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Jack Knox column: In the end, outrage didn't close Red Hot Video

Sep 01 2012

Jeez, a guy goes on holiday for a couple of weeks and the city falls apart.

To be precise: Red Hot Video is gone.

You might recall it from a column last year, the point then being that even as the Blockbusters of the world were drowning, the little porn store on Douglas Street somehow managed to tread water.

Ah, but the neon sign that hung above the blacked-out windows has now flickered its last. (For the past few years it just read Hot Video, the Red having burned out.)

Not sure exactly when the 30-year-old adult-video shop hit the stop button. The newspapers blocking the view through the glass front doors date back to June, but there were always newspapers taped over the front doors, which were kept locked even when the shop was open. "Use rear entrance," the sign said. (No smirking, please). Apparently, the customers preferred avoiding the awkward moment when you run into your mother on the sidewalk and have to ask "What was she doing in the sex shop?"

It seems ironic that Red Hot should have outlasted the mainstream video stores, given the howling opposition when it opened at Douglas and Caledonia in 1982.

City hall was outraged back then. So were the editorial writers at the Times Colonist, which published 55 stories over a two-year stretch. A group called Women Against Pornography picketed outside. On the Lower Mainland, three Red Hot outlets were firebombed by the Wimmin's Fire Brigade, an offshoot of the Squamish Five.

The Victoria store was the last in what was once a chain of two dozen. In mid2011, owner Penny Michels said she hoped to squeeze another five years out of the business, but it was pretty obvious that it was sinking in a sea of Internet downloads and cablevision payper-views. Very 1980s, like racquetball courts and Miami Vice.

Besides, sex has gone mainstream. The Fifty Shades of Grey series has sold 40 million books. London Drugs carries vibrators. Among Shaw's television offerings Friday afternoon were such selections as Glory Holes of Las Vegas and - good God, really? - Sticky Teen Faces Vol. 5.

That means there were volumes one through four. We have become so desensitized that we flip past those titles on the channel guide without blinking. If this were a Bible story, we would be pillars of salt.

- Might as well use the opportunity to update a couple of other columns from earlier this summer:

There's good news if you have an extra $75 million in your pocket. James Island, the fabulous eco-retreat of U.S. cellphone billionaire Craig McCaw, is still for sale.

The island, roughly the size of downtown Victoria, sits a couple of kilometres east of Central Saanich. It features a 5,000-square-foot main house, half a dozen cottages, an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, an airstrip, a pool house, a manager's residence, an all-season harbour and a western-themed village that houses the library, gym, kitchens and what is called a general store (though the stuff inside it is all free for guests).

McCaw put the island on the market about the end of May, the same time he paid a world record $35 million for a car, a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO built for Stirling Moss.

Mark Lester, the listing agent for Sotheby's International Realty Canada, remained circumspect Friday, saying only that "there has been interest" by potential purchasers of James Island.

No word on whether the main house has secondary suite potential as a mortgage-helper.

- At the other end of the financial spectrum, the oldest veterans club in B.C. continues to limp along on one engine, with no soft landing in sight.

"We're getting more people in, but we need a lot more to stay afloat," says Ed Emerick, president the Victoria branch of the Anavets Club - that's the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans in Canada - at 753 View St.

Like other veterans organizations with dwindling, aging memberships, the Anavets need new blood. A month ago, the branch, founded in 1918, looked like it might not even survive the summer. Business has picked up a bit since then, and the busy darts season is only a couple of weeks away, but Emerick says they need more feet walking through the door.

jknox@timescolonist.com

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