Gay archivists support Paul Reubens in porn trial

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com February 14 2003 12:00 AM ET

What exactly did Paul Reubens have in his massive erotica collection and did he know he had it are the questions now dominating the child pornography case against the former Pee-wee's Playhouse star. In court documents that revealed the first details of what police seized at the actor's Los Angeles home, prosecutors fended off Reubens's attempt to have the misdemeanor charge against him dropped for lack of evidence. In court documents filed on Tuesday, deputy city attorney Richard Kraft said Reubens's attorney "inaccurately characterized" the nature and quantity of the material in question as "a single vintage film," "isolated images," and "vintage magazines." Instead, Kraft wrote, Reubens had "a collection of pornography movies of adolescent children engaged in masturbation and various other sex acts" and "child pornography magazines with such various titles as 101 Boys, Hot 'n Hung, Young and Ready, and Teen Nudes, which depict nude children and include sexual poses."

Reubens, 50, was arrested and charged in November, about a year after police raided his home and took away part of what the Los Angeles city attorney called his "massive pornography collection." The child pornography was found among "magazines and thousands of photos of young men in sexual poses, displaying erections, masturbating, and engaging in sexual acts," the prosecutor's brief said. Reubens has pleaded innocent to the charge. Last month the actor's attorney, Blair Berk, asked the judge in the case to dismiss the charges because the material seized from Reubens's home was vintage porn "produced decades before [child pornography] possession was ever proscribed."

Berk also contended that pictures of children made up a tiny part of the vast collection, which contains some 100,000 images. A source close to the actor said the photos described by prosecutors included nearly 100-year-old tintype photos of young men posed as Greek statues. "The people [in the photos] could be 17 or 25," the source said. The source said the actor--who also maintains large collections of 1950s memorabilia, plastic vegetables, and 3-D photography--bought much of the erotica collection in large lots and was unaware of its exact contents. The photos and movies "were represented as lawful and containing adult images" by the person who sold them to Reubens, the source said. "It was represented to him that it was perfectly legal because he has no interest in anything that is not proper."

Civil rights and gay rights advocates have rallied to Reubens's defense. A Village Voice cover story argued that the Reubens case "dramatically expands the parameters of what is considered child pornography...that should trouble us all." The case also calls into question the historical value of gay erotica, said Stuart Timmons, president of the Los Angeles-based One Institute and Archives, the world's largest collection of lesbian and gay historical material. "A lot of this stuff is now regarded as part of a genuine photographic history, but all of it used to be regarded as unspeakable," Timmons said. "Social attitudes have been opening up...but laws really vary from state to state."

Reubens, a defense source said, is determined to bring the case to trial to allow a jury, and the public, to see the images and judge for themselves.