Thursday, October 30, 2014

The doctor and The Disease

Infectious diseases – Ebola, AIDS, even the Flu – are always worrisome. 

My background includes covering the early days of AIDS, back in the 1983, when it was breaking out across New York City, as a young reporter that summer for United Press International.

Few understood the disease.  Was it limited to the gay community?  Was it only happening to people who had blood transfusions?  No one knew.

In an attempt to dampen public fear of donating blood, New York City Mayor Ed Koch, in a very public piece of showmanship, donated blood, showing that if he could survive the process, so could anyone else.

I interviewed the executive director of New York’s Blood Bank about whether donations were the same or down due to this new fangled disease.

“I’m getting a lot of interesting phone calls,” he said.

“Really.  What kind of calls,” I asked.

“I’m not really sure I should say.  I’m a pretty modest guy,” he said.

“I am, too, so you can tell me,” I said.

“Well, this one lady said she and her husband practice anal and oral sex, and she wanted to know if they were at risk of getting AIDS,” he said.

“What did you tell her,” I asked.

 “As long as the sexual activity was only between them, they were fine,” he said.

Needless to say, that didn’t make it out across the wire that day. 

But the story about the guy who walked into a bank one Saturday morning, holding it up by saying he had AIDS, did.  The teller was so petrified of the disease, she handed him every dollar she could find. 

Given how we live in the United States, it's highly unlikely anyone would come near Ebola.  While we're prone to shaking hands, we tend to keep our physical contact with others to a minimum.

That's not so much the case in West Africa, where, from what I read, locals hug the dead, even those who died of Ebola, which then puts the living at risk of coming down with the disease. 

And, unlike the Flu, Ebola isn’t an airborne disease.

The larger issue we’re facing in the United States is the example a nurse or doctor provides – especially to the rest of us who aren’t medical workers – when they refuse to be quarantined because they may have been exposed to Ebola. 

Yes, medical workers have rights.  But they also have an obligation.  And that's to demonstrate concern for a community's overall health.

So, yes, nurses and doctors, who've done a fantastic service in Africa, should be quarantined.  I don't know if it needs to be for 21 days, but they should show the same amount of concern for their fellow Americans' health as they have for those in Africa.

A nurse I know, who works at a local hospital, tells disturbing stories but what's really bothersome are the ones of her fellow healthcare workers. 

They have no qualms about eating fat-laden, cholesterol-rich foods, like cheeseburgers.  Seriously, why aren’t these people taking the advice their industry hands out – to work out and be careful what they eat?

Medical workers, I’m beginning to believe, are just like journalists – they’re arrogant!  The rules don’t apply to them.

So if I were advising Kaci Hickox, the nurse in Maine upset about being quarantined, I’d tell her to tone down her cries about her civil rights and, instead, increase her time being an example of someone concerned not only about her health but also that of her fellow citizens. 

But maybe in this age of one person’s rights superseding everyone else's, that's too much to expect, even from those who should know better.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book Review: The Pornographer's Daughter

It’s one thing to study movements that brought about social change, it’s quite the other to live them. 

That’s the crux of Kristin Battista-Frazee’s new book, The Pornographer’s Daughter:  A Memoir of Childhood, My Dad and Deep Throat.  She spares few details about the struggles and challenges her family faced while her father, Anthony, was tried and convicted of violating a number of obscenity laws, in the 1970s and early 1980s, as a distributor of the movie Deep Throat.

It caused arguments between family members and sent her mother to the hospital for depression. 

Her father, a good, Catholic boy with a degree from Villanova, was a Philadelphia stockbroker and was approached to distribute Deep Throat.  He accepted for reasons many might understand – to earn extra money.

Of course, there’s a mob connection, with Anthony making sure a local crime family received its share of the earnings from his territory. 

Before anyone, however, says this proves the criminal depths of the porn industry, Battista-Frazee also points out there were other beneficiaries:  Her dad and his partner bribed Philadelphia police $200 a week so they would respond to emergency calls from a stripper bar they jointly owned, the Golden 33. 

They also bribed other city officials – with “hefty envelopes of cash,” she writes – so the club received the licenses it needed to remain open.

So how does someone like Anthony become the poster child of pornography?  Easy.

After being arrested by the FBI for distributing Deep Throat in his stockbroker's office, he did the only thing he thought possible, joining a former client from his brokerage days at the Golden 33 and becoming a partner in the business.

Why?  Because he needed to earn a living, take care of his family, and pay his legal bills.

In time, Anthony oversaw everything from liquor purchases to the girls who entertained the Golden 33’s patrons.  Battista-Frazee details the lives of some of these entertainers, including Betty Jane Allsup, aka “Honeysuckle Divine.”

Betty demonstrated some – how to say this? – unique physical skills when entertaining Golden 33’s patrons but most readers will be stunned to learn another part of her past.

For those looking for a history of how U.S. obscenity laws changed, look elsewhere. 

Battista-Frazee writes about the legal rulings and decisions impacting her dad’s case but the most comprehensive book on how obscenity laws changed remains Gay Talese’s Thy Neighbor’s Wife with Chicago Federal Judge Richard Posner’s Sex and Reason as a nice complement.

With the exception of child pornography laws, it’s difficult to imagine how the others could be enforced.  Pornographic movies are available directly to the home, either through an internet connection or a cable television provider, often one in the same.

Today, Battista-Frazee’s parents are divorced.  Her dad owns stores in Florida that sell pornographic movies and products designed to enhance sexual stimulation, with the best seller being the “Pocket Rocket.”  Use your imagination, ladies.

At times, this excellent book reads like a therapy session.  I highly recommend it.  Battista-Frazee writes in an engaging style and tells a story few ever lived.

And what to make of pornography? 

A recent University of Nevada-Las Vegas study reports it generated $96 billion in worldwide revenues in 2006, with $12 billion from the United States.[i]  About 400,000 strippers work in the country’s 3,000 to 4,000 strip clubs, the report says, with Battista-Frazee writing the best ones earn $1,000 a night.

That means a stripper working five nights a week for, say, 50 weeks – and is good at it and attractive, too – possibly makes as much as $250,000 a year, much of it in cash.

For those convinced the industry’s female movie stars always come out on the short end, consider this:  According to, Jenna Jameson's net worth is estimated at $30 million.[ii]  That’s a far cry from Bill Gates’ money, but it’s an amount many would want.

Details on the book: 

The Pornographer’s Daughter:  A Memoir of Childhood, My Dad, and Deep Throat, written by Kristin Battista-Frazee, was published in August 2014 by Skyhorse Publishing, New York, New York.

Many thanks to the author for providing the jpeg of the book’s cover for