In 1973, less than a hundred years after Henry James's Daisy Miller compared the innocence of Americans with the decadence of Europeans, Jim and Artie Mitchell arrived at the Cannes Film Festival for the screening of their magnum opus. When the lights came up and the credits rolled on Behind The Green Door, the French audience showered America's bad-boy pornographers with wild applause. The formerly innocent Americans had returned to teach the Europeans about decadence. Bottom Feeders is the compelling story of ...
In 1973, less than a hundred years after Henry James's Daisy Miller compared the innocence of Americans with the decadence of Europeans, Jim and Artie Mitchell arrived at the Cannes Film Festival for the screening of their magnum opus. When the lights came up and the credits rolled on Behind The Green Door, the French audience showered America's bad-boy pornographers with wild applause. The formerly innocent Americans had returned to teach the Europeans about decadence. Bottom Feeders is the compelling story of how a pair of irreverent brothers, the sons of an Okie cardshark, made pornography one more option in the mainstream consumer marketplace. It is also the story of how their moral disintegration ended in the violent death of Artie at the hands of his brother. Award-winning author John Hubner set out to discover what kind of forces might drive a man to kill his brother. But his examination of the Mitchell story becomes much more than that. Long before mild-mannered Jim burst into Artie's house with his rifle blazing, the Mitchell Brothers had made a name for themselves as counterculture heroes who owned San Francisco's landmark O'Farrell Theatre. Riding the free-love tide of sexual libertarianism, the brothers went from distribution of topless still photos to sexually explicit films and live sex shows that forced authorities to anchor legal rulings in the shifting sands of community standards. Along the way they produced Green Door (which became a mainstream blockbuster), fought seminal court battles, launched the career of famed "Ivory Snow Girl" Marilyn Chambers, were a focal point for underground celebrities like Hunter S. Thompson, and became known as the Peck's Bad Boys of San Francisco, who responded to harassment from the mayor by putting her office number on the theater marquee. But whether you're in the vanguard or the rearguard, porn is a dirty business. Hubner discovers that the morally twisted world of porn often attracts psychologically unstab
Hubner ( Monkey on a Stick ) presents a raw, compellingly lurid account of Jim Mitchell (b. 1943) and his younger brother, Artie (b.1945), who pioneered ``mainstream'' pornographic films during the 1970s. Raised in an ``Okie'' family in California's San Joaquin Valley, the brothers started out filming ``loops'' of topless hippie women in '60s San Francisco, where they later opened the O'Farrell Theater as a venue for their work. As they progressed to more explicit fare, they added plots and creative camera angles as means to justify their movies' artistic merits and thus get around antipornography laws. During their heyday, the brothers tangled with antiporn activists, including Dianne Feinstein (elected to the U.S. Senate last fall) and convicted S & L felon Charles Keating, and gave porn star Marilyn Chambers her start in Behind the Green Door . Hubner concentrates on the Mitchells' headstrong, country-boy mentality as he leads up to their last act: in 1991 Jim fatally shot Artie, who had become a drug addict and alcoholic. Jim was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. In a book that no doubt will receive major local attention, Hubner neither sensationalizes nor flinches from the sordid facts in the lives of these emblematic ``pornographers of the flower children.'' (Mar.)
San Francisco's notorious Mitchell brothers are fast becoming publishing's ``Amy Fisher'' story. In the wake of David McCumber's X-Rated ( LJ 11/15/92), journalist Hubner presents his own account of the events that led Jim Mitchell to murder his younger brother, Artie. (A forthcoming third version, Warren Hinckle and Susan Cheever's His Brother's Keeper , has been postponed indefinitely . ) Like McCumber, Hubner traces the brothers' journey from their Okie roots in Antioch to their years as living-on-the-edge pornographers, finally ending in Jim Mitchell's trial. However, Hubner has the advantage over McCumber of being a better writer and having better-organized material. While McCumber describes in tedious detail Artie's relationships with women, Hubner concentrates on the Mitchell brothers' career as pornographers; Behind the Green Door and its star, Marilyn Chambers, barely discussed in X-Rated , are of major importance here. The book's only weakness is Hubner's reconstructed dialog, which leads the reader to wonder where the journalism ends and the fiction begins. For true-crime collections. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/92.-- Wilda Williams, ``Library Journal''
Though this book travels pretty much the same path as McCumber's "X-Rated" , it's more a nuts-and-bolts portrait of Jim and Artie Mitchell and their pornography business. The brothers made millions via their live sex theater in San Francisco and the explicit sex films (most notably "Behind the Green Door") they produced before Jim killed Artie in 1991. Whereas McCumber dealt at length with Artie's downward spiral due to alcohol, drugs, numerous lovers, and battles with his wives, Hubner spends more time looking into how the Mitchells managed their business, dealt with the police constantly arresting them on various vice charges, and kept trying to find new markets for their products. It could be said that Hubner's book is a chronicle of the Woodstock generation's passage from the Days of Love to the decade of AIDS. Artie and Jim started out in the sex business meaning, like classic Baby Boomers, to thumb their noses at authority; but everything ended in a fatal shooting. In this second recent rehearsal, their story is still compelling and well worth one's while.
Sex, drugs, money, death: The saga of the Mitchell brothers has it all—which, no doubt, is why this is the second book about these trend-setting pornographers, one of whom killed the other, to appear in recent months (a third, by Warren Hinckle and Susan Cheever, has been postponed indefinitely). Happily, Hubner's intensively researched account is every bit as compelling as David McCumber's X-Rated (1992), and complements it nicely. Though Hubner (the Pulitzer-winning San Jose Mercury News journalist who coauthored 1988's superb expos‚ of the Hare Krishnas, Monkey on a Stick) doesn't write with the same explosive flair as McCumber, he livens his straightforward prose with key exclusive interviews, including one with Marilyn Chambers, whom the Mitchells launched into porno superstardom. With input from the Ivory Snow-girl and others, Hubner focuses more tightly than McCumber on the business/artistic aspects of the Mitchells' rise from obscure makers of penny-ante porno loops in the late 60's to rich and notorious creators of the porn classic Behind the Green Door and proprietors of San Francisco's infamous O'Farrell Theater. It's a savvy, sexually explicit report, and also jaw-dropping as the Mitchells' sense of sex as theater unfolds (one O'Farrell innovation was "The Streets of Paris," a room containing a cobblestone street, wrought-iron balustrades, and doorways from which women beckoned men to sex). Hubner's quiet approach doesn't convey the drug-induced madness growing inside Artie Mitchell's head with the same intensity as did McCumber's flaming pages—but Hubner compresses the trial of Jim Mitchell for blowing away his brother into far fewer—and morecogent—pages than did McCumber. And so the Mitchells' story is replayed again, and in the retelling begins to take on the dimensions of another uniquely American myth of talent, excess, and tragedy, one to be put alongside those of JFK, Marilyn, and Elvis. (Twenty-five b&w photos—not seen.)