for a few pre-liberalisation R18 vids which are basically softcore and should be avoided like the plague - these were at a knock down UKP10, so clearly the punters are wise to the difference). There was a much larger selection of vids here than in Lovejoys, indeed most of the titles I recognised from my trawling of the BBFC website were present and correct. In addition they had a 3 vids for 50 quid offer so the price per vid came down to UKP 16.66 if you were prepared to buy in bulk. If like me you'd invested in a rail ticket it wouldn't pay to do otherwise. Like Lovejoys, the Soho Bookshop will exchange watched vids for UKP10 a time - again this didn't appear to apply to DVDs but if you know otherwise post and correct my ignorance. (I could have asked the shop assistant I guess but English did not appear to be one of his languages). More on exchanging later in the post.

Harmony Sexshop, Brewer's Passage (IIRC) - this is the alleyway off Brewer Street where the Raymond Revue Bar is located so whatever it's called you should be able to find it. The biggest sexshop in Soho AFAIK and therefore presumably the biggest in the UK - this is, to the best of my knowledge, the only sexshop - Anne Summers possibly aside - in Britain that even begins to compare with one of the glossy Euro chains like Beata Uhse or World of Sex (in fact Beata Uhse are supposedly considering opening up in the UK now it's worth their while

  • presuming that is that there are enough local councils in Britain who will be prepared to license sex shops, many currently won't license at all, or won't license more than one, which leaves one company in control of a large percentage of the UK's sexshops. The main reason I wanted to trek to London was it's the only place in the UK where there is any real competition to keep prices down). In Harmony all vids and DVDs are UKP 19.95. There didn't appear to be any bulk buy savings available, nor was there any chance of exchanging as far as I could make out. However, the range here appeared to be the best of the 4 shops I visited, though it only pipped the Soho Bookshop by a few titles. In its favour the shop was staffed by assistants who looked more like the staff of a left-field bookshop than the barmen from a seedy East European tavern who ran the counters in the other shops.

British Sexshop, Brewer's Passage - opposite Harmony. Ah, this takes me back. Up until about 18 months ago this was an unlicensed sex shop called Wonderland where I used to buy German vids with titles like 'Piss mir in den Arsch, du geile Teeny-Fickluder' and 'Fick meine Spermatriefende Muschi mit deiner schwarzen Faust'. Sadly such fare is not as readily available as it once was and my linguistic skills are suffering as a result.... this shop still maintains the seedy atmosphere of it's old illegal days. Decent stock of R18 vids, also supposedly DVD's though I couldn't see them. 20 UKP to buy, 10 UKP to exchange. The only shop that had the only R18 vid with a Vanessa Chase scene as yet released (called 'Suck Off' for the UK market, apparently a Sean Michaels directed flick with the original title 'Dr Freckle and Mr Jive' if I've identified it correctly based on cast list and runtime - any US readers who have got this far in the post and who've seen this let me know if it's worth getting. Bear in mind that I would eat chips out of Vanessa's knickers as they say in Belfast - or should I say fries from Vanessa's panties to cater for the international audience.....). Anyhow, this aside, why bother buying here when you can buy from shops that have shed the cloak-and-dagger ambience of the old days as the prices are no better here than elsewhere... also the staff in the other shops are less scary....

BTW, if anyone who hasn't been to Soho wants to get an idea of it (or more accurately how it appeared a few years ago before most of the shops got licenses) check out Ben Dover's Puttin' On The Brits where Ben and accomplices fuck a canny Geordie lass (http://www.bgafd.co.uk/girls/t/t0017.shtml) in an unlicensed sex shop. 'Have you got any of my videos here?' asks Ben. 'No,' the assistant lies - obviously any hardcore versions of Ben's vids on sale in the UK were (up until a few months ago) dupes from US or European releases and Ben would have been losing out on any revenue from these. (There's much to say about Ben's new UK hardcore releases but that would be to go off at a tangent and i wou;dn't want to do that.... <g>).

There are several other licensed sex shops in the Soho area and others in other parts of central London, but by now I just wanted to buy porn and rush off to the Eastend to watch strippers so I headed back to the Soho Bookshop whose bulk buy discount and exchange offer seemed like the best bet to me. Oh the agony of choice.... so much legal and (presumably) decent quality porn (I'm talking picture quality here, up until this week I had always presumed pornstars had a yellow radiance and the power to alter contrast at will)....

The porn passed so far by the British censor breaks down into the following groups.... Recent Private films distributed by Sheptonhurst Ltd who also distribute some of Cal Vista's back catalogue, a selection from Wicked, Sin City and Metro back catalogues distributed by Prime Time Promotions, a handful of golden age classics whose distribution seems to be split between Hot Rod Productions and Prime Time Promotions (we're talking Deep Throat, Debbie Does Dallas and Devil In Miss Jones here - titles which are all fairly well-known among the British public insofar as any porn is), various British releases, notably Ben Dover and Omar Williams which are variously distributed, and a whole slew of Evil Angel vids ditributed in the UK by Harmony. (Is Harmony linked to the Harmony sexshop? No idea. Sheptonhurst and possibly Prime Time Promotions have links to the businesses that own many of the UK's sexshops and it was certainly suggested that they may choke off other product - this doesn't seem to be happening in London at least). Hot Rod Productions also distribute various vids from other US companies of a more raincoaterish variety (e.g. one of the North Pole series, one of the White Trash Whore series). Then there are a few German vids that have crept out too....

Kudos has to go to Harmony who have released half-a-dozen or so Evil Angel titles with what appears to be the original artwork from the US release. (In fact a couple of their vids were in US style big cardboard boxes - which they appear to have abandoned for more recent releases). The artwork on HotRod releases also appears to tend towards the decent. Most of the other companies have foregone the original boxcovers in order to stress the 'genuine hardcore' aspect of the vids. Hopefully once the British public comes to know what to expect from an R18 vid this will stop as vidcaps on the cover of vids gives them a cheap and nasty look and discourages me from buying. This has most notably been done with Private and Wicked films - both companies put out front covers in the US and other territiories that don't really scream 'hardcore' porn - the UK versions do (for example, one UK Private release just has a close-up pussy with an anal impalement below - hardly the upmarket image Berth Milton Jr. has been cultivating for his product over the last decade!).

BTW, all the titles on display were selling like the proverbial hotcakes (especially in Harmony and the Soho Bookshop). The assistant in the Soho Bookshop audibly tutted when I came up to the counter with six videos in my sweaty paws - he knew he'd have to go and fill the gaps on the shelves as I watched him do before while I was browsing. I finally settled on the following 6 vids for 100 quid:-

Dirty Anal Kelly in Rome - because Kelly has a mischievous twinkle in her eyes as she blows complete strangers.... I like that in a girl. Also, this is the most heavily cut R18 video passed since the liberalisation - over 7 minutes when most have not been cut at all - and I wanted to see what had been left in (and try and get an idea of what had been left out).

Private's Madness 2 - because it's Private, because it's 3 hours long and I'm a 'value for money' kind of guy.

Euro Angels 25 - because I liked the cover :-)

Euro Angels Hardball 9 - because I wanted to find out what the difference between ordinary Angels and Hardball Angels was. I know there's been a thread in r.a.m.e recently about how boring Christophe Clark is getting - if only you knew the luxuries in which you live. For me, being able to buy a Christophe Clarke vid in a shop without having to worry that I'm buying a blank tape (but see below) is like some kind of strange dream that I have a fear of waking up from.

Buttman & Rocco Go To Montreal - because it's Buttman and Rocco - come on, I'm a raincoater who likes gonzo stuff, why would I not buy this tape?

Sweet Little Pervert - because Stephanie Swift is the nearest I come to being an SFB. Sadly I've seen Miscreants, Gang Bang Angels 1 and a Cherry Poppers encounter of hers with Max (all in pirate releases). The various Wicked productions that have been released in the UK are not going to measure up to these for sheer levels of perversion. In fact the companies seem to have gone out of there way to release vids where Steph stays veggie or doesn't do anal - at least this vid promises a facial... we almost SFB's have to take out rough comforts where we can.....

So far I've only watched half of Dirty Anal Kelly. I am finding it hard to believe that the stuffy bastards who have dictated Britsh film censorship for the last 8 decades are happy to allow me to watch curvy English cutie Kelly blow and rim a quartet of gentlemen whom Rocco appears to have picked up wherever it is that illegal immigrants gather to tout for work in Rome.... or for that matter to permit me to see Rocco and friends DPing a petite redhead while ramming a dildo into her mouth. And this is after they've cut out all the really nasty stuff!! I keep expecting the local filth to turn up on my doorstep going 'Ha ha, fooled you - we thought that would get all you sick porno fucks crawling out of the woodwork' and cart me off to prison. But it hasn't happened yet....

The only cloud to the day (and bear in mind that after I'd bought my vids I hurried off to Ye Olde Axe in Shoreditch and watched various cuties wave their snatches about 2 inches from my face in exchange for a pint and a pound a go - oh the simple pleasures....) was that some fucker had taken advantage of the Soho Bookshops exchange scheme to return a dupe. He'd carefully removed the label off the original tape and placed it on his own copy which has a picture quality worse than many of the pirate porn vids I've had over the years. Bastard! The moral is clearly try and buy a new copy rather than a retread and check the tape before you buy. It was immediately obvious that the tape was a dupe - if only the shop assistant had bothered to check when the previous buyer had handed it in for exchange. It's a pain to have to go 120 miles to change a duff purchase.

OTOH, at least this was the action of one dumb bastard rather than the systematic ripoffs that used to be practised in some Soho sexshops. Those days seem to have gone for good!

OK, if anyone is still reading, I hope the potentially useful stuff is useful and the dull personal wittering is not too dull. Any comments and info gladly received...especially on prices and availability of R18 vids in other UK towns and cities.

And now I'm off to see just how dirty Kelly is going to be....


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