In other ways, though, nothing really changers in the Combat Zone, though the entertainment has become more varied and, well, blatant over the years. A 1970 study of Boston’s adult bookstores done by BU’s Center for Criminal Justice revealed that, especially from 1966 on, most bookstore proprietors had extensive and serious criminal records, even if obscenity busts are discounted. Of the five operators with ht worst records, one had been arrested for murder, two had been charged with assault, three with breaking and entering, three with larceny, two with mail fraud, one with loan sharking, and three with gambling.
Doing the same sort of study of today’s Zone bar owners would be difficult, mainly because few of the actual owners seem to be the owners of record. For example, Teddy Venios and his brothers Arthur and Louis are said to control (in one way or another) the Two O’Clock, the Naked I, the new 776 Lounge, the Capri Cinema, the Mousetrap in Park Square, the Twin-X Cinema, and four adult book and novelty shops. But not by name.
Teddy is clearly the man who makes the decisions at the “World Famous” Two O’Clock, for instance, but records on file at the licensing board show George Boucavalas as the controlling corporation’s president, Bella Skounjos of 4 Ledgewood Road, Woburn (Teddy’s sister), as a shareholder, and Estelle DeCoulos of 2 Ledgewood Road, Woburn (Bella’s daughter) as treasurer, Teddy, who lives at 6 Ledgewood Road, Woburn, is not listed.
When it comes to avoiding obscenity busts, of course, it’s advantageous not to have the establishments you run in your own name. (Harry Povaras makes a good living, for example, as manager of record of the Capri. His job-among other things-is to be arrested whenever a film is seized, as happened in the case of The Devil and Miss Jones.) But now that probers are turning their attentions toward hidden ownership, this long-standing procedure suddenly has a lot of people feeling trapped.
Further, the DA’s office has reportedly discovered from subpoenaed bank records that amounts of cash approaching a half-million dollars have been deposited in the accounts of some of the smaller bookstores in the zone. This creates the suspicion that money is being made down there on things other than smut-a belief strengthened by the recent gun raid.
Barney Frank, more and more a lone liberal voice in the wilderness of sensationalized hostile Combat Zone press, has some thoughts on all this: “Thanks to the mentality that sex should be illegal, we have given people with a criminal orientation a semi-monopoly on the sale of sex. If the people in the DA’s office could forget about other people’s sex lives, a subject which seems to obsess them to an unhealthy degree, they could stop the gun-running and the fencing. Are they saying there has been an increase in crime as a result of the zoning change?”
If they are, they’re wrong. At least in terms of arrest statistics, Combat Zone rime has decreased since the zoning change in every category except car theft. John Sloan, another wilderness voice, contends the zoning concept has failed “because everyone has refused to face the issue of prostitution and how to deal with it.” One way-the, you know, enlightened approach-is legalization of licensing, but the mood, and the momentum, is clearly in another direction of late. Though no one is sure which direction.