The Orange County Register
Santa Ana, California

May 14, 1989
Metro Section - Page B06

Life along the 'strip' a blend of the tawdry, touristy and tame
By William H. Boyer


Scott Couch is proud to say that he has visited Mike's Hip Pocket, a pornographic bookstore and video arcade on the east end of Garden Grove Boulevard, at least once a week for the past year.

Couch, 31, of Orange never has been inside the sex shop, but instead spends his time on the sidewalk outside the adult bookstore trying to persuade others to turn to God rather than the pages of pornography.

"The Lord has called upon me to do something against the evils of pornography," said Couch, who regularly is joined by other members of the Servants of the Lord Ministries or Son Light Christian Center in Orange.

The born-again Christians are part of an eclectic mix of people who frequent, shop, live, work -- or protest -- along Garden Grove Boulevard.

On any given day or night, the boulevard is a backdrop for a host of players -- pornography fanciers, prostitutes, tourists, bar-hoppers and criminals - who descend upon the six-mile strip and interact with residents, business owners, retail customers and police.

"You can see some real unusual folks out here, that's for sure," said Garden Grove police Lt. Ken Whitman while on a recent Saturday night patrol. "Weekends are the busiest time, naturally, but there's always some action happening out here."

That action can range from murders, gang shootings and armed robberies to drug activity, drunken-driving accidents and lewd conduct by male or female prostitutes and their customers, Whitman said.

The boulevard also attracts its share of tourists who come to dine or shop. Last week, a shuttle bus from the Doubletree Hotel in Orange dropped off about a dozen Asian tourists who ate at a Chinese restaurant, then strolled next door to an adult bookstore before returning to the hotel.

Whitman said police worry most about the criminals who prey upon the customers of the adult businesses.

"The bookstores, the gay bars, the pool halls and motels themselves don't create the problems we encounter. We can't begrudge them for making a living. It's the people these businesses attract who try to take advantage of the situations that we're concerned about," Whitman said.

"Someone walking out of one of these bookstores at 2:30 in the morning is a prime target for a mugging. And if you're mugged under those conditions, are you going to report it? How are you going to explain to your wife or family that you were robbed outside a porno house?"

But even some of the new retail businesses along the boulevard can present problems, Whitman said.

"We got this beautiful new Mervyns store that replaced a real toilet-pit of a shopping center, and now we get all kinds of calls there for shoplifting," he said.

Whitman said the boulevard, which has seven gay and lesbian bars, also draws people who try to rob or assault the homosexuals as they leave the bars. These criminals frequently work in pairs, with one man luring the victim into a car for sex while the other waits for an appropriate time to approach the vehicle and commit the robbery, he said.

Residents and business owners along the boulevard said they frequently encounter bizarre or indecent activities, witness drug deals and put up with a constant parade of vehicles that cruise the area at night.

Several residents contacted by the Register did not want to be identified out of fear that they would be attacked for speaking out.

One resident, Sandra Johnson, who has lived in an apartment complex on the west end of the boulevard for seven years, said it's not uncommon to encounter couples engaging in sex near her home.

Barbara Hooker, who has owned a garbage-disposal business on the boulevard near several adult bookstores for about two years, said she usually finds used condoms in her store's parking lot, especially on Mondays.

"Anything an adult does in their own home is their own business," Hooker said. "But when they take it out onto the streets, that's wrong."

Hooker, who said she gets kidded a lot about her name because her business is so close to an adult bookstore, said she has had drunks and prostitutes high on drugs stumble into her store, begging for money or wanting to use a bathroom.

"I can't say my business has suffered because of the (adult) bookstores, but I sure wouldn't want to live here," she said. "They attract a bad element. I live in Huntington Beach and if my council let one of these stores into my neighborhood, I'd make sure they weren't sitting on the council very long."

Another business owner, Ed Burnett, whose vacuum-cleaner store is right next door to an adult bookstore, said he has never had a problem and his customers rarely complain.

"I don't agree with most of the stuff in there, but I spent 22 years in the military defending our Constitution and I'll be the last person to preach against them," Burnett said.


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