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"Smut Capital of America" with Mike Stabile

“’Birthplace of porn’ doesn’t have the same appeal as sourdough and cable cars do” says Stabile, “but it was one of San Francisco’s contributions to the world just the same.”

US pornography was born in San Francisco, and more specifically, in the Tenderloin District. Join us October 15th as we delve into the Tenderloin's seedy past with special guest, Mike Stabile. 

Stabile is the director and producer of the documentaries “Seed Money,” currently in festival release, and ‘Smut Capital of America,’ which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2011. The latter takes its name from the phrase, first used extensively by then Supervisor Dianne Feinstein in the early 70s as she fought to close the theaters in the city’s gritty Tenderloin that first introduced the country to ‘porno.’ 

From Francisco’s libertine beginnings as a male-dominated mining town to its role as a Summer of Love mecca – the film traces how, in the late 60s, San Francisco became the center of porn production the United States. ‘Smut Capital’ talks to filmmakers, theater owners, actresses and distributors who helped birth the industry, examining how a small theater in the Tenderloin would launch the hardcore revolution (or porno plague, in the later words of Time magazine) that would sweep the nation from Hollywood to Times Square. 

“San Francisco was ground zero in the Sexual Revolution,” says Mike Stabile. “Because we were traditionally more tolerant, we moved more quickly than other cities. Porn was advertised in the Chronicle; hardcore movies were sprouting up in the Marina. They were documenting sexual liberation, but not everyone was ready for it.”

Stabile, along with cinematographer Ben Leon and producer Jack Shamama, are veterans of the adult industry in San Francisco, but for a much newer version of San Francisco smut -- adult websites. 

Mike will join us for a lecture on porn in the Tenderloin, and a screening of his short film ‘Smut Capital of America.’ 


Mike Stabile is a journalist and filmmaker who has written about sex, obscenity and San Francisco for over a decade. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Playboy, the Huffington Post, the Daily Beast, and many others. His first documentary film, a short entitled "Smut Capital of America", chronicled the birth of the modern adult film industry in the late 1960s in San Francisco, and premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2011. Screenings of his new feature-length documentary, "Seed Money", about gay porn pioneer Chuck Holmes' complicated relationship with the gay rights movement, is currently screening at film festivals internationally.

Reception at 6:30, Program at 7
$10 (Includes museum admission)

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