Not that this is information you really need to know, but it would appear - perhaps in a cost cutting move - the producers of hard-core pornography have decided to do away with such extraneous and needless time-wasting filmmaking devices like plot and dialogue.
Up on the screen at a quaint establishment called Buddies Adult Video, men are doing things to each other that defy most laws of engineering, orthopedics and certainly good taste.
“Boys Town,” this is not. But Tampa Police Detective Mark Dinsmore, a 26-year veteran of force thought it would be a swell idea for me to experience what he and his undercover partner Mike Victor have been dealing with for the past six weeks in an intensive operation to attack some mighty naughty behavior going on in Drew Park.
“Uh, what do I do if I get groped,” I nervously asked Dinsmore.
“I’ll let them grope you for a minute and then I’ll arrest them,” the cop smiled. How comforting.
As fate would have it, it was Victor who was getting groped a few rows back in the pitch-black darkened theater, which would never be confused with Radio City Music Hall.
Upon entering the theater, Victor had noticed one of the patrons of the arts with his pants down around his ankles masturbating. Within moments the man had moved next to the detective and began aggressively rubbing …, well let’s just leave it at that.
“I was getting ready to pull my badge, it was that bad,” Victor later recalled.
Suddenly the theater was filled with officers waving flashlights, as a suspect, 57-year-old James Laird of Wesley Chapel, was escorted from the building, to be charged with lewd and lascivious behavior and exposure of a sexual organ.
Are you beginning to get the impression, this is probably the worst job in law enforcement? And if you aren’t, stick around. Bad word choice, perhaps.
Since May 1, the TPD has been engaged in an intensive $130,000 effort, which might be dubbed “Operation OH-MY-GAWD!” aimed at bringing the various adult use businesses which fester in Drew Park into some form of compliance with city decency codes.
To date, counting the Thursday night busts, Dinsmore and Victor, aided by officers from other units within the police department, have made at least 108 arrests mostly for lewd and lascivious conduct.
The net has been wide and embarrassing. To date, Robert Linger, who had been vice president and general manager of WTVT, Channel 13 and Victor Martinez, a well-known Tampa lawyer, have been charged with lewd and lascivious conduct and exposure of a sexual organ.
As well, the cops have nabbed businessmen and even a doctor from Miami. Indeed, Dinsmore noted about 60 percent of those who have been arrested have come into the Drew Park hoochy-coochy scene from outside Hillsborough County.
If you’re wondering why men engage in such tawdry behavior putting their lives, their reputations, their career at such high risk, neither detective had a definitive answer.
“It’s all walks of life,” Victor said. “People have a private life, a public life and a secret life.”
And both detectives agreed that while the charges imposed on these offenders are misdemeanors, in same cases, this sort of behavior can mark the first step for some defendants on the road to becoming a sexual predator, which might explain why the city is willing to spend $130,000 to disrupt the cycle of sleaze.
Part of that money goes to undercover officers to buy an $11 ticket to enter Fantasy Land on North Lois Avenue.
This time Victor was accompanied by TPD undercover narcotics Detective Stephanie Haley, and the two posed as a young couple.
Up on screen this piece of cinema verite made “9 1/2 Weeks” look like “Heidi.”
But the real drama was taking place in the audience of film lovers.
Earlier, in another, smaller theater within the Fantasy Land building a middle-aged man had exposed himself in front of Victor and Haley, who had now moved to a larger auditorium. So had the middle-aged man.
After about 30 minutes of watching a movie that made “Last Tango In Paris,” look like “Driving Miss Daisy,” a man who appeared to be in his late 30s stood up behind the couch where Victor and Haley were sitting and began to masturbate.
Soon, he was joined by the man from the first theater and another older male, all exposed, all fondling themselves in a loose semi-circle around the cops. The man behind the couch was standing only inches from the back of Victor’s head when Haley asked if he intended to consummate the moment on her “boyfriend.”
“That would be a beautiful thing,” the man replied, suggesting perhaps that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. Okay, now do you agree this is the worst job in law enforcement?
Before life could get any more beautiful, TPD officers flooded into the theater, arresting Michael Hubbard of Hudson, John McThune of Tampa and Jesus Miranda Morels of Lakeland. By now, you’ve figured out the charges.
Proving that law school probably isn’t a career option, McThune insisted to Dinsmore that he didn’t think he was committing a crime. “Not really, I wasn’t bothering anybody,” he argued. “Nobody was around.”
Not quite, Dinsmore explained. He had exposed himself in a theater filled with people. Doesn’t that bother him? Doesn’t he think it’s wrong?
“Now it does!” McThune sighed as he stood handcuffed in a parking lot.
A mortified Hubbard – Mr. Everything is beautiful - who said he had been married for 12 years, “… until now, maybe,” added he was supposed to be in Gainesville for a business meeting instead of one of Tampa’s seedier neighborhoods. “I’m just stupid.”
And Morales, at 69, insisted he couldn’t possibly have committed a crime because of the “limitations” of his age. But he still went to jail, probably for giving it the old college try.
So far, since May 1, “Operation Put That Away, Now!” has resulted in the closing of at least eight coo-coo-ca-cho establishments. Prostitution arrests have dropped to almost zero.
Dinsmore drove past one of the closed businesses, XPosed, which had a sign reading – “We are open for business.”
“You are not open for business,” he smiled.
“Do we have enough cuffs?” one of Dinsmore’s officers asked before heading back out into the night.
More than enough. And plenty of anti-bacterial hand lotion, too!
Posted by JAMES A. BARNES, BURBS on 10/16 at 12:47 PM
HI DAN; THIS IS RESPONCE TO YOUR ARTICAL IN THUR. COLUME ABOUT THE BARS AND STARS,ON STATE HIGHWAY 60.. WOULD YOU ALSO BE P/O’D IF THE FLAG WERE RED,YELLO AND GREEN , OR GOD FORE BID, BLACK RED AND GREEN
AND AS FOR THE SPOUTING OFF ABOUT BEING SLAVES.JUST HOW MANY OF THEM ACTUALLY HAD ANCESTORS THAT WERE SLAVES.AS FOR BEING OFFENDED,BECAUSE OF THE COLOR OF THEIR SKIN BEING THE SAME ,, DOES’NT HOLD WATER ?
AND IT’S THE TIME OF YEAR TO SAY ” “AND I APPROVE THIS MESSAGE “
THANKS DAN ( I ALWAYS READ YOUR COLUME) , NO MATTER WHAT YOUR OPINION IS .
Posted by George Dixon, Riverview on 06/30 at 02:09 PM
I have previously expressed my opinion about such police stings, and I again state my belief that $130,000 could be put to better than to catch someone doing what apparently men do….when watching such artistic delights.
But at least, and I’m only assuming, that the police paid for Mr. Ruth’s theater ticket, so for Mr. Ruth, this was a cheap night out. Perhaps the occasion would have been more memorable had he taken some single malt scotch?
Posted by Sherri Jones, Tampa on 06/21 at 06:43 PM
$130,000 to arrest men masturbating while watching porn, in a “ADULT ESTABLISHMENT”. What an easy job for the police. The city must not need anymore funds, since they are wasting what they do have!
Since when does masturbating lead to being on the road to becoming a sexual predator
Posted by Jon & Leigh Cople, Atlanta, GA on 06/21 at 09:01 AM
Where’s the victim?
Anyone entering these establishments do so of thier own free will and you can’t walk into one without knowing what type of establishment it is.
How can an act be offensive under these circumstances? THe only ones who remmotely could have been offended were in attendance under false pretenses.
I can appreciate the local businesses not liking these establishments, but what if another group got to gether becasue they didn’t like YOUR type of business?
J & L Cople
Posted by diego confuego, Tampa on 06/20 at 09:14 PM
“in same(sic) cases, this sort of behavior can mark the first step for some defendants on the road to becoming a sexual predator”
How about some references for this blatent bullcrap? Yah .. thats it. Pornography and establishments like these for adults leads to rape and child molesting ... right?
Posted by R Evans, Dover, Fl on 06/20 at 09:06 PM
Odd subject matter for a journalist Dan. The particularly ironic part is that the makers, vendors and purveyors of this form of “entertainment” have, for decades, defended their rights to enjoy this “Art” with the same vigour, and in fact weapons, that journalists have always hidden behind regarding their own masterpieces. The First Amendment.
And while that doesn’t protect anyone from the charges filed, the argument can be made that the only offended parties in this case were there HOPING to be offended. Kinda takes the sting out of it.
It’s refreshing to see the Fourth Estate extend the Constitutional protections to everyone, equally. Until it offends a writer.
Posted by john garrett, Tampa on 06/20 at 07:07 PM
I went to school with mike victor and he has been a TPD awhile now. Look at the duty he has now. Good luck to him and his partners in the fight against the freaks in our society.
Posted by V Nelson, Sarasota on 06/20 at 05:23 PM
If you go to the Hillsborough Arrest Inquiry page you’ll see that the middle name of James Laird, the guy who was arrested, is Seaman. I kid you not. You can’t make up stuff like this.
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