The Combat Zone: Cleaning Up Its Act?

SCRUTINY

WHEN Andy Puopolo '77 was stabbed and killed after going to a strip joint back in 1976, the Combat Zone housed 39 adult entertainment places and covered several city blocks. Now only a shadow of what it once was, the Zone contains fewer than 11 adult entertainment stores and only three strip clubs, extending barely one block.

But one thing about the Zone hasn't changed--sleaze.

In Harry's Bar on the corner of Beach and Essex Streets, a group of bearded guys wearing flannel shirts sit around a circular bar listening to Motown from the Jukebox. One of them gets up, taps somebody on the shoulder and says, "Hey bud, you got a problem?"

A man urinates on Washington Street while discussing his daily schedule with himself.

Two Black men dressed in leather jackets stand outside Harry's Bar. A white man threw a ratty-looking carpet at the pair. "Don't throw that shit on me," one of the Black men retorts. Then, hand in hand, the pair walks down the street.

In the Combat Zone, the cliches are reality: a man sleeps crumpled in a doorway holding a bottle in a brown paper bag.

Around the corner at the Glass Slipper Lounge a plump, bleach-blond dancer clad in a g-string prances on the stage as half-a-dozen patrons look on. This is what they call "adult dancing." Maybe it would be erotic if she was 40 pounds lighter, 15 years younger and happy.

Although it is questionable if one could find John Locke there, the Liberty Book Shop located on Washington Street, exercises its first amendment rights, selling both "adult" books and videos as well as sexual paraphernelia. The well-lit store has the feel of a mom and pop video store. The difference is that instead of "Top Gun" and "Wall Street," this place has visual displays for films like "Hannah Does Her Sisters" and "Amber's Sex Asylum." One table is devoted to homosexual pornographic videos.

A sign that reads "Doc Johnson's marital aids, lingerie, dolls, swingers" hangs on the far wall of the store above a collection of neatly arranged obscure sexual paraphernelia. The strange machines and latex objects boggle the imagination.

Behind a counter containing even more of the Doc's equipment, two middle-aged balding men with beards compare the relative merits of delis in Boston and New York.

When asked what they know about the Zone, the men reply, "not much." "We're new to the area," one of the men says. "Why don't you look it up in the Globe?"

The hub of the diminutive adult entertainment area is the Naked I club, featuring dancing "Co-eds." Outside the club a man asks someone entering if he "wants some smoke."

"I already have cigarettes," says the would-be patron.

"No, weed man, weed," the dealer says.

"No, I don't do that stuff," the other guy says.