During the early sixties,
Philadelphia's Mayors and District Attorneys had assiduously tracked down
distributors of erotic books and films. Confiscated materials were burned
on the steps of churches while in one case the superintendent of schools
watched approvingly. The crusading Billy Graham warned Americans that God
would punish them for the alarming increases in racial strife and alcoholism,
and for the "obsession with sex that we see all around us."
Isadore was seen on the local
TV news that night trying to move the NBC microphone far enough from his
face to wave the police off the premises; he said they were "hurting his
business." He remembered the tensions endured fifteen years earlier by
Ben's close friend and partner Samuel Masover, who with four other Philadelphia
booksellers was raided by the Vice Squad for carrying works by writers
such as Erskine Caldwell, William Faulkner, James T. Farrell, Harold Robbins,
and Jack Woodford. The booksellers were eventually cleared, thanks to a
brilliant and influential opinion written by Judge Curtis Bok. My father
now recognized that the book business had become no safer because of Judge
Bok's sharp criticism of the connection between sexually explicit books
and anti-social conduct, and that the de-censoring of Lady Chatterley's
Lover may somehow have made those who carried such books more
The Bookazine Book Store, 1528 Market St., Philadelphia,
In downtown Philadelphia in June
1960, a "raiding party of five county detectives" and an Assistant District
Attorney--followed closely by TV reporters and their cameras--visited my
uncle Benjamin Gertzman's Bookazine book shop at 1528 Market Street, seizing
500 books. The owner had named his business, with permission, after the
large New York City distributor. Bail for the clerk, his brother Isadore--my
father--was set at $500.
The Assistant District Attorney
stated that "the books sold at Bookazine would arouse any man, unless he
were made of stone." Bookazine was Philadelphia's biggest outlet for the
sex pulp novels of Jack Woodford, distributed by Citadel Press in New York.
The case never came to court, the New York distributors agreeing not to
circulate the Woodford line in Philadelphia in the near future. By then,
the District Attorney had weathered the political attacks made on him by
his Republican adversaries, which had--shortly before the raid--made headlines.
Plenty of copies were available in any event, and could always be safely
purchased at the local department stores. Eventually, the anonymous phone
calls, warning that the décor of an establishment owned by "dirty
Jews" might be improved by detonation of a firebomb, ceased.