Wed 21 Mar 2007
Writer John Grissim (left), formerly of West Marin, with the late pornographic filmmaker and theater owner Artie Mitchell (no relation) 22 years ago. The occasion was a gala party for the opening of The Grafenberg Spot. Grissim wrote the screenplay.
For eight years, The Point Reyes Light carried a column called West Marin Diary by John Grissim, who wrote from a wine-barrel studio above Stinson Beach, where he was a volunteer firefighter for 12 years, 2.5 years of that as head of the fire department’s ambulance corps. As a columnist, his topics ranged from running on the beach to watching Behind the Green Door star Marilyn Chambers use an Uzi to shred paper targets in Nevada.
John eventually married therapist Susan Robinson, and the couple lived in Point Reyes Station along the levee road in one of those houses where every time Papermill Creek flooded, they needed a rowboat to reach their front steps. Luckily, the main part of their house was on the second floor and didn’t get wet.
In 2000, John and Susan moved to Sequim near Port Angeles on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. After much shopping, they bought a manufactured home, and John — as is his wont — turned the search into yet another book: The Complete Buyer’s Guide to Manufactured Homes and Land – How to Find a Reputable Dealer and Negotiate a Fair Price on the Best-kept Secret in American Housing. The book has turned out to be a best seller and John is in demand on the speakers’ circuit.
In previous incarnations, John wrote eight books on topics as varied as surfing and billiards, was an editor of Rolling Stone magazine, and wrote articles for publications as diverse as Playboy, Smithsonian, Sports Afield, Surfer, and National Fisherman. In his younger days, he was a communications officer on a Navy fleet oiler and later was on the dive team that discovered the $20 million Spanish treasure galleon Concepcion off of the Dominican Republic.
He also snorted cocaine with gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson, the basis for the character Duke in Doonesbury. Seen here in a Wikipedia photo by Allen G. Arpadi, Thompson had gained widespread literary recognition in 1971 with his book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
In a facetious column for the old San Francisco Examiner, Thompson in 1986 described a party in Burbank’s Sheraton-Premier Hotel where “a man named Grissim tried to jump off a fifth floor balcony with a bottle of gin, but he was restrained by police, then forced under a cold shower in the hospitality lounge. His friends and associates laughed as he was taken away in a neck hold.”
John answered in his own column that while he was complimented at rating a mention from (now deceased) Hunter Thompson, “I rarely drink gin, and there are no balconies at the Sheraton-Premier.” As for the neck hold, “that lithe arm around my neck belonged to my dear friend Seka, the ash-blonde superstar who at that moment was whispering to me some small confidence. All I remember is the heat of her breath in my ear as [the then-porno actress] confessed she too was into TM — tan maintenance.”
For seven years, John was executive director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin. For two more years, he published a lively quarterly titled Marine Watch. And in 1985, he wrote the screenplay for Jim and Artie Mitchells’ pornographic comedy The Grafenberg Spot.
In March 1985, the film premiered at “a gala opening party,” in the words of the invitations we in the press received.
It was a media event I wouldn’t have missed.
Searchlights lit the sky in front of the O’Farrell Theater while guests inside, such as the late Chronicle columnist Herb Caen (seen at right during the gala), the old San Francisco Examiner’s columnist Warren Hinkle, and writer Hunter Thompson mingled with porno stars Annette Haven and Juliet (Aunt Peg) Anderson, as well as the men and women of San Francisco’s liberal establishment.
This debut of Grissim’s film parodying the G-spot was meant to be the ultimate in porno chic. The Mitchell brothers served champagne, cracked crab, calamari cocktails, and endless mixed drinks.
Examiner columnist Warren Hinkle at the gala for The Grafenberg Spot. The G-spot is named after German gynaecologist Ernst Gräfenberg, who in 1950 claimed to have discovered it.
Of course, things went downhill from there. In a move to rein in his brother Artie, who had become addicted to cocaine and was drinking heavily, Jim in 1991 went to Artie’s house one night armed with a rifle (supposedly for his own protection) to have a talk. Instead he ended up shooting his brother. A jury convicted Jim of voluntary manslaughter, but he served only a three-year sentence in San Quentin after San Francisco’s Mayor Frank Jordan, Sheriff Michael Hennessey, and former Police Chief Richard Hongisto all urged leniency for the prominent pornographer.
Artie, sadly, is dead, but as John Grissim wrote me this week, “The G-spot lives.” His comment came in response to a March 17 Economist article on President Bush’s week-long tour of Latin America:
“Mr. Bush and Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva [seen below in a UN photo], agreed to promote ethanol production and use across the region, and to cooperate on research. By fixing purity standards, they hope to make ethanol a globally tradable commodity. But Mr. Bush refused to talk about the high tariff that protects American corn farmers, whose ethanol is more costly and carbon-emitting to produce than Brazil’s.
“There was no visible progress on the Doha round of world trade talks [aimed at lowering trade barriers between countries of different wealth], though the American trade representative, Susan Schwab, spent an extra day in São Paulo to talk to Brazilian officials and industrialists. And Lula, somewhat mystifyingly, insisted that ‘we’re going firmly toward finding the so-called G-spot for making a deal.'”
The Brazilian president’s startling comment prompted Janine Warner, a former reporter at The Light, to write from Los Angeles, “To see the term G-spot used in the vernacular like that shows how far that concept has come.” To which she added, “No, I didn’t mean a pun there, really.”