Dr. Know: Adult Theaters, Cartoons, and the Lytle Tunnel


Before moving here recently, my perception of Cincinnati was of a prudish, stuck-in-the-’50s city. I’d seen so many news stories about shutting down movie houses, art exhibits, etc. Things are obviously different now, but can you tell me where those adult movie theaters used to be? —THOSE WEREN’T THE DAYS

Illustration by Lars Leetaru

Dear Those:
There was a time, children, when dirty movies could only be seen at the movies. But not here. As America’s cinematic boundaries began loosening in the late 1960s, Cincinnati kept them tight. Some neighborhood theaters, hurting from the growth of megaplexes, tried turning to, um, specialty fare. Titles included Without a Stitch, Love Thy Neighbor, Casting Call—you get the idea. The Monte Vista in Pleasant Ridge, the Guild in Walnut Hills, Imperial Follies on McMicken, Royal on Vine, and Cinema X on Race Street got prosecuted regularly by our vice squad, but soldiered on until the money ran out. Cinema X in Newport survived into the 1980s, having the advantage then of fitting right in with its “community standards.”

But the main attraction in Cincinnati was the Alpha Theater in Northside. From 1968 to 1974, it presented many mature classics, including the daddy of them all, Deep Throat. That one made them famous, and legal pressures made them broke. Adult theaters as a category later fell to home video, cable, and your deleted browser history. The Doctor, not being a native, apologizes if he has overlooked a venue that once gave you warm memories.

I found a stack of 1950s New Yorker magazines among my recently deceased dad’s things. In several issues, I was amazed to see full-page ads for the Cincinnati Enquirer! Plus, the magazine’s famous cartoonists from the era drew them all! What on earth is this about? —THE QUEEN CITIER

Dear Citier:
First, condolences about your dad. You are justified in wondering why a Cincinnati newspaper would throw money at a New York-national magazine to advertise itself. But the Cincinnati Enquirer did exactly that between 1951 and 1963—more than 150 times. Each hand-drawn ad ran only once.

And why? As is true today, 1950s readers of The New Yorker included many media buyers at national ad agencies, making choices about how they would spend their massive budgets. The ads—the Doctor obsessively tracked them down—are specifically targeted at media buyers, humorously suggesting they’ll get raises and promotions because they’re smart enough to place ads in the Enquirer. Our older readers will recognize the slogan that’s in every ad: Solid Cincinnati Reads The Cincinnati Enquirer.

Many of the cartoons are cringe-worthy, sexist, Mad Men stuff. Some show women in skimpy, low-cut outfits that the Enquirer itself would undoubtedly have refused to print. But it was the paper’s own ad agency in New York that created these things, with little local input. Why did they use the magazine’s cartoonists? Maybe they, like everyone, just hoped to see some New Yorker cartoons they could understand.

A sign at the Lytle Tunnel’s entrance has three lines: Tunnel closed / Do Not Enter / When Flashing. That wording is confusing. The first words say the tunnel is closed! Also, if a wreck does happen in there, how do I “not enter?” Should I fly away? What’s the point of this sign? —UNDER A BAD SIGN 

Dear Under:
Liz Lyons at the Ohio Department of Transportation acknowledges that “the wording of the sign could be improved, but to date, the District has not received significant inquiries.” Apparently, neither you nor the Doctor reaches the threshold of significance. Lyons does, however, defend the sign’s existence. When sensors inside the tunnel detect dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, smoke, heat, etc., they activate the sign’s flashing lights, along with a series of exhaust fans. At the same time, warnings are instantly displayed on nearby highway signs, replacing those cutesy-poo “buckle-up-or-else” messages.

If you happen to approach the Lytle Tunnel at the moment the sign starts flashing, simply slow to a stop. Admittedly, other motorists may then not even notice the lights, as they will instead be cursing you. In this situation, assuming you would be stopped for a while, feel free to get out of your vehicle and explain to others that you merely followed the wise advice of this column, and saved their lives. Let us know how that goes.

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