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September 18, News » Feature. A similar room in the basement was reserved for couples. Management billed the rooms as theaters, but there was a lot more than watching going on. The theaters and the booths were places to have sex, either with people you knew or strangers you'd probably never see again. Each booth held a paper-towel dispenser, a plastic chair and a trash can.
The theaters were equipped with little more than benches and wastebaskets. On March 13, there was plenty of action. About twenty people were in the store just before 10 p.
The basement theater was empty, but at least eight people had gathered in the ground-floor room, which measured about ten by twenty feet. There was plenty of sex, both live and on tape. Four men stood in a semicircle around a woman, who performed oral sex and masturbated them. She was blond and looked to be in her late twenties. And very friendly. Call her Lori.
One of the men gathered around Lori that night was her husband.
Tall and rugged, Glenn -- also a pseudonym -- looks a bit like Sam Elliott. Married a little more than a year ago, the couple appears very much in love, often holding hands while discussing a night they'd rather forget. He has her name tattooed on his chest.
There was nothing like it where they lived. This was their fourth visit. Fueled by a half-pint of vodka split two ways, they were more than ready to roll. The men in the theater didn't confine their attentions to Lori.
As time passed, the men began masturbating each other. Acts of man-on-man fellatio broke out. Then two men walked in.
Almost immediately, Glenn sensed that something was wrong. And so the couple went to a bathroom. The newcomers surveyed the theater, taking mental notes that would later appear in police reports, court documents and news broadcasts. They were undercover officers with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department, here to shut this place down.
While Glenn and Lori washed up, the officers moved to a booth, where they called a waiting raid team that normally served drug-search warrants. This would be a by-the-book operation.
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The element of surprise came easy, given that Award Video had no windows. The only warning came when Bill, who'd stopped by on his day off, glanced at a surveillance monitor behind the front counter and spotted someone outside running toward the door.
He looked like just another horny guy. So [the other clerk] started laughing: 'Yeah, they're always in a hurry.
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Because the other clerk was busy, Bill went to the alcove window to make the appropriate checks. At least nine cops swarmed through the building, guns drawn, ordering everyone to hit the floor. The memory draws a wry smile from Bill.
They weren't satisfied with Glenn's driver's. Lori wasn't wearing clothes in the photographs, which apparently fascinated the deputies. I have no problem with my husband having pictures of me, but they're not for everyone.
Not so, says Jefferson County prosecutor Robert G. Wilkins, who's determined to put a stop to sex in public places, even if it means using one of the most homophobic laws in the nation. Glenn, Bill and four other men accused of having man-on-man sex in the Award Video theater stand charged with first-degree sexual misconduct, a misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of a year in jail, plus a huge stigma.
Lori, however, hasn't been charged with a crime, even though she was doing the same things at the same place at the same time as the men who have become reluctant martyrs in a fight to legalize homosexuality in Missouri, one of four states that still have laws banning gay sex.
Whereas the cities of St. Louis, Columbia and Kansas City have anti-discrimination ordinances, homosexuals elsewhere in the state may be denied housing or jobs on the basis of their sexual orientation. Even though no one in Missouri has been prosecuted for having same-gender sex in a private bedroom, a law decreeing that gay sex is illegal is a big hurdle, says Denise D.
It justifies courts' denying custody and parenting rights to gays and lesbians because they're criminals. Painful though it may be, they say they'll fight all the way to the Supreme Court if that's what it takes to make sex between consenting adults, no matter their gender, a legal act. The tenor ranged from reassuring to threatening. If you don't cooperate, we're going to parade you and your family and everybody through the media and make your life a living hell.
He says he didn't think he had a choice. I was, like, 'If you've got the video evidence, what can I say?
You've got me. They told her that her probation would be revoked and she'd land in prison if she didn't play ball. The threat worked. I told them the truth about what we witnessed. They also accused Lori of being a prostitute, with a pimp for a husband.
Lori's worst fear proved unfounded. Since the raid, she says, the state Department of Corrections has relaxed her probation supervision, and her probation officer has recommended that she be released from probation early.
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The booking charges looked impressive: prostitution, promoting prostitution, drug possession, sexual misconduct. Sheriff Oliver "Glenn" Boyer told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that undercover officers had been offered sex for money.
The paper also quoted an unnamed county official saying that proving prostitution at Award had always been tough because the hookers didn't talk money until after sex, a laughable notion for anyone familiar with a trade in which getting paid upfront is sacrosanct. None of the prostitution cases stuck because of a result of lack of evidence. Despite what deputies may have said during interrogations, no owners were charged. Indeed, Chris Morse -- who managed the business with his wife, Debra -- was one of the first released from jail.
The drug-possession beefs amounted to two men found with tiny amounts of pot. Both were charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession. That left the people who were caught, quite literally, with their pants down. He's almost apologetic. To hear him talk, Wilkins may be the most misunderstood guy in Jefferson County. At the same time, the churches are happy with me, also without knowing the facts. And he swears he's not homophobic. A red lava lamp sits on a bookshelf.
Wilkins, who last month ran unopposed to win a third term, has resisted calls to make obscenity cases against businesses such as Award Video. Wilkins may not be a foaming-at-the-mouth prude.
But orgies where anyone with a hankering can just walk in won't be tolerated, not so long as he is in office. Trouble is, Missouri law isn't much help. There's no outright ban on public sex in Missouri.