X-Rated - The Mitchell brothers : a true story of sex,
money, and death / David McCumber
Simon & Schuster : New York, c1992
464 p. ; ill.
Growing up, Jim and Artie Mitchell seemed to have it
all. Their father, J.R. Mitchell, was a professional gambler
while their mother, Georgia Mae quietly accepted his choice
of earning money. When her two sons started their own porn
studio, she quiety accepted this too.
Later, at the trial of Jim Mitchell, accused of the
premeditated murder of his younger brother Artie, gently
spoke on Jim's behalf.
So begins and ends the bizarre world of the Mitchell
Brothers who produced such films as Behind the Green Door
and The Grafenberg Spot, managers of the O'Farrell Theatre,
"The Carnegie Hall of Sex".
X-Rated by David McCumber, is a chronicle from their boyhood
to their bickering and eventual downfall when Jim fatally
shot Artie February 27, 1991.
Outside of magazine articles, their films, obscenity
hearings and Generation of Swine by Hunter S. Thompson,
there is no real history of the Mitchell Brothers. McCumber,
HST's editor for the San Francisco Examiner, was more than
qualified to write the book, a tell-all, no holds barred
look at their personal lives and their business, which for
Artie, at least, there was no distinction. Jim and Artie
were best friends, but Artie's excesses drove Jim to a fatal
moment of anger.
There is both a positive and negative aspect to X-Rated.
The mostly positive aspects are how the two brothers
withstood pressure to conform to "community standards", even
appearing in court to defend their First Amendment rights.
Then there is the downside to that world - the drugs,
violence, jealous fights, Artie's constant money demands which
destroyed lives and finally, the death of Artie.
All this makes a wonderful book - but unfortunately McCumber
fails to carry it off completely. There are parts where his
writing is excellent, but I get the feeling that he tries to
ape In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. McCumber is unable to
blend fact with narrative. Chapters are divided into
subchapters that end abruptly as like trashy sci-fi or
adventure novels. The technique is meant to build suspense,
but McCumber is never quite skillful enough.
The final section, about Jim's trial, is particularly good
and swift. This mostly consists of dialogue. The legal
implications were many - the Mitchells were major backers of
the newly elected mayor and were friends with several police
officers (a shocking turnaround from the seventies, when the
O'Farrell was filled with undercover cops) and the DA's
office used a controversial computer animation to show how
Joim had killed Artie - first shooting him in the arm, then,
when Artie emerged from his refuge in the bathroom, shot him
agian in the head.
Jim expressed deep remorse over what he had done in a moment
of rage, and went so deep into shock that he was prevented
from seeing family members as he mourned that he had "killed
my mmother's baby, the father of my nieces and nephews".
The trial brought about further conundrums - four women and
dancers came to Artie's defense, even though he had at
various times beaten, threatened and emotionally abused
him. One has made her home into a shrine for Artie. Jim
received the same support and leniency for his charity work
and the AIDS ward at the SF General Hospital. About a
hundred letters poured in asking that Jim be freed, since he
was not a danger to society. Eventually, Jim served about
four years in prison, down from a calculated six - three for
manslaughter and three on weapons infractions.
To his credit, McCumber ends X-Rated describing Jim's pain
Jim Mitchell's jail is in his mind, and he will always be a
Author photo from The Illustrated History of Girlie Magazines (*!*) David McCumber lives in Santa
Barbara with his wife and two children.
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