ShareThis Page

Porn world eyes Pittsburgh

| Thursday, Oct. 20, 2005

Even by American adult film industry standards, Rob Zicari has long turned stomachs and generated disgust for his filmed depictions of rape and violence against women and also the desecration of the Bible.

"He makes the vilest of products and has long violated taboos in the adult industry," said Luke Ford, a Los Angles-based journalist who has covered the industry and has known Zicari, 31 -- who works under the name "Rob Black" -- for a decade.

U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan on Wednesday asked the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a judge's decision to dismiss a 2003 indictment against Zicari, his wife Janet Romano, and their production company, Extreme Associates, on charges of violating federal obscenity laws.

The couple and their company were accused of selling tapes and downloadable video clips -- with titles like "Forced Entry" and "Extreme Teen #24" -- to an undercover U.S. postal inspector and others in the Pittsburgh area.

If Buchanan wins, the case could have far-reaching implications for the multibillion-dollar American porn industry, which is centered in the San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles.

"If Mary Beth is successful, and the conviction is upheld, it will open up a can of worms for the government to work their way through the food chain to Larry Flynt and others," said Mike South, an adult film director based in Atlanta.

"It means the government will be going after more people," he said.

For that reason, many eyes in Southern California are on Pittsburgh, Ford said.

"This will definitely have an inhibiting effect on the industry if (Zicari) is convicted of obscenity," Ford said.

Zicari has long pushed the adult film genre to extremes with depictions of women being choked, punched and slapped while having sex in coffins and Dumpsters. He has angered religious people by having actors rip up Bibles in the name of sex.

" 'Nervous' is a mild term to describe how many in the industry look at (Zicari), and many outright hate him for bringing unwanted attention from the government," Ford said.

Nina Hartley, an adult video performer who has been involved in the industry since 1984, is not a fan of Black's work, which she says is all about shock value, not eroticism. But that is his First Amendment right, she said.

"He told me years ago that it's like filming a train wreck," Hartley said. "People want to look at it even though it's terrible. But it's important to keep in mind that this is a free society, and people need to be able to say and read whatever they want, even if it makes people upset."

Zicari has had a long association with the pornography industry, beginning when his father, Dominic Zicari, of Rochester, N.Y., opened a string of adult bookstores on the East Coast in the 1960s. The younger Zicari told an interviewer for the PBS program "Frontline," which aired a segment about the industry, that his mother is a nurse who condones what he does.

"Extreme Productions are the filthiest of filth," Zicari said in a 1998 magazine interview. "There's the drug dealer, and we're just a little above that."

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me