Play time stopped when we found a glossy picture of a naked woman splayed on a satin bed sheet in a seductive stance.
In fourth grade the swing set was passé. We lacked the physical strength to launch a basketball over a ten-foot rim. Our only option for entertaining ourselves was jumping over the fence behind the park and pretending we were a special ops S.E.A.L. team inserted deep into Viet Cong jungle country with only a machete.
“Boobs!” Lou yelled as we starred at our first naked woman. The paper had been through at least one rain leaving it frail, but the full glory of its image was in plain sight.
“There has to be more,” I said as a raised my $4.99 mail-order machete ready to hack my way through the forest to find more nudie pics.
“Here’s another one,” Lou said holding up another crumbled trophy.
“What is he doing to that woman?”
“Why would you ever put that…there?”
“Gross…. Let’s find some more”
Shreds of porn were discovered as we transitioned from children to perverts. We came across a narrow creek and a duck blind.
“I bet someone lives there.”
“Lou, go check out.”
“No way. What if he lures kids to his home with these pictures then he grabs the kids and sells them to parents who want to replace their own kids with other kids?”
“If he grabs me, I’ll cut him,” I said raising my dull machete.
A noise rustled from the guy’s hideout. We screamed in fear and bolted to safety of network TV and Legos.
After dinner, I snuck to my room to sift through my stash of tits, ass, and dudes with outsized cranks. I came across a subscription postcard to Playboy magazine. I filled it out:
✔ BILL ME LATER
The next day I dropped it in the mail.
A couple of weeks later I came home from school to find the newest edition of Playboy magazine sitting on my kitchen table.
“You order Playboy now?” my dad asked.
“Yes,” I said hoping my confident tone would deflect any mischievous behavior, “I’m going to sell it at school.”
“Great idea,” my dad said. Never in this teachable moment did he talk to me about the difference between boys and girls, explain women are not objects, or the downsides of gonorrhea. Instead, this lecture would be saved for my wedding day some twenty years later when we were on the dance floor and he said, “It’s time I tell you where babies come from.”
My mother said nothing.
I priced my product at five dollars, a dollar over the retail sticker. The magazine was turned into cash before the morning bell.
Econ 101: Scarcity drives demand
Over the next month, I was bugging my parents if they had seen the invoice from my supplier. My customers pursued me for more magazines. I knew I hit gold with this venture. Maybe I could order two subscriptions simultaneously?
Years later, my dad told me as soon as the black plastic wrapped magazine showed up, my mother was writing letters to Hugh Hefner:
DEAR PLAYBOY CUSTOMER RELATIONS:
YOU ARE SENDING A MINOR YOUR GRATUITOUS MAGAZINE. DISTRIBUTION OF PORNOGRAPHIC MATERIAL TO A CHILD IS A FEDERAL OFFENSE AND I DEMAND YOU CANCEL THIS SUBSCRIPTION IMMEDIATELY.
Two more magazines arrived in subsequent months. Twelve issues cost eighteen dollars, so I needed four sales to put me in the black for the year.
I was playground rich. With an annuity stream like this, who needed fifth grade?
What Econ 101 doesn’t teach you: Perpetuity is a term coined by academics who live in a bubble where models rule and your mom isn’t trying to kill your thriving wealth and undermine your business acumen.
The invoice never arrived.
My supply was extinguished, customers were mad, revenues stalled at fifteen dollars, and fifth grade for me was certain. After some deep thought, I realized I needed to change my course of action to reach financial independence.
I recruited Lou and we charged into the woods.
The pedophile had been active scattering more material over the last couple of months. Maybe I could sell the scraps for $.25 each—too many transactions at a low cost per sale. What about a porn safari where I could lead groups of kids deep into the jungle? This would require waivers plus I might have to answer to parents when Little Billy is kidnapped by the pedophile-too much in the way of logistics and potential unwanted media exposure. Then I found my answer on a torn porn page, “Get your free video of Who Shaved Ajay? only $4.99 to cover shipping and handling”. I stuffed the page into my pocket and told Lou the mission was a failure.
At night, I pulled out the same typewriter used to kill my magazine business and wrote:
I WOULD LIKE TO ORDER 1 [ONE] COPY OF WHO SHAVED AJAY? ON VHS. I UNDERSTAND THE BETA VERSION IS ALSO AVAILABLE, BUT I PREFER THE HIGH QUALITY OF VHS TO BETA. ENCLOSED IS A MONEY ORDER FOR $4.99.
THE HOMEOWNER AT…
The next day, with letter in hand, I rode my bike to the currency exchange and purchased my money order. The clerk knew me from past purchases of machetes, nunchakus, Chinese stars, and butterfly knives from the U.S. Cavalry “Many Missions, One Source” catalog, so he didn’t question me when I had him make the money order out to Sin City Distribution.
The wait began.
I couldn’t expect my parents’ indifference to nudie magazines to be the same response to videos of real people bumping uglies, so I stalked the mailbox.
I was banking on a Saturday delivery when I could intercept the mailman before he reached the front door, because my dad usually grabbed the mail during the week when I was at school. While waiting, never did I ask my parents: “Did you grab the mail?” or “Anyone open a package with a skin flick called Who Shaved Ajay?” Figuring I had a one in six shot of clean drop off, the odds were not in my favor.
I was in the front yard on Saturday when the postman handed me an ostentatious brown package. I didn’t have to read the address label. I landed the product.
The rest of the mail was discarded on the kitchen table as I bounded up to my room to tear into the package.
There was Ajay—getting shaved on the cover of the VHS box. I said a quick pray to Ben Franklin for creating the US Postal Service enabling a poor suburban kid like myself to earn a decent buck by running a porn distribution network helping the under served market of grade schoolers.
I was the Porn King of Elementary School
At the next opportune time, I burned the movie packaging in the fireplace leaving no evidence of my purchase.
Knowing I needed customers, I recruited my second-grade brother to sell tickets: “$.25 to see the movie you’ll remember forever”
We worked out a commission split. Within a day, I found my brother sprawled out on the couch while Ajay got shaved. It was as if he was watching the newest Doogie Howser episode and not the raunchiest, low-budget porn ever made. Thinking I was Mom, my brother fumbled with the ‘Off’ button on the remote.
“You owe me a quarter!” I yelled as a gauntlet of fists wailed on him. Ajay’s purported screams of ecstasy masked the two of us beating on each other. After we ran out of energy from fighting, we reached an agreement. He would get free viewings and I wouldn’t get turned into our parents.
I realized going into the retail theater business compared to selling product direct to customers was going to present new problems: security at the door, avoiding persecution by parents, cramming up to twenty kids in a room for each show, and getting ‘new features’, like one I had my eye on Yo! We Be Humping IV, on a regular schedule.
The risk wasn’t worth starting a movie theater.
I sold the tape to a conglomerate of fifth graders because no kid alone could come up with $10. I knew I left at least $5 on the table, but even running a porn empire has a learning curve.